This is true liberty, when free-born men,
Having to advise the public, may speak free,
Which he who can, and will, deserves high praise;
Who neither can, nor will, may hold his peace:
What can be juster in a state than this?
Euripides, The Suppliant Women (c. 420-415 BC), as used by John Milton as epigraph to his Areopagitica (1644). A modern translation of this passage, and a few lines immediately preceding, by Frank William Jones, runs as follows:
Nothing . . .
Is worse for a city than an absolute ruler.
In earliest days, before the laws are common,
One man has power and makes the law his own:
Equality is not yet. With written laws,
People of small resources and the rich
Both have the same recourse to justice. Now
A man of means, if badly spoken of,
Will have no better standing than the weak;
And if the little man is right, he wins
Against the great. This is the call of freedom:
“what man has good advice to give the city,
And wishes to make it known?” He who responds
Gains glory; the reluctant hold their peace.
For the city, what can be more fair than that?