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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Appeal of Andromache
By Jean Racine (1639–1699)
From ‘Andromaque’: Translation of Robert Bruce Boswell

Scene: The palace of Pyrrhus, at Buthrotum in Epirus.  Present: Andromache, Hermione, Cleone, Cephissa.

ANDROMACHE  [to Hermione]—Why fly you, madam? Is it not a sight
To please you, Hector’s widow at your knees,
Weeping? But not with tears of jealousy
I come, nor do I envy you the heart
Surrendered to your charms. A cruel hand        5
Robbed me of him whom only I admired.
Love’s flame was lit by Hector long ago,
With him it was extinguished in the tomb.
But he has left a son. Some day you’ll know
How closely to one’s heart a son can cling;        10
But you will never know, I wish it not,
How keen the pang when danger threatens him,
And they would take him from you,—all that’s left
To soothe a blighted heart. Ah, when worn out
With ten long years of woe, the Trojans sought        15
Your mother’s life, on Hector I prevailed
To succor her. O’er Pyrrhus you have power
As I had then o’er Hector. Can they dread
The infant he has left? Him let me hide
In some far distant isle. And they may trust        20
My fears to keep him there, taught but to weep
With me.
  Hermione—            I feel for you, but duty holds
My tongue tied, when my sire declares his will:
It is by him that Pyrrhus’s wrath is stirred.
But who can bend him better than yourself?        25
His soul has long been subject to your eyes:
Make him pronounce the word, and I’ll consent.
  Andromache—How scornfully did she refuse my prayer!
  Cephissa—Accept her counsel. See him, as she says;
One look of yours may Greece and her confound—        30
But look, he seeks you of his own accord.
Enter Pyrrhus and Phœnix
  Pyrrhus  [to Phœnix]—Where is the princess? Said you not that she
Was here?
  Phœnix—            I thought so.
  Andromache  [to Cephissa]—                    Now you see what power
My eyes have over him!
  Pyrrhus—                    What says she?
  Andromache—                                All
Is lost!
  Phœnix—        Hermione is gone, and we
Will follow.
  Cephissa—            Speak! Why obstinately dumb?
  Andromache—Has he not promised them my child?
  Cephissa—                            But not
Given him up.
  Andromache—                Vain are my tears,—his death
Is certain.
  Pyrrhus—            How her pride disdains to look
My way!
  Andromache—        I should but irritate him more.
Let us retire.
  Pyrrhus—            Come, Hector’s son shall be
Yielded to Greece.
  Andromache  [throwing herself at his feet]—    Stop, sire. What will you do?
Give up the son? Why not the mother, then?
Where is the kindness that you swore to me
So lately? Can I touch no chord at least        45
Of pity? Does this sentence bar all hope
Of pardon?
  Pyrrhus—            Phœnix knows my word is pledged.
  Andromache—No dangers were too great for you to brave
On my behalf!
  Pyrrhus—                Blind then, I now can see.
Your wishes might have won his pardon once;        50
You ne’er so much as asked it. Now you come
Too late.
  Andromache—        Full well you understood, my lord,
The sigh that feared repulse. Forgive the trace
Of pride, that died not with my royal rank,
And made me shrink from importunity.        55
My lord, you know, had it not been for you,
Andromache would never have embraced
A master’s knees.
  Pyrrhus—                No, in your secret soul
You hate me, scorn to owe me anything.
This son, the only object of your care,—        60
You would have loved him less, had he been saved
Through me. You hate me with a bitter scorn,
And worse than all the other Greeks combined.
Enjoy at leisure such a noble rage.
Come, Phœnix.
  Andromache—            I will go where Hector’s gone.
  Andromache—        What further can I say to him?
The author of my woes, he knows them all.
[To Pyrrhus]—See to what state you have reduced me, sire!
I’ve seen my father slain, our walls enwrapt
In flames, and all our family cut off,        70
My husband’s bloody corpse dragged through the dust,
His only son reserved for chains with me.
For his sake I endure to live a slave.
Yea, more, this thought has sometimes brought relief,—
That fate has fixed my place of exile here;        75
The son of many kings beneath your sway
Is happier as a slave than he could be
Elsewhere, and I had hoped his prison walls
Might be a place of refuge. Priam found
Achilles could respect his fallen state:        80
I thought his son more generous still. That trust,
My Hector, pardon, when I deemed thy foe
Too noble to commit a dastard’s crime!
Ah, had he but allowed us to abide
Where for thine ashes I had raised a tomb,        85
And ending there his hatred and our woes,
Parted us not from thy beloved remains!
  Pyrrhus—Go and await me, Phœnix.—
                        Madam, stay.
Your tears may yet win back this cherished son.
Yes, I regret that, moving you to weep,        90
I armed you with a weapon ’gainst myself;
I thought I could have brought more hatred here.
You might at least consent to look at me:
See, are my eyes those of an angry judge,
Whose pleasure ’tis to cause you misery?        95
Why force me to be faithless to yourself?
Now for your son’s sake let us cease to hate.
’Tis I who urge you, Save the child from death.
Must sighs of mine beg you to spare his life?
And must I clasp your knees to plead for him?        100
Once more, but once,—Save him and save yourself.
I know what solemn vows for you I break,
What hatred I bring down upon myself.
Hermione shall go, and on her brow
For crown I set a burning brand of shame;        105
And in the fane decked for her marriage rites
Her royal diadem yourself shall wear.
This offer, lady, is no longer one
You can afford to scorn. Perish or reign!
A year’s contempt has made me desperate,        110
Nor can I any longer live in doubt,
Harassed by fears and mingling threats with groans.
To lose you is to die,—’tis death to wait.
I leave you to consider, and will come
To bring you to the temple where this child        115
My fury shall destroy before your eyes,
Or where in love I crown you as my queen.

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