my honoured mistress, to a barbarian's bed; and 'mid the ocean waves
thy lord hath lost his life, and never, never more shalt thou fill
with joy thy father's halls or Athena's temple of the "Brazen House."
HELEN Ah! who was that Phrygian, who was he, that felled that pine
with sorrow fraught for Ilium, and for those that came from Hellas?
Hence it was that Priam's son his cursed barque did build, and sped
by barbarian oars sailed unto my home, in quest of beauty, woman's
curse, to win me for his bride; and with him sailed the treacherous
queen of Love, on slaughter bent, with death alike for Priam's sons,
and Danai too. Ah me! for my hard lot! Next, Hera, stately bride of
Zeus, seated on her golden throne, sent the son of Maia, swift of
foot, who caught me up as I was gathering fresh rose-buds in the folds
of my robe, that I might go to the "Brazen House," and bore me through
the air to this loveless land, making me an object of unhappy strife
'twixt Hellas and the race of Priam. And my name is but a sound without
reality beside the streams of Simois.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Well I know thou hast a bitter lot to bear;
still 'tis best to bear as lightly as we may the ills that life is
HELEN Good friends, to what a fate am I united? Did not my mother
bear me to be a monster to the world? For no woman, Hellene or barbarian,
gives birth to babes in eggs inclosed, as they say Leda bare me to
Zeus. My life and all I do is one miracle, partly owing to Hera, and
partly is my beauty to blame. Would God I could rub my beauty out
like a picture, and assume hereafter in its stead a form less comely,
and oh! that Hellas had forgotten the evil fate that now I bear, and
were now remembering my career of honour as surely as they do my deeds
of shame. Now, if a man doth turn his eyes to a single phase of fortune,
and meets ill-usage at heaven's hands, 'tis hard no doubt; but still
it can be borne; but I in countless troubles am involved. First, although
I never sinned, my good name is gone. And this is a grief beyond the
reality, if a man incurs blame for sins that are not his. Next, have
the gods removed me from my native land, to dwell with men of barbarous
ways, and reft of every friend, I arn become a slave though free by
birth; for amongst barbarians all are slaves but one. And the last
anchor that held my fortunes, the hope that my husband would return
one day, and rid me of my woes, is now no more, lost since the day
he died. My mother too is dead, and I am called her murderess, unjustly
it is true, but still that injustice is mine to bear; and she that
was the glory of my house, my darling child, is growing old and grey,
unwedded still; and those twin brethren, called the sons of Zeus,
are now no more. But 'tis fortune, not my own doing, that hath crushed
me with sorrow and slain me. And this is the last evil of all; if
ever I come to my native land. they will shut me up in prison, thinking
me that Helen of Ilium, in quest of whom Menelaus came thither. Were
my husband still alive, we might have recognized each other, by having
recourse to tokens which ourselves alone would know. But now this
may not be, nor is there any chance of his escape. Why then do I prolong
my life? What fortune have I still in store? Shall I choose marriage
as an alternative of evils, and dwell with a barbarian lord, seated
at his sumptuous board? No! when a husband she loathes is mated with
a woman, even life is loathly to her. Best for her to die; but how
shall I die a noble death? The dangling noose is an uncomely end;
even slaves consider it disgrace; to stab oneself hath something fair
and. noble in it; 'tis a small thing that moment of ridding the flesh
of life. Yes, it must be; I am plunged so deep in misery; for that
beauty, which to other women is a boon, to me hath been a very bane.
LEADER Helen, never believe that the stranger, whoe'er he was that
came, has spoken naught but truth.
HELEN Yet he said so clearly that my lord was dead.
LEADER There is much that falsehood seems to make quite clear.
HELEN The word of truth hath a very different sound to falsehood.
LEADER Thou art inclined to misfortune, rather than to luck.
HELEN Fear girds me with terrors as with a garment, and takes me