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Andromache   


to the god? Wherefore art thou come?" And he answered: "I wish to
make atonement to Phoebus for my past transgression; for once I claimed
from him satisfaction for my father's blood." Thereupon the rumour,
spread by Orestes, proved to have great weight, suggesting that my
master was lying and had come on a shameful errand. But he crosses
the threshold of the temple to pray to Phoebus before his oracle,
and was busy with his burnt-offering; when a body of men armed with
swords set themselves in ambush against him in the cover of the bay-trees,
and Clytemnestra's son, that had contrived the whole plot was one
of them. There stood the young man praying to the god in sight of
all, when lo! with their sharp swords they stabbed Achilles' unprotected
son from behind. But he stepped back, for it was not a mortal wound
he had received, and drew his sword, and snatching armour from the
pegs where it hung on a pillar, took his stand upon the altar-steps,
the picture of a warrior grim; then cried he to the sons of Delphi,
and asked them: "Why seek to slay me when I am come on a holy mission?
What cause is there why I should die? But of all that throng of bystanders,
no man answered him a word, but they set to hurling stones. Then he,
though bruised and battered by the showers of missiles from all sides,
covered himself behind his mail and tried to ward off the attack,
holding his shield first here, then there, at arm's length, but all
of no avail; for a storm of darts, arrows and javelins, hurtling spits
with double points, and butchers' knives for slaying steers, came
flying at his feet; and terrible was the war-dance thou hadst then
seen thy grandson dance to avoid their marksmanship. At last, when
they were hemming him in on all sides, allowing him no breathing space,
he left the shelter of the altar, the hearth where victims are placed,
and with one bound was on them as on the Trojans of yore; and they
turned and fled like doves when they see the hawk. Many fell in the
confusion: some wounded, and others trodden down by one another along
the narrow passages; and in that hushed holy house uprose unholy din
and echoed back from the rocks. Calm and still my master stood there
in his gleaming harness like a flash of light, till from the inmost
shrine there came a voice of thrilling horror, stirring the crowd
to make a stand. Then fell Achilles' son, smitten through the flank
by some Delphian's biting blade, some fellow that slew him with a
host to help; and as he fell, there was not one that did not stab
him, or cast a rock and batter his corpse. So his whole body, once
so fair, was marred with savage wounds. At last they cast the lifeless
clay, Iying near the altar, forth from the fragrant fane. And we gathered
up his remains forthwith and are bringing them to thee, old prince,
to mourn and weep and honour with a deep-dug tomb.
This is how that prince who vouchsafeth oracles to others, that judge
of what is right for all the world, hath revenged himself on Achilles'
son, remembering his ancient quarrel as a wicked man would. How then
can he be wise? (The MESSENGER withdraws as the body of Neoptolemus
is carried in on a bier. The following lines between PELEUS and the
CHORUS are chanted responsively.)

CHORUS Lo! e'en now our prince is being carried on a bier from Delphi's
land unto his home. Woe for him and his sad fate, and woe for thee,
old sire! for this is not the welcome thou wouldst give Achilles'
son, the lion's whelp; thyself too by this sad mischance dost share
his evil lot.
PELEUS Ah! woe is me! here is a sad sight for me to see and take
unto my halls! Ah me! ah me! I am undone, thou city of Thessaly! My
line now ends; I have no children left me in my home. Oh! the sorrows
seem born to endure! What friend can I look to for relief? Ah, dear
lips, and cheeks, and hands! Would thy destiny had slain the 'neath
Ilium's walls beside the banks of Simois!
CHORUS Had he so died, my aged lord, he had won him honour thereby,
and thine had been the happier lot.
PELEUS O marriage, marriage, woe to thee! thou bane of my home, thou
destroyer of my city! Ah my child, my boy, would that the honour of
wedding thee, fraught with evil as it was to my children and house,

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