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HECUBA by Euripides, Part 13

LEADER
Curb thy bold tongue, and do not, because of thy own woes, thus
embrace the whole race of women in one reproach; for though some of
us, and those a numerous class, deserve to be disliked, there are
others amongst us who rank naturally amongst the good.
HECUBA
Never ought words to have outweighed deeds in this world,
AGAMEMNON. No! if a man's deeds had been good, so should his words
have been; if, on the other hand, evil, his words should have betrayed
their unsoundness, instead of its being possible at times to give a
fair complexion to injustice. There are, 'tis true, clever persons,
who have made a science of this, but their cleverness cannot last
for ever; a miserable end awaits them; none ever yet escaped. This
is a warning I give thee at the outset. Now will I turn to this
fellow, and will give thee thy answer, thou who sayest it was to
save Achaea double toil and for AGAMEMNON's sake that thou didst
slay my son. Nay, villain, in the first place how could the
barbarian race ever be friends with Hellas? Impossible, ever. Again,
what interest hadst thou to further by thy zeal? was it to form some
marriage, or on the score of kin, or, prithee, why? or was it likely
that they would sail hither again and destroy thy country's crops?
Whom dost thou expect to persuade into believing that? Wouldst thou
but speak the truth, it was the gold that slew my son, and thy
greedy spirit. Now tell me this; why, when Troy was victorious, when
her ramparts still stood round her, when Priam was alive, and Hector's
warring prospered, why didst thou not, if thou wert really minded to
do AGAMEMNON a service, then slay the child, for thou hadst him in thy
palace 'neath thy care, or bring him with thee alive to the Argives?
Instead of this, when our sun was set and the smoke of our city showed
it was in the enemy's power, thou didst murder the guest who had
come to thy hearth. Furthermore, to prove thy villainly, hear this; if
thou wert really a friend to those Achaeans, thou shouldst have
brought the gold, which thou sayst thou art keeping not for thyself
but for AGAMEMNON, and given it to them, for they were in need and had
endured a long exile from their native land. Whereas not even now
canst thou bring thyself to part with it, but persistest in keeping it
in thy palace. Again, hadst thou kept my son safe and sound, as thy
duty was, a fair renown would have been thy reward, for it is in
trouble's hour that the good most clearly show their friendship;
though prosperity of itself in every case finds friends. Wert thou
in need of money and he prosperous, that son of mine would have been
as a mighty treasure for thee to draw upon; but now thou hast him no
longer to be thy friend, and the benefit of the gold is gone from
thee, thy children too are dead, and thyself art in this sorry plight.
To thee, AGAMEMNON, I say, if thou help this man, thou wilt show
thy worthlessness; for thou wilt be serving one devoid of honour or
piety, a stranger to the claims of good faith, a wicked host; while
I shall say thou delightest in evil-doers, being such an one
thyself; but I rail not at my masters.
LEADER
Look you! how a good cause ever affords men an opening for a
good speech.
AGAMEMNON
To be judge in a stranger's troubles goes much against my grain,
but still I must; yea, for to take this matter in hand and then put it
from me is a shameful course. My opinion, that thou mayst know it,
is that it was not for the sake of the Achaeans or me that thou
didst slay thy guest, but to keep that gold in thy own house. In thy
trouble thou makest a case in thy own interests. Maybe amongst you
'tis a light thing to murder guests, but with us in Hellas 'tis a
disgrace. How can I escape reproach if I judge the not guilty? I
cannot do it. Nay, since thou didst dare thy horrid crime, endure as
well its painful consequence.
POLYMESTOR
Woe is me! worsted by a woman and a slave, I am, it seems, to
suffer by unworthy hands.
HECUBA
Is it not just for thy atrocious crime?
POLYMESTOR
Ah, my children! ah, my blinded eyes! woe is me!
HECUBA
Dost thou grieve? what of me? thinkst thou I grieve not for my
son?
POLYMESTOR
Thou wicked wretch! thy delight is in mocking me.
HECUBA
I am avenged on thee; have I not cause for joy?
POLYMESTOR
The joy will soon cease, in the day when ocean's flood-
HECUBA
Shall convey me to the shores of Hellas?
POLYMESTOR
Nay, but close o'er thee when thou fallest from the masthead.
HECUBA
Who will force me to take the leap?
POLYMESTOR
Of thy own accord wilt thou climb the ship's mast.

 

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