ALCESTIS by Euripides, Part 02
What! Are you witty unawares?
The rich would gladly pay to die old.
So you will not grant me this favour?
Not I! You know my nature.
Yes! Hateful to men and a horror to the gods!
You cannot always have more than your due.
Yet you shall change, most cruel though you are! For a man comes
to the dwelling of Pheres, sent by Eurystheus to fetch a horse-drawn
chariot from the harsh-wintered lands of Thrace; and he shall be a
guest in the house of Admetus, and by force shall he tear this woman
from you. Thus shall you gain no thanks from us, and yet you shall
do this thing-and my hatred be upon you
(APOLLO goes out. DEATH gazes after him derisively.)
Talk all you will, you get no more of me! The woman shall go
down to the dwelling of Hades. Now must I go to consecrate her for the
sacrifice with this sword; for when once this blade has shorn the
victim's hair, then he is sacred to the Lower Gods!
(DEATH enters the Palace by the open main door. The CHORUS enters
from the right. They are the Elders or Notables of the city, and,
therefore move slowly, leaning upon their staffs.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS (chanting)
Why is there no sound outside the Palace? Why is the dwelling of
Admetus silent? Not a friend here to tell me if I must weep for a dead
Queen or whether she lives and looks upon the light, Alcestis, the
daughter of Pelias, whom among all women I hold the best wife to her
Is a sob to be heard?
Or the beating of hands
In the house?
The lament for her end?
Not one of her servants
Stands at the gate!
Ah! to roll back the wave of our woe,
Were she dead
They had not been silent.
She is but a dead body!
Yet she has not departed the house.
Ah! Let me not boast!
Why do you cling to hope?
Would Admetus bury her solitary,
Make a grave alone for a wife so dear?
At the gate I see not
The lustral water from the spring
Which stands at the gates of the dead!
No shorn tress in the portal
Laid in lament for the dead!
The young women beat not their hands!
Yet to-day is the day appointed....
Ah! What have you said?
When she must descend under earth
You have pierced my soul!
You have pierced my mind!
He that for long
Has been held in esteem
Must weep when the good are destroyed.
There is no place on earth
To send forth a suppliant ship-
Not to Lycia,
Not to Ammon's waterless shrine-
To save her from death!
The dreadful doom is at hand.
To what laden altar of what God
Shall I turn my steps?
If the light yet shone for his eye-
Asclepius, Phoebus's son,
Could have led her back
From the land of shadows,
From the gates of Hades,
For he raised the dead
Ere the Zeus-driven shaft
Slew him with thunder fire....
What hope can I hold for her life?
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