Euripides 480 - 06 74
10 Plays: Hecuba, Orestes, Phoenecian Virgins, Medea, Hyppolytus, Alcestis, Bacchae, Heraclidae, Iphigenia in Aulis, Iphigenia in Tauris
1 About Me 8
2 Education
3 Philosophy
4 Politics
5 News
6 Travel
7 Sports
8 Funding
1 Hecuba 252 27.3 22:45.
2 Orestes 531 74.4 1:02.
3 Phoenecian Virgins 419 71.5 59:35.
4 Medea 237 55.2 46.
5 Hyppolytus 263 55.8 46:30.
6 Alcestis 317 47.5 39:35.
7 Bacchae 306 50.8 42:20.
8 Heraclidae 202 41.1 34:15.
9 Iphigenia in Aulis 410 64.1 53:25.
10 Iphigenia in Tauris 394 59.3 49:25.
Page Data
Body Pages 586.2 Time 8:08:30
Chapters 10/3,331
Pages per chapter 58.4/.18
The translations of the first six plays in the present volume were published at Oxford some years since, and have been frequently reprinted. They are now carefully revised according to Dindorf's text, and are accompanied by a few additional notes adapted to the requirements of the student. The translations of the Bacchæ, Heraclidæ, and the two Iphigenias, are based upon the same text, with certain exceptions, which are pointed out at the foot of the page. The annotations on the Iphigenias are almost exclusively critical, as it is presumed that a student who proceeds to the reading of these somewhat difficult plays[1], will be sufficiently advanced in his acquaintance with the Greek drama to dispense with more elementary information. T.A. BUCKLEY, CHRIST CHURCH, OXFORD.
2 - Introduction
Euripides, son of Mnesarchus, was born in the island of Salamis, on the day of the celebrated victory (B.C. 480). His mother, Clito, had been sent thither in company with the other Athenian women, when Attica was given up, and the ships became at once the refuge of the male population, and the national defense. Mr. Donaldson[1] well remarks, that the patronymic form of his name, derived from the Euripus, which was the scene of the first successful resistance offered to the Persian navy, shows that the attention of his parents was fully excited by the stirring events of the time. Notwithstanding the fact that his mother had been an herb-seller, it is probable that his father was a man of some family. That he was at least possessed of ample means, is evident from the care and expense bestowed upon our poet's education. Under the tutorship of Anaxagoras, Prodicus, and Protagoras, he had studied both natural philosophy and rhetoric in its sophistical form. In gymnastic exercises he exhibited a successful prowess, being twice victorious in the Eleusinian and Thesean games. Of his skill in painting, some specimens were preserved at Megara. His appearance as a dramatist was at an earlier age than that of his predecessors, as he was only five and twenty years old when he produced the "Peliades," his first tragedy. On this occasion, he gained the third prize in the tragic contests, but the first, fourteen years after, and subsequently, with the "Hippolytus," in 428 B.C. The peculiar tendency of some of the ideas expressed in his plays, was the probable cause of the retirement of Euripides to Macedonia, where he obtained the friendship of King Archelaus. Perhaps, however, the unhappiness of his connubial state, arising from the infidelity of his two wives, might have rendered Athens a disagreeable place of abode for the woman-hating poet, especially when his "domestic bliss" was continually seasoned by the sarcastic jokes and allusions of his political enemy, Aristophanes. Moreover, his acquaintance with the talking philosopher, Socrates, must have been unfavorable to the continuance of his popularity. The fate of Pentheus in our author's noble play, the "Bacchæ," appears to have given origin to the tradition that he himself was torn to pieces by dogs. If we reflect that this play was probably the last of his works, the mistake seems a plausible one. The death of Euripides, which probably happened in the ordinary course of nature, has, like that of Æschylus, been associated with the marvelous. The Athenians vainly craved the honor of giving a resting-place to the ashes of their philosopher-poet. He was buried at Pella, but a cenotaph at Athens showed that his countrymen had not forgotten Euripides. His death took place B.C. 406. The inferiority of our author to the greater tragedians, prevents our feeling much desire to enter upon the respective merits and demerits of his several plays, especially as we are completely anticipated by Schlegel, with whose masterly analysis every reader ought to be acquainted. Nevertheless, a few general remarks may, perhaps, be not wholly unprofitable. It has been truly remarked, that tragedy, in no small degree, owed its downfall to Euripides. Poetry was gradually superseded by rhetoric, sublimity by earnestness, pathos by reasoning. Thus, Iphigenia and Macaria give so many good reasons for dying, that the sacrifice appears very small, and a modern wag in the upper regions of the theatre would, at the end of the speech of the latter heroine, almost have exclaimed, "Then why don't you die?" It has been said, that our poet drew the characters of life as he found them, but bad as his characters are, they exhibit only a vulgar wickedness. Unable to portray a Clytæmnestra, he revels in the continual paltriness of a Menelaus or Ulysses. As if he took a delight in the black side of humanity, he loves to show the strength of false reasoning, of sophistry antagonistic to truth, and of cold expediency in opposition to the natural feelings of humanity. From a similar reason, his occasional attempts at comedy degenerate into mere farce. We question whether the scene between Death and Apollo in the "Alcestis," could be surpassed in vulgarity, even by the modern school of English dramatists, while his exaggerations in the minor characters are scarcely to be surpassed by the lowest writer of any period. Under Euripides, the stage began gradually to approximate more closely to the ordinary and, at that time, debased character of Athenian society. A contempt for the Lacedæmonians, a passionate taste for the babbling and trickery of the forum, and an attempt to depreciate the social position and influence of the weaker sex, form the most unamiable features of this change. Yet we must allow, that if Euripides has reveled in the amiabilities of a Melanippe or a Phædra, in the gentle revenge of a Medea or Hecuba, he has at the same time given us an Alcestis, the only real example of genuine conjugal affection on the Greek stage. Nor must we forget that Euripides is a greater admirer of nature, a more complete delineator of her workings, than the two greater tragedians. He has more of illustrative philosophy, more of regard to the objects of the animated creation, the system of the universe, than his greater rivals exhibit. He is, as Vitruvius has justly styled him, a "stage-philosopher." Did we possess a larger acquaintance with the works of Parmenides, Empedocles, and other early cosmogonists, we should perhaps think less of his merits on this head: as it is, the possession of some such fragments of our poet makes us deeply regret the loss of the plays themselves. But his very love for the contemplation of nature has in no small degree contributed to the mischievous skepticism promulgated by our poet. In early times, when a rural theogony was the standard of belief, when each star had its deity, each deity its undisputed, unquestioned prerogative and worship, there was little inclination, less opportunity, for skepticism. Throughout the poetry of Hesiod, we find this feeling ever predominant, a feeling which Virgil and Tibullus well knew how to appreciate. Even Euripides himself, perhaps taught by some dangerous lessons at home, has expressed his belief that it is best "not to be too clever in matters regarding the Gods."[2] A calm retreat in the wild, picturesque tracts of Macedonia, might have had some share in reforming this spoiled pupil of the sophists. But as we find that the too careful contemplation of nature degenerates into superstition or rationalism in their various forms, so Euripides had imbibed the taste for saying startling things,[3] rather than wise; for reducing the principles of creation to materialism, the doctrines of right and wrong to expediency, and immutable truths to a popular system of question and answer. Like the generality of sophists, he took away a received truth, and left nothing to supply its place; he reasoned falsehood into probability, truth into nonentity. At a period when the Prodico-Socratic style of disputing was in high fashion, the popularity of Euripides must have been excessive. His familiar appeals to the trifling matters of ordinary life, his characters all philosophizing, from the prince to the dry-nurse, his excellent reasons for doing right or wrong, as the case might be, must have been inestimably delightful to the accommodating morals of the Athenians. The Court of Charles the Second could hardly have derived more pleasure from the writings of a Behn or a Hamilton, than these unworthy descendants of Codrus must have experienced in hearing a bad cause so cleverly defended. Whether the orators and dikasts followed the example of the stage in those days, can scarcely be ascertained, but it is more than certain that they practically illustrated its principles. At least, the Sicilians were so fond of our author, that a few of the unfortunate survivors of the Syracusan disaster, were enabled to pick up a living by quoting such passages of our author as they had learned by heart. A compliment paid to few living dramatists in our days! In dramatic conduct, Euripides is at an even greater disadvantage with Æschylus and Sophocles. The best characters of the piece are often the least employed, as in the instance of Macaria in the "Heraclidæ," while the play is dwindled away with dull, heavy dirges, and the complaints of senile childishness. The chorus, as Aristotle[4] has remarked, is most unfortunately independent of the plot, although the finest poetry is generally to be found in the lyric portions of our author's plays. In fact, Euripides rather wanted management in employing his resources, than the resources themselves. An ear well attuned to the harmony of verse, a delicate perception of the graceful points of language, and a finished subtilty in touching the more minute feelings and impulses of the mind, were all thrown away either upon bad subjects or worse principles. There is no true tragedy in Euripides, He is a melodramatist, but not according to the modern acceptation. His plays might end either happily or the reverse. A deity conveniently brought in, the arrival of a messenger, however unexpectedly, together with a liberal allowance for a cowardly revenge upon the vanquished--these are the Euripidean elements for giving a tragic end to a play. Nay, so great is the prodigality of slaughter throughout his dramas, that we can but imagine morbid cruelty to have formed a considerable ingredient in the disposition of Euripides. Even his pathos is somewhat tinctured with this taste for painful images. As we have beheld in our own times a barbarian alternately glut his sight with executions, and then shed floods of tears, and sink into idiot despondency; so the poetry of Euripides in turn disgusts us with outrageous cruelty, and depresses us with the most painful demands upon our compassion. In the lyric portions of his dramas, our poet has been far more successful. The description of the capture of Troy by night,[5] is a splendid specimen of animation blended with true pathos. But taken as a whole. Euripides is a most unequal author. We may commence a play with pleasure (but O for the prologues!), we may proceed with satisfaction, but the feeling rarely lasts to the end. If I may venture an opinion upon so uncertain a subject, I should name the Hippolytus, Ion, Troades, Bacchæ, and Iphigenia in Aulis as his best plays, placing the Phœnissæ, Alcestis, Medea, Hecuba, and Orestes in a lower rank. The Helena is an amusing heap of absurdities, and reads much better in the burlesque of Aristophanes; the Electra is utterly beneath criticism; the Cyclops a weak, but humorous imitation of Homer. The other plays appear to be neither bad nor good. The style of Euripides is, generally speaking, easy; and I can mention no author from whom a taste for elegant Greek and a facility in composition can more easily be derived. Some of his plays have suffered severely from the ravages of time, the ignorance of copyists, and the more dangerous officiousness of grammarians. Some passages of the Bacchæ, Rhesus, Troades, and the two Iphigenias, despite the ingenuity and erudition of such scholars as Porson, Elmsley, Monk, Burges, and a host of others, must still remain mere matter for guessing. Hermann's Euripides is, as a whole, sadly unworthy the abilities of the Humboldt of Greek literature. The present volume contains the most popular of our author's works, according to present usage. But the spirit which is gradually infusing itself into the minds of those who are most actively engaged in the educational system of England, fully warrants a hope that Porson's "four plays" will shortly cease to be the boundaries of the student's acquaintance with Euripides. I need scarcely observe, that the study of Aristophanes is indissolubly connected with that of our author. If the reader discover the painful fact that the burlesque writer is greater than the tragedian, he will perhaps also recollect that such a literary relation is, unfortunately, by no means confined to the days of Aristophanes.
1 Hecuba.
  When Troy was taken by the Greeks, Hecuba, the wife of Priam, and her daughters, Kassandra the prophetess, and Polyxena, with the other women of Troy, were made slaves, being portioned among the victors, so that Kassandra became the concubine of Agamemnon. But Polydorus, the youngest of Priam's sons, had long ere this been sent, with much treasure of gold, for safe keeping to his father's friend, Polymestor king of Thrace, so that his mother had one consolation of hope amidst her afflictions. Note the host of Greece could not straightway sail home, because to the spirit of their dead hero Achilles was given power to hold the winds from blowing, till meet sacrifice were rendered to him, even a maiden of Troy, most beautiful of the seed royal; and for this they chose Polyxena. And now king Polymestor, lusting for the gold, and fearing no vengeance of man, sleiu his ward, the lad Polydorus, and flung his body into the sea, so that it was in process of time cast up by the waves on the shore whereby was the camp of the Greeks, and was brought to Hecuba. And herein are told the sorrow if Hecuba and her revenge.
    Phantom of Polydorus, son of Priam King of Troy, and Hecuba. Hecuba, wife of Priam, and mother of Polydorus and Polyxena. Polyxena, youngest daughter of Priam and Hecuba. Odysseus, chiefest in subtlety of the Greeks, King of Ithaca. Talthybius, herald of King Agamemnon. Agamemnon, King of Mycenæ, and captain of the host of Greece. Polymestor, King of Eastern Thrace, which is called the Chersonese. Handmaid of Hecuba. Chorus of captive Trojan women. Attendants, Greek and Thracian guards, captive women. Scene:—Before Agamemnon's tent in the camp of the Greeks on the coast ⁠of the Thracian Chersonese.
1 - 1 Hecuba.
  The phantom of Polydorus appears hovering over the tent of Agamemnon.
1 - 2 Polydorus.
  I come from vaults of death, from gates of darkness, Where from the Gods aloof doth Hades dwell, Polydorus, born of Hecuba, Kisseus' child, And Priam, who, when peril girt the town Of Phrygians, by the spear of Greece to fall,⁠5 In fear from Troyland privily sent me forth To Polymestor's halls, his Thracian friend, Lord of the fair tilth-lands of Chersonese, Who with the spear rules that horse-loving folk. And secretly with me my sire sent forth⁠10 Much gold, that, should the towers of Ilium fall, His sons yet living might not beggared be. Youngest of Priam's house was I: for this He sent me forth the land, whose youthful arm Availed not or to sway the shield or spear.⁠15 So, while unbowed the land's defences stood, And yet unshattered were the towers of Troy, While triumphed yet my brother Hector's spear, Fair-nurtured by the Thracian, my sire's friend, Like some young sapling grew I—hapless I!⁠20 But, when Troy perished, perished Hector's soul, And my sire's hearths were made a desolation, And himself at the god-built altar fell Slain by Achilles' son, the murder-stained, Then me for that gold's sake my father's friend⁠25 Slays, and the slaughtered wretch mid sea-surge cast, That in his halls himself might keep the gold. Here on the beach I welter, surf-borne there Drift on the racing waves' recoil and rush, Tombless, unwept. O'er my dear mother's head⁠30 Now flit I, leaving tenantless my body. This is the third day that I hover so, Even all the time that in this Chersonese My hapless mother tarrieth, haled from Troy. And all the Achaians idle with their ships⁠35 Sit on the beaches of this Thracian land. For Peleus' son above his tomb appeared, And all the Hellenic host Achilles stayed, Even as they homeward aimed the brine-dipt oar, And claimed for his Polyxena my sister,⁠40 For sacrifice and honour to his tomb; Yea, and shall win, nor of his hero-friends Giftless shall be. And Fate is leading on Unto her death my sister on this day. And of two children shall my mother see⁠45 Two corpses, mine, and that her hapless daughter's. For I, to gain a tomb, will—wretch—appear Before her handmaid's feet amidst the surge. For with the Lords of Death have I prevailed 'Twixt mother-hands to fall, and win a tomb.⁠50 Accomplished shall be all for which I longed. But agèd Hecuba's sight will I avoid; For forth of Agamemnon's tent she sets Her feet, appalled by this my ghostly phantom.
Hecuba, dressed as a slave, and supported by fellow-captives, appears coming out of Agamemnon's tent. Mother, who after royal halls hast seen⁠55 The day of thraldom, how thy depth of woe Equals thine height of weal! A God bears down The scale with olden bliss heaped, ruining thee.
1 - 3 Hecuba.
  Lead forth, O my children, the stricken in years from the tent. ⁠O lead her, upbearing the steps of your fellow-thrall⁠60 ⁠Now, O ye daughters of Troy, but of old your queen. Clasp me, uphold, help onward the eld-forspent, ⁠Laying hold of my wrinkled hand, lest for weakness I fall; ⁠And, sustained by a curving arm, thereon as I lean, ⁠I will hasten onward with tottering pace, ⁠Speeding my feet in a laggard's race. O lightning-splendour of Zeus, O mirk of the night, ⁠Why quake I for visions in slumber that haunt me With terrors, with phantoms? O Earth's majestic might,⁠70 Mother of dreams that hover in dusk-winged flight, ⁠I cry to the vision of darkness "Avaunt thee!"— The dream of my son who was sent unto Thrace to be saved from the slaughter, The dream that I saw of Polyxena's doom, my dear-loved daughter, ⁠Which I saw, which I knew, which abideth to daunt me. ⁠Gods of the Underworld, save ye my son, ⁠Mine house's anchor, its only one,⁠80 ⁠By the friend of his father warded well ⁠Where the snows of Thrace veil forest and fell! ⁠But a strange new stroke draweth near, ⁠And a strain of wailing for them that wail. ⁠Ah, never as now did the heart in me quail ⁠With the thrilling of ceaseless fear. ⁠O that Kassandra I might but descry ⁠To arrede me my dreams, O daughters of Troy, ⁠Or Helenus, god-taught seer! For a dappled fawn I beheld which a wolf's red fangs ⁠were tearing,⁠90 Which he dragged from my knees whereto she had ⁠clung in her piteous despairing. ⁠This terror withal on my spirit is come, That the ghost of the mighty Achilles hath risen, and stood ⁠High on the crest of his earth-heaped tomb; And he claimeth a guerdon of honour, the spilling of blood, ⁠And a woe-stricken Trojan maiden's doom. O Gods, I am suppliant before you!—in any wise turn, ⁠I implore you, ⁠This fate from the child of my womb!
Enter Chorus of Trojan Captive Women.
1 - 4 Chorus.
  I have hasted hitherward ; the pavilions of my lord,⁠100 ⁠O my queen, have I forsaken, in the which I sojourn here, Whom the lot hath doomed to fall unto a king, a thrall ⁠From Ilium chased, the quarry of Achaian hunters' spear,— Not for lightening of thy pain; nay, a burden have I ta'en ⁠Of heavy tidings, herald of sore anguish unto thee, For that met is the array of Achaia, and they say ⁠That thy child unto Achilles a sacrifice must be.⁠110 For thou knowest how in sheen of golden armour seen ⁠He stood upon his tomb, and on the ocean-pacing ships Laid a spell, that none hath sailed,—yea, though the halliards brailed ⁠The sails up to the yards;—and a cry rang from his lips: "Ho, Danaans! whither now, leaving unredeemed your vow ⁠Of honour to my tomb, and my glory spurned away?" Then a surge of high contention clashed: the spear-host in dissension⁠120 ⁠Was cleft, some crying, "Yield his tomb the victim!" ⁠—others, "Nay!" Now the King was fervent there that thy daughter they should spare, ⁠For that Agamemnon loveth thy prophet-bacchanal. But the sons of Theseus twain,[1] Athens' scions, for thy bane ⁠Pleaded both, yet for the victim did their vote at variance fall. "Ye cannot choose but crown with the life-blood streaming down ⁠Achilles' grave!" they clamoured—"and, for this Kassandra's bed, Shall any dare prefer to Achilles' prowess her—⁠130 ⁠A concubine, a bondslave?—It shall never be!" they said. But the vehemence of speech, each contending against each, ⁠Was balanced, as it were, till the prater subtle-souled, The man of honied tongue, the truckler to the throng, ⁠Laertes' spawn, 'gan fashion the host unto his mould: "We may not thrust aside like an outcast wretch," he cried, ⁠"The bravest Danaan heart and the stoutest Danaan hand, All to spare our hands the stain of the blood of bond-maid slain, ⁠Neither suffer that a voice from the ranks of them that stand In the presence of Hell's Queen should with scoffing bitter-keen ⁠Cry, 'Thankless from the plains of Troy the Danaans have sped,⁠140 Thankless unto Danaan kin whose graves are thick therein, ⁠Who died to save their brethren—the soon -forgotten dead !'" And Odysseus draweth near—even now shall he be here ⁠From thy breast to rend thy darling, from thine age-enfeebled grasp. Hie thee to the temples now: haste, before the altars bow: ⁠Crouch low to Agamemnon, his knees in suppliance clasp. Lift up thy voice and cry to the Gods that sit on high: ⁠Let the Nether-dwellers hear it through their darkness ringing wild. For, except they turn and spare, and thy prevalence of prayer⁠150 ⁠Redeem thee from bereavement of thy ruin-stricken child, Thou must surely live to gaze where a maiden on her face ⁠On a grave-mound lieth slaughtered, while the darkly-gleaming tide Welleth, welleth from the neck which the golden mockeries deck, ⁠And all her body crimsons in the bubbling horror dyed.
1 - 5 Hecuba.
  Woe for mine anguish! what outcry availeth ⁠To thrill forth its agony-throes? What wailing its fulness of torment outwaileth— Wretched eld—bitter bondage where heart and flesh faileth? ⁠Ah me for my woes! What champion is left me?—what sons to defend me?—⁠160 ⁠What city remains to me? Gone Are my lord and my sons! Whither now shall I wend me? Whither flee?—Is there God—is there fiend shall befriend me? ⁠Alone—alone! Daughters of Troy—O ye heralds of ruin, ye heralds of ruin!— ⁠What profits my life any more, whom your words have undone, have undone? Now unto yonder pavilion, to tell to my child her undoing,⁠170 ⁠Lead, O ye wretchedest feet, lead ye the eld-stricken one! O daughter, O child of a mother most wretched, forth faring, forth faring, ⁠Come from the tent, O hearken the voice of thy mother's word, To the end thou mayst know what a rumour of awful despairing, despairing, ⁠Concerning the life of thee, my beloved, but now have I heard!
Enter Polyxena.
1 - 6 Polyxena.
O mother, my mother, what meaneth thy crying? ⁠What strange dread thing ⁠Is this that thou heraldest That hath scared me, like to a bird forth-flying⁠180 ⁠On startled wing ⁠Out of the peace of her nest?
1 - 7 Hecuba.
  Alas! woe's me, my daughter!
1 - 8 Polyxena.
  What word of ill-boding is thine? From thy preluding ills I divine.
1 - 9 Hecuba.
  Ah me, life doomed unto slaughter!
1 - 10 Polyxena.
  Tell it out, tell it out, neither hide o'erlong; ⁠For mine heart, my mother, is heavy with dread ⁠For the tidings that come in thy moan.
1 - 11 Hecuba.
  O child, O child of the grief-distraught!
1 - 12 Polyxena.
  Ah, what is the message to me thou has brought?
1 - 13 Hecuba.
  Death: for the Argive warrior-throng ⁠Are in one mind set, that thy blood be shed⁠190 ⁠On the grave of Peleus' son.
1 - 14 Polyxena.
  Ah me, my mother, how can thy tongue ⁠Speak out the horror?—Let all be said: ⁠O mother mine, say on.
1 - 15 Hecuba.
  O child, I have heard it, the shame and the wrong, ⁠Of the Argive vote, of the doom forth sped, ⁠Of the hope of thy life gone—gone!
1 - 16 Polyxena.
  O stricken of anguish beyond all other! ⁠O filled with affliction of desolate days! ⁠What tempest, what tempest of outrage and shame,⁠200 ⁠Too loathly to look on, too awful to name, ⁠Hath a fiend uproused, that on thee it came, That thy woeful child by her woeful mother ⁠Nevermore down thraldom's paths shall pace! For me, like a youngling mountain-pastured, ⁠Like a child of the herd, shalt thou see torn far, ⁠In woe from thy woeful embraces torn, ⁠And, with throat by the steel of the altar shorn, ⁠Down to the underworld darkness borne, In the Land Unseen to lie, overmastered ⁠Of misery, there where the death-stricken are.⁠210 For thee, for the dark days closing around thee, ⁠Mother, with uttermost wailings I cry: ⁠But for this, the life that I now must lack, ⁠For all the ruin thereof and the wrack, ⁠I wail not, I, as I gaze aback:— O nay, but a happier lot hath found me, ⁠Forasmuch as to me it is given to die.
1 - 17 Chorus.
  But lo, Odysseus comes with hurrying foot, To tell thee, Hecuba, the new decree,
Enter Odysseus.
1 - 18 Odysseus.
  Lady, thou know'st, I trow, the host's resolve, And the vote cast, yet will I tell it thee: The Achaians will to slay Polyxena⁠220 Thy child, upon Achilles' grave-mound's height. Me they appoint to usher thitherward And bring the maid: the president and priest Of sacrifice Achilles' son shall be. Know'st thou thy part then?—be not torn away⁠225 Perforce, nor brave me to the strife of hands; But know thy might, thine imminence of ills. Wise is it even mid ills to hearken reason.
1 - 19 Hecuba.
  Woe! A sore trial is at hand, meseems, Burdened with groanings, and fulfilled of tears.⁠230 I died not there where well might I have died; Nor Zeus destroyed, but holdeth me in life To see—O wretch!—ills more than ills o'erpast. Yet, if the bond may question of the free Things that should vex them not, nor gall the heart,⁠235 Then fits it that thou be the questioned now, And that I ask, and hearken thy reply.
1 - 20 Odysseus.
  So be it: ask, I grudge not the delay.
1 - 21 Hecuba.
  Rememberest thou thy coming unto Troy A spy, in rags vile-vestured; from thine eyes⁠240 Trickled adown thy cheeks the gouts of gore?
1 - 22 Odysseus.
  I do, for deep it sank into mine heart.
1 - 23 Hecuba.
  And Helen knew thee, and told none save me?
1 - 24 Odysseus.
  I call to mind: mid peril grim I fell.
1 - 25 Hecuba.
  And to my knees didst cling, wast lowly then?⁠245
1 - 26 Odysseus.
  With grasp of death closed on thy robes mine hand.
1 - 27 Hecuba.
  Ay, and what saidst thou—thou my bondman then?
1 - 28 Odysseus.
  Words—words full many found I, death to 'scape.
1 - 29 Hecuba.
  I saved thee—saved thee,—sent thee forth the land?
1 - 30 Odysseus.
  Ay, thanks to thee, I see the sun's light now.⁠250
1 - 31 Hecuba.
  Art thou not caitiff proved then by these plots, Who wast by me so dealt with as thou sayest, Yet dost us nought good, but thine utmost ill? A thankless spawn, all ye that grasp at honour By babbling to the mob!—let me not know you,⁠255 Who injure friends, and nothing reck thereof, So ye may something say to please the rabble! What crafty wiliness imagined ye This, on my child to pass your murder-vote? Was't duty drew them on to human slaughter⁠260 Upon a grave more meet for oxen slain? Or doth Achilles, fain, to requite with death His slayers, justly aim death's shaft at her? Now never aught of harm wrought she to him. Helen should he demand, his tomb's lit victim:⁠265 'Twas she to Troy that drew him, and destroyed. But if some chosen captive needs must die, In beauty peerless, not to us points this; For Tyndareus' daughter matchless is in form, And was found wronging him no less than we.⁠270 This plea against his "justice" I array. But what return thou ow'st me, on my claim, Hear—thou didst touch mine hand, as thou dost own, And wrinkled cheek, low cowering at my feet. Lo, in my turn thine hand, thy beard, I touch,⁠275 That grace of old reclaiming, now thy suppliant. Not from mine arms tear thou my child away, Nor slay ye her: suffice the already dead. In her I joy, in her forget my woes. For many a lost bliss she my solace is:⁠280 My city she, nurse, staff, guide for my feet. Not tyrannously the strong should use their strength, Nor they which prosper think to prosper aye. I too once was, but now am I no more, And all my weal one day hath reft from me.⁠285 O, by thy beard, have thou respect to me! Pity me: go thou to Achaia's host; Persuade them how that shame it is to slay Women, whom first ye slew not, when ye tore These from the altars, but for pity spared.⁠290 Lo, the same law is stablished among you For free and bond as touching blood-shedding. Thine high repute, how ill soe'er thou speak, Shall sway them: for the same speech carrieth no Like weight from men contemned and men revered.⁠295
1 - 32 Chorus.
  There is no human nature so relentless That, hearkening to thy groanings and thy wails Long lengthened out, would not let fall the tear.
1 - 33 Odysseus.
  Receive instruction, Hecuba, nor him For wrath count foe, who wisely counselleth.⁠300 Thy life, through whom I found deliverance, Ready am I to save; I stand thereto. But what to all I said, I unsay not— That now, Troy taken, we should yield thy child, At our great champion's claim, for sacrifice.⁠305 For of this cometh weakness in most states, That, though a man be brave and patriot-souled, No guerdon gains he more than baser men. But we, we deem Achilles honour-worthy, Who died for Hellas nobly as man may.⁠310 Were this not shame then, as a friend to treat Him living, but no more when he is gone? Yea, what will one say then, if once again The host must gather for the strife with foes. "Fight shall we," will they cry, "or cling to life,⁠315 Beholding how unhonoured go the dead?" Yea, for myself, how scant soe'er in life My fare for daily need, this should suffice: Yet fain would I my tomb were reverence-crowned— Mine; for no fleeting gratitude is this.⁠320 But, if thou plain of hardship, hear mine answer: With us there be grey matrons, agèd sires, Not any whit less wretched than art thou, And brides of noblest bridegrooms left forlorn, Whose corpses yonder dust of Ida shrouds.⁠325 Endure this: we, if err we do to honour The brave, content will stand convict of folly. But ye barbarians, neither count as friends Your friends, nor render your heroic dead Homage, that Hellas so may prosperous rise,⁠330 And your reward may match your policy.
1 - 34 Chorus.
  Woe! What a curse is thraldom's nature, aye Enduring wrong by strong constraint o'erborne!
1 - 35 Hecuba.
  My daughter, wasted are my words in air, Flung vainly forth my pleadings for thy life.⁠335 If thou canst aught prevail beyond thy mother, Be instant; as with nightingale's sad throat Moan, moan, that thou be not bereft of life. Fall piteously at this Odysseus' knee: Melt him. A plea thou hast—he too hath babes;⁠340 Well may he so compassionate thy lot.
1 - 36 Polyxena.
  I see, Odysseus, how thou hid'st thine hand Beneath thy vesture, how thou turn'st away Thy face, lest I should touch thy beard. Fear not: From Zeus safe art thou, from the Suppliant's Champion.⁠345 I will go with thee, both for that I must, And that I long to die. And, were I loth, A coward girl life-craving were I proved. For, wherefore should I live, whose sire was king Of all the Phrygians? Such was my life's dawn:⁠350 Thereafter was I nurtured mid bright hopes, A bride for kings, for whose hand rivalry Ran high, whose hall and hearth should hail me queen. And I—ah me!—was Lady of the Dames Of Ida, cynosure amidst the maidens,⁠355 Peer of the Gods—except that man must die:— And now a slave! The name alone constrains me To long for death, so strange it is to me. More—haply upon brutal-hearted lords I might light, one that would for silver buy me,—⁠360 Sister of Hector and of many a chief,— Force me to grind the quern his halls within, And make me sweep his dwelling, stand before The loom, while days of bitterness drag on. And, somewhere bought, some bondslave shall defile⁠365 My couch, accounted once a prize for princes. Never!—free light mine eyes shall last behold: To Death my body will I dedicate. Lead on, Odysseus, lead me to my doom; For I see no assurance, nor in hope,⁠370 No, nor in day-dreams, of good days to be. Mother, do thou in no wise hinder me By word or deed; but thou consent with me Unto my death, ere shame unmeet befall. For whoso is not wont to taste of ills⁠375 Chafes, while he bears upon his neck the yoke, And death for him were happier far than life; For life ignoble is but crushing toil.
1 - 37 Chorus.
  Strange is the impress, clear-stamped upon men, Of gentle birth, and aye the noble name⁠380 Higher aspires in them that worthily bear it.
1 - 38 Hecuba.
  My daughter, nobly said: yet anguish cleaves Unto that "nobly." But if Peleus' son Must gain this grace, and ye must flee reproach, Odysseus, slay not her in any wise;⁠385 But me, lead me unto Achilles' pyre: Stab me, spare not: 'twas I gave Paris birth Who with his shafts smote Peleus' son and slew.
1 - 39 Odysseus.
  Not thee, grey mother, did Achilles' ghost Require the Achaian men to slay, but her.⁠390
1 - 40 Hecuba.
  Yet ye—at least me with my daughter slay: Then twice so deep a draught of blood shall sink To earth and to the dead who claimeth this.
1 - 41 Odysseus.
  Thy daughter's death sufficeth: death on death Must not be heaped. Would God we owed not this!⁠395
1 - 42 Hecuba.
  I must—I must die where my daughter dies!
1 - 43 Odysseus.
  Must?—I knew not that I had found a master!
1 - 44 Odysseus.
  Not if thou heed a wiser than thyself.
1 - 45 Hecuba.
  Consent I will not to let go my child.⁠400
1 - 46 Odysseus.
  Nor I will hence depart and leave her here.
1 - 47 Polyxena.
  Mother, heed me: and thou, Laertes' son, O bear with parents which have cause to rage. Mother, poor mother, strive not with the strong. Wouldst thou be earthward hurled, and wound thy flesh,⁠405 Thine agèd flesh, with violence thrust away?— Be hustled shamefully, by young strong arms Haled?—This shouldst thou. Nay, 'tis not worthy thee. But mother, darling mother, give thine hand, Thy dear, dear hand, and lay thy cheek to mine:⁠410 Since never more, but this last time of all Shall I behold the sun's beam and his orb. Receive of all my greetings this the last:— O mother—breast that bare me—I pass deathward.
1 - 48 Hecuba.
  O daughter, I shall yet live on in bondage!⁠415
1 - 49 Polyxena.
  Bridegroom nor bridal!—nought of all my due!
1 - 50 Hecuba.
  Piteous thy plight, my child, and wretched I.
1 - 51 Polyxena.
  There shall I lie in Hades, far from thee.
1 - 52 Hecuba.
  Ah me, what shall I do?—where end my life?
1 - 53 Polyxena.
  To die a slave, whose father was free-born!⁠420
1 - 54 Hecuba.
  In fifty sons nor part nor lot have I!
1 - 55 Polyxena.
  What shall I tell to Hector and thy lord?
1 - 56 Hecuba.
  Report me of all women wretchedest.
1 - 57 Polyxena.
  O bosom, breasts that sweetly nurtured me!
1 - 58 Hecuba.
  Woe is thee, daughter, for thy fate untimely!⁠425
1 - 59 Polyxena.
  Mother, farewell: Kassandra, fare thee well.
1 - 60 Hecuba.
  Others fare well—not for thy mother this.
1 - 61 Polyxena.
  Mid Thracians lives my brother Polydorus.
1 - 62 Hecuba.
  If he doth live. I doubt: so dark is all.
1 - 63 Polyxena.
  He lives, and he shall close thy dying eyes.⁠430
1 - 64 Hecuba.
  I—I have died ere dying, through my woes.
1 - 65 Polyxena.
  Muffle mine head, Odysseus, and lead on. For, ere ye slay me, hath my mother's moan Melted mine heart, and mine is melting hers. O Light!—for yet on thy name may I call—⁠435 Yet all my share in thee is that scant space Hence to the sword-edge and Achilles' pyre.
Exeunt Odysseus and Polyxena.
1 - 66 Hecuba.
  Ah me! I swoon—beneath me fail my limbs! O daughter, touch thy mother—reach thine hand— Give it, nor childless leave me!—Friends—undone!—⁠440 Oh thus to see that sister of Zeus' sons, Helen the Spartan!—for by her bright eyes In shameful fall she brought down prosperous Troy.[2]
1 - 67 Chorus.
  (Str. 1) O breeze, O breeze, over sea-ways racing, Who onward waftest the ocean-pacing ⁠Fleet-flying keels o'er the mere dark-swelling, Whitherward wilt thou bear me, the sorrow-laden? From what slave-mart shall the captive maiden ⁠Pass into what strange master's dwelling? To a Dorian haven?—or where, overstreaming⁠450 Fat Phthia-land's meads, laugh loveliest-gleaming ⁠Babe-waters from founts of Apidanus welling? (Ant. 1) Or, to misery borne by the oars brine-sweeping, In the island-halls through days of weeping ⁠Shall we dwell, where the first-born palm, ascending From the earth, with the bay twined, glorifying With enshrining frondage the couch where lying ⁠Dear Lêto attained to her travail's ending,⁠460 There chanting of Artemis' bow all-golden, And the brows with the frontlet of gold enfolden, ⁠With the Delian maidens our voices blending? (Str. 2) Or in Pallas's Town to the car all-glorious ⁠Shall I yoke the steeds on the saffron -glowing[4] Veil of Athênê, where flush victorious ⁠The garlands that cunningest fingers are throwing ⁠In manifold hues on its folds wide-flowing,—⁠470 ⁠Or the brood of the Titans whom lightnings, that fell ⁠Flame-wrapt from Kronion, in long sleep quell? (Ant. 2) Woe for our babes, for our fathers hoary! ⁠Woe for our country, mid smoke and smoulder Crashing to ruin, and all her glory ⁠Spear-spoiled!—and an alien land shall behold her⁠480 ⁠Bond who was free; for that Asia's shoulder ⁠Is bowed under Europe's yoke, and I dwell, ⁠An exile from home, in a dungeon of hell.
Enter Talthybius.
1 - 68 Talthybius.
  Where shall I find her that of late was queen Of Ilium, Hecuba, ye maids of Troy?⁠485
1 - 69 Chorus.
  Lo there, anigh thee, on the ground outstretched, Talthybius, lies she muffled in her robes.
1 - 70 Talthybius.
  What shall I say, Zeus?—that thou look'st on men? Or that this fancy false we vainly hold For nought, who deem there is a race of Gods,⁠490 While chance controlleth all things among men? This—was she not the wealthy Phrygians' queen? This—was she not all-prosperous Priam's wife? And now her city is all spear-o'erthrown; Herself a slave, old, childless, on the earth⁠495 Lieth, her hapless head with dust defiled. Ah, old am I, yet be it mine to die Ere into any shameful lot I fall! Arise, ill-starred, and from the earth uplift Thy body and thine head all snow-besprent.⁠500
1 - 71 Hecuba.
  Ha, who art thou that lettest not my frame Rest?—why disturb my grief, whoe'er thou be?
1 - 72 Talthybius.
  Talthybius I, the Danaans' minister, Of Agamemnon sent, O queen, for thee.
1 - 73 Hecuba.
  Friend, friend, art come because the Achaians will⁠505 To slay me too?—How sweet thy tidings were! Haste we—make speed—O ancient, lead me on.
1 - 74 Talthybius.
  Lady, that thou mayst bury thy dead child I come in quest of thee; and sent am I Of Atreus' two sons and the Achaian folk.⁠510
1 - 75 Hecuba.
  Woe!—what wouldst say? Not as to one death-doomed Cam'st thou to us, but all to publish ills? Child, thou hast perished, from thy mother torn! Childless, as touching thee, am I—ah wretch!— How did ye slay her?—how?—with reverence meet,⁠515 Or with brute outrage, as men slay a foe, Ancient? Tell on, though all unsweet thy tale.
1 - 76 Talthybius.
  Twofold tear-tribute wouldst thou win from me In pity for thy child. Mine eyes shall weep The tale, as by the grave when she was dying.⁠520 There met was all Achaia's warrior-host Thronged at the grave to see thy daughter slain. Then took Achilles' son Polyxena's hand, And on the mound's height set her: I stood by. And followed of the Achaians chosen youths⁠525 Whose hands should curb the strugglings of thy lamb. Then taking 'twixt his hands a chalice brimmed, Pure gold, Achilles' son to his dead sire Drink-offerings poured, and signed me to proclaim Siience unto the whole Achaian host.⁠530 By him I stood, and in the midst thus cried: "Silence, Achaians! Hushed be all the host! Peace!—not a word!"—so breathless stilled the folk. Then spake he "Son of Peleus, father mine,[errata 1] Accept from me these drops propitiatory,⁠535 Ghost-raising. Draw thou nigh to drink pure blood Dark-welling from a maid. We give it thee, The host and I. Gracious to us be thou: Vouchsafe us to cast loose the sterns and curbs Of these ships, kindly home-return to win⁠540 From Troy, and all to reach our fatherland." So spake he; in that prayer joined all the host; Then grasped his golden-plated falchion's hilt, Drew from the sheath, and to those chosen youths Of Argos' war-host signed to seize the maid.⁠545 But she, being ware thereof, spake forth this speech: "O Argives, ye which laid my city low, Free-willed I die: on my flesh let no man Lay hand: my neck unflinching will I yield. But, by the Gods, let me stand free, the while⁠550 Ye slay, that I may die free; for I shame Slave to be called in Hades, who am royal." "Yea!" like a great sea roared the host: the King Spake to the youths to let the maiden go. And they, soon as they heard that last behest⁠555 Of him of chiefest might, drew back their hands. And she, when this she heard, her masters' word, Her vesture grasped, and from the shoulder's height Rent it adown her side, down to the waist, And bosom showed and breasts, as of a statue,⁠560 Most fair; and, bowing to the earth her knee, A word, of all words most heroic, spake[5]: "Lo here, O youth, if thou art fain to strike My breast, strike home: but if beneath my neck Thou wouldest, here my throat is bared to thee."⁠565 And he, loth and yet fain, for ruth of her, Cleaves with the steel the channels of the breath: Forth gushed the life-springs: but she, even in death, Took chiefest thought decorously to fall, Hiding what hidden from men's eyes should be.⁠570 But when she had spent her breath 'neath that death-stroke, Each Argive 'gan his task—no man the same: But some upon the dead were strawing leaves Out of their hands, and some heap high the pyre, Bringing pine-billets thither: whoso bare not⁠575 Heard such and such rebukes of him that bare: "Dost stand still, basest heart, with nought in hand— Robe for the maiden, neither ornament? Nought wilt thou give to one in courage matchless, Noblest of soul?" ⁠Such is the tale I tell⁠580 Of thy dead child. Most blest in motherhood I count thee of all women, and most hapless.
1 - 77 Chorus.
  Dread bale on Priam's line and city hath poured Its lava-flood:—'tis heaven's resistless doom.
1 - 78 Hecuba.
  Daughter, I know not on what ills to look,⁠585 So many throng me: if to this I turn, That hindereth me: thence summoneth me again Another grief, on-ushering ills on ills. And now I cannot from my soul blot out Thine agony, that I should wail it not.⁠590 Yet hast thou barred the worst, proclaimed to me So noble. Lo, how strange, that evil soil Heaven-blest with seasons fair, bears goodly crops, While the good, if it faileth of its dues, Gives evil fruit: but always among men⁠595 The caitiff nothing else than evil is, The noble, noble; nor 'neath fortune's stress Marreth his nature, but is good alway. By blood, or nurture, is the difference made? Sooth, gentle nurture bringeth lessoning⁠600 In nobleness; and whoso learns this well By honour's touchstone knoweth baseness too:— Ah, unavailing arrows of the mind[6]! But go thou, to the Argives this proclaim, That none my daughter touch, but that they keep⁠605 The crowd thence: in a war-array untold Lawless the mob is, and the shipmen's license Outraveneth flame. 'Tis sin if one sin not.[7] [Exit Talthybius. But, ancient handmaid, take a vessel thou, And dip, and of the sea-brine hither bring,⁠610 That with the last bath I may wash my child,— The bride unwedded, maid a maid no more,[8]— And lay her out—as meet is, how can I? Yet as I may; for lo, what plight is mine! Jewels from fellow-captives will I gather⁠615 Which dwell my neighbour-thralls these tents within, If haply any, to our lords unknown, Hath any stolen treasure of her home. O stately halls, O home so happy once! O rich in fair abundance, goodliest offspring,⁠620 Priam!—and I, a grey head crowned with sons! How are we brought to nought, of olden pride Stripped bare! And lo, we men are puffèd up, One of us for the riches of his house, And one for honour in the mouths of men!⁠625 These things be nought. All vain the heart's devisings, The vauntings of the tongue! Most blest is he To whom no ill befalls as days wear on.
1 - 79 Chorus.
  (Str.) My doom of disaster was written, ⁠The doom of mine anguish was sealed,⁠630 When of Paris the pine-shafts were smitten ⁠Upon Ida, that earthward they reeled, To ride over ridges surf-whitened ⁠Till the bride-bed of Helen was won, Woman fairest of all that be lightened ⁠By the gold of the sun. (Ant.) For battle-toils, yea, desolations ⁠Yet sorer around us close; And the folly of one is the nation's⁠640 ⁠Destruction; of alien foes Cometh ruin by Simois' waters. ⁠So judged is the doom that was given When on Ida the strife of the Daughters ⁠Of the Blessed was striven, (Epode) For battle, for murder, for ruin ⁠Of mine halls:—by Eurotas is moan,⁠650 Where with tears for their homes' undoing ⁠The maidens Laconian groan, Where rendeth her tresses hoary ⁠The mother for sons that are dead, And her cheeks with woe-furrows are gory, ⁠And her fingers are red.
Enter Handmaid, with bearers carrying a covered corpse.
1 - 80 Handmaid.
  Women, O where is Hecuba, sorrow's queen, Who passeth every man, all womankind, In woes? No man shall take away her crown.⁠660
1 - 81 Chorus.
  What now, O hapless voice of evil-boding? Shall they ne'er sleep, thy publishings of grief?
1 - 82 Handmaid.
  To Hecuba I bring this pang: mid woes Not easily may mortal lips speak fair.
1 - 83 Chorus.
  Lo where she cometh from beneath the roofs:⁠665 In season for thy tale appeareth she.
1 - 84 Handmaid.
  O all-afflicted, more than lips can say! Queen, thou art slain—thou seest the light no more! Unchilded, widowed, cityless—all-destroyed!
1 - 85 Hecuba.
  No news this: 'tis but taunting me who knew.⁠670 But wherefore com'st thou bringing me this corpse, Polyxena's, whose burial-rites, 'twas told, By all Achaia's host were being sped?
1 - 86 Handmaid.
  She nothing knows: Polyxena—ah me!— Still wails she, and the new woes graspeth not.⁠675
1 - 87 Hecuba.
  O hapless I!—not—not the bacchant head Of prophetess Kassandra bring'st thou hither?
1 - 88 Handmaid.
  Thou nam'st the living: but the dead—this dead, Bewailest not,—look, the dead form is bared! [Uncovers the corpse. Seems it not strange—worse than all boding fears?⁠680
1 - 89 Hecuba.
  Ah me, my son!—I see Polydorus dead, Whom in his halls I deemed the Thracian warded. O wretch! it is my death—I am no more! ⁠O my child, O my child! ⁠Mine anguish shall thrill⁠685 ⁠Through a wail shrilling wild ⁠In the ears of me still Which pealed there but now from the throat of a ⁠demon, a herald of ill.
1 - 90 Handmaid.
  Didst thou then know thy son's doom, hapless one?
1 - 91 Hecuba.
  Beyond, beyond belief, new woes I see. ⁠Ills upon ills throng one after other:⁠690 Never day shall pass by without tear, without sigh, ⁠nor mine anguish refrain.
1 - 92 Chorus.
  Dread, O dread evils, hapless queen, we suffer.
1 - 93 Hecuba.
  ⁠O child, O child of a grief-stricken mother! By what fate didst thou die?—in what doom dost thou ⁠lie?—of what man wast thou slain?
1 - 94 Handmaid.
  I know not: on the sea-strand found I him.
1 - 95 Hecuba.
  Cast up by the tide, or struck down by the spear in a ⁠blood-reddened hand ⁠On the smooth-levelled sand?⁠700
1 - 96 Handmaid.
  The outsea surge in-breaking flung him up.
1 - 97 Hecuba.
  Woe's me, I discern it, the vision that blasted my sight! Neither flitted unheeded that black-winged phantom of night, Which I saw, which revealed that my son was no more of the light.
1 - 98 Chorus.
  Who slew him? Canst thou, dream-arreder, tell?
1 - 99 Hecuba.
'Twas my friend, 'twas my guest, 'twas the Thracian chariot-lord⁠710 To whose charge his grey father had given him to hide and to ward.
1 - 100 Chorus.
  Oh, what wouldst say?—slew him to keep the gold?
1 - 101 Hecuba.
  O horror unspeakable, nameless, beyond all wonder!— ⁠Impious, unbearable!—Where are they, friendship and truth? O accursèd of men, lo, how hast thou carved asunder His flesh!—how thy knife, when my child's limbs quivered thereunder, ⁠Hath slashed him and mangled, and thou wast unmelted of ruth!⁠720
1 - 102 Chorus.
  O hapless, how a God, whose hand on thee Is heavy, above all mortals heaps thee pain! But lo, I see our master towering nigh, Agamemnon: friends, henceforth hold we our peace.⁠725
Enter Agamemnon.
1 - 103 Agamemnon.
  Why stay'st thou, Hecuba, thy child to entomb According to Talthybius' word to me That of the Argives none should touch thy daughter? Wherefore we let her be, and touch her not. Yet loiterest thou, that wonder stirreth me.⁠730 I come to speed thee hence; for all things there Are well wrought—if herein may aught be well. Ha, who is this that by the tents I see? What Trojan dead?—No Argive this, the robes That shroud the body make report to me.⁠735
1 - 104 Hecuba (Aside).
  Hapless!—myself I name in naming thee— O Hecuba, what shall I do?—or fall At the king's feet, or silent bear mine ills?
1 - 105 Agamemnon.
  Wherefore on me dost turn thy back, and mourn, Nor tellest what is done, and who is this?⁠740
1 - 106 Hecuba (Aside).
  But if, a slave and foe accounting me, He thrust me from his knees, 'twere pang on pang.
1 - 107 Agamemnon.
  No prophet born am I, to track the path Of these thy musings, if I hear them not.
1 - 108 Hecuba (Aside).
  Lo, surely am I counting this man's heart⁠745 O'ermuch my foe, who is no foe at all.
1 - 109 Agamemnon.
  Sooth, if thou wilt that nought hereof I know, At one we are: I care not, I, to hear.
1 - 110 Hecuba (Aside).
  I cannot, save with help of him, avenge My children—wherefore do I dally thus?⁠750 I must needs venture, or to win or lose:— Agamemnon, I beseech thee by thy knees, And by thy beard, and thy victorious hand—
1 - 111 Agamemnon.
  What matter seekest thou? Wouldst have thy days Free henceforth? Sooth, thy boon is lightly won.⁠755
1 - 112 Hecuba.
  No—no! Avenge me of mine adversary, And I will welcome lifelong bondage then.
1 - 113 Agamemnon.
  But to what championship dost summon me?
1 - 114 Hecuba.
  To nought of all whereof thou dreamest, king. Seest thou this corpse, for which my tears rain down?⁠760
1 - 115 Agamemnon.
  I see,—yet what shall come I cannot tell.
1 - 116 Hecuba.
  Him once I bare, and carried 'neath my zone.
1 - 117 Agamemnon.
  One of thy sons is this, O sorrow-crushed?
1 - 118 Hecuba.
  Nay, not of Priam's sons by Ilium slain.
1 - 119 Agamemnon.
  How? didst thou bear another more than these?⁠765
1 - 120 Hecuba.
  Yea—to my grief, meseems: thou seest him here.
1 - 121 Agamemnon.
  Yet where was he what time the city fell?
1 - 122 Hecuba.
  Dreading his death his father sent him thence.
1 - 123 Agamemnon.
  And whither drew him from the rest apart?
1 - 124 Hecuba.
  Unto this land, where dead hath he been found.⁠770
1 - 125 Agamemnon.
  To Polymestor, ruler of the land?
1 - 126 Hecuba.
  Yea—sent in charge of thrice-accursed gold.
1 - 127 Agamemnon.
  And of whom slain, and lighting on what doom?
1 - 128 Hecuba.
  Of whom save one?—that Thracian friend slew him.
1 - 129 Agamemnon.
  O wretch!—for that he lusted for the gold?⁠775
1 - 130 Hecuba.
  Even so, when Phrygia's fall was known of him.
1 - 131 Agamemnon.
  Where found'st thou him?—or who hath brought thy dead?
1 - 132 Hecuba.
  She there: upon the strand she chanced on him.
1 - 133 Agamemnon.
  Seeking him, or on other task employed?
1 - 134 Hecuba.
  Sea-brine she sought to lave Polyxena.⁠780
1 - 135 Agamemnon.
  So then this guest-friend slew and cast him forth.
1 - 136 Hecuba.
  Yea, on the sea to drift, his flesh thus hacked.
1 - 137 Agamemnon.
  O woe is thee for thine unmeasured pains!
1 - 138 Hecuba.
  'Tis death—there is no deeper depth of woe.
1 - 139 Agamemnon.
  Alas, was woman e'er so fortune-crost?⁠785
1 - 140 Hecuba.
  None, except thou wouldst name Misfortune's self. But for what cause I bow thy knees to clasp, Hear:—if my righteous due my sufferings seem To thee, I am content: if not, do thou Avenge me on that impious, impious friend,⁠790 Who neither feared the powers beneath the earth, Nor those on high, but wrought most impious deed,— Who ofttimes at my table ate and drank, For welcome foremost in my count of friends, Having all dues, yea, all his need forestalled,[10]—⁠795 Slew him, nor in his thoughts of murder found Room for a grave, but cast him mid the sea. And I—a slave I may be, haply weak; Yet are the Gods strong, and their ruler strong, Even Law; for by this Law we know Gods are,⁠800 And live, and make division of wrong and right: And if this at thy bar be disannulled, And they shall render not account which slay Guests, or dare rifle the Gods' holy things, Then among men is there no righteousness.⁠805 This count then shameful; have respect to me; Pity me:—like a painter so draw back,[11] Scan me, pore on my portraiture of woes. A queen was I, time was, but now thy slave; Crowned with fair sons once, childless now and old,⁠810 Cityless, lone, of mortals wretchedest. Woe for me!—whither wouldst withdraw thy foot? Meseems I shall not speed—O hapless I! Wherefore, O wherefore, at all other lore Toil men, as needeth, and make eager quest,⁠815 Yet Suasion, the unrivalled queen of men, Nor price we pay, nor make ado to learn her Unto perfection, so a man might sway His fellows as he would, and win his ends? How then shall any hope good days henceforth?⁠820 So many sons—none left me any more! Myself mid shame a spear-thrall ruin-sped;— Yon smoke o'er Troy upsoaring in my sight! Yet—yet—'twere unavailing plea perchance To cast Love's shield before me—yet be it said:⁠825 Lo, at thy very side my child is couched, Kassandra, whom the Phrygians called the Inspired:— Those nights of love, hath their memorial perished? Or for the lovingkindness of the couch What thank shall my child have, or I for her?⁠830 For of the darkness and the night's love-spells Cometh on men the chiefest claim for thank. Hearken now, hearken: seest thou this dead boy? Doing him right, to thine own marriage-kin Shalt thou do right. One plea more lack I yet:—⁠835 O that I had a voice in these mine arms And hands and hair and pacings of my feet, By art of Dædalus lent, or of a God, That all together to thy knees might cling Weeping, and pressing home pleas manifold!⁠840 O my lord, mightiest light to Hellas' sons, Hearken, O lend thine hand to avenge the aged; What though a thing of nought she be, yet hear! For 'tis the good man's part to champion right, And everywhere and aye to smite the wrong.⁠845
1 - 141 Chorus.
  Strange, strange, how all cross-chances hap to men! These laws shift landmarks even of friendship's ties,[12] Turning to friends the bitterest of foes, Setting at enmity the erstwhile loving.
1 - 142 Agamemnon.
  I am stirred to pity, Hecuba, both of thee,⁠850 Thy son, thy fortune, and thy suppliant hand; And for the Gods' and justice' sake were fain Thine impious guest should taste for this thy vengeance, So means were found thy cause to speed, while I Seem not unto the host to plot this death⁠855 For Thracia's king for thy Kassandra's sake. For herein is mine heart disquieted:— This very man the host account their friend, The dead their foe: that dear he is to thee Is nought to them, nor part have these in him.⁠860 Wherefore take thought: in me thou hast one fain To share thy toil, and swift to lend thee aid, But slow to face the Achaians' murmurings.
1 - 143 Hecuba.
  Ah, among mortals is there no man free! To lucre or to fortune is he slave:⁠865 The city's rabble or the laws' impeachment Constrains him into paths his soul abhors. But since thou fear'st, dost overrate the crowd, Even I will set thee free from this thy dread. Be privy thou, what ill soe'er I plot⁠870 For my son's slayer, but share not the deed. If tumult mid the Achaians rise, or cry Of rescue, when the Thracian feels my vengeance, Thou check them, not in seeming for my sake. For all else, fear not: I will shape all well.⁠875
1 - 144 Agamemnon.
  How? what wouldst do? Wouldst in thy wrinkled hand A dagger clutch, and yon barbarian slay?— With poisons do the deed, or with what help? What arm shall aid thee? whence wilt win thee friends?
1 - 145 Hecuba.
  These tents a host of Trojan women hide.⁠880
1 - 146 Agamemnon.
  The captives meanest thou, Greek hunters' prey?
1 - 147 Hecuba.
  By these will I avenge me on my slayer.
1 - 148 Agamemnon.
  How?—women gain the mastery over men?
1 - 149 Hecuba.
  Mighty are numbers: joined with craft, resistless.
1 - 150 Agamemnon.
  Ay, mighty, yet misprize I womankind.⁠885
1 - 151 Hecuba.
  What? did not women slay Aigyptus' sons?— The males of Lemnos wholly extirpate? Yet be it so: forbear to reason this. But to this woman give thou through the host Safe passage. ⁠(To a servant) Thou, draw nigh our Thracian guest,⁠890 Say, "Hecuba, late Queen of Ilium, Calls thee on thy behoof no less than hers, Thy sons withal; for these must also hear Her words." The burial of Polyxena Late-slaughtered, Agamemnon, thou delay:⁠895 So sister joined with brother in one flame, A mother's double grief, shall be entombed.
1 - 152 Agamemnon.
  So shall it be: yet, might the host but sail, No power had I to grant this grace to thee: But, seeing God sends no fair-following winds,⁠900 Needs must we tarry watching idle sails. Now fair befall: for all men's weal is this,— Each several man's, and for the state,—that ill Betide the bad, prosperity the good.
Exit Agamemnon.
153 Chorus.
  (Str. 1) O my fatherland, Ilium, thou art named no more ⁠Mid burgs unspoiled, Such a battle-cloud lightening spears enshrouds thee o'er, ⁠All round thee coiled! Thou art piteously shorn of thy brows' tower-diadem,⁠910 ⁠And smirched with stain Of the reek; and thy streetways—my feet shall not tread them, ⁠Ah me, again! (Ant. 1) At the midnight my doom lighted on me, when sleep shed ⁠O'er eyes sweet rain, When from sacrifice-dance and from hushed songs on his bed ⁠My lord had lain, And the spear on the wall was uphung, for watchman's ken⁠920 ⁠Saw near nor far Overtrampling the Ilian plains those sea-borne men, ⁠That host of war. (Str. 2) I was ranging the braids of mine hair 'neath soft snood-fold: ⁠On mine eyes thrown Were the rays from the limitless[13] sheen, the mirror-gold, ⁠Ere I sank down To my rest on the couch;—but a tumult's tempest-blast ⁠Swept up the street, And a battle-cry thundered—"Ye sons of Greeks, on fast!⁠930 Be the castles of Troy overthrown, that home at last ⁠May hail your feet!" (Ant. 2) From my dear bed, my lost bed, I sprang, like Dorian maid ⁠But mantle-veiled, And to Artemis' altar I clung—woe's me, I prayed ⁠In vain, and wailed. And my lord I beheld lying dead; and I was borne ⁠O'er deep salt sea, Looking back upon Troy, by the ship from Ilium torn As she sped on the Hellas-ward path: then woe-forlorn⁠940 ⁠I swooned,—ah me!— (Epode) Upon Helen the sister of Zeus' sons hurling back, And on Paris, fell shepherd of Ida, curses black, ⁠Who from mine home By their bridal had reft me—'twas bridal none, but wrack⁠950 Devil-wrought:—to her fatherland home o'er yon sea-track ⁠Ne'er may she come!
Enter Polymestor with his two little sons attended by a guard of Thracian spearmen.
1 - 154 Polymestor.
  Priam of men most dear!—and dearest thou, Hecuba, I weep beholding thee, Thy city, and thine offspring slain so late.⁠955 Nought is there man may trust, nor high repute, Nor hope that weal shall not be turned to woe: But the Gods all confound, hurled forth and back, Turmoiling them, that we through ignorance May worship them:—what skills it to make moan⁠960 For this, outrunning evils none the more? But if mine absence thou dost chide, forbear; For in the mid-Thrace tracts afar was I When thou cam'st hither: soon as I returned, At point was I to hasten forth mine home;⁠965 When lo, for this same end thine handmaid came Telling a tale whose tidings winged mine haste.
1 - 155 Hecuba.
  I shame to look thee in the face, who lie, O Polymestor, in such depth of ills. Thou sawest me in weal: shame's thrall I am,⁠970 Found in such plight wherein I am this day. I cannot look on thee with eyes undrooped. Yet count it not as evil-will to thee, Polymestor; therebeside is custom's bar That women look not in the eyes of men.⁠975
1 - 156 Polymestor.
  No marvel:—but what need hast thou of me? For what cause from mine home hast sped my feet?
1 - 157 Hecuba.
  A secret of mine own I fain would tell To thee and thine. I pray thee, bid thy guards Aloof from these pavilions to withdraw.⁠980
1 - 158 Polymestor.
  Depart ye, for this solitude is safe.⁠[Exeunt guards. My friend art thou, well-willed to me this host Achaian. Now behoves thee to declare Wherein the prosperous must render help To friends afflicted: lo, prepared am I.⁠985
1 - 159 Hecuba.
  First, of the son whom in thine halls thou hast, Polydorus, of mine hands, and of his sire's— Liveth he?—I will ask thee then the rest.
1 - 160 Polymestor.
  Surely: as touching him thy lot is fair.
1 - 161 Hecuba.
  Dear friend, how well thou speak'st and worthy thee!⁠990
1 - 162 Polymestor.
  Prithee, what next art fain to learn of me?
1 - 163 Hecuba.
  If me, his mother, he remembereth?
1 - 164 Polymestor.
  Yea—fain had come to thee in secret hither.
1 - 165 Hecuba.
  Is the gold safe, wherewith from Troy he came?
1 - 166 Polymestor.
  Safe—warded in mine halls in any wise.⁠995
1 - 167 Hecuba.
  Safe keep it: covet not thy neighbours' goods.
1 - 168 Polymestor.
  Nay, lady: joy be mine of that I have!
1 - 169 Hecuba.
  Know'st what I fain would tell thee and thy sons?
1 - 170 Polymestor.
  I know not: this thy word shall signify.
1 - 171 Hecuba.
  Be it sweet to thee as thou to me art dear!⁠1000
1 - 172 Polymestor.
  But what imports my sons and me to know?
1 - 173 Hecuba.
  Gold—ancient vaults of gold of Priam's line.
1 - 174 Polymestor.
  This is it thou art fain to tell thy son?
1 - 175 Hecuba.
  Yea, by thy mouth: thou art a righteous man.
1 - 176 Polymestor.
  What needeth then the presence of my sons?⁠1005
1 - 177 Hecuba.
  Better they knew, if haply thou shouldst die.
1 - 178 Polymestor.
  Well hast thou said: yea, 'twere the wiser way.
1 - 179 Hecuba.
  Dost know where stood Athênê's Trojan fane?
1 - 180 Polymestor.
  There?—is the gold there?—and the token, what?
1 - 181 Hecuba.
  A black rock from the earth's face jutting forth.⁠1010
1 - 182 Polymestor.
  Hast aught beside to tell me of that hoard?
1 - 183 Hecuba.
  Some jewels I brought forth with me—wouldst keep these?
1 - 184 Polymestor.
  Where?—where?—beneath thy raiment, or in hiding?
1 - 185 Hecuba.
  In yon tents, safe beneath a heap of spoils.
1 - 186 Polymestor.
  Safe?—there?—Achaian ships empale us round.⁠1015
1 - 187 Hecuba.
  Inviolate are the captive women's tents.
1 - 188 Polymestor.
  Within is all safe? Be they void of men?
1 - 189 Hecuba.
  Within is no Achaian, only we. Enter the tents,—for fain the Argives are To unmoor the ships for homeward flight from Troy,—⁠1020 That, all well done, thou mayst with thy sons fare To where thou gav'st a home unto my child. Hecuba and Polymestor with Children enter the tent.
1 - 190 Chorus.
  Not yet is the penalty paid, but thy time is at hand, ⁠As who reeleth adown an abyss wherein foothold is none ⁠Slant-slipping, from sweet life hurled, for the life thou hast ta'en. For wherever it cometh to pass that the rightful demand⁠1029 ⁠Of justice's claim and the laws of the Gods be at one, ⁠Then is ruinous bane for the sinner, O ruinous bane ! It shall mock thee, thy wayfaring's hope; to the Unseen Land, ⁠To the place of the dead hath it drawn thee, O wretch undone! ⁠By the hand not of warriors, thou hero, shalt thou be slain.
1 - 191 Polymestor (within).
  Ah, I am blinded of mine eyes' light—wretch!⁠1035
1 - 192 Chorus.
  Heard ye the yell of yonder Thracian, friends?
1 - 193 Polymestor (within).
  Ah me, my children!—ah the awful murder!
1 - 194 Chorus.
  Friends, strange grim work is wrought in yonder tent.
1 - 195 Polymestor (Within).
  Surely by swift feet shall ye not escape! My blows shall rive this dwelling's inmost parts!⁠1040
1 - 196 Chorus.
  Lo, crasheth there swift bolt of giant hand. Shall we burst in?—the peril summoneth us To help of Hecuba and the Trojan dames.
Enter Hecuba.
1 - 197 Hecuba.
  Smite on—spare not—ay, batter down the doors! Ne'er shalt thou set bright vision in thine orbs,⁠1045 Nor living see thy sons whom I have slain.
1 - 198 Chorus.
  Hast vanquished?—overcome thy Thracian guest, Lady?—hast done the deed thou threatenedst?
1 - 199 Hecuba.
  Him shalt thou straightway see before the tents, Blind, pacing with blind aimless-stumbling feet,⁠1050 And his two children's corpses, whom I slew With Trojan heroines' help: now hath he paid me The vengeance-dues. There comes he forth, thou seest. I from his path will step; the seething rage Of yonder Thracian monster will I shun.⁠1055
Enter Polymestor.
1 - 200 Polymestor.
  ⁠Ah me, whitherward shall I go?—where stand? ⁠Where find me a mooring-place? ⁠Must I prowl on their track with foot and with hand ⁠As a mountain-beast should pace? Or to this side or that shall I turn me, for vengeance pursuing⁠1060 The slaughterous hags of Troy which have wrought mine undoing? ⁠Foul daughters of Phrygia, murderesses ⁠Accursèd, in what deep-hidden recesses ⁠Are ye cowering in flight? ⁠O couldst thou but heal these eye-pits gory— ⁠O couldst thou but heal the blind, and restore me, ⁠O Sun, thy light! ⁠Hist—hist—their stealthy footfalls creep— ⁠I hear them—whither shall this foot leap,⁠1070 That their flesh and their bones I may gorge, and may slake me With their blood, and a banquet of wild beasts make me, ⁠Requiting their outrage well ⁠With grimmer revenge?—Woe! where am I borne ⁠Forsaking my fenceless babes to be torn ⁠Of the bacchanals of hell, Butchered and cast away for the dogs' blood-boultered prey ⁠On a desolate mountain-fell? ⁠Ah, where shall I stand?—whither go?—where rest? ⁠As a ship furls sail that hath havenward pressed,⁠1080 ⁠I would dart into that death-haunted lair, ⁠I would shroud my babes in my linen vest, ⁠I would guard them there!
1 - 201 Chorus.
  Wretch! wreaked on thee are ills intolerable: Foul deeds thou didst, and awful penalty A God hath laid on thee with heavy hand.
1 - 202 Polymestor.
What ho! spear-brandishers, nation arrayed in warrior's weed! Thracians possessed of the War-god, lords of the gallant steed!⁠1090 ⁠What ho, ye Achaians!—Atreus' seed! ⁠Rescue! Rescue! I raise the cry. ⁠O come, in the name of the Gods draw nigh! Hears any man?—wherefore delay?—will no man help me nor heed? ⁠Of women undone, destroyed, am I— ⁠The women of Troy's captivity. Horrors are wrought on me—horrors! Woe for the felon deed! ⁠Whitherward shall I turn me? Whitherward fare? Shall I leap as on wings to the height of the heaven, to the mansions of air,⁠1100 ⁠To Orion or Sirius, fearful-gleaming ⁠With the burning flames from his eyes out-streaming, Or plunge to the blackness of darkness, to Hades' gorge in despair?
1 - 203 Chorus.
  Small blame, if he which suffereth heavier woes Than man may bear, should flee his wretched life.
Enter Agamemnon.
1 - 204 Agamemnon.
  Hearing a shout I came; for in no whispers The mountain-rock's child Echo through the host⁠1110 Cried, waking tumult. Knew we not the towers Of Phrygia by the spear of Greeks had fallen, No little panic had this clangour roused.
1 - 205 Polymestor.
  Dear friend—for, Agamemnon, 'tis thy voice, I hear and know—see'st thou what I endure?⁠1115
1 - 206 Agamemnon.
  Ha, wretched Polymestor, who hath marred thee?, Who dashed with blood thine eyes, and blinded thee?—, Slew these thy sons? Sooth, against thee and thine, Grim was his fury, whosoe'er it was.
1 - 207 Polymestor.
  Hecuba, with the captive woman-throng,⁠1120 Destroyed me—nay, destroyed not—O, far worse!
1 - 208 Agamemnon.
  What say'st thou?—Thine the deed, as he hath said? Thou, Hecuba, dare this thing impossible!
1 - 209 Polymestor.
  Ha! what say'st thou?—and is she nigh at hand? Tell where is she, that I may in mine hands⁠1125 Clutch her and rend, and bathe her flesh in blood.
1 - 210 Agamemnon (holding him back)..
  Ho thou, what ails thee?
1 - 211 Polymestor.
  ⁠By the Gods I pray thee, Unhand me—loose my frenzied hand on her!
1 - 212 Agamemnon.
  Forbear: cast out the savage from thine heart. Speak, let me hear first thee, then her, and judge⁠1130 Justly for what cause thus thou sufferest.
1 - 213 Polymestor.
  Yea, I will speak. 'Twas Priam's youngest son Polydorus, Hecuba's child—from Troy to me Him his sire sent to nurture in mine halls, Misdoubting, ye may guess, the fall of Troy.⁠1135 Him slew I. For what cause I slew him, hear: Mark how I dealt well, wisely, prudently:— I feared their son might, left alive thy foe, Gather Troy's remnant and repeople her, And, hearing how a Priamid lived, Achaia⁠1140 To Phrygia-land again should bring her host; Then should they trample down these plains of Thrace In foray, and the ills that wasted us But now, O king, should on Troy's neighbours fall. And Hecuba, being ware of her son's death,⁠1145 With this tale lured me, that she would reveal Hid treasuries of Priam's line in Troy Of gold. Me only with my sons she leads Within the tents, that none beside might know. Bowing the knee there sat I in their midst;⁠1150 While, on my left hand some, some on the right, As by a friend, forsooth, Troy's daughters sat Many: the web of our Edonian loom Praised they, uplifting to the light my cloak; And some my Thracian lance admiring took,⁠1155 And stripped me so alike of spear and shield. As many as were mothers, loud in praise Dandled my babes, that from their sire afar They might be borne, from hand to hand passed on. Then, after such smooth speech,—couldst thou believe?—⁠1160 Suddenly snatching daggers from their robes, They stab my sons; and others all as one In foemen's fashion gripped mine hands and feet, And held: and, when I fain would aid my sons, If I essayed to raise my face, by the hair⁠1165 They held me down: if I would move mine hands, For the host of women, wretch! I nought prevailed. And last—O outrage than all outrage worse!— A hideous deed they wrought: for of mine eyes These wretched eyeballs—grasping their brooch-pins—⁠1170 They stab, they flood with gore. Then through the tents Fleeing they went. Up from the earth I leapt, And like a wild beast chased the blood-stained hounds, Groping o'er all the wall, like tracking huntsman, Smiting and battering. All for my zeal's sake⁠1175 For thee, I suffered this, who slew thy foe, Agamemnon. Wherefore needeth many words? Whoso ere now hath spoken ill of women, Or speaketh now, or shall hereafter speak, All this in one word will I close and say:—⁠1180 Nor sea nor land doth nurture such a breed: He knoweth, who hath converse with them most.
1 - 214 Chorus.
  Be nowise reckless, nor, for thine own ills, Include in this thy curse all womankind. For some, yea many of us, deserve not blame,[14]⁠1185 Though some by vice of blood count midst the bad.
1 - 215 Hecuba.
  Agamemnon, never should this thing have been, That words with men should more avail than deeds, But good deeds should with reasonings good be paired, And caitiff deed be ranged by baseless plea,⁠1190 And none avail to gloze injustice o'er. There be whose craft such art hath perfected; Yet cannot they be cunning to the end: Foully they perish : never one hath 'scaped. Such prelude hath my speech as touching thee.⁠1195 Now with plea answering plea to him I turn:— To spare the Greeks, say'st thou, a twice-toiled task, For Agamemnon's sake thou slew'st my son. Villain of villains, when, when could thy race, Thy brute race, be a friend unto the Greeks?⁠1200 Never. And, prithee, whence this fervent zeal To serve his cause?—didst look to wed his daughter? Art of his kin?—Or what thy private end? Or were they like to sail again and waste Thy crops? Whom think'st thou to convince hereby?⁠1205 That gold—hadst thou the will to tell the truth— Murdered my son: that, and thy greed of gain. For, hearken: why, when all went well with Troy, When yet her ramparts girt the city round, And Priam lived, and triumphed Hector's spear,⁠1210 Why not then, if thou fain wouldst earn kings' thanks, When in mine halls ye had my son and fostered, Slay him, or living bring him to the Greeks? But, soon as in the light we walked no more, And the smoke's token proved our town the foe's,⁠1215 Thou slew'st the guest that came unto thine hearth. Nay more, hear now how thou art villain proved: Thou oughtest, if thou wert the Achaians' friend, Have brought the gold thou dar'st not call thine own, But for him held in trust, to these impoverished⁠1220 And long time exiled from their fatherland. But thou not yet canst ope thine heart to unclose Thy grip; thy miser-clutch keeps it at home. Yet hadst thou, as behoved thee, reared my son And saved alive, thine had been fair renown.⁠1225 For in adversity the good are friends Most true: prosperity hath friends unsought. Hadst thou lacked money, and his lot been fair, A treasury deep my son had been to thee: But now thou hast not him unto thy friend;⁠1230 Gone is the gold's avail, thy sons are gone,— And this thy plight! Now unto thee I say, Agamemnon, if thou help him, base thou showest. The godless, false to whom he owed fair faith, The impious host unrighteous shalt thou comfort.⁠1235 Thou joyest in the wicked, shall we say, If such thou be—but on my lords I rail not.
1 - 216 Chorus.
  Lo, how the good cause giveth evermore To men occasion for good argument
1 - 217 Agamemnon.
  It likes me not to judge on others' wrongs;⁠1240 Yet needs I must, for shame it were to take This cause into mine hands, and then thrust by. But,—wouldst thou know my thought,—not for my sake, Nor the Achaians', didst thou slay thy guest, But even to keep that gold within thine halls.⁠1245 In this ill plight thou speak'st to serve thine ends. Haply with you guest-murder is as nought, But to us which be Greeks foul shame is this. How can I uncondemned adjudge thee guiltless? I cannot. Forasmuch as thou hast dared⁠1250 To do foul deeds, even drain thy bitter cup.
1 - 218 Polymestor.
  Woe's me!—by a woman-slave o'ercome, meseems, 'Neath vengeance of the viler must I bow!
1 - 219 Hecuba.
  Is it not just, if thou hast vileness wrought?
1 - 220 Polymestor.
  Woe for my babes and for mine eyes!—ah wretch!⁠1255
1 - 221 Hecuba.
  Griev'st thou?—and I?—dost deem my son's loss sweet?
1 - 222 Polymestor.
  Thou joyest triumphing over me, thou fiend!
1 - 223 Hecuba.
  Should I not joy for vengeance upon thee?
1 - 224 Polymestor.
  Ah, soon thou shalt not, when the outsea surge—
1 - 225 Hecuba.
  Shall bear me to the coasts of Hellas-land?⁠1260
1 - 226 Polymestor.
  Nay, but shall whelm thee fallen from the mast.
1 - 227 Hecuba.
  Yea?—forced of whom to take the leap of death?
1 - 228 Polymestor.
  Thyself shalt climb the ship's mast with thy feet.
1 - 229 Hecuba.
  So?—and with shoulders winged, or in what guise?
1 - 230 Polymestor.
  A dog with fire-red eyes shalt thou become.⁠1265
1 - 231 Hecuba.
  How know'st thou of the changing of my shape?
1 - 232 Polymestor.
  This Dionysus told, the Thracian seer.
1 - 233 Hecuba.
But nought foretold to thee of these thine ills?
1 - 234 Polymestor.
  Nay; else with guile thou ne'er hadst trapped me thus.
1 - 235 Hecuba.
  There shall I die, or live my full life out?⁠1270
1 - 236 Polymestor.
  Die shalt thou: and thy grave shall bear a name—
1 - 237 Hecuba.
  Accordant to my shape?—or what wilt say?
1 - 238 Polymestor.
  The wretched Dog's Grave, sign to seafarers.
1 - 239 Hecuba.
  Nought reck I, seeing thou hast felt my vengeance.
1 - 240 Polymestor.
  Yea, and thy child Kassandra too must die.⁠1275
1 - 241 Hecuba.
  A scorn and spitting!—back on thee I hurl it.
1 - 242 Polymestor.
  Slay her shall this king's wife, a houseward grim.
1 - 243 Hecuba.
  Never so mad may Tyndareus' daughter be!
1 - 244 Polymestor.
  Yea—slay him too, upswinging high the axe.
1 - 245 Agamemnon.
  Ho, fellow, ravest thou? Dost court thy bane?⁠1280
1 - 246 Polymestor.
  Slay on: a bath of blood in Argos waits thee.
1 - 247 Agamemnon.
  Haste, henchmen, hale him from my sight perforce.
1 - 248 Polymestor.
  Art galled to hear?
1 - 249 Agamemnon.
  ⁠Set curb upon his mouth!
1 - 250 Polymestor.
  Ay, gag: my say is said.
1 - 251 Agamemnon.
  ⁠Make speed, make speed, And on some desert island cast him forth,⁠1285 Seeing his bold mouth's insolence passeth thus. Hecuba, hapless, fare thou on, entomb Thy corpses twain. Draw near, ye dames of Troy, To your lords' tents, for I discern a breeze Upspringing, home to waft us, even now.⁠1290 Fair voyage be ours to Hellas, fair the plight Wherein, from these toils freed, we find our homes.
1 - 252 Chorus.
  To the tents, O friends, to the haven fare; The yoke of thraldom our necks must bear. Fate knows not pity, fate will not spare.⁠
2 Orestes.
2 - Introduction
Orestes, in revenge for the murder of his father, took off Ægisthus and Clyætmnestra; but having dared to slay his mother, he was instantly punished for it by being afflicted with madness. But on Tyndarus, the father of her who was slain, laying an accusation against him, the Argives were about to give a public decision on this question, "What ought he, who has dared this impious deed, to suffer?" By chance Menelaus, having returned from his wanderings, sent in Helen indeed by night, but himself came by day, and being entreated by Orestes to aid him, he rather feared Tyndarus the accuser: but when the speeches came to be spoken among the populace, the multitude were stirred up to kill Orestes. * * * * But Pylades, his friend, accompanying him, counseled him first to take revenge on Menelaus by killing Helen. As they were going on this project, they were disappointed of their hope by the Gods snatching away Helen from them. But Electra delivered up Hermione, when she made her appearance, into their hands, and they were about to kill her. When Menelaus came, and saw himself bereft by them at once of his wife and child, he endeavored to storm the palace; but they, anticipating his purpose, threatened to set it on fire. Apollo, however, having appeared, said that he had conducted Helen to the Gods, and commanded Orestes to take Hermione to wife, and Electra to dwell with Pylades, and, after that he was purified of the murder, to reign over Argos. The scene of the piece is laid at Argos; But the chorus consists of Argive women, intimate associates of Electra, who also come on inquiring about the calamity of Orestes. The play has a catastrophe rather suited to comedy. The opening scene of the play is thus arranged. Orestes is discovered before the palace of Agamemnon, fatigued, and, on account of his madness, lying on a couch on which Electra is sitting by him at his feet. A difficulty has been started, why does not she sit at his head? for thus would she seem to watch more tenderly over her brother, if she sat nearer him. The poet, it is answered, seems to have made this arrangement on account of the Chorus; for Orestes, who had but just then and with difficulty gotten to sleep, would have been awakened, if the women that constituted the Chorus had stood nearer to him. But this we may infer from what Electra says to the Chorus, "Σιγα, σιγα, λεπτον ιχνος αρβυληις." It is probable then that the above is the reason of this arrangement. The play is among the most celebrated on the stage, but infamous in its morals; for, with the exception of Pylades, all the characters are bad persons. PERSONS REPRESENTED. ELECTRA. HELEN. HERMIONE. CHORUS. ORESTES. MENELAUS. TYNDARUS. PYLADES. A PHRYGIAN. APOLLO.
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ELECTRA. There is no word so dreadful to relate, nor suffering, nor heaven-inflicted calamity, the burden of which human nature may not be compelled to bear. For Tantalus, the blest, (and I am not reproaching his fortune, _when I say this_,) the son of Jupiter, as they report, trembling at the rock which impends over his head, hangs in the air, and suffers this punishment, as they say indeed, because, although being a man, yet having the honor of a table in common with the Gods upon equal terms, he possessed an ungovernable tongue, a most disgraceful malady. He begat Pelops, and from him sprung Atreus, for whom the Goddess having carded the wool[1] spun the thread of contention, _and doomed him_ to make war on Thyestes his relation; (why must I commemorate things unspeakable?) But Atreus then[2] killed his children--and feasted him. But from Atreus, for I pass over in silence the misfortunes which intervened, sprung Agamemnon, the illustrious, (if he was indeed illustrious,) and Menelaus; their mother Aërope of Crete. But Menelaus indeed marries Helen, the hated of the Gods, but King Agamemnon _obtained_ Clytæmnestra's bed, memorable throughout the Grecians: from whom we virgins were born, three from one mother; Chrysothemis, and Iphigenia, and myself Electra; and Orestes the male part of the family, from a most unholy mother, who slew her husband, having covered him around with an inextricable robe; the reason however it is not decorous in a virgin to tell; I leave this undeclared for men to consider as they will. But why indeed must I accuse the injustice of Phœbus? Yet persuaded he Orestes to kill that mother that brought him forth, a deed which gained not a good report from all men. But nevertheless he did slay her, as he would not be disobedient to the God. I also took a share in the murder, but such as a woman ought to take. As did Pylades also who perpetrated this deed with us. From that time wasting away, the wretched Orestes is afflicted with a grievous malady, but falling on his couch there lies, but his mother's blood whirls him to frenzy (for I dread to mention those Goddesses, the Eumenides, who persecute him with terror). Moreover this is the sixth day since his slaughtered mother was purified by fire as to her body. During which he has neither taken any food down his throat, he has not bathed his limbs, but covered beneath his cloak, when indeed his body is lightened of its disease, on coming to his right mind he weeps, but at another time starts suddenly from his couch, as a colt from his yoke. But it has been decreed by this city of Argos, that no one shall receive us who have slain a mother under their roof, nor at their fire, and that none shall speak to us; but this is the appointed day, in the which the city of the Argives will pronounce their vote, whether it is fitting that we should die being stoned with stones, or having whet the sword, should plunge it into our necks. But I yet have some hope that we may not die, for Menelaus has arrived at this country from Troy, and filling the Nauplian harbor with his oars is mooring his fleet off the shore, having been lost in wanderings from Troy a long time: but the much-afflicted Helen has he sent before to our palace, having taken advantage of the night, lest any of those, whose children died under Ilium, when they saw her coming, by day, might go so far as to stone her; but she is within bewailing her sister, and the calamity of her family. She has however some consolation in her woes, for the virgin Hermione, whom Menelaus bringing from Sparta, left at our palace, when he sailed to Troy, and gave as a charge to my mother to bring up, in her she rejoices, and forgets her miseries. But I am looking at each avenue when I shall see Menelaus present, since, for the rest, we ride on slender power,[3] if we receive not some succor from him; the house of the unfortunate is an embarrassed state of affairs.
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ELECTRA. HELEN. HEL. O daughter of Clytæmnestra and Agamemnon, O Electra, thou that hast remained a virgin a long time. How are ye, O wretched woman, both you, and your brother, the wretched Orestes (he was the murderer of his mother)? For by thy converse I am not polluted, transferring, as I do, the blame to Phœbus. And yet I groan the death of Clytæmnestra, whom, after that I sailed to Troy, (how did I sail, urged by the maddening fate of the Gods!) I saw not, but of her bereft I lament my fortune.
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ELEC. Helen, why should I inform thee of things thou seest thyself here present, the race of Agamemnon in calamities. I indeed sleepless sit companion to the wretched corse, (for he is a corse, in that he breathes so little,) but at his fortune I murmur not. But thou a happy woman, and thy husband a happy man, have come to us, who fare most wretchedly.
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HEL. But what length of time has he been lying on his couch?
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ELEC. Ever since he shed his parent's blood.
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HEL. Oh wretched, and his mother too, that thus she perished!
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ELEC. These things are thus, so that he is unable to speak for misery.
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HEL. By the Gods wilt thou oblige me in a thing, O virgin?
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ELEC. As far as I am permitted by the little leisure I have from watching by my brother.
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HEL. Wilt thou go to the tomb of my sister?
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ELEC. My mother's tomb dost thou desire? wherefore?
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HEL. Bearing the first offerings of my hair, and my libations.
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ELEC. But is it not lawful for thee to go to the tomb of thy friends?
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HEL. No, for I am ashamed to show myself among the Argives.
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ELEC. Late art thou discreet, then formerly leaving thine home disgracefully.
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HEL. True hast thou spoken, but thou speakest not pleasantly to me.
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ELEC. But what shame possesses thee among the Myceneans?
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HEL. I fear the fathers of those who are dead under Ilium.
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ELEC. For this is a dreadful thing; and at Argos thou art declaimed against by every one's mouth.
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HEL. Do thou then grant me this favor, and free me from this fear.
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ELEC. I can not look upon the tomb of my mother.
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HEL. And yet it is disgraceful for servants to bear these.
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ELEC. But why not send thy daughter Hermione?
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HEL. It is not well for virgins to go among the crowd.
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ELEC. And yet she might repay the dead the care of her education.
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HEL. Right hast thou spoken, and I obey thee, O virgin, and I will send my daughter, for thou sayest well. Come forth, my child Hermione, before the house, and take these libations in thine hand, and my hair, and, going to the tomb of Clytæmnestra, leave there this mixture of milk and honey, and the froth of wine, and standing on the summit of the mound, say thus: "Helen, thy sister, presents thee with these libations, in fear herself to approach thy tomb, and afraid of the populace of Argos:" and bid her hold kind intentions toward me, and thyself, and my husband, and toward these two miserable persons whom the God has destroyed. But promise all the offerings to the manes, whatever it is fitting that I should perform for a sister. Go, my child, hasten, and when thou hast offered the libations at the tomb, remember to return back as speedily as possible.
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ELEC. [_alone_] O Nature, what a great evil art thou among men, and the safeguard of those who possess thee, with virtue! For see, how she has shorn off the extremities of her hair, in order to preserve her beauty; but she is the same woman she always was. May the Gods detest thee, for that thou hast destroyed me, and this man, and the whole state of Greece: oh wretch that I am! But my dear friends that accompany me in my lamentations are again present; perhaps they will disturb the sleeper from his slumber, and will melt my eyes in tears when I behold my brother raving. ELECTRA, CHORUS.
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ELEC. O most dear woman, proceed with a gentle foot, make no noise, let there be heard no sound. For your friendliness is very kind, but to awake him will be a calamity to me. Hush, hush--gently advance the tread of thy sandal, make no noise, let there be heard no sound. Move onward from that place--onward from before the couch.
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CHOR. Behold, I obey.
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ELEC. St! st! Speak to me, my friend, as the breathing of the soft reed pipe.
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CHOR. See, I utter a voice low as an under note.
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ELEC. Ay, thus come hither, come hither, approach quietly--go quietly: tell me, for what purpose, I pray, are ye come? For he has fallen on his couch, and been sleeping some time.
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CHOR. How is he? Give us an account of him, my friend.
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ELEC. What fortune can I say of him? and what his calamities? still indeed he breathes, but sighs at short intervals.
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CHOR. What sayest thou? Oh, the unhappy man!
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ELEC. You will kill him if you move his eyelids, now that he is taking the sweetest enjoyment of sleep.
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CHOR. Unfortunate on account of these most angry deeds from heaven! oh! wretched on account of thy sufferings!
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ELEC. Alas! alas! Apollo himself unjust, then spoke unjust things, when at the tripod of Themis he commanded the unhallowed, inauspicious murder of my mother.
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CHOR. Dost thou see? he moves his body in the robes that cover him.
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ELEC. You by your cries, O wretch, have disturbed him from his sleep.
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CHOR. I indeed think he is sleeping yet.
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ELEC. Will you not depart from us? will you not bend your footsteps back from the house, ceasing this noise?
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CHOR. He sleeps.
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ELEC. Thou sayest well.
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CHOR. Venerable, venerable Night, thou that dispensest sleep to languid mortals, come from Erebus; come, come, borne on thy wings to the house of Agamemnon; for by our griefs and by our sufferings we are quite undone, undone.
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ELEC. Ye were making a noise.
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CHOR. No. (Note [A].)
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ELEC. Silently, silently repressing the high notes of your voice, apart from his couch, you will enable him to have the tranquil enjoyment of sleep.
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CHOR. Tell us; what end to his miseries awaits him?
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ELEC. Death, death; what else can? for he has no appetite for food.
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CHOR. Death then is manifestly before him.
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ELEC. Phœbus offered us as victims, when he commanded[4] the dreadful, abhorred murder of our mother, that slew our father.
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CHOR. With justice indeed, but not well.
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ELEC. Thou hast died, thou hast died, O mother, O thou that didst bring me forth, but hast killed the father, and the children of thy blood. We perish, we perish, even as two corses. For thou art among the dead, and the greatest part of my life is passed in groans, and wailings, and nightly tears; marriageless, childless, behold, how like a miserable wretch do I drag out my existence forever!
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CHOR. O virgin Electra, approach near, and look that thy brother has not died unobserved by thee; for by this excessive quiet he doth not please me.
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ORESTES, ELECTRA, CHORUS. ORES. O precious balm of sleep, thou that relievest my malady, how pleasant didst thou come to me in the time of need! O divine oblivion of my sufferings, how wise thou art, and the goddess to be supplicated by all in distress!--whence, in heaven's name, came I hither? and how brought? for I remember not things past, bereaved, as I am, of my senses.
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ELEC. My dearest brother, how didst thou delight me when thou didst fall asleep! wilt thou I touch thee, and raise thy body up?
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ORES. Raise me then, raise me, and wipe the clotted foam from off my wretched mouth, and from my eyes.
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ELEC. Behold, the task is sweet, and I refuse not to administer to a brother's limbs with a sister's hand.
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ORES. Lay thy side by my side, and remove the squalid hair from my face, for I see but imperfectly with my eyes.
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ELEC. O wretched head, sordid with ringlets, how art thou disordered from long want of the bath!
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ORES. Lay me on the couch again; when my fit of madness gives me a respite, I am feeble and weak in my limbs.
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ELEC. Behold, the couch is pleasant to the sick man, an irksome thing to keep, but still a necessary one.
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ORES. Again raise me upright--turn my body.
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CHOR. Sick persons are hard to be pleased from their feebleness.
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ELEC. Wilt thou set thy feet on the ground, putting forward thy long-discontinued[5] step? In all things change is sweet.
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ORES. Yes, by all means; for this has a semblance of health, but the semblance is good, though it be distant from the truth.
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ELEC. Hear now therefore, O my brother, while yet the Furies suffer thee to have thy right faculties.
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ORES. Wilt thou tell any news? and if good indeed, thou art conferring pleasure; but if it pertain at all to mischief--I have enough distress.
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ELEC. Menelaus has arrived, the brother of thy father, but his ships are moored in the Nauplian bay.
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ORES. How sayest? Is he come, a light in mine and thy sufferings, a man of kindred blood, and that hath received benefits from our father?
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ELEC. He is come; take this a sure proof of my words, bringing with him Helen from the walls of Troy.
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ORES. Had he been saved alone, he had been more blest. But if he brings his wife, he has arrived with a mighty evil.
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ELEC. Tyndarus begat an offspring of daughters, a conspicuous mark for blame, and infamous throughout Greece.
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ORES. Do thou then be unlike the bad, for it is in thy power. And not only say, but also hold these sentiments.
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ELEC. Alas! my brother, thine eye rolls wildly; quick art thou changed to madness, so late in thy senses.
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ORES. O mother, I implore thee, urge not on me those Furies gazing blood, horrid with snakes, for these, these are leaping around me.
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ELEC. Remain, O wretched man, calmly on thy couch, for thou seest none of those things, which thou fanciest thou seest plainly.
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ORES. O Phœbus, these dire Goddesses in the shape of dogs will kill me, these gorgon-visaged ministers of hell.
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ELEC. I will not let thee go, but, putting my arm around thee, will stop thy starting into those unfortunate convulsions.
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ORES. Loose me. Thou art one of my Furies, and seizest me by the middle, that thou mayest hurl me into Tartarus.
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ELEC. Oh! wretched me! what assistance can I obtain, since we have on us the vengeful wrath of heaven!
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ORES. Give me my bow of horn, the gift of Phœbus, with which Apollo said I should repel the Fiends, if they appalled me by their maddened raging.
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ELEC. Shall any God be wounded by mortal hand? (Note [B].)
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ORES. _Yes. She shall,_ if she will not depart from my sight... Hear ye not--see ye not the winged shafts impelled from the distant-wounding bow? Ha! ha! Why tarry ye yet? Skim the high air with your wings, and impeach the oracles of Phœbus.--Ah! why am I thus disquieted, heaving my panting breath from my lungs? Whither, whither have I wandered from my couch? For from the waves again I see a calm.--Sister, why weepest, hiding thine eyes beneath thy vests, I am ashamed to have thee a partner in my sufferings, and to give a virgin trouble through my malady. Pine not away on account of my miseries: for thou indeed didst assent to this, but the shedding of my mother's blood was accomplished by me: but I blame Apollo, who, after having instigated me to a most unholy act, with words indeed consoled me, but not with deeds. But I think that my father, had I, beholding him, asked him if it were right for me to slay my mother, would have put forth many supplications, beseeching me by this beard not to impel my sword to the slaughter of her who bore me, if neither he thereby could be restored to life, and I thus wretched must go through such miseries. And now then unveil thyself, my sister, and cease from tears, even though we be very miserable: but when thou seest me desponding, do thou restrain my distraction, and that which preys upon my mind, and console me; but when thou groanest, it becomes my duty to come to thee, and suggest words of comfort. For these are the good offices friends ought to render each other. But go thou into the house, O unfortunate sister, and, stretched at full length, compose thy sleepless eyelids to sleep, and take refreshment, and pour the bath upon thy fair skin. For if thou forsakest me, or gettest any illness by continually sitting by me, we perish; for thee I have my only succor, by the rest, as thou seest, abandoned.
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ELEC. This can not be: with thee will I choose to die, with thee to live; for it is the same: for if then shouldst die, what can I do, a woman? how shall I be preserved, alone and destitute? without a brother, without a father, without a friend: but if it seemeth good to thee, these things it is my duty to do: but recline thy body on the bed, and do not to such a degree conceive to be real whatever frightens and startles thee from the couch, but keep quiet on the bed strewn for thee. For though thou be not ill, but only seem to be ill, still this even is an evil and a distress to mortals. (Note [C].)
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CHORUS. Alas! alas! O swift-winged, raving[6] Goddesses, who keep up the dance, not that of Bacchus, with tears and groans. You, dark Eumenides, you, that fly through the wide extended air, executing vengeance, executing slaughter, you do I supplicate, I supplicate: suffer the offspring of Agamemnon to forget his furious madness; alas! for his sufferings. What were they that eagerly grasping at, thou unhappy perishest, having received from the tripod the oracle which Phœbus spake, on that pavement, where are said to be the recesses in the midst of the globe! O Jupiter, what pity is there? what is this contention of slaughter that comes persecuting thee wretched, to whom some evil genius casts tear upon tear, transporting to thy house the blood of thy mother which drives thee frenzied! Thus I bewail, I bewail. Great prosperity is not lasting among mortals; but, as the sail of the swift bark, some deity having shaken him, hath sunk him in the voracious and destructive waves of tremendous evils, as in the waves of the ocean. For what other[6a] family ought I to reverence yet before that sprung from divine nuptials, sprung from Tantalus?--But lo! the king! the prince Menelaus, is coming! but he is very easily discernible from the elegance of his person, as king of the house of the Tantalidæ. O thou that didst direct the army of a thousand vessels to Asia's land, hail! but thou comest hither with good fortune, having obtained the object of thy wishes from the Gods.
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MENELAUS, ORESTES, CHORUS. MEN. O palace, in some respect indeed I behold thee with pleasure, coming from Troy, but in other respect I groan when I see thee. For never yet saw I any other house more completely encircled round with lamentable woes. For I was made acquainted with the misfortune that befell Agamemnon, [and his death, by what death he perished at the hands of his wife,][6b] when I was landing my ships at Malea; but from the waves the prophet of the mariners declared unto me, the foreboding Glaucus the son of Nereus, an unerring God, who told me thus in evident form standing by me. "Menelaus, thy brother lieth dead, having fallen in his last bath, which his wife prepared." But he filled both me and my sailors with many tears; but when I come to the Nauplian shore, my wife having already landed there, expecting to clasp in my friendly embraces Orestes the son of Agamemnon, and his mother, as being in prosperity, I heard from some fisherman[7] the unhallowed murder of the daughter of Tyndarus. And now tell me, maidens, where is the son of Agamemnon, who dared these terrible deeds of evil? for he was an infant in Clytæmnestra's arms at that time when I left the palace on my way to Troy, so that I should not know him, were I to see him. ORES. I, Menelaus, am Orestes, whom thou seekest, I of my own accord will declare my evils. But first I touch thy knees in supplication, putting up prayers from my mouth, not using the sacred branch:[8] save me. But thou art come in the very season of my sufferings.
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MEN. O ye Gods, what do I behold! whom of the dead do I see!
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ORES. Ay! well thou sayest the dead; for in my state of suffering I live not; but see the light.
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MEN. Thou wretched man, how disordered thou art in thy squalid hair!
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ORES. Not the appearance, but the deeds torment me.
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MEN. But thou glarest dreadfully with thy shriveled eyeballs.
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ORES. My body is vanished, but my name has not left me.
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MEN. Alas, thy uncomeliness of form which has appeared to me beyond conception!
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ORES. I am he, the murderer of my wretched mother.
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MEN. I have heard; but spare a little the recital of thy woes.
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ORES. I spare it; but in woes the deity is rich to me.
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MEN. What dost thou suffer? What malady destroys thee?
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ORES. The conviction that I am conscious of having perpetrated dreadful deeds.
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MEN. How sayest thou? Plainness, and not obscurity, is wisdom.
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ORES. Sorrow is chiefly what destroys me,--
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MEN. She is a dreadful goddess, but sorrow admits of cure.
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ORES. And fits of madness in revenge for my mother's blood.
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MEN. But when didst first have the raging? what day was it then?
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ORES. That day in which I heaped the tomb on my mother.
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MEN. What? in the house, or sitting at the pyre?
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ORES. As I was guarding by night lest any one should bear off her bones.[9]
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MEN. Was any one else present, who supported thy body?
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ORES. Pylades, who perpetrated with me the vengeance and death of my mother.
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MEN. But by what visions art thou thus afflicted?
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ORES. I appear to behold three virgins like the night.
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MEN. I know whom thou meanest, but am unwilling to name them.
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ORES. Yes: for they are awful; but forbear from speaking such high polished words.[10]
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MEN. Do these drive thee to distraction on account of this kindred murder?
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ORES. Alas me for the persecutions, with which wretched I am driven!
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MEN. It is not strange that those who do strange deeds should suffer them.
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ORES. But we have whereto we may transfer the criminality[11] of the mischance.
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MEN. Say not the death _of thy father;_ for this is not wise.
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ORES. Phœbus who commanded us to perpetrate the slaying of our mother.
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MEN. Being more ignorant than to know equity, and justice.
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ORES. We are servants of the Gods, whatever those Gods be.
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MEN. And then does not Apollo assist thee in thy miseries?
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ORES. He is always about to do it, but such are the Gods by nature.
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MEN. But how long a time has thy mother's breath gone from her?
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ORES. This is the sixth day since; the funeral pyre is yet warm.
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MEN. How quickly have the Goddesses come to demand of thee thy mother's blood!
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ORES. I am not wise, but a true friend to my friends.
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MEN. But what then doth the revenge of thy father profit thee?
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ORES. Nothing yet; but I consider what is in prospect in the same light as a thing not done.
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MEN. But regarding the city how standest thou, having done these things?
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ORES. We are hated to that degree, that no one speaks to us.
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MEN. Nor hast thou washed thy blood from thy hands according to the laws?
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ORES. _How can I?_ for I am shut out from the houses, whithersoever I go.
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MEN. Who of the citizens thus contend to drive thee from the land?
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ORES. Œax,[12] imputing to my father the hatred which arose on account of Troy.
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MEN. I understand. The death of Palamede takes its vengeance on thee.
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ORES. In which at least I had no share--but I perish by the three.
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MEN. But who else? Is it perchance one of the friends of Ægisthus?
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ORES. They persecute me, whom now the city obeys.
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MEN. But does the city suffer thee to wield Agamemnon's sceptre?
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ORES. How should they? who no longer suffer us to live.
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MEN. Doing what, which thou canst tell me as a clear fact?
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ORES. This very day sentence will be passed upon us.
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MEN. To be exiled from this city? or to die? or not to die?
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ORES. To die, by being stoned with stones by the citizens.
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MEN. And dost thou not fly then, escaping beyond the boundaries of the country?
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ORES. _How can we?_ for we are surrounded on every side by brazen arms.
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MEN. By private enemies, or by the hand of Argos?
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ORES. By all the citizens, that I may die--the word is brief.
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MEN. O unhappy man! thou art come to the extreme of misfortune.
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ORES. On thee my hope builds her escape from evils, but, thyself happy, coming among the distressed, impart thy good fortune to thy friends, and be not the only man to retain a benefit thou hast received, but undertake also services in thy turn, paying their father's kindness to those to whom thou oughtest. For those friends have the name, not the reality, who are not friends in adversity.
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CHOR. And see the Spartan Tyndarus is toiling hither with his aged foot, in a black vest, and shorn, his locks cut off in mourning for his daughter.
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ORES. I am undone, O Menelaus! Lo! Tyndarus is coming toward us, to come before whose presence, most of all men's, shame covereth me, on account of what has been done. For he used to nurture me when I was little, and satiated me with many kisses, dandling in his arms Agamemnon's boy, and Leda with him, honoring me no less than the twin-born of Jove. For which, O my wretched heart and soul, I have given no good return: what dark veil can I take for my countenance? what cloud can I place before me, that I may avoid the glances of the old man's eyes?
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TYNDARUS, MENELAUS, ORESTES, CHORUS. TYND. Where, where can I see my daughter's husband Menelaus? For as I was pouring my libations on the tomb of Clytæmnestra, I heard that he was come to Nauplia with his wife, safe through a length of years. Conduct me, for I long to stand by his hand and salute him, seeing my friend after a long lapse of time.
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MEN. O hail! old man, who sharest thy bed with Jove.
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TYND. O hail! thou also, Menelaus my dear relation,--ah! what an evil is it not to know the future! This dragon here, the murderer of his mother, glares before the house his pestilential gleams--the object of my detestation--Menelaus, dost thou speak to this unholy wretch?
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MEN. Why not? he is the son of a father who was dear to me.
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TYND. What! was he sprung from him, being such as he is?
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MEN. He was; but, though he be unfortunate, he should be respected.
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TYND. Having been a long time with barbarians, thou art thyself turned barbarian.
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MEN. Nay! it is the Grecian fashion always to honor one of kindred blood.
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TYND. _Yes_, and also not to wish to be above the laws.
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MEN. Every thing proceeding from necessity is considered as subservient to her[13] among the wise.
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TYND. Do thou then keep to this, but I'll have none of it.
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MEN. _No_, for anger joined with thine age, is not wisdom.
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TYND. With this man what controversy can there be regarding wisdom? If what things are virtuous, and what are not virtuous, are plain to all, what man was ever more unwise that this man? who did not indeed consider justice, nor applied to the common existing law of the Grecians. For after that Agamemnon breathed forth his last, struck by my daughter on the head, a most foul deed (for never will I approve of this), it behooved him indeed to lay against her a sacred charge of bloodshed, following up the accusation, and to cast his mother from out of the house; and he would have taken the wise side in the calamity, and would have kept to law, and would have been pious. But now has he come to the same fate with his mother. For with justice thinking her wicked, himself has become more wicked in slaying his mother. But thus much, Menelaus, will I ask thee; If the wife that shared his bed were to kill him, and his son again kills his mother in return, and he that is born of him shall expiate the murder with murder, whither then will the extremes of these evils proceed? Well did our fathers of old lay down these things; they suffered not him to come into the sight of their eyes, not to their converse, who was under an attainder[14] of blood; but they made him