ANDROMACHE by Euripides, Part 02
Have no tidings come that Peleus may arrive?
He is too old to help thee if he came.
And yet I sent for him more than once.
Surely thou dost not suppose that any of thy messengers heed thee?
Why should they? Wilt thou then go for me?
How shall I explain my long absence from the house?
Thou art a woman; thou canst invent a hundred ways.
There is a risk, for Hermione keeps no careless guard.
Dost look to that? Thou art disowning thy friends in distress.
Not so; never taunt me with that. I will go, for of a truth a
woman and a slave is not of much account, e'en if aught befall me.
(The MAID withdraws.)
Go then, while I will tell to heaven the lengthy tale of
lamentation, mourning, and weeping, that has ever been my hard lot;
for 'tis woman's way to delight in present misfortunes even to keeping
them always on her tongue and lips. But I have many reasons, not
merely one for tears,-my city's fall, my Hector's death, the
hardness of the lot to which I am bound, since I fell on slavery's
evil days undeservedly. 'Tis never right to call a son of man happy,
till thou hast seen his end, to judge from the way he passes it how he
will descend to that other world.
(She begins to chant.)
'Twas no bride Paris took with him to the towers of Ilium, but
curse to his bed when he brought Helen to her bower. For her sake,
Troy, did eager warriors, sailing from Hellas in a thousand ships,
capture and make thee a prey to fire and sword; and the son of
sea-born Thetis mounted on his chariot dragged my husband Hector round
the walls, ah woe is me! while I was hurried from my chamber to the
beach, with slavery's hateful pall upon me. And many tear I shed as
I left my city, my bridal bower, and my husband in the dust. Woe,
woe is me! why should I prolong my life, to serve Hermione? Her
cruelty it is that drives me hither to the image of the goddess to
throw my suppliant arms about it, melting to tears as doth a spring
that gushes from the rock.
(The CHORUS OF PHTHIAN WOMEN enters.)
Lady, thus keeping thy weary station without pause upon the
floor of Thetis' shrine, Phthian though I am, to thee a daughter of
Asia I come, to see if I can devise some remedy for these perplexing
troubles, which have involved thee and Hermione in fell discord,
because to thy sorrow thou sharest with her the love of Achilles' son.
Recognize thy position, weigh the present evil into the which thou
art come. Thou art a Trojan captive; thy rival is thy mistress, a
true-born daughter of Sparta. Leave then this home of sacrifice, the
shrine of our sea-goddess. How can it avail thee to waste thy
comeliness and disfigure it by weeping by reason of a mistress's harsh
usage? Might will prevail against thee; why vainly toil in thy
Come, quit the bright sanctuary of the Nereid divine. Recognize
that thou art in bondage on a foreign soil, in a strange city, where
thou seest none of all thy friends, luckless lady, cast on evil days.
Yea, I did pity thee most truly, Trojan dame, when thou camest
to this house; but from fear of my mistress I hold my peace, albeit
I sympathize with thee, lest she, whom Zeus's daughter bore,
discover my good will toward thee.
(HERMIONE enters, in complete royal regalia.)
With a crown of golden workmanship upon my head and about my
body this embroidered robe am I come hither; no presents these I
wear from the palace of Achilles or Peleus, but gifts my father
Menelaus gave me together with a sumptuous dower from Sparta in
Laconia, to insure me freedom of speech. Such is my answer to you
(to the CHORUS); but as for thee, slave and captive, thou wouldst fain
oust me and secure this palace for thyself, and thanks to thy
enchantment I am hated by my husband; thou it is that hast made my
womb barren and cheated my hopes; for Asia's daughters have clever
heads for such villainy; yet will I check thee therefrom, nor shall
this temple of the Nereid avail thee aught, no! neither its altar or
shrine, but thou shalt die. But if or god or man should haply wish
to save thee, thou must atone for thy proud thoughts of happier days
now past by humbling thyself and crouching prostrate at my knees, by
sweeping out my halls, and by learning, as thou sprinklest water
from a golden ewer, where thou now art. Here is no Hector, no Priam
with his gold, but a city of Hellas. Yet thou, miserable woman, hast
gone so far in wantonness that thou canst lay thee down with the son
of the very man that slew thy husband, and bear children to the
murderer. Such is all the race of barbarians; father and daughter,
mother and son, sister and brother mate together; the nearest and
dearest stain their path with each other's blood, and no law restrains
such horrors. Bring not these crimes amongst us, for here we count
it shame that one man should have the control of two wives, and men
are content to turn to one lawful love, that is, all who care to
live an honourable life.