(I know, it’s the first Wednesday of the month. But…yeah, I’ve done too little writing lately to even have anything to say for IWSG. So I’m just not bothering this month.) So for Words Crush Wednesday lately, we’ve been following Patroclos as he finally gets to actually do something: going to visit Nestor in his hut, and see if the wounded man he was bringing back from the battle was indeed Machaon, son of Asclepios. (Yep, it was. Because for some reason the Achaians didn’t stop to say “gee, maybe we shouldn’t send our healers out onto the battlefield.”)
Anyway, last week, Patroclos had only just gotten to Nestor’s hut, and wouldn’t sit down to accept Nestor’s hospitality, complaining that if he did, he might fall prey to Achilles’ bad temper. (Silly of him; he’s the only person in the world Achilles would never get angry at!) Now we’ll pick up from there, and see how Nestor responds.
From Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:
“Indeed? Why is Achilles crying about a wounded man? Doesn’t he know the trouble that has come upon the whole army? The best men are lying here in camp, wounded and stricken! Diomedes Tydeides is shot, Odysseus has a spear-thrust, and so has Agamemnon; and here is this man I have just brought from the field, shot with an arrow from the bowstring. But Achilles, brave man, cares nothing and pities none. Is he waiting until all the ships along the shore are well warmed by a general conflagration, and we ourselves are killed in a row?
“Ah, my strength is not what it was when my limbs were supple. If I were only young and strong now, as I was when that quarrel came up between Elis and our people over cattle-lifting, when I killed that brave man Itymoneus Hypeirochos’ son, who lived in Elis!
“I was driving away our reprisals; he was defending his flocks from seizure, and I struck him with my spear–
I’m going to cut Nestor off mid-sentence there because he keeps talking for three or four pages. (And, actually, this seems a better abrupt stopping place than most of the sentence ends, if that makes any sense.) Um, not all on that one story, mind you, but man! I mean, I knew Nestor was the wordiest of the lot, even in a group who all like to make long speeches, but until I was trying to type out some of his dialog I hadn’t realized just how much more talkative the old man really was.
Anyway, notice that he is here proudly bragging about having raided cattle. Yep. That was honorable business in Nestor’s day. Elis made Pylos mad, so the Pylians raided the Elis of its cattle. Yeah, that makes sense. The grim part there, of course, is that the manner in which it’s presented is so casual, so “naturally this is how the world works” that it probably is how the world worked, either at the time of the poem’s composition or some time not too long before that.
Much as I enjoy the myths, I wouldn’t want to go live in those times. Yikes.
Anyway, when I pick up the story again next week, I’ll skip over the less necessary bits of Nestor’s massive, massive speech, and only present the parts that actually, you know, matter. Because this whole sequence of quotes is supposed to be about Patroclos! (*ahem*) Okay, that’s not quite what I meant to say there….