They’re light and easy to carry, and useful for the voyage

From Lucian’s Dialogues of the Dead (number 20 in the Loeb edition, whose good-enough translation I also use here).  The scene is the Styx as Hermes guides a batch of the newly dead – including the Cynic philosopher Menippus, Lucian’s sometimes mouthpiece – to Charon’s crossing:

Charon
Let me tell you how you stand; This boat is small for you, as you can see, and unsound, and leaks almost all over; if it lists one way or the other, it will capsize and sink. Yet you come in such numbers all at once, each of you laden with luggage. If, then, you take all this on board, I’m afraid you’ll be sorry for it later on, particularly those of you that can’t swim.
Dead Men
Well, what shall we do to have a good passage?
Charon
I’ll tell you. Strip yourselves before you come on board, and leave all this useless stuff on the shore; for, even then, the ferry will hardly hold you. It will be up to you, Hermes, to let none of them aboard after this, unless he has stripped himself and thrown away his trappings, as I said he must. Go and stand by the gangway, and sort them out for admission. Make them strip, before you let them on board.
…..
Hermes
But here’s an august personage, to judge by his appearance, and a proud man. Who can he be, with his haughty eyebrows, thoughtful mien, and bushy beard?

Menippus
A Philosopher, Hermes, or rather an impostor, full of talk of marvels. Strip him too, and you’ll see many amusing things covered up under his cloak.

Hermes
You there, off first with your clothes, and then with all this here. Ye gods, what hypocrisy he carries, what ignorance, contentiousness, vanity, unanswerable puzzles, thorny argumentations, and complicated conceptions—yes, and plenty of wasted effort, and no little nonsense, and idle talk, and splitting of hairs, and, good heavens, here’s gold too, and soft living, shamelessness, temper, luxury, and effeminacy! I can see them, however much you try to hide them. Away with your falsehood too, and your pride, and notions of your superiority over the rest of men. If you came on board with all these, not even a battleship would be big enough for you.
….

What’s this? Crying, you scum? Afraid to face death? Get in with you.

Menippus
He still has the heaviest thing of all under his arm.

Hermes
What, Menippus?

Menippus
Flattery, Hermes, which was often most useful to him in life.

Philosopher
What about you then, Menippus? Off with your independence, plain speaking, cheerfulness, noble bearing, and laughter. You’re the only one that laughs.

Hermes
Do nothing of the sort, but keep them, Menippus; they’re light and easy to carry, and useful for the voyage. But you, Rhetorician, throw away your endless loquacity, your antitheses, balanced clauses, periods, foreign phrases, and everything else that makes your speeches so heavy.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s