The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Personal Excellence

Below is an excerpt from the book The Greeks by HDF Kitto. While discussing the concept of arete, or personal excellence, Kitto quotes from The Illiad.

... But Andromache is not there. She had heard that the Trojans were being driven back, and she rant out, like a mad woman, distracted with anxiety, to the city-walls, to watch; and the nurse followed with the child. There Hector found her. Andromache grasped his hand and said:

O Hector! your strength will be your destrucion; and you have no pity either for you infant son or for your unhappy wife who will soon be your widow. For soon all the Achaeans will set upon you and kill you; and if I lose you it would be better for me to die. I shall have no other comfort, but my sorrow. I have no father and no mother; for my father Eetion was slain by Achilles; but yet (a touch of pride here) Achilles forbore to take his weapons: they were buried with his body. And I had seven brothers in my home, and all of them swift-footed Achilles slew;and my mother, who was Queen at Placos, died in my father's house. Hector you are father and mother and brother to me, and you are my proud husband. Come, take pity on me now!

Stay on these walls, and do not leave your son an orphan and me a widow. And, she says for she is a woman of intelligence, and has been observing things through her tears , post men by that fig-tree where the Greeks have been attacking.

To her in reply said Hector of the flashing helmet, Lady, this I will see to. But I should feel great shame before the Trojans and the Trojan women of long robes if like a coward I should linger away from the battle. Nor do I find that in my heart, for I have been taught to be brave always, and to fight in the forefront among the Trojans, winning great glory for my father and myself. For well do I know this and I am sure of it: that day is coming when the holy city of Troy will perish, and Priam and the people of wealthy Priam.

But my grief is not so much for the Trojans, nor for Hecuba herself, nor for Priam the King, nor for my many noble brothers, who will be slain by the foe and will lie in the dust, as for you, when one of the bronze clad Achaeans will carry you away in tears, and end your days of freedom. Then you may live in Argos, and work at the loom in another woman's house, or perhaps carry water for a woman of Messene or Hyperia, sore against your will: but hard compulsion will lie upon you. And then a man will say, as he sees you weeping, "This was the wife of Hector, who was the noblest in battle of the horse taming Trojans, when they were fighting around Illion."

That is what they will say, and it will be fresh grief to you, to fight against slavery, bereft of a husband like that. But may I be dead, may the earth be heaped over my grave before I hear your cries, and the violence done to you.

So spake shining Hector, and held out his arms to his son. But the child screams and shrank back into the bosom of the well girdled nurse, for he took fright at the sight of his dear father -- at the bronze and the crest of horsehair which he saw swaying terribly from the top of the helmet. His father laughed aloud, and his lady mother too.

At once shining Hector took the helmet off his head and laid it on the ground, and when he kissed his dear son and dandled him in his arms, he prayed to Zeus and to the other gods: "Zeus and ye other gods, grant that this son of mine may be, as I am, most glorious among the Trojans and a man of might, and greatly rule in Illion. And may they say, as he returns from war, 'He is far better than his father.' And may he slay the foeman and carry off his weapons, and may his mother have delight in him."

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