by thy name, though now my share in thee is but the time I take to
go 'twixt this and the sword at Achilles' tomb. (ODYSSEUS and his
attendants lead POLYXENA away.)
HECUBA Woe is me! I faint; my limbs sink under me. O my daughter,
embrace thy mother, stretch out thy hand, give it me again; leave
me not childless! Ah, friends! 'tis my death-blow. Oh! to see that
Spartan woman, Helen, sister of the sons of Zeus, in such a plight;
for her bright eyes have caused the shameful fall of Troy's once prosperous
town. (HECUBA sinks fainting to the ground.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe 1)
O breeze from out the deep arising, that waftest swift galleys, ocean's
coursers, across the surging main! whither wilt thou bear me the child
of sorrow? To whose house shall I be brought, to be his slave and
chattel? to some haven in the Dorian land, or in Phthia, where men
say Apidanus, father of fairest streams, makes fat and rich the tilth?
or to an island home, sent on a voyage of misery by oars that sweep
the brine, leading a wretched existence in halls where the first-created
palm and the bay-tree put forth their sacred shoots for dear Latona,
memorial fair of her divine travail? and there with the maids of Delos
shall I hymn the golden snood and bow of Artemis their goddess?
Or in the city of Pallas, the home of Athena of the beauteous chariot,
shall I upon her saffron robe yoke horses to the car, embroidering
them on my web in brilliant varied shades, or the race of Titans,
whom Zeus the son of Cronos lays to their unending sleep with bolt
of flashing flame?
Woe is me for my children! woe for my ancestors, and my country which
is falling in smouldering ruin 'mid the smoke, sacked by the Argive
spear! while I upon a foreign shore am called a slave for-sooth, leaving
Asia, Europe's handmaid, and receiving in its place deadly marriage-bower.
(The herald, TALTHYBIUS, enters.)
TALTHYBIUS Where can I find Hecuba, who once was queen of Ilium,
ye Trojan maidens?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS There she lies near thee, Talthybius, stretched
full length upon the ground, wrapt in her robe.
TALTHYBIUS Great Zeus! what can I say? that thine eye is over man?
or that we hold this false opinion all to no purpose, thinking there
is any race of gods, when it is chance that rules the mortal sphere?
Was not this the queen of wealthy Phrygia, the wife of Priam highly
blest? And now her city is utterly o'erthrown by the foe, and she,
a slave in her old age, her children dead, lies stretched upon the
ground, soiling her hair, poor lady in the dust. Well, well; old as
I am, may death be my lot before I am caught in any foul mischance.
Arise, poor queen! lift up thyself and raise that hoary head.
HECUBA (stirring) Ah! who art thou that wilt not let my body rest?
why disturb me in my anguish, whosoe'er thou art?
TALTHYBIUS 'Tis I, Talthybius, who am here, the minister of the Danai;
Agamemnon has sent me for thee, lady.
HECUBA (rising) Good friend, art come because the Achaeans are resolved
to slay me to at the grave? How welcome would thy tidings be! Let
us hasten and lose no time; prithee, lead the way, old sir.
TALTHYBIUS I am come to fetch thee to bury thy daughter's corpse,
lady; and those that send me are the two sons of Atreus and the Achaean
HECUBA Ah! what wilt thou say? Art thou not come, as I had thought,
to fetch me to my doom, but to announce ill news? Lost, lost, my child!
snatched from thy mother's arms! and I am childless now, at least
as touches thee; ah, woe is me!
How did ye end her life? was any mercy shown? or did ye deal ruthlessly
with her as though your victim were a foe, old man? Speak, though
thy words must be pain to me.
TALTHYBIUS Lady, thou art bent on making mine a double meed of tears