The Cure at Troy

Author: Gary Hart

Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize poet laureate, and late-in-life classicist, translated a play by Sophocles entitled Philoctetes.  He called it The Cure at Troy.

It is the story of a Greek warrior en route to Troy to join his countrymen in their epic siege at Troy.  Their ship stopped at a small island on the way to offer sacrifices to the goddess and Philoctetes was bitten by a venomous snake.  His malodorous wound so offended his shipmates that he was put ashore alone on the remote island of Lemnos.

There, alone and exiled, Philoctetes spent years suffering without companionship or news about the progress of the Trojan war.

Because of the war’s stalemate, the future wanderer of  the ages, Odysseus, and a companion, Neoptolemus, the son of the legendary Achilles,  backtracked to Lemnos to rescue Philoctetes and to convince him to return with them to Troy with his lone possession, a magical  bow fated to overthrow the Trojans.

After much debate and discussion, in which Philoctetes berates Odysseus, guilty of his original exile, he is persuaded to accompany Odysseus and Neoptolemus back to Troy and help the Greeks win the war.

This is a classic redemption story in every sense of the word.  Which of us, wrongly wounded and judged, has not sought exile in our loneliness.  Who among us has not turned his back on an unfair society.  Who has not turned away from involvement in politics at its cruelest.

But almost everyone has a magic bow of one kind or another, a talent that can help our community or our nation triumph over bitter adversity.  And it is that talent, that contribution, that can redeem us from the injustices of our age and put our lives to productive uses.

America today is in need of cure.  Our frustrations at inept leadership, selfishness, greed,  and racial division  require a cure and a healing.

In a matter of hours, it will be for our nation to summon justice to redeem ourselves for four years of monumental rejection of our heritage and our history.

In a matter of hours, we will not only select a national leader, we will conduct a national referendum on our character as a people, a society, and a nation.

Like the Biblical prodigal son, we will come home from squandering our inheritance and seek redemption in the eyes of history and the world.

This election is about history, justice, and hope.  It is about who we Americans truly are.

Mr. Heaney’s translation of this story of redemption is best known today for the passage beloved of many candidates, including this one, and now Joe Biden on the eve of the 2020 presidential election:

History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime                                                                                                 

the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

This is where we find ourselves, longing for the tidal wave of justice, and praying that hope and history will rhyme again.                                                                                                                                                                  

11 Responses to “The Cure at Troy”

  1. Neil McCarthy Says:

    Amen. This is your best. Just fabulous. Thanks.

  2. Jack DuVall Says:

    Senator Hart has written a magnificent article, with a sharp sense of how we must outdo ourselves — to clarify the truth and refuse any but the most devoted lovers of our democratic government as well as our talented nation.

  3. Brian C McCarthy Says:

    I hope someone shows up soon with that magic bow, preferably in Georgia or Wisconsin. A lot of disappointments so far in FL, NC, and other states, and Wisconsin looking very iffy. AZ, MI, and PA can still win it for Biden, but this clearly won’t be the countrywide repudiation of Trumpism many of us were hoping for—recounts and lawsuits over ballots are looking very likely as the hour approaches 3:30 am on the east coast. I don’t think sleep is an option for me tonight and now I’m just waiting for the bagel shop to open. How can these polls be so off, even after accounting for how off they were in 2016? I’m at a loss. Hoping for a big load of Atlanta votes to swing Georgia.

  4. Michael Says:

    There was no tidal wave of justice. Despite the 230,000 dead Americans, the unprecedented incompetence and self-dealing corruption; despite the obvious rottenness of the leadership, America has chosen not to redeem itself. Whether of expediency or belief, this country was born of an evil bargain: a Constitution written by men who weren’t all that decent; one which not only perpetuated the sin of human bondage, but was designed to stop any majority for progress from governing the way it wants in the name of ‘minority rights’. Yes, Biden will probably squeak through the mechanics of that abomination. But his presidency will be weak and targeted for destruction from day one by the Senate; by a majority leader who holds no compassion even for his own constituents who are suffering and voted for him. And they don’t seem to care. Not as long as ‘those people’ beaten over the head and kept in their place.

    How long have we been at this now? The decades of our own lifetimes, always fighting for the cause of decency only to see progress wiped away because of an unholy bargain made at our inception, which never goes away.

    I’m 63 and I’m tired. I no longer believe in the ‘exceptional’, or the “City on a Hill”, the Greatest Hope, or “better Angels” or any of that nonsense. If there are such things they lie elsewhere, not here. I feel truly blessed that my daughter holds dual nationality. If she decided to pursue public service, my advice to her would be to go where progress is still possible. The EU has enormous problems but it has proven that redemption is possible there. There might be hope of building something new on the ‘old’ continent. It is not possible here.

  5. Neil McCarthy Says:

    “There might be hope of building something new on the ‘old’ continent. It is not possible here.”

    Michael is positing a reverse-Churchill.

    Here’s Winston in Britain’s darkest hour — ““And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

    Maybe this is ours. Maybe it is time for the “old” to rescue the “new”.

    But how?



    Yet, as Brian describes and Michael sadly, the rejection of Trump looks a bit more like the more of the same, if not outcome, farce of process.No its not funny.

    When you see the Trump lawyer speak, former Mayor of NY, the specific loud one, we see that as friends show, here, the US, is not United.

    Consolation though, a wonderful speech from Joe Biden now. And, as a citizen of the UK with an American origin wife, Anglo American European mix for years, the UK is divided ans, is, sorry michael, the EU.

    Watch France under Macron, a moderate, and see a divided country.

    Watch the UK under n Johnson, a maverick, and there is division.

    Watch italy, land of my dear father….

    We need a United Nations…..

  7. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    >>>>>>>>>This is where we find ourselves, longing for the tidal wave of justice, and praying that hope and history will rhyme again.

    Well, as a wise political analyst has said, it was “six-inch tsunami” – and, I’ll take that any day of the week and twice on sundays. 🙂

    It was actually a very interesting mandate …

    Congratulations, everyone – you did it!!!

  8. H Patrick Pritchard Says:

    On the final day of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 Elizabeth Willing Powel approached Benjamin Franklin and posed the question, “What have we got a Republic or a Monarchy?”

    Franklin replied, “A Republic if you can keep it!”

    Through the years of battle and expansion we have managed to keep and make some progress in the evolution of a Republic.It certainly hasn’t been easy! Recently we faced serious threats to our Constitutional principles, laws and institutions.

    Once again the people of this United States faced a choice of Republic or Monarchy and 76 million rose up and declared allegiance to the Republic! The price of Liberty requires eternal vigilance!

  9. H Patrick Pritchard Says:


    “It is incomprehensible to me, the fear that can affect men in political offices. It is shocking the way they submit to forces they know are wrong and fail to stand up for what they believe. Can their jobs be so important to them, their prestige, their power, their privileges so important that they will cooperate in the degradation of our society just to hang on to those jobs?”

    Shirley Chisholm

  10. Michael Says:

    H Patrick Pritchard, 71 million Americans ‘rose up’ and decided they wanted an incompetent moron who spent four years attacking the institutions of the ‘democracy’ back in the White House. The Democrats failed to take the Senate and almost lost their majority in the House to a Party that is clearly authoritarian to its core, and enabled a cult of personality around a traitor to the republic.
    The government the Founders designed in the 18th Century has shown itself to be fatally flawed in the 21st Century. A system supposedly designed to protect minority rights has, for many reasons, developed into a system of minority rule. It has failed.
    I cast my very first vote in 1976. Since then, all the progress we have made as a society, whether in the areas of civil rights or environmental protection, anti-trust legislation and in many other areas, has been systematically eroded by the Right. For all the idealism, the petition carrying, envelope stuffing (in the old days), door knocking, fundraising, and giving, for countless candidates, some who have lost and some who have won, we have only slipped backward under a relentless, well-funded assault from the right. It was all in vain. A complete waste of time and energy. Yes, it’s nice that Biden won. But it’s a Pyrrhic victory. The forces of reaction are still in control because of our failed system of government.

  11. H Patrick Pritchard Says:


    One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey.

    He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down.

    A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.

    As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

    MORAL :
    Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

    Remember the five simple rules to be happy:
    1. Free your heart from hatred – Forgive.
    2. Free your mind from worries – Most never happens.
    3. Live simply and appreciate what you have.
    4. Give more.
    5. Expect less from people but more from yourself.

    I am that donkey or you may call me an ass but that is my nature! I am 79 years old and never tire and this is my mantra: “Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day, Rage, Rage against the dying of the light!”

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