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Pages of Alcestis

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(From the women's quarters in the left wing of the
Palace comes a woman in tears. She is not a slave,
but one of the personal attendants on the Queen.)

But now from the house comes one of her women servants, all in
tears. What now shall I learn? (To the weeping Servant) It is well
to weep when our lords are in sorrow-but tell us, we would know, is
she alive, is she dead?
You may say she is both alive and dead.
How can the same man be dead and yet behold the light?
She gasps, she is on the verge of death.
Ah, unhappy man! For such a husband what loss is such a wife!
The King will not know his loss until he suffers it.
Then there is no hope that her life may be saved?
The fated day constrains her.
Are all things befitting prepared for her?
The robes in which her lord will bury her are ready.
Then let her know that she dies gloriously, the best of women
beneath the sun by far!
How should she not be the best! Who shall deny it? What should the
best among women be? How better might a woman hold faith to her lord
than gladly to die for him? This the whole city knows, but you will
marvel when you hear what she has done within the house. When she knew
that the last of her days was come she bathed her white body in
river water, she took garments and gems from her rooms of cedar
wood, and clad herself nobly; then, standing before the hearth-shrine,
she uttered this prayer:
'O Goddess, since now I must descend beneath the earth, for the
last time I make supplication to you: and entreat you to protect my
motherless children. Wed my son to a fair bride, and my daughter to
a noble husband. Let not my children die untimely, as I their mother
am destroyed, but grant that they live out happy lives with good
fortune in their own land!'
To every altar in Admetus's house she went, hung them with
garlands. offered prayer, cut myrtle boughs-unweeping, unlamenting;
nor did the coming doom change the bright colour of her face.
Then to her marriage-room she went, flung herself down upon her
bed, and wept, and said:
'O my marriage-bed, wherein I loosed my virgin girdle to him for
whom I die! Farewell! I have no hatred for you. Only me you lose.
Because I held my faith to you and to my lord-I must die. Another
woman shall possess you, not more chaste indeed than I, more fortunate
She fell upon her knees and kissed it, and all the bed was damp
with the, tide of tears which flooded to her eyes. And when she was
fulfilled of many tears, drooping she rose from her bed and made as if
to go, and many times she turned to go and many times turned back, and
flung herself once more upon the bed.
Her children clung to their mother's dress, and wept; and she
clasped them in her arms and kissed them turn by turn, as a dying
All the servants in the house wept with compassion for their

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