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Ode for the Dancers

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates (1787)

"It is the traditional inspiration of the philosopher, but also his traditional vice, to believe that all is one."—Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good (1970)

Link what you contrive to others’ sense.

You aren’t the only one to feel that way,

The world seemed like from where they sat

Who, sighing, contemplated it—their sigh.

Don’t take some handy platitude for wit,

Or rambling for rebuttal of a lie.

Enough’s enough’s the best part of why.

Too much of a good thing might well be shit!

I choose my epigrams—or they choose me!

How could I trace cogitation’s unsigned road

Not letting it go where it likes, free,

Ease wayfarers of mind’s costive load?

We have a right to these traditions*

Earned in the immemorial blink of Time—

Our forebears fought to hold their positions,

In the stern Dancing Master’s line.

*Cf. Jorge Luis Borges, “The Argentine Writer and Tradition,” in Labyrinths (New York: New Directions, 1962), 164: “We have a right to this tradition greater than that which the inhabitants of one or another Western nation might have.”


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