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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘The Trojan Women’
By Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.)
 
Translation of Sir Gilbert Murray

ANDROMACHE—O Mother, having ears, hear thou this word
Fear-conquering, till thy heart as mine be stirred
With joy. To die is only not to be;
And better to be dead than grievously
Living. They have no pain, they ponder not        5
Their own wrong. But the living that is brought
From joy to heaviness, his soul doth roam,
As in a desert, lost, from its old home.
Thy daughter lieth now as one unborn,
Dead, and naught knowing of the lust and scorn        10
That slew her. And I … long since I drew my bow
Straight at the heart of good fame; and I know
My shaft hit; and for that am I the more
Fallen from peace. All that men praise us for,
I loved for Hector’s sake, and sought to win.        15
I knew that alway, be there hurt therein
Or utter innocence, to roam abroad
Hath ill report for women; so I trod
Down the desire thereof, and walked my way
In mine own garden. And light words and gay        20
Parley of women never passed my door.
The thoughts of mine own heart … I craved no more …
Spoke with me, and I was happy. Constantly
I brought fair silence and a tranquil eye
For Hector’s greeting, and watched well the way        25
Of living, where to guide and where obey.
  And, lo! some rumor of this peace, being gone
Forth to the Greek, hath cursed me. Achilles’ son,
So soon as I was taken, for his thrall
Chose me. I shall do service in the hall        30
Of them that slew … How? Shall I thrust aside
Hector’s belovèd face, and open wide
My heart to this new lord? Oh, I should stand
A traitor to the dead! And if my hand
And flesh shrink from him … lo, wrath and despite        35
O’er all the house, and I a slave!
                        One night,
One night … aye, men have said it … maketh tame
A woman in a man’s arms…. O shame, shame!
What woman’s lips can so forswear her dead,
And give strange kisses in another’s bed?        40
Why, not a dumb beast, not a colt will run
In the yoke untroubled, when her mate is gone—
A thing not in God’s image, dull, unmoved
Of reason. O my Hector! best beloved,
That, being mine, wast all in all to me,        45
My prince, my wise one, O my majesty
Of valiance! No man’s touch had ever come
Near me, when thou from out my father’s home
Didst lead me and make me thine…. And thou art dead,
And I war-flung to slavery and the bread        50
Of shame in Hellas, over bitter seas!
  What knoweth she of evils like to these,
That dead Polyxena, thou weepest for?
There liveth not in my life any more
The hope that others have. Nor will I tell        55
The lie to mine own heart, that aught is well
Or shall be well…. Yet, O, to dream were sweet!
  Leader—Thy feet have trod the pathway of my feet,
And thy clear sorrow teacheth me mine own.
  Hecuba—Lo, yonder ships: I ne’er set foot on one,        60
But tales and pictures tell, when over them
Breaketh a storm not all too strong to stem,
Each man strives hard, the tiller gripped, the mast
Manned, the hull baled, to face it: till at last
Too strong breaks the o’erwhelming sea: lo, then        65
They cease, and yield them up as broken men
To fate and the wild waters. Even so
I in my many sorrows bear me low,
Nor curse, nor strive that other things may be.
The great wave rolled from God hath conquered me.        70
  But, O, let Hector and the fates that fell
On Hector, sleep. Weep for him ne’er so well,
Thy weeping shall not wake him. Honor thou
The new lord that is set above thee now,
And make of thine own gentle piety        75
A prize to lure his heart. So shalt thou be
A strength to them that love us, and—God knows,
It may be—rear this babe among his foes,
My Hector’s child, to manhood and great aid
For Ilion. So her stones may yet be laid        80
One on another, if God will, and wrought
Again to a city! Ah, how thought to thought
Still beckons!… But what minion of the Greek
Is this that cometh, with new words to speak?
 
[Enter Talthybius with a band of Soldiers. He comes forward slowly and with evident disquiet.]

  Talthybius—Spouse of the noblest heart that beat in Troy,
        85
Andromache, hate me not! ’Tis not in joy
I tell thee. But the people and the Kings
Have with one voice …
  Andromache—                What is it? Evil things
Are on thy lips!
  Talthybius—            ’Tis ordered, this child … Oh,
How can I tell her of it?
  Andromache—                Doth he not go
        90
With me, to the same master?
  Talthybius—                    There is none
In Greece, shall e’er be master of thy son.
  Andromache—How? Will they leave him here to build again
The wreck?…
  Talthybius—            I know not how to tell thee plain!
  Andromache—Thou hast a gentle heart … if it be ill,        95
And not good, news thou hidest!
  Talthybius—                        ’Tis their will
Thy son shall die…. The whole vile thing is said
Now!
  Andromache—    Oh, I could have borne mine enemy’s bed!
  Talthybius—And speaking in the council of the host
Odysseus hath prevailed—
  Andromache—                O lost! lost! lost!…
        100
Forgive me! It is not easy …
  Talthybius—                    … That the son
Of one so perilous be not fostered on
To manhood—
  Andromache—                God; may his own counsel fall
On his own sons!
  Talthybius—            … But from this crested wall
Of Troy be dashed, and die…. Nay, let the thing        105
Be done. Thou shalt be wiser so. Nor cling
So fiercely to him. Suffer as a brave
Woman in bitter pain; nor think to have
Strength which thou hast not. Look about thee here!
Canst thou see help, or refuge anywhere?        110
Thy land is fallen and thy lord, and thou
A prisoner and alone, one woman; how
Canst battle against us? For thine own good
I would not have thee strive, nor make ill blood
And shame about thee…. Ah, nor move thy lips        115
In silence there, to cast upon the ships
Thy curse! One word of evil to the host,
This babe shall have no burial, but be tossed
Naked…. Ah, peace! And bear as best thou may
War’s fortune. So thou shalt not go thy way        120
Leaving this child unburied; nor the Greek
Be stern against thee, if thy heart be meek!
  Andromache  [to the child]—Go, die, my best-beloved, my cherished one,
In fierce men’s hands, leaving me here alone.
Thy father was too valiant; that is why        125
They slay thee! Other children, like to die,
Might have been spared for that. But on thy head
His good is turned to evil.
                        O thou bed
And bridal; O the joining of the hand,
That led me long ago to Hector’s land        130
To bear, O not a lamb for Grecian swords
To slaughter, but a Prince o’er all the hordes
Enthroned of wide-flung Asia…. Weepest thou?
Nay, why, my little one? Thou canst not know.
And Father will not come; he will not come;        135
Not once, the great spear flashing, and the tomb
Riven to set thee free! Not one of all
His brethren, nor the might of Ilion’s wall.
  How shall it be? One horrible spring … deep, deep
Down. And thy neck … Ah God, so cometh sleep!…        140
And none to pity thee!… Thou little thing
That curlest in my arms, what sweet scents cling
All round thy neck! Belovèd; can it be
All nothing, that this bosom cradled thee
And fostered; all the weary nights, wherethrough        145
I watched upon thy sickness, till I grew
Wasted with watching? Kiss me. This one time:
Not ever again. Put up thine arms, and climb
About my neck: now, kiss me, lips to lips….
  O, ye have found an anguish that outstrips        150
All tortures of the East, ye gentle Greeks!
Why will ye slay this innocent, that seeks
No wrong?… O Helen, Helen, thou ill tree
That Tyndareus planted, who shall deem of thee
As child of Zeus? O, thou hast drawn thy breath        155
From many fathers, Madness, Hate, red Death,
And every rotting poison of the sky!
Zeus knows thee not, thou vampire, draining dry
Greece and the world! God hate thee and destroy,
That with those beautiful eyes hast blasted Troy,        160
And made the far-famed plains a waste withal.
  Quick! take him: drag him: cast him from the wall,
If cast ye will! Tear him, ye beasts, be swift!
God hath undone me, and I cannot lift
One hand, one hand, to save my child from death …        165
O, hide my head for shame: fling me beneath
Your galleys’ benches!…
[She swoons: then half-rising.]
                    Quick: I must begone
To the bridal…. I have lost my child, my own!
[The Soldiers close round her.]
  Leader—O Troy ill-starred; for one strange woman, one
Abhorrèd kiss, how are thine hosts undone!        170
  Talthybius  [bending over Andromache and gradually taking the Child from her]—Come, Child: let be that clasp of love
  Outwearied! Walk thy ways with me,
Up to the crested tower, above
  Thy father’s wall … Where they decree
Thy soul shall perish.—Hold him: hold!—        175
  Would God some other man might ply
These charges, one of duller mold,
  And nearer to the iron than I!
  Hecuba—O Child, they rob us of our own,
  Child of my Mighty One outworn:        180
Ours, ours thou art!—Can aught be done
  Of deeds, can aught of pain be borne,
To aid thee?—Lo, this beaten head,
This bleeding bosom! These I spread
As gifts to thee. I can thus much.        185
  Woe, woe for Troy, and woe for thee!
What fall yet lacketh, ere we touch
  The last dead deep of misery?

[The Child, who has started back from Talthybius, is taken up by one of the Soldiers and borne back towards the city, while Andromache is set again on the Chariot and driven off towards the ships.  Talthybius goes with the Child.]
 
 
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