Glaucon and the Moon

By Hollander, John | Chicago Review, Summer-Fall 1996 | Go to article overview

Glaucon and the Moon


Hollander, John, Chicago Review


John Hollander's "Glaucon and the Moon" appeared in the Winter 1958 issue and was one of the earliest-written poems in the poet's first book, A Crackling of Thorns. HOLLANDER explains how it came about:

"Glaucon and the Moon" is one of a series of short lyrics that I'd originally written while at college, at about 19. My head was full of Yeats's late poetry, and their sometimes slant rhyming and something of their diction crept into these. As l fiddled with them over the next few years - and as I grew more distant from the ill-defined state (with respect to both love and work) in which I had written them - I confirmed their status as dramatic lyrics (rather than personal outpourings) and gave them all to one speaker. The Glaucon of the poems is an ephebe, a youth evading older women and men. I meant by his name neither the famous rhapsode mentioned in Plato's Ion nor the full-grown and accomplished speaker in the Republic, even though one of the poems indeed plays with Socrates's myth of the line in the sixth book of that dialogue. The last stanza of this song, "Glaucon Muddles a Lesson," leads to the opening of the present poem (two away in the final sequence), and helped suggest the rather simple trope of straight/curved//knowledge/feeling:

From a divided line we learn Four faculties of knowing; In brittle winter once they served To tell me it was snowing. …

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