of Daedalus or some god, that all together they might with tears embrace
thy knees, bringing a thousand pleas to bear on thee! O my lord and
master, most glorious light of Hellas, listen, stretch forth a helping
hand to this aged woman, for all she is a thing of naught; still do
so. For 'tis ever a good man's duty to succour the right, and to punish
evil-doers wherever found.
LEADER 'Tis strange how each extreme doth meet in human life! Custom
determines even our natural ties, making the most bitter foes friends,
and regarding as foes those who formerly were friends.
AGAMEMNON Hecuba, I feel compassion for thee and thy son and thy
ill-fortune, as well as for thy suppliant gesture, and I would gladly
see yon impious host pay thee this forfeit for the sake of heaven
and justice, could I but find some way to help thee without appearing
to the army to have plotted the death of the Thracian king for Cassandra's
sake. For on one point I am assailed by perplexity; the army count
this man their friend, the dead their foe; that he is dear to thee
is a matter apart, wherein the army has no share. Reflect on this;
for though thou find'st me ready to share thy toil and quick to lend
my aid, yet the risk of being reproached by the Achaeans makes me
HECUBA Ah! there is not in the world a single man free; for he is
either a slave to money or to fortune, or else the people in their
thousands or the fear of public prosecution prevents him from following
the dictates of his heart.
But since thou art afraid, deferring too much to the rabble, I will
rid thee of that fear. Thus; be privy to my plot if I devise mischief
against this murderer, but refrain from any share in it. And if there
break out among the Achaeans any uproar or attempt at rescue, when
the Thracian is suffering his doom, check it, though without seeming
to do so for my sake. For what remains, take heart; I will arrange
AGAMEMNON How? what wilt thou do? wilt take a sword in thy old hand
and slay the barbarian, or hast thou drugs or what to help thee? Who
will take thy part? whence wilt thou procure friends?
HECUBA Sheltered beneath these tents is a host of Trojan women.
AGAMEMNON Dost mean the captives, the booty of the Hellenes?
HECUBA With their help will I punish my murderous foe.
AGAMEMNON How are women to master men?
HECUBA Numbers are a fearful thing, and joined to craft a desperate
AGAMEMNON True; still I have a mean opinion of the female race.
HECUBA What? did not women slay the sons of Aegyptus, and utterly
clear Lemnos of men? But let it be even thus; put an end to our conference,
and send this woman for me safely through the host. And do thou (To
servant) draw near my Thracian friend and say, "Hecuba, once queen
of Ilium, summons thee, on thy own business no less than hers, thy
children too, for they also must hear what she has to say." (The
servant goes out.) Defer awhile, Agamemnon, the burial of Polyxena
lately slain, that brother and sister may be laid on the same pyre
and buried side by side, a double cause of sorrow to their mother.
AGAMEMNON So shall it be; yet had the host been able to sail, I could
not have granted thee this boon; but, as it is, since the god sends
forth no favouring breeze, we needs must abide, seeing, as we do,
that sailing cannot be. Good luck to thee! for this is the interest
alike of citizen and state, that the wrong-doer be punished and the
good man prosper. (AGAMEMNON departs as HECUBA withdraws into the
CHORUS (singing, strophe 1)
No more, my native Ilium, shalt thou be counted among the towns ne'er
sacked; so thick a cloud of Hellene troops is settling all around,
wasting thee with the spear; shorn art thou of thy coronal of towers,
and fouled most piteously with filthy soot; no more, ah me! shall
tread thy streets.