In Reverse

Stooped my shoulders and curly my beard, dark my complexion; black-faced they called me; choleric. Smooth my tongue, though, and ready my mind: when the wise took counsel I was silent, as befits an uncertain birth, but round the fire when a soldier’s miserable fare was cut with salted, watered wine, o, then I declaimed! “Here is a man,” quotha, and how they roared!

Talthybius abused me and dragged me with him and stood us both for the abuse of the mighty but in private discussion I carried the banner. “What are you? How should you speak, dog, who whined so boldly before? What mathematics is this, that such a mixed cur barks in the sweet tongue of Hellas?” He struck me, not the first blow I’ve suffered for my tongue, but round-shoulders do not sag like square ones. I laughed in his face and sent him away shameful and cast-down.

When they sued for peace I was there; when they would have heaped him round with gold and clean-limbed boys and unwatered wine I stayed silent. “Briseis,” I said when we left, and he gave me a token for her. How happy that made her I couldn’t say, who never saw her smile, but she thanked me most prettily and talked to me of her vanished father and brothers.