king beneath this tomb of stone reposing, pay back thy trust! I ask
of thee my wife whom Zeus sent hither unto thee to keep for me. I
know thou canst never restore her to me thyself, for thou art dead;
but this thy daughter will never allow her father once so glorious,
whom I invoke in his grave, to bear a tarnished name; for the decision
rests with her now. Thee, too, great god of death, I call to my assistance,
who hast received full many a corpse, slain by me for Helen, and art
keeping thy wage; either restore those dead now to life again, or
compel the daughter to show herself a worthy equal of her virtuous
sire, and give me back my wife. But if ye will rob me of her, I will
tell you that which she omitted in her speech. Know then, maiden,
I by an oath am bound, first, to meet thy brother sword to sword,
when he or I must die-there is no alternative. But if he refuse to
meet me fairly front to front, and seek by famine to chase away us
suppliants twain at this tomb, I am resolved to slay Helen, and then
to plunge this two-edged sword through my own heart, upon the top
of the sepulchre, that our streaming blood may trickle down the tomb;
and our two corpses will be lying side by side upon this polished
slab, a source of deathless grief to thee, and to thy sire reproach.
Never shall thy brother wed Helen, nor shall any other; I will bear
her hence myself, if not to my house, at any rate to death. And why
this stern resolve? Were I to resort to women's ways and weep, I should
be a pitiful creature, not a man of action. Slay me, if it seems thee
good; I will not die ingloriously; but better yield to what I say,
that thou mayst act with justice, and I regain my wife.
LEADER On thee, maiden, it rests to judge between these arguments.
Decide in such a way as to please one and all.
THEONOE My nature and my inclination lean towards piety; myself,
too, I respect, and I will never sully my father's fair name, or gratify
my brother at the cost of bringing myself into open dishonour. For
justice hath her temple firmly founded in my nature, and since I have
this heritage from Nereus I will strive to save Menelaus; wherefore,
seeing it is Hera's will to stand thy friend, I will give my vote
with her. May Cypris be favourable to me! though in me she hath no
part, and I will try to remain a maid alway. As for thy reproaches
against my father at this tomb; lo! I have the same words to utter;
I should be wronging thee, did I not restore thy wife; for my sire,
were he living, would have given her back into thy keeping, and thee
to her. Yea, for there is recompense for these things as well amongst
the dead as amongst all those who breathe the breath of life. The
soul indeed of the dead lives no more, yet hath it a consciousness
that lasts for ever, eternal as the ether into which it takes the
final plunge. Briefly then to end the matter, I will observe strict
silence on all that ye prayed I should, and never with my counsel
will I aid my brother's wanton will. For I am doing him good service,
though he little thinks it, if turn him from his godless life to holiness.
Wherefore devise yourselves some way of escape; my lips are scaled;
I will not cross your path. First with the goddesses begin, and of
the one,-and that one Cypris,-Crave permission to return unto thy
country; and of Hera, that her goodwill may abide in the same quarter,
even her scheme to save thee and thy husband. And thou, my own dead
sire, shalt never, in so far as rests with me, lose thy holy name
to rank with evil-doers. (THEONOE and her attendants enter the palace.)
LEADER No man ever prospered by unjust practices, but in a righteous
cause there is hope of safety.
HELEN Menelaus, on the maiden's side are we quite safe. Thou must
from that point start, and by contributing thy advice, devise with
me a scheme to save ourselves.
MENELAUS Hearken then; thou hast been a long while in the palace,
and art intimate with the king's attendants.
HELEN What dost thou mean thereby? for thou art suggesting hopes,
as if resolved on some plan for our mutual help.
MENELAUS Couldst thou persuade one of those who have charge of cars
and steeds to furnish us with a chariot?