Great Words – Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida

Anderson Hall - Kansas State UniversityBray Hall - SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry

The second post of the poetry exploration is another Shakespeare (First one here). This one popped up on Tumblr, and I just found myself reading aloud (as Stephen Fry recommends/demands in his poetry book).  Ulysses and Achilles are discussing the worth of things and people in society, and Ulysses muses on actions and contributions to society.

Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,
A great-siz’d 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 mock’ry. 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 ent’red 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,
That slightly shakes his parting guest by th’ hand;
And with his arms out-stretch’d, as he would fly,
Grasps in the corner. The welcome ever smiles,
And farewell goes out sighing. O, let not virtue seek
Remuneration for the thing it was;
For beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all
To envious and calumniating Time.
 One touch of nature makes the whole world kin-
That all with one consent praise new-born gawds,
Though they are made and moulded of things past,
And give to dust that is a little gilt
More laud than gilt o’er-dusted.
The present eye praises the present object.
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 stirs not. 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.

From Project Gutenberg’s Troilus and Cressida: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1790

This is so much what I need as I move forward in my life.  Two major things I am dealing with are 1) I won’t have the wealth and luxury I am accustomed to and 2) I feel like I’m leaving my “glory days” behind.  As I set into my new life, I dream of laying back and not moving at all.  The lines “Perseverance, dear my lord, Keeps honour bright.” keeps me fighting forward.  I must remember that past accomplishments wither and die with time  (Then what they do in present,Though less than yours in past, must o’ertop yours), and in that “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” in the natural order of things, we are all we need.

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