Rosemary Sutcliff Quotes

But these things that Rome had to give, are they not good things?” Marcus demanded. “Justice, and order, and good roads; worth having, surely?” “These be all good things,” Esca agreed. “But the price is too high.” “The price? Freedom?” “Yes—and other things than freedom.” “What other things? Tell me, Esca; I want to know. I want to understand.” Esca thought for a while, staring straight before him. “Look at the pattern embossed here on your dagger-sheath,” he said at last. “See, here is a tight curve, and here is another facing the other way to balance it, and here between them is a little round stiff flower; and then it is all repeated here, and here, and here again. It is beautiful, yes, but to me it is as meaningless as an unlit lamp.” Marcus nodded as the other glanced up at him. “Go on.” Esca took up the shield which had been laid aside at Cottia’s coming. “Look now at this shield-boss. See the bulging curves that flow from each other as water flows from water and wind from wind, as the stars turn in the heaven and blown sand drifts into dunes. These are the curves of life; and the man who traced them had in him knowledge of things that your people have lost the key to—if they ever had it.” He looked up at Marcus again very earnestly. “You cannot expect the man who made this shield to live easily under the rule of the man who worked the sheath of this dagger.” “The sheath was made by a British craftsman,” Marcus said stubbornly. “I bought it at Anderida when I first landed.” “By a British craftsman, yes, making a Roman pattern. One who had lived so long under the wings of Rome—he and his fathers before him—that he had forgotten the ways and the spirit of his own people.” He laid the shield down again. “You are the builders of coursed stone walls, the makers of straight roads and ordered justice and disciplined troops. We know that, we know it all too well. We know that your justice is more sure than ours, and when we rise against you, we see our hosts break against the discipline of your troops, as the sea breaks against a rock. And we do not understand, because all these things are of the ordered pattern, and only the free curves of the shield-boss are real to us. We do not understand. And when the time comes that we begin to understand your world, too often we lose the understanding of our own.” For a while they were silent, watching Cub at his beetle-hunting. Then Marcus said, “When I came out from home, a year and a half ago, it all seemed so simple.” His gaze dropped again to the buckler on the bench beside him, seeing the strange, swelling curves of the boss with new eyes. Esca had chosen his symbol well, he thought: between the formal pattern on his dagger-sheath and the formless yet potent beauty of the shield-boss lay all the distance that could lie between two worlds. And yet between individual people, people like Esca, and Marcus, and Cottia, the distance narrowed so that you could reach across it, one to another, so that it ceased to matter.