Fiction > Harvard Classics > Euripides > Hippolytus
Euripides (480 or 485–406 B.C.).  Hippolytus.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Lines 1200–1601
  Far from my griefs; and a thought, deep in the dark of my mind,        1200
Clings to a great Understanding. Yet all the spirit within me
Faints, when I watch men’s deeds matched with the guerdon they find.
            For Good comes in Evil’s traces,
            And the Evil the Good replaces;        1204
            And Life, ’mid the changing faces,
              Wandereth weak and blind.

What wilt thou grant me, O God? Lo, this is the prayer of my travail—
  Some well-being; and chance not very bitter thereby;        1208
A Spirit uncrippled by pain; and a mind not deep to unravel
  Truth unseen, nor yet dark with the brand of a lie.
            With a veering mood to borrow
            Its light from every morrow,        1212
            Fair friends and no deep sorrow,
              Well could man live and die!

  Yet my spirit is no more clean,
    And the weft of my hope is torn,        1216
For the deed of wrong that mine eyes have seen,
    The lie and the rage and the scorn;
  A Star among men, yea, a Star
      That in Hellas was bright,        1220
  By a Father’s wrath driven far
      To the wilds and the night.
  Oh, alas for the sands of the shore!
    Alas for the brakes of the hill,        1224
  Where the wolves shall fear thee no more,
    And thy cry to Dictynna is still!

  No more in the yoke of thy car
    Shall the colts of Enetia fleet;        1228
  Nor Limna’s echoes quiver afar
    To the clatter of galloping feet.
The sleepless music of old,
    That leaped in the lyre,        1232
Ceaseth now, and is cold,
    In the halls of thy sire.
The bowers are discrowned and unladen
  Where Artemis lay on the lea;        1236
And the love-dream of many a maiden
  Lost, in the losing of thee.
A Maiden

And I, even I,
  For thy fall, O Friend,        1240
    Amid tears and tears,
  Endure to the end
    Of the empty years,
Of a life run dry.        1244
  In vain didst thou bear him,
    Thou Mother forlorn!
  Ye Gods that did snare him,
Lo, I cast in your faces        1248
    My hate and my scorn!
Ye love-linkèd Graces,
  (Alas for the day!)
    Was he naught, then, to you,        1252
  That ye cast him away,
    The stainless and true,
From the old happy places?

Look yonder! ’Tis the Prince’s man, I ween,
Speeding toward this gate, most dark of mien.  [A HENCHMAN enters in haste.

Ye women, whither shall I go to seek
King Theseus? Is he in this dwelling? Speak!

Lo, where he cometh through the Castle gate!  [THESEUS comes out from the Castle.

O King, I bear thee tidings of dire weight
To thee, aye, and to every man, I ween,
From Athens to the marches of Trozên.

What? Some new stroke hath touched, unknown to me,
The sister cities of my sovranty?

Hippolytus is … Nay, not dead; hut stark
Outstretched, a hairsbreadth this side of the dark.
THESEUS (as though unmoved)

How slain? Was there some other man, whose wife
He had like mine defiled, that sought his life?

His own wild team destroyed him, and the dire
Curse of thy lips.
                    The boon of thy great Sire        1272
Is granted thee, O King, and thy son slain.

Ye Gods! And thou, Poseidon! Not in vain
I called thee Father; thou hast heard my prayer!
  How did he die? Speak on. How closed the snare        1276
Of Heaven to slay the shamer of my blood?

’Twas by the bank of beating sea we stood,
We thralls, and decked the steeds, and combed each mane;
Weeping; for word had come that ne’er again        1280
The foot of our Hippolytus should roam
This land, but waste in exile by thy doom.
  So stood we till he came, and in his tone
No music now save sorrow’s, like our own,        1284
And in his train a concourse without end
Of many a chase-fellow and many a friend.
At last he brushed his sobs away, and spake:
“Why this fond loitering? I would not break        1288
My Father’s law—Ho, there! My coursers four
And chariot, quick! This land is mine no more.”
  Thereat, be sure, each man of us made speed.
Swifter than speech we brought them up, each steed        1292
Well dight and shining, at our Prince’s side.
He grasped the reins upon the rail: one stride
And there he stood, a perfect charioteer,
Each foot in its own station set. Then clear        1296
His voice rose, and his arms to heaven were spread:
“O Zeus, if I be false, strike thou me dead!
But, dead or living, let my Father see
One day, how falsely he hath hated me!”        1300
  Even as he spake, he lifted up the goad
And smote; and the steeds sprang. And down the road
We henchmen followed, hard beside the rein,
Each hand, to speed him, toward the Argive plain        1304
And Epidaurus.
                So we made our way
Up toward the desert region, where the bay
Curls to a promontory near the verge        1308
Of our Trozên, facing the southward surge
Of Saron’s gulf. Just there an angry sound,
Slow-swelling, like God’s thunder underground,
Broke on us, and we trembled. And the steeds        1312
Pricked their ears skyward, and threw back their heads.
And wonder came on all men, and affright,
Whence rose that awful voice. And swift our sight
Turned seaward, down the salt and roaring sand.        1316
  And there, above the horizon, seemed to stand
A wave unearthly, crested in the sky;
Till Skiron’s Cape first vanished from mine eye,
Then sank the Isthmus hidden, then the rock        1320
Of Epidaurus. Then it broke, one shock
And roar of gasping sea and spray flung far,
And shoreward swept, where stood the Prince’s car.
  Three lines of wave together raced, and, full        1324
In the white crest of them, a wild Sea-Bull
Flung to the shore, a fell and marvellous Thing.
The whole land held his voice, and answering
Roared in each echo. And all we, gazing there,        1328
Gazed seeing not; ’twas more than eyes could bear.
  Then straight upon the team wild terror fell.
Howbeit, the Prince, cool-eyed and knowing well
Each changing mood a horse has, gripped the reins        1332
Hard in both hands; then as an oarsman strains
Up from his bench, so strained he on the thong,
Back in the chariot swinging. But the young
Wild steeds bit hard the curb, and fled afar;        1336
Nor rein nor guiding hand nor morticed car
Stayed them at all. For when he veered them round,
And aimed their flying feet to grassy ground,
In front uprose that Thing, and turned again        1340
The four great coursers, terror-mad. But when
Their blind rage drove them toward the rocky places,
Silent, and ever nearer to the traces,
It followed rockward, till one wheel-edge grazed.        1344
  The chariot tript and flew, and all was mazed
In turmoil. Up went wheel-box with a din,
Where the rock jagged, and nave and axle-pin.
And there—the long reins round him—there was he        1348
Dragging, entangled irretrievably.
A dear head battering at the chariot side,
Sharp rocks, and rippled flesh, and a voice that cried:
“Stay, stay, O ye who fattened at my stalls,        1352
Dash me not into nothing!—O thou false
Curse of my Father!—Help! Help, whoso can,
An innocent, innocent and stainless man!”
  Many there were that laboured then, I wot,        1356
To bear him succour, but could reach him not,
Till—who knows how?—at last the tangled rein
Unclasped him, and he fell, some little vein
Of life still pulsing in him.        1360
                              All beside,
The steeds, the hornèd Horror of the Tide,
Had vanished—who knows where?—in that wild land.
  O King, I am a bondsman of thine hand;        1364
Yet love nor fear nor duty me shall win
To say thine innocent son bath died in sin.
All women born may hang themselves, for me,
And swing their dying words from every tree        1368
On Ida! For I know that he was true!

O God, so cometh new disaster, new
Despair! And no escape from what must be!

Hate of the man thus stricken lifted me
At first to joy at hearing of thy tale;
But now, some shame before the Gods, some pale
Pity for mine own blood, bath o’er me come.
I laugh not, neither weep, at this fell doom.        1376

How then? Behoves it bear him here, or how
Best do thy pleasure?—Speak, Lord. Yet if thou
Wilt mark at all my word, thou wilt not be
Fierce-hearted to thy child in misery.        1380

Aye, bring him hither. Let me see the face
Of him who durst deny my deep disgrace
And his own sin; yea, speak with him, and prove
His clear guilt by God’s judgments from above.  [The HENCHMAN departs to fetch HIPPOLYTUS; THESEUS sits waiting in stern gloom, while the CHORUS sing. At the close of their song a Divine Figure is seen approaching on a cloud in the air and the voice of ARTEMIS speaks.        1384

Thou comest to bend the pride
  Of the hearts of God and man,
Cypris and by thy side,
  In earth-encircling span,        1388
He of the changing plumes,
The Wing that the world illumes,
As over the leagues of land flies he,
Over the salt and sounding sea.        1392
For mad is the heart of Love,
  And gold the gleam of his wing;
And all to the spell thereof
  Bend, when he makes his spring;        1396
All life that is wild and young
  In mountain and wave and stream,
All that of earth is sprung,
  Or breathes in the red sunbeam;        1400
Yea, and Mankind. O’er all a royal throne,
Cyprian, Cyprian, is thine alone!

    O thou that rulest in Aegeus’ Hall,
    I charge thee, hearken!        1404
                            Yea, it is I,
    Artemis, Virgin of God most High.
    Thou bitter King, art thou glad withal
        For thy murdered son?        1408
    For thine ear bent low to a lying Queen,
    For thine heart so swift amid things unseen?
    Lo, all may see what end thou hast won!
    Go, sink thine head in the waste abyss;        1412
    Or aloft to another world than this,
        Birdwise with wings,
        Fly far to thine hiding,
    Far over this blood that clots and clings;        1416
    For in righteous men and in holy things
    No rest is thine nor abiding!  [The cloud has become stationary in the air.
Hear, Theseus, all the story of thy grief!
Verily, I bring but anguish, not relief;        1420
Yet, ’twas for this I came, to show how high
And clean was thy son’s heart, that he may die
Honoured of men; aye, and to tell no less
The frenzy, or in some sort the nobleness,        1424
Of thy dead wife. One Spirit there is, whom we
That know the joy of white virginity,
Most hate in heaven. She sent her fire to run
In Phædra’s veins, so that she loved thy son.        1428
Yet strove she long with love, and in the stress
Fell not, till by her Nurse’s craftiness
Betrayed, who stole, with oaths of secrecy,
To entreat thy son. And he, most righteously,        1432
Nor did her will, nor, when thy railing scorn
Beat on him, broke the oath that he had sworn,
For God’s sake. And thy Phædra, panic-eyed,
Wrote a false writ, and slew thy son, and died,        1436
Lying; but thou wast nimble to believe!  [THESEUS, at first bewildered, then dumfounded, now utters a deep groan.
It stings thee, Theseus?—Nay, hear on, and grieve
Yet sorer. Wottest thou three prayers were thine
Of sure fulfilment, from thy Sire divine?        1440
Hast thou no foes about thee, then, that one—
Thou vile King!—must be turned against thy son?
The deed was thine. Thy Sea-born Sire but heard
The call of prayer, and bowed him to his word.        1444
But thou in his eyes and in mine art found
Evil, who wouldst not think, nor probe, nor sound
The deeps of prophet’s lore, nor day by day
Leave Time to search; but, swifter than man may,        1448
Let loose the curse to slay thine innocent son!

O Goddess, let me die!

                        Nay; thou hast done
A heavy wrong; yet even beyond this ill        1452
Abides for thee forgiveness. ’Twas the will
Of Cypris that these evil things should be,
Sating her wrath. And this immutably
Hath Zeus ordained in heaven no God may thwart        1456
A God’s fixed will; we grieve but stand apart.
Else, but for fear of the Great Father’s blame,
Never had I to such extreme of shame
Bowed me, be sure, as here to stand and see        1460
Slain him I loved best of mortality!
Thy fault, O King, its ignorance sunders wide
From very wickedness; and she who died
By death the more disarmed thee, making dumb        1464
The voice of question. And the storm has come
Most bitterly of all on thee! Yet I
Have mine own sorrow, too. When good men die,
There is no joy in heaven, albeit our ire        1468
On child and house of the evil falls like fire.  [A throng is seen approaching; HIPPOLYTUS enters, supported by his attendants.

    Lo, it is he! The bright young head
            Yet upright there!
Ah, the torn flesh and the blood-stained hair;        1472
    Alas for the kindred’s trouble!
It falls as fire from a God’s hand sped,
    Two deaths, and mourning double.

    Ah, pain, pain, pain!
O unrighteous curse! O unrighteous sire!
No hope.—My head is stabbed with fire,
And a leaping spasm about my brain.
  Stay, let me rest. I can no more.        1480
O fell, fell steeds that my own hand fed,
Have ye maimed me and slain, that loved me of yore?
—Soft there, ye thralls! No trembling hands
As ye lift me, now!—Who is that that stands        1484
At the right?—Now firm, and with measured tread,
Lift one accursèd and stricken sore
        By a father’s sinning.
Thou, Zeus, dost see me? Yea, it is I;        1488
The proud and pure, the server of God,
The white and shining in sanctity!
To a visible death, to an open sod,
          I walk my ways;        1492
And all the labour of saintly days
          Lost, lost, without meaning!
          Ah God, it crawls
            This agony, over me!        1496
          Let be, ye thralls!
            Come, Death, and cover me:
        Come, O thou Healer blest
          But a little more,        1500
            And my soul is clear,
          And the anguish o’er!
            Oh, a spear, a spear!
          To rend my soul to its rest!        1504
Oh, strange, false Curse! Was there some blood-stained head,
Some father of my line, unpunishèd,
          Whose guilt lived in his kin,
And passed, and slept, till after this long day        1508
It lights…. Oh, why on me? Me, far away
          And innocent of sin?
          O words that cannot save!
        When will this breathing end in that last deep        1512
Pain that is painlessness? ’Tis sleep I crave.
        When wilt thou bring me sleep,
Thou dark and midnight magic of the grave!

Sore-stricken man, bethink thee in this stress,
Thou dost but die for thine own nobleness.

O breath of heavenly fragrance! Though my pain
Burns, I can feel thee and find rest again.        1520
The Goddess Artemis is with me here.

With thee and loving thee, poor sufferer!

Dost see me, Mistress, nearing my last sleep?

Aye, and would weep for thee, if Gods could weep.

Who now shall hunt with thee or hold thy quiver?

He dies; but my love cleaves to him for ever.

Who guide thy chariot, keep thy shrine-flowers fresh?

The accursed Cyprian caught him in her mesh!

The Cyprian? Now I see it!—Aye, ’twas she.

She missed her worship, loathed thy chastity!

Three lives by her one hand! ’Tis all clear now.

Yea, three; thy father and his Queen and thou.

My father; yea, he too is pitiable!

A plotting Goddess tripped him, and he fell.

Father, where art thou?… Oh, thou sufferest sore!

Even unto death, child, There is joy no more.

I pity thee in this coil; aye, more than me.

Would I could lie there dead instead of thee!

Oh, bitter bounty of Poseidon’s love!

Would God my lips had never breathed thereof!

Nay, thine own rage had slain me then, some wise!

A lying spirit had made blind mine eyes!

Ah me!
Would that a mortal’s curse could reach to God!        1544

Let be! For not, though deep beneath the sod
Thou liest, not unrequited nor unsung
Shall this fell stroke, from Cypris’ rancour sprung,
Quell thee, mine own, the saintly and the true!        1548
  My hand shall win its vengeance through and through,
Piercing with flawless shaft what heart soe’er
Of all men living is most dear to Her.
Yea, and to thee, for this sore travail’s sake,        1552
Honours most high in Trozên will I make;
For yokeless maids before their bridal night
Shall shear for thee their tresses; and a rite
Of honouring tears be thine in ceaseless store;        1556
And virgin’s thoughts in music evermore
Turn toward thee, and praise thee in the Song
Of Phædra’s far-famed love and thy great wrong.
O seed of ancient Aegeus, bend thee now        1560
And clasp thy son. Aye, hold and fear not thou!
Not knowingly hart thou slain him; and man’s way,
When Gods send error, needs must fall astray.
  And thou, Hippolytus, shrink not from the King,        1564
Thy father. Thou wast born to hear this thing.
  Farewell! I may not watch man’s fleeting breath,
Nor strain mine eyes with the effluence of death.
And sure that Terror now is very near.  [The cloud slowly rises and floats away.        1568

Farewell, farewell, most Blessèd! Lift thee clear
Of soiling men! Thou wilt not grieve in heaven
For my long love!… Father, thou art forgiven.
It was Her will. I am not wrath with thee….        1572
I have obeyed Her all my days!…
                                  Ah me,
The dark is drawing down upon mine eyes;
It hath me!… Father!… Hold me! Help me rise!        1576
THESEUS (supporting him in his arms)

Ah, woe! How dost thou torture me, my son!

I see the Great Gates opening. I am gone.

Gone? And my hand red-reeking from this thing!

Nay, nay; thou art assoiled of man slaying.

Thou leav’st me clear of murder? Sayst thou so?

Yea, by the Virgin of the Stainless Bow!

Dear Son! Ah, now I see thy nobleness

Pray that a true-born child may fill my place.

Ah me, thy righteous and god-fearing heart!

A long farewell, dear Father, ere we part!  [THESEUS bends down and embraces him passionately.

Not yet!—O hope and bear while thou hast breath!

Lo, I have borne my burden. This is death….
Quick, Father; lay the mantle on my face.  [THESEUS covers his face with a mantle and rises.

Ye bounds of Pallas and of Pelops’ race,
What greatness have ye lost!        1592
                              Woe, woe is me!
Thou Cyprian, long shall I remember thee!

    On all this folk, both low and high,
    A grief hath fallen beyond men’s fears.        1596
    There cometh a throbbing of many tears,
      A sound as of waters falling.
        For when great men die,
      A mighty name and a bitter cry        1600
      Rise up from a nation calling.  [They move into the Castle, carrying the body of HIPPOLYTUS.


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