PYRRHUS • Warrior King

Pyrrhus of Epirus

Pyrrhus of Epirus (Photo credit: diffendale)

Pyrrhus inherited the throne of Epirus in Northern Greece around 306 B.C.E., and as a young man proved himself on the battlefield again and again. Pyrrhus apparently had great strategic skills, but he also had the reputation of not knowing when to stop. In 281 he went to Italy and defeated the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum, but suffered bitterly heavy losses. The devastation led to his famous statement, “One more such victory and I am lost” — hence the term “Pyrrhic victory” for any victory so costly as to be ruinous. [via]

My question is, what isn’t a pyrrhic victory? For everything we gain in life –and don’t get me wrong, we gain a lot more than we deserve– there is also, always loss. Loss is a universal experience. Whether it’s losing a loved one, a battle, a game, your money, your keys, your mind, or most irreplaceable of all, time, we lose. And on that note, read on for extra credit…

John Berryman
THE BALL POEM
What is the boy now, who has lost his ball,
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over–there it is in the water!
No use to say ‘O there are other balls’:
An ultimate shaking grief fixes the boy
As he stands rigid, trembling, staring down
All his young days into the harbour where
His ball went. I would not intrude on him,
A dime, another ball, is worthless. Now
He senses first responsibility
In a world of possessions. People will take balls,
Balls will be lost always, little boy,
And no one buys a ball back. Money is external.
He is learning, well behind his desperate eyes,
The epistemology of loss, how to stand up
Knowing what every man must one day know
And most know many days, how to stand up
And gradually light returns to the street
A whistle blows, the ball is out of sight,
Soon part of me will explore the deep and dark
Floor of the harbour . . I am everywhere,
I suffer and move, my mind and my heart move
With all that move me, under the water
Or whistling, I am not a little boy.

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