ANDROMACHE by Euripides, Part 05
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Thou hast said too much for a woman speaking to men; that
discretion hath shot away its last shaft from thy soul's quiver.
Women, these are petty matters, unworthy, as thou sayest, of my
despotic sway, unworthy too of Hellas. Yet mark this well; his special
fancy of the hour is of more moment to a man than Troy's capture. I
then have set myself to help my daughter because I consider her loss
of wife's rights most grave; for whatever else a woman suffers is
second to this; if she loses her husband's love she loses her life
therewith. Now, as it is right Neoptolemus should rule my slaves, so
my friends and I should have control of his; for friends, if they be
really friends, keep nothing to themselves, but have all in common. So
if I wait for the absent instead of making the best arrangement I
can at once of my affairs, I show weakness, not wisdom. Arise then,
leave the goddess's shrine, for by thy death this child escapeth
his, whereas, if thou refuse to die, I will slay him; for one of you
twain must perish.
Ah me! 'tis a bitter lot thou art offering about my life;
whether I take it or not I am equally unfortunate. Attend to me,
thou who for a trifling cause art committing an awful crime. Why art
thou bent on slaying me? What reason hast thou? What city have I
betrayed? Which of thy children was ever slain by me? What house
have I fired? I was forced to be my master's concubine; and spite of
that wilt thou slay me, not him who is to blame, passing by the
cause and hurrying to the inevitable result? Ah me! my sorrows! Woe
for my hapless country! How cruel my fate! Why had I to be a mother
too and take upon me a double load of suffering? Yet why do I mourn
the past, and o'er the present never shed a tear or compute its
griefs? I that saw Hector butchered and dragged behind the chariot,
and Ilium, piteous sight! one sheet of flame, while I was baled away
by the hair of my head to the Argive ships in slavery, and on my
arrival in Phthia was given to Hector's murderer as his mistress. What
pleasure then has life for me? Whither am I to turn my gaze? to the
present or the past? My babe alone was left me, the light of my
life, and him these ministers of death would slay. No! they shall not,
if my poor life can save him; for if he be saved, hope in him lives
on, while to me 'twere shame to refuse to die for my son. Lo! here I
leave the altar and give myself into your hands, to cut or stab, to
bind or hang. Ah! my child, to Hades now thy mother passes to save thy
dear life. Yet if thou escape thy doom, remember me, my sufferings and
my death, and tell thy father how I fared, with fond caress and
streaming eye and arms thrown round his neck. Ah! yes, his children
are to every man as his own soul; and whoso sneers at this through
inexperience, though he suffers less anguish, yet tastes the bitter in
his cup of bliss.
Thy tale with pity fills me; for every man alike, stranger
though he be, feels pity for another's distress. Menelaus, 'tis thy
duty to reconcile thy daughter and this captive, giving her a
respite from sorrow.
Ho! sirrahs, seize this woman (His ATTENDANTs swiftly carry out
the order.); hold her fast; for 'tis no welcome story she will have to
hear. It was to make thee leave the holy altar of the goddess that I
held thy child's death before thy eyes, and so induced thee to give
thyself up to me to die. So stands thy case, be well assured; but as
for this child, my daughter shall decide whether she will slay him
or no. Get thee hence into the house, and there learn to bridle thy
insolence in speaking to the free, slave that thou art.
Alas! thou hast by treachery beguiled me; I was deceived.
Proclaim it to the world; I do not deny it.
Is this counted cleverness amongst you who dwell by the Eurotas?
Yes, and amongst Trojans too, that those who suffer should
Thinkest thou God's hand is shortened, and that thou wilt not be
Whene'er that comes, I am ready to bear it. But thy life will I
Wilt likewise slay this tender chick, whom thou hast snatched from
'neath my wing?
Not I, but I will give him to my daughter to slay if she will.
Ah me! why not begin my mourning then for thee, my child?
Of a truth 'tis no very sure hope that he has left.
O citizens of Sparta, the bane of all the race of men, schemers of
guile, and masters in lying, devisers of evil plots, with crooked
minds and tortuous methods and ne'er one honest thought, 'tis wrong
that ye should thrive in Hellas. What crime is wanting in your list?
How rife is murder with you! How covetous ye are! One word upon your
lips, another in your heart, this is what men always find with you.
Perdition catch ye! Still death is not so grievous, as thou
thinkest, to me. No! for my life ended in the day that hapless Troy
was destroyed with my lord, that glorious warrior, whose spear oft
made a coward like thee quit the field and seek thy ship. But now
against a woman hast thou displayed the terrors of thy panoply, my
would-be murderer. Strike then! for this my tongue shall never flatter
thee or that daughter of thine. For though thou wert of great
account in Sparta, why so was I in Troy. And if I am now in sorry
plight, presume not thou on this; thou too mayst be so yet.
(MENELAUS and his guards lead ANDROMACHE out.)
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