Raymond Souster - Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending William Wordsworth The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter? If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets into the air and harvest the fog. Kazim Ali b. Living, I had no claim On your great hours. Now the thin candle-flame, The closing flowers, Wed summer with my name, — And these are Robert W. Service The Cremation of Sam McGee There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales That would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, That fire known as Fog.
The onion is the way fog has of entering the earth. Into the soil.
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Through the green leaves of the onion The Potato Harvest A high bare field, brown from the plough, and borne Aslant from sunset; amber wastes of sky Washing the ridge; a clamour of crows that fly In from the wide flats where the spent tides mourn To yon their rocking roosts in pines wind-torn; A line of grey snake-fence, that zigzags by Charles G. Roberts Little Song Both guitars run trebly.
The other slushes chords. Then they switch. They close my eyes. I close their eyes. A horn Blares its inner air to brass.
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A girl shakes Her ass. Some dude does the same. Rowan Ricardo Phillips b. Shane Book. Sylvia Legris b. I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned, Since from myself another self I turned. My care is like my shadow in the sun, Queen Elizabeth I Poor Speaker I understand you. I get it. You want me to understand. Got it. Should Lanterns Shine Should lanterns shine, the holy face, Caught in an octagon of unaccustomed light, Would wither up, and any boy of love Look twice before he fell from grace.
The features in their private dark Are formed of flesh, but let the false day come And from her lips the added pigments fall, The mummy cloths expose an ancient breast. Dylan Thomas — Deep throated base tones dissipate, swallowed by the earth; Lee Maracle b. Here I am, a labyrinth, and I am a mess. I am located at the corner of Waterway and Bluff. I need your help. You will find me to the left of the graveyard, where the Wright Wioletta Greg b.
Joy Harjo b. Claire Harris b. Walter De La Mare I am here to slay the dragon in the ready-made Susan Howe b. Insomnia If I were to sleep, it would be on an iron bed, bolted to the floor in a bomb-proof concrete room with twelve locks on the door. Kate Hall b. Chimwemwe Undi Leigh Hunt Aphra Behn Spring When daisies pied and violets blue And lady-smocks all silver-white And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue Do paint the meadows with delight, The cuckoo then, on every tree, Mocks married men; for thus sings he, Cuckoo; Cuckoo, cuckoo: Oh word of fear, Light Shining out of Darkness God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.
William Cowper Old Ironsides Ay, tear her tattered ensign down! Oliver Wendell Holmes Heat From plains that reel to southward, dim, The road runs by me white and bare; Up the steep hill it seems to swim Beyond, and melt into the glare. Upward half-way, or it may be Nearer the summit, slowly steals A hay-cart, moving dustily With idly What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Allen Ginsberg Brenda Hillman b. Fear of Snakes The snake can separate itself from its shadow, move on ribbons of light, taste the air, the morning and the evening, the darkness at the heart of things.
I remember when my fear of snakes left for good, Lorna Crozier b. Sun Bear yesterday at the Oakland zoo I was walking alone for a moment past the enclosure holding the sun bear also known as beruang madu it looked at me without interest it has powerful jaws and truly loves honey it sleeps in a high hammock its claws look made out of wood and if it dreams at all it is of Malaysia Matthew Zapruder b.
Irving Layton — Nicole Brossard b. To be relationship advice for L. To be a more comfortable hospital bed for my mother. To be, in my spare time, America for my uncle, who wants to be China Chen Chen b. Yet how much room for memory there is In the loose girdle of soft rain. Hart Crane Christian severity etched in the lines he draws from his mouth.
Clearly a noble man who believes in work and mission. See how he rises from Armand Garnet Ruffo. Wild Nights — Wild Nights! Were I with thee Wild Nights should be Our luxury! Rowing in Eden — Ah, the Sea! Might I but moor — Tonight — In Thee!
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Rita Bouvier b. The Tyger Tyger! In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, and what art, William Blake Milton Acorn — I say drop a mouse into a Billy Collins b. Flaxman We deemed the secret lost, the spirit gone, Which spake in Greek simplicity of thought, And in the forms of gods and heroes wrought Eternal beauty from the sculptured stone, — A higher charm than modern culture won With all the wealth of metaphysic lore, Gifted to analyze, dissect, explore.
A many-colored light flows from one sun Margaret Fuller Confessions What is he buzzing in my ears? Robert Browning Poetry I too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle. Marianne Moore Dover Beach The sea is calm tonight. The tide is full, the moon lies fair Upon the straits; on the French coast the light Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand, Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air! Only, from the long line of spray Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land, Matthew Arnold Her conscious tail her joy declared; The fair round face, the snowy beard, The Thomas Gray Billy-Ray Belcourt. The sky is so blue And the sea is blue and the small islands in the sea Are blue also. How our sun must love blue. Matt Rader b. Susan Holbrook b. Say this Was something reported as news On a day when your life came to no good. The new homeless drifting from row houses Along streets tamped down by the heedless And paved in afterthought.
Out of hollows James Langer b. Connie Fife b. Helen All Greece hates the still eyes in the white face, the lustre as of olives where she stands, and the white hands. All Greece reviles Klein Robert Herrick Elizabeth Barrett Browning Cowboy Story The books sit on the shelf, a row of coma patients in a ward, a series of selves no longer able to learn and trapped at the point of injury: the last page. At the donor clinic I offer my arm to the spigot of the needle and think, as I see the bag fill with blood, there goes some of me.
George Murray b. Why, Because the Dazzling Sun Ah! I was at peace, and drank your beams Now, speak! Gregory Scofield b. Lose something every day. Accept the fluster of Elizabeth Bishop The Lake Isle of Innisfree I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings William Butler Yeats The Road Not Taken Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as Robert Frost Robert Creeley Spencer Reece b.
Sighing, I sit, scribbling in ink this pidgin script. I sing with nihilistic witticism, disciplining signs with trifling gimmicks — impish hijinks which highlight stick sigils. Margaret Atwood b. Through the windows — through doors — burst like a ruthless force, Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation, Into the school where the scholar is studying; Leave not the bridegroom quiet — no happiness must he have now with his bride, Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or Trillium the animal in me is constant.
Gwen Benaway And yet I know that not for us, By any ecstasy of dream, He lingers to keep luminous Bliss Carman What horror to awake at night What horror to awake at night and in the dimness see the light. Lorine Niedecker A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky A boat, beneath a sunny sky, Lingering onward dreamily In an evening of July — Children three that nestle near, Eager eye and willing ear, Pleased a simple tale to hear — Long has paled that sunny sky: Echoes fade and memories die: Autumn frosts have slain July.
Lewis Carroll I wanna live, son. But which son are you? What still Canisia Lubrin b. I step through snow as thin as script Watch white stars spin dizzy as George Elliott Clarke b. Tongo Eisen-Martin. They Flee From Me They flee from me that sometime did me seek With naked foot, stalking in my chamber. I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek, That now are wild and do not remember That sometime they put themself in danger To take bread at my hand; and now they range, Busily seeking with a continual change.
Thanked be fortune it Thomas Wyatt El Jones. Invitation to Love Come when the nights are bright with stars Or when the moon is mellow; Come when the sun his golden bars Drops on the hay-field yellow. You are sweet, O Love, dear Love, Paul Laurence Dunbar Preludes I The winter evening settles down With smell of steaks in passageways. The burnt-out ends of smoky days. And now a gusty shower wraps The grimy scraps Of withered leaves about your feet And newspapers from vacant lots; The showers beat On broken blinds and chimney-pots, And at the Eliot Their numbers as he watched, Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.
Crossing the Bar Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep Blackberrying Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries, Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly, A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea Somewhere at the end of it, heaving.
Blackberries Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes Ebon in the hedges, fat With blue-red juices. These they squander on my Sylvia Plath — Al Purdy But I am done with apple-picking now. Essence of winter sleep is on the night, The scent of apples: I am drowsing off. I cannot Harryette Mullen b. William Carlos Wiliams Thomas Hardy Tractor More than a storey high and twice that long, it looks igneous, the Buhler Versatile , possessed of the ecology of some hellacious minor island on which options are now standard.
Cresting the sections Karen Solie b. Dionne Brand b.
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Katherena Vermette b. Alden Nowlan Wolf Lake It was down that road he brought me, still in the trunk of his car. The way you know your blood can spring like a hydrant. That September, the horseflies were Elizabeth Bachinsky b. Echolalia Once one gets what one wants one no longer wants it. One no longer wants what? One no longer wants what one wanted. Ian Williams b. Ralph Waldo Emerson So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin On his face.
If he worried he hid it. He started to sing as he tackled the thing Edgar Albert Guest Susie Asado Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea. Susie Asado. Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea. Susie Asado which is a told tray sure. A lean on the shoe this means Gertrude Stein Pierre Nepveu b. Hip-Hop Ghazal Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips, decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.
As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak, inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips. Patricia Smith b. Money Coin Exhibit, British Museum. Their misshapenness strikes the table in tiny splashes, like still-cooling splatters of silver. Stater and shekel, mina and obol. Athens an owl, Messana a hare, a jar for Terone, Melos a pomegranate.
Call it museum money, written Carmine Starnino b. Bear up, bear out, bear onward This mortal soul alone, To selfhood or oblivion, Incredibly thine own, — As the foamheads are loosened And blown along the sea, Or sink and Portrait of Alice with Elvis Queen and King, they rule side by side in golden thrones above the clouds. Stephanie Bolster b. When I was a little girl At Shubenacadie school. You snatched it away: I speak like you I think like you I create like you The scrambled ballad, about my word.
Two ways I talk Both ways I say, Your way is more powerful. Rita Joe — The Princess: Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white; Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk; Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font. The firefly wakens; waken thou with me. Now droops the milk-white peacock like a ghost, And like a ghost she glimmers on to me. The Dead How great unto the living seem the dead! How sacred, solemn; how heroic grown; How vast and vague, as they obscurely tread The shadowy confines of the dim unknown!
Charles Heavysege Do you understand, or was your silence intentional? Northwest of The Seven Ken Babstock b. O Pussy, my love, Edward Lear One by one, Deep rooted in our souls, there springeth up Dark groves of human passion, rich in gloom, At first no bigger than an acorn-cup. Hope threads the tangled labyrinth, but grieves Till all our sins Charles Sangster Rachel Boast b. Song: To Celia Come, my Celia, let us prove, While we can, the sports of love; Time will not be ours forever; He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain. Why should we defer our joys?
Fame and rumor are but toys Ben Jonson How One Winter Came in the Lake Region For weeks and weeks the autumn world stood still, Clothed in the shadow of a smoky haze; The fields were dead, the wind had lost its will, And all the lands were hushed by wood and hill, In those grey, withered days. Behind a mist the blear sun rose and set, At night the Wilfred Campbell Jerome Rothenberg b. The pools low lying, dank with moss and mould, Glint through their mildews like large cups of gold.
Among the wild rice in the still lagoon, In monotone the lizard shrills his tune. The wild goose, Pauline Johnson Were we not weaned till then? But sucked on country pleasures, childishly? And now John Donne Whether he vainly cursed, or prayed indeed, The Bullets chirped — In vain!
Machine-guns chuckled, — Tut-tut! And the Big Gun guffawed. And you O my soul where you stand, Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans Marie Annharte Baker b. Interesting People of Newfoundland Newfoundland is, or was, full of interesting people. Like Larry, who would make a fool of himself on street corners for a nickel. There was the Russian who called himself the Grand Duke, and who was said to be a real duke from somewhere, John Ashbery - Alice Notley b.
When I consider how my light is spent When I consider how my light is spent, Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide, And that one Talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest he returning chide; John Milton Porphyria's Lover The rain set early in to-night, The sullen wind was soon awake, It tore the elm-tops down for spite, And did its worst to vex the lake: I listened with heart fit to break. When glided in Porphyria: straight She shut the cold out and the storm, And kneeled Kubla Khan Or, a vision in a dream.
A Fragment. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round; And Samuel Taylor Coleridge On Shakespeare. Thou in our wonder and astonishment Hast built thyself a live-long monument Groping in the thicket, about to pinch the dangling berry, my fingerpads close on air.
Word, please send over this black stretch of ocean your singular flare, Elise Partridge — There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam; A body of England Rupert Brooke En Route The train has stopped for no apparent reason In the wilds; A frozen lake is level and fretted over With rippled wind lines; The sun is burning in the South; the season Is winter trembling at a touch of spring.
A little hill with birches and a ring Of cedars — all so still, so pure with snow — It seems a tiny landscape in Duncan Campbell Scott K was supposed to come with the key, I was K was supposed to come with the key, I was to wait outside the gate. I arrived on time, the time we had agreed on and waited, as agreed, outside the gate. I waited a long time, waited and waited, waited a very long time. I stood next to the security guard from Securitas, who also stood outside the gate.
I waited, the security guard Ulrikka Gernes b. Life in a Love Escape me? Never — Beloved! While I am I, and you are you, So long as the world contains us both, Me the loving and you the loth, While the one eludes, must the other pursue. My life is a fault at last, I fear: It seems too much like a fate, indeed!
Though I do my best I A Virginal No, no! Go from me. I have left her lately. Oh, I have picked up magic in her nearness Ezra Pound The Charge of the Light Brigade I. Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. Charge for the guns! Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. Epitaph On her Son H. Youth and Beauty both are dust. Long we gathering are with pain, What one moment calls again. Seven years childless marriage past, A Son, a son is born at last: So Katherine Philips Channel Firing That night your great guns, unawares, Shook all our coffins as we lay, And broke the chancel window-squares, We thought it was the Judgment-day And sat upright.
While drearisome Arose the howl of wakened hounds: The mouse let fall the altar-crumb, The worms drew back into the mounds, The If Stone Dreams We cannot know this statue, this satyr with his head propped on a wineskin; we cannot know if he dreams. For what has been lost we are to blame, for what has been kept to be thrown away. Mary di Michele b. Anne Carson b. Five Postcards from Jericho Dear Regret, my leaning this morning, my leather foot, want of stone, age old, my burnished and bruised, hair lingering, hand caked, spongy as November, my dear Relentless, my dear Aging, Sina Queyras b.
Pale Blue Cover In the middle of the night Matt would fly to Vancouver so he could take a walk on the sea wall the next day, then go home. No one can imagine Matt teaching religion at George Bowering b. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls The tide rises, the tide falls, The twilight darkens, the curlew calls; Along the sea-sands damp and brown The traveller hastens toward the town, And the tide rises, the tide falls. Darkness settles on roofs and walls, But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls; The little waves, with their soft, white Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Sonnets from the Portuguese How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they The World Is Too Much With Us The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; — Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for Paul Muldoon b. The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Come live with me and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove, That Valleys, groves, hills, and fields, Woods, or steepy mountain yields. And we will sit upon the Rocks, Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks, By shallow Rivers to whose falls Melodious birds sing Madrigals.
And I Christopher Marlowe I Am the People, the Mob I am the people — the mob — the crowd — the mass. Do you know that all the great work of the world is done through me? I am the seed Alice Oswald b. Follow thy fair sun, unhappy shadow Follow thy fair sun, unhappy shadow, Though thou be black as night And she made all of light, Yet follow thy fair sun unhappy shadow.
Thomas Campion A Stone Diary At the beginning I noticed the huge stones on my path I knew instinctively why they were there breathing as naturally as animals I moved Pat Lowther Edgar Allan Poe Song for a Silent Treatment. I told her, in plain language, how I felt. It doesn't matter. Allons, feignons David McGimpsey b.
Salmon Courage Here at Woodlands, Moriah, these thirty-five years later, still I could smell her fear. Then, the huddled hills would not have calmed her, now as they do me. Then, the view did not snatch the panting breath, now, as it does these thirty-five years later, to the day, I relive the journey of my salmon mother. NourbeSe Philip b. Tide Would I have seen her? The tide tugging her gently past the Comfort Inn; houses, tall and gabled, the bridge and its passersby.
This is not a hidden place. The graze and drag of her, clumsy, obstructive in the divided caress of eelgrass. No search. Eight days. Soraya Peerbaye b. Joanne Arnott b. Sara Peters b. Solitude Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone; For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own. Sing, and the hills will answer; Sigh, it is lost on the air; The echoes bound to a joyful sound, But Ella Wheeler Wilcox Charles Lamb The Poet Out of the deep and the dark, A sparkling mystery, a shape, Something perfect, Comes like the stir of the day: One whose breath is an odor, Whose eyes show the road to stars, The breeze in his face, The glory of heaven on his back.
He steps like a vision hung in air, Diffusing the passion of eternity; Yone Noguchi Sherman Alexie b. O Captain! My Captain! O the bleeding drops of red, We laugh. Everyone is half-naked in I-See-U. Behind a grey curtain, a thump and quiet invoke Code Blue. We uncover your bottom line, the Left Main of a black-and-white heart, hand-drawn Madhur Anand b. Hail Hello from inside the albatross with a windproof lighter and Japanese police tape.
Adam Dickinson b. From me he Song Go, lovely rose! Tell her that wastes her time and me, That now she knows, When I resemble her to thee, How sweet and fair she seems to be. Tell her that's young, And shuns to have her graces spied, That hadst thou sprung Edmund Waller A Fixed Idea What torture lurks within a single thought When grown too constant, and however kind, However welcome still, the weary mind Aches with its presence.
Dull remembrance taught Remembers on unceasingly; unsought The old delight is with us but to find That all recurring joy is pain refined, Become a habit, and we struggle, caught Amy Lowell Ted Berrigan Lady Mary Chudleigh Time drives the flocks from field to fold, When Rivers rage and Rocks grow cold, And Philomel becometh dumb, The rest complains of cares Sir Walter Raleigh From Summer Grass The willows are thinking again about thickness, slowness, lizard skin on hot rock, and day by day this imaging transforms them into what we see: dragons in leaf, draped scales alongside the river of harried, spring Roo Borson.
We Wear the Mask We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, — This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties. Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while The tripartite schema of Idea, artifact, and imitator is as much about making as it is about imitation. Making is a continual thread through all three levels of the schema. The Ideas too are said to be made , even though that is entirely inconsistent with the doctrine of Ideas as eternal expressed earlier in the Republic itself and in all the other Platonic dialogues.
Their effort has to do with discovery rather than making. Forms, images vs. Nowhere in the Republic does Socrates mention the poet's claim to inspiration. Indeed, that claim is pointedly omitted in the passage in which Socrates talks about the beginnings of the Iliad e2—a5; see Bloom's note ad loc. Socrates implicitly denies the soundness of that claim here. Given his conception of the divine as Idea, such a claim could not be true, since the Ideas do not speak, let alone speak the things which Homer, Hesiod, and their followers recount.
The result is that the poets are fabricators even of the appearance of knowing what they are talking about; this is not inconsistent with the Ion 's characterization of poetry as inspired ignorance. Does the critique of poetry in the Republic extend beyond the project of founding the just city in speech? I have already suggested an affirmative answer when discussing book II.
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The concerns about poetry expressed in books III and X would also extend beyond the immediate project of the dialogue, if they carry any water at all, even though the targets Plato names are of course taken from his own times. It has been argued that the authority to speak truth that poets claim is shared by many widely esteemed poets since then. Controversies about, say, the effects of graphic depictions of violence, of the degradation of women, and of sex, echo the Platonic worries about the ethical and social effects of art.
The Gorgias is one of Plato's most bitter dialogues in that the exchanges are at times full of anger, of uncompromising disagreement, plenty of misunderstanding, and cutting rhetoric. In these respects it goes beyond even the Protagoras , a dialogue that depicts a hostile confrontation between Socrates and the renowned sophist by the same name. What is the fight about? Socrates asks Gorgias to define what it is that he does, that is, to define rhetoric.
And he asks him to do it in a way that helps to distinguish rhetorical from philosophical discourse: the former produces speeches of praise and blame, the latter answers questions through the give and take of discussion dialegesthai , d10 in an effort to arrive at a concise definition, and more broadly, with the intent to understand the subject.
Gorgias is forced by successive challenges to move from the view that rhetoric is concerned with words speeches to the view that its activity and effectiveness happen only in and through words unlike the manual arts to the view that its object is the greatest of human concerns, namely freedom. But persuasion about what exactly? Gorgias' answer is: about matters concerning justice and injustice b7.
But surely there are two kinds of persuasion, one that instills beliefs merely, and another that produces knowledge; it is the former only with which rhetoric is concerned. The analogy of this argument to the critique of poetry is already clear; in both cases, Socrates wants to argue that the speaker is not a truth speaker, and does not convey knowledge to his audience. As already noted, Socrates classifies poetry dithyrambic and tragic poetry are named as a species of rhetoric. Its goal is to gratify and please the spectator, or differently put, it is just a kind of flattery.
Strip away the rhythm and meter, and you have plain prose directed at the mob. It's a kind of public speaking, that's all a6-c The rhetorician is a maker of beliefs in the souls of his auditors a3—4. And without that skill—here Gorgias begins to wax at length and eloquently—other arts such as medicine cannot do their work effectively b ff.
Rhetoric is a comprehensive art. But Gorgias offers a crucial qualification that turns out to contribute to his downfall: rhetoric should not be used against any and everybody, any more than skill in boxing should be. Although the rhetorician teaches others to use the skill justly, it is always possible for the student to misuse it.
This is followed by another damaging admission: the rhetorician knows what justice, injustice, and other moral qualities are, and teaches them to the student if the student is ignorant of them a. It would follow that, in Socrates' language, the true rhetorician is a philosopher; and in fact that is a position Socrates takes in the Phaedrus. But Gorgias is not a philosopher and does not in fact know—cannot give an account of—the moral qualities in question. So his art is all about appearing, in the eyes of the ignorant, to know about these topics, and then persuading them as is expedient cf.
But this is not something Gorgias wishes to admit; indeed, he allows himself to agree that since the rhetorician knows what justice is, he must be a just man and therefore acts justly b-c. He is caught in a contradiction: he claimed that a student who had acquired the art of rhetoric could use it unjustly, but now claims that the rhetorician could not commit injustice.
All this is just too much for Gorgias' student Polus, whose angry intervention marks the second and much more bitter stage of the dialogue b3. A new point emerges that is consistent with the claim that rhetoricians do not know or convey knowledge, viz. Socrates adds that its object is to produce gratification. To develop the point, Socrates produces a striking schema distinguishing between care of the body and care of the soul. Medicine and gymnastics truly care for the body, cookery and cosmetics pretend to but do not. Politics is the art that cares for the soul; justice and legislation are its branches, and the imitations of each are rhetoric and sophistry.
As medicine stands to cookery, so justice to rhetoric; as gymnastics to cosmetics, so legislation to sophistry. The true forms of caring are arts technai aiming at the good; the false, knacks aiming at pleasure bd. Let us note that sophistry and rhetoric are very closely allied here; Socrates notes that they are distinct but closely related and therefore often confused by people c. What exactly their distinction consists in is not clear, either in Plato's discussions of the matter, or historically.
Socrates's polemic here is intended to apply to them both, as both are alleged to amount to a knack for persuasion of the ignorant by the ignorant with a view to producing pleasure in the audience and the pleasures of power for the speaker. Socrates' ensuing argument with Polus is complicated and long. The nub of the matter concerns the relation between power and justice. For Polus, the person who has power and wields it successfully is happy. For Socrates, a person is happy only if he or she is morally good, and an unjust or evil person is wretched—all the more so, indeed, if they escape punishment for their misdeeds.
In sum: Plato's suggestion is that rhetoric and sophistry are tied to substantive theses about the irrelevance of moral truth to the happy life; about the conventionality or relativity of morals; and about the irrelevance of the sort of inquiry into the truth of the matter as distinguished from opinions or the results of polls upon which Socrates keeps insisting. And if these hold, what use is there in rhetoric? For someone who wishes to avoid doing himself and others harm, Socrates concludes, rhetoric is altogether useless. Tied into logical knots, Polus succumbs. All this is just too much for yet another interlocutor in the dialogue, Callicles.
The rhetoric of the Gorgias reaches its most bitter stage. Callicles presents himself as a no-holds-barred, bare-knuckled, clear-headed advocate of Realpolitik , as we would now call it. Conventional talk of justice, fairness, not taking more than is your share, not pursuing your individual best interest—these are simply ways by which the weak seek to enslave the strong. The art of rhetoric is all about empowering those who are strong by nature to master the weak by nature. Callicles' famous diatribe includes an indictment of philosophy as a childish occupation that, if pursued past youth, interferes with the manly pursuit of power, fosters contemptible ignorance of how the real political world works, and renders its possessor effeminate and defenseless.
His example is none other than Socrates; philosophy will he says prophetically render Socrates helpless should he be indicted. Helplessness in the face of the stupidity of the hoi polloi is disgraceful and pathetic a-c. By contrast, what would it mean to have power? Callicles is quite explicit: power is the ability to fulfill whatever desire you have. Power is freedom, freedom is license a-c. The capacity to do what one wants is fulfillment in the sense of the realization of pleasure. Rhetoric is a means to that end. The quarrel between rhetoric and philosophy, thus understood, ultimately addresses a range of fundamental issues.
Its quarrel with philosophy is comprehensive, and bears on the nature of nature; the existence of objective moral norms; the connection if any between happiness and virtue; the nature and limits of reason; the value of reason understood as the rational pursuit of objective purpose in a human life; the nature of the soul or self; and the question as to whether there is a difference between true and false pleasure, i. Socrates too starts to speak at length, sounds rhetorical at times, and ends the discussion with a myth.
Callicles advances a substantive position grounded in a version of the distinction between nature and convention and defends it. These transgressions of rhetorical genres to one side, from Socrates' standpoint the ultimate philosophical question at stake concerns how one should live one's life c. Readers of the dialogue will differ as to whether or not the arguments there offered decide the matter. The nub of the debate is as current today, both in academic and non-academic contexts, as it was in Plato's day.
Is all of rhetoric bad? Are we to avoid—indeed, can we avoid—rhetoric altogether? Even in the Gorgias , as we have seen, there is a distinction between rhetoric that instills belief, and rhetoric that instills knowledge, and later in the dialogue a form of noble rhetoric is mentioned, though no examples of its practitioners can be found a-b. The Phaedrus offers a more detailed explanation of this distinction. Readers of the Phaedrus have often wondered how the dialogue hangs together.
A slightly closer look reveals that any such simple characterization is misleading, because the first half is also about rhetoric, in several different ways. The other two are rhetorical as well, and presented as efforts to persuade a young beloved. All three are justly viewed as rhetorical masterstrokes by Plato, but for different reasons. The first is a brilliantly executed parody of the style of Lysias an orator and speech writer of significant repute. It is mostly an allegory cast in the form of a myth, and tells the story of true love and of the soul's journeys in the cosmos human and divine.
The themes of poetry and rhetoric, then, are intertwined in the Phaedrus. It looks initially as though both rhetoric and poetry have gained significant stature, at least relative to their status in the Ion , Republic , and Gorgias. I will begin by focusing primarily on rhetoric, and then turn to the question of poetry, even though the two themes are closely connected in this dialogue. The answer to this crucial question constitutes one of the most famous contributions to the topic.
In essence, Socrates argues that someone who is going to speak well and nobly must know the truth about the subject he is going to discuss. The sort of theory Polus and Callicles maintained in the Gorgias is false see Phaedrus e4—a4. How to show that it is an art after all? Quite a number of claimants to rhetoric are named and reviewed, and readers who have an interest in the history of Greek rhetoric rightly find these passages invaluable.
Many rhetoricians have artfully and effectively misled their audiences, and Socrates argues—somewhat implausibly perhaps—that in order to mislead one cannot oneself be misled. It will not only be coherent, but structured in a way that mirrors the way the subject itself is naturally organized. This will not be truly accomplished if it only looks that way; to be that way, a discourse's unity should reflect the unity of its subject. At this point we might want to ask about the audience ; after all, the rhetorician is trying to persuade someone of something. Might not the speaker know the truth of the matter, and know how to embody it artfully in a composition, but fail to persuade anyone of it?
Would not a failure to persuade indicate that the speaker lacks the complete art of rhetoric? Just as an expert physician must understand both the human body and the body of medical knowledge—these being inseparable—so too the expert speaker must understand both the human soul and what is known about the soul.
The reader will immediately recall that the great speech the palinode in the first half of the Phaedrus was about the soul in its cosmic context—the soul's nature, its journeys divine and human, its longings, the objects of its longings, its failures and their consequences, were all part of the same story.
The consequence of this approach to rhetoric has now become clear: to possess that art, one must be a philosopher. True rhetoric is philosophical discourse. But what happened to the question about the audience? This last demand is a matter of practice and of the ability to size up the audience on the spot, as it were. The reader will find them summarized at b5-c6. If the audience is philosophical, or includes philosophers, how would the true, artful, philosophical dialectician address it? This question is not faced head-on in the Phaedrus , but we are given a number of clues.
According to reflections inaugurated by the Theuth and Thamus myth, the written word is not the most suitable vehicle for communicating truth, because it cannot answer questions put to it; it simply repeats itself when queried; it tends to substitute the authority of the author for the reader's open minded inquiry into the truth; and it circulates everywhere indiscriminately, falling into the hands of people who cannot understand it.
Dialectical speech is accompanied by knowledge, can defend itself when questioned, and is productive of knowledge in its audience e4—a4. Of course, all this raises the question as to the status of Plato's dialogues, since they are themselves writings; we will return to it briefly below. Popular rhetoric is not an art, but a knack for persuasion. Artful rhetoric requires philosophy; but does philosophy require rhetoric? The Phaedrus points to the interesting thought that all discourse is rhetorical, even when the speaker is simply trying to communicate the truth—indeed, true rhetoric is the art of communicating the truth notice the broad sweep of the discussion of discourse at e5—b4.
Rhetoric is present wherever and whenever people speak de4 and context. Even when one is not sure what the truth is, and even when one is thinking through something by oneself—carrying on an inner dialogue, as it were—discourse and persuasion are present. The bottom line is that there is no escaping from persuasion, and so none from rhetoric—including of course from the very problem of distinguishing between warranted and unwarranted persuasion. Self-deception is an ever-present possibility as Socrates implies here, and notes at Cratylus d.
That is a problem about which the philosopher above all worries about. The Gorgias' notion that the struggle between popular rhetoric and philosophy—or as we might say, unphilosophical and philosophical rhetoric—is one between comprehensive outlooks is clear from the Phaedrus as well.
The speech is quite explicitly a retraction of an outlook that does not espouse these views; ordinary rhetoric moves in a very different moral, metaphysical, psychological, and epistemic world. It is an interesting fact that Plato deploys certain elements of poetry such as myth, allegory, simile, image in drawing the contrast between these outlooks.
That poetry is itself a kind of persuasive discourse or rhetoric has already been mentioned. This echoes the Ion 's charge that the rhapsodes do not know what they are talking about. But what about the rationale that the poets and rhapsodes are inspired? Inspiration comes up numerous times in the Phaedrus. It and the related notions of Bacchic frenzy, madness, and possession are invoked repeatedly almost from the start of the dialogue b , in connection with Phaedrus' allegedly inspiring recitation of Lysias' text d1—6 , and as inspiring Socrates's two speeches a7—b1, d2—6, d1—3.
These references are uniformly playful, even at times joking. More serious is the distinction between ordinary madness and divine madness, and the defense of the superiority of divine madness, which Socrates' second speech sets out to defend. The case is first made by noting that three species of madness are already accepted: that of the prophets, that of certain purifying or cathartic religious rites, and the third that inspiration granted by the Muses that moves its possessor to poetry ba. As noted, it begins to look as though a certain kind of poetry the inspired is being rehabilitated.
And yet when Socrates comes to classify kinds of lives a bit further on, the poets along with those who have anything to do with mimesis rank a low sixth out of nine, after the likes of household managers, financiers, doctors, and prophets e1—2! The poet is just ahead of the manual laborer, sophist, and tyrant.
The philosopher comes in first, as the criterion for the ranking concerns the level of knowledge of truth about the Ideas or Forms of which the soul in question is capable. This hierarchy of lives could scarcely be said to rehabilitate the poet. The Phaedrus quietly sustains the critique of poetry, as well as much less quietly of rhetoric. Plato's critique of writing on the grounds that it is a poor form of rhetoric is itself written. Does the critique apply to the dialogues themselves? Scholars dispute the answers to these well-known questions.
There is general agreement that Plato perfected—perhaps even invented—a new form of discourse. The Platonic dialogue is a innovative type of rhetoric, and it is hard to believe that it does not at all reflect—whether successfully or not is another matter—Plato's response to the criticisms of writing which he puts into the mouth of his Socrates.
Plato's remarkable philosophical rhetoric incorporates elements of poetry. Most obviously, his dialogues are dramas with several formal features in common with much tragedy and comedy for example, the use of authorial irony, the importance of plot, setting, the role of individual character and the interplay between dramatis personae.
His works also narrate a number of myths, and sparkle with imagery, simile, allegory, and snatches of meter and rhyme. Indeed, as he sets out the city in speech in the Republic , Socrates calls himself a myth teller d9—10, e4—5. In a number of ways, the dialogues may be said to be works of fiction; none of them took place exactly as presented by Plato, several could not have taken place, some contain characters who never existed. These are imaginary conversations, imitations of certain kinds of philosophical conversations.
The reader is undoubtedly invited to see him or herself reflected in various characters, and to that extent identify with them, even while also focusing on the arguments, exchanges, and speeches. Exactly what to make of his appropriation of elements of poetry is once again a matter of long discussion and controversy. Suffice it to say that Plato's last word on the critique of poetry and rhetoric is not spoken in his dialogues, but is embodied in the dialogue form of writing he brought to perfection. Plato: aesthetics Plato: ethics. I would also like to thank David Roochnik for his help with various revisions along the way.
Introduction 2. Ion 3. Gorgias 5. Phaedrus 5. Introduction A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him —Dylan Thomas [ 1 ] When we think of a philosophical analysis of poetry, something like a treatise on aesthetics comes to mind. So Ion, and by extension Homer, are faced with a series of unpalatable alternatives: They could continue to defend the claim that they really do know the subjects about which they discourse—in the sense of possess the techne kai episteme of them, i.
Yet if they do defend that claim they will be liable to examination by relevant experts. They could admit that they do not know what they are talking about. This admission could be understood in several ways: b. Gorgias The Gorgias is one of Plato's most bitter dialogues in that the exchanges are at times full of anger, of uncompromising disagreement, plenty of misunderstanding, and cutting rhetoric.
Phaedrus Readers of the Phaedrus have often wondered how the dialogue hangs together. Plato's Dialogues as Rhetoric and Poetry Plato's critique of writing on the grounds that it is a poor form of rhetoric is itself written. Bibliography Adams, J. Annas, J. Rowe eds. Asmis, E. Kraut ed. Auerbach, E. Trask, Princeton: Princeton University Press. Ausland, H. Baracchi, C. Becker, A. Belfiore, E. Benardete, S. Benitez, E. Blondell, R.
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