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Axiochus of Plato, or a Dialogue of Death, being both short and very Elegant.
Socrates. Clinias. Axiochus.
AS I went one day to my common schoole Lynosargus, and being in the waye by Elizeus, I might heare the voice of one calling aloude to me, Socrates. And turning me about to see whence it came, I saw Clinias Axiochus his sonne, together with Damon the Musitian &and Charmides, the sonne of Glauco running hastely toward Callirrhoe, whereof the one was a Maister and professor of the Arte of Musicke, &and the other by means of great familiarity &and acquaintance, did both louelove him, and also was of him belouedbeloved; whereupon I thought good, leauingleaving my ready way, to go meet them, that I might the sooner vnderunderstand his meaning. Then Clinias bursting out in teares, O Socrates (quod he) now is the time when thou maist shew forth thy long fostered and famous wisedome, for my father is eueneven nowe taken with a grieuousgrievous disease, and drawing neere (as it seemeth) to his end, is therwithall grieuouslygrievously troubled, and greatly disquieted. Howbeit, heeretofore hee was so farre from the feare of death, as that he was wont pleasantly to scoffe and scorne at those which vsedused to portraict the Image of death, painting him with a dreadfull countenance and a griesly face. VVhereforeWherefore I beseech thee O Socrates, to go and comfort my father as you were wont to doo: for so the rather being strengthened with your good counsaile, he shall bee able without any grudging or fainting to passe through the way of all flesh, and I with the rest of his friends and kinsmen will maintaine the yearely memory of that his good end.
O Clinias I will not denie thy so reasonable a request, specially concerning such a matter, as to deny it were great vnkindnesunkindnes and discourtesie: to grant it, perteyneth both to godlinesse and charitie. Let vs therefore speede vs to him: for if thy father be in so sore taking, there needeth speedines and great hast.
O Socrates, I am sure that my father, assoone as hee but beholdeth you, will be much better at ease: for his fitte and panges of his sicknesse vseuse oftentimes to surcease and be asswaged.
But that we might the sooner come to him, we tooke the way, which lieth beside the town wall by the Gardeins) for his dwelling was hard by the gates which lyeth toward the Amazons piller: whither wee comming, found Axiochus (which by this time was come to himself againe) being indeed somewhat strong in his body, but very weake and feeble in his minde, and resting altogether comfortlesse: often tossing him, and tumbling vp and downe in his bed, fetching deepe and dolefull sighes, with aboundant streames of trickling teares, and wailefull wringing of his handes: whome beholding, O Axiochus quoth I, what meaneth this? where bee now those haughtie and couragious words, wherewith thou wast wont to scorne and despise death? where bee those thy dayly and continuall prayses of vertue and goodnesse vanished? where also is now that thy vnspeakeableunspeakeable stoutnesse, wherewith thou wast woont to confirme thy selfe and strengthen others: for like as a cowardly champion, which at the first comming forth as to the skirmish, with stately steps and a vaunting visage, dooth soone after cast away his Target, and taketh him to flight: eueneven so seemest thou now, when there is need most of al to flinch. Hast thou no more regarde of thy diuinedivine and excellent nature, that sometime wast a man of so good life and calling, so obedient to reasons rule? and if there were nothing els, yet should it be sufficient to mooue thee, that thou art an Athenian borne: and lastly should mooue thee that common saying, which is worne in all mens mouths; That this our life is a Pilgrimage, which when we hauehave ended with perfect measure and stedfast trauelltravell: it behoueth vs with like constancy of minde, and ioyfulnes of spirit, and as it were singing a merry Paean, to enter into the purposed place of rest. But thus to languish in dispaire and tenderharted out-cries, behauingbehaving thy selfe like a froward Babe, in thee is neither regard of thy wisedome, nor respect of thy age.
True indeed O Socrates, and that which thou sayest, me seemeth right: But it commeth to passe I knowe not how, that when I drawe neere vntounto present daunger, than those great and stout-hearted wordes which I was wont to cast at death, doo closely flit away and downe are trodden vnderunderfoote. And then that Tormentor feare, the messenger of dreaded daungers, dooth sundrye wayes wound and gall my grieuedgrieved minde, whispering continually in mine eare that if I bee once depriueddeprived of this worldly light, and bereft of goods: I shall like a rotten blocke lye in the darkesome deapth, neither seene nor heard of any, beeing resoluedresolved into dust and wormes.
O Axiochus thy talke is very foolish, for reasoning thus without reason, and seeking to make some sence of senceles wordes, thou both dost and sayest cleane contrary to thy selfe, not marking, how at one time thou dost both complaine for the lacke of sence which thou shalt hauehave: and also art greatly vexed for the rotting of thy carrion Carcasse, and despoyling of thy former delights: as if by this death thou shouldest not passe into another life, or shouldest be so despoyled of all sence and feeling, as thou wert before thou wast first brought into this world. For eueneven as in those yeares when Draco and Callisthenes gouernedgoverned the common wealth of Athens, thou then wast vexed with no euilevil, for in the beginning thou wast no such as to whome euillevill might chance: so likewise when thou hast ended this state of mortalitye thou shalt no more be afflicted, for thou shalt not be in such case as that any euillevill can touch thee. VVhereforeWherefore shake off and cast away all these trifles and worldly baggage, thus waying in thy minde, that when the frame of this earthly building is dissolueddissolved, and the soule being singled, is restored to his naturall place: this bodye which is then left an earthly masse and an vnreasonableunreasonable substance, is then no more a man. For we are a soule, that is to say, an immortall creature, beeing shut vp and inclosed in an earthly dungeon. VVherewithallWherewithall nature hath clothed vs, and charged vs with many miseries, so that eueneven those things which seeme pleasant to vs and ioyfulljoyfull, are indeed but vaine and shadowed, beeing mingled and wrapped in many thousand sorrowes, and those also which vseuse to breede vs sorrowe and heauines, are both sodaine, and therefore more hardely auoydedavoyded, and also perdurable, and therefore the more painefull and wearisome. Such be diseases and inflammation of the sences: Such bee inward griefes and sickenesses, through which it cannot choose but that the soule must bee also diseased, since that beeing scattered and spread through the powres and passages of the body, it couetethcoveteth the vseuse of that open and kinde heauenheaven out of which it was deriuedderived, and thirsteth for the wonted company &and surpassing delights of that aerernall fellowship; whereby it is euidentevident, that the passage from life, no is a change from much euillevill to great good.
Since therefore O Socrates thou deemest this life so tedious and troublesome, why doost thou still abide in the same? beeing as thou art a man of so great wisedom and experience, whose knowledge reacheth farre aboueabove our commonsence, and beyond the vsuallusuall reason of most men.
Thou Axiochus doost not report rightly of me: for thou iudgest as the common people of Athens, that because you see I am giuengiven to seeke and search out many things, therefore I know somewhat. But to say the truth, I would hartely wish, and would the same account in great parte of happinesse, if I knew but these common and customable matters: so farre am I from the knowledge of those high and excellent things. For these things which I nowe declare, are the sayinges of Prodicus the wise man: some of them beeing bought for a pennye: some for two groats, and other some for foure: For that same notable man vsedused to teach none without wages, hauinghaving alwaies in his mouth that saying of Epicharmus, One hand rubbeth another: giuegive somewhat, and somewhat take. And it is not long sithence, that he making a discourse of Philosophye in the house of Callias the sonne of Hipponicus, such and so many things he spake against the state of life: that I also account life in the number of those thinges which be of lesse waight. And euerever since that time O Axiochus, my soule gaspeth after death, daily longing to die.
VVhatWhat then was said of Prodicus?
Marrie I will tell you, as they come to my minde. For what parcell (quod he) of our life is not full of wretchednes? dooth not the babie eueneven taken frõfrom the mothers wombe, powre out plenty of teares, beginning the first step of life with griefe? neither afterward hath it once any breathing or resting time from sorrow, being either distressed with pouertiepovertie, or pinched with colde, or scortched with heate, or payned with stripes: and whatsoeuerwhatsoever it suffereth, vtterutter once it cannot, but onely with crying dooth show his minde, hauinghaving no voice but that alone to bewray his griefe: and hauinghaving through many woes waded to seauen yeares of age, he is yet afflicted with greater griefes, being subiectsubject to the tyranny of the Schoolemaister and Tutor. And as his yeares encreased, so is the number of his guides and gouernours encreased, being afterwards in the handes of Censors, Philosophers and Capitaines. Soone after being waxen a stripling he is hemmed in with greater feare, namely of Lyceum, of the Academie, of the Schoole of games, of Rulers, of Roddes: and to shut vp all in one worde, of infinite miseries. And all the time of his youth is spent vnderunder ouer-seers which are set ouerover him by the Areopagits from which labours young men beeing once freed, are yet ouer-layde with greater cares and more weightie thoughts, touching the ordering of his state and trade of life: which also if they be compared with those that followe, all these former troubles may seeme but childish and indeed babish trifles. For herevponhereupon dooth a troope of euilsevils accrew, as be the exploites of warfare, the bitternesse of wounds, the continuall labour, skirmishes: and then closely creepeth on olde Age, in which are heaped all the harmes that pertaine to mankinde, whether of weakenesse as naturall, or of paine as being externall. And but if one betimes restore his life as a dew debt to death: Nature euerever waiting as a greedy vsurerusurer, taketh paynes aforehand, snatching and pulling from this man his sight, from that his hearing, from som both two senses. And if any fortune lõgerlonger then commonly is seene in this life to linger, Nature weakening hir powres, dooth loose, lame, and bow downe all partes of his body, but they whose bodies in old age long flourisheth in minde, as the saying is, become twise children. And therfore the gods, knowing what is most expedient for men, those whome they most deerely louelove, do soonest take out of this vale of no wretchednes. And for this cause Agamedes and Trophonius, when they had built a Temple to Pythius Apollo, desiring of the god therefore to grant them the best rewarde that might be giuengiven, soone after when they layde them downe to rest, neuernever rose againe.
Likewise Cleobis &and Biton, the sonnes of the ArgiueArgive Nunne, whẽwhen their mother had made hir praier to IunoJuno, that to her sonnes for their great godlines might be giuengiven some singuler gift (for that they when her yoake of Oxen were not readily to bee found at the time of sacrifice, themseluesthemselves being yoaked in the charriot, drew their mother to the Temple) vponupon this their mothers request, the two sonnes the next morning were found dead. It were too long in this place to reherse the testimonies of Poets which in their diuinedivine poesies do diuinelydivinely bewaile and lament the miseries of mans life, I will nowe onely in place of many, recite the witnesse of one, being most worthie of memorie, which thus saith,
How wretched a thred of life hauehave the gods spun,
To mortall men that in this race of life do run.
And againe:
Of all that in the earth are ordained by nature,
Than man, is not to bee found
a more wretched creature.
But of Amphiaraus what saith the Poet?
Him louedloved highest IupiterJupiter and Apollo deare,
yet could he not reache to his eldest yeare.
What thinkest thou of him
that taught the childe to crie:
When first the Sunne bright day,
he seeth with tender eye.
But I will let them passe, least contrarye to promise, I seeme to discourse at large, and that in the alleadging of forraine witnesses. What trade of life I pray you is there, or what occupation, of which you shall not find many that complaine and greatly mislike of their present affaires. Let vs ouerrunneoverrunne the companies of Artificers &and craftsmen, which continually labour from night to night, and yet hardly able to find them necessaries to liuelive, by bewayling theyr bare estate, &and filling their nightwatchings with sorrow and teares. Let vs els suruewsurvew the life of Marriners and Seafaring men, which make a hole through so many dangers, &and which as Bias said, are neither in the number of the liuingliving nor yet of the dead, for man being borne to abide vponupon the earth, dooth as it were a creature of a double kinde, thrust himselfe into the maine sea, and wholy putpvt his life into the hands of fortune. But the life of husbandmen will some say is pleasant, and so in deed it is: but hauehave they not a continuall ranckling gall, euerever breeding new cause of greefe and disquiet, sometime by reason of drought, sometime because of raine, otherwhile for scortching, oft through blasting, which parcheth the vntimelyuntimely eare oftentimes, because of importunate heate or vnmeasurableunmeasurable colde, miserably weeping and complaining. But aboueabove all, that honourable state of gouernementgovernement and principallitie (for I let passe many other things &and wrap them vp in silence) through how many dangers is it tossed and turmoiled, for if at any time it hauehave any cause of ioyejoye, it is like vntounto a blowne blister or a swelling sore, soone vp, and sooner downe: oftentime suffering a foule repulse, which seemeth a thousand times worse then death it selfe. For who at any time can be blessed, that hangeth vponupon the waueringwavering will of the witlesse many ? And albeit the Magistrate deseruedeserve fauourfavour and praise, yet is he but a mocking stocke and scoffe of the comminalty, being soone after, outcast, hissed at, condemned, and deliuereddelivered to a miserable death. For where I praye thee O Axiochus, (thee I aske that art in office in the commonwealth) dyed that mightie Miltiades? where that victorious Themistocles? where that valiant Ephialtes? where finally thse noble kings and glorious Emperours, which not long a goe flourished in the commonwealth. As for my selfe, I could neuernever be brought to beare office in the Cittie: for I neuernever accounted it as a worthie and lawdable thing to be in authority together with the madding multitude.
But Theramenes and Calixenus of late memorie appointing vnderunder them certaine Magistrates, condemned certaine guiltlesse men, not hearing their causes to vndeseruedundeserved death. Onelye withstood them you, and Triptolemus, of thirty thousand men which were gathered in the assemblie.
It is as thou sayest Socrates, and since that time I hauehave refrained my selfe from the stage: neither hath any thing euerever to mee seemed of greater waighte, then the gouerninggoverning of the common-wealth, and that is well knowne to them which are in the same office. For thou speakest these things, as hauinghaving out of some high loft onely ouerlookedoverlooked the troubles and tempests of the common-wealth, but we know the same more assuredly, hauinghaving made proofe therefore in ourseluesourselves, for the common people indeede our freends Socrates is vnthankefull, disdainefull, cruell, enuiousenvious, and vnlearnedunlearned, as that is gathered together of the scumme and dregs of the rascall route, and a sorte of idle losels: whome hee that flattereth and feedeth is much worse himselfe than they.
Since therefore O Axiochus, thou doost so greatly disallow that opinion, which of all other, is counted most honest and liberall; what shall we iudgejudge of the other trades of life ? shall wee not thinke that they are likewise to bee shunned: I remember that I once heard Pro- dicus say; that death pertayneth neither to the liuingliving nor to the dead.
How meane you that, Socrates?
Mary thus; that death toucheth not them that are, and as for those that are departed out of this life, are now no more, and therfore death now toucheth them not: for thou art not yet dead, neither if thou decease, shall it concerne thee, for thou shalt then hauehave no more. Therefore, most vaine is that sorrow which Axiochus maketh, for the thing which neyther is present, nor shall euerever touch Axiochus himselfe. And eueneven as foolish is it, as if one should complaine and be afraid of Scylla, or the Centaures, which were monsters, of Poets broode, which neyther now belong to thee, nor to thy liueslives end shall appertaine; for feare is conceyuedconceyved of such things as be: but of such things as be not, what feare can there be?
Truely Socrates, you hauehave fetched these things, out of the riche and most aboundant Storehouse of your woonderfull wisedome: And thereof riseth that your mildenesse and lightnesse of speech, which you vseuse to allure the mindes of yoong men to vertue. But the losse of these worldly commodities, dooth not a little vexe and disquiet my minde; albeit these reasons, which now to my great good liking you hauehave alledged, seeme to mee much more allowable, than those which late you vsedused; for my minde is not carryed away with error through the entisement of your words, but perceiuethperceiveth them well, neither doe those things greatly mooue my minde, which onely hauehave a colour and shadowed showe of truth, being set out with flanting pride, and glory of words, but yet truth hauehave they none.
Thou art farre wide Axiochus, and reasonest vnskilfullyunskilfully, ioyningjoyning the feeling of euillevill, with the wante of good things, forgetting thy selfe that then thou shalt bee in the number of the sencelesse dead. For him indeed which is bereft of all good things, dooth the contrary force of euillevill things greatly vexe. But he which hath no being, can take nor feele nothing, in place of those things whereof he is despoiled. Then by what reason can any griefe bee conceyuedconceyved of that thing, which breedeth no sence nor perseueranceperseverance of any thing which hurteth. For if in the beginning O Axiochus, thou didst not, though indeed in vayne, ioynejoyne sence and feeling to death, most vnwiselyunwisely, thou shouldest neuernever had cause to feare death. But now thou doest confound thy selfe, and speakest contrarie to thy selfe, oft fearing that thou shalt bee depriueddeprived of soule and sence together, and oft thinking, that with thy sence thou shalt feele that thing, whereof there is no sence nor feeling. And to this purpose do all those excellent and notable reasons of the soules immortalitie tend.
For it is not the weake nature of mortall man, to raise himselfe to the fulfilling of such high and haughtye matters, as to despise the ramping rage of wilde beasts, to ieopardjeopard himselfe in the wastefull sea, to builde Citties, and them with lawes and pollicie to establish: to looke vp into heauenheaven, and marke the course of the Starres; and the wayes of the Sunne and Moone, with their risings and setting, to consider their eclipses, their spaces, their making of the nights and dayes alike, their double conuersionsconversions, to behold the order of the windes, the seauen watrie starres, of winter, of summer, of stormes, with the violent rage of whirlewindes, and as it were these labours of the world, to deliuerdeliver to posteritie, vnlesseunlesse in our mindes there were a certaine diuinedivine spirit and vnderstandingunderstanding, which could comprehend and reach vntounto the supernaturall knowledge of so great matters.
VVhereforeWherefore nowe O Axiochus, thou art not in the way to death, but to immortality, neither shalt thou (as thou didst seeme right now to feare) bee bereft of all good, but shall hereby enioyenjoy true and perfect good: Neither shalt thou perceiueperceive such durty pleasures as are these, beeing mingled with the puddle of this sinfull body, but most pure and perfect delight being deuoiddevoid of all contagious trouble. For beeing loosed and deliuereddelivered out of the darkesome dungeons of this body, thou shalt passe to that place where is no lacke nor complaint, but all things full of rest, and deuoiddevoid of euillevill. MoreouerMoreover there is calme and quiet liuingliving without all knowledge of vnrestunrest, peaceable and still occupied in beholding the course &and frame of Nature, and studying Philosophy, not to please the idle ignorant and common sort, but with vprightupright and vndeceiuableundeceivable truth.
O Socrates with this thy gladsome speech thou hast now brought mee into a cleane contrary minde, for so farre am I nowe from dread of death, that I am eueneven set on fire and burne with desire thereof. And that I may stay my selfe in the steppes of them which are counted workemasters of speech, I will say thus much more excellently, Now I begin to behold those high matters, and doo ouerlookeoverlooke that aeternall and heauenheavenly course of things, hauing now raysed vp my selfe out of my weakenes, and being as it were renued and refreshed of my former malady.
If you demaunde of mee another reason, and signe of the soules immortality, I will tell you what the wise man Gobrias shewed me: He saide that at what time Xerxes conuayedconvayed his huge Army into Greece, his Grandfather which was of the same name, was sent into Delos to defende that Iland in which were two Gods borne. In the same Iland that his Grandfather learned out of certaine brasen Tables which Opis and Hecuergus had brought out of the Northerne Countries, That the soule after time it is dissolueddissolved from the body passeth into a certaine darkesome place, a Coast that lyeth vnderunder the earth wherein is Plutoes Pallace no lesse than IupitersJupiters IupiterJupiter kingdome: For the earth being equally ballanced in the middest of the world, and the compasse thereof beeing round as a ball, that the one halfe Sphere thereof is allotted to the higher Gods, and the other halfe to the infernall powres; betwixt whom there is such kindred and allyance, that some bee brothers, and other some brothers children. But the entry of the way which leadeth to Plutoes kingdome is fenced with iron gates, and fastened with brasen bolts: which when a man hath opened, he is entertained of the RiuerRiver A- cheron; next which is Cocytus: which flouds being ouerpassedoverpassed, hee must come before Mi- nos and Rhadamanthus, the merciles IudgesJudges: which place is called the plain of Truth where the IudgesJudges sit examining eueryevery one that commeth thither how he hath liuedlived, and with what trade or manner of life hee hath inhabited his mortall body, with whom there is no place for lies; nor refuge for excuses. Then they which in their life time were inspired and led with a good Angell, are receiuedreceived into the houshold of the blessed, where all seasons flowe with abundance of all fruits, where from the siluersilver springs doo calmely run the Christall streames, where the flourishing medowes are cloathed with chaungeable Mantles of glorious colours, where are famous Schooles of renowmed Philosophers, goodly companies of diuinedivine Poets, trim sorts of Dauncers, heauenheavenly Musicke, great banquets furnished with costly cates, Tables abounding with all bounty, delights without all care, and pleasures without all paine: For the Inhabitants thereof are neither touched with force of cold, nor payned with excesse of heate, but the moderate Aire breatheth on them mildly and calmely, being, lightned with the gentle Sunnebeames.
In this place, and in the Elysian fields, they which hauehave taken holy orders are highly aduancedadvanced and reuerencedreverenced, dayly ministring the vnsearcheable rytes of Religion. VVhereforeWherefore then shouldest thou doubt but to be made partaker of the same honor, being one of the seede of that heauenheavenly race: It is an old saying and rightly reported, that Hercules and Bac- chus going downe to hell, they were instituted in holly orders, and that they were emboldned to goe thither of the Goddesse Eleusina. But they which being wrapped in wickednes hauehave led an vngodlyungodly life, are snatched vp by the Furies, and by them carried through the lowest hell into deepe darkenes and vtterutter confusion, where the place and abode of the wicked is, and where the three score daughters of Danaus dwell, whose punishment is continually to fill a sort of bottomlesse vessels, where also is to bee seene the vnquencheable thirst of Tantalus, the gnawen Entrailes of Titius, and the endles stone of Sisiphus, whose end beginneth a newe labour. There bee they rent of wilde beasts, continually scorched with burning Lamps, pained with all kind of torments, and afflicted with endlesse pennance. These thinges I remember that I hauehave heard Gobrias tell; but you Axio- chus may iudgejudge of them as you list. Only this I know and assuredly hold fast, that eueryevery mans minde is immortall and passing out of this life feeleth no griefe nor sorrowe. VVhereforeWherefore O Axiochus whether thou be carryed into those highest Pallaces or lower Vawts, needes must it bee that thou shalt bee blessed because thou hast liuedlived well and godly.
Minding to hauehave said something vntounto thee (O Socrates) I am impeached with bashfull shame: For so farre am I now from the horror and dread of death, that I continually couetcovet the time thereof: So hath thy heauenheavenly and comfortable speeches pierced and relieuedrelieved my faint heart. And nowe loath I this life, and scorne the delights thereof, as that shall from henceforth passe into a better abode. And now by my selfe alone will I recount these thy notable sayings, but I pray thee (O Socrates) after noone resort to me againe.
I will doo as you say, and now will I returne to walk in my school Lynosargus from whence I was hither called.
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Off: That a large share it hewd out of the rest, (blest. And glauncing downe his shield, from blame him fairely (FQ I.ii.18.8-9) On: That a large share it hewd out of the rest, And glauncing downe his shield, from blame him fairely blest.

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Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine (FQ I.i.14.9) 14.9. Most lothsom] this edn.; Mostlothsom 1590

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And shall thee well rewarde to shew the place, (FQ I.i.31.5) 5. thee] 1590; you 15961609

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To my long approoved and singular good frende, Master G.H. (Letters I.1) 1. long aprooved: tried and true, found trustworthy over a long period