Composed and paraphrased by Frances
Cast of Characters
Diotima: A no-nonsense woman, probably made up by Socrates, with the help of Plato, who probably made him up.
Agathon and Aristophanes have invited Diotima to a get together after the presentation of a trilogy by Sophocles, who is present along with Ion, Alchibiades, Apollodorus, and others. By the time Diotima gets there, everyone but Socrates is pretty well soused.
A large room built entirely of marble. Huge cushions line the walls. Squat tables laden with all manner of food and drink sit in front of the attendees. Everyone is engaged in conversation, except Socrates, who stands in the shadows.
Diotima stands in the opposite doorway, scanning for Socrates. Socrates steps farther into the shadows to watch Diotima.
Diotima (to herself)
I’ve grown accustomed to his face
It doesn’t make my day begin.
I feel sorry for this man
Who has so very much to say
But those guys he tries to talk to
Look the other way.
(To the room, with verve)
He who is a pederast
In Socratic Society
Went past the tart
When he did dart
He who is a symposiast,
the model of propriety,
held his tongue
when Socrates hummed
Now Diotima steps out front,
her skirts awry, her hair unfurled
She carries in her upraised hand
the fiery torch called Woman.
Socrates meets her face to face
he likes her speed, her mind, her grace
he likes her fierce and lovely stance
he likes her body, strong and true,
but most of all he likes the stew
she threw him in. So bored is he with those young boys,
and more bored still with his old crew of rummies.
Diotima (spying Socrates, says to him)
I thought we talked this over, dear,
you nodded your agreement,
or was our long discourse on love
just another appeasement?
It seemed to me you’d gotten wise,
took Aphrodite’s scent to heart,
You had the balls to glean it,
too bad you didn’t mean it.
I’ve heard your speeches, long and dull,
to justify your warp and bung,
Commit the acts you call “divine,”
corrupt in every act you press
on young and pretty boys,
No, I’m not getting it all wrong,
nor do I talk in double talk.
To turn the snake to eat its tail,
that is what you go for.
(She holds her hand up for silence)
Love is the subject, right?
Calm down, old Soc, don’t get uptight.
Love is the child of Poverty and Resource,
Conceived at Aphrodite’s birth.
He’s tough and worn, no shoes, no home,
but never fear for him, dear man,
The search for wisdom is your plan.
In Wizardry and Sorcery and Sophistry
none can compare with Love, not you nor I.
Though I admit to witchery
the equal of the best.
(Socrates scratches his head, thinks)
“Her logic is confusion,
though I have, at times,
been accused of that delusion.”
(Diotima stands up straight)
Mortal nature tries to be
eternal and immortal.
To do this you must leave behind
a young one to replace the old.
Your love of boys will come to naught
and in good time you’ll wither, die
with only one to carry on your message.
Perhaps that is for the best.
(Socrates thinks, “Can this be true?”
and starts to itch)
(At just about this point in time
in staggers Alchibiades, drunk)
Ho, Alchibiades, sweet meat with no spice,
What say you to Woman, who dares call you thus?
(Alchibiades falls face down on a pillow)
Diotima (scans the room)
And where is Ion?
That scallion of bad taste,
That soprano of self conscious showmanship.
I’m pushing it.
The problem is I really like you,
though you decide to play the fool
and cast your wisdom before frogs
who croak back, “yes sir, yes sir, yes.”
I see that you’re prepared to die,
To take the only road you’ve left,
and not defend
If things had been another way
we might have gotten on.
After all, you made me up,
you must have had a reason.
(She turns and, rising, whirls away
into the fiery midnight sky.
Who knows but Socrates or Plato,
if She were He just passing by?)