ANDROMACHE by Euripides, Part 12
What did she fear? explain that to me.
She was afraid her lord would cast her out.
In return for plotting his child's death? surely not?
Yea, and she was afraid of yon captive.
With whom did she leave the house? with her father?
The son of AGAMEMNON came and took her hence.
What view hath he to further thereby? Will he marry her?
Yes, and he is plotting thy grandson's death.
From an ambuscade, or meeting him fairly face to face?
In the holy place of Loxias, leagued with Delphians.
God help us. This is a present danger. Hasten one of you with
all speed to the Pythian altar and tell our friends there what has
happened here, ere Achilles' son be slain by his enemies.
(A MESSENGER enters.)
Woe worth the day! what evil tidings have I brought for thee,
old sire, and for all who love my master! woe is me!
Alas! my prophetic soul hath a presentiment.
Aged Peleus, hearken! Thy grandson is no more; so grievously is he
smitten by the men of Delphi and the stranger from Mycenae.
Ah! what wilt thou do, old man? Fall not; uplift thyself.
I am a thing of naught; death is come upon me. My voice is choked,
my limbs droop beneath me.
Hearken; if thou art eager also to avenge thy friends, lift up
thyself and hear what happened.
Ah, destiny! how tightly hast thou caught me in thy toils, a
poor old man at life's extremest verge! But tell me how he was taken
from me, my one son's only child; unwelcome as such news is, I fain
would hear it.
As soon as we reached the famous soil of Phoebus, for three
whole days were we feasting our eyes with the sight. And this, it
seems, caused suspicion; for the folk, who dwell near the god's
shrine, began to collect in groups, while AGAMEMNON's son, going to
and fro through the town, would whisper in each man's ear malignant
hints: "Do ye see yon fellow, going in and out of the god's
treasure-chambers, which are full of the gold stored there by all
mankind? He is come hither a second time on the same mission as
before, eager to sack the temple of Phoebus." Thereon there ran an
angry murmur through the city, and the magistrates flocked to their
council-chamber, while those, who have charge of the god's
treasures, had a guard privately placed amongst the colonnades. But
we, knowing naught as yet of this, took sheep fed in the pastures of
Parnassus, and went our way and stationed ourselves at the altars with
vouchers and Pythian seers. And one said: "What prayer, young warrior,
wouldst thou have us offer to the god? Wherefore art thou come?" And
he answered: "I wish to make atonement to Phoebus for my past
transgression; for once I claimed from him satisfaction for my
father's blood." Thereupon the rumour, spread by ORESTES , proved to
have great weight, suggesting that my master was lying and had come on
a shameful errand. But he crosses the threshold of the temple to
pray to Phoebus before his oracle, and was busy with his
burnt-offering; when a body of men armed with swords set themselves in
ambush against him in the cover of the bay-trees, and CLYTEMNESTRA's
son, that had contrived the whole plot was one of them. There stood
the young man praying to the god in sight of all, when lo! with
their sharp swords they stabbed Achilles' unprotected son from behind.
But he stepped back, for it was not a mortal wound he had received,
and drew his sword, and snatching armour from the pegs where it hung
on a pillar, took his stand upon the altar-steps, the picture of a
warrior grim; then cried he to the sons of Delphi, and asked them:
"Why seek to slay me when I am come on a holy mission? What cause is
there why I should die? But of all that throng of bystanders, no man
answered him a word, but they set to hurling stones. Then he, though
bruised and battered by the showers of missiles from all sides,
covered himself behind his mail and tried to ward off the attack,
holding his shield first here, then there, at arm's length, but all of
no avail; for a storm of darts, arrows and javelins, hurtling spits
with double points, and butchers' knives for slaying steers, came
flying at his feet; and terrible was the war-dance thou hadst then
seen thy grandson dance to avoid their marksmanship. At last, when
they were hemming him in on all sides, allowing him no breathing
space, he left the shelter of the altar, the hearth where victims
are placed, and with one bound was on them as on the Trojans of
yore; and they turned and fled like doves when they see the hawk. Many
fell in the confusion: some wounded, and others trodden down by one
another along the narrow passages; and in that hushed holy house
uprose unholy din and echoed back from the rocks. Calm and still my
master stood there in his gleaming harness like a flash of light, till
from the inmost shrine there came a voice of thrilling horror,
stirring the crowd to make a stand. Then fell Achilles' son, smitten
through the flank by some Delphian's biting blade, some fellow that
slew him with a host to help; and as he fell, there was not one that
did not stab him, or cast a rock and batter his corpse. So his whole
body, once so fair, was marred with savage wounds. At last they cast
the lifeless clay, Iying near the altar, forth from the fragrant fane.
And we gathered up his remains forthwith and are bringing them to
thee, old prince, to mourn and weep and honour with a deep-dug tomb.
This is how that prince who vouchsafeth oracles to others, that
judge of what is right for all the world, hath revenged himself on
Achilles' son, remembering his ancient quarrel as a wicked man
would. How then can he be wise?
(The MESSENGER withdraws as the body of Neoptolemus
is carried in on a bier. The following lines
between PELEUS and the CHORUS are