HECUBA by Euripides, Part 09
There is none, unless thou wouldst name misfortune herself. But
hear my reason for throwing myself at thy knees. If my treatment seems
to thee deserved, I will be content; but, if otherwise, help me to
punish this most godless host, that hath wrought a deed most damned,
fearless alike of gods in heaven or hell; who, though full oft he
had shared my board and been counted first of all my guest-friends and
after meeting with every kindness he could claim and receiving my
consideration, slew my son, and bent though he was on murder,
deigned not to bury him but cast his body forth to sea.
I may be a slave and weak as well, but the gods are strong, and
custom too which prevails o'er them, for by custom it is that we
believe in them and set up bounds of right and wrong for our lives.
Now if this principle, when referred to thee, is to be set at
naught, and they are to escape punishment who murder guests or dare to
plunder the temples of gods, then is all fairness in things human at
an end. Deem this then a disgrace and show regard for me, have pity on
me, and, like an artist standing back from his picture, look on me and
closely scan my piteous state. I was once queen, but now I am thy
slave; a happy mother once, but now childless and old alike, reft of
city, utterly forlorn, the most wretched woman living. Ah! woe is
me! whither wouldst thou withdraw thy steps from me? (as AGAMEMNON
is turning away) My efforts then will be in vain, ah me! ah me! Why,
oh! why do we mortals toil, as needs we must, and seek out all other
sciences, but persuasion, the only real mistress of mankind, we take
no furthur pains to master completely by offering to pay for the
knowledge, so that any man might upon occasion convince his fellows as
he pleased and gain his point as well? How shall anyone hereafter hope
for prosperity? All those my sons are gone from me, and I, their
mother, am led away into captivity to suffer shame, while yonder I see
the smoke leaping up o'er my city. Further-though perhaps this were
idly urged, to plead thy love, still will I put the case:-at thy
side lies my daughter, Cassandra, the maid inspired, as the
Phrygians call her. How then, king, wilt thou acknowledge those nights
of rapture, or what return shall she my daughter or I her mother
have for all the love she has lavished on her lord? For from
darkness and THE ENDearments of the night mortals reap by far their
keenest joys. Hearken then; dost see this corpse? By doing him a
service thou wilt do it to a kinsman of thy bride's. One thing only
have I yet to urge. Oh! would I had a voice in arms, in hands, in hair
and feet, placed there by the arts of Daedalus or some god, that all
together they might with tears embrace thy knees, bringing a
thousand pleas to bear on thee! O my lord and master, most glorious
light of Hellas, listen, stretch forth a helping hand to this aged
woman, for all she is a thing of naught; still do so. For 'tis ever
a good man's duty to succour the right, and to punish evil-doers
'Tis strange how each extreme doth meet in human life! Custom
determines even our natural ties, making the most bitter foes friends,
and regarding as foes those who formerly were friends.
HECUBA, I feel compassion for thee and thy son and thy
ill-fortune, as well as for thy suppliant gesture, and I would
gladly see yon impious host pay thee this forfeit for the sake of
heaven and justice, could I but find some way to help thee without
appearing to the army to have plotted the death of the Thracian king
for Cassandra's sake. For on one point I am assailed by perplexity;
the army count this man their friend, the dead their foe; that he is
dear to thee is a matter apart, wherein the army has no share. Reflect
on this; for though thou find'st me ready to share thy toil and
quick to lend my aid, yet the risk of being reproached by the Achaeans
makes me hesitate.
Ah! there is not in the world a single man free; for he is
either a slave to money or to fortune, or else the people in their
thousands or the fear of public prosecution prevents him from
following the dictates of his heart.
But since thou art afraid, deferring too much to the rabble, I
will rid thee of that fear. Thus; be privy to my plot if I devise
mischief against this murderer, but refrain from any share in it.
And if there break out among the Achaeans any uproar or attempt at
rescue, when the Thracian is suffering his doom, check it, though
without seeming to do so for my sake. For what remains, take heart;
I will arrange everything well.
How? what wilt thou do? wilt take a sword in thy old hand and slay
the barbarian, or hast thou drugs or what to help thee? Who will
take thy part? whence wilt thou procure friends?
Sheltered beneath these tents is a host of Trojan women.
Dost mean the captives, the booty of the Hellenes?
With their help will I punish my murderous foe.
How are women to master men?
Numbers are a fearful thing, and joined to craft a desperate foe.
True; still I have a mean opinion of the female race.
What? did not women slay the sons of Aegyptus, and utterly clear
Lemnos of men? But let it be even thus; put an end to our
conference, and send this woman for me safely through the host. And do
thou (To servant) draw near my Thracian friend and say, "HECUBA,
once queen of Ilium, summons thee, on thy own business no less than
hers, thy children too, for they also must hear what she has to
say." (The servant goes out.) Defer awhile, AGAMEMNON, the burial of
Polyxena lately slain, that brother and sister may be laid on the same
pyre and buried side by side, a double cause of sorrow to their