Sunday, April 26, 2015

Diotima on Socrates

"There is poetry, which, as you know, is complex and manifold. All creation or passage of non–being into being is poetry or making, and the processes of all art are creative; and the masters of arts are all poets or makers.


"And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is.

 --Diotima of Mantinea (as quoted by Socrates in Plato's Symposium).

Men of Athens, you did not invite
A woman to sup with you that night.
Agathon shared his cups among men:
Not with children, or slaves or women.

(All of your speeches regarding love
Were overseen by a senior sage:
He had the hands of a stone-cutter,
And for wisdom's sake, he drank hemlock.)

I tell you this as the Pythia.
For as a teacher of Socrates,
I led him on beauty's uphill path:
Love's ladder, child of plenty and lack.

(I will not remind you of your loss:
Your run-away chariots, per Phaedrus.
I'll return to my cave, in dissent,
Alone with my bright Phoebus, descend.)

I'll pass a carving of Socrates
And smile at the familiar phrases
Recorded in history by man,
Folded into light by a woman. *

*a bit of a misquoting of Pythagoras.

Diotima of Mantinea (Józef Simmler, 1855)


Harlequin said...

For all that Socrates is the hero in almost all of Plato's early dialogues … “all wrong doing the expression of ignorance” … “the seeking of a definition in the general term” … the answer being ruled and measured in the “Socracratic method” … The beauty of the aeons is, in retrospect, our different stories have their place, we all have a lot to say. I do so like a post that primes the mind :) Well Done

Iulia Flame said...

Thank you, Harlequin. I tried to leave a comment on one of your recent posts but my computer was not cooperating. :)

It does seem just a tad odd to me that Socrates was so highly acclaimed AFTER he drank hemlock. :)

It is healthy to stir up fresh dialogue, methinks.

Harlequin said...

Of Socrates, Cicero said “(he) called philosophy down from the heavens” and no doubt he was a game changer. But by all accounts he also managed to annoy just about everyone in the Athens of the day with his constant questioning and endless arguments. Yet he himself claimed to know nothing and he never wrote anything down.

Much of what we might know comes from Plato who was both philosophical and literary, creating within his dialogues all manner of multi-dimensional literary devices that survive to this day. We know well enough the demise of Socrates and without his threat what remains is legacy. Stories get told and one story begats another and history does so love the romance of a good legacy?

Iulia Flame said...

Harlequin, you enlighten me. I must admit that I am no scholar of Plato, but rather a curious wanderer.... :)

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