ALCESTIS by Euripides, Part 10
It was not my wish that you should come to this burial, and I deny
that your presence is that of a friend! She shall never wear these
garments of yours; she needs not your gifts for her burial. You should
have grieved when I was, about to die; but you stood aside, and now do
you come to wail over a corpse when you, an old man, allowed a young
woman to die?
Were you in very truth father of this body of mine? Did she, who
claims to be and is called my mother, bring me forth? Or was I bred of
a slave's seed and secretly brought to your wife's breast? You have
proved what you are when it comes to the test, and therefore I am
not your begotten son; or you surpass all men in cowardice, for, being
at the very verge and end of life, you had neither courage nor will to
die for your son. But this you left to a woman, a stranger, whom alone
I hold as my father and my mother!
Yet it had been a beautiful deed in you to die for your son, and
short indeed was the time left you to live. She and I would have lived
out our lives, and I should not now be here alone lamenting my misery.
You enjoyed all that a happy man can enjoy-you passed the flower
of your age as a king, and in me your son you had an heir to your
dominion; you would not have died childless, leaving an orphaned house
to be plundered by strangers. You will not say that you abandoned me
to death because I dishonoured your old age, for above all I was
respectful to you-and this is the gratitude I have from you and my
Beget more sons, and quickly, to cherish your old age and wrap you
in a shroud when dead and lay your body out in state! This hand of
mine shall not inter you. I am dead to you. I look upon the light of
day because another saved me-I say I am her son, and will cherish
her old age!
Vainly do old men pray for death, regretting their age and the
long span of life. If death draws near, none wants to die, and age
is no more a burden to him.
Admetus! The present misfortune is enough. Do not provoke your
(ADMETUS turns angrily to depart, but PHERES prevents him.)
My son, do you think you are pursuing some hireling Lydian or
Phrygian with your taunts? Do you know I am a Thessalian, a free man
lawfully begotten by a Thessalian father? You are over-insolent, and
you shall not leave thus, after wounding me with your boyish
insults. I indeed begot you, and bred you up to be lord of this
land, but I am not bound to die for you. It is not a law of our
ancestors or of Hellas that the fathers should die for the children!
You were born to live your own life, whether miserable or fortunate;
and what is due to you from me you have. You rule over many men, and I
shall leave you many wide fields even as received them from my own
father. How, then, have I wronged you? Of what have I robbed you? Do
not die for me, any more than I die for you. You love to look upon the
light of day-do you think your father hates it? I tell myself that
we are a long time underground and that life is short, but sweet.
But you-you strove shamelessly not to die, and you are alive,
you shirked your fate by killing her! And you call me a coward, you,
the worst of cowards, surpassed by a woman who died for you, pretty
boy? And now you insult those who should be dear to you, when they
refuse to die for a coward like you!
Be silent! Learn that if you love your life, so do others. If
you utter insults, you shall hear many, and true ones too!
These insults and those that went before suffice. Old man, cease
to revile your son.
ADMETUS (to PHERES)
Speak on! I shall refute you. If the truth wounds you when you
hear it you should not have wronged me.
I should have wronged you far more if I had died for you.
It is the same then to die an old man and in the flower of life?
We should live one life, not two.
May you live longer than God!
Do you curse your parents when they have done you no wrong?
I see you are in love with long life.
But you are not carrying her dead body in place of your own?
It is the proof of your cowardice, O worst of men.
You cannot say she died for me!
Alas! May you one day need my help.
Woo many women, so that more may die for you.
To your shame be it-you who dared not die.
Sweet is the daylight of the Gods, very sweet.
Your spirit is mean, not a man's.
Would you laugh to carry an old man's body to the grave?
You will die infamous, whenever you die.
It will matter little enough to me to hear ill of myself when I am