Socrates: I am pleased that thou comest nearer me, Physon; I have been admiring thy beautiful garment at a distance.
Physon: lt cost me a great many drachmas; thrice must the purple shell-fish yield its costly dye to produce this rich colour. Now none can compare with me; the greatest in Athens enviously makes way for me, and, only think! before I inherited my property, nobody cared an iota for me.
Socrates: Then I presume thou art now worth infinitely more, art infinitely happier, than formerly, when thou usedst to dig my little garden for a scanty hire.
Physon: I should think so indeed! He that can regale himself for hours together at the most richly furnished table with the most delicious viands, that can set before twenty guests wine from the Cyclades fifty years of age, and complete their intoxication with the music of the lute and the sweet voices of female choristers, that can drive over great estates as the sole possessor, and can issue his commands to a hundred slaves – should such an one not be deemed happy?
Socrates: But thou wast formerly a healthy, sensible man before thou inheritedst the property; thou hadst thy house, wast beloved by thy wife, thy children and thy neighbours; thou earnedst thy bread, together with an excellent appetite und robust health. – . At what dost thou value thy fortune?
Physon: -At five millions.
Socrates: How much richer dost thou esteem a man with a sound reason than that unfortunate maniac Aphron.
Physon: The greater richness of the former is to be measured by no amount of wealth.
Socrates: At what price wouldst thou part with thy five children?
Physon: Certainly not for all my wealth. Physicians would be kings could they make women fruitful or save children from death.
Socrates: Thou art right, but in that case thy wife could not have been much less valued?
Physon: By Juno! I would not part with her for millions if she still lived! The charming woman, with whose fidelity and thriftiness and goodness, and excellent manner of bringing up children when I used to live upon boiled beans, all the treasures of the earth were not to be compared.
Socrates: But blindness, lameness, a pair of deaf ears, and a lingering fever, thou wouIdst suffer for an inconsiderable sum?
Physon: Zeus forbid! Dost thou imagine that this prospect of the sun gilding the mountain tops as in the morning it issues forth from the misty ocean, diffusing life and joy over all the habitable globe, that the melting song of Apollo’s rival, the nighthingale, that my warm blood, the healthy breath of my lungs, my strong stomach and my refreshing sleep, could be bartered by me for any amount of gold?
Socrates: Hygieia preserve them to thee! But it seems from thy calculation that thou hast not become richer by thine inheritance than the sea-shore would become by the addition of a spoonful of sand. What are thy boasted five millions when compared with the innumerable millions of thy former blessings! Of a truth, when thou commencest to esteem thyself happy only after thou hast got this little addition, when thou lookest down so contemptuously on thy former apparently poor condition, I must pity thee; thou shewest thereby that thou hast never rendered the thanks due from thee to the immortal gods! I am sorry for thee, thou that was formerly so brave a man! Did they formerly regard less beneficially thy well-meant offering of salt and roasted flour, than they do now thy proud sacrifice of a bull? I am sorry for thee!
Go into the dark at midnight and feel the costliness of thy purple garment; thou seest nought, thou feelest nought but that thy nakedness is covered, and was not this also the case when thou performedst thy hard manual labour for a few oboli. Are the flatteries of thy fawning guests dearer to thee than formerly was the pressure of thy master’s hand when he was pleased with thee? Dost thou really walk softer on thy gold-embroidered carpets than thou usedst to do on the unpaid-for green turf?
Perhaps the dark Persian wine now quenches thy thirst better than the spring that formerly trickled forth beside thy mossgrown cottage; perhaps thou risest now more refreshed from thy soft bed at noon, to which time a splendid supper causes thy sleep to be prolonged, than thou didst formerly from thy not very soft straw matrass, which the fatigues of the day’s work made welcome to thee? Probably flamingoes’ tongues served on gold plate, though from repeated repletion thou hast but little hunger left, are much more relished than milk and bread after hard work! Perhaps the thousand forced and artificial endearments of the hired girls that hover round thee now afford a purer, more permanent enjoyment to thy senses, nearly worn down to obtuseness, than did formerly the artless, trusting embrace of thy true and hearty wife in rare moments of happiness, when the unadorned black hair fell artlessly upon her neck browned by the sun, her constant heart throbbed for thee alone, and love for thee alone streamed forth from her dark eyes. Perhaps we live more secure from diseases, lightning and thieves, in marble pillared palaces, filled with numbers of dearbought slaves, in beds inlaid with ivory, and beside bags filled with the precious metals, than in the lowly cottage covered with ivy, provided with the necessaries of life for several days to come, among honest neighbours and friends? Physon! Physon! mistake not the destiny of man, forget not the happiness of thy former days which the gods granted to thee, and which were dear to thee. Only ask thyself, if ever thou hast an hour to spare for this purpose, whether thou hast not more cause to envy thy former lot, than others have to envy thee thy present life!
Knowest thou the man that has just passed us clad in a coarse woollen garment? In his venerable aged form beams universal philanthropy. That is Eumenes, the physician. The many thousands that he yearly makes by the practice of his art, he does not spend on fine country houses and on the other vain trifles of the luxurious. His happiness consists in doing good! About the tenth part of his large income he uses for his limited wants, the rest he puts out to interest in the state. And how? thou askest me. To the poor he gives his aid, his medical skill. With his stores he supports the convalescent families until they can again help themselves, and with the costliest of his wines he revives the dying. He seeks out the miserable in their dirty hovels, and appears to them as a beneficient divinity; yes, when the all-vivifying sun, the image of the unknown God, refrains from shewing the dying its life-bestowing face, and even at midnight, he appears in the huts of the miserable to assist them, and lavishes on them consolation, advice and aid. They worship him as our ancestors worshipped the beneficent demi-gods, Osiris, Ceres and Aesculapius. Wilt thou soon commence to envy him? Go, Physon, and engage in some better pursuits, and then count on my esteem.
@Stapf, Ernst (publ.), Samuel Hahnemann, Kleine medicinische Schriften, 2 Bde., Arnold, Dresden und Leipzig, 1829
Presented by Katja Schütt.