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Socrates and Xanthippe

(The Tribulations of Socrates)

Socrates, the sage old Greek,
married his Xanthippe and soon learned
that patience must be clad with the thickest skin.
“Xanthie,” he was wont to say,
“am I condemned to bear the pricks
of your needle-pointed words?
Go and buy a pincushion, but spare my hide . . . .”

Seldom did he sleep in peace, drowning
out his shrewish spouse's chiding by
thinking thoughts of domestic peace.
She nagged and mocked him; by Zeus!
she never once did cease throughout
the full course of the sundial, and then
well into the sleepless night.

Oh, one morning, while he rested upon
a stone step, one that was immensely gentler
than his spouse's mood, contemplating
the meaning of tranquility—she spitefully
emptied past night's κάμαρα δοχείο,
upon his pate—
“Well,” he said, “I thought I'd heard
loud thunder, and sure enough, here is the rain . . . .”

Finally, welcome relief! The enemy marches
against Athens!
Ho, ho! Against mere men an armed warrior
man can win—unless the gods hold grudges.
Socrates, stood on the field of honor.
Man against man, he wielded the spear
and held his ground, even though he had failed
to face his domestic terror.

Huzza! Victory! Proud of his laurels, he returned
home to his unloving wife.
“You shirker! Loafer! How did you come by those
ribbons and medals? Were those baubles awarded to you
for leaving the field to make room for real men?

She had not mellowed during his absence after all—
not one flipping drachm’s worth, but only used the time
of his absence to hone her sarcasm’s barbs.
Socrates returned to his circle of pupils and swore:
“Great Zeus, thaw the ice in Tartarus! I hope
to find a kinder death in that freezing pool
before her mocking and nagging renders me
unconscious, in which event—who knows
what she may do to me; nag my ears off?”

Socrates, you Athenian sage, if you want domestic
peace, then get a job and earn a wage. Or drain
the hemlock cup proffered by the elders of Athens.

Style / type: 
Free verse
Review Request (Direction): 
How was my language use?
Editing stage: 
Content level: 
Not Explicit Content


you amaze me with your wisdom I am sure there are many men that cn relate to your tale
very entertaining indeed sir

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thanks for your comment. Xantippe is of course the one who paved the road for countless nagging wives who nagged their husbands ears off, often with good reason. If you ask me, Socrates teaching a bunch of "do-nothings" to shirk honest work-- now that just isn't right. Even I can't get away with that, lol. Nah, old Xantie seemed to have been plain cantankerous and mean--according to Plato--another street bum, lol. Thank you, dear Chrys. Take care. Jerry

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Dear JK I read this last night, and the word that came to mind is ironic! Love it you always bring cheekiness. The fact that you brought it with a Greek philosopher doesn't suprise me. But then again I know that I don't know nothing. lol no doubt you always bring something, as long as it's not poison.

Thank you...Teddy

thank you for depriving yourself of much needed sleep in deciphering my Greek tragedy. The thing I love about you is that you are always good for a laugh. Thank you for that. And don't shortchange yourself, you know plenty, lol. Okeydokey, I've got to feed the hogs, dear. (That's how we Arizonans like to conclude a conversation, lol.) Thanks, Jerry

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Dear Jerry, another good laugh, thank you. You're so adept at composing with humor on any topic, be it light or philosophical. Maybe lots of Greeks wives were like harpies because they're husbands were happily teaching the smart (L)GBTQ communities of the time. Men ruled only outside the home. The wives mostly had a prosperous living and managed the household with an iron
Socrates was unjustly accused of being a sophist and a denier of the gods, or impious.The sophists were the ones who taught the lazy, rich youths.
I love your poem because it brings to mind my naïve question in high school, where we had Introduction to Philosophy. The teacher was going on about Socrates' noble decision to take the hemlock...and I said, stupidly..."But he committed suicide, because he had the choice of exile"...She was very angry! But your poem makes sense, I'm sure that his wife would have followed him to exile, so he opted for the hemlock.
Anyway, thanks for the laugh and for being a great composer, all the best, Gracy
PS: Tartarus was a very dark, cold place far below Hades. It probably had ice, but the real icy hell was Dante's Inferno. The "shades" in Hades could receive visitors or even be pardoned by Zeus, but nobody returned from Tartarus. I'll return, as I've really enjoyed your poem.

"My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies; fairy tales of yesterday will grow but never die, I can fly, my friends.” – Freddie Mercury

that's what I love about you, your considerable understanding of history, literature and whatever else you have tucked away in your brain case. You certainly have a well-rounded education and I like to think of you as my esteemed poetry friend. Thank you for your lengthy comment concerning Socrates and his harpy wife who endeavored to empty the chamber pot on her "weisenheimer's balding" pate. I tend to agree with you that Socrates may have preferred the hemlock cup over Xanti's harping and carping. Yeah, get it over with. Okay, dear; it's suppertime, and L. is sounding the warning: five minutes! Thank you for reading and commenting, dear Gracy. You are great. Good night--morning or day. Jerry

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