Esprit De L’Escalier

L’homme sensible, comme moi, tout entier à ce qu’on lui objecte, perd la tête et ne se retrouve qu’au bas de l’escalier…
A sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again [when he reaches] the bottom of the stairs…
(Denis Diderot, Paradoxe sur le comédien)
Reaching the defeated drawbridge,
We turn and look back into the armies
That rejoice now in our low-hanging heads.
Weapons which then eluded us
Stand stall and proud, declaring if only:
If we’d been wiser, if more prepared,
If and how much more had we, if we’d done
And not done this; said not those words but fought
With these instead; said this battle-cry not that –
All the wisdom that comes afterwards,
The defeated soldier’s last flash of pride.
The wit that dangles, moments too late, in thin air;
And watch – it all recedes before us:
How quickly the moat fills up the distance!
How hesitant and weak our battle-cry sounds,
Floating over the divides of time and water,
Echoing into closed, pointless battlements,
Resounding with laughter upon pride-taunting stairs…
The monsters from the moat now take up their cry,
Baying for blood, screaming for your pride; this
Is your only option – fall on your battlescarred knees,
Rip off your chainmail, tear off your helmet;
Faceless and humble, remount the stairs;
You’ve silenced the monsters – you fed them your pride.
The battle is over and pride has not won;
Climb up the staircase and sing this defeat,
The song of the humble who have no need for wit.

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