Sunday, March 30, 2014

"the modern idea that we can choose between Hierarchy and equality is, for Shakespeare's Ulysses, mere moonshine."

When that the general is not like the hive
To whom the foragers shall all repair,
What honey is expected? . . .
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And hark what discord follows. Each thing (meets)
In mere oppugnancy. . . .
Force should be right, or, rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then everything (includes) itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite,
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey
And last eat up himself. Great Agamemnon,
This chaos, when degree is suffocate,
Follows the choking.
And this neglection of degree it is
That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
It hath to climb. The General’s disdained
By him one step below, he by the next,
That next by him beneath; so every step,
Exampled by the first pace that is sick
Of his superior, grows to an envious fever
Of pale and bloodless emulation.
And ’tis this fever that keeps Troy on foot,
Not her own sinews. To end a tale of length,
Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.

     William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida I.3, ll. 85-141.  Header derives from C. S. Lewis, A preface to Paradise Lost, being the Ballard Matthews Lectures delivered at University College, North Wales, 1941, revised and enlarged (London:  Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1956 [1942]), 72.

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