The Fall of Troy
Page: 16So spake the old king; but Polydamas,
The prudent-hearted, thought not good to war
Thus endlessly, and spake his patriot rede:
"If Memnon have beyond all shadow of doubt
Pledged him to thrust dire ruin far from us,
Then do I gainsay not that we await
The coming of that godlike man within
Our walls—yet, ah, mine heart misgives me, lest,
Though he with all his warriors come, he come
But to his death, and unto thousands more,
Our people, nought but misery come thereof;
For terribly against us leaps the storm
Of the Achaeans' might. But now, go to,
Let us not flee afar from this our Troy
To wander to some alien land, and there,
In the exile's pitiful helplessness, endure
All flouts and outrage; nor in our own land
Abide we till the storm of Argive war
O'erwhelm us. Nay, even now, late though it be,
Better it were for us to render back
Unto the Danaans Helen and her wealth,
Even all that glory of women brought with her
From Sparta, and add other treasure—yea,
Repay it twofold, so to save our Troy
And our own souls, while yet the spoiler's hand
Is laid not on our substance, and while yet
Troy hath not sunk in gulfs of ravening flame.
I pray you, take to heart my counsel! None
Shall, well I wot, be given to Trojan men
Better than this. Ah, would that long ago
Hector had hearkened to my pleading, when
I fain had kept him in the ancient home!"
So spake Polydamas the noble and strong,
And all the listening Trojans in their hearts
Approved; yet none dared utter openly
The word, for all with trembling held in awe
Their prince and Helen, though for her sole sake
Daily they died. But on that noble man
Turned Paris, and reviled him to his face:
"Thou dastard battle-blencher Polydamas!
Not in thy craven bosom beats a heart
That bides the fight, but only fear and panic.
Yet dost thou vaunt thee—quotha!—still our best
In counsel!—no man's soul is base as thine!
Go to, thyself shrink shivering from the strife!
Cower, coward, in thine halls! But all the rest,
We men, will still go armour-girt, until
We wrest from this our truceless war a peace
That shall not shame us! 'Tis with travail and toil
Of strenuous war that brave men win renown;
But flight?—weak women choose it, and young babes!
Thy spirit is like to theirs. No whit I trust
Thee in the day of battle—thee, the man
Who maketh faint the hearts of all the host!"
So fiercely he reviled: Polydamas
Wrathfully answered; for he shrank not, he,
From answering to his face. A caitiff hound,
A reptile fool, is he who fawns on men
Before their faces, while his heart is black
With malice, and, when they be gone, his tongue
Backbites them. Openly Polydamas
Flung back upon the prince his taunt and scoff:
"O thou of living men most mischievous!
Thy valour—quotha!—brings us misery!
Thine heart endures, and will endure, that strife
Should have no limit, save in utter ruin
Of fatherland and people for thy sake!
Ne'er may such wantwit valour craze my soul!
Be mine to cherish wise discretion aye,
A warder that shall keep mine house in peace."