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On Talkativeness
by [?]

On Talkativeness.[541]

Sec. I. Philosophy finds talkativeness a disease very difficult and hard to cure. For its remedy, conversation, requires hearers: but talkative people hear nobody, for they are ever prating. And the first evil this inability to keep silence produces is an inability to listen. It is a self-chosen deafness of people who, I take it, blame nature for giving us one tongue and two ears. If then the following advice of Euripides to a foolish hearer was good,

“I cannot fill one that can nought retain,
Pumping up wise words for an unwise man;”

one might more justly say to a talkative man, or rather about a talkative man,

“I cannot fill one that will nothing take,
Pumping up wise words for an unwise man;”

or rather deluging with words one that talks to those who don’t listen, and listens not to those who talk. Even if he does listen for a short time, talkativeness hurries off what is said like the retiring sea, and anon brings it up again multiplied with the approaching tide. The portico at Olympia that returns many echoes to one utterance is called seven-voiced,[542] and if the slightest utterance catches the ear of talkativeness, it at once echoes it all round,

“Moving the mind’s chords all unmoved before.”[543]

For their ears can certainly have no passages leading to the brain but only to the tongue. And so while other people retain what they hear, talkative people lose it altogether, and, being empty-headed, they resemble empty vessels, and go about making much noise.[544]

Sec. II. If however it seems that no attempt at cure has been left untried, let us say to the talkative person,

“Be silent, boy; silence has great advantages;”

two of the first and foremost of which are hearing and being heard, neither of which can happen to talkative people, for however they desire either so unhappy are they that they must desist from it. For in all other diseases of the soul, as love of money, love of glory, or love of pleasure, people at any rate attain the desired object: but it is the cruel fate of talkative people to desire hearers but not to get them, for everyone flees from them with headlong speed; and if people are sitting or walking about in any public place,[545] and see one coming they quickly pass the word to one another to shift quarters. And as when there is dead silence in any assembly they say Hermes has joined the company, so when any prater joins some drinking party or social gathering of friends, all are silent, not wishing to give him a chance to break in, and if he uninvited begin to open his mouth, they all, “like before a storm at sea, when Boreas is blowing a gale round some headland,” foreseeing tossing about and nausea, disperse. And so it is their destiny to find neither willing table-companions, nor messmates when they are travelling by land or by sea, but only such as cannot help themselves; for such a fellow is always at you, plucking hold of your clothes or chin, or giving you a dig in the ribs with his elbow. “Most valuable are the feet in such a conjuncture,” according to Archilochus, nay according to the wise Aristotle himself. For he being bothered with a talkative fellow, and wearied out with his absurd tales, and his frequent question, “Is not this wonderful, Aristotle?” “Not at all,” said he, “but it is wonderful that anyone with a pair of legs stops here to listen to you.” And to another such fellow, who said after a long rigmarole, “Did I weary you, philosopher, by my chatter?” “Not you, by Zeus,” said he, “for I paid no attention to you.” For even if talkative people force you to listen,[546] the mind can give them only its outward ears to deluge, while it unfolds and pursues some other thoughts within; so they find neither hearers to attend to them, nor credit them. They say those that are prone to Venus are commonly barren: so the prating of talkative people is ineffectual and fruitless.