The Symposium by Plato exposes a set of dialogues and speeches of the leading philosophers of that historical period. Giving specific attention to Diotima Speech is imperative to understanding to the role of ideas in real life. According to Socrates, the material world and the divine world are combined through a medium, which is possible through spiritual accomplishment.
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By understanding the actual role and definition of ideas, involving truth, the good, God, beauty, and justice, men can achieve immortality. In particular, Diotima deliberates on the concept of love and refers to other related notions, such as wisdom, knowledge, truth, and divinity to define the place of love in the material world.
At this point, the philosopher gives tribute to Diotima’s assumptions because she accurately explains the place of ideas in both the moral and immortal world. In particular, ideas are much more real that people normally assume concerning what is actually ‘real’. What is more important, it is a mean between the material and divine world uniting both dimensions and creating communication channels.
All these concepts about the importance of ideas are brightly revealed in Wordworth’s poem called The World Is Too Much with Us and Spenser’s Sonnet 79. In particular, both literary pieces explore the importance of uniting the material and spiritual world through ideas to reach the harmony with nature.
According to Socrates, specific actions and deeds can be realized through spiritual accomplishment. To find the harmony in a material world, there should be resources and tools that would help the human civilization reach the spiritual union with nature. In the speech, Diotima mentions that love “is neither mortal nor immortal, but a mean between the two” (Plato 39).
In the poem called The World Is Too Much with Us, Wordsworth underlines, “Little we see in Nature that is ours” (202 line 3). To reach the harmony in nature is possible through addressing the so-called medium – ideas – that help humans achieve immortality. The concept of harmony is also revealed through explaining the concept of true beauty that is confined to the spiritual world of humans.
The poet reflects, “Men call you fair, you do credit it, for that your self ye daily such do see, but the true fair…is much more praised of me” (Wordworth 202 line1, line 4). Within the contexts of two poems, ideas can only be realized through spiritual fulfillment to divine world that goes beyond the material one.
In the speech, the author renders the surreal power of love enabling men to reach gods and immortality. In particular, Diotima stresses that the power of love is “between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods” (Plato 39). So, just as love is a mediator between the mortal and divinity, the idea enables humans to reach immortality and achieve harmony.
In Wordworth’s poem, the poet compares himself with a pagan to “…have sight of Proteus rising from the sea or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn” (202 line 13). Through these lines, the author finds it necessary to return to the Greek’s origins and provide nature with a divine sense. By referring to the ancient gods, the author refers to the times when men were affiliated to the natural simplicity, which is hard to notice in case people are obsessed with material values.
Similar to Wordworth’s thoughts, Spenser emphasizes that the true beauty and love cannot be seen unless humans are attached to the physical welfare: “But the true faire, that is the gentle wit,/ And virtuous mind is much more praised of me” (Spenser lines 3-4). Interpreting this, material values are false; they cannot be last forever. Instead, the virtue of the things that can be perceived through spiritual enrichment is extremely valued.
The dominance of ideas over material reality is also possible through permanence of their presentation. Unlike the material world that is subject to time, the ideas remain eternal, immortal, like humans’ aspiration to divinity. When Diotima defines the concepts of love, beauty and the good, she also mentions eternal traits as truly beautiful ones. As men appreciate the true beauty of women, they desire to possess this beauty.
In this respect, Diotima also refers to the spiritual needs of men and their “everlasting possession of the good” because “…all men will necessarily desire immortality together with good” (Plato 44). Hence, love is the truth, a permanent way for achieving immortality. Spenser’s ideas are also congruent with the immortality of ideas, a trait that is not typical of the material values: “But only that is permanent and free/ From frail corruption, that doth flesh ensue. / That is true beauty: that doth argue you” (Lines 7-9). The permanence of ideas is also explicitly represented in the Wordworth’s poetic lines: “The winds that will be howling at all hours,/ And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;/ For this, for everything, we are out of tune” (202 lines 6-8).
In this extract, the poet assumes a close confrontation between the internal noises of material progress and the external character of natural phenomena, such as wind that will blow “at all time”. In this respect, the idea bears similar character and, therefore, it can be transmitted forever by enriching human spirituality.
The eternity of the ideas are contrasted with the temporality of material world and physical appearance. Because humankind is obsessed with physical wellness and material wealth, they often forget about the things that make them much richer that they traditionally assume. In the speech, the author calls for developing spirituality and learning the truth as a necessity to cognize the self: “each of [immortals] experiences a like change”, but “knowledge…appears to be the same” (Plato 45).
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The ideals notions, such as truth, beauty, the good, and the God are transferred through our minds whereas the latter is enclosed in the physical body, the temporal bearer of the ideas: “…the mortal body, or mortal anything, partakes of immortality; but the immortal in another way” (Plato 46). The Wordworth’s and Spenser’s masterpieces highlight the strong correlation between physical objects and reliance of spiritual values on material foundation.
In this respect, Wordworth relies on words “late or soon” to signify the flow of time, as well as the changes that can challenge the material world (202 line 1). People are “getting and spending” taking no responsibility for the consequences (Wordworth 202 line 4).
To fulfill themselves as the ones dependent on physical bodies, the author states, “We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon” (Wordworth 202 line 4). Humans, therefore, did not realize the actual benefits of knowledge, the truth, the good, and the spiritual beauty. Being dependent on change, as a signifier of mortality, people are hampered on the way to spiritual immortality.
The concept of God is also heavily applied in both poems to signify the seriousness and grace of the ideas that enable people to become immortal through their spiritual freedom. Sacred themes are also discussed in Socrates’ dialogues. Specifically, the speaker repeatedly compares love with a “great god” due to its divine and immortal nature (Plato 39).
God, therefore, is the measure of the truth and beauty; it signifies the divinity of ideas and, there supernatural ability to reach the divine boundary. The mortals, therefore, are able to learn gods by expressing their ideas. The power of spirit is also represented in Spenser’s Sonnet 79: “To be divine and born of heavenly seed: / Derived from that fair Spirit, from whom all true and perfect beauty did at first proceed” (lines 10-13).
In such a manner, Wordworth also expresses his desire to reveal himself from the physical boundaries and “…be a pagan suckled in a creed outworn” (202 lines 9-10). The ideas are much more sophisticated than it is assumed in the real world because they shape the path to divine representations of the spiritual world that is necessary for reading harmony.
In conclusion, both Wordworth and Spenser reflect on the importance of ideas and their surrealistic nature. In such a way, they provide sufficient explanation and interpretation of Socrates’s speech on the definition of love through such notions as the good, the beauty, the truth, and god in Plato’s Symposium. Specifically, Wordworth agrees that the material world is not perfect because it cannot help human achieve harmony with nature.
To return to the origins, a human should revive his/her spiritual world, which is much more real, than it is normally assumed. In addition, Spenser also emphasizes the priority of ideas over the physical appearance. In particular, the poet refers to inner beauty as a permanent phenomenon that will never change over time.
Plato. The Symposium. US: Forgotten Books, 1971. Print.
Spenser, Edmund. Sonnet, 79, n. p. Web.
Wordworth, William. The World is Too Much with Us. New Poetry Works: a Workbook Anthology. Robin Malan. US: New Africa Books, 2007. p. 202. Print.