The Poets

April 27, 2015

Sweet Disdain


Diogenes was quite himself
When Alexander came-
In fact, the Cynic hardly cared
For Alexander's fame.

When Alexander asked the rogue
How he might help his plight,
The Cynic said with sweet disdain:
Depart, you're in my light.


Of the Poem

The poem is based on an encounter that occurred between Alexander the Great and Diogenes of Sinope. There are a few varying accounts that elaborate on that meeting, and all of them are quite amusing. According to Plutarch's rendering, on a visit to Corinth, Alexander found himself thronged the entire time by its philosophers and statesmen. To his curiosity, all but one sought his presence, the philosopher who he had heard so much about ... Diogenes of Sinope. The story goes as follows:

"Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, "Yes," said Diogenes, "stand a little out of my sun."It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, "But truly, if I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes."

I had been recently reflecting on this encounter and thought it would be fun to put it into verse ... hence the poem. Let me know what you think ...

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As of April 9th, 2010