A Friend of the Arts

‘He did not like to hear the sound of laughter,’

So it was said by someone of Dionysius,

Tyrant of Syracuse - a poet, alas,

Who bought the ivory writing-tablets of Aeschylus

To improve his poetry, who asked his friend,

Philoxenus, what he thought of a poem;

Who said: ‘It will not do.’ The tyrant had him

Cast into the quarries of Achradina,

Where the Athenian prisoners had chanted

Choruses from Euripedes while they suffered.

Later the tyrant relented. Philoxenus

Returned to court. One night, after the drinks,

Dionysius recited his latest poem.

‘What do you say, Philoxenus?’ he asked.

The poet, crowned with roses, replied:

‘Take me back to the quarries!’ - and everyone

Laughed. After a moment, Dionysius laughed too.

Plato, who tried to improve him, was sold

Into slavery by this most gifted man.

When Dionysius died, all the Greeks

Marvelled, and talked of his arête.

                                                  I wonder

What position he would dignify now

With his coinage of tin.