| Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers|
|by Mary E. Burt|
|Twenty-seven stories adapted for young children from selections of works of classic writers of the ancient world. The stories were chosen by the author for their inspirational value, either 'because they contained fine moral points, or else because they were poetic statements of natural phenomena which might enhance the study of natural science.' Writers represented in the collection include Plato, Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes, Pliny, and Ovid. Ages 6-9 |
THE GOODNESS THAT IS WITHIN
 I WONDER if the children who are going to read this
story or listen to it, like to get up early in the
morning. I wonder if they want to be good and are so
anxious about it that they cannot sleep.
I wonder if they think they can learn to be good, or if
they believe goodness is inside to start with and that
it must grow and grow
 itself. Perhaps some little boy
may think that he is not old enough to know these
things, but we can tell better when we hear what the
children say after the story is done.
It happened a long time ago that a young man wanted to
be good. Yes, it was a long, long time ago, but who
knows but what it may happen again some time?
He wanted to be good so badly that he could not sleep
and so he got up in the night and went to the house of
a friend to tell him about it.
I think the friend must have been very good-natured,
for he called out, "What's the news, Hippocrates?" when
he heard the young man
 knocking with a stick on his
door. "I want to be good," said Hippocrates," and it
makes me nervous and I cannot sleep. There is a
teacher come to town who can teach it to me and I want
you to get right up and take me to his house."
"It's too early, it isn't light yet," said the friend
of the young man," but I will get up and walk with
you." So he rose and dressed for a walk and he went
out into the garden and strolled around with
Hippocrates until the sun was up, and then they set out
to find the teacher who could teach people how to be
As they went along, the older
 man, whose name was
Socrates, said to the younger. "Do you really think,
Hippocrates, that anyone can learn to
be good? Now it
almost seems to me that there is good in every one and
that it must grow from the inside until a man is all
full of goodness; and that goodness is not outside of
any one and so cannot be taken in from the outside."
In a little while they came to the house of the teacher
and they sat down to listen to what he had to say, and
he told them a story, and I will tell it to you.
HOW JUSTICE CAME
There was once a time when there were no men or women
 all the earth, but the gods lived on Mount Olympus.
The time came, however, when men and animals were to be
made and put on the earth; so the gods fashioned them
inside of the earth out of clay and fire.
And when the gods wanted to bring these new creatures
out of the earth into the light of day, they commanded
two of the gods to clothe them and give to each just
such kind of a mind as properly belonged to it. One of
these gods was careful, and always thought a long time
beforehand, so that he could make no mistake, and they
called him Prometheus, which means fore-thought.
 The other god always did things carelessly. He never
did any thinking until the mischief was done and it was
too late to avoid trouble. So they called him
Epimetheus, which means after-thought. And it was this
mischief-maker who had the most to do with making
Epimetheus said to his brother, Prometheus, "Let me
distribute clothing to the men and animals, and give to
each the sort of mind proper for it to have. When I
have it all finished you can examine my work and see if
I have done it right. "
Having coaxed Prometheus and gained his permission,
Epimetheus set about clothing the animals and giving
them gifts of the mind. He
 covered the dog with hair
and gave him swiftness, but he did not give him the
power to talk.
He covered the cat with nice soft fur and gave her
strong eyesthat she might see in the dark, but he did
not give her the cunning, which he gave to the rat. He
covered the tortoise with a shell and made it slow and
patient, but he did not give it the power to climb a
He covered the wolf with long hair, gave him sharp
teeth and a terrible howl, but he did not give him the
fidelity of the dog. He gave littleness to worms and
prepared them to live in the mud or crawl on plants.
He gave hoofs to horses, and to the elephant a thick
 skin, and covered the sheep with wool.
He kept giving and giving, until he had given
everything away and yet he had not come to men. He had
given everything to irrational animals. So the human
race remained unadorned and Epimetheus was at his wit's
end, for he did not know what to do about it.
Then Prometheus came to examine his brother's work and
was much ashamed to find that every animal, except man,
was clothed and provided with everything suitable,
while man was naked, unshod, without any bed and
without anyweapons to defend himself, or any tools with
which to take care of
 himself; and the day had arrived
when all the living things must come out to the light
and live on the outside of the earth.
Prometheus wondered what he could do to aid men. He
knew that they must starve and freeze, if they were
left in such a helpless condition.
So he went among the gods to see what he could find,
that would help the poor mortals and keep them from
being destroyed. In the workshop of Vulcan, the old
lame blacksmith-god, he found Minerva, the goddess of
 making spears and spindles, and other useful
He saw that a certain kind of wisdom came from using
fire and making tools, so he stole some of the fire and
some of the wisdom, too, and took them down to mortals
for a present.
Then man came possessed of the wisdom, which would
enable him to keep from starving and freezing, and of
the power to defend himself against wild beasts.
But there was a higher wisdom, the wisdom of loving
one another, the Prometheus did not bring down to man,
for that wisdom was locked up and in the safe-keeping
of Jupiter, the greatest of the gods.
 Jupiter was so terrible, that Prometheus was afraid to
go to his home, which was guarded very securely.
Prometheus had been forbidden by Jupiter to visit his
home anymore, because he had stolen the fire and taken
it down to men; the fire belonged to the gods, and it
made men godlike, to know how to use it. Old Jupiter
did not want men to be godlike. He was very jealous
for fear that earthly creatures might grow stronger and
wiser than himself.
So all the mortals went up onto the face of the earth
instead of staying inside of it, and they took some
fire and the kind of wisdom
 which goes along with fire
and teaches men how to keep themselves alive awhile.
And they built altars to the gods, and made statues of
the gods, and burnt incense to them, which pleased
Jupiter very much, and he thought men were rather nice
In the course of time men began to try to talk, and
pretty soon they made words, and after a long time they
could tell little stories. Then they built huts, and
larger huts, and by and by they devised little houses,
and larger houses, until at last they built grand
palaces. They made shoes too, and beds, and cooked
food, and learned to make clothes and dress themselves.
 But they lived lonely lives notwithstanding, for they
were scattered all over the country. They had no
cities. They kept on using fire, and learned more and
more wisdom all the time from using it, but this wisdom
was only physical wisdom. It was outside of them and
not inside, and so it did not do anything for them ,
except to keep them alive and flourishing.
It did not teach them how to live together. It did not
exactly teach them how to live separately either, for
sometimes the wild beasts would attack them in such a
way, and in such great numbers, that many of them were
 So they sought to collect themselves together , to
preserve themselves from destruction, and they began to
build cities. When they had built cities, and had come
to live in them, and were all crowded together, they
hurt one another, because they had no wisdom, except
the physical wisdom that came from using fire. They
were selfish, and each man took anything that he
wanted, that belonged to his neighbor, and if his
neighbor offended him, he kicked, and cuffed, and even
When men had lived together a little while, and had
quarrelled and fought until they had almost destroyed
each other, Jupiter looked
 down from Mount Olympus and
said, "Are these the men who used to build temples to
me, and burn incense, and sing songs, and praise the
gods? Oh, what a shame, that they do not know how to
live together without destroying one another!
I must unlock the wisdom I have hidden away, the wisdom
that teaches people how to be generous and loving. I
will send this wisdom down to them, and I will call it
Every man shall have it inside him, right in his heart,
and he will be ashamed to hurt his brother. He will not
think anything valuable comes to him through greed.
will not want any advantage at all that comes through
 disadvantage or the grief of another."
When Jupiter called Epimetheus and said to him, "There
is the wisdom of Love. Take it down and give it to
men, so that they can live together in cities, and not
destroy one another." "Shall I give it to every man?"
said Epithemeus, "or to a few—just the best men?"
"Give it to every man, " said Jupiter. "Put it right
into his heart. Make it a part of him. Let it flow in
his blood. Let it look out from his eyes. Let it
thrill from the ends of his fingers.
Let it speak from his tongue and in the actions of his
body. And you shall make a great and
 everlasting law
in my name," continued Jupiter, "that any man who
cannot take the wisdom of love into his heart, and be
ashamed of injustice, shall be put to death as a pest
in this city."
So Epimetheus took the Wisdom of Love—the
Justice—from Jupiter and brought it down, and made it
a part of
men, and now if a man has not that wisdom, he is not
considered a man at all, but a sort of beast.
And every good man wants every other man to be good.
The mother wants the little child to be good; the
nurse, the teacher, and the father, all try to make the
children good, and when people are bad
 they are
punished in hopes that they will become good.
And now you may tell me whether you think goodness is
outside of you or inside. And you may tell me whether
you think Hippocrates learned to be good by going to
the teacher, or whether he carried goodness in his
heart all the time.
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