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ALCESTIS by Euripides, Part 13

ADMETUS
Woe! Woe!
CHORUS
Courage! You are not the first to lose...
ADMETUS
Oh me! Oh me!
CHORUS
A wife.
Different men
Fate crushes with different blows.
ADMETUS
O long grief and mourning for those beloved under the earth!
Why did you stay me from casting myself into the hollow grave to
lie down for ever in death by the best of women? Two lives, not one,
had then been seized by Hades, most faithful one to the other; and
together we should have crossed the lake of the Underworld.
CHORUS
A son most worthy of tears
Was lost to one of my house,
Yet, childless, he suffered with courage,
Though the white was thick in his hair
And his days were far-spent!
ADMETUS
O visage of my house! How shall I enter you? How shall I dwell
in you, now that Fate has turned its face from me? How great is the
change! Once, of old, I entered my house with marriage-songs and the
torches of Pelion, holding a loved woman by the hand, followed by a
merry crowd shouting good wishes to her who is dead and to me, because
we had joined our lives, being both noble and born of noble lines.
Today, in place of marriage-songs are lamentations; instead of white
garments I am clad in mourning, to return to my house and a solitary
bed.
CHORUS
Grief has fallen upon you
In the midst of a happy life
Untouched by misfortune.
But your life and your spirit are safe.
She is dead,
She has left your love.
Is this so new?
Ere now many men
Death has severed from wives.
ADMETUS (speaking)
O friends, whatsoever may be thought by others, to me it seems
that my wife's fate is happier than mine. Now, no pain ever shall
touch her again; she has reached the noble end of all her
sufferings. But I, I who should have died, I have escaped my fate,
only to drag out a wretched life. Only now do I perceive it.
How shall I summon strength to enter this house? Whom shall I
greet? Who will greet me in joy at my coming? Whither shall I turn
my steps? I shall be driven forth by solitude when I see my bed
widowed of my wife, empty the chairs on which she sat, a dusty floor
beneath my roof, my children falling at my knees and calling for their
mother, and the servants lamenting for the noble lady lost from the
house!
Such will be my life within the house. Without, I shall be
driven from marriage-feasts and gatherings of the women of Thessaly. I
shall not endure to look upon my wife's friends. Those who hate me
will say: 'See how he lives in shame, the man who dared not die, the
coward who gave his wife to Hades in his stead! Is that a man? He
hates his parents, yet he himself refused to die!'
This evil fame I have added to my other sorrows. O my friends,
what then avails it that I live, if I must live in misery and shame?

(He covers his head with his robe, and crouches
in abject misery on the steps of his Palace.)

CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

I have lived with the Muses
And on lofty heights:
Many doctrines have I learned;
But Fate is above us all.
Nothing avails against Fate
Neither the Thracian tablets
Marked with Orphic symbols,
Nor the herbs given by Phoebus
To the children of Asclepius
To heal men of their sickness.

antistrophe 1

None can come near to her altars,
None worship her statues;
She regards not our sacrifice.
O sacred goddess,
Bear no more hardly upon me
Than in days overpast!
With a gesture Zeus judges,
But the sentence is yours.
Hard iron yields to your strength;
Your fierce will knows not gentleness.

strophe 2

And the Goddess has bound you
Ineluctably in the gyves of her hands.
Yield.
Can your tears give life to the dead?
For the sons of the Gods
Swoon in the shadow of Death.
Dear was she in our midst,
Dear still among the dead,
For the noblest of women was she
Who lay in your bed.

 

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