'tis folly, the very notion that birds can help mankind. Calchas never
by word or sign showed the host the truth, when he saw his friends
dying on behalf of a phantom, nor yet did Helenus; but the city was
stormed in vain. Perhaps thou wilt say, 'twas not heaven's will that
they should do so. Then why do we employ these prophets? Better were
it to sacrifice to the gods, and crave a blessing, leaving prophecy
alone; for this was but devised as a bait to catch livelihood, and
no man grows rich by divination if he is idle. No! sound judgment
and discernment are the best of seers. (The MESSENGER departs.)
LEADER My views about seers agree exactly with this old man's: whoso
hath the gods upon his side will have the best seer in his house.
HELEN Good! so far all is well. But how camest thou, poor husband,
safe from Troy? though 'tis no gain to know, yet friends feel a longing
to learn all that their friends have suffered.
MENELAUS That one short sentence of thine contains a host of questions.
Why should I tell thee of our losses in the Aegean, or of the beacon
Nauplius lighted on Euboea? or of my visits to Crete and the cities
of Libya, or of the peaks of Perseus? For I should never satisfy thee
with the tale, and by telling thee should add to my own pain, though
I suffered enough at the time; and so would my grief be doubled.
HELEN Thy answer shows more wisdom than my question. Omit the rest,
and tell me only this; how long wert thou a weary wanderer o'er the
wide sea's face?
MENELAUS Seven long years did I see come and go, besides those ten
HELEN Alas, poor sufferer! 'twas a weary while. And thou hast thence
escaped only to bleed here.
MENELAUS How so? what wilt thou tell? Ah wife, thou hast ruined me.
HELEN Escape and fly with all thy speed from this land. Thou wilt
be slain by him whose house this is.
MENELAUS What have I done to merit such a fate?
HELEN Thou hast arrived unexpectedly to thwart my marriage.
MENELAUS What! is some man bent on wedding my wife?
HELEN Aye, and on heaping those insults on me, which I have hitherto
MENELAUS Is he some private prince, or a ruler of this land?
HELEN The son of Proteus, king of the country.
MENELAUS This was that dark saying I heard the servant tell.
HELEN At which of the barbarian's gates wert thou standing?
MENELAUS Here, whence like a beggar I was like to be driven.
HELEN Surely thou wert not begging food? Ah, woe is me!
MENELAUS That was what I was doing, though I had not the name of
HELEN Of course thou knowest, then, all about my marriage.
MENELAUS I do. But whether thou hast escaped thy lover, I know not.
HELEN Be well assured I have kept my body chaste.
MENELAUS How wilt thou convince me of this? If true, thy words are
HELEN Dost see the wretched station I have kept at this tomb?
MENELAUS I see, alas! a bed of straw; but what hast thou to do with
HELEN There I crave escape from this marriage as a suppliant.
MENELAUS For want of an altar, or because it is the barbarians' way?
HELEN This was as good a protection to me as the gods' temples.
MENELAUS May I not then even bear thee homeward on my ship?
HELEN The sword far sooner than thy wife's embrace is waiting thee.
MENELAUS So should I be of all men the most miserable.
HELEN Put shame aside, and fly from this land.
MENELAUS Leaving thee behind? 'twas for thy sake I sacked Troy.
HELEN Better so, than that our union should cause thy death.
MENELAUS Oh! these are coward words, unworthy of those days at Troy!
HELEN Thou canst not slay the prince, thy possible intent.
MENELAUS Hath he, then, a body which steel cannot wound?
HELEN Thou shalt hear. But to attempt impossibilities is no mark