ALCESTIS by Euripides, Part 14
Let the grave of your spouse
Be no more counted as a tomb,
But revered as the Gods,
And greeted by all who pass by!
The wanderer shall turn from his path,
Saying: 'She died for her lord;
A blessed spirit she is now.
Hail, O sacred lady, be our friend!'
Thus shall men speak of her.
(ADMETUS is still crouched on the Palace steps, when
Heracles enters from the side, leading a veiled woman.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But see! The son of Alcmena, as I think, comes to your house.
(ADMETUS uncovers his head, and faces the newcomer.)
Admetus, a man should speak freely to his friends, and not keep
reproaches silent in his heart. Since I was near you in your
misfortune, should have wished to show myself your friend. But you did
not tell me the dead body was your wife's, and you took me into your
house as if you were in mourning only for a stranger. And I put a
garland of flowers upon my head, and poured wine-offerings to the
Gods, when your house was filled with lamentation. I blame you, yes, I
blame you for this-but I will not upbraid you in your misfortune.
Why I turned back and am here, I shall tell you. Take and keep
this woman for me until I have slain the King of the Bistones and
return here with the horses of Thrace. If ill happens to me-may I
return safely!-I give her to you to serve in your house.
With much striving I won her to my hands. On my way I found public
games, worthy of athletes, and I have brought back this woman whom I
won as the prize of victory. The winners of the easy tests had horses;
heads of cattle were given to those who won in boxing and wrestling.
Then came a woman as a prize. Since I was present, it would have
been shameful for me to miss this glorious gain. Therefore, as I said,
you must take care of this woman, whom I bring to you, not as one
stolen but as the prize of my efforts. Perhaps in time you will
approve of what I do.
Not from disdain, nor to treat you as a foe, did I conceal my
wife's fate from you. But if you had turned aside to another man's
hearth, one more grief had been added to my sorrow. It was enough that
I should weep my woe.
This woman-O King, I beg it may be thus-enjoin some other
Thessalian, one who is not in sorrow, to guard her. In Pherae there
are many to welcome you. Do not remind me of my grief. Seeing her in
my house, I could not restrain my tears. Add not a further anguish
to my pain, for what I suffer is too great. And then-where could I
harbour a young woman in my house? For she is young-I see by her
clothes and jewels. Could she live with the men under my roof? How,
then, could she remain chaste, if she moved to and fro among the young
men? Heracles, it is not easy to restrain the young....I am thinking
of your interests....Must I take her to my dead wife's room? How could
I endure her to enter that bed? I fear a double reproach-from my
people, who would accuse me of betraying my saviour to slip into
another woman's bed, and from my dead wife, who deserves my respect,
for which I must take care.
O woman, whosoever you may be, you have the form of Alcestis,
and your body is like hers.
Ah! By all the Gods, take her from my sight! Do not insult a
broken man. When I look upon her-she seems my wife-my heart is torn
asunder-tears flow from my eyes. Miserable creature that I am, now
taste the bitterness of my sorrow.
I do not praise this meeting; but, whatever happens, we must
accept the gifts of the Gods.
Oh, that I might bring your wife back into the light of day from
the dwelling of the Under-Gods, as a gift of grace to you!
I know you would wish this-but to what end? The dead cannot return
to the light of day.
Do not exaggerate, but bear this with decorum.
Easier to advise than bear the test.
How will it aid you to lament for ever?
I know-but my love whirls me away.
Love for the dead leads us to tears.
I am overwhelmed beyond words.
You have lost a good wife-who denies it?
So that for me there is no more pleasure in life.
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