The Intoxication of Force

Simone Weil, The Iliad, or the Poem of Force (trans. Mary McCarthy):


Nevertheless, the soul that is enslaved to war cries out for deliverance, but deliverance 
itself appears to it in an extreme and tragic aspect, the aspect of destruction. Any other 
solution, more moderate, more reasonable in character, would expose the mind to 
suffering so naked, so violent that it could not be borne, even as memory. Terror, 
grief, exhaustion, slaughter, the annihilation of comrades - is it credible that these 
things should not continually tear at the soul, if the intoxication of force had not 
intervened to drown them? The idea that an unlimited effort should bring in only a 
limited profit or no profit at all is terribly painful. 

What? Will we let Priam and the Trojans boast 
Of Argive Helen, she for whom so many Greeks 
Died before Troy, far from their native land? 
What? Do you want us to leave the city, wide-streeted Troy, 
Standing, when we have suffered so much for it? 

But actually what is Helen to Ulysses? What indeed is Troy, full of riches that will not 
compensate him for Ithaca's ruin? For the Greeks, Troy and Helen are in reality mere 
sources of blood and tears; to master them is to master frightful memories. If the 
existence of an enemy has made a soul destroy in itself the thing nature put there, then 
the only remedy the soul can imagine is the destruction of the enemy. At the same 
time the death of dearly loved comrades arouses a spirit of somber emulation, a 
rivalry in death. 

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