538. All Or Nothing

I say no wealth is worth my life! Not all they claim
was stored in the depths of Troy, that city built on riches,
in the old days of peace before the sons of Achaea came-
not all the gold held fast in the Archer’s rocky vaults,
in Phoebus Apollo’s house on Pytho’s sheer cliffs!
Cattle and fat sheep can all be had for the raiding,
tripods all for the trading, and tawny-headed stallions.
But a man’s life breath cannot come back again-
no raiders in force, no trading brings it back,
once it slips through a man’s clenched teeth.
Mother tells me,
the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet,
that two fates bear me on to the day of death.
If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,
my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.
If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,
my pride, my glory dies…
true, but the life that’s left me will be long,
the stroke of death will not come on me quickly.

― Homer, The Iliad

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