A Spring Morning

Just outside an open window
Mighty, agéd Oak stands sentinel.
New green leaves dance, sway
In time with gentle breezes.
Sun’s dappled beams filter through
The leaves, and the windowpanes.
Wind picks up, blows strong,
Supple branches twist and wave,
As leaves find their voice
Singing susurrus songs of spring.

Some say hymns must be solemn

Some say hymns must be
Solemn, sombre. No. Not always.
As I start to sing,
Hymning you here at evening,
Song shifts, suddenly, gives way
To brilliant peals of laughter.
Brimming, bursting with the blessing
Of your holy, honeyed presence.
Wordless, yet far from silent,
I hymn you with laughter.

For Plato, on his Nativity

According to the Athenian lunar calendar, this weekend (6th and 7th Thargelion) are the birthdays of Artemis and Socrates (on Saturday, 11 May = 6 Thargelion) and of Apollon and Plato (Sunday). In honor of the latter, I wrote these two poems last year. I post them here again here for others to enjoy, and perhaps to use in your own commemorations.

For Plato, on His Natal Day

Sing, O Muse, pray sing this day
In honor of divine Plato,
Born this day to grace mankind
With wisdom and inspire words.

Ariston’s son, Apollo’s son,
The child of Perictione,
Whose infant mouth with honey flowed,
A sign of gifts on him bestowed.

He grammar learned, for reason’s sake
And musically his spirit tamed.
For appetite as well he cared
By wrestling to a champion’s place.

Yet when he met wise Socrates,
He burned his dithyrambic verse.
He cried unto Hephaestus, “Come!
For Plato now has need of thee.”

He journeyed thrice to Sicily,
Enraged the tyrant with his words,
Was sold to slav’ry, sent away,
And ransomed by Anniceris.

In Egypt, hieratic art
He studied well, this noble soul.
The Persian Magi, too, he sought
To learn the skills of sacrifice.

In Athens, then, he made his school
In Academus’ garden there.
Both men and women, all he taught
For Wisdom’s love, his highest care.

We honor holy Plato now,
On this, his blest nativity,
In word and song, but most of all
By bearing on philosophy.

After a Song of Athens

This day, the Gods gave Plato to mankind
Who followed all the Muses in their train,
The holy fellow-worker with the swans,
Whose teachings still mellifluously flow.

Named first Aristocles, for his grandsire,
Called also Plato, thrice-deservedly:
Broad both in chest and brow the great man was,
Yet most of all, his holy words spread wide.

The night before he met wise Socrates,
That holy teacher dreamt a vision true:
A wingless swan alighted on his knees,
Then growing wings, it cried aloud and flew!

This day, as well, he left behind his flesh,
To journey home to his paternal source.
Therefore the men of Athens built his tomb,
Inscribing there, to honor him, this verse:

“Asclepius Apollo to us gave
To heal our bodies, caring for our flesh.
So too, the Delphic Lord bestowed on us
For health of soul, his son, divine Plato.”

We honor, too, Apollo on this day.
With feast and song, your festival we keep.
We pray, look kindly on us, send your gifts
Of wisdom and inspired dreams in sleep.

Note: The Anonymous Prolegomena to Platonic Philosophy tells us that the Athenians used to honor Plato’s birth with a hymn that began “On this day, the Gods gave Plato to mankind.” Sadly, the rest is lost.

I shared these poems on my (mostly unused) Dreamwidth journal last year. Here they are once again.

To Socrates, on his Nativity

Written yesterday, on his actual birthday; posted here a day late.

Hail to you, Socrates, midwife of souls,
Whom we honor with Artemis, for your shared goals.
To you, whom the oracle once prophesied
Were of all the Athenians surely most wise,
A mission was given, to enlighten the young.
For your skill in that task, your praises are sung.
You comfortably owned your own knowledge’s bounds
And would seek out the truth, wheresoe’er it be found.
Even on your last day, you did honor the law,
For you knew well that death’s not the end of it all.
But rather, philosophy’s practice did quite
Have much the effect of a mystery rite:
You were ready for death, whatsoever it brings
Through the study of human and all divine things.
So we honor you, Socrates, born on this day.
Pray lead us and guide us on Wisdom’s bright way.

Who are you, who beckon?

Up and down, all around,
My thoughts twist and fly.
Plans tumble away,
I rethink my design.

Have I played my cards wrong?
So the critic might say.
Yet I’m journeying on
And I welcome the way.

With my eyes on the prize
I attend to the call.
For a life filled with meaning
I will gamble it all.

I know something greater
is there, through the fog.
Though not seeing the details,
I must journey on.

I’m hopeful and joyful
As I face each surprise,
And I trust that my guardians
Speak true words and wise.

Who are you, who beckon?
Some spirit or god?
Or the voice of my own soul
Now spurring me on?

Whoe’er you may be,
Pray lead me, and guide,
That by taking this journey
I live, and I thrive,

Bringing gifts to the world,
Singing songs full of joy,
Doing that holy Work
Without which I would die.

Last Snows Melt in Spring

Last snows melt in spring.
And with roaring, resonant thunder
the rushing river runs on,
weaving a blanket of wind
and of sound, to wrap
the weary wanderer in the
comfort of a cool embrace.
While overhead, through hemlock branches
borne up on the breeze,
dappled sunbeams dance their dance.

With thanks to Andrew B. Watt, for suggesting (in a recent post) the 50-word format.

To the Muses, at the Beginning

Clear-voiced Muses, I call to you,
Upraising this hymn as this new work I commence.

O leaders to wisdom, my much-beloved patrons,
Mnemosyne’s daughers, pray attend to my words.

From the song of the stars to the stories of men
You bring virtue and skill to the sage and the bard.

Come with your grace, with many fine gifts.
Inspire my mind, blessed teachers and guides.

Give me honey-sweet words as I write in this space.
Holy guardians and patrons, please bless me and this work.