10 June 2007

from Phaedrus, 229a-c, 230a-d (Plato, trans. Robin Waterfield)

SOCRATES: Let's turn off the road here and walk alongside the Ilissus. Then we can find somewhere quiet to sit down, wherever we like.
PHAEDRUS: It turns out to be a good thing that I have no shoes on. You never do, of course. It will be very easy for us to wet our feet as we walk by the stream, which will be nice, especially at this time of day in this season.
SOCRATES: Lead the way, then, and at the same time think about where we might sit.
PHAEDRUS: Do you see that very tall plane tree?
SOCRATES: Of course.
PHAEDRUS: It's shady and breezy there, and there's grass for sitting on, or lying on if we like.
SOCRATES: Lead the way, please.
PHAEDRUS: Tell me, Socrates, isn't this or hereabouts the place from where Boreas is said to have abducted Oreithuia from the Ilissus?
SOCRATES: Yes, that's how the story goes, anyway.
PHAEDRUS: Well, wasn't it from here? At any rate, the water has a pleasant, clean, clear appearance - just right for girls to play beside.
SOCRATES: No, this isn't the place. It's about two or three stades downstream, where one crosses to go towards Agra. There's an altar of Boreas somewhere there.
PHAEDRUS: I've not really noticed it. But tell me, Socrates, by Zeus: do you think this story is true?
SOCRATES: It wouldn't be odd for me to doubt it as the experts do. I might give a clever explanation of it [...] But anyway, my friend, if I may interrupt our conversation, isn't this the tree you were taking us to?
PHAEDRUS: Yes, this is the one.
SOCRATES: By Hera, what a lovely secluded spot! This plane tree is very tall and flourishing, the agnus is tall enough to provide excellent shade too, and since it is in full bloom it will probably make the place especially fragrant. Then again, the stream flowing under the plane tree is particularly charming, and its water is very cold, to judge by my foot. The place seems by the statuettes and figures to be sacred to certain of the Nymphs and to Achelous. Or again, if you like, how pleasant and utterly delightful is the freshness of the air here! The whisper of the breeze chimes in a summery, clear way with the chorus of the cicadas. But the nicest thing of all is the fact that the grass is on a gentle slope which is perfect for resting one's head on when lying down. You are indeed a very good guide, my dear Phaedrus.
PHAEDRUS: You're quite remarkable, Socrates! You're like a complete stranger - literally, as you say, as if you were a visitor being shown around, not a local resident. It's proof of how you never leave town either to travel abroad or even, I think, to step outside the city walls at all.

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