The Trojan Women
Before Agamemnon's Tent in the Camp near Troy. HECUBA asleep. Enter
POSEIDON Lo! From the depths of salt Aegean floods I, Poseidon,
come, where choirs of Nereids trip in the mazes of the graceful dance;
for since the day that Phoebus and myself with measurement exact set
towers of stone about this land of Troy and ringed it round, never
from my heart hath passed away a kindly feeling for my Phrygian town,
which now is smouldering and o'erthrown, a prey to Argive prowess.
For, from his home beneath Parnassus, Phocian Epeus, aided by the
craft of Pallas, framed a horse to bear within its womb an armed host,
and sent it within the battlements, fraught with death; whence in
days to come men shall tell of "the wooden horse," with its hidden
load of warriors. Groves forsaken stand and temples of the gods run
down with blood, and at the altar's very base, before the god who
watched his home, lies Priam dead. While to Achaean ships great store
of gold and Phrygian spoils are being conveyed, and they who came
against this town, those sons Of Hellas, only wait a favouring breeze
to follow in their wake, that after ten long years they may with joy
behold their wives and children. Vanquished by Hera, Argive goddess,
and by Athena, who helped to ruin Phrygia, I am leaving Ilium, that
famous town, and the altars that I love; for when drear desolation
seizes on a town, the worship of the gods decays and tends to lose
respect. Scamander's banks re-echo long and loud the screams of captive
maids, as they by lot receive their masters. Arcadia taketh some,
and some the folk of Thessaly; others are assigned to Theseus' sons,
the Athenian chiefs. And such of the Trojan dames as are not portioned
out, are in these tents, set apart for the leaders of the host; and
with them Spartan Helen, daughter of Tyndarus, justly counted among
the captives. And wouldst thou see that queen of misery, Hecuba, thou
canst; for there she lies before the gates, weeping many a bitter
tear for many a tribulation; for at Achilles' tomb-though she knows
not this-her daughter Polyxena has died most piteously; likewise is
Priam dead, and her children too; Cassandra, whom the king Apollo
left to be a virgin, frenzied maid, hath Agamemnon, in contempt of
the god's ordinance and of piety, forced to a dishonoured wedlock.
Farewell, O city prosperous once! farewell, ye ramparts of hewn stone!
had not Pallas, daughter of Zeus, decreed thy ruin, thou wert standing
firmly still. (Enter ATHENA.)
ATHENA May I address the mighty god whom Heaven reveres and who to
my own sire is very nigh in blood, laying aside our former enmity?
POSEIDON Thou mayst; for o'er the soul the ties of kin exert no feeble
spell, great queen Athena.
ATHENA For thy forgiving mood my thanks! Somewhat have I to impart
affecting both thyself and me, O king.
POSEIDON Bringst thou fresh tidings from some god, from Zeus, or
from some lesser power?
ATHENA From none of these; but on behalf of Troy, whose soil we tread,
am I come to seek thy mighty aid, to make it one with mine.
POSEIDON What! hast thou laid thy former hate aside to take compassion
on the town now that it is burnt to ashes?
ATHENA First go back to the former point; wilt thou make common cause
with me in the scheme I purpose?
POSEIDON Ay surely; but I would fain learn thy wishes, whether thou
art come to help Achaens or Phrygians.
ATHENA I wish to give my former foes, the Trojans, joy, and on the
Achaean host impose a return that they will rue.
POSEIDON Why leap'st thou thus from mood to mood? Thy love and hate
both go too far, on whomsoever centred.
ATHENA Dost not know the insult done to me and to the shrine I love?
POSEIDON Surely, in the hour that Aias tore Cassandra thence.
ATHENA Yea, and the Achaeans did naught, said naught to him.
POSEIDON And yet 'twas by thy mighty aid they sacked Ilium.
ATHENA For which cause I would join with thee to work their bane.