The Trojan Women
against Zeus; for white-winged dawn, whose light to man is dear, turned
a baleful eye upon our land and watched the ruin of our citadel, though
she had within her bridal bower a husband from this land, whom on
a day a car of gold and spangled stars caught up and carried thither,
great source of hope to his native country; but all the love the gods
once had for Troy is passed away. (Enter MENELAUS.)
MENELAUS Hail! thou radiant orb by whose fair light I now shall capture
her that was my wife, e'en Helen; for I am that Menelaus, who hath
toiled so hard, I and Achaea's host. To Troy I came, not so much as
men suppose to take this woman, but to punish him who from my house
stole my wife, traitor to my hospitality. But he, by heaven's will,
hath paid the penalty, ruined, and his country too, by the spear of
Hellas. And I am come to bear that Spartan woman hence-wife I have
no mind to call her, though she once was mine; for now she is but
one among the other Trojan dames who share these tents as captives.
For they-the very men who toiled to take her with the spear-have granted
her to me to slay, or, if I will, to spare and carry back with me
to Argos. Now my purpose is not to put her to death in Troy, but to
carry her to Hellas in my seaborne ship, and then surrender her to
death, a recompense to all whose friends were slain in Ilium. Ho!
my trusty men, enter the tent, and drag her out to me by her hair
with many a murder foul; and when a favouring breeze shall blow, to
Hellas will we convey her.
HECUBA O thou that dost support the earth and restest thereupon,
whosoe'er thou art, a riddle past our ken! be thou Zeus, or natural
necessity, or man's intellect, to thee I pray; for, though thou treadest
o'er a noiseless path, all thy dealings with mankind are by justice
MENELAUS How now? Strange the prayer thou offerest unto heaven!
HECUBA I thank thee, Menelaus, if thou wilt slay that wife of thine.
Yet shun the sight of her, lest she smite thee with regret. For she
ensnares the eyes of men, o'erthrows their towns, and burns their
houses, so potent are her witcheries! Well I know her; so dost thou
and those her victims too. (Enter HELEN.)
HELEN Menelaus! this prelude well may fill me with alarm; for I am
haled with violence by thy servants' hands and brought before these
tents. Still, though I am well-nigh sure thou hatest me, yet would
I fain inquire what thou and Hellas have decided about my life.
MENELAUS To judge thy case required no great exactness; the host
with one consent-that host whom thou didst wrong-handed thee over
to me to die.
HELEN May I answer this decision, proving that my death, if to die
I am, will be unjust?
MENELAUS I came not to argue, but to slay thee.
HECUBA Hear her, Menelaus; let her not die for want of that, and
let me answer her again, for thou knowest naught of her villainies
in Troy; and the whole case, if thus summed up, will insure her death
against all chance of an escape.
MENELAUS This boon needs leisure; still, if she wishes to speak,
the leave is given. Yet will I grant her this because of thy words,
that she may hear them, and not for her own sake.
HELEN Perhaps thou wilt not answer me, from counting me a foe, whether
my words seem good or ill. Yet will I put my charges and thine over
against each other, and then reply to the accusations I suppose thou
wilt advance against me. First, then, she was the author of these
troubles by giving birth to Paris; next, old Priam ruined Troy and
me, because he did not slay his babe Alexander, baleful semblance
of a fire-brand, long ago. Hear what followed. This Paris was to judge
the claims of three rival goddesses; so Pallas offered him command
of all the Phrygians, and the destruction of Hellas; Hera promised
he should spread his dominion over Asia, and the utmost bounds of
Europe, if he would decide for her; but Cypris spoke in rapture of
my loveliness, and promised him this boon, if she should have the
preference o'er those twain for beauty; now mark the inference I deduce