Dithyramb – Today’s word. Nietzsche keeps using it, along with other allusions to Dionysus, and today I find it used by Socrates in his dialogue with Phaedrus as recorded by Plato. A frenzied, passionate, enthusiastic, exhalted, inspired, wild, irregular piece of discourse, from the form of the original passionate choric poems and dance in praise of Dionysus. [I’m expecting to find myself coming full circle back to Pirsig any day soon.]

Socrates : …… And now, dear Phaedrus, I shall pause for an instant to ask whether you do not think me, as I appear to myself, inspired?
Phaedrus : Yes, Socrates, you seem to have a very unusual flow of words.
Socrates : Listen to me, ….. so that you must not wonder, if, as I proceed, I appear to be in a divine fury, for already I am getting into dithyrambics.
Phaedrus : Nothing can be truer.
Socrates : The responsibility rests with you. But hear what follows, and perhaps the fit may be averted; all is in their hands above. I will go on talking to my youth. Listen ….

Talking to my youth ? Hmmm.

Some notes for later.
Socrates : “Birds of a feather, flock together”
Socrates : “Your love of discourse, Phaedrus, is superhuman.”
Socrates : “…. ceteris paribus ….”
Socrates : “I told a lie when I said that the beloved ought to accept the non-lover when he might have the lover, because the one is sane, and the other mad. It might be so if madness were simply an evil; but there is also a madness which is a divine gift, and the source of the chiefest blessings granted to men. For prophecy is a madness, …”
Socrates : “There will be more reason in appealing to the ancient inventors of names, who would never have connected prophecy (mantike) which foretells the future and is the noblest of arts, with madness (manike), or called them both by the same name, if they had deemed madness to be a disgrace or dishonour – they must have thought that there was an inspired madness which was a noble thing; for the two words, mantike and manike, are really the same, and the letter t is only a modern and tasteless insertion. And this is confirmed by the name which was given by them to the rational investigation of futurity, whether made by the help of birds or of other signs-this, for as much as it is an art which supplies from the reasoning faculty mind (nous) and information (istoria) to human thought (oiesis) they originally termed oionoistike, but the word has been lately altered and made sonorous by the modern introduction of the letter Omega (oionoistike and oionistike), and in proportion prophecy (mantike) is more perfect and august than augury, both in name and fact, in the same proportion, as the ancients testify, is madness superior to a sane mind (sophrosune) for the one is only of human, but the other of divine origin.”
Socrates : “I am myself a great lover of these processes of division and generalization; they help me to speak and to think.”
Socrates : ” ….. there seem to be a great many holes in their web.”
Socrates : “The perfection which is required of the finished orator is, or rather must be, like the perfection of anything else; partly given by nature, but may also be assisted by art.”

2 thoughts on “Dithyramb”

  1. for whatever it may be worth:

    Dithyramb for Springtime

    Pithy mambo! Cuban conga bongo
    conversation with the Gods – scuba
    into verbs and dithyrambic perturbations

    of the kind that make vocabulary
    wind into exasperating rabid suggestivity:
    just the gist, please (add an upright

    bass, piano, claves, saxophone, and
    trumpet and trombone); scrap the list.
    Today make way. Today wake May.

  2. Hi Guy,

    This comment must have passed me by, though they are all moderated to avoid spam. Weird.

    Anyway, thanks for this. I like it.

    I was prompted to look at the comment from a Google search hitting my site for “Dithyramb and Kettlehack” – not an everyday search !


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