Better is it not to win a discreditable victory, than to make justice
miscarry by an invidious exercise of power; for such a victory, though
men think it sweet for the moment, grows barren in time and comes
near being a stain on a house. This is the life I commend, this the
life I set before me as my ideal, to exercise no authority beyond
what is right either in the marriage-chamber or in the state.
O aged son of Aeacus! now am I sure that thou wert with the Lapithae,
wielding thy famous spear, when they fought the Centaurs; and on Argo's
deck didst pass the cheerless strait beyond the sea-beat Symplegades
on her voyage famed; and when in days long gone the son of Zeus spread
slaughter round Troy's famous town, thou too didst share his triumphant
return to Europe. (The NURSE OF HERMIONE enters.)
NURSE Alas! good friends, what a succession of troubles is to-day
provided us! My mistress Hermione within the house, deserted by her
father and in remorse for her monstrous deed in plotting the death
of Andromache and her child, is bent on dying; for she is afraid her
husband will in requital for this expel her with dishonour from his
house or put her to death, because she tried to slay the innocent.
And the servants that watch her can scarce restrain her efforts to
hang herself, scarce catch the sword and wrest it from her hand. So
bitter is her anguish, and she hath recognized the villainy of her
former deeds. As for me, friends, I am weary of keeping my mistress
from the fatal noose; do ye go in and try to save her life; for if
strangers come, they prove more persuasive than the friends of every
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Ah yes! I hear an outcry in the house amongst
the servants, confirming the news thou hast brought. Poor sufferer!
she seems about to show lively grief for her grave crimes; for she
has escaped her servants' hands and is rushing from the house, eager
to end her life. (HERMIONE enters, in agitation. She is carrying
a sword which the NURSE wrests from her.)
HERMIONE (chanting) Woe, woe is me! I will rend my hair and tear
cruel furrows in my cheeks.
NURSE My child, what wilt thou do? Wilt thou disfigure thyself?
HERMIONE (chanting) Ah me! ah me! Begone, thou fine-spun veil! float
from my head away!
NURSE Daughter, cover up thy bosom, fasten thy robe.
HERMIONE (chanting) Why should I cover it? My crimes against my
lord are manifest and clear, they cannot be hidden.
NURSE Art so grieved at having devised thy rival's death?
HERMIONE (chanting) Yea, I deeply mourn my fatal deeds of daring;
alas! I am now accursed in all men's eyes!
NURSE Thy husband will pardon thee this error.
HERMIONE (chanting) Oh! why didst thou hunt me to snatch away my
sword? Give, oh! give it back, dear nurse, that I may thrust it through
my heart Why dost thou prevent me hanging myself?
NURSE What! was I to let thy madness lead thee on to death?
HERMIONE (chanting) Ah me, my destiny! Where can I find some friendly
fire? To what rocky height can I climb above the sea or 'mid some
wooded mountain glen, there to die and trouble but the dead?
NURSE Why vex thyself thus? on all of us sooner or later heaven's
HERMIONE (chanting) Thou hast left me, O my father, left me like
a stranded bark, all alone, without an oar. My lord will surely slay
me; no home is mine henceforth beneath my husband's roof. What god
is there to whose statue I can as a suppliant haste? or shall I throw
myself in slavish wise at slavish knees? Would I could speed away
from Phthia's land on bird's dark pinion, or like that pine-built
ship, the first that ever sailed betwixt the rocks Cyanean!
NURSE My child, I can as little praise thy previous sinful excesses,
committed against the Trojan captive, as thy present exaggerated terror.
Thy husband will never listen to a barbarian's weak pleading and reject