Socrates, snub-nosed, wall-eyed, paunchy, squat,
stood before his accusers and confessed
to being a gift from god—a gadfly, a pest
sent to save the city from moral rot
by stinging it out of its torpor. He was not
believed. The Athenians could not think themselves blessed
to be bitten by philosophy. Unimpressed,
they silenced their gadfly with a judicial swat.
Today, we keep our would-be pests inside
a jar, contentedly droning away from the world.
But should one ever get free and buzz about seeking
to sink a sharp question into society’s hide,
then the nation yelps, newspapers are furled,
and packs of good citizens clamber up flailing and shrieking.
by Emrys Westacott