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Hecuba   


of both. And those that were young mothers were dandling my children
in their arms, with loud admiration, as they passed them on from hand
to hand to remove them far from their father; and then after their
smooth speeches (wouldst thou believe it?) in an instant snatching
daggers from some secret place in their dress they stab my children;
whilst others, like foes, seized me hand and foot; and if I tried
to raise my head, anxious to help my babes, they would clutch me by
the hair; while if I stirred my hands, I could do nothing, poor wretch!
for the numbers of the women. At last they wrought a fearful deed,
worse than what had gone before; for they took their brooches and
stabbed the pupils of my hapless eyes, making them gush with blood,
and then fled through the chambers; up I sprang like a wild beast
in pursuit of the shameless murderesses, searching along each wall
with hunter's care, dealing buffets, spreading ruin. This then is
what I have suffered because of my zeal for thee, O Agamemnon, for
slaying an enemy of thine. But to spare thee a lengthy speech; if
any of the men of former times have spoken ill of women, if any doth
so now, or shall do so hereafter, all this in one short sentence will
say; for neither land or sea produces a race so pestilent, as whosoever
hath had to do with them knows full well.
LEADER Curb thy bold tongue, and do not, because of thy own woes,
thus embrace the whole race of women in one reproach; for though some
of us, and those a numerous class, deserve to be disliked, there are
others amongst us who rank naturally amongst the good.
HECUBA Never ought words to have outweighed deeds in this world,
Agamemnon. No! if a man's deeds had been good, so should his words
have been; if, on the other hand, evil, his words should have betrayed
their unsoundness, instead of its being possible at times to give
a fair complexion to injustice. There are, 'tis true, clever persons,
who have made a science of this, but their cleverness cannot last
for ever; a miserable end awaits them; none ever yet escaped. This
is a warning I give thee at the outset. Now will I turn to this fellow,
and will give thee thy answer, thou who sayest it was to save Achaea
double toil and for Agamemnon's sake that thou didst slay my son.
Nay, villain, in the first place how could the barbarian race ever
be friends with Hellas? Impossible, ever. Again, what interest hadst
thou to further by thy zeal? was it to form some marriage, or on the
score of kin, or, prithee, why? or was it likely that they would sail
hither again and destroy thy country's crops? Whom dost thou expect
to persuade into believing that? Wouldst thou but speak the truth,
it was the gold that slew my son, and thy greedy spirit. Now tell
me this; why, when Troy was victorious, when her ramparts still stood
round her, when Priam was alive, and Hector's warring prospered, why
didst thou not, if thou wert really minded to do Agamemnon a service,
then slay the child, for thou hadst him in thy palace 'neath thy care,
or bring him with thee alive to the Argives? Instead of this, when
our sun was set and the smoke of our city showed it was in the enemy's
power, thou didst murder the guest who had come to thy hearth. Furthermore,
to prove thy villainly, hear this; if thou wert really a friend to
those Achaeans, thou shouldst have brought the gold, which thou sayst
thou art keeping not for thyself but for Agamemnon, and given it to
them, for they were in need and had endured a long exile from their
native land. Whereas not even now canst thou bring thyself to part
with it, but persistest in keeping it in thy palace. Again, hadst
thou kept my son safe and sound, as thy duty was, a fair renown would
have been thy reward, for it is in trouble's hour that the good most
clearly show their friendship; though prosperity of itself in every
case finds friends. Wert thou in need of money and he prosperous,
that son of mine would have been as a mighty treasure for thee to
draw upon; but now thou hast him no longer to be thy friend, and the
benefit of the gold is gone from thee, thy children too are dead,
and thyself art in this sorry plight.
To thee, Agamemnon, I say, if thou help this man, thou wilt show thy
worthlessness; for thou wilt be serving one devoid of honour or piety,

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