The Trojan Women
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The Trojan Women
Written 415 B.C.E
Chorus of Captive Trojan Women
Before Agamemnon's Tent in the Camp near Troy. HECUBA asleep. Enter POSEIDON.
Lo! From the depths of salt Aegean floods I, Poseidon, come,
where choirs of Nereids trip in the mazes of the graceful dance; for since
the day that Phoebus and myself with measurement exact set towers of stone
about this land of Troy and ringed it round, never from my heart hath passed
away a kindly feeling for my Phrygian town, which now is smouldering and
o'erthrown, a prey to Argive prowess. For, from his home beneath Parnassus,
Phocian Epeus, aided by the craft of Pallas, framed a horse to bear within
its womb an armed host, and sent it within the battlements, fraught with
death; whence in days to come men shall tell of "the wooden horse," with
its hidden load of warriors. Groves forsaken stand and temples of the gods
run down with blood, and at the altar's very base, before the god who watched
his home, lies Priam dead. While to Achaean ships great store of gold and
Phrygian spoils are being conveyed, and they who came against this town,
those sons Of Hellas, only wait a favouring breeze to follow in their wake,
that after ten long years they may with joy behold their wives and children.
Vanquished by Hera, Argive goddess, and by Athena, who helped to ruin Phrygia,
I am leaving Ilium, that famous town, and the altars that I love; for when
drear desolation seizes on a town, the worship of the gods decays and tends
to lose respect. Scamander's banks re-echo long and loud the screams of
captive maids, as they by lot receive their masters. Arcadia taketh some,
and some the folk of Thessaly; others are assigned to Theseus' sons, the
Athenian chiefs. And such of the Trojan dames as are not portioned out,
are in these tents, set apart for the leaders of the host; and with them
Spartan Helen, daughter of Tyndarus, justly counted among the captives.
And wouldst thou see that queen of misery, Hecuba, thou canst; for there
she lies before the gates, weeping many a bitter tear for many a tribulation;
for at Achilles' tomb-though she knows not this-her daughter Polyxena has
died most piteously; likewise is Priam dead, and her children too; Cassandra,
whom the king Apollo left to be a virgin, frenzied maid, hath Agamemnon,
in contempt of the god's ordinance and of piety, forced to a dishonoured
wedlock. Farewell, O city prosperous once! farewell, ye ramparts of hewn
stone! had not Pallas, daughter of Zeus, decreed thy ruin, thou wert standing
May I address the mighty god whom Heaven reveres and who to
my own sire is very nigh in blood, laying aside our former enmity?
Thou mayst; for o'er the soul the ties of kin exert no feeble
spell, great queen Athena.
For thy forgiving mood my thanks! Somewhat have I to impart
affecting both thyself and me, O king.
Bringst thou fresh tidings from some god, from Zeus, or from
some lesser power?
From none of these; but on behalf of Troy, whose soil we tread,
am I come to seek thy mighty aid, to make it one with mine.
What! hast thou laid thy former hate aside to take compassion
on the town now that it is burnt to ashes?
First go back to the former point; wilt thou make common cause
with me in the scheme I purpose?
Ay surely; but I would fain learn thy wishes, whether thou
art come to help Achaens or Phrygians.
I wish to give my former foes, the Trojans, joy, and on the
Achaean host impose a return that they will rue.
Why leap'st thou thus from mood to mood? Thy love and hate
both go too far, on whomsoever centred.
Dost not know the insult done to me and to the shrine I love?
Surely, in the hour that Aias tore Cassandra thence.
Yea, and the Achaeans did naught, said naught to him.
And yet 'twas by thy mighty aid they sacked Ilium.
For which cause I would join with thee to work their bane.
My powers are ready at thy will. What is thy intent?
A returning fraught with woe will I impose on them.
While yet they stay on shore, or as they cross the briny deep?
When they have set sail from Ilium for their homes. On them
will Zeus also send his rain and fearful hail, and inky tempests from the
sky; yea, and he promises to grant me his levin-bolts to hurl on the Achaeans
and fire their ships. And do thou, for thy part, make the Aegean strait
to roar with mighty billows and whirlpools, and fill Euboea's hollow bay
with corpses, that Achaeans may learn henceforth to reverence my temples
and regard all other deities.
So shall it be, for the boon thou cravest needs but few words.
I will vex the broad Aegean sea; and the beach of Myconus and the reefs
round Delos, Scyros and Lemnos too, and the cliffs of Caphareus shall be
strown with many a corpse. Mount thou to Olympus, and taking from thy father's
hand his lightning bolts, keep careful watch against the hour when Argos'
host lets slip its cables. A fool is he who sacks the towns of men, with
shrines and tombs, the dead man's hallowed home, for at the last he makes
a desert round himself, and dies. Exeunt.
Lift thy head, unhappy lady, from the ground; thy neck upraise; this is
Troy no more, no longer am I queen in Ilium. Though fortune change, endure
thy lot; sail with the stream, and follow fortune's tack, steer not thy
barque of life against the tide, since chance must guide thy course. Ah
me! ah me! What else but tears is now my hapless lot, whose country, children,
husband, all are lost? Ah! the high-blown pride of ancestors! how cabined
now how brought to nothing after all What woe must I suppress, or what
declare? What plaintive dirge shall I awake? Ah, woe is me! the anguish
I suffer lying here stretched upon this pallet hard! O my head, my temples,
my side! Ah! could I but turn over, and he now on this, now on that, to
rest my back and spine, while ceaselessly my tearful wail ascends. Fore
'en this is music to the wretched, to chant their cheerless dirge of
Enter CHORUS OF CAPTIVE TROJAN WOMEN.
Ye swift-prowed ships, rowed to sacred Ilium o'er the deep dark
sea, past the fair havens of Hellas, to the flute's ill-omened music and
the dulcet voice of pipes, even to the bays of Troyland (alack the day!),
wherein ye tied your hawsers, twisted handiwork from Egypt, in quest of
that hateful wife of Menelaus, who brought disgrace on Castor, and on Eurotas
foul reproach; murderess she of Priam, sire of fifty children, the cause
why I, the hapless Hecuba, have wrecked my life upon this troublous strand.
Oh that I should sit here o'er against the tent of Agamemnon Forth from
my home to slavery they hale my aged frame, while from my head in piteous
wise the hair is shorn for grief. Ah! hapless wives of those mail-clad
sons of Troy! Ah! poor maidens, luckless brides, come weep, for Ilium is
now but a ruin; and I, like some mother-bird that o're her fledglings screams,
will begin the strain; how different from that song I sang to the gods
in days long past, as I leaned on Priam's staff, and beat with my foot
in Phrygian time to lead the dance!
O Hecuba why these cries, these piercing shrieks? What mean
thy words? For I heard thy piteous wail echo through the building, and
a pang terror shoots through each captive Trojan's breast, as pent within
these walls they mourn their slavish lot.
My child, e'en now the hands of Argive rowers are busy at their
Ah, woe is me! what is their intent? Will they really bear
me hence in sorrow from my country in their fleet?
I know not, though I guess our doom.
O misery! woe to us Trojan dames, soon to hear the order given,
"Come forth from the house; the Argives are preparing to return."
Oh! do not bid the wild Cassandra leave her chamber, the frantic
prophetess, for Argives to insult, nor to my griefs add yet another. Woe
to thee, ill-fated Troy, thy sun is set; and woe to thy unhappy children,
quick and dead alike, who are leaving thee behind!
With trembling step, alas! I leave this tent of Agamemnon to
learn of thee, my royal mistress, whether the Argives have resolved to
take my wretched life, whether the sailors at the prow are making ready
to ply their oars.
My child, a fearful dread seized on my wakeful heart and sent
Hath a herald from the Danai already come? To whom am I, poor
captive, given as a slave?
Thou art not far from being allotted now.
Woe worth the day! What Argive or Phthiotian chief will bear
me far from Troy, alas! unto his home, or haply to some island fastness?
Ah me! ah me! Whose slave shall I become in my old age? in
what far clime? a poor old drone, the wretched copy of a corpse, set to
keep the gate or tend their children, I who once held royal rank in Troy.
Woe, woe is thee! What piteous dirge wilt thou devise to mourn
the outrage done thee? No more through Ida's looms shall I-ply the shuttle
to and fro. I look my last and latest on my children's bodies; henceforth
shall I endure surpassing misery; it may be as the unwilling bride of some
Hellene (perish the night and fortune that brings me to this!); it may
be as a wretched slave I from Peirene's sacred fount shall draw their store
Oh be it ours to come to Theseus' famous realm, a land of joy!
Never, never let me see Eurotas' swirling tide, hateful home of Helen,
there to meet and be the slave of Menelaus, whose hand laid Troyland waste!
Yon holy land by Peneus fed, nestling in all its beauty at Olympus' foot,
is said, so have I heard, to be a very granary of wealth and teeming fruitage;
next to the sacred soil of Theseus, I could wish to reach that land. They
tell me too Hephaestus' home, beneath the shadow of Aetna, fronting Phoenicia,
the mother of Sicilian hills, is famous for the crowns it gives to worth.
Or may I find a home on that shore which lieth very nigh Ionia's sea, a
land by Crathis watered, lovely stream, that dyes the hair an auburn tint,
feeding with its holy waves and making glad therewith the home of heroes
good and true.
But mark! a herald from the host of Danai, with store of fresh
proclamations, comes hasting hither. What is his errand? what saith he?
List, for we are slaves to Dorian lords henceforth.
Hecuba, thou knowest me from my many journeys to and fro as
herald 'twixt the Achaean host and Troy; no stranger I to thee, lady, even
aforetime, I Talthybius, now sent with a fresh message.
Ah, kind friends, 'tis come! what I so long have dreaded.
The lot has decided your fates already, if that was what you
Ah me! What city didst thou say, Thessalian, Phthian, or Cadmean?
Each warrior took his prize in turn; ye were not all at once
To whom hath the lot assigned us severally? Which of us Trojan
dames doth a happy fortune await?
I know, but ask thy questions separately, not all at once.
Then tell me, whose prize is my daughter, hapless Cassandra?
King Agamemnon hath chosen her out for himself.
To be the slave-girl of his Spartan wife? Ah me!
Nay, to share with him his stealthy love.
What! Phoebus' virgin-priestess, to whom the god with golden
locks granted the boon of maidenhood?
The dart of love hath pierced his heart, love for the frenzied
Daughter, cast from thee the sacred keys, and from thy body
tear the holy wreaths that drape thee in their folds.
Why! is it not an honour high that she should win our monarch's
What have ye done to her whom late ye took from me-my child?
Dost mean Polyxena, or whom dost thou inquire about?
To whom hath the lot assigned her?
To minister at Achilles' tomb hath been appointed her.
Woe is me! I the mother of a dead man's slave! What custom,
what ordinance is this amongst Hellenes, good sir?
Count thy daughter happy: 'tis well with her.
What wild words are these? say, is she still alive?
Her fate is one that sets her free from trouble.
And what of mail-clad Hector's wife, sad Andromache? declare
She too was a chosen prize; Achilles' son did take her.
As for me whose hair is white with age, who need to hold a
staff to be to me a third foot, whose servant am I to be?
Odysseus, king of Ithaca, hath taken thee to be his slave.
O God! Now smite the close-shorn head! tear your cheeks with
your nails. God help me! I have fallen as a slave to a treacherous foe
I hate, a monster of lawlessness, one that by his double tongue hath turned
against us all that once was friendly in his camp, changing this for that
and that for this again. Oh weep for me, ye Trojan dames! Undone! undone
and lost! ah woel a victim to a most unhappy lot!
Thy fate, royal mistress, now thou knowest; but for me, what
Hellene or Achaean is master of my destiny?
Ho, servants! haste and bring Cassandra forth to me here, that
I may place her our captain's hands, and then conduct to the rest of the
chiefs the captives each hath had assigned. Ha what is the blaze of torches
there within? What do these Trojan dames? Are they firing the chambers,
because they must leave this land and be carried away to Argos? Are they
setting themselves aflame in their longing for death? Of a truth the free
bear their troubles in cases like this with a stiff neck. Ho, there! open!
lest their deed, which suits them well but finds small favour with the
Achaeans, bring blame on me.
'Tis not that they are setting aught ablaze, but my child Cassandra,
frenzied maid, comes rushing wildly hither.
Enter CASSANDRA carrying torches
Bring the light, uplift and show its flame! I am doing the
god's service, see! I making his shrine to glow with tapers bright. O Hymen,
king of marriage! blest is the bridegroom; blest am I also, the maiden
soon to wed a princely lord in Argos. Hail Hymen, king of marriage! Since
thou, my mother, art ever busied with tears and lamentations in thy mourning
for my father's death and for our country dear, I at my own nuptials am
making this torch to blaze and show its light, in thy honour, O Hymen,
king of marriage! Grant thy light too, Hecate, at the maiden's wedding,
as the custom is. Nimbly lift the foot aloft, lead on the dance, with cries
of joy, as if to greet my father's happy fate. To dance I hold a sacred
duty; come, Phoebus, lead the way, for 'tis in thy temple mid thy bay-trees
that I minister. Hail Hymen, god of marriage! Hymen, hail! Come, mother
mine, and join the dance, link thy steps with me, and circle in the gladsome
measure, now here, now there. Salute the bride on her wedding-day with
hymns and cries of joy. Come, ye maids of Phrygia in raiment fair, sing
my marriage with the husband fate ordains that I should wed.
Hold the frantic maiden, royal mistress mine, lest with nimble
foot she rush to the Argive army.
Thou god of fire,'tis thine to light the bridal torch for men,
but piteous is the flame thou kindlest here, beyond my blackest bodings.
Ah, my child! how little did I ever dream that such would be thy marriage,
a captive, and of Argos tool Give up the torch to me; thou dost not bear
its blaze aright in thy wild frantic course, nor have thy afflictions left
thee in thy sober senses, but still art thou as frantic as before. Take
in those torches, Trojan friends, and for her wedding madrigals weep your
O mother, crown my head with victor's wreaths; rejoice in my
royal match; lead me to my lord; nay, if thou find me loth at all, thrust
me there by force; for if Loxias be indeed a prophet, Agamemnon, that famous
king of the Achaeans, will find in me a bride more fraught with woe to
him than Helen. For I will slay him and lay waste his home to avenge my
father's and my bretheren's death. But of the deed itself I will not speak;
nor will I tell of that axe which shall sever my neck and the necks of
others, or of the conflict ending in a mother's death, which my marriage
shall cause, nor of the overthrow of Atreus' house; but I, for all my frenzy,
will so far rise above my frantic fit, that I will prove this city happier
far than those Achaeans, who for the sake of one woman and one man's love
of her have lost a countless host in seeking Helen. Their captain too,
whom men call wise, hath lost for what he hated most what most he prized,
yielding to his brother for a woman's sake-and she a willing prize whom
no man forced-the joy he had of his own children in his home. For from
the day that they did land upon Scamander's strand, their doom began, not
for loss of stolen frontier nor yet for fatherland with frowning towers;
whomso Ares slew, those never saw their babes again, nor were they shrouded
for the tomb by hand of wife, but in a foreign land they lie. At home the
case was still the same; wives were dying widows, parents were left childless
in their homes, having reared their sons for others, and none is left to
make libations of blood upon the ground before their tombs. Truly to such
praise as this their host can make an ample claim. Tis better to pass their
shame in silence by, nor be mine the Muse to tell that evil tale. But the
Trojans were dying, first for their fatherland, fairest fame to win; whomso
the sword laid low, all these found friends to bear their bodies home and
were laid to rest in the bosom of their native land, their funeral rites
all duly paid by duteous hands. And all such Phrygians as escaped the warrior's
death lived ever day by day with wife and children by them-joys the Achaeans
had left behind. As for Hector and his griefs, prithee hear how stands
the case; he is dead and gone, but still his fame remains as bravest of
the brave, and this was a result of the Achaeans' coming; for had they
remained at home, his worth would have gone unnoticed. So too with Paris,
he married the daughter of Zeus, whereas, had he never done so, the alliance
he made in his family would have been forgotten. Whoso is wise should fly
from making war; but if he be brought to this pass, a noble death will
crown his city with glory, a coward's end with shame. Wherefore, mother
mine, thou shouldst not pity thy country or my spousal, for this my marriage
will destroy those whom thou and I most hate.
How sweetly at thy own sad lot thou smilest, chanting a strain,
which, spite of thee, may prove thee wrong!
Had not Apollo turned thy wits astray, thou shouldst not for
nothing have sent my chiefs with such ominous predictions forth on their
way. But, after all, these lofty minds, reputed wise, are nothing better
than those that are held as naught. For that mighty king of all Hellas,
own son of Atreus, has yielded to a passion for this mad maiden of all
others; though I am poor enough, yet would I ne'er have chosen such a wife
as this. As for thee, since thy senses are not whole, I give thy taunts
'gainst Argos and thy praise of Troy to the winds to carry away. Follow
me now to the ships to grace the wedding of our chief. And thou too follow,
whensoe'er the son of Laertes demands thy presence, for thou wilt serve
a mistress most discreet, as all declare who came to Ilium.
A clever fellow this menial! Why is it heralds hold the name
they do? All men unite in hating with one common hate the servants who
attend on kings or governments. Thou sayest my mother shall come to the
halls of Odysseus; where then be Apollo's words, so clear to me in their
interpretation, which declare that here she shall die? What else remains,
I will not taunt her with. Little knows he, the luckless wight, the sufferings
that await him; or how these ills I and my Phrygians endure shall one day
seem to him precious as gold. For beyond the ten long years spent at Troy
he shall drag out other ten and then come to his country all alone, by
the route where fell Charybdis lurks in a narrow channel 'twixt the rocks;
past Cyclops the savage shepherd, and Ligurian Circe that turneth men to
swine; shipwrecked oft upon the salt sea-wave; fain to eat the lotus, and
the sacred cattle of the sun, whose flesh shall utter in the days to come
a human voice, fraught with misery to Odysseus. But to briefly end this
history, he shall descend alive to Hades, and, though he 'scape the waters'
flood, yet shall he find a thousand troubles in his home when he arrives.
Enough why do I recount the troubles of Odysseus? Lead on, that I forthwith
may wed my husband for his home in Hades' halls. Base thou art, and basely
shalt thou be buried, in the dead of night when day is done, thou captain
of that host of Danai, who thinkest so proudly of thy fortune! Yea, and
my corpse cast forth in nakedness shall the rocky chasm with its flood
of wintry waters give to wild beasts to make their meal upon, hard by my
husband's tomb, me the handmaid of Apollo. Farewell, ye garlands of that
god most dear to me! farewell, ye mystic symbols! I here resign your feasts,
my joy in days gone by. Go, I tear ye from my body, that, while yet mine
honour is intact, I may give them to the rushing winds to waft to thee,
my prince of prophecy I Where is yon general's ship? Whither must I go
to take my place thereon? Lose no further time in watching for a favouring
breeze to fill thy sails, doomed as thou art to carry from this land one
of the three avenging spirits. Fare thee well, mother mine! dry thy tears,
O country dear! yet a little while, my brothers sleeping in the tomb and
my own father true, and ye shall welcome me; yet shall victory crown my
advent 'mongst the dead, when I have overthrown the home of our destroyers,
the house of the sons of Atreus.
Exeunt TALTHYBIUS and CASSANDRA
Ye guardians of the grey-haired Hecuba, see how your mistress
is sinking speechless to the ground! Take hold of her! will ye let her
fall, ye worthless slaves? lift up again, from where it lies, her silvered
Leave me lying where I fell, my maidens unwelcome service grows
not welcome ever-my sufferings now, my troubles past, afflictions yet to
come, all claim this lowly posture. Gods of heaven! small help I find in
calling such allies, yet is there something in the form of invoking heaven,
whenso we fall on evil days. First will I descant upon my former blessings;
so shall I inspire the greater pity for my present woes. Born to royal
estate and wedded to a royal lord, I was the mother of a race of gallant
sons; no mere ciphers they, but Phrygia's chiefest pride, children such
as no Trojan or Hellenic or barbarian mother ever had to boast. All these
have I seen slain by the spear of Hellas, and at their tombs have I shorn
off my hair; with these my eyes I saw their sire, my Priam, butchered on
his own hearth, and my city captured, nor did others bring this bitter
news to me. The maidens I brought up to see chosen for some marriage high,
for strangers have I reared them, and seen them snatched away. Nevermore
can I hope to be seen by them, nor shall my eyes behold them ever in the
days to come. And last, to crown my misery, shall I be brought to Hellas,
a slave in my old age. And there the tasks that least befit the evening
of my life will they impose on me, to watch their gates and keep the keys,
me Hector's mother, or bake their bread, and on the ground instead of my
royal bed lay down my shrunken limbs, with tattered rags about my wasted
frame. a shameful garb for those who once were prosperous. Ah, woe is me!
and this is what I bear and am to bear for one weak woman's wooing! O my
daughter, O Cassandra! whom gods have summoned to their frenzied train,
how cruel the lot that ends thy virgin days! And thou, Polyxena! my child
of sorrow, where, oh! where art thou? None of all the many sons and daughters
have I born comes to aid a wretched mother. Why then raise me up? What
hope is left us? Guide me, who erst trod so daintily the streets of Troy,
but now am but a slave, to a bed upon the ground, nigh some rocky ridge,
that thence I may cast me down and perish, after I have wasted my body
with weeping. Of all the prosperous crowd, count none a happy man before
Sing me, Muse, a tale of Troy, a funeral dirge in strains unheard
as yet, with tears the while; for now will I uplift for Troy a piteous
chant, telling how I met my doom and fell a wretched captive to the Argives
by reason of a four-footed beast that moved on wheels, in the hour that
Achaea's sons left at our gates that horse, loud rumbling on its way, with
its trappings of gold and its freight of warriors; and our folk cried out
as they stood upon the rocky citadel, "Up now ye whose toil is o'er, and
drag this sacred image to the shrine of the Zeus-born maiden, goddess of
our Ilium!" Forth from his house came every youth and every grey-head too;
and with songs of joy they took the fatal snare within. Then hastened all
the race of Phrygia to the gates, to make the goddess a present of an Argive
band ambushed in the polished mountain-pine, Dardania's ruin, a welcome
gift to be to her, the virgin queen of deathless steeds; and with nooses
of cord they dragged it, as it had been a ship's dark hull, to the stone-built
fane of the goddess Pallas, and set it on that floor so soon to drink our
country's blood. But, as they laboured and made merry, came on the pitchy
night; loud the Libyan flute was sounding, and Phrygian songs awoke, while
maidens beat the ground with airy foot, uplifting their gladsome song;
and in the halls a blaze of torchlight shed its flickering shadows on sleeping
eyes. In that hour around the house was I singing as I danced to that maiden
of the hills, the child of Zeus; when lo! there rang along the town a cry
of death which filled the homes of Troy, and little babes in terror clung
about their mothers' skirts, as forth from their ambush came the warrior-band,
the handiwork of maiden Pallas. Anon the altars ran with Phrygian blood,
and desolation reigned o'er every bed where young men lay beheaded, a glorious
crown for Hellas won, ay, for her, the nurse of youth, but for our Phrygian
fatherland a bitter grief. Look, Hecuba! dost see Andromache advancing
hither on a foreign car? and with her, clasped to her throbbing breast,
is her dear Astyanax, Hector's child.
Whither art thou borne, unhappy wife, mounted on that car,
side by side with Hector's brazen arms and Phrygian spoils of war, with
which Achilles' son will deck the shrines of Phthia on his return from
My Achaean masters drag me hence.
Woe is thee!
Why dost thou in note of woe utter the dirge that is mine?
For these sorrows.
And for this calamity.
O my children!
Our day is past.
Joy is fled, and Troy o'erthrown.
Woe is me!
Dead too all my gallant sons!
Alack and well-a-day!
Ah me for my-
Piteous the fate-
Of our city,
Smouldering in the smoke.
Come, my husband, come to me!
Ah hapless wife! thou callest on my son who lieth in the tomb.
Thy wife's defender, come!
Do thou, who erst didst make the Achaeans grieve, eldest of
the sons I bare to Priam in the days gone by, take me to thy rest in Hades'
Bitter are these regrets, unhappy mother, bitter these woes
to bear; our city ruined, and sorrow evermore to sorrow added, through
the will of angry heaven, since the day that son' of thine escaped his
doom, he that for a bride accursed brought destruction on the Trojan citadel.
There lie the gory corpses of the slain by the shrine of Pallas for vultures
to carry off; and Troy is come to slavery's yoke.
O my country, O unhappy land, I weep for thee now left behind;
now dost thou behold thy piteous end; and thee, my house, I weep, wherein
I suffered travail. O my children! reft of her city as your mother is,
she now is losing you. Oh, what mourning and what sorrow! oh, what endless
streams of tears in our houses! The dead alone forget their griefs and
never shed a tear.
What sweet relief to sufferers 'tis to weep, to mourn, lament,
and chant the dirge that tells of grief!
Dost thou see this, mother of that Hector, who once laid low
in battle many a son of Argos?
I see that it is heaven's way to exalt what men accounted naught,
and ruin what they most esteemed.
Hence with my child as booty am I borne; the noble are to slavery
brought-a bitter, bitter change.
This is necessity's grim law; it was but now Cassandra was
torn with brutal violence from my arms.
Alas, alas! it seems a second Aias hath appeared to wrong thy
daughter; but there be other ills for thee.
Ay, beyond all count or measure are my sorrows; evil vies with
evil in the struggle to be first.
Thy daughter Polyxena is dead, slain at Achilles' tomb, an
offering to his lifeless corpse.
O woe is me! This is that riddle Talthybius long since told
me, a truth obscurely uttered.
I saw her with mine eyes; so I alighted from the chariot, and
covered her corpse with a mantle, and smote upon my breast.
Alas! my child, for thy unhallowed sacrifice! and yet again,
ah me! for this thy shameful death!
Her death was even as it was, and yet that death of hers was
after all a happier fate than this my life.
Death and life are not the same, my child; the one is annihilation,
the other keeps a place for hope.
Hear, O mother of children give ear to what I urge so well,
that I may cheer my drooping spirit. 'Tis all one, I say, ne'er to have
been born and to be dead, and better far is death than life with misery.
For the dead feel no sorrow any more and know no grief; but he who has
known prosperity and has fallen on evil days feels his spirit straying
from the scene of former joys. Now that child of thine is dead as though
she ne'er had seen the light, and little she recks of her calamity; whereas
I, who aimed at a fair repute, though I won a higher lot than most, yet
missed my lick in life. For all that stamps the wife a woman chaste, I
strove to do in Hector's home. In the first place, whether there is a slur
upon a woman, or whether there is not, the very fact of her not staying
at home brings in its train an evil name; therefore I gave up any wish
to do so, and abode ever within my house, nor would I admit the clever
gossip women love, but conscious of a heart that told an honest tale I
was content therewith. And ever would I keep a silent tongue and modest
eye before my lord; and well I knew where I might rule my lord, and where
'twas best to yield to him; the fame whereof hath reached the Achaean host,
and proved my ruin; for when I was taken captive, Achilles' son would have
me as his wife, and I must serve in the house of murderers. And if I set
aside my love for Hector, and ope my heart to this new lord, I shall appear
a traitress to the dead, while, if I hate him, I shall incur my master's
displeasure. And yet they say a single night removes a woman's dislike
for her husband; nay, I do hate the woman who, when she hath lost her former
lord, transfers her love by marrying another. Not e'en the horse, if from
his fellow torn, will cheerfully draw the yoke; and yet the brutes have
neither speech nor sense to help them, and are by nature man's inferiors.
O Hector mine! in thee I found a husband amply dowered with wisdom, noble
birth and fortune, a brave man and a mighty; whilst thou didst take me
from my father's house a spotless bride, thyself the first to make this
maiden wife. But now death hath claimed thee, and I to Hellas am soon to
sail, a captive doomed to wear the yoke of slavery. Hath not then the dead
Polyxena, for whom thou wailest, less evil to bear than I? I have not so
much as hope, the last resource of every human heart, nor do I beguile
myself with dreams of future bliss, the very thought whereof is sweet.
Thou art in the self-same plight as I; thy lamentations for
thyself remind me of my own sad case.
I never yet have set foot on a ship's deck, though I have seen
such things in pictures and know of them from hearsay. Now sailors, if
there come a storm of moderate force, are all eagerness to save themselves
by toil; one at the tiller stands, another sets himself to work the sheets,
a third meantime is baling out the ship; but if tempestuous waves arise
to overwhelm them, they yield to fortune and commit themselves to the driving
billows. Even so I, by reason of my countless troubles, am dumb and forbear
to say a word; for Heaven with its surge of misery is too strong for me.
Cease, Oh cease, my darling child, to speak of Hector's fate; no tears
of thine can save him; honour thy present lord, offering thy sweet nature
as the bait to win him. If thou do this, thou wilt cheer thy friends as
well as thyself, and thou shalt rear my Hector's child to lend stout aid
to Ilium, that so thy children in the after-time may build her up again,
and our city yet be stablished. But lo! our talk must take a different
turn; who is this Achaean menial I see coming hither, sent to tell us of
some new design?
Oh hate me not, thou that erst wert Hector's wife, the bravest
of the Phrygians! for my tongue would fain not tell that which the Danai
and sons of Pelops both command.
What is it? Thy prelude bodeth evil news.
'Tis decreed thy son is-how can I tell my news?
Surely not to have a different master from me?
None of all Achaea's chiefs shall ever lord it over him.
Is it their will to leave him here, a remnant yet of Phrygia's
I know no words to break the sorrow lightly to thee.
I thank thee for thy consideration, unless indeed thou hast
good news to tell.
They mean to slay thy son; there is my hateful message to thee.
O God! this is worse tidings than my forced marriage.
So spake Odysseus to the assembled Hellenes, and his word prevails.
Oh once again ah me there is no measure in the woes I bear.
He said they should not rear so brave a father's son.
May such counsels yet prevail about children of his!
From Troy's battlements he must be thrown. Let it be even so,
and thou wilt show more wisdom; cling not to him, but bear thy sorrows
with heroic heart, nor in thy weakness deem that thou art strong. For nowhere
hast thou any help; consider this thou must; thy husband and thy city are
no more, so thou art in our power, and I alone am match enough for one
weak woman; wherefore I would not see thee bent on strife, or any course
to bring thee shame or hate, nor would I hear thee rashly curse the Achaeans.
For if thou say aught whereat the host grow wroth, this child will find
no burial nor pity either. But if thou hold thy peace and with composure
take thy fate, thou wilt not leave his corpse unburied, and thyself wilt
find more favour with the Achaeans.
My child! my own sweet babe and priceless treasure! thy death
the foe demands, and thou must leave thy wretched mother. That which saves
the lives of others, proves thy destruction, even thy sire's nobility;
to thee thy father's valiancy has proved no boon. O the woeful wedding
rites, that brought me erst to Hector's home, hoping to be the mother of
a son that should rule o'er Asia's fruitful fields instead of serving as
a victim to the sons of Danaus! Dost weep, my babe? dost know thy hapless
fate? Why clutch me with thy hands and to my garment cling, nestling like
a tender chick beneath my wing? Hector will not rise again and come gripping
his famous spear to bring thee salvation; no kinsman of thy sire appears,
nor might of Phrygian hosts; one awful headlong leap from the dizzy height
and thou wilt dash out thy life with none to pity thee Oh to clasp thy
tender limbs, a mother's fondest joy! Oh to breathe thy fragrant breath!
In vain it seems these breasts did suckle thee, wrapped in thy swaddling-clothes;
all for naught I used to toil and wore myself away! Kiss thy mother now
for the last time, nestle to her that bare thee, twine thy arms about my
neck and join thy lips to mine! O ye Hellenes, cunning to devise new forms
of cruelty, why slay this child who never wronged any? Thou daughter of
Tyndarus, thou art no child of Zeus, but sprung, I trow, of many a sire,
first of some evil demon, next of Envy, then of Murder and of Death, and
every horror that the earth begets. That Zeus was never sire of thine I
boldly do assert, bane as thou hast been to many a Hellene and barbarian
too. Destruction catch thee! Those fair eyes of thine have brought a shameful
ruin on the fields of glorious Troy. Take the babe and bear him hence,
hurl him down if so ye list, then feast upon his flesh! 'Tis heaven's high
will we perish, and I cannot ward the deadly stroke from my child. Hide
me and my misery; cast me into the ship's hold; for 'tis to a fair wedding
I am going, now that I have lost my child!
Unhappy Troy! thy thousands thou hast lost for one woman's
sake and her accursed wooing.
Come, child, leave fond embracing of thy woful mother, and
mount the high coronal of thy ancestral towers, there to draw thy parting
breath, as is ordained. Take him hence. His should the duty be to do such
herald's work, whose heart knows no pity and who loveth ruthlessness more
than my soul doth.
Exeunt ANDROMACHE and TALTHYBIUS with ASTYANAX.
O child, son of my hapless boy, an unjust fate robs me and
thy mother of thy life. How is it with me? What can I do for thee, my luckless
babe? for thee I smite upon my head and beat my breast, my only gift; for
that alone is in my power. Woe for my city! woe for thee! Is not our cup
full? What is wanting now to our utter and immediate ruin?
O Telamon, King of Salamis, the feeding ground of bees, who
hast thy home in a sea-girt isle that lieth nigh the holy hills where first
Athena made the grey olive-branch to appear, a crown for heavenly heads
and a glory unto happy Athens, thou didst come in knightly brotherhood
with that great archer, Alcemena's son, to sack our city Ilium, in days
gone by, on thy advent from Hellas, what time he led the chosen flower
of Hellas, vexed for the steeds denied him, and at the fair stream of Simois
he stayed his sea-borne ship and fastened cables to the stern, and forth
therefrom he took the bow his hand could deftly shoot, to be the doom of
Laomedon; and with the ruddy breath of fire he wasted the masonry squared
by Phoebus' line and chisel, and sacked the land of Troy; so twice in two
attacks hath the bloodstained spear destroyed Dardania's
In vain, it seems, thou Phrygian boy, pacing with dainty step amid
thy golden chalices, dost thou fill high the cup of Zeus, a service passing
fair; seeing that the land of thy birth is being consumed by fire. The
shore re-echoes to our cries; and, as a bird bewails its young, so we bewail
our husbands or our children, or our grey-haired mothers. The dew-fed springs
where thou didst bathe, the course where thou didst train, are now no more;
but thou beside the throne of Zeus art sitting with a calm, sweet smile
upon thy fair young face, while the spear of Hellas lays the land of Priam
waste. Ah! Love, Love, who once didst seek these Dardan halls, deep-seated
in the hearts of heavenly gods, how high didst thou make Troy to tower
in those days, allying her with deities! But I will cease to urge reproaches
against Zeus; for white-winged dawn, whose light to man is dear, turned
a baleful eye upon our land and watched the ruin of our citadel, though
she had within her bridal bower a husband from this land, whom on a day
a car of gold and spangled stars caught up and carried thither, great source
of hope to his native country; but all the love the gods once had for Troy
is passed away.
Hail! thou radiant orb by whose fair light I now shall capture
her that was my wife, e'en Helen; for I am that Menelaus, who hath toiled
so hard, I and Achaea's host. To Troy I came, not so much as men suppose
to take this woman, but to punish him who from my house stole my wife,
traitor to my hospitality. But he, by heaven's will, hath paid the penalty,
ruined, and his country too, by the spear of Hellas. And I am come to bear
that Spartan woman hence-wife I have no mind to call her, though she once
was mine; for now she is but one among the other Trojan dames who share
these tents as captives. For they-the very men who toiled to take her with
the spear-have granted her to me to slay, or, if I will, to spare and carry
back with me to Argos. Now my purpose is not to put her to death in Troy,
but to carry her to Hellas in my seaborne ship, and then surrender her
to death, a recompense to all whose friends were slain in Ilium. Ho! my
trusty men, enter the tent, and drag her out to me by her hair with many
a murder foul; and when a favouring breeze shall blow, to Hellas will we
O thou that dost support the earth and restest thereupon, whosoe'er
thou art, a riddle past our ken! be thou Zeus, or natural necessity, or
man's intellect, to thee I pray; for, though thou treadest o'er a noiseless
path, all thy dealings with mankind are by justice guided.
How now? Strange the prayer thou offerest unto heaven!
I thank thee, Menelaus, if thou wilt slay that wife of thine.
Yet shun the sight of her, lest she smite thee with regret. For she ensnares
the eyes of men, o'erthrows their towns, and burns their houses, so potent
are her witcheries! Well I know her; so dost thou and those her victims
Menelaus! this prelude well may fill me with alarm; for I am
haled with violence by thy servants' hands and brought before these tents.
Still, though I am well-nigh sure thou hatest me, yet would I fain inquire
what thou and Hellas have decided about my life.
To judge thy case required no great exactness; the host with
one consent-that host whom thou didst wrong-handed thee over to me to die.
May I answer this decision, proving that my death, if to die
I am, will be unjust?
I came not to argue, but to slay thee.
Hear her, Menelaus; let her not die for want of that, and let
me answer her again, for thou knowest naught of her villainies in Troy;
and the whole case, if thus summed up, will insure her death against all
chance of an escape.
This boon needs leisure; still, if she wishes to speak, the
leave is given. Yet will I grant her this because of thy words, that she
may hear them, and not for her own sake.
Perhaps thou wilt not answer me, from counting me a foe, whether
my words seem good or ill. Yet will I put my charges and thine over against
each other, and then reply to the accusations I suppose thou wilt advance
against me. First, then, she was the author of these troubles by giving
birth to Paris; next, old Priam ruined Troy and me, because he did not
slay his babe Alexander, baleful semblance of a fire-brand, long ago. Hear
what followed. This Paris was to judge the claims of three rival goddesses;
so Pallas offered him command of all the Phrygians, and the destruction
of Hellas; Hera promised he should spread his dominion over Asia, and the
utmost bounds of Europe, if he would decide for her; but Cypris spoke in
rapture of my loveliness, and promised him this boon, if she should have
the preference o'er those twain for beauty; now mark the inference I deduce
from this; Cypris won the day o'er them, and thus far hath my marriage
proved of benefit to Hellas, that ye are not subject to barbarian rule,
neither vanquished in the strife, nor yet by tyrants crushed. What Hellas
gained, was ruin to me, a victim for my beauty sold, and now am I reproached
for that which should have set a crown upon my head. But thou wilt say
I am silent on the real matter at issue, how it was I started forth and
left thy house by stealth. With no mean goddess at his side he came, my
evil genius, call him Alexander or Paris, as thou wilt; and him didst thou,
thrice guilty wretch, leave behind thee in thy house, and sail away from
Sparta to the land of Crete. Enough of this! For all that followed I must
question my own heart, not thee; what frantic thought led me to follow
the stranger from thy house, traitress to my country and my home? Punish
the goddess, show thyself more mighty e'en than Zeus, who, though he lords
it o'er the other gods, is yet her slave; wherefore I may well be pardoned.
Still, from hence thou mightest draw a specious argument against me; when
Paris died, and Earth concealed his corpse, I should have left his house
and sought the Argive fleet, since my marriage was no longer in the hands
of gods. That was what I fain had done; yea, and the warders on the towers
and watchmen on the walls can bear me witness, for oft they found me seeking
to let myself down stealthily by cords from the battlements; but there
was that new husband, Deiphobus, that carried me off by force to be his
wife against the will of Troy. How then, my lord, could I be justly put
to death by thee, with any show of right, seeing that he wedded me against
my will, and those my other natural gifts have served a bitter slavery,
instead of leading on to triumph? If 'tis thy will indeed to master gods,
that very wish displays thy folly.
O my royal mistress, defend thy children's and thy country.'s
cause, bringing to naught her persuasive arguments, for she pleads well
in spite of all her villainy; 'tis monstrous this!
First will I take up the cause of those goddesses, and prove
how she perverts the truth. For I can ne'er believe that Hera or the maiden
Pallas would have been guilty of such folly, as to sell, the one, her Argos
to barbarians, or that Pallas e'er would make her Athens subject to the
Phrygians, coming as they did in mere wanton sport to Ida to contest the
palm of beauty. For why should goddess Hera set her heart so much on such
a prize? Was it to win a nobler lord than Zeus? or was Athena bent on finding
'mongst the gods a husband, she who in her dislike of marriage won from
her sire the boon of remaining unwed? Seek not to impute folly to the goddesses,
in the attempt to gloze o'er thy own sin; never wilt thou persuade the
wise. Next thou hast said-what well may make men jeer-that Cypris came
with my son to the house of Menelaus. Could she not have stayed quietly
in heaven and brought thee and Amyclae to boot to Ilium? Nay! my son was
passing fair, and when thou sawest him thy fancy straight became thy Cypris;
for every sensual act that men commit, they lay upon this goddess, and
rightly does her name of Aphrodite begin the word for "senselessness";
so when thou didst catch sight of him in gorgeous foreign garb, ablaze
with gold, thy senses utterly forsook thee. Yea, for in Argos thou hadst
moved in simple state, but, once free of Sparta, 'twas thy fond hope to
deluge by thy lavish outlay Phrygia's town, that flowed with gold; nor
was the palace of Menelaus rich enough for thy luxury to riot in. Ha! my
son carried thee off by force, so thou savest; what Spartan saw this? what
cry for help didst thou ever raise, though Castor was still alive, a vigorous
youth, and his brother also, not yet amid the stars? Then when thou wert
come to Troy, and the Argives were on thy track, and the mortal combat
was begun, whenever tidings came to thee of Menelaus' prowess, him wouldst
thou praise, to grieve my son, because he had so powerful a rival in his
love; but if so the Trojans prospered, Menelaus was nothing to thee. Thy
eye was fixed on Fortune, and by such practice wert thou careful to follow
in her steps, careless of virtue's cause. And then, in spite of all, thou
dost assert that thou didst try to let thyself down from the towers by
stealth with twisted cords, as if loth to stay? Pray then, wert thou ever
found fastening the noose about thy neck, or whetting the knife, as noble
wife would have done in regret for her former husband? And yet full oft
I advised thee saying, "Get thee gone, daughter, and let my sons take other
brides; I will help thee to steal away, and convey thee to the Achaean
fleet; oh end the strife 'twixt us and Hellas!" But this was bitter in
thy ears. For thou wert wantoning in Alexander's house, fain to have obeisance
done thee by barbarians. Yes, 'twas a proud time for thee; and now after
all this thou hast bedizened thyself, and come forth and hast dared to
appear under the same sky as thy husband, revolting wretchl Better hadst
thou come in tattered raiment, cowering humbly in terror, with hair shorn
short, if for thy past sins thy feeling were one of shame rather than effrontery.
O Menelaus, hear the conclusion of my argument; crown Hellas by slaying
her as she deserves, and establish this law for all others of her sex,
e'en death to every traitress to her husband.
Avenge thee, Menelaus, on thy wife, as is worthy of thy home
and ancestors, clear thyself from the reproach of effeminacy at the lips
of Hellas, and let thy foes see thy spirit.
Thy thoughts with mine do coincide, that she, without constraint,
left my palace, and sought a stranger's love, and now Cypris is introduced
for mere bluster. Away to those who shall stone thee, and by thy speedy
death requite the weary toils of the Achaeans, that thou mayst learn not
to bring shame on me!
Oh, by thy knees, I implore thee, impute not that heaven-sent
affliction to me, nor slay me; pardon, I entreat!
Be not false to thy allies, whose death this woman caused;
on their behalf, and for my children's sake, I sue to thee.
Peace, reverend dame; to her I pay no heed. Lo! I bid my servants
take her hence, aboard the ship, wherein she is to sail.
Oh never let her set foot within the same ship as thee.
How now? is she heavier than of yore?
Who loveth once, must love alway.
Why, that depends how those we love are minded. But thy wish
shall be granted; she shall not set foot upon the same ship with me; for
thy advice is surely sound; and when she comes to Argos she shall die a
shameful death as is her due, and impress the need of chastity on all her
sex; no easy task; yet shall her fate strike their foolish hearts with
terror, e'en though they be more lost to shame than she.
Exit MENELAUS, dragging HELEN with him.
So then thou hast delivered into Achaea's hand, O Zeus, thy
shrine in Ilium and thy fragrant altar, the offerings of burnt sacrifice
with smoke of myrrh to heaven uprising, and holy Pergamos, and glens of
Ida tangled with ivy's growth, where rills of melting snow pour down their
flood, a holy sunlit land that bounds the world and takes the god's first
rays! Gone are thy sacrifices! gone the dancer's cheerful shout! gone the
vigils of the gods as night closed in! Thy images of carven gold are now
no more; and Phrygia's holy festivals, twelve times a year, at each full
moon, are ended now. 'Tis this that filleth me with anxious thought whether
thou, O king, seated on the sky, thy heavenly throne, carest at all that
my city is destroyed, a prey to the furious fiery blast. Ah! my husband,
fondly loved, thou art a wandering spectre; unwashed, unburied lies thy
corpse, while o'er the sea the ship sped by wings will carry me to Argos,
land of steeds, where stand Cyclopian walls of stone upreared to heaven.
There in the gate the children gather, hanging round their mothers' necks,
and weep their piteous lamentation, "O mother, woe is me! torn from thy
sight Achaeans bear me away from thee to their dark ship to row me o'er
the deep to sacred Salamis or to the hill' on the Isthmus, that o'erlooks
two seas, the key to the gates of Pelops." Oh may the blazing thunderbolt,
hurled in might from its holy home, smite the barque of Menelaus full amidships
as it is crossing the Aegean main, since he is carrying me away in bitter
sorrow from the shores of Ilium to be a slave in Hellas, while the daughter
of Zeus still keeps her golden mirrors, delight-of maidens' hearts. Never
may he reach his home in Laconia or his father's hearth and home, nor come
to the town of Pitane or the temple of the goddess' with the gates of bronze,
having taken as his captive her whose marriage brought disgrace on Hellas
through its length and breadth and woful anguish on the streams of Simois!
Ah me! ah me! new troubles on my country fall, to take the place of those
that still are fresh! Behold, ye hapless wives of Troy, the corpse of Astyanax!
whom the Danai have cruelly slain by hurling him from the battlements.
Enter TALTHYBIUS and attendants, bearing the corpse of ASTYANAX on HECTOR's
Hecuba, one ship alone delays its plashing oars, and it is
soon to sail to the shores of Phthia freighted with the remnant of the
spoils of Achilles' son; for Neoptolemus is already out at sea, having
heard that new calamities have befallen Peleus, for Acastus, son of Pelias,
hath banished him the realm. Wherefore he is gone, too quick to indulge
in any delay, and with him goes Andromache, who drew many a tear from me
what time she started hence, wailing her country and crying her farewell
to Hector's tomb. And she craved her master leave to bury this poor dead
child of Hector who breathed his last when from the turrets hurled, entreating
too that he would not carry this shield, the terror of the Achaeans-this
shield with plates of brass wherewith his father would gird himself-to
the home of Peleus or to the same bridal bower whither she, herself the
mother of this corpse, would be led, a bitter sight to her, but let her
bury the child therein instead of in a coffin of cedar or a tomb of stone,
and to thy hands commit the corpse that thou mayst deck it with robes and
garlands as best thou canst with thy present means; for she is far away
and her master's haste prevented her from burying the child herself. So
we, when thou the corpse hast decked, will heap the earth above and set
thereon a spear; but do thou with thy best speed perform thy allotted task;
one toil however have I already spared thee, for I crossed Scamander's
stream and bathed the corpse and cleansed its wounds. But now will I go
to dig a grave for him, that our united efforts shortening our task may
speed our ship towards home.
Place the shield upon the ground, Hector's shield so deftly
rounded, a piteous sight, a bitter grief for me to see. O ye Achaeans,
more reason have ye to boast of your prowess than your wisdom I Why have
ye in terror of this child been guilty of murder never matched before?
Did ye fear that some day he would rear again the fallen walls of Troy?
it seems then ye were nothing after all, when, though Hector's fortunes
in the war were prosperous and he had ten thousand other arms to back him,
we still were daily overmatched; and yet, now that our city is taken and
every Phrygian slain, ye fear a tender babe like this! Out upon his fear!
say I, who fears, but never yet hath reasoned out the cause. Ah! my beloved,
thine is a piteous death indeed! Hadst thou died for thy city, when thou
hadst tasted of the sweets of manhood, of marriage, and of godlike power
o'er others, then wert thou blest, if aught herein is blest. But now after
one glimpse, one dream thereof thou knowest them no more, my child, and
hast no joy of them, though heir to all. Ah, poor babe! how sadly have
thy own father's walls, those towers that Loxias reared, shorn from thy
head the locks thy mother fondled, and so oft caressed, from which through
fractured bones the face of murder grins-briefly to dismiss my shocking
theme. O hands, how sweet the likeness ye retain of his father, and yet
ye lie limp in your sockets before me! Dear mouth, so often full of words
of pride, death hath closed thee, and thou hast not kept the promise thou
didst make, when nestling in my robe, "Ah, mother mine, many a lock of
my hair will I cut off for thee, and to thy tomb will lead my troops of
friends, taking a fond farewell of thee." But now 'tis not thy hand that
buries me, but I, on whom is come old age with loss of home and children,
am burying thee, a tender child untimely slain. Ah me! those kisses numberless,
the nurture that I gave to thee, those sleepless nights-they all are lost!
What shall the bard 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
Lo! all is ready and they are bringing at thy bidding from
the spoils of Troy garniture to put upon the dead.
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.
Woe! thrice woe! my heart is touched, and thou the cause, my
mighty prince in days now passed!
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.
Alas! ah me! thee, O child, shall earth take to her breast,
a cause for bitter weeping. Mourn, thou mother!
Wail for the dead.
Woe is me!
Alas! for thy unending sorrow!
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.
Smite, oh smite upon thy head with frequent blow of hand. Woe
My kind, good friends!
Speak out, good the word that was on thy lips.
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
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.
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 form-start for the
Achaean ships for your departure hence, soon as ever the leaders of the
host blow loud and clear upon the trumpet. And thou, unhappy grey haired
dame, follow; for yonder come servants from Odysseus to fetch thee, for
to him thou art assigned by lot to be a slave far from thy country.
Ah, woe is me! This surely is the last, the utmost limit this,
of all my sorrows; forth from my land I go; my city is ablaze with flame.
Yet, thou aged foot, make one painful struggle to hasten, that I may say
a farewell to this wretched town. O Troy, that erst hadst such a grand
career amongst barbarian towns, soon wilt thou be reft of that splendid
name. Lo! they are burning thee, and leading us e'en now from our land
to slavery. Great gods! Yet why call on the gods? They did not hearken
e'en aforetime to our call. Come, let us rush into the flames, for to die
with my country in its blazing ruin were a noble death for me.
Thy sorrows drive thee frantic, poor lady. Go, lead her hence,
make no delay, for ye must deliver her into the hand of Odysseus, conveying
to him his prize.
O son of Cronos, prince of Phrygia, father of our race, dost
thou behold our sufferings now, unworthy of the stock of Dardanus?
He sees them, but our mighty city is a city no more, and Troy's
day is done.
Woe! thrice woe upon me! Ilium is ablaze; the homes of Pergamos
and its towering walls are now one sheet of flame.
As the smoke soars on wings to heaven, so sinks our city to
the 'ground before the spear. With furious haste both fire and foeman's
spear devour each house.
Hearken, my children, hear your mother's voice.
Thou art calling on the dead with voice of lamentation.
Yea, as I stretch my aged limbs upon the ground, and beat upon
the earth with both my hands.
I follow thee and kneel, invoking from the nether world my
I am being dragged and hurried away.
O the sorrow of that cry!
From my own dear country, to dwell beneath a master's roof.
Woe is me! O Priam, Priam, unburied, left without a friend, naught dost
thou know of my cruel fate.
No, for o'er his eyes black death hath drawn his pall-a holy
man by sinners slain!
Woe for the temples of the gods! Woe for our dear city!
Murderous flame and foeman's spear are now your lot.
Soon will ye tumble to your own loved soil, and be forgotten.
And the dust, mounting to heaven on wings like smoke, will
rob me of the sight of my home.
The name of my country will pass into obscurity; all is scattered
far and wide, and hapless Troy has ceased to be.
Did ye hear that and know its purport?
Aye, 'twas the crash of the citadel.
The shock will whelm our city utterly. O woe is me! trembling,
quaking limbs, support my footsteps! away! to face the day that begins
Woe for our unhappy town! And yet to the Achaean fleet advance.
Woe for thee, O land that nursed my little babes!