Epimenides, thine observations
On Athens are not without precedent.
We’ve each ourselves perceived this enlargement
Of the high and freeborn population.
What we require, Sir, is its remedy.
But the solution is very simple:
Keep men’s weapons away from women whose
Offspring shall a share of fortune fancy.
Forbid them wed, and by maidens’ absence
More discourage them to fret with fondness.
A moratorium, sir, on marriage?
Indeed, my lord, ‘tis that.
But for how long?
Until a man of age achieves thirty.
Then may he marry and march less children
To the light ‘ere he from out of it bows.
Yet if unmarried, sir, our noble sons
Shall find absent much domestic comfort;
They shall have no estates unto themselves,
Nowhere thus to claim them a concubine;
What options remain, tho’ not illegal,
Are, to this company, still unpleasant:
Else command to their beds unwilling slaves,
Or by the low brothels be held captive.
These last two furnaces are poorly fueled,
And hardly make such fires to forge strong blades.
Where then must fleshing boys, wanting manhood,
Hope to apply their lusty weapons’ work
In that idle expanse of restless days
‘Twixt the yaw of their youth to its wedlock?
That, my lord, is thy nation’s remedy.
For when a boy awakes to find himself
Fresh upon the threshold of his manhood,
And all attentive elders about him
Discern the divine bloom of his body
Into more skillful expressions of brawn;
When whiskers on his lips do whisper their
Intent to fill his face in manful fashion,
Thereby to frame the sounding assertions
That from his sinking throat shall resonate;
When his shoulders broaden above the musk
Of courage that beneath them learns to sweat;
When Sirens sing to him from ‘twixt his legs,
And the throbbing pulse of Priapus responds;
Then, good sirs, we must remove him
Swiftly from the company of women.
And give him where, sir?
To a school, my lord.
Describe it, this “school.”
A method of life,
Modeled on a brave and Spartan spirit;
A school whose state assumes the moral weight
To instruct upon formal fellowship
The science and standard of thine Athens.
Yet is it instruction, or birth control?
‘Tis both, sirrah: the two be intertwined.
I see. So by whom, Epimenides,
Might these dismal, ill-fortuned boys be taught?
Who shall make them men?
They shall make themselves.
(Favorinus pulls Antinous up to the
stage with him and places him such that he represents the 18 year-old
in the following example:)
Observe: a boy on the sweet touch of twelve
Is given by his father to the school.
Therein is he taken under the wing
Of a youth by the broad age of eighteen,
Who is himself instructed by a blade
Of twenty-four years. Thus is achieved three
Generations of perfect persuasion,
That for the song of six instructive years
Passes downward from the inspirer’s soul
Into the heart of his young listener.
Whereat arrives the eldest upon his
Thirtieth year, his duty discharged,
He takes a wife, and by her makes his home,
Therein to father his progeny’s fame.
Meantime shall his student, now twenty-four,
Impart to his original hero,
Now eighteen, of that which he was given,
While the younger takes unto his bosom
A new-bound boy by the sweet touch of twelve.
‘Tis an all-encompassed education,
Provided for, not by bare accident,
But by the design of far-thinking men,
Bolstered in the breadth of generations.