I repeat,-should men of sense, who have wives, allow women-folk to
visit them in their homes, for they teach them evil; one, to gain
some private end, helps to corrupt their honour; another, having made
a slip herself, wants a companion in misfortune, while many are wantons;
and hence it is men's houses are tainted. Wherefore keep strict guard
upon the portals of your houses with bolts and bars; for these visits
of strange women lead to no good result, but a world of ill.
LEADER Thou hast given thy tongue too free a rein regarding thy own
sex. I can pardon thee in this case, but still women ought to smooth
over their sisters' weaknesses.
ORESTES 'Twas sage counsel he gave who taught men to hear the arguments
on both sides. I, for instance, though aware of the confusion in this
house, the quarrel between thee and Hector's wife, waited awhile and
watched to see whether thou wouldst stay here or from fear of that
captive art minded to quit these halls. Now it was not so much regard
for thy message that brought me thither, as the intention of carrying
thee away from this house, if, as now, thou shouldst grant me a chance
of saying so. For thou wert mine formerly, but art now living with
thy present husband through thy father's baseness; since he, before
invading Troy's domains, betrothed thee to me, and then afterwards
promised thee to thy present lord, provided he captured the city of
So, as soon as Achilles' son returned hither, I forgave thy father,
but entreated the bridegroom to forego his marriage with thee, telling
him all I had endured and my present misfortune; I might get a wife,
I said, from amongst friends, but outside their circle 'twas no easy
task for one exiled like myself from home. Thereat he grew abusive,
taunting me with my mother's murder and those blood-boltered fiends.
And I was humbled by the fortunes of my house, and though 'tis true,
I grieved, yet did I bear my sorrow, and reluctantly departed, robbed
of thy promised hand. Now therefore, since thou findest thy fortune
so abruptly changed and art fallen thus on evil days and hast no help,
I will take thee hence and place thee in thy father's hands. For kinship
hath strong claims, and in adversity there is naught better than a
kinsman's kindly aid.
HERMIONE As for my marriage, my father must look to it; 'tis not
for me to decide. Yes, take me hence as soon as may be, lest my husband
come back to his house before I am gone, or Peleus hear that I am
deserting his son's abode and pursue me with his swift steeds.
ORESTES Rest easy about the old man's power; and, as for Achilles'
son with all his insolence to me, never fear him; such a crafty net
this hand hath woven and set for his death with knots that none can
loose; whereof I will not speak before the time, but, when my plot
begins to work, Delphi's rock will witness it. If but my allies in
the Pythian land abide by their oaths, this same murderer of his mother
will show that no one else shall marry thee my rightful bride. To
his cost will he demand satisfaction of King Phoebus for his father's
blood; nor shall his repentance avail him though he is now submitting
to the god. No! he shall perish miserably by Apollo's hand and my
false accusations; so shall he find out my enmity. For the deity upsets
the fortune of them that hate him, and suffers them not to be high-minded.
(ORESTES and HERMIONE depart.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe 1)
O Phoebus! who didst fence the hill of Ilium with a fair coronal
of towers, and thou, ocean-god! coursing o'er the main with thy dark
steeds, wherefore did ye hand over in dishonour your own handiwork
to the war-god, master of the spear, abandoning Troy to wretchedness?
Many a well-horsed car ye yoked on the banks of Simois, and many
a bloody tournament did ye ordain with never a prize to win; and Ilium's
princes are dead and gone; no longer in Troy is seen the blaze of
fire on altars of the gods with the smoke of incense.
The son of Atreus is no more, slain by the hand of his wife, and