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June 10, 2006


As I research and write this book, new characters seem to drop from the sky (unfortunate as that metapher may be). The fifth-century BCE Greek poet Anacreon, who celebrated wine and love, is the latest. When asked why he never wrote hymns to the gods, the poet is said to have replied: "because our loves are our gods."

"Anacreontic" is a name for the irreligious notion that we should enjoy life now, rather than bother about a life after death.

The American national anthem is written to the tune of "The Anacreontic Song."

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at June 10, 2006 11:47 PM


That kind of subject -- loves, not gods (loves + wine, even worse) -- would distinguish Anacreon (with whom I'm unfortunately unfamiliar) as something like Exhibit A for Plato in Book X of the Republic (on the dangers of poetry), no? Poetry works against the rational mind through its focus on the emotions, that takes us away from truth, and 'god' (and the state, not incidentally; Book X is about the education of the Guardians, those philosopher-king types). Dangerous stuff indeed, thus the imposition of censorship. Only poetry that celebrates the state, or the gods, to be allowed in this ideal state...

Posted by: JM at June 11, 2006 6:51 PM

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