HECUBA by Euripides, Part 02
HECUBA, I have hastened away to thee, leaving my master's tent,
where the lot assigned me as his appointed slave, in the day that
was driven from the city of Ilium, hunted by Achaeans thence at the
point of the spear; no alleviation bring I for thy sufferings; nay
have laden myself with heavy news, and am a HeraLD of sorrow to
thee, lady. 'Tis said the Achaeans have determined in full assembly to
offer thy daughter in sacrifice to Achilles; for thou knowest how
one day he appeared standing on his tomb in golden harness, and stayed
the sea-borne barques, though they had their sails already hoisted,
with this pealing cry, "Whither away so fast, ye Danai, leaving my
tomb without its prize?" Thereon arose a violent dispute with stormy
altercation, and opinion was divided in the warrior host of Hellas,
some being in favour of offering the sacrifice at the tomb, others
dissenting. There was AGAMEMNON, all eagerness in thy interest,
because of his love for the frenzied prophetess; but the two sons of
Theseus, scions of Athens, though supporting different proposals,
yet agreed on the same decision, which was to crown Achilles' tomb
with fresh-spilt blood; for they said they never would set Cassandra's
love before Achilles' valour. Now the zeal of the rival disputants was
almost equal, until that shifty, smooth-mouthed varlet, the son of
Laertes, whose tongue is ever at the service of the mob, persuaded the
army not to put aside the best of all the Danai for want of a
bond-maid's sacrifice, nor have it said by any of the dead that
stand beside Persephone, "The Danai have left the plains of Troy
without one thought of gratitude for their brethren who died for
Hellas." ODYSSEUS will be here in an instant, to drag the tender
maiden from thy breast and tear her from thy aged arms. To the
temples, to the altars with thee! at AGAMEMNON's knees throw thyself
as a suppliant! Invoke alike the gods in heaven and those beneath
the earth. For either shall thy prayers avail to spare thee the loss
of thy unhappy child, or thou must live to see thy daughter fall
before the tomb, her crimson blood spurting in deep dark jets from her
neck with gold encircled.
(THE following lines between HECUBA and
POLYXENA are chanted responsively.)
Woe, woe is me! What words, or cries, or lamentations can I utter?
Ah me! for the sorrows of my closing years! for slavery too cruel to
brook or bear! Woe, woe is me! What champion have I? Sons, and
city-where are they? Aged Priam is no more; no more my children now.
Which way am I to go, or this or that? Whither shall I turn my
steps? Where is any god or power divine to succour me? Ah, Trojan
maids! bringers of evil tidings! messengers of woe! ye have made an
end, an utter end of me; life on earth has no more charm for me. Ah!
luckless steps, lead on, guide your aged mistress to yon tent.
(calling) My child, come forth; come forth, thou daughter of the queen
of sorrows; listen to thy mother's voice, my child, that thou mayst
know the hideous rumour I now hear about thy life.
(POLYXENA enters from the tent.)
O mother, mother mine! why dost thou call so loud? what news is it
thou hast proclaimed, scaring me, like a cowering bird, from my
chamber by this alarm?
Alas, my daughter!
Why this ominous address? it bodeth sorrow for me.
Woe for thy life!
Tell all, hide it no longer. Ah mother! how I dread, ay dread
the import of thy loud laments.
Ah my daughter! a luckless mother's child!
Why dost thou tell me this?
The Argives with one consent are eager for thy sacrifice to the
son of Peleus at his tomb.
Ah! mother mine! how canst thou speak of such a horror? Yet tell
me all, yes all, O mother dear!
'Tis a rumour ill-boding I tell, my child; they bring me word that
sentence is passed upon thy life by the Argives' vote.
Alas, for thy cruel sufferings! my persecuted mother! woe for
thy life of grief! What grievous outrage some fiend hath sent on thee,
hateful, horrible! No more shall I thy daughter share thy bondage,
hapless youth on hapless age attending. For thou, alas! wilt see thy
hapless child torn from thy arms, as a calf of the hills is torn
from its mother, and sent beneath the darkness of the earth with
severed throat for Hades, where with the dead shall I be laid, ah
me! For thee I weep with plaintive wail, mother doomed to a life of
sorrow! for my own life, its ruin and its outrage, never a tear I
shed; nay, death is become to me a happier lot than life.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
See where ODYSSEUS comes in haste, to announce some fresh
command to thee, HECUBA.
(ODYSSEUS enters, with his ATTENDANTs.)