He climbed toward the blinding light
and when his eyes adjusted
he looked down and could see

his fellow prisoners captivated
by shadows; everything he had believed
was false. And he was suddenly

in the 20th century, in the sunlight
and violence of history, encumbered
by knowledge. Only a hero

would dare return with the truth.
So from the cave’s upper reaches,
removed from harm, he called out

the disturbing news.
What lovely echoes, the prisoners said,
what a fine musical place to live.

He spelled it out, then, in clear prose
on paper scraps, which he floated down.
But in the semi-dark they read his words

with the indulgence of those who seldom read:
It’s about my father’s death, one of them said.
No, said the others, it’s a joke.

By this time he no longer was sure
of what he’d seen. Wasn’t sunlight a shadow too?
Wasn’t there always a source

behind a source? He just stood there,
confused, a man who had moved
to larger errors, without a prayer.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Stephen Dunn's poem Allegory Of The Cave

1 Comment

  1. Melanie Mills says:

    I had to leave this comment because the only comment on the poem was “this poem was written by PLATO”…which, any intelligent person who actually has read Plato knows that Plato wrote about a different set of prisoners, and his wasn’t a poem. This poem is an allusion to Plato’s work however, and it is about a POET.

    And it is rather brilliant.

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