Not to kill her I must kill? I am appointed to that task.
No, no! But to delay death for those about to die.
I hear your words and guess your wish!
May not Alcestis live to old age?
No! I also prize my rights!
Yet at most you win one life.
They who die young yield me a greater prize.
If she dies old, the burial will be richer.
Phoebus, that argument favours the rich.
What! Are you witty unawares?
The rich would gladly pay to die old.
So you will not grant me this favour?
Not I! You know my nature.
Yes! Hateful to men and a horror to the gods!
You cannot always have more than your due.
Yet you shall change, most cruel though you are! For a man comes
to the dwelling of Pheres, sent by Eurystheus to fetch a horse-drawn
chariot from the harsh-wintered lands of Thrace; and he shall be a
guest in the house of Admetus, and by force shall he tear this woman
from you. Thus shall you gain no thanks from us, and yet you shall
do this thing-and my hatred be upon you
(APOLLO goes out. DEATH gazes after him derisively.)
Talk all you will, you get no more of me! The woman shall go
down to the dwelling of Hades. Now must I go to consecrate her for the
sacrifice with this sword; for when once this blade has shorn the
victim's hair, then he is sacred to the Lower Gods!
(DEATH enters the Palace by the open main door. The CHORUS enters
from the right. They are the Elders or Notables of the city, and,
therefore move slowly, leaning upon their staffs.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS (chanting)
Why is there no sound outside the Palace? Why is the dwelling of
Admetus silent? Not a friend here to tell me if I must weep for a dead
Queen or whether she lives and looks upon the light, Alcestis, the
daughter of Pelias, whom among all women I hold the best wife to her
Is a sob to be heard?
Or the beating of hands
In the house?
The lament for her end?
Not one of her servants
Stands at the gate!