in her train.
LEADER What friends hast thou within the palace?
HELEN All are my friends here save him who seeks to wed-me.
LEADER Thy action then is clear; leave thy seat at the tomb.
HELEN To what words or advice art thou leading up?
LEADER Go in and question the daughter of the ocean Nereid, who knoweth
all things, even Theonoe, whether thy husband is still alive, or whether
he hath left the light of day; and when thou knowest for certain,
be glad or sorrowful, as fits thy fortune. But before thou hast right
knowledge, what shall sorrow avail thee? Nay, hearken to me; leave
this tomb and seek the maiden's company, that she may tell thee the
truth, for from her shalt thou learn all. If thou abide here in this
seat, what prospect hast thou? And I will myself go in with thee,
and with thee inquire of the maiden's oracles; for 'tis a woman's
bounden duty to share a sister's trouble. (The following lines are
chanted responsively by HELEN and the CHORUS.)
HELEN Kind friends, I welcome your advice. Come in, come in, that
ye may learn the result of my struggle within the palace.
CHORUS Thy invitation comes to very willing ears.
HELEN Woe for this heavy day! Ah me! what mournful tidings shall
CHORUS Dear mistress mine, be not a prophetess of sorrow, forestalling
HELEN What is the fate of my poor husband? Doth he still behold the
light turning towards the sun-god's chariot and the stars in their
courses? Or among the dead, beneath the earth, is he to death consigned?
CHORUS Of the future take a brighter view, whatever shall betide.
HELEN On thee I call, and thee adjure, Eurotas green with river-reeds,
to tell me if this rumour of my husband's death be true.
CHORUS What boots this meaningless appeal?
HELEN About my neck will I fasten the deadly noose from above, or
drive the murderous knife with self-aimed thrust deep into my throat
to sever it, striving to cut my flesh, a sacrifice to those goddesses
three and to that son of Priam, who in days gone by would wake the
music of his pipe around his steading.
CHORUS Oh may sorrow be averted otherwhither, and thou be blest!
HELEN Woe is thee, unhappy Troy! Thou through deeds not done by the
art ruined, and hast suffered direst woe; for the gift that Cypris
gave to me, hath caused a sea of blood to flow, and many an eye to
weep, with grief on grief and tear on tear. All this hath Ilium suffered
and mothers have lost their children; and virgin sisters of the slain
have cut off their tresses by the swollen tide of Phrygian Scamander.
And the land of Hellas hath lifted her voice of woe and broken forth
in wailing, smiting on her head, and making tender cheeks to stream
with gore beneath the rending nail. Ah blest maid Callisto, who long
ago in Arcady didst find favour with Zeus, in the semblance of beast
four-footed, how much happier was thy lot than my mother's, for thou
hast changed the burden of thy grief and now with savage eye art weeping
o'er thy shaggy monster-shape; aye, and hers was a happier lot, whom
on a day Artemis drove from her choir, changed to a hind with horns
of gold, the fair Titanian maid, daughter of Merops, because of her
beauty; but my fair form hath proved the curse of Dardan Troy and
doomed Achaea's sons. (HELEN and the CHORUS go into the palace. After
the doors have closed upon them, MENELAUS enters. He is alone and
clad in rags.)
MENELAUS Ah! Pelops, easy victor long ago o'er thy rival Oenomaus
in the chariot-race on Pisa's plain, would thou hadst ended thy career
amongst the gods that day thou wert beguiled into making a banquet
for them, or ever thou hadst begotten my father Atreus, to whom were
born by Aerope his wife, Agamemnon and myself Menelaus, an illustrious
pair; and herein I make no idle boast, for 'twas a mighty host, I
trow, that I their leader carried o'er the sea to Troy, using no violence
to make them follow me, but leading all the chivalry of Hellas by
voluntary consent. And some of these must we number 'mid the slain,