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Alcestis   


Coast of the Aegean Sea,
As far as Pelion.
antistrophe 2
Even to-day he opened his house
And received a guest,
Though his eyelids were wet
With tears wept by the corpse
Of a dear bedfellow dead in the house.
For the noble spirit is proclaimed by honour;
All wisdom lies with the good.
I admire him:
And in my soul I know
The devout man shall have joy.

(The funeral procession of ALCESTIS enters from the door of the
women's quarters. The body, carried on a bier by men servants, is
followed by ADMETUS and his two children. Behind them comes a train of
attendants and servants carrying the funeral offerings. All are in
mourning. ADMETUS addresses the CHORUS.)


ADMETUS
O friendly presence of you men of Pherae! Now that the body is
prepared, and the servants bear it on high to the tomb and the fire,
do you, as is fitting, salute the dead as she goes forth on her last
journey.

(PHERES, the father of ADMETUS, enters, followed
by attendants bearing funeral offerings.)


LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But I see your father, tottering with an old man's walk, and his
followers bearing in their hands for your wife garments as an offering
to the dead.
PHERES
My son, I have come to share your sorrow, for the wife you have
lost was indeed noble and virtuous-none can deny it. But these
things must be endured, however intolerable they may be.
Take these garments, and let her descend under the earth. Her body
must be honoured, for she died to save your life, my son; she has
not made me childless, nor left me to be destroyed without you in my
hapless old age; and she has given glorious fame to all women by
daring so noble a deed! (He lifts his hand in salutation to the body
of ALCESTIS.)
O woman, who saved my son, who raised me up when I had
fallen, hail! Be happy in the halls of Hades! I declare it-such
marriages are profitable to mankind; otherwise, it is foolish to
marry.
ADMETUS (furiously)
It was not my wish that you should come to this burial, and I deny
that your presence is that of a friend! She shall never wear these
garments of yours; she needs not your gifts for her burial. You should
have grieved when I was, about to die; but you stood aside, and now do
you come to wail over a corpse when you, an old man, allowed a young
woman to die?
Were you in very truth father of this body of mine? Did she, who
claims to be and is called my mother, bring me forth? Or was I bred of
a slave's seed and secretly brought to your wife's breast? You have
proved what you are when it comes to the test, and therefore I am
not your begotten son; or you surpass all men in cowardice, for, being
at the very verge and end of life, you had neither courage nor will to
die for your son. But this you left to a woman, a stranger, whom alone
I hold as my father and my mother!
Yet it had been a beautiful deed in you to die for your son, and
short indeed was the time left you to live. She and I would have lived
out our lives, and I should not now be here alone lamenting my misery.

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