Odious and Peculiar

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Monday, April 27, 2009
 
As you may have guessed from the Thucydides a little ways down, I'm revisiting my greek history. I had attempted to read some moderns in the hopes of learning a bit about the archeological side of things, but I quickly grew disgusted with the common attitude of disdain it seemed they hold for the ancients. Particularly in their dismissal of the virtue of physical courage, they strike me as--well, let another tell it:
Jurgen went with distaste among the broad-browed and great-limbed monarchs of Pseudopolis, for they reminded him of things that he had long ago put aside, and they made him feel unpleasantly ignoble and insignificant. That was his real reason for avoiding the city.

Now he passed between unlighted and silent palaces, walking in deserted streets where the moon made ominous shadows. Here was the house of Ajax Telamon who reigned in sea-girt Salamis, here that of god-like Philoctetes: much-counselling Odysseus dwelt just across the way, and the corner residence was fair-haired Agamemnon's: in the moonlight Jurgen easily made out these names engraved upon the bronze shield that hung beside each doorway. To every side of him slept the heroes of old song while Jurgen skulked under their windows.

He remembered how incuriously--not even scornfully--these people had overlooked him on that disastrous afternoon when he had ventured into Pseudopolis by daylight. And a spiteful little gust of rage possessed him, and Jurgen shook his fist at the big silent palaces.

"Yah!" he snarled: for he did not know at all what it was that he desired to say to those great stupid heroes who did not care what he said, but he knew that he hated them. Then Jurgen became aware of himself growling there like a kicked cur who is afraid to bite, and he began to laugh at this Jurgen.

"Your pardon, gentlemen of Greece," says he, with a wide ceremonious bow, "and I think the information I wished to convey was that I am a monstrous clever fellow."
Indeed you are, gentlemen historians, but, as Jurgen himself discovers, cleverness is not everything.

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