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Hecuba   


tear not my child from my arms, nor slay her. There be dead enough;
she is my only joy, in her I forget my sorrows; My one comfort she
in place of many a loss, my city and my nurse, my staff and journey's
guide. 'Tis never right that those in power should use it out of season,
or when prosperous suppose they will be always so. For I like them
was prosperous once, but now my life is lived, and one day robbed
me of all my bliss. Friend, by thy beard, have some regard and pity
for me; go to Achaea's host, and talk them over, saying how hateful
a thing it is to slay women whom at first ye spared out of pity, after
dragging them from the altars. For amongst you the self-same law holds
good for bond and free alike respecting bloodshed; such influence
as thine will persuade them even though thy words are weak; for the
same argument, when proceeding from those of no account, has not the
same force as when it is uttered by men of mark.
LEADER Human nature is not so stony-hearted as to hear thy plaintive
tale and catalogue of sorrows, without shedding a tear.
ODYSSEUS O Hecuba! be schooled by me, nor in thy passion count him
a foe who speaketh wisely. Thy life I am prepared to save, for the
service I received; I say no otherwise. But what I said to all, I
will not now deny, that after Troy's capture I would give thy daughter
to the chiefest of our host because he asked a victim. For herein
is a source of weakness to most states, whene'er a man of brave and
generous soul receives no greater honour than his inferiors. Now Achilles,
lady, deserves honour at our hands, since for Hellas he died as nobly
as a mortal can. Is not this a foul reproach to treat a man as a friend
in life, but, when he is gone from us, to treat him so no more? How
now? what will they say, if once more there comes gathering of the
host and a contest with the foe? "Shall we fight or nurse our lives,
seeing the dead have no honours?" For myself, indeed, though in life
my daily store were scant, yet would it be all-sufficient, but as
touching a tomb I should wish mine to be an object of respect, for
this gratitude has long to run. Thou speakest of cruel sufferings;
hear my answer. Amongst us are aged dames and grey old men no less
miserable than thou, and brides of gallant husbands reft, o'er whom
this Trojan dust has closed. Endure these sorrows; for us, if we are
wrong in resolving to honour the brave, we shall bring upon ourselves
a charge of ignorance; but as for you barbarians, regard not your
friends as such and pay no homage to your gallant dead, that Hellas
may prosper and ye may reap the fruits of such policy.
LEADER Alas! how cursed is slavery alway in its nature, forced by
the might of the stronger to endure unseemly treatment.
HECUBA Daughter, my pleading to avert thy bloody death was wasted
idly on the air; do thou, if in aught endowed with greater power to
move than thy mother, make haste to use it, uttering every pleading
note like the tuneful nightingale, to save thy soul from death. Throw
thyself at Odysseus' knees to move his pity, and try to move him.
Here is thy plea: he to hath children, so that he can feel for thy
sad fate.
POLYXENA Odysseus, I see thee hiding thy right hand beneath thy robe
and turning away thy face, that I may not touch thy beard. Take heart;
thou art safe from the suppliant's god in my case, for I will follow
thee, alike because I must and because it is my wish to die; for were
I loth, a coward should I show myself, a woman faint of heart. Why
should I prolong my days? I whose sire was king of all the Phrygians?-my
chiefest pride in life, Then was I nursed on fair fond hopes to be
a bride for kings, the centre of keen jealousy amongst suitors, to
see whose home I would make my own; and o'er each dame of Ida I was
queen; ah me! a maiden marked amid her fellows, equal to a goddess,
save for death alone, but now slave! That name first makes me long
for death, so strange it sounds; and then maybe my lot might give
me to some savage master, one that would buy me for money,-me the
sister of Hector and many another chief,-who would make me knead him
bread within his halls, or sweep his house or set me working at the
loom, leading a life of misery; while some slave, bought I know not

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