HELEN I might; but what escape is there for us who know nothing of
the country and the barbarian's kingdom?
MENELAUS True; 'tis impossible. Well, supposing I conceal myself
in the palace and slay the king with this two-edged sword?
HELEN His sister would never refrain from telling her brother that
thou wert meditating his death.
MENELAUS We have not so much as a ship to make our escape in; for
the sea. hath swallowed the one we had.
HELEN Hear me, if haply even a woriian can utter words of wisdom.
Dost thou consent to be dead in word, though not really so?
MENELAUS 'Tis a bad omen; still, if by saying so I shall gain aught,
I am ready to be dead in word, though not in deed.
HELEN I, too, will mourn thee with hair cut short and dirges, as
is women's way, before this impious wretch.
MENELAUS What saving remedy doth this afford us twain? There is deception
in thy scheme.
HELEN I will beg the king of this country leave to bury thee in a
cenotaph, as if thou hadst really died at sea.
MENELAUS Suppose he grant it; how, e'en then, are we to escape without
a ship, after having committed me to my empty tomb?
HELEN I will bid him give me a vessel, from which to let drop into
the sea's embrace thy funeral offerings.
MENELAUS A clever plan in truth, save in one particular; suppose
he bid thee rear the tomb upon the strand, thy pretext comes to naught.
HELEN But I shall say it is not the custom in Hellas to bury those
who die at sea upon the shore.
MENELAUS Thou removest this obstacle too; I then will sail with thee
and help stow the funeral garniture in the same ship.
HELEN Above all, it is necessary that thou and all thy sailors who
escaped from the wreck should be at hand.
MENELAUS Be sure if once I find a ship at her moorings, they shall
be there man for man, each with his sword.
HELEN Thou must direct everything; only let there be winds to waft
our rails and a good ship to speed before them!
MENELAUS So shall it be; for the deities will cause my troubles to
cease. But from whom wilt thou say thou hadst tidings of my death?
HELEN From thee; declare thyself the one and only survivor, telling
how thou wert sailing with the son of Atreus, and didst see him perish.
MENELAUS Of a truth the garments I have thrown about me, will bear
out my tale that they were rags collected from the wreckage.
HELEN They come in most opportunely, but they were near being lost
just at the wrong time. Maybe that misfortune will turn to fortune.
MENELAUS Am I to enter the palace with thee, or are we to sit here
at the tomb quietly?
HELEN Abide here; for if the king attempts to do thee any mischief,
this tomb and thy good sword will protect thee. But I will go within
and cut off my hair, and exchange my white robe for sable weeds, and
rend my cheek with this hand's blood-thirsty nail. For 'tis a mighty
struggle, and I see two possible issues; either I must die if detected
in my plot, or else to my country shall I come and save thy soul alive.
O Hera! awful queen, who sharest the couch of Zeus, grant some respite
from their toil to two unhappy wretches; to thee I pray, tossing my
arms upward to heaven, where thou hast thy home in the star-spangled
firmament. Thou, too, that didst win the prize of beauty at the price
of my marriage; O Cypris! daughter of Dione, destroy me not utterly.
Thou hast injured me enough aforetime, delivering up my name, though
not my person, to live amongst barbarians. Oh! suffer me to die, if
death is thy desire, in my native land. Why art thou so insatiate
in mischief, employing every art of love, of fraud, and guileful schemes,
and spells that bring bloodshed on families? Wert thou but moderate,
only that!-in all else thou art by nature man's most well, come deity;
and I have reason so to say. (HELEN enters the palace and MENELAUS
withdraws into the background.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe 1)