The Corner

Yet More On That Ulysses Speech

(The one in Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida, that is.) I don’t want to

thrash this to death, but it really is a magnificent speech, one of the

Bard’s best. Here’s a follow up on my previous post.

“Dear Mr. Derbyshire—I believe there are typos in the post. Certainly the

quotation near the end goes into an unwanted loop. I don’t know where your

reader wanted to quit the quotation, but the speech ends with:

“Then marvel not, thou great and complete man,

That all the Greeks begin to worship Ajax;

Since things in motion sooner catch the eye

Than what not stirs. The cry went once on thee,

And still it might, and yet it may again,

If thou wouldst not entomb thyself alive

And case thy reputation in thy tent;

Whose glorious deeds, but in these fields of late,

Made emulous missions ‘mongst the gods themselves

And drave great Mars to faction.

“(The Greeks worshiping Ajax bit is where the trouble begins.)

“I think a straight quotation from the beginning of the speech is so much

more germane, especially if one keeps Mr. Rumsfeld and his whole department

in mind (except for the morons at the prison) — no, how about *any* real

conservative hero you can think of: Churchill thrown out at the end of WWII,

Ronald Reagan, Lady Thatcher…

“Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,

Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,

A great-sized monster of ingratitudes:

Those scraps are good deeds past; which are devour’d

As fast as they are made, forgot as soon

As done: perseverance, dear my lord,

Keeps honour bright: to have done is to hang

Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail

In monumental mockery. Take the instant way;

For honour travels in a strait so narrow,

Where one but goes abreast: keep then the path;

For emulation hath a thousand sons

That one by one pursue: if you give way,

Or hedge aside from the direct forthright,

Like to an enter’d tide, they all rush by

And leave you hindmost;

Or like a gallant horse fall’n in first rank,

Lie there for pavement to the abject rear,

O’er-run and trampled on: then what they do in present,

Though less than yours in past, must o’ertop yours;

For time is like a fashionable host


I must say, though, having now read the play through twice and watched the

DVD, and listened to peter Saccio’s commentaries, I think this is a cruel,

ugly play, showing humanity at its worst.


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