On Plato and the Cave

Called broad of chest, yet broader still of mind,

The gadfly’s pupil in Athena’s town,

He, seeking truth beyond what shadows bind,

Shows us a picture. Down he leads us, down

Through gloomy grottoes; there, bound inmates name

What shades they glimpse, for such is all their sight:

The flitting shapes, traced brief by flick’ring flame.

Together now we climb from caverns’ night

And seek the surface, blinking captives free

To truer light beyond the shadow-lands,

To forms of beauty, forms of things to be;

To sun and truth we stretch out wondering hands.

All thanks to him profounder than the cave,

Who spoke of light, the prisoners blind to save.

Author’s note: The name Plato means “broad,” a reference to the philosopher’s talent in wrestling. The “gadfly” of Athens is Socrates, Plato’s mentor, and “Athena’s town” is of course Athens. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, from which this sonnet derives inspiration, may be found in his Republic.

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