in pity for thy child; for now too as I tell the sad tale a tear will
wet my eye, as it did at the tomb when she was dying.
All Achaea's host was gathered there in full array before the tomb
to see thy daughter offered; and the son of Achilles took Polyxena
by the hand and set her on the top of the mound, while I stood near;
and a chosen band of young Achaeans followed to hold thy child and
prevent her struggling. Then did Achilles' son take in his hands a
brimming cup of gold and poured an offering to his dead sire, making
a sign to me to proclaim silence throughout the Achaean host. So I
stood at his side and in their midst proclaimed, "Silence, ye Achaeans!
hushed be the people all! peace! be still! "Therewith I hushed the
host. Then spake he, "Son of Peleus, father mine, accept the offering
I pour thee to appease thy spirit, strong to raise the dead; and come
to drink the black blood of a virgin pure, which I and the host are
offering thee; oh! be propitious to us; grant that we may loose our
prows and the cables of our ships, and, meeting with prosperous voyage
from Ilium, all to our country come." So he; and all the army echoed
his prayer. Then seizing his golden sword by the hilt he drew it from
its scabbard, signing the while to the picked young Argive warriors
to hold the maid. But she, when she was ware thereof, uttered her
voice and said: "O Argives, who have sacked my city! of my free will
I die; let none lay hand on me; for bravely will I yield my neck.
Leave me free, I do beseech; so slay me, that death may find me free;
for to be called a slave amongst the dead fills my royal heart with
shame." Thereat the people shouted their applause, and king Agamemnon
bade the young men loose the maid. So they set her free, as soon as
they heard this last command from him whose might was over all. And
she, hearing her captors' words took her robe and tore it open from
the shoulder to the waist, displaying a breast and bosom fair as a
statue's; then sinking on her knee, one word she spake more piteous
than all the rest, "Young prince, if 'tis my breast thou'dst strike,
lo! here it is, strike home! or if at my neck thy sword thou'lt aim,
behold! that neck is bared."
Then he, half glad, half sorry in his pity for the maid, cleft with
the steel the channels of her breath, and streams of blood gushed
forth; but she, e'en in death's agony, took good heed to fall with
maiden grace, hiding from gaze of man what modest maiden must. Soon
as she had breathed her last through the fatal gash, each Argive set
his hand to different tasks, some strewing leaves o'er the corpse
in handfuls, others bringing pine-logs and heaping up a pyre; and
he, who brought nothing, would hear from him who did such taunts as
these, "Stand'st thou still, ignoble wretch, with never a robe or
ornament to bring for the maiden? Wilt thou give naught to her that
showed such peerless bravery and spirit?"
Such is the tale I tell about thy daughter's death, and I regard thee
as blest beyond all mothers in thy noble child, yet crossed in fortune
more than all.
LEADER Upon the race of Priam and my city some fearful curse hath
burst; 'tis sent by God, and we must bear it.
HECUBA O my daughter! 'mid this crowd of sorrows I know not where
to turn my gaze; for if I set myself to one, another will not give
me pause; while from this again a fresh grief summons me, finding
a successor to sorrow's throne. No longer now can I efface from my
mind the memory of thy sufferings sufficiently to stay my tears; yet
hath the story of thy noble death taken from the keenness of my grief.
Is it not then strange that poor land, when blessed by heaven with
a lucky year, yields a good crop, while that which is good, if robbed
of needful care, bears but little increase; yet 'mongst men the knave
is never other than a knave, the good man aught but good, never changing
for the worse because of misfortune, but ever the same? Is then the
difference due to birth or bringing up? Good training doubtless gives
lessons in good conduct, and if a man have mastered this, he knows
what is base by the standard of good. Random shafts of my soul's shooting
these, I know. (To TALTHYBIUS) Go thou and proclaim to the Argives