Today’s Words Crush Wednesday is continuing from last week‘s, but I’ll be skipping most of Nestor’s lengthy, lengthy speech. Because that old guy can talk your ear off, even on paper. I guess since he hasn’t got any strength to use on the field of battle, he gets to talk three times as much as everyone else?
Anyway, from Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:
You see Heracles had come in former years and done a great deal of damage, when our best men were killed; for Neleus had twelve sons, and all perished but me alone.
That part was explaining why Elis had gotten cocky and made raids against Pylos, causing Nestor to lead reprisals by stealing the city’s cattle. (I actually quoted this part for reasons that won’t become apparent until I’m done with this section of Iliad quoting…)
Anyway, Nestor spends a long time talking about that raid on Elis, to prove that he was once young, strong and a powerful warrior. (Or something.) When he finally finishes his lengthy digression, he resumes actually talking to Patroclos, instead of at him:
“Such was I, a man with men, as truly as I live. But the valour of Achilles will profit Achilles alone–profit! no, repentance will be his lot, when our people are all destroyed. And you, laggard! What did Menoitios say to you, when he sent you from Phthia to Agamemnon? We were there in the house, I and Odysseus, and heard all he said.
And then he spends a paragraph setting the scene. Because apparently he thinks Patroclos doesn’t remember. (Well, okay, it’s just poetic. But…yeah, not typing all that. It’s got some cool cultural details, but…that’s not the point right now.)
“Peleus told his son to be first and foremost in the field, and this is what Menoitios said to you:
” ‘My son, Achilles is above you in rank, and he is stronger than you, but you are the elder. You must give him good advice and tell him what to do; he will obey you for his own good.’
“That was your father’s bidding, and you have forgotten it. Yet even now you should remind Achilles of this and see if he will listen. Who knows whether you may have the good luck to move him by your persuasions? The persuasion of a friend is a blessing in the end. If there is some oracle from Zeus he is shy of, something his gracious mother has told him, well then, let him send you out with the Myrmidons, and you may show us light in the darkness. Let him lend you his armour to wear, and then the Trojans may take you for him; they may leave us alone to have a breathing-space from the battle. Hardly time to take your breath in the face of sudden death! But your men are all fresh, and they could easily beat a weary enemy back to the city!”
Worst. Advice. Ever.
Okay, maybe not, but…following it was a terrible mistake for poor Patroclos! (Though at least he went out in a blaze of glory, unlike his precious Achilles.)
BTW, Nestor was wrong about one thing: Achilles would not have felt any repentance (or sorrow or anything else) if all the other Achaians were killed, so long as he and Patroclos were both fine. In fact, a little bit later in the poem, he actually wishes for that to happen! And yet he was considered a great hero, and actually worshiped. Kinda scary, huh?