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ANDROMACHE by Euripides, Part 08

MENELAUS
Why, pray, should one call these old men wise, or those who once
had a reputation in Hellas for being so? when thou, the great
Peleus, son of famous father, kin to me through marriage, employest
language disgraceful to thyself and abusive of me because of a
barbarian woman, though thou shouldst have banished her far beyond the
streams of Nile or Phasis, and ever encouraged me; seeing that she
comes from Asia's continent where fell so many of the sons of
Hellas, victims to the spear; and likewise because she shared in the
spilling of thy son's blood; for Paris who slew thy son Achilles,
was brother to Hector, whose wife she was. And dost thou enter the
same abode with her, and deign to let her share thy board, and
suffer her to rear her brood of vipers in thy house? But I, after
all this foresight for thee, old man, and myself, am to have her
torn from my clutches for wishing to slay her. Yet come now, for
'tis no disgrace to argue; suppose my daughter has no child, while
this woman's sons grow up, wilt thou set them up to rule the land of
Phthia, barbarians born and bred to lord it over Hellenes? Am I then
so void of sense because I hate injustice, and thou so full of
cleverness? Consider yet another point; say thou hadst given a
daughter of thine to some citizen, and hadst then seen her thus
treated, wouldst thou have sat looking on in silence? I trow not. Dost
thou then for a foreigner rail thus at thy nearest friends? Again,
thou mayst say, husband and wife have an equally strong case if she is
wronged by him, and similarly if he find her guilty of indiscretion in
his house; yet while he has ample powers in his own hands, she depends
on parents and friends for her case. Surely then I am right in helping
my own kin! Thou art in thy dotage; for thou wilt do me more good by
speaking of my generalship than by concealing it. Helen's trouble
was not of her own choosing, but sent by heaven, and it proved a great
benefit to Hellas; her sons, till then untried in war or arms,
turned to deeds of prowess, and it is experience which teaches man all
he knows. I showed my wisdom in refraining from slaying my wife,
directly I caught sight of her. Would that thou too hadst ne'er
slain Phocus! All this I bring before thee in pure good-will, not from
anger. But if thou resent it, thy tongue may wag till it ache, yet
shall I gain by prudent forethought.
LEADER
Cease now from idle words, 'twere better far, for fear ye both
alike go wrong.
PELEUS
Alas! what evil customs now prevail in Hellas! Whene'er the host
sets up a trophy o'er the foe, men no more consider this the work of
those who really toiled, but the general gets the credit for it. Now
he was but one among ten thousand others to brandish his spear; he
only did the work of one; but yet he wins more praise than they.
Again, as magistrates in all the grandeur of office they scorn the
common folk, though they are naught themselves; whereas those others
are ten thousand times more wise than they, if daring combine with
judgment. Even so thou and thy brother, exalted by the toilsome
efforts of others, now take your seats in all the swollen pride of
Trojan fame and Trojan generalship. But I will teach thee henceforth
to consider Idaean Paris a foe less terrible than Peleus, unless
forthwith thou pack from this roof, thou and thy childless daughter
too, whom my own true son will hale through his halls by the hair of
her head; for her barrenness will not let her endure fruitfulness in
others, because she has no children herself. Still if misfortune
prevents her bearing offspring, is that a reason why we should be left
childless? Begone! ye varlets, let her go! I will soon see if anyone
will hinder me from loosing her hands. (to ANDROMACHE) Arise; these
trembling hands of mine will untie the twisted thongs that bind
thee. Out on thee, coward! is this how thou hast galled her wrists?
Didst think thou wert lashing up a lion or bull? or wert afraid she
would snatch a sword and defend herself against thee? Come, child,
nestle to thy mother's arms; help me loose her bonds; I will yet
rear thee in Phthia to be their bitter foe. If your reputation for
prowess and the battles ye have fought were taken from you Spartans,
in all else, be very sure, you have not your inferiors.
LEADER
The race of old men practises no restraint; and their testiness
makes it hard to check them.
MENELAUS
Thou art only too ready to rush into abuse; while, as for me, I
came to Phthia by constraint and have therefore no intention either of
doing or suffering anything mean. Now must I return home, for I have
no time to waste; for there is a city not so very far from Sparta,
which aforetime was friendly but now is hostile; against her will I
march with my army and bring her into subjection. And when I have
arranged that matter as I wish, I will return; and face to face with
my son-in-law I will give my version of the story and hear his. And if
he punish her, and for the future she exercise self-control, she shall
find me do the like; but if he storm, I'll storm as well; and every
act of mine shall be a reflex of his own. As for thy babbling, I can
bear it easily; for, like to a shadow as thou art, thy voice is all
thou hast, and thou art powerless to do aught but talk.
(MENELAUS and his retinue withdraw.)
PELEUS
Lead on, my child, safe beneath my sheltering wing, and thou
too, poor lady; for thou art come into a quiet haven after the rude
storm.
ANDROMACHE
Heaven reward thee and all thy race, old sire, for having saved my
child and me his hapless mother! Only beware lest they fall upon us
twain in some lonely spot upon the road and force me from thee, when
they see thy age, my weakness, and this child's tender years; take
heed to this, that we be not a second time made captive, after
escaping now.
PELEUS
Forbear such words, prompted by a woman's cowardice. Go on thy
way; who will lay a finger on you? Methinks he will do it to his cost,
For by heaven's grace I rule o'er many a knight and spearman bold in
my kingdom of Phthia; yea, and myself can still stand straight, no
bent old man as thou dost think; such a fellow as that a mere look
from me will put to flight in spite of my years. For e'en an old
man, be he brave, is worth a host of raw youths; for what avails a
fine figure if a man is coward?
(PELEUS, ANDROMACHE, and MOLOSSUS go out.)

 

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