002. Sophist. Poem by P S Remesh Chandran
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books,
The ancient Sophist saints of Greece were exceptionally clever with the use of their tongues. Don’t play with them, they can bind us cunningly with their tongues. And don’t corner them, we will never forget what we get in retaliation. Here in this poem, one such sophist saint is being tried in Court for a crime when the Judges get stung. The classical sophists were well-versed in paradoxes. The Judges in the Trial Court fail in understanding the real meaning of what the saint said.
A poem with a Greek theme, praising the sophists’ skill in paradoxes.
P S Remesh Chandran
A sophist saint in ancient Grecian land
Said whatever he said was a falsity,
Was asked to state anything before he died,
When once he’d committed an act of crime.
He would be hanged, if tell the truth he did;
And would be beheaded, if he told untruth.
Being always prepared for th’unexpected,
That to be beheaded was he, stated he.
If he was executed cutting throat,
Then that would prove that what he’d told was truth,
For which the sentence had to be hanging him,
Thereby to prove that he had told untruth,
For which again to be cut the head apart,
Or if to be hanged; is this a paradox?
So thinking such and such the Judges swoon’d,
And asked the saint to step out from the Court.
Thus neither to be beheaded or be hanged,
He roamed the country side and forest land.
A magpie on the gallows, always swift to fly away.
Sophists were learned saints who lived among the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were well-versed in paradoxes. A paradox is a statement which appears to be false, but is true. One sophist once said: ‘Whatever I say is false.’ We will wonder what would he be meaning with his words. If that statement is true, he is a regular teller of untruth. But what if that statement too is false? Then the meaning would be in the negative and it would mean that he occasionally would tell truth too. That is the skill of a sophist in dealing cleverly with his language, and escaping unscathed when he is faced with danger.
He roamed the countryside and forest land.
Sophists are not a lost race. In all centuries, in all countries and in all generations there have been sophists. Entertaining their people through wit and wisdom, encouraging those around them to laugh and learn through life, they live safe and secure among the intolerant and the jealous of their times, inspiring whole villages, societies and towns by their lives. A person recently in the same place where the Portuguese Captain Vasco Da Gama landed in India and thereby opened the oceans of the Orient to the Europeans thought enough respect was not being given to the hundreds of washing stones in that famous beach. After centuries of service, they were being neglected and were not being paid their due respect. So he organized a large public meeting and a parade to honour the special services rendered by the washing stones through generations. Thousands of people took part in the meeting and parade, honouring the meritorious services of those washing stones.
Sophists can say tricky things, understanding the meaning of which won’t be so easy. In this poem the Sophist is said to have told people, whatever he said was a falsity. So we will begin to think that he is a frequent sayer of lies. But what if that very sentence also is a lie? Then it may mean that he may occasionally tell the truth. Trying to understand the true meaning of their sayings will make our heads spin. That is why in history we see that people kept them at a distance out of fear and out of respect. Such people who soothe, please, entertain and terrorize with words are what Language, Literature and the World wishes to have in plenty, but unfortunately are dwindling in numbers. Words are what convey human thought to others in the society, and unless they are sharpened and used as weapons, mankind won’t survive. It is because anti-survival instincts are inborn in man. The relevance of saints, scholars and sophists lies in mankind’s need for guarding against anti-survival instincts.
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English Literature, English Poem, English Poems, Greek Saints, P S Remesh Chandran, Poems, Poems With Greek Themes, Poetry, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, Sophist
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Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan: The Intelligent Picture Book. Born and brought up in the beautiful village of Nanniyode in Trivandrum District in the Sahya Mountain Valley in Kerala. Unmarried and single. Edits Bloom Books Channel, world’s foremost producers of musical English Recitation Videos.