Chaerephon, a friend of Socrates, brought a goat to Delphi and threw water over it, asking the oracle whether there was anyone wiser than the great philosopher. Cacophony filled the temple-cave but, rising above the dissonance, the words ‘no one’ could be discerned. He then made the mistake of speaking up:
‘Though I have received this miracle
I cannot help but question it. Oracle,
you must know more than Socrates:
you know how our hearts rule us, and secrets
that have never been confessed.’
all of Delphi trembled: ‘I am the sea:
repeated in the mouths of every cave.
I am your fate and logic – don’t deceive
others that knowledge can be what you think:
only the paper, not the precious ink
presents itself honestly to the wind.
All speaks of all but through a borrowed mind
and Socrates knows more than this: he knows
that he can never know.’ The echoes
retreated into silence but Chaerephon had already fled, leaving his goat which, soaked and shivering, now seemed determined to keep its mouth shut.