that they touch not my daughter's body but keep the crowd away. For
when countless host is gathered, the mob knows no restraint, and the
unruliness of sailors exceeds that of fire, all abstinence from evil
being counted evil. (TALTHYBIUS goes out., Addressing a servant)
My aged handmaid, take a pitcher and dip it in the salt sea and bring
hither thereof, that I for the last time may wash my child, a virgin
wife, a widowed maid, and lay her out,-as she deserves, ah! whence
can I? impossible! but as best I can; and what will that be? I will
collect adornment from the captives, my companions in these tents,
if haply any of them escaping her master's eye have some secret store
from her old home. (The MAID departs.) O towering halls, O home
so happy once, O Priam, rich in store of fairest wealth, most blest
of sires, and I no less, the grey-haired mother of thy race, how are
we brought to naught, stripped of our former pride! And spite of all
we vaunt ourselves, one on the riches of his house, another be, cause
he has an honoured name amongst his fellow-citizens! But these things
are naught; in vain are all our thoughtful schemes, in vain our vaunting
words. He is happiest who meets no sorrow in his daily walk. (HECUBA
enters the tent.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe)
Woe and tribulation were made my lot in life, soon as ever Paris
felled his beams of pine in Ida's woods, to sail across the heaving
main in quest of Helen's hand, fairest bride on whom the sun-god turns
his golden eye.
For here beginneth trouble's cycle, and, worse than that, relentless
fate; and from one man's folly came a universal curse, bringing death
to the land of Simois, with trouble from an alien shore. The strife
the shepherd decided on Ida 'twixt three daughters of the blessed
brought as its result war and bloodshed and the ruin of my home;
and many a Spartan maiden too is weeping bitter tears in her halls
on the banks of fair Eurotas, and many a mother whose sons are slain,
is smiting her hoary head and tearing her cheeks, making her nails
red in the furrowed gash.
MAID (entering excitedly, attended by bearers bringing in a covered
corpse) Oh! where, ladies, is Hecuba, our queen of sorrow, who far
surpasses all in tribulation, men and women both alike? None shall
wrest the crown from her.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS What now, thou wretched bird of boding note?
Thy evil tidings never seem to rest.
MAID 'Tis to Hecuba I bring my bitter news; no easy task is it for
mortal lips to speak smooth words in sorrow's hour.
LEADER Lo! she is coming even now from the shelter of the tent appearing
just in time to hear thee speak. (HECUBA comes out of the tent.)
MAID Alas for thee! most hapless queen, ruined beyond all words of
mine to tell; robbed of the light of life; of children, husband, city
reft; hopelessly undone!
HECUBA This is no news but insult; I have heard it all before. But
why art thou come, bringing hither to me the corpse of Polyxena, on
whose burial Achaea's host was reported to be busily engaged?
MAID (aside) She little knows what I have to tell, but mourns Polyxena,
not grasping her new sorrows.
HECUBA Ah! woe is me! thou art not surely bringing hither mad Cassandra,
the prophetic maid?
MAID She lives, of whom thou speakest; but the dead thou dost not
weep is here. (Uncovering the corpse) Mark well the body now laid
bare; is not this a sight to fill thee with wonder, and upset thy
HECUBA Ah me! 'tis the corpse of my son Polydorus I behold, whom
he of Thrace was keeping safe for me in his halls. Alas! this is the
end of all; my life is o'er. (Chanting) O my son, my son, alas for
thee! a frantic strain I now begin; thy fate I learnt, a moment gone,