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.

One thought on “For Plato, on his Nativity

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