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HECUBA by Euripides, Part 10

AGAMEMNON
So shall it be; yet had the host been able to sail, I could not
have granted thee this boon; but, as it is, since the god sends
forth no favouring breeze, we needs must abide, seeing, as we do, that
sailing cannot be. Good luck to thee! for this is the interest alike
of citizen and state, that the wrong-doer be punished and the good man
prosper.

(AGAMEMNON departs as HECUBA withdraws into the tent.)

CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

No more, my native Ilium, shalt thou be counted among the towns
ne'er sacked; so thick a cloud of Hellene troops is settling all
around, wasting thee with the spear; shorn art thou of thy coronal
of towers, and fouled most piteously with filthy soot; no more, ah me!
shall tread thy streets.

antistrophe 1

'Twas in the middle of the night my ruin came, in the hour when
sleep steals sweetly o'er the eyes after the feast is done. My
husband, the music o'er, and the sacrifice that sets the dance afoot
now ended, was lying in our bridal-chamber, his spear hung on a peg;
with never a thought of the sailor-throng encamped upon the Trojan
shores;

strophe 2

and I was braiding my tresses 'neath a tight-drawn snood before my
golden mirror's countless rays, that I might lay me down to rest; when
lo! through the city rose a din, and a cry went ringing down the
streets of Troy, "Ye sons of Hellas, when, oh! when will ye sack the
citadel of Ilium, and seek your homes?"

antistrophe 2

Up sprang I from my bed, with only a mantle about me, like
Dorian maid, and sought in vain, ah me! to station myself at the
holy hearth of Artemis; for, after seeing my husband slain, I was
hurried away o'er the broad sea; with many a backward look at my city,
when the ship began her homeward voyage and parted me from Ilium's
strand; till alas! for very grief I fainted,

epode

cursing Helen the sister of the Dioscuri, and Paris the baleful
shepherd of Ida; for 'twas their marriage, which was no marriage but a
curse by some demon sent, that robbed me of my country and drove me
from my home. Oh! may the sea's salt flood neer carry her home
again; and may she never set foot in her father's halls!

(HECUBA comes out of the tent as POLYMESTOR,
his children and guards enter.)

POLYMESTOR
My dear friend Priam, and thou no less, HECUBA, I weep to see thee
and thy city thus, and thy daughter lately slain. Alas! there is
naught to be relied on; fair fame is insecure, nor is there any
guarantee that weal will not be turned to woe. For the gods confound
our fortunes, tossing them to and fro, and introduce confusion, that
our perplexity may make us worship them. But what boots it to bemoan
these things, when it brings one no nearer to heading the trouble?
If thou art blaming me at all for my absence, stay a moment; I was
away in the very heart of Thrace when thou wast brought hither; but on
my return, just as I was starting from my home for the same purpose,
thy maid fell in with me, and gave me thy message, which brought me
here at once.
HECUBA
Polymestor, I am holden in such wretched plight that I blush to
meet thine eye; for my present evil case makes me ashamed to face thee
who didst see me in happier days, and I cannot look on thee with
unfaltering gaze. Do not then think it ill-will on my part,
Polymestor; there is another cause as well, I mean the custom which
forbids women to meet men's gaze.
POLYMESTOR
No wonder, surely. But what need hast thou of me? Why didst send
for me to come hither from my house?
HECUBA
I wish to tell thee and thy children a private matter of my own;
prithee, bid thy ATTENDANTs withdraw from the tent.
POLYMESTOR (to his ATTENDANTs)
Retire; this desert spot is safe enough. (The guards go out; to
HECUBA) Thou art my friend, and this Achaean host is well-disposed
to me. But thou must tell me how prosperity is to succour its
unlucky friends; for ready am I to do so.
HECUBA
First tell me of the child Polydorus, whom thou art keeping in thy
halls, received from me and his father; is he yet alive? The rest will
I ask thee after that.
POLYMESTOR
Yes, thou still hast a share in fortune there.
HECUBA
Well said, dear friend! how worthy of thee!
POLYMESTOR
What next wouldst learn of me?

 

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