too filled me with affright; o'er the summit of his tomb appeared
Achilles' phantom, and for his guerdon he would have one of the luckless
maids of Troy. Wherefore, I implore you, powers divine, avert this
horror from my daughter, from my child. (The CHORUS OF CAPTIVE TROJAN
CHORUS (singing) Hecuba, I have hastened away to thee, leaving my
master's tent, where the lot assigned me as his appointed slave, in
the day that was driven from the city of Ilium, hunted by Achaeans
thence at the point of the spear; no alleviation bring I for thy sufferings;
nay have laden myself with heavy news, and am a herald of sorrow to
thee, lady. 'Tis said the Achaeans have determined in full assembly
to offer thy daughter in sacrifice to Achilles; for thou knowest how
one day he appeared standing on his tomb in golden harness, and stayed
the sea-borne barques, though they had their sails already hoisted,
with this pealing cry, "Whither away so fast, ye Danai, leaving my
tomb without its prize?" Thereon arose a violent dispute with stormy
altercation, and opinion was divided in the warrior host of Hellas,
some being in favour of offering the sacrifice at the tomb, others
dissenting. There was Agamemnon, all eagerness in thy interest, because
of his love for the frenzied prophetess; but the two sons of Theseus,
scions of Athens, though supporting different proposals, yet agreed
on the same decision, which was to crown Achilles' tomb with fresh-spilt
blood; for they said they never would set Cassandra's love before
Achilles' valour. Now the zeal of the rival disputants was almost
equal, until that shifty, smooth-mouthed varlet, the son of Laertes,
whose tongue is ever at the service of the mob, persuaded the army
not to put aside the best of all the Danai for want of a bond-maid's
sacrifice, nor have it said by any of the dead that stand beside Persephone,
"The Danai have left the plains of Troy without one thought of gratitude
for their brethren who died for Hellas." Odysseus will be here in
an instant, to drag the tender maiden from thy breast and tear her
from thy aged arms. To the temples, to the altars with thee! at Agamemnon's
knees throw thyself as a suppliant! Invoke alike the gods in heaven
and those beneath the earth. For either shall thy prayers avail to
spare thee the loss of thy unhappy child, or thou must live to see
thy daughter fall before the tomb, her crimson blood spurting in deep
dark jets from her neck with gold encircled. (THE following lines
between HECUBA and POLYXENA are chanted responsively.)
HECUBA Woe, woe is me! What words, or cries, or lamentations can
I utter? Ah me! for the sorrows of my closing years! for slavery too
cruel to brook or bear! Woe, woe is me! What champion have I? Sons,
and city-where are they? Aged Priam is no more; no more my children
now. Which way am I to go, or this or that? Whither shall I turn my
steps? Where is any god or power divine to succour me? Ah, Trojan
maids! bringers of evil tidings! messengers of woe! ye have made an
end, an utter end of me; life on earth has no more charm for me. Ah!
luckless steps, lead on, guide your aged mistress to yon tent. (calling)
My child, come forth; come forth, thou daughter of the queen of sorrows;
listen to thy mother's voice, my child, that thou mayst know the hideous
rumour I now hear about thy life. (POLYXENA enters from the tent.)
POLYXENA O mother, mother mine! why dost thou call so loud? what
news is it thou hast proclaimed, scaring me, like a cowering bird,
from my chamber by this alarm?
HECUBA Alas, my daughter!
POLYXENA Why this ominous address? it bodeth sorrow for me.
HECUBA Woe for thy life!
POLYXENA Tell all, hide it no longer. Ah mother! how I dread, ay
dread the import of thy loud laments.
HECUBA Ah my daughter! a luckless mother's child!
POLYXENA Why dost thou tell me this?
HECUBA The Argives with one consent are eager for thy sacrifice to
the son of Peleus at his tomb.
POLYXENA Ah! mother mine! how canst thou speak of such a horror?
Yet tell me all, yes all, O mother dear!