a man. Straightway must we move to tell him frankly how it is with
thee. Had not thy life to such a crisis come, or wert thou with self-control
I endowed, ne'er would I to gratify thy passions have urged thee to
this course; but now 'tis a struggle fierce to save thy life, and
therefore less to blame.
PHAEDRA Accursed proposal! peace, woman! never utter those shameful
NURSE Shameful, maybe, yet for thee better than honour's code. Better
this deed, if it shall save thy life, than that name thy pride will
kill thee to retain.
PHAEDRA I conjure thee, go no further! for thy words are plausible
but infamous; for though as yet love has not undermined my soul, yet,
if in specious words thou dress thy foul suggestion, I shall be beguiled
into the snare from which I am now escaping.
NURSE If thou art of this mind, 'twere well thou ne'er hadst sinned;
but as it is, hear me; for that is the next best course; I in my house
have charms to soothe thy love,-'twas but now I thought of them;-these
shall cure thee of thy sickness on no disgraceful terms, thy mind
unhurt, if thou wilt be but brave. But from him thou lovest we must
get some token, word or fragment of his robe, and thereby unite in
one love's twofold stream.
PHAEDRA Is thy drug a salve or potion?
NURSE I cannot tell; be content, my child, to profit by it and ask
PHAEDRA I fear me thou wilt prove too wise for me.
NURSE If thou fear this, confess thyself afraid of all; but why thy
PHAEDRA Lest thou shouldst breathe a word of this to Theseus' son.
NURSE Peace, my child! I will do all things well; only be thou, queen
Cypris, ocean's child, my partner in the work! And for the rest of
my purpose, it will be enough for me to tell it to our friends within
the house. (The NURSE goes into the palace.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe 1)
O Love, Love, that from the eyes diffusest soft desire, bringing
on the souls of those, whom thou dost camp against, sweet grace, O
never in evil mood appear to me, nor out of time and tune approach!
Nor fire nor meteor hurls a mightier bolt than Aphrodite's shaft shot
by the hands of Love, the child of Zeus.
Idly, idly by the streams of Alpheus and in the Pythian shrines of
Phoebus, Hellas heaps the slaughtered steers; while Love we worship
not, Love, the king of men, who holds the key to Aphrodite's sweetest
bower,-worship not him who, when he comes, lays waste and marks his
path to mortal hearts by wide-spread woe.
There was that maiden in Oechalia, a girl unwed, that knew no wooer
yet nor married joys; her did the Queen of Love snatch from her home
across the sea and gave unto Alcmena's son, mid blood and smoke and
murderous marriage-hymns, to be to him a frantic fiend of hell; woe!
woe for his wooing!
Ah! holy walls of Thebes, ah! fount of Dirce, ye could testify what
course the love-queen follows. For with the blazing levin-bolt did
she cut short the fatal marriage of Semele, mother of Zeus-born Bacchus.
All things she doth inspire, dread goddess, winging her flight hither
and thither like a bee.
PHAEDRA Peace, oh women, peace! I am undone.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS What, Phaedra, is this dread event within thy
PHAEDRA Hush! let me hear what those within are saying.
LEADER I am silent; this is surely the prelude to evil.
PHAEDRA (chanting) Great gods! how awful are my sufferings!
CHORUS (chanting) What a cry was there! what loud alarm! say what
sudden terror, lady, doth thy soul dismay.