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Hecuba   


HECUBA Not one of Priam's race who fell 'neath Ilium's walls.
AGAMEMNON Hadst thou any son besides those, lady?
HECUBA Yes, him thou seest here, of whom, methinks, I have small
gain.
AGAMEMNON Where then was he, when his city was being destroyed?
HECUBA His father, fearful of his death, conveyed him out of Troy.
AGAMEMNON Where did he place him apart from all the sons he then
had?
HECUBA Here in this very land, where his corpse was found.
AGAMEMNON With Polymestor, the king of this country?
HECUBA Hither was he sent in charge of gold, most bitter trust!
AGAMEMNON By whom was he slain? what death o'ertook him?
HECUBA By whom but by this man? His Thracian host slew him.
AGAMEMNON The wretch! could he have been so eager for the treasure?
HECUBA Even so; soon as ever he heard of the Phrygians' disaster.
AGAMEMNON Where didst find him? or did some one bring his corpse?
HECUBA This maid, who chanced upon it on the sea-shore.
AGAMEMNON Was she seeking it, or bent on other tasks?
HECUBA She had gone to fetch water from the sea to wash Polyxena.
AGAMEMNON It seems then his host slew him and cast his body out to
sea.
HECUBA Aye, for the waves to toss, after mangling him thus.
AGAMEMNON Woe is thee for thy measureless troubles!
HECUBA I am ruined; no evil now is left, O Agamemnon.
AGAMEMNON Look you! what woman was ever born to such misfortune?
HECUBA There is none, unless thou wouldst name misfortune herself.
But hear my reason for throwing myself at thy knees. If my treatment
seems to thee deserved, I will be content; but, if otherwise, help
me to punish this most godless host, that hath wrought a deed most
damned, fearless alike of gods in heaven or hell; who, though full
oft he had shared my board and been counted first of all my guest-friends
and after meeting with every kindness he could claim and receiving
my consideration, slew my son, and bent though he was on murder, deigned
not to bury him but cast his body forth to sea.
I may be a slave and weak as well, but the gods are strong, and custom
too which prevails o'er them, for by custom it is that we believe
in them and set up bounds of right and wrong for our lives. Now if
this principle, when referred to thee, is to be set at naught, and
they are to escape punishment who murder guests or dare to plunder
the temples of gods, then is all fairness in things human at an end.
Deem this then a disgrace and show regard for me, have pity on me,
and, like an artist standing back from his picture, look on me and
closely scan my piteous state. I was once queen, but now I am thy
slave; a happy mother once, but now childless and old alike, reft
of city, utterly forlorn, the most wretched woman living. Ah! woe
is me! whither wouldst thou withdraw thy steps from me? (as AGAMEMNON
is turning away)
My efforts then will be in vain, ah me! ah me! Why,
oh! why do we mortals toil, as needs we must, and seek out all other
sciences, but persuasion, the only real mistress of mankind, we take
no furthur pains to master completely by offering to pay for the knowledge,
so that any man might upon occasion convince his fellows as he pleased
and gain his point as well? How shall anyone hereafter hope for prosperity?
All those my sons are gone from me, and I, their mother, am led away
into captivity to suffer shame, while yonder I see the smoke leaping
up o'er my city. Further-though perhaps this were idly urged, to plead
thy love, still will I put the case:-at thy side lies my daughter,
Cassandra, the maid inspired, as the Phrygians call her. How then,
king, wilt thou acknowledge those nights of rapture, or what return
shall she my daughter or I her mother have for all the love she has
lavished on her lord? For from darkness and the endearments of the
night mortals reap by far their keenest joys. Hearken then; dost see
this corpse? By doing him a service thou wilt do it to a kinsman of
thy bride's. One thing only have I yet to urge. Oh! would I had a
voice in arms, in hands, in hair and feet, placed there by the arts

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