Thee let me invoke, tearful Philomel, lurking 'neath the leafy covert
in thy place of song, most tuneful of all feathered songsters, oh!
come to aid me in my dirge, trilling through thy tawny throat, as
I sing the piteous woes of Helen, and the tearful fate of Trojan dames
made subject to Achaea's spear, on the day that there came to their
plains one who sped with foreign oar across the dashing billows, bringing
to Priam's race from Lacedaemon thee his hapless bride, Helen,-even
Paris, luckless bridegroom, by the guidance of Aphrodite.
And many an Achaean hath breathed his last amid the spearmen's thrusts
and hurtling hail of stones, and gone to his sad end; for these their
wives cut off their hair in sorrow, and their houses are left without
a bride; and one of the Achaeans, that had but a single ship, did
light a blazing beacon on sea-girt Euboea, and destroy full many of
them, wrecking them on the rocks of Caphareus and the shores that
front the Aegean main, by the treacherous gleam he kindled; when thou,
O Menelaus, from the very day of thy start, didst drift to harbourless
hills, far from thy country before the breath of the storm, bearing
on thy ship a prize that was no prize, but a phantom made by Hera
out of cloud for the Danai to struggle over.
What mortal claims, by searching to the utmost limit, to have found
out the nature of God, or of his opposite, or of that which comes
between, seeing as he doth this world of man tossed to and fro by
waves of contradiction and strange vicissitudes? Thou, Helen, art
the daughter of Zeus; for thy sire was the bird that nestled in Leda's
bosom; and yet for all that art thou become a by-word for wickedness,
through the length and breadth of Hellas, as faithless, treacherous
wife and godless woman; nor can I tell what certainty is, whatever
may pass for it amongst men. That which gods pronounce have I found
O fools! all ye who try to win the meed of valour through war and
serried ranks of chivalry, seeking thus to still this mortal coil,
in senselessness; for if bloody contests are to decide, there will
never be any lack of strife in the towns of men; the maidens of the
land of Priam left their bridal bowers, though arbitration might have
put thy quarrel right, O Helen. And now Troy's sons are in Hades'
keeping in the world below, and fire hath darted on her walls, as
darts the flame of Zeus, and thou art bringing woe on woe to hapless
sufferers in their misery. (THEOCLYMENUS and his hunting attendants
THEOCLYMENUS All hail, my father's tomb! I buried thee, Proteus,
at the place where men go out, that I might often greet thee; and
so, ever as I go out and in, I, thy son Theoclymenus call on thee,
father. Ho! servants, to the palace take my hounds and hunting nets!
How often have I blamed myself for never punishing those miscreants
with death! I have just heard that son of Hellas has come openly to
my land, escaping the notice of the guard, a spy maybe or a would-be
thief of Helen; death shall be his lot if only I can catch him. Ha!
I find all my plans apparently frustrated, the daughter of Tyndareus
has deserted her seat at the tomb and sailed away from my shores.
Ho! there, undo the bars, loose the horses from their stalls, bring
forth my chariot, servants, that the wife, on whom my heart is set,
may not get away from these shores unseen, for want of any trouble
I can take. Yet stay; for I see the object of my pursuit is still
in the palace, and has not fled. (HELEN enters from the palace, clad
in the garb of mourning.) How now, lady, why hast thou arrayed thee
in sable weeds instead of white raiment, and from thy fair head hast
shorn thy tresses with the steel, bedewing thy cheeks the while with
tears but lately shed? Is it in response to visions of the night that
thou art mourning, or, because thou hast heard some warning voice
within, art thus distraught with grief?
HELEN My lord,-for already I have learnt to say that name,--I am