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The Trojan Women   


Charybdis lurks in a narrow channel 'twixt the rocks; past Cyclops
the savage shepherd, and Ligurian Circe that turneth men to swine;
shipwrecked oft upon the salt sea-wave; fain to eat the lotus, and
the sacred cattle of the sun, whose flesh shall utter in the days
to come a human voice, fraught with misery to Odysseus. But to briefly
end this history, he shall descend alive to Hades, and, though he
'scape the waters' flood, yet shall he find a thousand troubles in
his home when he arrives. Enough why do I recount the troubles of
Odysseus? Lead on, that I forthwith may wed my husband for his home
in Hades' halls. Base thou art, and basely shalt thou be buried, in
the dead of night when day is done, thou captain of that host of Danai,
who thinkest so proudly of thy fortune! Yea, and my corpse cast forth
in nakedness shall the rocky chasm with its flood of wintry waters
give to wild beasts to make their meal upon, hard by my husband's
tomb, me the handmaid of Apollo. Farewell, ye garlands of that god
most dear to me! farewell, ye mystic symbols! I here resign your feasts,
my joy in days gone by. Go, I tear ye from my body, that, while yet
mine honour is intact, I may give them to the rushing winds to waft
to thee, my prince of prophecy I Where is yon general's ship? Whither
must I go to take my place thereon? Lose no further time in watching
for a favouring breeze to fill thy sails, doomed as thou art to carry
from this land one of the three avenging spirits. Fare thee well,
mother mine! dry thy tears, O country dear! yet a little while, my
brothers sleeping in the tomb and my own father true, and ye shall
welcome me; yet shall victory crown my advent 'mongst the dead, when
I have overthrown the home of our destroyers, the house of the sons
of Atreus. (Exeunt TALTHYBIUS and CASSANDRA)
CHORUS Ye guardians of the grey-haired Hecuba, see how your mistress
is sinking speechless to the ground! Take hold of her! will ye let
her fall, ye worthless slaves? lift up again, from where it lies,
her silvered head.
HECUBA Leave me lying where I fell, my maidens unwelcome service
grows not welcome ever-my sufferings now, my troubles past, afflictions
yet to come, all claim this lowly posture. Gods of heaven! small help
I find in calling such allies, yet is there something in the form
of invoking heaven, whenso we fall on evil days. First will I descant
upon my former blessings; so shall I inspire the greater pity for
my present woes. Born to royal estate and wedded to a royal lord,
I was the mother of a race of gallant sons; no mere ciphers they,
but Phrygia's chiefest pride, children such as no Trojan or Hellenic
or barbarian mother ever had to boast. All these have I seen slain
by the spear of Hellas, and at their tombs have I shorn off my hair;
with these my eyes I saw their sire, my Priam, butchered on his own
hearth, and my city captured, nor did others bring this bitter news
to me. The maidens I brought up to see chosen for some marriage high,
for strangers have I reared them, and seen them snatched away. Nevermore
can I hope to be seen by them, nor shall my eyes behold them ever
in the days to come. And last, to crown my misery, shall I be brought
to Hellas, a slave in my old age. And there the tasks that least befit
the evening of my life will they impose on me, to watch their gates
and keep the keys, me Hector's mother, or bake their bread, and on
the ground instead of my royal bed lay down my shrunken limbs, with
tattered rags about my wasted frame. a shameful garb for those who
once were prosperous. Ah, woe is me! and this is what I bear and am
to bear for one weak woman's wooing! O my daughter, O Cassandra! whom
gods have summoned to their frenzied train, how cruel the lot that
ends thy virgin days! And thou, Polyxena! my child of sorrow, where,
oh! where art thou? None of all the many sons and daughters have I
born comes to aid a wretched mother. Why then raise me up? What hope
is left us? Guide me, who erst trod so daintily the streets of Troy,
but now am but a slave, to a bed upon the ground, nigh some rocky
ridge, that thence I may cast me down and perish, after I have wasted
my body with weeping. Of all the prosperous crowd, count none a happy
man before he die.

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