Oh, I’ve been broken a few times, badly, more times than I care to remember. I’m still not sure that I’m what you could call in one piece. I do put myself in danger, though. Once, a long, long time ago, I walked the cliff-edge between sanity and madness with someone, then she betrayed me. It wasn’t simply a betrayal, it was the withholding of something to which I had a right, and the bestowal of it elsewhere. What could I do. I felt like murder or suicide were the two obvious options. So I wrote a poem.
I wrote a poem, using all the rollicking rhyme and meter at my disposal. I wrote it not about my betrayer, but about how the famous “dog wedding” between Cynic philosophers Crates and Hipparchia might have seemed to an outraged Athenian. She got the point.
It is doubtful that the event I referred to in the poem occurred in that way. The Cynic philosophers such as Crates were ascetic – Diogenes lived in a barrel! – and believed in seeing and behaving in tune with their natural instincts. Crates and his pupil-lover Hipparchia did not behave in the way Athenian society thought a man and a woman should behave, but treated each other as equals. Whilst their open-air marriage may well have included public copulation, what, they would have asked, was so shameful about that?
At the end of the poem I have Crates’ pupil Zeno of Citium turning away in disgust and, presumably, going off to start a separate school of philosophy – the Stoic. In fact, Stoicism, which stresses the need to live in the moment, free from the pursuit of pleasure or the fear of pain, owes a lot to Cynicism. Anyhow, here’s the old poem:
Come one, come all, and hear the call,
And to the Stoa run –
Old Crates rutting like a hog,
Hipparchia shags like a dog,
Just come and see the fun!
Come soldiers tall, come maidens small,
They’re hardly monk and nun.
Old Crates’ member’s like a log,
Hipparchia gulps like a frog,
Beneath the noonday sun!
Come magistrate, come potentate,
Attend and supervise.
Old Crates can’t believe his luck,
Hipparchia’s a nubile fuck,
Beneath the open skies!
Come reprobate and masturbate –
Old Crates quacking like a duck,
Hipparchia can really suck –
And Zeno hides his eyes!
I have to say that the person I wrote the poem to shame is a much changed woman. Gentle, honest, quiet, and contented, and good luck to her for her metanoia say I. I don’t claim I had anything to do with her change, I’m not that influential.
“And what about you, have you changed?” asks Consuela (my Tejana maid) who has done her usual trick of creeping up on my and reading over my shoulder. Grrr!
“Well, yes, I have. I live a life of seclusion, here in our little tepee in the Sidlaw Hills. I’m practically a recluse. No one comes up here.”
“Let me see,” says Consuela, thoughtfully. “Last week we had three Amazon deliveries, the regular postie with a couple of packets to be signed for, Domino pizzas twice, a couple of gadgies offering to coat the roof…”
“We don’t have a roof. This is a tepee.”
“Didn’t stop them. Then there were another couple of gadgies wanting to tarmac the drive, and yes, I know, we don’t have a drive either. Who else? Oh yes, Mormons, and about seventeen kids doing trick-or-treat. Some seclusion! Have I missed anyone?”
“I don’t know about ‘anyone’, but you’ve missed a cobweb, there, up in that corner.”