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ANDROMACHE by Euripides, Part 07

PELEUS (calling out as he comes in sight)
What means this? I ask you and your executioner; why is the palace
in an uproar? give a reason; what mean your lawless machinations?
Menelaus, hold thy hand. Seek not to outrun justice. (To his
ATTENDANT) Forward! faster, faster! for this matter, methinks,
admits of no delay; now if ever would I fain resume the vigour of my
youth. First however will breathe new life into this captive, being to
her as the breeze that blows a ship before the wind. Tell me, by
what right have they pinioned thine arms and are dragging thee and thy
child away? Like a ewe with her lamb art thou led to the slaughter,
while I and thy lord were far away.
ANDROMACHE
Behold them that are haling me and my child to death, e'en as thou
seest, aged prince. Why should I tell thee? For not by one urgent
summons alone but by countless messengers have I sent for thee. No
doubt thou knowest by hearsay of the strife in this house with this
man's daughter, and the reason of my ruin. So now they have torn and
are dragging me from the altar of Thetis, the goddess of thy
chiefest adoration and the mother of thy gallant son, without any
proper trial, yea, and without waiting for my absent master;
because, forsooth, they knew my defencelessness and my child's, whom
they mean to slay with me his hapless mother, though he has done no
harm. But to thee, O sire, I make my supplication, prostrate at thy
knees, though my hand cannot touch thy friendly beard; save me, I
adjure thee, reverend sir, or to thy shame and my sorrow shall we be
slain.
PELEUS
Loose her bonds, I say, ere some one rue it; untie her folded
hands.
MENELAUS
I forbid it, for besides being a match for thee, I have a far
better right to her.
PELEUS
What! art thou come hither to set my house in order? Art not
content with ruling thy Spartans?
MENELAUS
She is my captive; I took her from Troy.
PELEUS
Aye, but my son's son received her as his prize.
MENELAUS
Is not all I have his, and all his mine?
PELEUS
For good, but not evil ends; and surely not for murderous
violence.
MENELAUS
Never shalt thou wrest her from my grasp.
PELEUS
With this good staff I'll stain thy head with blood!
MENELAUS
Just touch me and see! Approach one step!
PELEUS
What! shalt thou rank with men? chief of cowards, son of
cowards! What right hast thou to any place 'mongst men? Thou who didst
let Phrygian rob thee of thy wife, leaving thy home without bolt or
guard, as if forsooth the cursed woman thou hadst there was a model of
virtue. No! a Spartan maid could not be chaste, e'en if she would, who
leaves her home and bares her limbs and lets her robe float free, to
share with youths their races and their sports,-customs I cannot
away with. Is it any wonder then that ye fail to educate your women in
virtue? Helen might have asked thee this, seeing that she said goodbye
to thy affection and tripped off with her young gallant to a foreign
land. And yet for her sake thou didst marshal all the hosts of
Hellas and lead them to Ilium, whereas thou shouldst have shown thy
loathing for her by refusing to stir a spear, once thou hadst found
her false; yea, thou shouldst have let her stay there, and even paid a
price to save ever having her back again. But that was not at all
the way thy thoughts were turned; wherefore many a brave life hast
thou ended, and many an aged mother hast thou left childless in her
home, and grey-haired sires of gallant sons hast reft. Of that sad
band am I member, seeing in thee Achilles' murderer like a malignant
fiend; for thou and thou alone hast returned from Troy without a
scratch, bringing back thy splendid weapons in their splendid cases
just as they went. As for me, I ever told that amorous boy to form
no alliance with thee nor take unto his home an evil mother's child;
for daughters bear the marks of their mothers' ill-repute into their
new homes. Wherefore, ye wooers, take heed to this my warning: "Choose
the daughter of a good mother." And more than this, with what wanton
insult didst thou treat thy brother, bidding him sacrifice his
daughter in his simpleness! So fearful wast thou of losing thy
worthless wife. Then after capturing Troy,-for thither too will I
accompany thee,-thou didst not slay that woman, when she was in thy
power; but as soon as thine eyes caught sight of her breast, thy sword
was dropped and thou didst take her kisses, fondling the shameless
traitress, too weak to stem thy hot desire, thou caitiff wretch! Yet
spite of all thou art the man to come and work havoc in my
grandson's halls when he is absent, seeking to slay with all indignity
a poor weak woman and her babe: but that babe shall one day make
thee and thy daughter in thy home rue it, e'en though his birth be
trebly base. Yea, for oft ere now hath seed, sown on barren soil,
prevailed o'er rich deep tilth, and many bastard has proved a better
man than children better born. Take thy daughter hence with thee!
Far better is it for mortals to have a poor honest man either as
married kin or friend than a wealthy knave; but as for thee, thou
art a thing of naught.
LEADER
The tongue from trifling causes contrives to breed great strife
'mongst men; wherefore are the wise most careful not to bring about
a quarrel with their friends.

 

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