“Be strong, saith my heart; I am a soldier; I have seen worse sights than this.”
Homer, The Iliad 800 B.C.E. (via zoeshorrorstory)
So this exact phrasing is from Donna Tartt, The Secret History:
and it’s actually a very loose translation - what Odysseus says to himself, in Book 11.404-410, is:
ὤ μοι ἐγὼ τί πάθω; μέγα μὲν κακὸν αἴ κε φέβωμαι
πληθὺν ταρβήσας: τὸ δὲ ῥίγιον αἴ κεν ἁλώω
μοῦνος: τοὺς δ᾽ ἄλλους Δαναοὺς ἐφόβησε Κρονίων.
ἀλλὰ τί ἤ μοι ταῦτα φίλος διελέξατο θυμός;
οἶδα γὰρ ὅττι κακοὶ μὲν ἀποίχονται πολέμοιο,
ὃς δέ κ᾽ ἀριστεύῃσι μάχῃ ἔνι τὸν δὲ μάλα χρεὼ
ἑστάμεναι κρατερῶς, ἤ τ᾽ ἔβλητ᾽ ἤ τ᾽ ἔβαλ᾽ ἄλλον.
or, in the Samuel Butler translation:
“Alas,” said he to himself in his dismay, “what will become of me? It is ill if I turn and fly before these odds, but it will be worse if I am left alone and taken prisoner, for the son of Saturn has struck the rest of the Danaans with panic. But why talk to myself in this way? Well do I know that though cowards quit the field, a hero, whether he wound or be wounded, must stand firm and hold his own.”
You can see what Tartt is pulling out - a soldier, “ὃς δέ κ᾽ ἀριστεύῃσι” (one who is heroic/excels) must be strong and hold firm - but I’m not sure where “saith my heart” comes from as Odysseus is addressing his heart, here (that’s the literal translation for “myself”) or “I have seen worse sights than this”
Huh, interesting. If I only saw the quote by itself, I would’ve thought it was from Od. 20.18
τέτλαθι δή, κραδίη: καὶ κύντερον ἄλλο πο
Then the soldier bit wouldn’t make any sense. Aaaaand neither would the speaking heart bit. Maybe Tartt mistakenly combined both of these? Yeah… I got nothing.
Tedgar that is brilliant! Thank you so much - I had the vague feeling it reminded me of something else, but I think that Odyssey quote has to be part of it (for my non-Greek-speaking-audience - “Be firm, my heart! For you have endured even worse things than this.”)
It might be a way of using the “I address my heart” motif backwards to use the “speaking heart”? As for “I am a soldier”, I have no idea - Homeric characters don’t tend to think of themselves as “soldiers” in the sense that’s implied here. I’m still really baffled as to why Tartt would take, really, a very loosely adapted line of the Odyssey and attribute it to Book 11 of the Iliad, with the same character?
(also, I mean, it’s not “seen worse sights” but “suffered more dog-like treatment”, to be exact - it’s not about battlefield stuff by this point but about the various monsters he’s met with)
Odysseus also gives a little it’s-been-worse speech to his men at Od. 12.208-212, but that’s even further off.