ALCESTIS by Euripides, Part 12
No, or I should not have been disgusted to see you drinking.
Have I then been basely treated by my host?
You did not come to this house at a welcome hour. We are in
mourning. You see my head is shaved and the black garments I wear.
But who, then, is dead? One of the children? The old father?
O stranger, Admetus no longer has a wife.
What! And yet I was received in this way?
He was ashamed to send you away from his house.
O hapless one! What a wife you have lost!
Not she alone, but all of us are lost.
Heracles (now completely sobered)
I felt there was something when I saw his tear-wet eyes, his
shaven head, his distracted look. But he persuaded me he was taking
the body of a stranger to the grave. Against my will I entered these
ates, and drank in the home of this generous man-and he in such grief!
And shall I drink at such a time with garlands of flowers on my
head? You, why did you not tell me that such misery had come upon this
house? Where is he burying her? Where shall I find him?
Beside the straight road which leads to Larissa you will see a
tomb of polished stone outside the walls.
(Returns to the servants' quarters)
O heart of me, much-enduring heart, O right arm, now indeed must
you show what son was born to Zeus by Alcmena, the Tirynthian,
daughter of Electryon! For I must save this dead woman, and bring back
Alcestis to this house as a grace to Admetus.
I shall watch for Death, the black-robed Lord of the Dead, and I
know I shall find him near the tomb, drinking the blood of the
sacrifices. If can leap upon him from an ambush, seize him, grasp
him in my arms, no power in the world shall tear his bruised sides
from me until he has yielded up this woman. If I miss my prey, if he
does not come near the bleeding sacrifice, I will go down to Kore
and her lord in their sunless dwelling, and I will make my entreaty to
them, and I know they will give me Alcestis to bring back to the hands
of the host who welcomed me, who did not repulse me from his house,
though he was smitten with heavy woe which most nobly he hid from
me! Where would be a warmer welcome in Thessaly or in all the
dwellings of Hellas?
He shall not say he was generous to an ingrate!
(HERACLES goes out. Presently ADMETUS and his ATTENDANTs, followed
by the CHORUS, return from the burial of ALCESTIS.)
Hateful approach, hateful sight of my widowed house! Oh me! Oh me!
Alas! Whither shall I go? Where rest? What can I say? What refrain
from saying? Why can I not die? Indeed my mother bore me for a hapless
fate. I envy the dead, I long to be with them, theirs are the
dwellings where I would be. Without pleasure I look upon the light
of day and set my feet upon the earth-so precious a hostage has
Death taken from me to deliver unto Hades!
CHORUS (chanting responsively with ADMETUS)
Enter your house.
Your grief deserves our tears.
I know you have entered into sorrow.
Yet you bring no aid to the dead.
Oh me! Oh me!
Heavy shall it be for you
Never to look again
On the face of the woman you love.
You bring to my mind the grief that breaks my heart. What sorrow
is worse for a man than the loss of such a woman? I would I had
never married, never shared my house with her. I envy the wifeless and
the childless. They live but one life-what is suffering to them? But
the sickness of children, bridal-beds ravished by Death-dreadful! when
we might be wifeless and childless to THE END.
Chance, dreadful Chance, has stricken you.
But you set no limit to your grief.
A heavy burden to bear, and yet...