ALCESTIS by Euripides, Part 11
Alas! Alas! full of impudence. is old age!
She was not impudent, but foolish,
Go! Leave me to bury her body.
PHERES (turning away)
I go. You, her murderer, will bury her-but soon you must render an
account to her relatives. Acastus is not a man if he fails to avenge
his sister's blood on you!
(PHERES goes out by the way he entered, followed by his
ATTENDANTs. ADMETUS gazes angrily after him.)
Go with a curse, you, and she who dwells with you! Grow old, as
you ought, childless though you have a child. You shall never return
to this house. And if I could renounce your hearth as my father's by
HeraLDs, I would do it. But we-since this sorrow must be endured-let
us go, and set her body on the funeral pyre.
(The Procession moves slowly along the stage, and is joined by the
CHORUS. As they pass, the LEADER salutes the body of ALCESTIS.)
Alas! Alas! You who suffer for your courage, O noblest and best of
women, hail! May Hermes of the Dead, may Hades, greet you kindly. If
there are rewards for the dead, may you share them as you sit by the
bride of the Lord of the Dead!
(The Procession has filed out. A servant in mourning
hurries out from the guests' quarters.)
Many guests from every land, I know, have come to the Palace of
Admetus, and I have set food before them, but never one worse than
this guest have I welcomed to the hearth.
First, though he saw our Lord was in mourning, he entered, and
dared to pass through the gates. Then, knowing our misfortune, he
did not soberly accept what was offered him, but if anything was not
served to him he ordered us to bring it. In both hands he took a cup
of ivy-wood, and drank the unmixed wine of the dark grape-mother,
until he was encompassed and heated with the flame of wine. He crowned
his head with myrtle sprays, howling discordant songs. There was he
caring nothing for Admetus's misery, and we servants weeping for our
Queen; and yet we hid our tear-laden eyes from the guest, for so
Admetus had commanded.
And now in the Palace I must entertain this stranger, some
villainous thief and brigand, while she, the Queen I mourn, has gone
from the house unfollowed, unsaluted, she who was as a mother to me
and all us servants, for she sheltered us from a myriad troubles by
softening her husband's wrath.
Am I not right, then, to hate this stranger, who came to us in the
midst of sorrow?
(HERACLES comes from the Palace. He is drunkenly merry, with a
myrtle wreath on his head, and a large cup and wine-skin in his hands.
He staggers a little.)
Hey, you! Why so solemn and anxious? A servant should not be
sullen with guests, but greet them with a cheerful heart.
You see before you a man who is your lord's friend, and you
greet him with a gloomy, frowning face, because of your zeal about a
strange woman's death. Come here, and let me make you a little wiser!
(With drunken gravity) Know the nature of human life? Don't
think you do. You couldn't. Listen to me. All mortals must die.
Isn't one who knows if he'll be alive to-morrow morning. Who knows
where Fortune will lead? Nobody can teach it. Nobody learn it by
rules. So, rejoice in what you hear, and learn from me! Count each day
as it comes as Life-and leave the rest to Fortune. Above all, honour
the Love Goddess, sweetest of all the Gods to mortal men, a kindly
goddess! Put all the rest aside. Trust in what I say, if you think I
speak truth-as I believe. Get rid of this gloom, rise superior to
Fortune. Crown yourself with flowers and drink with me, won't you? I
know the regular clink of the wine-cup will row you from darkness
and gloom to another haven. Mortals should think mortal thoughts. To
all solemn and frowning men, life I say is not life, but a disaster.
We know all that, but what we endure here to-day is far indeed
from gladness and laughter.
But the dead woman was a stranger. Lament not overmuch, then,
for the Lords of this Palace are still alive.
How, alive? Do you not know the misery of this house?
Your lord did not lie to me?
He goes too far in hospitality!
But why should I suffer for a stranger's death?
It touches this house only too nearly.
Did he hide some misfortune from me?
Go in peace! The miseries of our lords concern us.
That speech does not imply mourning for a stranger!