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HECUBA by Euripides, Part 04

LEADER
Alas! how cursed is slavery alway in its nature, forced by the
might of the stronger to endure unseemly treatment.
HECUBA
Daughter, my pleading to avert thy bloody death was wasted idly on
the air; do thou, if in aught endowed with greater power to move
than thy mother, make haste to use it, uttering every pleading note
like the tuneful nightingale, to save thy soul from death. Throw
thyself at ODYSSEUS' knees to move his pity, and try to move him. Here
is thy plea: he to hath children, so that he can feel for thy sad
fate.
POLYXENA
ODYSSEUS, I see thee hiding thy right hand beneath thy robe and
turning away thy face, that I may not touch thy beard. Take heart;
thou art safe from the suppliant's god in my case, for I will follow
thee, alike because I must and because it is my wish to die; for
were I loth, a coward should I show myself, a woman faint of heart.
Why should I prolong my days? I whose sire was king of all the
Phrygians?-my chiefest pride in life, Then was I NURSEd on fair fond
hopes to be a bride for kings, the centre of keen jealousy amongst
suitors, to see whose home I would make my own; and o'er each dame
of Ida I was queen; ah me! a maiden marked amid her fellows, equal
to a goddess, save for death alone, but now slave! That name first
makes me long for death, so strange it sounds; and then maybe my lot
might give me to some savage master, one that would buy me for
money,-me the sister of Hector and many another chief,-who would
make me knead him bread within his halls, or sweep his house or set me
working at the loom, leading a life of misery; while some slave,
bought I know not whence, will taint my maiden charms, once deemed
worthy of royalty. No, never! Here I close my eyes upon the light,
free as yet, and dedicate myself to Hades. Lead me hence, ODYSSEUS,
and do thy worst, for I see naught within my reach to make me hope
or expect with any confidence that I am ever again to be happy. Mother
mine! seek not to hinder me by word or deed, but join in my wish for
death ere I meet with shameful treatment undeserved. For whoso is
not used to taste of sorrow's cup, though he bears it, yet it galls
him when he puts his neck within the yoke; far happier would he be
dead than alive, for life of honour reft is toil and trouble.
LEADER
A wondrous mark, most clearly stamped, doth noble birth imprint on
men, and the name goeth still further where it is deserved.
HECUBA
A noble speech, my daughter! but there is sorrow linked with its
noble sentiments.
ODYSSEUS, if ye must pleasure the son of Peleus, and avoid
reproach, slay not this maid, but lead me to Achilles' pyre and
torture me unsparingly: 'twas I that bore Paris, whose fatal shaft
laid low the son of Thetis.
ODYSSEUS
'Tis not thy death, old dame, Achilles' wraith hath demanded of
the Achaeans, but hers.
HECUBA
At least then slaughter me with my child; so shall there be a
double draught of blood for the earth and the dead that claims this
sacrifice.
ODYSSEUS
The maiden's death suffices; no need to add a second to the first;
would we needed not e'en this!
HECUBA
Die with my daughter I must and will.
ODYSSEUS
How so? I did not know I had a master.
HECUBA
I will cling to her like ivy to an oak.
ODYSSEUS
Not if thou wilt hearken to those who are wiser than thyself.
HECUBA
Be sure I will never willingly relinquish my child.
ODYSSEUS
Well, be equally sure I will never go away and leave her here.
POLYXENA
Mother, hearken to me; and thou, son of Laertes, make allowance
for a parent's natural wrath. My poor mother, fight not with our
masters. Wilt thou be thrown down, be roughly thrust aside and wound
thy aged skin, and in unseemly wise be torn from me by youthful
arms? This wilt thou suffer; do not so, for 'tis not right for thee.
Nay, dear mother mine give me thy hand beloved, and let me press thy
cheek to mine; for never, nevermore, but now for the last time shall I
behold the dazzling sun-god's orb. My last farewells now take! O
mother, mother mine! beneath the earth I pass.
HECUBA
O my daughter, I am still to live and be a slave.
POLYXENA
Unwedded I depart, never having tasted the married joys that
were my due!
HECUBA
Thine, my daughter, is a piteous lot, and sad is mine also.
POLYXENA
There in Hades' courts shall I be laid apart from thee.
HECUBA
Ah me, what shall I do? where shall I end my life?
POLYXENA
Daughter of a free-born sire, a slave I am to die.
HECUBA
Not one of all my fifty children left!
POLYXENA
What message can I take for thee to Hector or thy aged lord?
HECUBA
Tell them that of all women I am the most miserable.

 

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