Opening Speech: Socrates, A Tragedy in Five Acts (Francis Foster Barham)


ACT I. Scene I.— Athens.

Socrates solus, basking in the sunshine.

Philosophers have many a pleasure — known–
Felt — by themselves — which to the vulgar world
They rarely express : and when they do, how seldom
Do the hearts of men respond ! — Ay, at this moment
There is a rapture in this sunshine — spreading
Its hot o’erwhelming lustre over Athens,
Which they conceive not ; —
Unto me it is Symbolic of the incommunicable flame
Of Deity ! It seems to embrace me, like
The beatific vision of Olympus,
Transforming what it shines on, to its likeness ;
It enters into my very soul, and makes
A summer of my conscience! — I rejoice
To anticipate the eternity when I
Likewise shall be as a sunbeam.

Johnson, recall, complained of Milton’s great poem that no one ever wished it longer.  I doubt Johnson believed such a wish was rejected as early as the first few of Milton’s lines.  Here, however…

Socrates, the sunbeam!

One response

  1. When my propane ran out
    when I was gone and the food
    thawed in the freezer I grieved
    over the five pounds of melted squid,
    but then a big gaunt bear arrived
    and feasted on the garbage, a few tentacles
    left in the grass, purplish white worms.
    O bear, now that you’ve tasted the ocean
    I hope your dreamlife contains the whales
    I’ve seen, that one in the Humboldt current
    basking on the surface who seemed to watch
    the seabirds wheeling around her head.

    “The Bear” by Jim Harrison

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