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Euripidis Index


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HECUBA by Euripides, Part 12


POLYMESTOR (chanting)
Woe is me! whither can I go, where halt, or whither turn? shall
crawl upon my hands like a wild four-footed beast on their track?
Which path shall I take first, this or that, eager as I am to clutch
those Trojan murderesses that have destroyed me? Out upon ye, cursed
daughters of Phrygia! to what corner have ye fled cowering before
me? O sun-god, would thou couldst heal my bleeding orbs, ridding me of
my blindness!
Ha! hush! I catch their stealthy footsteps here. Where can I
dart on them and gorge me on their flesh and bones, making for
myself wild beasts' meal, exacting vengeance in requital of their
outrage on me? Ah, woe is me! whither am I rushing, leaving my babes
unguarded for hell-hounds to mangle, to be murdered and ruthlessly
cast forth upon the hills, a feast of blood for dogs? Where shall I
stay or turn my steps? where rest? like a ship that lies anchored at
sea, so gathering close my linen robe I rush to that chamber of death,
to guard my babes.
LEADER
Woe is thee! what grievous outrage hath been wreaked on thee!
fearful penalty for thy foul deed hath the deity imposed, whoe'er he
is whose hand is heavy upon thee.
POLYMESTOR (chanting)
Woe is me! Ho! my Thracian spearmen, clad in mail, a race of
knights whom Ares doth inspire! Ho! Achaeans! sons of Atreus ho! to
you I loudly call; come hither, in God's name come! Doth any
hearken, or will no man help me? Why do ye delay? Women, captive women
have destroyed me. A fearful fate is mine; ah me my hideous outrage!
Whither can I turn or go? Shall I take wings and soar aloft to the
mansions of the sky, where Orion and Sirius dart from their eyes a
flash as of fire, or shall I, in my misery, plunge to Hades' murky
flood?
LEADER
'Tis a venial sin, when a man, suffering from evils too heavy to
bear, rids himself of a wretched existence.

(AGAMEMNON and his retinue enter.)

AGAMEMNON
Hearing a cry I am come hither; for Echo, child of the
mountain-rock, hath sent her voice loud-ringing through the host,
causing a tumult. Had I not known that Troy's towers were levelled
by the might of Hellas, this uproar had caused no slight terror.
POLYMESTOR
Best of friends! for by thy voice I know thee, AGAMEMNON, dost see
my piteous state?
AGAMEMNON
What! hapless Polymestor, who hath stricken thee? who hath reft
thine eves of sight, staining the pupils with blood? who hath slain
these children? whoe'er he was, fierce must have been his wrath
against thee and thy children.
POLYMESTOR
HECUBA, helped by the captive women, hath destroyed me; no! not
destroyed, far worse than that.
AGAMEMNON (addressing HECUBA)
What hast thou to say? Was it thou that didst this deed, as he
avers? thou, HECUBA, that hast ventured on this inconceivable daring?
POLYMESTOR
Ha! what is that? is she somewhere near? show me, tell me where,
that I may grip her in my hands and rend her limb from limb,
bespattering her with gore.
AGAMEMNON
Ho! madman, what wouldst thou?
POLYMESTOR
By heaven I entreat thee, let me vent on her the fury of my arm.
AGAMEMNON
Hold! banish that savage spirit from thy heart and plead thy
cause, that after hearing thee and her in turn I may fairly decide
what reason there is for thy present sufferings.
POLYMESTOR
I will tell my tale. There was a son of Priam, Polydorus, the
youngest, a child by HECUBA, whom his father Priam sent to me from
Troy to bring up in my halls, suspecting no doubt the fall of Troy.
Him I slew; but hear my reason for so doing, to show how cleverly
and wisely I had planned. My fear was that if that child were left
to be thy enemy, he would re-people Troy and settle it afresh; and the
Achaeans, knowing that a son of Priam survived, might bring another
expedition against the Phrygian land and harry and lay waste these
plains of Thrace hereafter, for the neighbours of Troy to experience
the very troubles we were lately suffering, O king. Now HECUBA, having
discovered the death of her son, brought me hither on this pretext,
saying she would tell me of hidden treasure stored up in Ilium by
the race of Priam; and she led me apart with my children into the
tent, that none but I might hear her news. So I sat me down on a couch
in their midst to rest; for there were many of the Trojan maidens
seated there, some on my right hand, some on my left, as it had been
beside a friend; and they were praising the weaving of our Thracian
handiwork, looking at this robe as they held it up to the light;
meantime others examined my Thracian spear and so stripped me of the
protection of both. And those that were young mothers were dandling my
children in their arms, with loud admiration, as they passed them on
from hand to hand to remove them far from their father; and then after
their smooth speeches (wouldst thou believe it?) in an instant
snatching daggers from some secret place in their dress they stab my
children; whilst others, like foes, seized me hand and foot; and if
I tried to raise my head, anxious to help my babes, they would
clutch me by the hair; while if I stirred my hands, I could do
nothing, poor wretch! for the numbers of the women. At last they
wrought a fearful deed, worse than what had gone before; for they took
their brooches and stabbed the pupils of my hapless eyes, making
them gush with blood, and then fled through the chambers; up I
sprang like a wild beast in pursuit of the shameless murderesses,
searching along each wall with hunter's care, dealing buffets,
spreading ruin. This then is what I have suffered because of my zeal
for thee, O AGAMEMNON, for slaying an enemy of thine. But to spare
thee a lengthy speech; if any of the men of former times have spoken
ill of women, if any doth so now, or shall do so hereafter, all this
in one short sentence will say; for neither land or sea produces a
race so pestilent, as whosoever hath had to do with them knows full
well.

 

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