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Alcestis   


Alas! I hear this unhappy speech, and for me it is worse than
all death. Ah! By the Gods, do not abandon me! Ah! By our children,
whom you leave motherless, take heart! If you die, I become as
nothing; in you we have our life and death; we revere your love.
ALCESTIS (recovering herself)
Admetus, you see the things I suffer; and now before I die I
mean to tell you what I wish.
To show you honour and-at the cost of my life-that you may still
behold the light, I die; and yet I might have lived and wedded any
in Thessaly I chose, and dwelt with happiness in a royal home. But,
torn from you, I would not live with fatherless children, nor have I
hoarded up those gifts of youth in which I found delight. Yet he who
begot you, she who brought you forth, abandoned you when it had been
beautiful in them to die, beautiful to die with dignity to save
their son! They had no child but you, no hope if you were dead that
other children might be born to them. Thus I should have lived my life
out, and you too, and you would not lament as now, made solitary
from your wife, that you must rear our children motherless!
But these things are a God's doing and are thus.
Well! Do not forget this gift, for I shall ask-not a recompense,
since nothing is more precious than life, but-only what is just, as
you yourself will say, since if you have not lost your senses you must
love these children no less than I. Let them be masters in my house;
marry not again, and set a stepmother over them, a woman harsher
than I, who in her jealousy will lift her hand against my children and
yours. Ah! not this, let not this be, I entreat you! The new
stepmother hates the first wife's children, the viper itself is not
more cruel. The son indeed finds a strong rampart in his father-but
you, my daughter, how shall you live your virgin life out in
happiness? How will you fare with your father's new wife? Ah! Let
her not cast evil report upon you and thus wreck your marriage in
the height of your youth! You will have no mother, O my child, to give
you in marriage, to comfort you in childbed when none is tenderer than
a mother!
And I must die. Not to-morrow. nor to-morrow's morrow comes this
misfortune on me, but even now I shall be named with those that are no
more. Farewell! Live happy! You, my husband, may boast you had the
best of wives; and you, my children, that you lost the best of
mothers!
(She falls back.)
LEADER
Take heart! I do not hesitate to speak for him. This he will do,
unless he has lost his senses.
ADMETUS
It shall be so, it shall be! Have no fear! And since I held you
living as my wife, so, when dead, you only shall be called my wife,
and in your place no bride of Thessaly shall salute me hers; no
other woman is noble enough for that, no other indeed so beautiful
of face. My children shall suffice me; I pray the Gods I may enjoy
them, since you we have not enjoyed.
I shall wear mourning for you, O my wife, not for one year but all
my days, abhorring the woman who bore me, hating my father-for they
loved me in words, not deeds. But you-to save my life you give the
dearest thing you have! Should I not weep then, losing such a wife
as you?
I shall make an end of merry drinking parties, and of
flower-crowned feasts and of the music which possessed my house. Never
again shall I touch the lyre, never again shall I raise my spirits
to sing to the Libyan flute-for you have taken from me all my joy.
Your image, carven by the skilled hands of artists, shall be laid in
our marriage-bed; I shall clasp it, and my hands shall cling to it and
I shall speak your name and so, not having you, shall think I have
my dear wife in my arms-a cold delight, I know, but it will lighten
the burden of my days. Often you will gladden me, appearing in my

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