DISCIPLES.[1] Why do you look so gloomy, father Paphnutius? Why do you not smile at us as usual?

PAPHNUTIUS. When the heart is sad the face clouds over. It is only natural.

DISCIPLES. But why are you sad?

PAPHNUTIUS. I grieve over an injury to my Creator.

DISCIPLES. What injury?

PAPHNUTIUS. The injury His own creatures made in His very image inflict on Him.

DISCIPLES. Oh, father, your words fill us with fear! How can such things be?

PAPHNUTIUS. It is true that the impassible Majesty cannot be hurt by injuries. Nevertheless, speaking in metaphor, and as if God were weak with our weakness, what greater injury can we conceive than this—that while the greater world is obedient, and subject to His rule, the lesser world resists His guidance?

DISCIPLES. What do you mean by the lesser world?




DISCIPLES. What man?

PAPHNUTIUS. Every man.

DISCIPLES. How can this be?

PAPHNUTIUS. It has pleased our Creator.

DISCIPLES. We do not understand.

PAPHNUTIUS. It is not plain to many.

DISCIPLES. Explain, father.

PAPHNUTIUS. Be attentive, then.

DISCIPLES. We are eager to learn.

PAPHNUTIUS. You know that the greater world is composed of four elements which are contraries, yet by the will of the Creator these contraries are adjusted in harmonious arrangement. Now, man is composed of even more contrary parts.

DISCIPLES. What can be more contrary than the elements?

PAPHNUTIUS. The body and the soul. The soul is not mortal like the body, nor the body spiritual as is the soul.

DISCIPLES. That is true. But what did you mean, father, when you spoke of “harmonious arrangement”?

PAPHNUTIUS. I meant that as low and high sounds harmoniously united produce a certain music, so discordant elements rightly adjusted make one world.

DISCIPLES. It seems strange that discords can become concords.

PAPHNUTIUS. Consider. No thing is composed of “likes”—neither can it be made up of elements which have no proportion among themselves, or which are entirely different in substance and nature.

DISCIPLES. What is music, master?

PAPHNUTIUS. One of the branches of the “quadrivium” of philosophy, my son. Arithmetic, geometry, music, and philosophy form the quadrivium.

DISCIPLES. I should like to know why they are given that name.

PAPHNUTIUS. Because just as paths branch out from the quadrivium, the place where four roads meet, so do these subjects lead like roads from one principle of philosophy.

DISCIPLES. We had best not question you about the other three, for our slow wits can scarcely follow what you have told us about the first.

PAPHNUTIUS. It is a difficult subject.

DISCIPLES. Still you might give us a general idea of the nature of music.

PAPHNUTIUS. It is hard to explain to hermits to whom it is an unknown science.

DISCIPLES. Is there more than one kind of music?

PAPHNUTIUS. There are three kinds, my son. The first is celestial, the second human, the third is produced by instruments.

DISCIPLES. In what does the celestial consist?

PAPHNUTIUS. In the seven planets and the celestial globe.


PAPHNUTIUS. Exactly as in instruments. You find the same number of intervals of the same length, and the same concords as in strings.

DISCIPLES. We do not understand what intervals are.

PAPHNUTIUS. The dimensions which are reckoned between planets or between notes.

DISCIPLES. And what are their lengths?

PAPHNUTIUS. The same as tones.

DISCIPLES. We are none the wiser.

PAPHNUTIUS. A tone is composed of two sounds, and bears the ratio of nine to eight.

DISCIPLES. As soon as we get over one difficulty, you place a greater one in our path!

PAPHNUTIUS. That is inevitable in a discussion of this kind.

DISCIPLES. Yet tell us something about concord, so that at least we may know the meaning of the word.

PAPHNUTIUS. Concord, harmony, or symphonia may be defined as a fitting disposition of modulation. It is composed sometimes of three, sometimes of four, sometimes of five sounds.

DISCIPLES. As you have given us these three distinctions, we should like to learn the name of each.

PAPHNUTIUS. The first is called a fourth, as consisting of four sounds, and it has the proportion of four to three. The second is called a fifth. It consists of five sounds and bears the ratio of one and a half. The third is known as the diapason; it is double and is perfected in eight sounds.

DISCIPLES. And do the spheres and planets produce sounds, since they are compared to notes?

PAPHNUTIUS. Undoubtedly they do.

DISCIPLE. Why is the music not heard?

DISCIPLES. Yes, why is it not heard?

PAPHNUTIUS. Many reasons are given. Some think it is not heard because it is so continuous that men have grown accustomed to it. Others say it is because of the density of the air. Some assert that so enormous a sound could not pass into the mortal ear. Others that the music of the spheres is so pleasant and sweet that if it were heard all men would come together, and, forgetting themselves and all their pursuits, would follow the sounds from east to west.

DISCIPLES. It is well that it is not heard.

PAPHNUTIUS. As our Creator foreknew.

DISCIPLES. We have heard enough of this kind of music. What of “human” music?

PAPHNUTIUS. What do you want to know about that?

DISCIPLES. How is it manifested?

PAPHNUTIUS. Not only, as I have already told you, in the combination of body and soul, and in the utterance of the voice, now high, now low, but even in the pulsation of the veins, and in the proportion of our members. Take the finger-joints. In them, if we measure, we find the same proportions as we have already found in concord; for music is said to be a fitting disposition not only of sounds, but of things with no resemblance to sounds.

DISCIPLES. Had we known the difficulty that such a hard point presents to the ignorant, we would not have asked you about your “lesser world.” It is better to know nothing than to be bewildered.

PAPHNUTIUS. I do not agree. By trying to understand you have learned many things that you did not know before.

DISCIPLES. That is true.

DISCIPLE. True it may be, but I am weary of this disputation. We are all weary, because we cannot follow the reasoning of such a philosopher!

PAPHNUTIUS. Why do you laugh at me, children? I am no philosopher, but an ignorant man.

DISCIPLES. Where did you get all this learning with which you have puzzled our heads?

PAPHNUTIUS. It is but a little drop from the full deep wells of learning—wells at which I, a chance passerby, have lapped, but never sat down to drain.

DISCIPLE. We are grateful for your patience with us; but I for one cannot forget the warning of the Apostle: “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.”

PAPHNUTIUS. Whether a fool or a wise man does wrong, he will be confounded.


PAPHNUTIUS. Nor is God offended by Knowledge of the Knowable, only by undue pride on the part of the Knower.

DISCIPLES. That is well said.

PAPHNUTIUS. And I would ask you—unto whose praise can the knowledge of the arts be more worthily or more justly turned than to the praise of Him Who made things capable of being known, and gave us the capacity to know them?

DISCIPLES. Truly, to none.

PAPHNUTIUS. The more a man realizes the wonderful way in which God has set all things in number and measure and weight, the more ardent his love.

DISCIPLES. That is as it should be.

PAPHNUTIUS. But I am wrong to dwell on matters which give you so little pleasure.

DISCIPLES. Tell us the cause of your sadness. Relieve us of the burden of our curiosity.

PAPHNUTIUS. Perhaps you will not find the tale to your liking.

DISCIPLES. A man is often sadder for having his curiosity satisfied, yet he cannot overcome this tendency to be curious. It is part of our weakness.

PAPHNUTIUS. Brothers—there is a woman, a shameless woman, living in our neighbourhood.

DISCIPLES. A perilous thing for the people.

PAPHNUTIUS. Her beauty is wonderful: her impurity is—horrible.

DISCIPLES. What is her wretched name?


DISCIPLES. Thais! Thais, the harlot!


DISCIPLE. Everyone has heard of her and her wickedness.

PAPHNUTIUS. It is no wonder, for she is not satisfied to ruin herself with a small band of lovers. She seeks to allure all men through her marvellous beauty, and drag them down with her.

DISCIPLES. What a woeful thing!

PAPHNUTIUS. And it is not only fools and wastrels who squander their substance with her. Citizens of high standing and virtue lay precious things at her feet, and enrich her to their own undoing.

DISCIPLES. It is terrible to hear of such things.

PAPHNUTIUS. Flocks of lovers crowd to her doors.

DISCIPLES. And to their destruction!

PAPHNUTIUS. They are so crazed with desire that they quarrel and fight for admission to her house.

DISCIPLES. One vice brings another in its train.

PAPHNUTIUS. They come to blows. Heads are broken, faces bruised, noses smashed; at times they drive each other out with weapons, and the threshold of the vile place is dyed with blood!

DISCIPLES. Most horrible!

PAPHNUTIUS. This is the injury to the Creator for which I weep day and night. This is the cause of my sorrow.

DISCIPLES. We understand now. You have good reason to be distressed, and I doubt not that the citizens of the heavenly country share your grief.

PAPHNUTIUS. Oh, to rescue her from that wicked life! Why should I not try?

DISCIPLES. God forbid!

PAPHNUTIUS. Brother, our Lord Jesus went among sinners.

DISCIPLES. She would not receive a hermit.

PAPHNUTIUS. What if I were to go in the disguise of a lover?

DISCIPLE. If that thought is from God, God will give you strength to accomplish it.

PAPHNUTIUS. I will set out immediately. I shall need your best prayers. Pray that I may not be overcome by the wiles of the serpent. Pray that I may be able to show this soul the beauty of divine love.

DISCIPLE. May He Who laid low the Prince of Darkness give you the victory over the enemy of the human race.

  1. When Paphnutius was acted, the dialogue of the "disciples" was allotted to several different actors, with the interesting result that some definite characters emerged.


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