The Trojan Women
Chorus of Captive Trojan Women
Before Agamemnon's Tent in the Camp near Troy. HECUBA asleep. Enter
POSEIDON Lo! From the depths of salt Aegean floods I, Poseidon,
come, where choirs of Nereids trip in the mazes of the graceful dance;
for since the day that Phoebus and myself with measurement exact set
towers of stone about this land of Troy and ringed it round, never
from my heart hath passed away a kindly feeling for my Phrygian town,
which now is smouldering and o'erthrown, a prey to Argive prowess.
For, from his home beneath Parnassus, Phocian Epeus, aided by the
craft of Pallas, framed a horse to bear within its womb an armed host,
and sent it within the battlements, fraught with death; whence in
days to come men shall tell of "the wooden horse," with its hidden
load of warriors. Groves forsaken stand and temples of the gods run
down with blood, and at the altar's very base, before the god who
watched his home, lies Priam dead. While to Achaean ships great store
of gold and Phrygian spoils are being conveyed, and they who came
against this town, those sons Of Hellas, only wait a favouring breeze
to follow in their wake, that after ten long years they may with joy
behold their wives and children. Vanquished by Hera, Argive goddess,
and by Athena, who helped to ruin Phrygia, I am leaving Ilium, that
famous town, and the altars that I love; for when drear desolation
seizes on a town, the worship of the gods decays and tends to lose
respect. Scamander's banks re-echo long and loud the screams of captive
maids, as they by lot receive their masters. Arcadia taketh some,
and some the folk of Thessaly; others are assigned to Theseus' sons,
the Athenian chiefs. And such of the Trojan dames as are not portioned
out, are in these tents, set apart for the leaders of the host; and
with them Spartan Helen, daughter of Tyndarus, justly counted among
the captives. And wouldst thou see that queen of misery, Hecuba, thou
canst; for there she lies before the gates, weeping many a bitter
tear for many a tribulation; for at Achilles' tomb-though she knows
not this-her daughter Polyxena has died most piteously; likewise is
Priam dead, and her children too; Cassandra, whom the king Apollo
left to be a virgin, frenzied maid, hath Agamemnon, in contempt of
the god's ordinance and of piety, forced to a dishonoured wedlock.
Farewell, O city prosperous once! farewell, ye ramparts of hewn stone!
had not Pallas, daughter of Zeus, decreed thy ruin, thou wert standing
firmly still. (Enter ATHENA.)
ATHENA May I address the mighty god whom Heaven reveres and who to
my own sire is very nigh in blood, laying aside our former enmity?
POSEIDON Thou mayst; for o'er the soul the ties of kin exert no feeble
spell, great queen Athena.
ATHENA For thy forgiving mood my thanks! Somewhat have I to impart
affecting both thyself and me, O king.
POSEIDON Bringst thou fresh tidings from some god, from Zeus, or
from some lesser power?
ATHENA From none of these; but on behalf of Troy, whose soil we tread,
am I come to seek thy mighty aid, to make it one with mine.
POSEIDON What! hast thou laid thy former hate aside to take compassion
on the town now that it is burnt to ashes?
ATHENA First go back to the former point; wilt thou make common cause
with me in the scheme I purpose?
POSEIDON Ay surely; but I would fain learn thy wishes, whether thou
art come to help Achaens or Phrygians.
ATHENA I wish to give my former foes, the Trojans, joy, and on the
Achaean host impose a return that they will rue.
POSEIDON Why leap'st thou thus from mood to mood? Thy love and hate
both go too far, on whomsoever centred.
ATHENA Dost not know the insult done to me and to the shrine I love?
POSEIDON Surely, in the hour that Aias tore Cassandra thence.
ATHENA Yea, and the Achaeans did naught, said naught to him.
POSEIDON And yet 'twas by thy mighty aid they sacked Ilium.
ATHENA For which cause I would join with thee to work their bane.
POSEIDON My powers are ready at thy will. What is thy intent?
ATHENA A returning fraught with woe will I impose on them.
POSEIDON While yet they stay on shore, or as they cross the briny
ATHENA When they have set sail from Ilium for their homes. On them
will Zeus also send his rain and fearful hail, and inky tempests from
the sky; yea, and he promises to grant me his levin-bolts to hurl
on the Achaeans and fire their ships. And do thou, for thy part, make
the Aegean strait to roar with mighty billows and whirlpools, and
fill Euboea's hollow bay with corpses, that Achaeans may learn henceforth
to reverence my temples and regard all other deities.
POSEIDON So shall it be, for the boon thou cravest needs but few
words. I will vex the broad Aegean sea; and the beach of Myconus and
the reefs round Delos, Scyros and Lemnos too, and the cliffs of Caphareus
shall be strown with many a corpse. Mount thou to Olympus, and taking
from thy father's hand his lightning bolts, keep careful watch against
the hour when Argos' host lets slip its cables. A fool is he who sacks
the towns of men, with shrines and tombs, the dead man's hallowed
home, for at the last he makes a desert round himself, and dies. Exeunt.
HECUBA (Awakening) Lift thy head, unhappy lady, from the ground;
thy neck upraise; this is Troy no more, no longer am I queen in Ilium.
Though fortune change, endure thy lot; sail with the stream, and follow
fortune's tack, steer not thy barque of life against the tide, since
chance must guide thy course. Ah me! ah me! What else but tears is
now my hapless lot, whose country, children, husband, all are lost?
Ah! the high-blown pride of ancestors! how cabined now how brought
to nothing after all What woe must I suppress, or what declare? What
plaintive dirge shall I awake? Ah, woe is me! the anguish I suffer
lying here stretched upon this pallet hard! O my head, my temples,
my side! Ah! could I but turn over, and he now on this, now on that,
to rest my back and spine, while ceaselessly my tearful wail ascends.
Fore 'en this is music to the wretched, to chant their cheerless dirge
Ye swift-prowed ships, rowed to sacred Ilium o'er the deep dark sea,
past the fair havens of Hellas, to the flute's ill-omened music and
the dulcet voice of pipes, even to the bays of Troyland (alack the
day!), wherein ye tied your hawsers, twisted handiwork from Egypt,
in quest of that hateful wife of Menelaus, who brought disgrace on
Castor, and on Eurotas foul reproach; murderess she of Priam, sire
of fifty children, the cause why I, the hapless Hecuba, have wrecked
my life upon this troublous strand. Oh that I should sit here o'er
against the tent of Agamemnon Forth from my home to slavery they hale
my aged frame, while from my head in piteous wise the hair is shorn
for grief. Ah! hapless wives of those mail-clad sons of Troy! Ah!
poor maidens, luckless brides, come weep, for Ilium is now but a ruin;
and I, like some mother-bird that o're her fledglings screams, will
begin the strain; how different from that song I sang to the gods
in days long past, as I leaned on Priam's staff, and beat with my
foot in Phrygian time to lead the dance! (Enter CHORUS OF CAPTIVE
SEMI-CHORUS O Hecuba why these cries, these piercing shrieks? What
mean thy words? For I heard thy piteous wail echo through the building,
and a pang terror shoots through each captive Trojan's breast, as
pent within these walls they mourn their slavish lot.
HECUBA My child, e'en now the hands of Argive rowers are busy at
SEMI-CHORUS Ah, woe is me! what is their intent? Will they really
bear me hence in sorrow from my country in their fleet?
HECUBA I know not, though I guess our doom.
SEMI-CHORUS O misery! woe to us Trojan dames, soon to hear the order
given, "Come forth from the house; the Argives are preparing to return."
HECUBA Oh! do not bid the wild Cassandra leave her chamber, the frantic
prophetess, for Argives to insult, nor to my griefs add yet another.
Woe to thee, ill-fated Troy, thy sun is set; and woe to thy unhappy
children, quick and dead alike, who are leaving thee behind!
SEMI-CHORUS II With trembling step, alas! I leave this tent of Agamemnon
to learn of thee, my royal mistress, whether the Argives have resolved
to take my wretched life, whether the sailors at the prow are making
ready to ply their oars.
HECUBA My child, a fearful dread seized on my wakeful heart and sent
SEMI-CHORUS II Hath a herald from the Danai already come? To whom
am I, poor captive, given as a slave?
HECUBA Thou art not far from being allotted now.
SEMI-CHORUS II Woe worth the day! What Argive or Phthiotian chief
will bear me far from Troy, alas! unto his home, or haply to some
HECUBA Ah me! ah me! Whose slave shall I become in my old age? in
what far clime? a poor old drone, the wretched copy of a corpse, set
to keep the gate or tend their children, I who once held royal rank
CHORUS Woe, woe is thee! What piteous dirge wilt thou devise to mourn
the outrage done thee? No more through Ida's looms shall I-ply the
shuttle to and fro. I look my last and latest on my children's bodies;
henceforth shall I endure surpassing misery; it may be as the unwilling
bride of some Hellene (perish the night and fortune that brings me
to this!); it may be as a wretched slave I from Peirene's sacred fount
shall draw their store of water.
Oh be it ours to come to Theseus' famous realm, a land of joy! Never,
never let me see Eurotas' swirling tide, hateful home of Helen, there
to meet and be the slave of Menelaus, whose hand laid Troyland waste!
Yon holy land by Peneus fed, nestling in all its beauty at Olympus'
foot, is said, so have I heard, to be a very granary of wealth and
teeming fruitage; next to the sacred soil of Theseus, I could wish
to reach that land. They tell me too Hephaestus' home, beneath the
shadow of Aetna, fronting Phoenicia, the mother of Sicilian hills,
is famous for the crowns it gives to worth. Or may I find a home on
that shore which lieth very nigh Ionia's sea, a land by Crathis watered,
lovely stream, that dyes the hair an auburn tint, feeding with its
holy waves and making glad therewith the home of heroes good and true.
But mark! a herald from the host of Danai, with store of fresh proclamations,
comes hasting hither. What is his errand? what saith he? List, for
we are slaves to Dorian lords henceforth. (Enter TALTHYBIUS.)
TALTHYBIUS Hecuba, thou knowest me from my many journeys to and fro
as herald 'twixt the Achaean host and Troy; no stranger I to thee,
lady, even aforetime, I Talthybius, now sent with a fresh message.
HECUBA Ah, kind friends, 'tis come! what I so long have dreaded.
TALTHYBIUS The lot has decided your fates already, if that was what
HECUBA Ah me! What city didst thou say, Thessalian, Phthian, or Cadmean?
TALTHYBIUS Each warrior took his prize in turn; ye were not all at
HECUBA To whom hath the lot assigned us severally? Which of us Trojan
dames doth a happy fortune await?
TALTHYBIUS I know, but ask thy questions separately, not all at once.
HECUBA Then tell me, whose prize is my daughter, hapless Cassandra?
TALTHYBIUS King Agamemnon hath chosen her out for himself.
HECUBA To be the slave-girl of his Spartan wife? Ah me!
TALTHYBIUS Nay, to share with him his stealthy love.
HECUBA What! Phoebus' virgin-priestess, to whom the god with golden
locks granted the boon of maidenhood?
TALTHYBIUS The dart of love hath pierced his heart, love for the
HECUBA Daughter, cast from thee the sacred keys, and from thy body
tear the holy wreaths that drape thee in their folds.
TALTHYBIUS Why! is it not an honour high that she should win our
HECUBA What have ye done to her whom late ye took from me-my child?
TALTHYBIUS Dost mean Polyxena, or whom dost thou inquire about?
HECUBA To whom hath the lot assigned her?
TALTHYBIUS To minister at Achilles' tomb hath been appointed her.
HECUBA Woe is me! I the mother of a dead man's slave! What custom,
what ordinance is this amongst Hellenes, good sir?
TALTHYBIUS Count thy daughter happy: 'tis well with her.
HECUBA What wild words are these? say, is she still alive?
TALTHYBIUS Her fate is one that sets her free from trouble.
HECUBA And what of mail-clad Hector's wife, sad Andromache? declare
TALTHYBIUS She too was a chosen prize; Achilles' son did take her.
HECUBA As for me whose hair is white with age, who need to hold a
staff to be to me a third foot, whose servant am I to be?
TALTHYBIUS Odysseus, king of Ithaca, hath taken thee to be his slave.
HECUBA O God! Now smite the close-shorn head! tear your cheeks with
your nails. God help me! I have fallen as a slave to a treacherous
foe I hate, a monster of lawlessness, one that by his double tongue
hath turned against us all that once was friendly in his camp, changing
this for that and that for this again. Oh weep for me, ye Trojan dames!
Undone! undone and lost! ah woel a victim to a most unhappy lot!
CHORUS Thy fate, royal mistress, now thou knowest; but for me, what
Hellene or Achaean is master of my destiny?
TALTHYBIUS Ho, servants! haste and bring Cassandra forth to me here,
that I may place her our captain's hands, and then conduct to the
rest of the chiefs the captives each hath had assigned. Ha what is
the blaze of torches there within? What do these Trojan dames? Are
they firing the chambers, because they must leave this land and be
carried away to Argos? Are they setting themselves aflame in their
longing for death? Of a truth the free bear their troubles in cases
like this with a stiff neck. Ho, there! open! lest their deed, which
suits them well but finds small favour with the Achaeans, bring blame
HECUBA 'Tis not that they are setting aught ablaze, but my child
Cassandra, frenzied maid, comes rushing wildly hither. (Enter CASSANDRA
CASSANDRA Bring the light, uplift and show its flame! I am doing
the god's service, see! I making his shrine to glow with tapers bright.
O Hymen, king of marriage! blest is the bridegroom; blest am I also,
the maiden soon to wed a princely lord in Argos. Hail Hymen, king
of marriage! Since thou, my mother, art ever busied with tears and
lamentations in thy mourning for my father's death and for our country
dear, I at my own nuptials am making this torch to blaze and show
its light, in thy honour, O Hymen, king of marriage! Grant thy light
too, Hecate, at the maiden's wedding, as the custom is. Nimbly lift
the foot aloft, lead on the dance, with cries of joy, as if to greet
my father's happy fate. To dance I hold a sacred duty; come, Phoebus,
lead the way, for 'tis in thy temple mid thy bay-trees that I minister.
Hail Hymen, god of marriage! Hymen, hail! Come, mother mine, and join
the dance, link thy steps with me, and circle in the gladsome measure,
now here, now there. Salute the bride on her wedding-day with hymns
and cries of joy. Come, ye maids of Phrygia in raiment fair, sing
my marriage with the husband fate ordains that I should wed.
CHORUS Hold the frantic maiden, royal mistress mine, lest with nimble
foot she rush to the Argive army.
HECUBA Thou god of fire,'tis thine to light the bridal torch for
men, but piteous is the flame thou kindlest here, beyond my blackest
bodings. Ah, my child! how little did I ever dream that such would
be thy marriage, a captive, and of Argos tool Give up the torch to
me; thou dost not bear its blaze aright in thy wild frantic course,
nor have thy afflictions left thee in thy sober senses, but still
art thou as frantic as before. Take in those torches, Trojan friends,
and for her wedding madrigals weep your tears instead.
CASSANDRA O mother, crown my head with victor's wreaths; rejoice
in my royal match; lead me to my lord; nay, if thou find me loth at
all, thrust me there by force; for if Loxias be indeed a prophet,
Agamemnon, that famous king of the Achaeans, will find in me a bride
more fraught with woe to him than Helen. For I will slay him and lay
waste his home to avenge my father's and my bretheren's death. But
of the deed itself I will not speak; nor will I tell of that axe which
shall sever my neck and the necks of others, or of the conflict ending
in a mother's death, which my marriage shall cause, nor of the overthrow
of Atreus' house; but I, for all my frenzy, will so far rise above
my frantic fit, that I will prove this city happier far than those
Achaeans, who for the sake of one woman and one man's love of her
have lost a countless host in seeking Helen. Their captain too, whom
men call wise, hath lost for what he hated most what most he prized,
yielding to his brother for a woman's sake-and she a willing prize
whom no man forced-the joy he had of his own children in his home.
For from the day that they did land upon Scamander's strand, their
doom began, not for loss of stolen frontier nor yet for fatherland
with frowning towers; whomso Ares slew, those never saw their babes
again, nor were they shrouded for the tomb by hand of wife, but in
a foreign land they lie. At home the case was still the same; wives
were dying widows, parents were left childless in their homes, having
reared their sons for others, and none is left to make libations of
blood upon the ground before their tombs. Truly to such praise as
this their host can make an ample claim. Tis better to pass their
shame in silence by, nor be mine the Muse to tell that evil tale.
But the Trojans were dying, first for their fatherland, fairest fame
to win; whomso the sword laid low, all these found friends to bear
their bodies home and were laid to rest in the bosom of their native
land, their funeral rites all duly paid by duteous hands. And all
such Phrygians as escaped the warrior's death lived ever day by day
with wife and children by them-joys the Achaeans had left behind.
As for Hector and his griefs, prithee hear how stands the case; he
is dead and gone, but still his fame remains as bravest of the brave,
and this was a result of the Achaeans' coming; for had they remained
at home, his worth would have gone unnoticed. So too with Paris, he
married the daughter of Zeus, whereas, had he never done so, the alliance
he made in his family would have been forgotten. Whoso is wise should
fly from making war; but if he be brought to this pass, a noble death
will crown his city with glory, a coward's end with shame. Wherefore,
mother mine, thou shouldst not pity thy country or my spousal, for
this my marriage will destroy those whom thou and I most hate.
CHORUS How sweetly at thy own sad lot thou smilest, chanting a strain,
which, spite of thee, may prove thee wrong!
TALTHYBIUS Had not Apollo turned thy wits astray, thou shouldst not
for nothing have sent my chiefs with such ominous predictions forth
on their way. But, after all, these lofty minds, reputed wise, are
nothing better than those that are held as naught. For that mighty
king of all Hellas, own son of Atreus, has yielded to a passion for
this mad maiden of all others; though I am poor enough, yet would
I ne'er have chosen such a wife as this. As for thee, since thy senses
are not whole, I give thy taunts 'gainst Argos and thy praise of Troy
to the winds to carry away. Follow me now to the ships to grace the
wedding of our chief. And thou too follow, whensoe'er the son of Laertes
demands thy presence, for thou wilt serve a mistress most discreet,
as all declare who came to Ilium.
CASSANDRA A clever fellow this menial! Why is it heralds hold the
name they do? All men unite in hating with one common hate the servants
who attend on kings or governments. Thou sayest my mother shall come
to the halls of Odysseus; where then be Apollo's words, so clear to
me in their interpretation, which declare that here she shall die?
What else remains, I will not taunt her with. Little knows he, the
luckless wight, the sufferings that await him; or how these ills I
and my Phrygians endure shall one day seem to him precious as gold.
For beyond the ten long years spent at Troy he shall drag out other
ten and then come to his country all alone, by the route where fell
Charybdis lurks in a narrow channel 'twixt the rocks; past Cyclops
the savage shepherd, and Ligurian Circe that turneth men to swine;
shipwrecked oft upon the salt sea-wave; fain to eat the lotus, and
the sacred cattle of the sun, whose flesh shall utter in the days
to come a human voice, fraught with misery to Odysseus. But to briefly
end this history, he shall descend alive to Hades, and, though he
'scape the waters' flood, yet shall he find a thousand troubles in
his home when he arrives. Enough why do I recount the troubles of
Odysseus? Lead on, that I forthwith may wed my husband for his home
in Hades' halls. Base thou art, and basely shalt thou be buried, in
the dead of night when day is done, thou captain of that host of Danai,
who thinkest so proudly of thy fortune! Yea, and my corpse cast forth
in nakedness shall the rocky chasm with its flood of wintry waters
give to wild beasts to make their meal upon, hard by my husband's
tomb, me the handmaid of Apollo. Farewell, ye garlands of that god
most dear to me! farewell, ye mystic symbols! I here resign your feasts,
my joy in days gone by. Go, I tear ye from my body, that, while yet
mine honour is intact, I may give them to the rushing winds to waft
to thee, my prince of prophecy I Where is yon general's ship? Whither
must I go to take my place thereon? Lose no further time in watching
for a favouring breeze to fill thy sails, doomed as thou art to carry
from this land one of the three avenging spirits. Fare thee well,
mother mine! dry thy tears, O country dear! yet a little while, my
brothers sleeping in the tomb and my own father true, and ye shall
welcome me; yet shall victory crown my advent 'mongst the dead, when
I have overthrown the home of our destroyers, the house of the sons
of Atreus. (Exeunt TALTHYBIUS and CASSANDRA)
CHORUS Ye guardians of the grey-haired Hecuba, see how your mistress
is sinking speechless to the ground! Take hold of her! will ye let
her fall, ye worthless slaves? lift up again, from where it lies,
her silvered head.
HECUBA Leave me lying where I fell, my maidens unwelcome service
grows not welcome ever-my sufferings now, my troubles past, afflictions
yet to come, all claim this lowly posture. Gods of heaven! small help
I find in calling such allies, yet is there something in the form
of invoking heaven, whenso we fall on evil days. First will I descant
upon my former blessings; so shall I inspire the greater pity for
my present woes. Born to royal estate and wedded to a royal lord,
I was the mother of a race of gallant sons; no mere ciphers they,
but Phrygia's chiefest pride, children such as no Trojan or Hellenic
or barbarian mother ever had to boast. All these have I seen slain
by the spear of Hellas, and at their tombs have I shorn off my hair;
with these my eyes I saw their sire, my Priam, butchered on his own
hearth, and my city captured, nor did others bring this bitter news
to me. The maidens I brought up to see chosen for some marriage high,
for strangers have I reared them, and seen them snatched away. Nevermore
can I hope to be seen by them, nor shall my eyes behold them ever
in the days to come. And last, to crown my misery, shall I be brought
to Hellas, a slave in my old age. And there the tasks that least befit
the evening of my life will they impose on me, to watch their gates
and keep the keys, me Hector's mother, or bake their bread, and on
the ground instead of my royal bed lay down my shrunken limbs, with
tattered rags about my wasted frame. a shameful garb for those who
once were prosperous. Ah, woe is me! and this is what I bear and am
to bear for one weak woman's wooing! O my daughter, O Cassandra! whom
gods have summoned to their frenzied train, how cruel the lot that
ends thy virgin days! And thou, Polyxena! my child of sorrow, where,
oh! where art thou? None of all the many sons and daughters have I
born comes to aid a wretched mother. Why then raise me up? What hope
is left us? Guide me, who erst trod so daintily the streets of Troy,
but now am but a slave, to a bed upon the ground, nigh some rocky
ridge, that thence I may cast me down and perish, after I have wasted
my body with weeping. Of all the prosperous crowd, count none a happy
man before he die.
CHORUS Sing me, Muse, a tale of Troy, a funeral dirge in strains
unheard as yet, with tears the while; for now will I uplift for Troy
a piteous chant, telling how I met my doom and fell a wretched captive
to the Argives by reason of a four-footed beast that moved on wheels,
in the hour that Achaea's sons left at our gates that horse, loud
rumbling on its way, with its trappings of gold and its freight of
warriors; and our folk cried out as they stood upon the rocky citadel,
"Up now ye whose toil is o'er, and drag this sacred image to the shrine
of the Zeus-born maiden, goddess of our Ilium!" Forth from his house
came every youth and every grey-head too; and with songs of joy they
took the fatal snare within. Then hastened all the race of Phrygia
to the gates, to make the goddess a present of an Argive band ambushed
in the polished mountain-pine, Dardania's ruin, a welcome gift to
be to her, the virgin queen of deathless steeds; and with nooses of
cord they dragged it, as it had been a ship's dark hull, to the stone-built
fane of the goddess Pallas, and set it on that floor so soon to drink
our country's blood. But, as they laboured and made merry, came on
the pitchy night; loud the Libyan flute was sounding, and Phrygian
songs awoke, while maidens beat the ground with airy foot, uplifting
their gladsome song; and in the halls a blaze of torchlight shed its
flickering shadows on sleeping eyes. In that hour around the house
was I singing as I danced to that maiden of the hills, the child of
Zeus; when lo! there rang along the town a cry of death which filled
the homes of Troy, and little babes in terror clung about their mothers'
skirts, as forth from their ambush came the warrior-band, the handiwork
of maiden Pallas. Anon the altars ran with Phrygian blood, and desolation
reigned o'er every bed where young men lay beheaded, a glorious crown
for Hellas won, ay, for her, the nurse of youth, but for our Phrygian
fatherland a bitter grief. Look, Hecuba! dost see Andromache advancing
hither on a foreign car? and with her, clasped to her throbbing breast,
is her dear Astyanax, Hector's child. (Enter ANDROMACHE.)
HECUBA Whither art thou borne, unhappy wife, mounted on that car,
side by side with Hector's brazen arms and Phrygian spoils of war,
with which Achilles' son will deck the shrines of Phthia on his return
ANDROMACHE My Achaean masters drag me hence.
HECUBA Woe is thee!
ANDROMACHE Why dost thou in note of woe utter the dirge that is mine?
HECUBA Ah me!
ANDROMACHE For these sorrows.
HECUBA O Zeus!
ANDROMACHE And for this calamity.
HECUBA O my children!
ANDROMACHE Our day is past.
HECUBA Joy is fled, and Troy o'erthrown.
ANDROMACHE Woe is me!
HECUBA Dead too all my gallant sons!
ANDROMACHE Alack and well-a-day!
HECUBA Ah me for my-
HECUBA Piteous the fate-
ANDROMACHE Of our city,
HECUBA Smouldering in the smoke.
ANDROMACHE Come, my husband, come to me!
HECUBA Ah hapless wife! thou callest on my son who lieth in the tomb.
ANDROMACHE Thy wife's defender, come!
HECUBA Do thou, who erst didst make the Achaeans grieve, eldest of
the sons I bare to Priam in the days gone by, take me to thy rest
in Hades' halls!
ANDROMACHE Bitter are these regrets, unhappy mother, bitter these
woes to bear; our city ruined, and sorrow evermore to sorrow added,
through the will of angry heaven, since the day that son' of thine
escaped his doom, he that for a bride accursed brought destruction
on the Trojan citadel. There lie the gory corpses of the slain by
the shrine of Pallas for vultures to carry off; and Troy is come to
HECUBA O my country, O unhappy land, I weep for thee now left behind;
now dost thou behold thy piteous end; and thee, my house, I weep,
wherein I suffered travail. O my children! reft of her city as your
mother is, she now is losing you. Oh, what mourning and what sorrow!
oh, what endless streams of tears in our houses! The dead alone forget
their griefs and never shed a tear.
CHORUS What sweet relief to sufferers 'tis to weep, to mourn, lament,
and chant the dirge that tells of grief!
ANDROMACHE Dost thou see this, mother of that Hector, who once laid
low in battle many a son of Argos?
HECUBA I see that it is heaven's way to exalt what men accounted
naught, and ruin what they most esteemed.
ANDROMACHE Hence with my child as booty am I borne; the noble are
to slavery brought-a bitter, bitter change.
HECUBA This is necessity's grim law; it was but now Cassandra was
torn with brutal violence from my arms.
ANDROMACHE Alas, alas! it seems a second Aias hath appeared to wrong
thy daughter; but there be other ills for thee.
HECUBA Ay, beyond all count or measure are my sorrows; evil vies
with evil in the struggle to be first.
ANDROMACHE Thy daughter Polyxena is dead, slain at Achilles' tomb,
an offering to his lifeless corpse.
HECUBA O woe is me! This is that riddle Talthybius long since told
me, a truth obscurely uttered.
ANDROMACHE I saw her with mine eyes; so I alighted from the chariot,
and covered her corpse with a mantle, and smote upon my breast.
HECUBA Alas! my child, for thy unhallowed sacrifice! and yet again,
ah me! for this thy shameful death!
ANDROMACHE Her death was even as it was, and yet that death of hers
was after all a happier fate than this my life.
HECUBA Death and life are not the same, my child; the one is annihilation,
the other keeps a place for hope.
ANDROMACHE Hear, O mother of children give ear to what I urge so
well, that I may cheer my drooping spirit. 'Tis all one, I say, ne'er
to have been born and to be dead, and better far is death than life
with misery. For the dead feel no sorrow any more and know no grief;
but he who has known prosperity and has fallen on evil days feels
his spirit straying from the scene of former joys. Now that child
of thine is dead as though she ne'er had seen the light, and little
she recks of her calamity; whereas I, who aimed at a fair repute,
though I won a higher lot than most, yet missed my lick in life. For
all that stamps the wife a woman chaste, I strove to do in Hector's
home. In the first place, whether there is a slur upon a woman, or
whether there is not, the very fact of her not staying at home brings
in its train an evil name; therefore I gave up any wish to do so,
and abode ever within my house, nor would I admit the clever gossip
women love, but conscious of a heart that told an honest tale I was
content therewith. And ever would I keep a silent tongue and modest
eye before my lord; and well I knew where I might rule my lord, and
where 'twas best to yield to him; the fame whereof hath reached the
Achaean host, and proved my ruin; for when I was taken captive, Achilles'
son would have me as his wife, and I must serve in the house of murderers.
And if I set aside my love for Hector, and ope my heart to this new
lord, I shall appear a traitress to the dead, while, if I hate him,
I shall incur my master's displeasure. And yet they say a single night
removes a woman's dislike for her husband; nay, I do hate the woman
who, when she hath lost her former lord, transfers her love by marrying
another. Not e'en the horse, if from his fellow torn, will cheerfully
draw the yoke; and yet the brutes have neither speech nor sense to
help them, and are by nature man's inferiors. O Hector mine! in thee
I found a husband amply dowered with wisdom, noble birth and fortune,
a brave man and a mighty; whilst thou didst take me from my father's
house a spotless bride, thyself the first to make this maiden wife.
But now death hath claimed thee, and I to Hellas am soon to sail,
a captive doomed to wear the yoke of slavery. Hath not then the dead
Polyxena, for whom thou wailest, less evil to bear than I? I have
not so much as hope, the last resource of every human heart, nor do
I beguile myself with dreams of future bliss, the very thought whereof
CHORUS Thou art in the self-same plight as I; thy lamentations for
thyself remind me of my own sad case.
HECUBA I never yet have set foot on a ship's deck, though I have
seen such things in pictures and know of them from hearsay. Now sailors,
if there come a storm of moderate force, are all eagerness to save
themselves by toil; one at the tiller stands, another sets himself
to work the sheets, a third meantime is baling out the ship; but if
tempestuous waves arise to overwhelm them, they yield to fortune and
commit themselves to the driving billows. Even so I, by reason of
my countless troubles, am dumb and forbear to say a word; for Heaven
with its surge of misery is too strong for me. Cease, Oh cease, my
darling child, to speak of Hector's fate; no tears of thine can save
him; honour thy present lord, offering thy sweet nature as the bait
to win him. If thou do this, thou wilt cheer thy friends as well as
thyself, and thou shalt rear my Hector's child to lend stout aid to
Ilium, that so thy children in the after-time may build her up again,
and our city yet be stablished. But lo! our talk must take a different
turn; who is this Achaean menial I see coming hither, sent to tell
us of some new design? (Enter TALTHYBIUS.)
TALTHYBIUS Oh hate me not, thou that erst wert Hector's wife, the
bravest of the Phrygians! for my tongue would fain not tell that which
the Danai and sons of Pelops both command.
ANDROMACHE What is it? Thy prelude bodeth evil news.
TALTHYBIUS 'Tis decreed thy son is-how can I tell my news?
ANDROMACHE Surely not to have a different master from me?
TALTHYBIUS None of all Achaea's chiefs shall ever lord it over him.
ANDROMACHE Is it their will to leave him here, a remnant yet of Phrygia's
TALTHYBIUS I know no words to break the sorrow lightly to thee.
ANDROMACHE I thank thee for thy consideration, unless indeed thou
hast good news to tell.
TALTHYBIUS They mean to slay thy son; there is my hateful message
ANDROMACHE O God! this is worse tidings than my forced marriage.
TALTHYBIUS So spake Odysseus to the assembled Hellenes, and his word
ANDROMACHE Oh once again ah me there is no measure in the woes I
TALTHYBIUS He said they should not rear so brave a father's son.
ANDROMACHE May such counsels yet prevail about children of his!
TALTHYBIUS From Troy's battlements he must be thrown. Let it be even
so, and thou wilt show more wisdom; cling not to him, but bear thy
sorrows with heroic heart, nor in thy weakness deem that thou art
strong. For nowhere hast thou any help; consider this thou must; thy
husband and thy city are no more, so thou art in our power, and I
alone am match enough for one weak woman; wherefore I would not see
thee bent on strife, or any course to bring thee shame or hate, nor
would I hear thee rashly curse the Achaeans. For if thou say aught
whereat the host grow wroth, this child will find no burial nor pity
either. But if thou hold thy peace and with composure take thy fate,
thou wilt not leave his corpse unburied, and thyself wilt find more
favour with the Achaeans.
ANDROMACHE My child! my own sweet babe and priceless treasure! thy
death the foe demands, and thou must leave thy wretched mother. That
which saves the lives of others, proves thy destruction, even thy
sire's nobility; to thee thy father's valiancy has proved no boon.
O the woeful wedding rites, that brought me erst to Hector's home,
hoping to be the mother of a son that should rule o'er Asia's fruitful
fields instead of serving as a victim to the sons of Danaus! Dost
weep, my babe? dost know thy hapless fate? Why clutch me with thy
hands and to my garment cling, nestling like a tender chick beneath
my wing? Hector will not rise again and come gripping his famous spear
to bring thee salvation; no kinsman of thy sire appears, nor might
of Phrygian hosts; one awful headlong leap from the dizzy height and
thou wilt dash out thy life with none to pity thee Oh to clasp thy
tender limbs, a mother's fondest joy! Oh to breathe thy fragrant breath!
In vain it seems these breasts did suckle thee, wrapped in thy swaddling-clothes;
all for naught I used to toil and wore myself away! Kiss thy mother
now for the last time, nestle to her that bare thee, twine thy arms
about my neck and join thy lips to mine! O ye Hellenes, cunning to
devise new forms of cruelty, why slay this child who never wronged
any? Thou daughter of Tyndarus, thou art no child of Zeus, but sprung,
I trow, of many a sire, first of some evil demon, next of Envy, then
of Murder and of Death, and every horror that the earth begets. That
Zeus was never sire of thine I boldly do assert, bane as thou hast
been to many a Hellene and barbarian too. Destruction catch thee!
Those fair eyes of thine have brought a shameful ruin on the fields
of glorious Troy. Take the babe and bear him hence, hurl him down
if so ye list, then feast upon his flesh! 'Tis heaven's high will
we perish, and I cannot ward the deadly stroke from my child. Hide
me and my misery; cast me into the ship's hold; for 'tis to a fair
wedding I am going, now that I have lost my child!
CHORUS Unhappy Troy! thy thousands thou hast lost for one woman's
sake and her accursed wooing.
TALTHYBIUS Come, child, leave fond embracing of thy woful mother,
and mount the high coronal of thy ancestral towers, there to draw
thy parting breath, as is ordained. Take him hence. His should the
duty be to do such herald's work, whose heart knows no pity and who
loveth ruthlessness more than my soul doth. (Exeunt ANDROMACHE and
TALTHYBIUS with ASTYANAX.)
HECUBA O child, son of my hapless boy, an unjust fate robs me and
thy mother of thy life. How is it with me? What can I do for thee,
my luckless babe? for thee I smite upon my head and beat my breast,
my only gift; for that alone is in my power. Woe for my city! woe
for thee! Is not our cup full? What is wanting now to our utter and
CHORUS O Telamon, King of Salamis, the feeding ground of bees, who
hast thy home in a sea-girt isle that lieth nigh the holy hills where
first Athena made the grey olive-branch to appear, a crown for heavenly
heads and a glory unto happy Athens, thou didst come in knightly brotherhood
with that great archer, Alcemena's son, to sack our city Ilium, in
days gone by, on thy advent from Hellas, what time he led the chosen
flower of Hellas, vexed for the steeds denied him, and at the fair
stream of Simois he stayed his sea-borne ship and fastened cables
to the stern, and forth therefrom he took the bow his hand could deftly
shoot, to be the doom of Laomedon; and with the ruddy breath of fire
he wasted the masonry squared by Phoebus' line and chisel, and sacked
the land of Troy; so twice in two attacks hath the bloodstained spear
destroyed Dardania's walls.
In vain, it seems, thou Phrygian boy, pacing with dainty step amid
thy golden chalices, dost thou fill high the cup of Zeus, a service
passing fair; seeing that the land of thy birth is being consumed
by fire. The shore re-echoes to our cries; and, as a bird bewails
its young, so we bewail our husbands or our children, or our grey-haired
mothers. The dew-fed springs where thou didst bathe, the course where
thou didst train, are now no more; but thou beside the throne of Zeus
art sitting with a calm, sweet smile upon thy fair young face, while
the spear of Hellas lays the land of Priam waste. Ah! Love, Love,
who once didst seek these Dardan halls, deep-seated in the hearts
of heavenly gods, how high didst thou make Troy to tower in those
days, allying her with deities! But I will cease to urge reproaches
against Zeus; for white-winged dawn, whose light to man is dear, turned
a baleful eye upon our land and watched the ruin of our citadel, though
she had within her bridal bower a husband from this land, whom on
a day a car of gold and spangled stars caught up and carried thither,
great source of hope to his native country; but all the love the gods
once had for Troy is passed away. (Enter MENELAUS.)
MENELAUS Hail! thou radiant orb by whose fair light I now shall capture
her that was my wife, e'en Helen; for I am that Menelaus, who hath
toiled so hard, I and Achaea's host. To Troy I came, not so much as
men suppose to take this woman, but to punish him who from my house
stole my wife, traitor to my hospitality. But he, by heaven's will,
hath paid the penalty, ruined, and his country too, by the spear of
Hellas. And I am come to bear that Spartan woman hence-wife I have
no mind to call her, though she once was mine; for now she is but
one among the other Trojan dames who share these tents as captives.
For they-the very men who toiled to take her with the spear-have granted
her to me to slay, or, if I will, to spare and carry back with me
to Argos. Now my purpose is not to put her to death in Troy, but to
carry her to Hellas in my seaborne ship, and then surrender her to
death, a recompense to all whose friends were slain in Ilium. Ho!
my trusty men, enter the tent, and drag her out to me by her hair
with many a murder foul; and when a favouring breeze shall blow, to
Hellas will we convey her.
HECUBA O thou that dost support the earth and restest thereupon,
whosoe'er thou art, a riddle past our ken! be thou Zeus, or natural
necessity, or man's intellect, to thee I pray; for, though thou treadest
o'er a noiseless path, all thy dealings with mankind are by justice
MENELAUS How now? Strange the prayer thou offerest unto heaven!
HECUBA I thank thee, Menelaus, if thou wilt slay that wife of thine.
Yet shun the sight of her, lest she smite thee with regret. For she
ensnares the eyes of men, o'erthrows their towns, and burns their
houses, so potent are her witcheries! Well I know her; so dost thou
and those her victims too. (Enter HELEN.)
HELEN Menelaus! this prelude well may fill me with alarm; for I am
haled with violence by thy servants' hands and brought before these
tents. Still, though I am well-nigh sure thou hatest me, yet would
I fain inquire what thou and Hellas have decided about my life.
MENELAUS To judge thy case required no great exactness; the host
with one consent-that host whom thou didst wrong-handed thee over
to me to die.
HELEN May I answer this decision, proving that my death, if to die
I am, will be unjust?
MENELAUS I came not to argue, but to slay thee.
HECUBA Hear her, Menelaus; let her not die for want of that, and
let me answer her again, for thou knowest naught of her villainies
in Troy; and the whole case, if thus summed up, will insure her death
against all chance of an escape.
MENELAUS This boon needs leisure; still, if she wishes to speak,
the leave is given. Yet will I grant her this because of thy words,
that she may hear them, and not for her own sake.
HELEN Perhaps thou wilt not answer me, from counting me a foe, whether
my words seem good or ill. Yet will I put my charges and thine over
against each other, and then reply to the accusations I suppose thou
wilt advance against me. First, then, she was the author of these
troubles by giving birth to Paris; next, old Priam ruined Troy and
me, because he did not slay his babe Alexander, baleful semblance
of a fire-brand, long ago. Hear what followed. This Paris was to judge
the claims of three rival goddesses; so Pallas offered him command
of all the Phrygians, and the destruction of Hellas; Hera promised
he should spread his dominion over Asia, and the utmost bounds of
Europe, if he would decide for her; but Cypris spoke in rapture of
my loveliness, and promised him this boon, if she should have the
preference o'er those twain for beauty; now mark the inference I deduce
from this; Cypris won the day o'er them, and thus far hath my marriage
proved of benefit to Hellas, that ye are not subject to barbarian
rule, neither vanquished in the strife, nor yet by tyrants crushed.
What Hellas gained, was ruin to me, a victim for my beauty sold, and
now am I reproached for that which should have set a crown upon my
head. But thou wilt say I am silent on the real matter at issue, how
it was I started forth and left thy house by stealth. With no mean
goddess at his side he came, my evil genius, call him Alexander or
Paris, as thou wilt; and him didst thou, thrice guilty wretch, leave
behind thee in thy house, and sail away from Sparta to the land of
Crete. Enough of this! For all that followed I must question my own
heart, not thee; what frantic thought led me to follow the stranger
from thy house, traitress to my country and my home? Punish the goddess,
show thyself more mighty e'en than Zeus, who, though he lords it o'er
the other gods, is yet her slave; wherefore I may well be pardoned.
Still, from hence thou mightest draw a specious argument against me;
when Paris died, and Earth concealed his corpse, I should have left
his house and sought the Argive fleet, since my marriage was no longer
in the hands of gods. That was what I fain had done; yea, and the
warders on the towers and watchmen on the walls can bear me witness,
for oft they found me seeking to let myself down stealthily by cords
from the battlements; but there was that new husband, Deiphobus, that
carried me off by force to be his wife against the will of Troy. How
then, my lord, could I be justly put to death by thee, with any show
of right, seeing that he wedded me against my will, and those my other
natural gifts have served a bitter slavery, instead of leading on
to triumph? If 'tis thy will indeed to master gods, that very wish
displays thy folly.
CHORUS O my royal mistress, defend thy children's and thy country.'s
cause, bringing to naught her persuasive arguments, for she pleads
well in spite of all her villainy; 'tis monstrous this!
HECUBA First will I take up the cause of those goddesses, and prove
how she perverts the truth. For I can ne'er believe that Hera or the
maiden Pallas would have been guilty of such folly, as to sell, the
one, her Argos to barbarians, or that Pallas e'er would make her Athens
subject to the Phrygians, coming as they did in mere wanton sport
to Ida to contest the palm of beauty. For why should goddess Hera
set her heart so much on such a prize? Was it to win a nobler lord
than Zeus? or was Athena bent on finding 'mongst the gods a husband,
she who in her dislike of marriage won from her sire the boon of remaining
unwed? Seek not to impute folly to the goddesses, in the attempt to
gloze o'er thy own sin; never wilt thou persuade the wise. Next thou
hast said-what well may make men jeer-that Cypris came with my son
to the house of Menelaus. Could she not have stayed quietly in heaven
and brought thee and Amyclae to boot to Ilium? Nay! my son was passing
fair, and when thou sawest him thy fancy straight became thy Cypris;
for every sensual act that men commit, they lay upon this goddess,
and rightly does her name of Aphrodite begin the word for "senselessness";
so when thou didst catch sight of him in gorgeous foreign garb, ablaze
with gold, thy senses utterly forsook thee. Yea, for in Argos thou
hadst moved in simple state, but, once free of Sparta, 'twas thy fond
hope to deluge by thy lavish outlay Phrygia's town, that flowed with
gold; nor was the palace of Menelaus rich enough for thy luxury to
riot in. Ha! my son carried thee off by force, so thou savest; what
Spartan saw this? what cry for help didst thou ever raise, though
Castor was still alive, a vigorous youth, and his brother also, not
yet amid the stars? Then when thou wert come to Troy, and the Argives
were on thy track, and the mortal combat was begun, whenever tidings
came to thee of Menelaus' prowess, him wouldst thou praise, to grieve
my son, because he had so powerful a rival in his love; but if so
the Trojans prospered, Menelaus was nothing to thee. Thy eye was fixed
on Fortune, and by such practice wert thou careful to follow in her
steps, careless of virtue's cause. And then, in spite of all, thou
dost assert that thou didst try to let thyself down from the towers
by stealth with twisted cords, as if loth to stay? Pray then, wert
thou ever found fastening the noose about thy neck, or whetting the
knife, as noble wife would have done in regret for her former husband?
And yet full oft I advised thee saying, "Get thee gone, daughter,
and let my sons take other brides; I will help thee to steal away,
and convey thee to the Achaean fleet; oh end the strife 'twixt us
and Hellas!" But this was bitter in thy ears. For thou wert wantoning
in Alexander's house, fain to have obeisance done thee by barbarians.
Yes, 'twas a proud time for thee; and now after all this thou hast
bedizened thyself, and come forth and hast dared to appear under the
same sky as thy husband, revolting wretchl Better hadst thou come
in tattered raiment, cowering humbly in terror, with hair shorn short,
if for thy past sins thy feeling were one of shame rather than effrontery.
O Menelaus, hear the conclusion of my argument; crown Hellas by slaying
her as she deserves, and establish this law for all others of her
sex, e'en death to every traitress to her husband.
CHORUS Avenge thee, Menelaus, on thy wife, as is worthy of thy home
and ancestors, clear thyself from the reproach of effeminacy at the
lips of Hellas, and let thy foes see thy spirit.
MENELAUS Thy thoughts with mine do coincide, that she, without constraint,
left my palace, and sought a stranger's love, and now Cypris is introduced
for mere bluster. Away to those who shall stone thee, and by thy speedy
death requite the weary toils of the Achaeans, that thou mayst learn
not to bring shame on me!
HELEN Oh, by thy knees, I implore thee, impute not that heaven-sent
affliction to me, nor slay me; pardon, I entreat!
HECUBA Be not false to thy allies, whose death this woman caused;
on their behalf, and for my children's sake, I sue to thee.
MENELAUS Peace, reverend dame; to her I pay no heed. Lo! I bid my
servants take her hence, aboard the ship, wherein she is to sail.
HECUBA Oh never let her set foot within the same ship as thee.
MENELAUS How now? is she heavier than of yore?
HECUBA Who loveth once, must love alway.
MENELAUS Why, that depends how those we love are minded. But thy
wish shall be granted; she shall not set foot upon the same ship with
me; for thy advice is surely sound; and when she comes to Argos she
shall die a shameful death as is her due, and impress the need of
chastity on all her sex; no easy task; yet shall her fate strike their
foolish hearts with terror, e'en though they be more lost to shame
than she. (Exit MENELAUS, dragging HELEN with him.)
CHORUS So then thou hast delivered into Achaea's hand, O Zeus, thy
shrine in Ilium and thy fragrant altar, the offerings of burnt sacrifice
with smoke of myrrh to heaven uprising, and holy Pergamos, and glens
of Ida tangled with ivy's growth, where rills of melting snow pour
down their flood, a holy sunlit land that bounds the world and takes
the god's first rays! Gone are thy sacrifices! gone the dancer's cheerful
shout! gone the vigils of the gods as night closed in! Thy images
of carven gold are now no more; and Phrygia's holy festivals, twelve
times a year, at each full moon, are ended now. 'Tis this that filleth
me with anxious thought whether thou, O king, seated on the sky, thy
heavenly throne, carest at all that my city is destroyed, a prey to
the furious fiery blast. Ah! my husband, fondly loved, thou art a
wandering spectre; unwashed, unburied lies thy corpse, while o'er
the sea the ship sped by wings will carry me to Argos, land of steeds,
where stand Cyclopian walls of stone upreared to heaven. There in
the gate the children gather, hanging round their mothers' necks,
and weep their piteous lamentation, "O mother, woe is me! torn from
thy sight Achaeans bear me away from thee to their dark ship to row
me o'er the deep to sacred Salamis or to the hill' on the Isthmus,
that o'erlooks two seas, the key to the gates of Pelops." Oh may the
blazing thunderbolt, hurled in might from its holy home, smite the
barque of Menelaus full amidships as it is crossing the Aegean main,
since he is carrying me away in bitter sorrow from the shores of Ilium
to be a slave in Hellas, while the daughter of Zeus still keeps her
golden mirrors, delight-of maidens' hearts. Never may he reach his
home in Laconia or his father's hearth and home, nor come to the town
of Pitane or the temple of the goddess' with the gates of bronze,
having taken as his captive her whose marriage brought disgrace on
Hellas through its length and breadth and woful anguish on the streams
of Simois! Ah me! ah me! new troubles on my country fall, to take
the place of those that still are fresh! Behold, ye hapless wives
of Troy, the corpse of Astyanax! whom the Danai have cruelly slain
by hurling him from the battlements. (Enter TALTHYBIUS and attendants,
bearing the corpse of ASTYANAX on HECTOR's shield.)
TALTHYBIUS Hecuba, one ship alone delays its plashing oars, and it
is soon to sail to the shores of Phthia freighted with the remnant
of the spoils of Achilles' son; for Neoptolemus is already out at
sea, having heard that new calamities have befallen Peleus, for Acastus,
son of Pelias, hath banished him the realm. Wherefore he is gone,
too quick to indulge in any delay, and with him goes Andromache, who
drew many a tear from me what time she started hence, wailing her
country and crying her farewell to Hector's tomb. And she craved her
master leave to bury this poor dead child of Hector who breathed his
last when from the turrets hurled, entreating too that he would not
carry this shield, the terror of the Achaeans-this shield with plates
of brass wherewith his father would gird himself-to the home of Peleus
or to the same bridal bower whither she, herself the mother of this
corpse, would be led, a bitter sight to her, but let her bury the
child therein instead of in a coffin of cedar or a tomb of stone,
and to thy hands commit the corpse that thou mayst deck it with robes
and garlands as best thou canst with thy present means; for she is
far away and her master's haste prevented her from burying the child
herself. So we, when thou the corpse hast decked, will heap the earth
above and set thereon a spear; but do thou with thy best speed perform
thy allotted task; one toil however have I already spared thee, for
I crossed Scamander's stream and bathed the corpse and cleansed its
wounds. But now will I go to dig a grave for him, that our united
efforts shortening our task may speed our ship towards home. (Exit
HECUBA Place the shield upon the ground, Hector's shield so deftly
rounded, a piteous sight, a bitter grief for me to see. O ye Achaeans,
more reason have ye to boast of your prowess than your wisdom I Why
have ye in terror of this child been guilty of murder never matched
before? Did ye fear that some day he would rear again the fallen walls
of Troy? it seems then ye were nothing after all, when, though Hector's
fortunes in the war were prosperous and he had ten thousand other
arms to back him, we still were daily overmatched; and yet, now that
our city is taken and every Phrygian slain, ye fear a tender babe
like this! Out upon his fear! say I, who fears, but never yet hath
reasoned out the cause. Ah! my beloved, thine is a piteous death indeed!
Hadst thou died for thy city, when thou hadst tasted of the sweets
of manhood, of marriage, and of godlike power o'er others, then wert
thou blest, if aught herein is blest. But now after one glimpse, one
dream thereof thou knowest them no more, my child, and hast no joy
of them, though heir to all. Ah, poor babe! how sadly have thy own
father's walls, those towers that Loxias reared, shorn from thy head
the locks thy mother fondled, and so oft caressed, from which through
fractured bones the face of murder grins-briefly to dismiss my shocking
theme. O hands, how sweet the likeness ye retain of his father, and
yet ye lie limp in your sockets before me! Dear mouth, so often full
of words of pride, death hath closed thee, and thou hast not kept
the promise thou didst make, when nestling in my robe, "Ah, mother
mine, many a lock of my hair will I cut off for thee, and to thy tomb
will lead my troops of friends, taking a fond farewell of thee." But
now 'tis not thy hand that buries me, but I, on whom is come old age
with loss of home and children, am burying thee, a tender child untimely
slain. Ah me! those kisses numberless, the nurture that I gave to
thee, those sleepless nights-they all are lost! What shall the bard
inscribe-upon thy tomb about thee? "Argives once for fear of him slew
this child!" Foul shame should that inscription be to Hellas. O child,
though thou hast no part in all thy father's wealth, yet shalt thou
have his brazen shield wherein to find a tomb. Ah! shield that didst
keep safe the comely arm of Hector, now hast thou lost thy valiant
keeper! How fair upon thy handle lies his imprint, and on the rim,
that circles round the targe, are marks of sweat, that trickled oft
from Hector's brow as he pressed it 'gainst his beard in battle's
stress. Come, bring forth, from such store as we have, adornment for
the hapless dead, for fortune gives no chance now for offerings fair;
yet of such as I possess, shalt thou receive these gifts. Foolish
mortal he! who thinks his luck secure and so rejoices; for fortune,
like a madman in her moods, springs towards this man, then towards
that; and none ever experiences the same unchanging luck.
CHORUS Lo! all is ready and they are bringing at thy bidding from
the spoils of Troy garniture to put upon the dead.
HECUBA Ah! my child, 'tis not as victor o'er thy comrades with horse
or bow-customs Troy esteems, without pursuing them to excess-that
Hector's mother decks thee now with ornaments from the store that
once was thine, though now hath Helen, whom the gods abhor, reft thee
of thine own, yea, and robbed thee of thy life and caused thy house
to perish root and branch.
CHORUS Woe! thrice woe! my heart is touched, and thou the cause,
my mighty prince in days now passed!
HECUBA About thy body now I swathe this Phrygian robe of honour,
which should have clad thee on thy marriage-day, wedded to the noblest
of Asia's daughters. Thou too, dear shield of Hector, victorious parent
of countless triumphs past, accept thy crown, for though thou share
the dead child's tomb, death cannot touch thee; for thou dost merit
honours far beyond those arms' that the crafty knave Odysseus won.
CHORUS Alas! ah me! thee, O child, shall earth take to her breast,
a cause for bitter weeping. Mourn, thou mother!
HECUBA Ah me!
CHORUS Wail for the dead.
HECUBA Woe is me!
CHORUS Alas! for thy unending sorrow!
HECUBA Thy wounds in part will I bind up with bandages, a wretched
leech in name alone, without reality; but for the rest, thy sire must
look to that amongst the dead.
CHORUS Smite, oh smite upon thy head with frequent blow of hand.
Woe is me!
HECUBA My kind, good friends!
CHORUS Speak out, good the word that was on thy lips.
HECUBA It seems the only things that heaven concerns itself about
are my troubles and Troy hateful in their eyes above all other cities.
In vain did we sacrifice to them. Had not the god caught us in his
grip and plunged us headlong 'neath the earth, we should have been
unheard of, nor ever sung in Muses' songs, furnishing to bards of
after-days a subject for their minstrelsy. Go, bury now in his poor
tomb the dead, wreathed all duly as befits a corpse. And yet I deem
it makes but little difference to the dead, although they get a gorgeous
funeral; for this is but a cause of idle pride to the living.
The corpse is carried off to burial
CHORUS Alas! for thy unhappy mother, who o'er thy corpse hath closed
the high hopes of her life! Born of a noble stock, counted most happy
in thy lot, ah! what a tragic death is thine! Ha! who are those I
see on yonder pinnacles darting to and fro with flaming torches in
their hands? Some new calamity will soon on Troy alight. (Enter TALTHYBIUS
above. Soldiers are seen on the battlements of Troy, torch in hand.)
TALTHYBIUS Ye captains, whose allotted task it is to fire this town
of Priam, to you I speak. No longer keep the firebrand idle in your
hands, but launch the flame, that when we have destroyed the city
of Ilium we may set forth in gladness on our homeward voyage from
Troy. And you, ye sons of Troy-to let my orders take at once a double
form-start for the Achaean ships for your departure hence, soon as
ever the leaders of the host blow loud and clear upon the trumpet.
And thou, unhappy grey haired dame, follow; for yonder come servants
from Odysseus to fetch thee, for to him thou art assigned by lot to
be a slave far from thy country.
HECUBA Ah, woe is me! This surely is the last, the utmost limit this,
of all my sorrows; forth from my land I go; my city is ablaze with
flame. Yet, thou aged foot, make one painful struggle to hasten, that
I may say a farewell to this wretched town. O Troy, that erst hadst
such a grand career amongst barbarian towns, soon wilt thou be reft
of that splendid name. Lo! they are burning thee, and leading us e'en
now from our land to slavery. Great gods! Yet why call on the gods?
They did not hearken e'en aforetime to our call. Come, let us rush
into the flames, for to die with my country in its blazing ruin were
a noble death for me.
TALTHYBIUS Thy sorrows drive thee frantic, poor lady. Go, lead her
hence, make no delay, for ye must deliver her into the hand of Odysseus,
conveying to him his prize.
HECUBA O son of Cronos, prince of Phrygia, father of our race, dost
thou behold our sufferings now, unworthy of the stock of Dardanus?
CHORUS He sees them, but our mighty city is a city no more, and Troy's
day is done.
HECUBA Woe! thrice woe upon me! Ilium is ablaze; the homes of Pergamos
and its towering walls are now one sheet of flame.
CHORUS As the smoke soars on wings to heaven, so sinks our city to
the 'ground before the spear. With furious haste both fire and foeman's
spear devour each house.
HECUBA Hearken, my children, hear your mother's voice.
CHORUS Thou art calling on the dead with voice of lamentation.
HECUBA Yea, as I stretch my aged limbs upon the ground, and beat
upon the earth with both my hands.
CHORUS I follow thee and kneel, invoking from the nether world my
HECUBA I am being dragged and hurried away.
CHORUS O the sorrow of that cry!
HECUBA From my own dear country, to dwell beneath a master's roof.
Woe is me! O Priam, Priam, unburied, left without a friend, naught
dost thou know of my cruel fate.
CHORUS No, for o'er his eyes black death hath drawn his pall-a holy
man by sinners slain!
HECUBA Woe for the temples of the gods! Woe for our dear city!
HECUBA Murderous flame and foeman's spear are now your lot.
CHORUS Soon will ye tumble to your own loved soil, and be forgotten.
HECUBA And the dust, mounting to heaven on wings like smoke, will
rob me of the sight of my home.
CHORUS The name of my country will pass into obscurity; all is scattered
far and wide, and hapless Troy has ceased to be.
HECUBA Did ye hear that and know its purport?
CHORUS Aye, 'twas the crash of the citadel.
HECUBA The shock will whelm our city utterly. O woe is me! trembling,
quaking limbs, support my footsteps! away! to face the day that begins
CHORUS Woe for our unhappy town! And yet to the Achaean fleet advance.
HECUBA Woe for thee, O land that nursed my little babes!
CHORUS Ah! woe! (Exeunt OMNES.)