thyself a hurt deep enough to overthrow this family. Ah! ah! the daring
of it done to death by violence and unnatural means, the desperate
effort of thy own poor hand! Who cast the shadow o'er thy life, poor
THESEUS (chanting) Ah me, my cruel lot! sorrow hath done her worst
on me. O fortune, how heavily hast thou set thy foot on me and on
my house, by fiendish hands inflicting an unexpected stain? Nay, 'tis
complete effacement of my life, making it not to be lived; for I see,
alas! so wide an ocean of grief that I can never swim to shore again,
nor breast the tide of this calamity. How shall I speak of thee, my
poor wife, what tale of direst suffering tell? Thou art vanished like
a bird from the covert of my hand, taking one headlong leap from me
to Hades' halls. Alas, and woe! this is a bitter, bitter sight! This
must be a judgment sent by God for the sins of an ancestor, which
from some far source I am bringing on myself.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS My prince, 'tis not to thee alone such sorrows
come; thou hast lost a noble wife, but so have many others.
THESEUS (chanting) Fain would I go hide me 'neath earth's blackest
depth, to dwell in darkness with the dead in misery, now that I am
reft of thy dear presence! for thou hast slain me than thyself e'en
more. Who can tell me what caused the fatal stroke that reached thy
heart, dear wife? Will no one tell me what befell? doth my palace
all in vain give shelter to a herd of menials? Woe, woe for thee,
my wife! sorrows past speech, past bearing, I behold within my house;
myself ruined man, my home a solitude, my children orphans!
CHORUS (chanting) Gone and left us hast thou, fondest wife and noblest
of all women 'neath the sun's bright eye or night's star-lit radiance.
Poor house, what sorrows are thy portion now! My eyes are wet with
streams of tears to see thy fate; but the ill that is to follow has
long with terror filled me.
THESEUS Ha! what means this letter? clasped in her dear hand it hath
some strange tale to tell. Hath she, poor lady, as a last request,
written her bidding as to my marriage and her children? Take heart,
poor ghost; no wife henceforth shall wed thy Theseus or invade his
house. Ah! how yon en ring affects my sight! Come, I will unfold the
sealed packet and read her letter's message to me.
CHORUS (chanting) Woe unto us! Here is yet another evil in the train
by heaven sent. Looking to what has happened, I should count my lot
in life no longer worth one's while to gain. My master's house, alas!
is ruined, brought to naught, I say. Spare it, O Heaven, if it may
be. Hearken to my prayer, for I see, as with prophetic eye, an omen
THESEUS O horror! woe on woe! and still they come, too deep for words,
to heavy to bear. Ah me!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS What is it? speak, if I may share in it.
THESEUS (chanting) This letter loudly tells a hideous tale! where
can I escape my load of woe? For I am ruined and undone, so awful
are the words I find here written clear as if she cried them to me;
woe is me!
LEADER Alas! thy words declare themselves the harbingers of woe.
THESEUS I can no longer keep the cursed tale within the portal of
my lips, cruel though its utterance be. Ah me! Hippolytus hath dared
by brutal force to violate my honour, recking naught of Zeus, whose
awful eye is over all. O father Poseidon, once didst thou promise
to fulfil three prayers of mine; answer one of these and slay my son,
let him not escape this single day, if the prayers thou gavest me
were indeed with issue fraught.
LEADER O king, I do conjure thee, call back that prayer; hereafter
thou wilt know thy error. Hear, I pray.
THESEUS It cannot be! Moreover I will banish him from this land,
and by one of two fates shall he be struck down; either Poseidon,
out of respect to my prayer, will cast his dead body into the house
of Hades; or exiled from this land, a wanderer to some foreign shore,
shall he eke out a life of misery.