Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Account of Alcestis’s Farewell to her Home
By Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.)
From Robert Browning’s ‘Balaustion’

WHAT kind of creature should the woman prove
That has surpassed Alcestis?—surelier shown
Preference for her husband to herself
Than by determining to die for him?
But so much all our city knows indeed:        5
Hear what she did indoors, and wonder then!
For when she felt the crowning day was come,
She washed with river waters her white skin,
And taking from the cedar closets forth
Vesture and ornament, bedecked herself        10
Nobly, and stood before the hearth, and prayed:—
“Mistress, because I now depart the world,
Falling before thee the last time, I ask—
Be mother to my orphans! wed the one
To a kind wife, and make the other’s mate        15
Some princely person: nor, as I who bore
My children perish, suffer that they too
Die all untimely, but live, happy pair,
Their full glad life out in the fatherland!”
And every altar through Admetos’s house        20
She visited, and crowned, and prayed before,
Stripping the myrtle foliage from the boughs,
Without a tear, without a groan,—no change
At all to that skin’s nature, fair to see,
Caused by the imminent evil. But this done,—        25
Reaching her chamber, falling on her bed,
There, truly, burst she into tears and spoke:—
“O bride-bed! where I loosened from my life
Virginity for that same husband’s sake
Because of whom I die now—fare thee well!        30
Since nowise do I hate thee: me alone
Hast thou destroyed; for, shrinking to betray
Thee and my spouse, I die: but thee, O bed!
Some other woman shall possess as wife—
Truer, no! but of better fortune, say!”—        35
So falls on, kisses it, till all the couch
Is moistened with the eye’s sad overflow.
But when of many tears she had her fill,
She flings from off the couch, goes headlong forth,
Yet—forth the chamber—still keeps turning back        40
And casts her on the couch again once more.
Her children, clinging to their mother’s robe,
Wept meanwhile: but she took them in her arms,
And as a dying woman might, embraced
Now one and now the other: ’neath the roof,        45
All of the household servants wept as well,
Moved to compassion for their mistress; she
Extended her right hand to all and each,
And there was no one of such low degree
She spoke not to nor had no answer from.        50
Such are the evils in Admetos’s house.

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