Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE REPLY OF SOCRATES, CONCERNING THE WRITINGS OF HERACLITUS, by JOHN BYROM



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THE REPLY OF SOCRATES, CONCERNING THE WRITINGS OF HERACLITUS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When socrates had read, as authors note
Last Line: Of heraclitus and of socrates.
Subject(s): Heraclitus (540-480 B.c.); Socrates (470-399 B.c.)


WHEN Socrates had read, as authors note,
A certain book that Heraclitus wrote;
Deep in its matter, and obscure beside;—
Ask'd his opinion of it,—he replied,
"All that I understand is good and true,
"And what I don't is, I believe, so too."

Thus answer'd Socrates, whom Greece confess'd
The wisest of her sages and the best;
By justice mov'd, and candour, of a piece
With that Philosopher's repute in Greece:
Worthy of imitation, to be sure,
When a good writer is sometimes obscure.

All the haranguing, therefore, on the theme
Of deep obscurity, in Jacob Behme,
Is but itself obscure; for he might see
Farther, 'tis possible, than you or me:
Meanwhile, the goodness of his plainer page
Demands the answer of the Grecian sage.

The stuff and nonsense, labyrinth and maze,
Madness, enthusiasm, and such like phrase,
Its quick bestowers are oblig'd to own,
Ought not to move us, by its eager tone,
More than they ought, in reason, to be mov'd,
Should we so paint a work which they approv'd.

He, whom the fair Socratical remark
Describes, was call'd σχοτεινοδ, or
the dark;
Yet his wise reader, from the good in view,
Thought that his darker passages were true:
He would not judge of what, as yet, lay hid,
By what he did not see, but what he did.

The books of Behme, as none are tied to read,
To blame unread, they have as little need:
As they who read them most, the most commend,
Others, at least, may venture to suspend;
Or think, with ref'rence to such books as these,
Of HERACLITUS and of SOCRATES.





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