Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DEATH OF SOCRATES, by FREDERICK WILLIAM HENRY MYERS



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THE DEATH OF SOCRATES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The day was come: its earliest morn had brought
Last Line: That ever knew not god.
Alternate Author Name(s): Myers, Frederic
Subject(s): Socrates (470-399 B.c.)


The day was come: its earliest morn had brought
His true disciples to the teacher's cell,
Who gathering round the master of their thought
Wept him they loved so well.

Yea moving blindly in much heaviness,
And left amid perplexities alone,
They mourned as men in a great wilderness
Mourn when their guide is gone.

Remembering how, without reward or praise,
That temperate truth had drawn the hope of Greece,
Leading to wisdom,—pleasant are her ways,
And all her paths are peace:
But sternly sent the arrogant to school,
And on false-seeming set the brand of shame;
Looking beyond the pomp of petty rule,
To whence true honour came.

So men arraigned the saint of blasphemy;
The sage arraigned they of corrupting youth;
Arraigned the saint whose life was purity,
The sage whose speech was truth.

But rather in that chance he did rejoice,
Yea, set to blessings that calamity;
And doubting nothing made heroic choice,
As he had lived to die.

Nor bated aught of blameless innocence,
Nor courted any pity of the strong;
But dauntless ever in a great defence
He cried against the wrong.

Nor might he not foreshadow One to be,
Dragged downward by the race He came to save,
Through bitterer scorn, unjuster contumely,
Down to a grander grave.

Or as that cloud of faithful witnesses
Marched cheerfully on torture and on sword,
Expecting after any agonies
The coming of the Lord:

So looked he on his judges, witting well
Their sorest penalty must bring release
In such an end as theirs who nobly fell
Before the gates of Greece,

Who passed in blood without applause or crown
From that loud day to where we cannot see:
Such loss their gain, and such defeat renown,
Such death their victory.

Likewise even now did his own peace rebuke
In prison his movèd friends for fruitless fears;
Then spake the sage, when that accustomed look
Had set a truce to tears:

"Upon their death the silver swans rejoice,
Meeting that God to whom their lives belong,
And pour the glory of their treasured voice
In floods of jubilant song:

"Shall I not too be glad, who pass to range
In some blest place with the great dead, my peers,
Proceeding through all form of nobler change
Down unimagined years?

"For I believe I am not wholly dust,
But somewhere, somewhere, with diviner powers,
They greatly live, the spirits of the just,
A larger life than ours.

"For we abiding in infirmity
In fleshly tabernacles groan forlorn,
Expecting till on this mortality
It break, the perfect morn.

"Yea, as the ocean-monsters, leagues from land,
Of upper splendours live unwittingly,
Wallowing a black bulk over boundless sand,
Deep in the gloom of sea;

"We to the blessed gods are such as they;
In doubt and consternation draw we breath,
Sorrow our joy, and darkness is our day,
Yea, and our life is death.

"But whenatlength release from flesh is given,
From doubt, and folly, and desire, and fears,
Then shall the voiceful presences of heaven
Ring on bewildered ears;

"Then shall the true earth open on our sight,
And the true firmament above us shine,
And dwelling ever in that perfect light
We too shall be divine."

He spake as babes who know not what they say,
But if of men, O Lord, be good or bad,
Then, for he did desire to see Thy day,
He seeth, and is glad.

He ceased, nor wept; he drank the cup, nor quailed;
The jailor stern stood softened at his side;
Then, as the force within him slowly failed,
He laid him down and died.

Nor did he at the last at all recoil,
Nor railed at all upon malignant foes,
But cheerfully seemed passing from long toil
To some serene repose.

And o'er his death a smile stole silently,
Telling of constant calm, of holy trust;
For who shall wait with purer heart than he
The rising of the just?

EΠIΓPAMMA

Not any builded shrine, since breath began,
Was half so sacred, stranger, as this sod;
For underneath is the most righteous man
That ever knew not God.





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