The Trojan Women
inscribe-upon thy tomb about thee? "Argives once for fear of him slew
this child!" Foul shame should that inscription be to Hellas. O child,
though thou hast no part in all thy father's wealth, yet shalt thou
have his brazen shield wherein to find a tomb. Ah! shield that didst
keep safe the comely arm of Hector, now hast thou lost thy valiant
keeper! How fair upon thy handle lies his imprint, and on the rim,
that circles round the targe, are marks of sweat, that trickled oft
from Hector's brow as he pressed it 'gainst his beard in battle's
stress. Come, bring forth, from such store as we have, adornment for
the hapless dead, for fortune gives no chance now for offerings fair;
yet of such as I possess, shalt thou receive these gifts. Foolish
mortal he! who thinks his luck secure and so rejoices; for fortune,
like a madman in her moods, springs towards this man, then towards
that; and none ever experiences the same unchanging luck.
CHORUS Lo! all is ready and they are bringing at thy bidding from
the spoils of Troy garniture to put upon the dead.
HECUBA Ah! my child, 'tis not as victor o'er thy comrades with horse
or bow-customs Troy esteems, without pursuing them to excess-that
Hector's mother decks thee now with ornaments from the store that
once was thine, though now hath Helen, whom the gods abhor, reft thee
of thine own, yea, and robbed thee of thy life and caused thy house
to perish root and branch.
CHORUS Woe! thrice woe! my heart is touched, and thou the cause,
my mighty prince in days now passed!
HECUBA About thy body now I swathe this Phrygian robe of honour,
which should have clad thee on thy marriage-day, wedded to the noblest
of Asia's daughters. Thou too, dear shield of Hector, victorious parent
of countless triumphs past, accept thy crown, for though thou share
the dead child's tomb, death cannot touch thee; for thou dost merit
honours far beyond those arms' that the crafty knave Odysseus won.
CHORUS Alas! ah me! thee, O child, shall earth take to her breast,
a cause for bitter weeping. Mourn, thou mother!
HECUBA Ah me!
CHORUS Wail for the dead.
HECUBA Woe is me!
CHORUS Alas! for thy unending sorrow!
HECUBA Thy wounds in part will I bind up with bandages, a wretched
leech in name alone, without reality; but for the rest, thy sire must
look to that amongst the dead.
CHORUS Smite, oh smite upon thy head with frequent blow of hand.
Woe is me!
HECUBA My kind, good friends!
CHORUS Speak out, good the word that was on thy lips.
HECUBA It seems the only things that heaven concerns itself about
are my troubles and Troy hateful in their eyes above all other cities.
In vain did we sacrifice to them. Had not the god caught us in his
grip and plunged us headlong 'neath the earth, we should have been
unheard of, nor ever sung in Muses' songs, furnishing to bards of
after-days a subject for their minstrelsy. Go, bury now in his poor
tomb the dead, wreathed all duly as befits a corpse. And yet I deem
it makes but little difference to the dead, although they get a gorgeous
funeral; for this is but a cause of idle pride to the living.
The corpse is carried off to burial
CHORUS Alas! for thy unhappy mother, who o'er thy corpse hath closed
the high hopes of her life! Born of a noble stock, counted most happy
in thy lot, ah! what a tragic death is thine! Ha! who are those I
see on yonder pinnacles darting to and fro with flaming torches in
their hands? Some new calamity will soon on Troy alight. (Enter TALTHYBIUS
above. Soldiers are seen on the battlements of Troy, torch in hand.)
TALTHYBIUS Ye captains, whose allotted task it is to fire this town
of Priam, to you I speak. No longer keep the firebrand idle in your
hands, but launch the flame, that when we have destroyed the city
of Ilium we may set forth in gladness on our homeward voyage from
Troy. And you, ye sons of Troy-to let my orders take at once a double