Andromache, Maid of Andromache, Chorus of Phthian women, Hermione
(daughter of Menelaus and wife of Neoptolemus), Menelaus (king of Sparta),
Molossus (son of Andromache and Neoptolemus), Peleus (father of Achilles),
Nurse to Hermione, Orestes (son of Agamemnon), Messenger, variuous attendants,
Thetis (goddess and wife of Peleus)
(SCENE:-Before the temple of THETIS in Thessaly.
ANDROMACHE, dressed as a suppliant, is clinging
to the altar in front of the temple. The palace
of Achilles is nearby.)
O CITY of Thebes, glory of Asia, whence on a day I came to Priam's
princely home with many a rich and costly thing in my dower, affianced
unto Hector to be the mother of his children, I Andromache, envied
name in days of yore, but now of all women that have been or yet shall
be the most unfortunate; for I have lived to see my husband Hector
slain by Achilles, and the babe Astyanax, whom I bore my lord,
hurled from the towering battlements, when the Hellenes sacked our
Trojan home; and I myself am come to Hellas as a slave, though I was
esteemed a daughter of a race most free, given to Neoptolemus that
island-prince, and set apart for him as his special prize from the
spoils of Troy. And here I dwell upon the boundaries of Phthia and
Pharsalia's town, where Thetis erst, the goddess of the sea, abode
with Peleus apart from the world, avoiding the throng of men;
wherefore the folk of Thessaly call it the sacred place of Thetis,
in honour of the goddess's marriage. Here dwells the son of Achilles
and suffers Peleus still to rule Pharsalia, not wishing to assume
the sceptre while the old man lives. Within these halls have borne a
boy to the son of Achilles, my master. Now aforetime for all my misery
I ever had a hope to lead me on, that, if my child were safe, I
might find some help and protection from my woes; but since my lord in
scorn of his bondmaid's charms hath wedded that Spartan Hermione, I am
tormented by her most cruelly; for she saith that I by secret
enchantment am making her barren and distasteful to her husband, and
that I design to take her place in this house, ousting her the
rightful mistress by force; whereas I at first submitted against my
will and now have resigned my place; be almighty Zeus my witness
that it was not of my own free will I became her rival!
But I cannot convince her, and she longs to kill me, and her
father Menelaus is an accomplice in this. E'en now is he within,
arrived from Sparta for this very purpose, while I in terror am come
to take up position here in the shrine of Thetis adjoining the
house, if haply it may save me from death; for Peleus and his
descendants hold it in honour as symbol of his marriage with the
Nereid. My only son am I secretly conveying to a neighbour's house
in fear for his life. For his sire stands not by my side to lend his
aid and cannot avail his child at all, being absent in the land of
Delphi, where he is offering recompense to Loxias for the madness he
committed, when on a day he went to Pytho and demanded of Phoebus
satisfaction for his father's death, if haply his prayer might avert
those past sins and win for him the god's goodwill hereafter.
(The MAID OF ANDROMACHE enters.)
Mistress mine, be sure I do not hesitate to call thee by that
name, seeing that I thought it thy right in thine own house also, when
we dwelt in Troy-land; as I was ever thy friend and thy husband's
while yet he was alive, so now have I come with strange tidings, in
terror lest any of our masters learn hereof but still out of pity
for thee; for Menelaus and his daughter are forming dire plots against
thee, whereof thou must beware.
Ah! kind companion of my bondage, for such thou art to her, who,
erst thy queen, is now sunk in misery; what are they doing? What new
schemes are they devising in their eagerness to take away my
Alas! poor lady, they intend to slay thy son, whom thou hast
privily conveyed from out the house.
Ah me! Has she heard that my babe was put out of her reach? Who
told her? Woe is me! how utterly undone!
I know not, but thus much of their schemes I heard myself; and
Menelaus has left the house to fetch him.
Then am I lost; ah, my child! those vultures twain will take and
slay thee; while he who is called thy father lingers still in Delphi.
True, for had he been here thou wouldst not have fared so
hardly, am sure; but, as it is, thou art friendless.
Have no tidings come that Peleus may arrive?
He is too old to help thee if he came.
And yet I sent for him more than once.
Surely thou dost not suppose that any of thy messengers heed thee?
Why should they? Wilt thou then go for me?
How shall I explain my long absence from the house?
Thou art a woman; thou canst invent a hundred ways.
There is a risk, for Hermione keeps no careless guard.
Dost look to that? Thou art disowning thy friends in distress.
Not so; never taunt me with that. I will go, for of a truth a
woman and a slave is not of much account, e'en if aught befall me.
(The MAID withdraws.)
Go then, while I will tell to heaven the lengthy tale of
lamentation, mourning, and weeping, that has ever been my hard lot;
for 'tis woman's way to delight in present misfortunes even to keeping
them always on her tongue and lips. But I have many reasons, not
merely one for tears,-my city's fall, my Hector's death, the
hardness of the lot to which I am bound, since I fell on slavery's
evil days undeservedly. 'Tis never right to call a son of man happy,
till thou hast seen his end, to judge from the way he passes it how he
will descend to that other world.
(She begins to chant.)
'Twas no bride Paris took with him to the towers of Ilium, but
curse to his bed when he brought Helen to her bower. For her sake,
Troy, did eager warriors, sailing from Hellas in a thousand ships,
capture and make thee a prey to fire and sword; and the son of
sea-born Thetis mounted on his chariot dragged my husband Hector round
the walls, ah woe is me! while I was hurried from my chamber to the
beach, with slavery's hateful pall upon me. And many tear I shed as
I left my city, my bridal bower, and my husband in the dust. Woe,
woe is me! why should I prolong my life, to serve Hermione? Her
cruelty it is that drives me hither to the image of the goddess to
throw my suppliant arms about it, melting to tears as doth a spring
that gushes from the rock.
(The CHORUS OF PHTHIAN WOMEN enters.)
Lady, thus keeping thy weary station without pause upon the
floor of Thetis' shrine, Phthian though I am, to thee a daughter of
Asia I come, to see if I can devise some remedy for these perplexing
troubles, which have involved thee and Hermione in fell discord,
because to thy sorrow thou sharest with her the love of Achilles' son.
Recognize thy position, weigh the present evil into the which thou
art come. Thou art a Trojan captive; thy rival is thy mistress, a
true-born daughter of Sparta. Leave then this home of sacrifice, the
shrine of our sea-goddess. How can it avail thee to waste thy
comeliness and disfigure it by weeping by reason of a mistress's harsh
usage? Might will prevail against thee; why vainly toil in thy
Come, quit the bright sanctuary of the Nereid divine. Recognize
that thou art in bondage on a foreign soil, in a strange city, where
thou seest none of all thy friends, luckless lady, cast on evil days.
Yea, I did pity thee most truly, Trojan dame, when thou camest
to this house; but from fear of my mistress I hold my peace, albeit
I sympathize with thee, lest she, whom Zeus's daughter bore,
discover my good will toward thee.
(HERMIONE enters, in complete royal regalia.)
With a crown of golden workmanship upon my head and about my
body this embroidered robe am I come hither; no presents these I
wear from the palace of Achilles or Peleus, but gifts my father
Menelaus gave me together with a sumptuous dower from Sparta in
Laconia, to insure me freedom of speech. Such is my answer to you
(to the CHORUS); but as for thee, slave and captive, thou wouldst fain
oust me and secure this palace for thyself, and thanks to thy
enchantment I am hated by my husband; thou it is that hast made my
womb barren and cheated my hopes; for Asia's daughters have clever
heads for such villainy; yet will I check thee therefrom, nor shall
this temple of the Nereid avail thee aught, no! neither its altar or
shrine, but thou shalt die. But if or god or man should haply wish
to save thee, thou must atone for thy proud thoughts of happier days
now past by humbling thyself and crouching prostrate at my knees, by
sweeping out my halls, and by learning, as thou sprinklest water
from a golden ewer, where thou now art. Here is no Hector, no Priam
with his gold, but a city of Hellas. Yet thou, miserable woman, hast
gone so far in wantonness that thou canst lay thee down with the son
of the very man that slew thy husband, and bear children to the
murderer. Such is all the race of barbarians; father and daughter,
mother and son, sister and brother mate together; the nearest and
dearest stain their path with each other's blood, and no law restrains
such horrors. Bring not these crimes amongst us, for here we count
it shame that one man should have the control of two wives, and men
are content to turn to one lawful love, that is, all who care to
live an honourable life.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Women are by nature somewhat jealous, and do ever show the keenest
hate to rivals in their love.
Ah! well-a-day! Youth is a bane to mortals, in every case, that
is, where a man embraces injustice in his early days. Now I am
afraid that my being a slave will prevent thee listening to me in
spite of many a just plea, or if I win my case, I fear I may be
damaged on this very ground, for the high and mighty cannot brook
refuting arguments from their inferiors; still I will not be convicted
of betraying my own cause. Tell me, proud young wife, what assurance
can make me confident of wresting from thee thy lawful lord? Is it
that Laconia's capital yields to Phrygia? is it that my fortune
outstrips thine? or that in me thou seest a free woman? Am I so elated
by my youth, my full healthy figure, the extent of my city, the number
of my friends that I wish to supplant thee in thy home? Is my
purpose to take thy place and rear myself a race of slaves, mere
appendages to my misery? or, supposing thou bear no children, will any
one endure that sons of mine should rule o'er Phthia? Ah no! there
is the love that Hellas bears me, both for Hector's sake and for my
own humble rank forsooth, that never knew a queen's estate in Troy.
'Tis not my sorcery that makes thy husband hate thee, nay, but thy own
failure to prove thyself his help-meet. Herein lies love's only charm;
'tis not beauty, lady, but virtuous acts that win our husbands'
hearts. And though it gall thee to be told so, albeit thy city in
Laconia is no doubt mighty fact, yet thou findest no place for his
Scyros, displaying wealth 'midst poverty and setting Menelaus above
Achilles: and that is what alienates thy lord. Take heed; for a woman,
though bestowed upon worthless husband, must be with him content,
and ne'er advance presumptuous claims. Suppose thou hadst wedded a
prince of Thrace, the land of flood and melting snow, where one lord
shares his affections with a host of wives, wouldst thou have slain
them? If so, thou wouldst have set a stigma of insatiate lust on all
our sex. A shameful charge! And yet herein we suffer more than men,
though we make a good stand against it. Ah! my dear lord Hector, for
thy sake would I e'en brook a rival, if ever Cypris led thee astray,
and oft in days gone by I held thy bastard babes to my own breast,
to spare thee any cause for grief. By this course I bound my husband
to me by virtue's chains, whereas thou wilt never so much as let the
drops of dew from heaven above settle on thy lord, in thy jealous
fear. Oh! seek not to surpass thy mother in hankering after men, for
'tis well that all wise children should avoid the habits of such
Mistress mine, be persuaded to come to terms with her, as far as
readily comes within thy power.
Why this haughty tone, this bandying of words, as if, forsooth,
thou, not I, wert the virtuous wife?
Thy present claims at any rate give thee small title thereto.
Woman, may my bosom never harbour such ideas as thine!
Thou art young to speak on such a theme as this.
As for thee, thou dost not speak thereof, but, as thou canst, dost
put it into action against me.
Canst thou not conceal thy pangs of jealousy?
What! doth not every woman put this first of all?
Yes, if her experiences are happy; otherwise, there is no honour
in speaking of them.
Barbarians' laws are not a standard for our city.
Alike in Asia and in Hellas infamy attends base actions.
Clever, clever quibbler! yet die thou must and shalt.
Dost see the image of Thetis with her eye upon thee?
A bitter foe to thy country because of the death of Achilles.
'Twas not I that slew him, but Helen that mother of thine.
Pray, is it thy intention to probe my wounds yet deeper?
Behold, I am dumb, my lips are closed.
Tell me that which was my only reason for coming hither.
No! all I tell thee is, thou hast less wisdom than thou needest.
Wilt thou leave these hallowed precincts of the sea-goddess?
Yes, if I am not to die for it; otherwise, I never will.
Since that is thy resolve, I shall not even wait my lord's return.
Nor yet will I, at any rate ere that, surrender to thee.
I will bring fire to bear on thee, and pay no heed to thy
Kindle thy blaze then; the gods will witness it.
And make thy flesh to writhe by cruel wounds.
Begin thy butchery, stain the altar of the goddess with blood, for
she will visit thy iniquity.
Barbarian creature, hardened in impudence, wilt thou brave death
itself? Still will I find speedy means to make these quit this seat of
thy free will; such a bait have I to lure thee with. But I will hide
my meaning, which the event itself shall soon declare. Yes, keep thy
seat, for I will make thee rise, though molten lead is holding thee
there, before Achilles' son, thy trusted champion, arrive.
My trusted champion, yes! how strange it is, that though some
god hath devised cures for mortals against the venom of reptiles, no
man ever yet hath discovered aught to cure a woman's venom, which is
far worse than viper's sting or scorching flame; so terrible a curse
are we to mankind.
Ah! what sorrows did the son of Zeus and Maia herald, in the day
he came to Ida's glen, guiding that fair young trio of goddesses,
all girded for the fray in bitter rivalry about their beauty, to the
shepherd's fold where dwelt the youthful herdsman all alone by the
hearth of his lonely hut.
Soon as they reached the wooded glen, in gushing mountain
springs they bathed their dazzling skin, then sought the son of Priam,
comparing their rival charms in more than rancorous phrase. But Cypris
won the day by her deceitful promises, sweet-sounding words, but
fraught with ruthless overthrow to Phrygia's hapless town and
Would God his mother had smitten him a cruel death-blow on the
head before he made his home on Ida's slopes, in the hour Cassandra,
standing by the holy bay-tree, cried out, "Slay him, for he will bring
most grievous bane on Priam's town." To every prince she went, to
every elder sued for the babe's destruction.
Ah! had they listened, Ilium's daughters neer had felt the yoke of
slavery, and thou, lady, hadst been established in the royal palace;
and Hellas had been freed of all the anguish she suffered during those
ten long years her sons went wandering, spear in hand, around the
walls of Troy; brides had never been left desolate, nor hoary
(MENELAUS and his retinue enter. He is leading MOLOSSUS by the hand.)
Behold I bring thy son with me, whom thou didst steal away to a
neighbour's house without my daughter's knowledge. Thou wert so sure
this image of the goddess would protect thee and those who hid him,
but thou hast not proved clever enough for Menelaus. And so if thou
refuse to leave thy station here, he shall be slain instead of thee.
Wherefore weigh it well: wilt die thyself, or see him slain for the
sin whereof thou art guilty against me and my daughter?
O fame, fame! full many a man ere now of no account hast thou to
high estate exalted. Those, indeed, who truly have a fair repute, I
count blest; but those who get it by false pretences, I will never
allow have aught but the accidental appearance of wisdom. Thou for
instance, caitiff that thou art, didst thou ever wrest Troy from Priam
with thy picked troops of Hellenes? thou that hast raised such a
storm, at the word of thy daughter, a mere child, and hast entered the
lists with a poor captive; unworthy I count thee of Troy's capture,
and Troy still more disgraced by thy victory. Those who only in
appearance are men of sense make an outward show, but inwardly
resemble the common herd, save it be in wealth, which is their
Come now, Menelaus, let us carry through this argument. Suppose
I am slain by thy daughter, and she work her will on me, yet can she
never escape the pollution of murder, and public opinion will make
thee too an accomplice in this deed of blood, for thy share in the
business must needs implicate thee. But even supposing I escape
death myself, will ye kill my child? Even then, how will his father
brook the murder of his child? Troy has no such coward's tale to
tell of him; nay, he will follow duty's call; his actions will prove
him a worthy scion of Peleus and Achilles. Thy daughter will be thrust
forth from his house; and what wilt thou say when seeking to betroth
her to another? wilt say her virtue made her leave a worthless lord?
Nay, that will be false. Who then will wed her? wilt thou keep her
without a husband in thy halls, grown grey in widowhood? Unhappy
wretch! dost not see the flood-gates of trouble opening wide for thee?
How many a wrong against a wife wouldst thou prefer thy daughter to
have found to suffering what I now describe? We ought not on
trifling grounds to promote great ills; nor should men, if we women
are so deadly a curse, bring their nature down to our level. No! if,
as thy daughter asserts, I am practising sorcery against her and
making her barren, right willingly will I, without any crouching at
altars, submit in my own person to the penalty that lies in her
husband's hands, seeing that I am no less chargeable with injuring him
if I make him childless. This is my case; but for thee, there is one
thing I fear in thy disposition; it was a quarrel for a woman that
really induced thee to destroy poor Ilium's town.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Thou hast said too much for a woman speaking to men; that
discretion hath shot away its last shaft from thy soul's quiver.
Women, these are petty matters, unworthy, as thou sayest, of my
despotic sway, unworthy too of Hellas. Yet mark this well; his special
fancy of the hour is of more moment to a man than Troy's capture. I
then have set myself to help my daughter because I consider her loss
of wife's rights most grave; for whatever else a woman suffers is
second to this; if she loses her husband's love she loses her life
therewith. Now, as it is right Neoptolemus should rule my slaves, so
my friends and I should have control of his; for friends, if they be
really friends, keep nothing to themselves, but have all in common. So
if I wait for the absent instead of making the best arrangement I
can at once of my affairs, I show weakness, not wisdom. Arise then,
leave the goddess's shrine, for by thy death this child escapeth
his, whereas, if thou refuse to die, I will slay him; for one of you
twain must perish.
Ah me! 'tis a bitter lot thou art offering about my life;
whether I take it or not I am equally unfortunate. Attend to me,
thou who for a trifling cause art committing an awful crime. Why art
thou bent on slaying me? What reason hast thou? What city have I
betrayed? Which of thy children was ever slain by me? What house
have I fired? I was forced to be my master's concubine; and spite of
that wilt thou slay me, not him who is to blame, passing by the
cause and hurrying to the inevitable result? Ah me! my sorrows! Woe
for my hapless country! How cruel my fate! Why had I to be a mother
too and take upon me a double load of suffering? Yet why do I mourn
the past, and o'er the present never shed a tear or compute its
griefs? I that saw Hector butchered and dragged behind the chariot,
and Ilium, piteous sight! one sheet of flame, while I was baled away
by the hair of my head to the Argive ships in slavery, and on my
arrival in Phthia was given to Hector's murderer as his mistress. What
pleasure then has life for me? Whither am I to turn my gaze? to the
present or the past? My babe alone was left me, the light of my
life, and him these ministers of death would slay. No! they shall not,
if my poor life can save him; for if he be saved, hope in him lives
on, while to me 'twere shame to refuse to die for my son. Lo! here I
leave the altar and give myself into your hands, to cut or stab, to
bind or hang. Ah! my child, to Hades now thy mother passes to save thy
dear life. Yet if thou escape thy doom, remember me, my sufferings and
my death, and tell thy father how I fared, with fond caress and
streaming eye and arms thrown round his neck. Ah! yes, his children
are to every man as his own soul; and whoso sneers at this through
inexperience, though he suffers less anguish, yet tastes the bitter in
his cup of bliss.
Thy tale with pity fills me; for every man alike, stranger
though he be, feels pity for another's distress. Menelaus, 'tis thy
duty to reconcile thy daughter and this captive, giving her a
respite from sorrow.
Ho! sirrahs, seize this woman (His attendants swiftly carry out
the order.); hold her fast; for 'tis no welcome story she will have to
hear. It was to make thee leave the holy altar of the goddess that I
held thy child's death before thy eyes, and so induced thee to give
thyself up to me to die. So stands thy case, be well assured; but as
for this child, my daughter shall decide whether she will slay him
or no. Get thee hence into the house, and there learn to bridle thy
insolence in speaking to the free, slave that thou art.
Alas! thou hast by treachery beguiled me; I was deceived.
Proclaim it to the world; I do not deny it.
Is this counted cleverness amongst you who dwell by the Eurotas?
Yes, and amongst Trojans too, that those who suffer should
Thinkest thou God's hand is shortened, and that thou wilt not be
Whene'er that comes, I am ready to bear it. But thy life will I
Wilt likewise slay this tender chick, whom thou hast snatched from
'neath my wing?
Not I, but I will give him to my daughter to slay if she will.
Ah me! why not begin my mourning then for thee, my child?
Of a truth 'tis no very sure hope that he has left.
O citizens of Sparta, the bane of all the race of men, schemers of
guile, and masters in lying, devisers of evil plots, with crooked
minds and tortuous methods and ne'er one honest thought, 'tis wrong
that ye should thrive in Hellas. What crime is wanting in your list?
How rife is murder with you! How covetous ye are! One word upon your
lips, another in your heart, this is what men always find with you.
Perdition catch ye! Still death is not so grievous, as thou
thinkest, to me. No! for my life ended in the day that hapless Troy
was destroyed with my lord, that glorious warrior, whose spear oft
made a coward like thee quit the field and seek thy ship. But now
against a woman hast thou displayed the terrors of thy panoply, my
would-be murderer. Strike then! for this my tongue shall never flatter
thee or that daughter of thine. For though thou wert of great
account in Sparta, why so was I in Troy. And if I am now in sorry
plight, presume not thou on this; thou too mayst be so yet.
(MENELAUS and his guards lead ANDROMACHE out.)
Never, oh! never will I commend rival wives or sons of different
mothers, a cause of strife, of bitterness, and grief in every house.
would have a husband content with one wife whose rights he shareth
with no other.
Not even in states is dual monarchy better to bear than
undivided rule; it only doubles burdens and causes faction amongst the
citizens. Often too will the Muse sow strife 'twixt rivals in the
art of minstrelsy.
Again, when strong winds are drifting mariners, the divided
counsel of the wise does not best avail for steering, and their
collective wisdom has less weight than the inferior mind of the single
man who has sole authority; for this is the essence of power alike
in house and state, whene'er men care to find the proper moment.
This Spartan, the daughter of the great chief Menelaus, proves
this; for she hath kindled hot fury against a rival, and is bent on
slaying the hapless Trojan maid and her child to further her bitter
quarrel. 'Tis a murder gods and laws and kindness all forbid. Ah!
lady, retribution for this deed will yet visit thee.
But lo! before the house I see those two united souls, condemned
to die. Alas! for thee, poor lady, and for thee, unhappy child, who
art dying on account of thy mother's marriage, though thou hast no
share therein and canst not be blamed by the royal house.
(ANDROMACHE enters, her arms bound. Her son clings
to her. MENELAUS and the guards follow, intent
on accomplishing the murder. The following
lines are chanted responsively.)
Behold me journeying on the downward path, my hands so tightly
bound with cords that they bleed.
O mother, mother mine! I too share thy downward path, nestling
'neath thy wing.
A cruel sacrifice! ye rulers of Phthia!
Come, father! succour those thou lovest.
Rest there, my babe, my darling! on thy mother's bosom, e'en in
death and in the grave.
Ah, woe is me! what will become of me and thee too, mother mine?
Away, to the world below! from hostile towers ye came, the pair of
you; two different causes necessitate your deaths; my sentence takes
away thy life, and my daughter Hermione's requires his; for it would
be the height of folly to leave our foemen's sons, when we might
kill them and remove the danger from our house.
O husband mine! I would I had thy strong arm and spear to aid
me, son of Priam.
Ah, woe is me! what spell can I now find to turn death's stroke
Embrace thy master's knees, my child, and pray to him.
Spare, O spare my life, kind master!
Mine eyes are wet with tears, which trickle down my cheeks, as
doth a sunless spring from a smooth rock. Ah me!
What remedy, alas! can I provide me 'gainst my ills?
Why fall at my knees in supplication? hard as the rock and deaf as
the wave am I. My own friends have I helped, but for thee have no
tie of affection; for verily it cost me a great part of my life to
capture Troy and thy mother; so thou shalt reap the fruit thereof
and into Hades' halls descend.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Behold! I see Peleus drawing nigh; with aged step he hasteth
(PELEUS enters with an attendant.)
PELEUS (calling out as he comes in sight)
What means this? I ask you and your executioner; why is the palace
in an uproar? give a reason; what mean your lawless machinations?
Menelaus, hold thy hand. Seek not to outrun justice. (To his
attendant) Forward! faster, faster! for this matter, methinks,
admits of no delay; now if ever would I fain resume the vigour of my
youth. First however will breathe new life into this captive, being to
her as the breeze that blows a ship before the wind. Tell me, by
what right have they pinioned thine arms and are dragging thee and thy
child away? Like a ewe with her lamb art thou led to the slaughter,
while I and thy lord were far away.
Behold them that are haling me and my child to death, e'en as thou
seest, aged prince. Why should I tell thee? For not by one urgent
summons alone but by countless messengers have I sent for thee. No
doubt thou knowest by hearsay of the strife in this house with this
man's daughter, and the reason of my ruin. So now they have torn and
are dragging me from the altar of Thetis, the goddess of thy
chiefest adoration and the mother of thy gallant son, without any
proper trial, yea, and without waiting for my absent master;
because, forsooth, they knew my defencelessness and my child's, whom
they mean to slay with me his hapless mother, though he has done no
harm. But to thee, O sire, I make my supplication, prostrate at thy
knees, though my hand cannot touch thy friendly beard; save me, I
adjure thee, reverend sir, or to thy shame and my sorrow shall we be
Loose her bonds, I say, ere some one rue it; untie her folded
I forbid it, for besides being a match for thee, I have a far
better right to her.
What! art thou come hither to set my house in order? Art not
content with ruling thy Spartans?
She is my captive; I took her from Troy.
Aye, but my son's son received her as his prize.
Is not all I have his, and all his mine?
For good, but not evil ends; and surely not for murderous
Never shalt thou wrest her from my grasp.
With this good staff I'll stain thy head with blood!
Just touch me and see! Approach one step!
What! shalt thou rank with men? chief of cowards, son of
cowards! What right hast thou to any place 'mongst men? Thou who didst
let Phrygian rob thee of thy wife, leaving thy home without bolt or
guard, as if forsooth the cursed woman thou hadst there was a model of
virtue. No! a Spartan maid could not be chaste, e'en if she would, who
leaves her home and bares her limbs and lets her robe float free, to
share with youths their races and their sports,-customs I cannot
away with. Is it any wonder then that ye fail to educate your women in
virtue? Helen might have asked thee this, seeing that she said goodbye
to thy affection and tripped off with her young gallant to a foreign
land. And yet for her sake thou didst marshal all the hosts of
Hellas and lead them to Ilium, whereas thou shouldst have shown thy
loathing for her by refusing to stir a spear, once thou hadst found
her false; yea, thou shouldst have let her stay there, and even paid a
price to save ever having her back again. But that was not at all
the way thy thoughts were turned; wherefore many a brave life hast
thou ended, and many an aged mother hast thou left childless in her
home, and grey-haired sires of gallant sons hast reft. Of that sad
band am I member, seeing in thee Achilles' murderer like a malignant
fiend; for thou and thou alone hast returned from Troy without a
scratch, bringing back thy splendid weapons in their splendid cases
just as they went. As for me, I ever told that amorous boy to form
no alliance with thee nor take unto his home an evil mother's child;
for daughters bear the marks of their mothers' ill-repute into their
new homes. Wherefore, ye wooers, take heed to this my warning: "Choose
the daughter of a good mother." And more than this, with what wanton
insult didst thou treat thy brother, bidding him sacrifice his
daughter in his simpleness! So fearful wast thou of losing thy
worthless wife. Then after capturing Troy,-for thither too will I
accompany thee,-thou didst not slay that woman, when she was in thy
power; but as soon as thine eyes caught sight of her breast, thy sword
was dropped and thou didst take her kisses, fondling the shameless
traitress, too weak to stem thy hot desire, thou caitiff wretch! Yet
spite of all thou art the man to come and work havoc in my
grandson's halls when he is absent, seeking to slay with all indignity
a poor weak woman and her babe: but that babe shall one day make
thee and thy daughter in thy home rue it, e'en though his birth be
trebly base. Yea, for oft ere now hath seed, sown on barren soil,
prevailed o'er rich deep tilth, and many bastard has proved a better
man than children better born. Take thy daughter hence with thee!
Far better is it for mortals to have a poor honest man either as
married kin or friend than a wealthy knave; but as for thee, thou
art a thing of naught.
The tongue from trifling causes contrives to breed great strife
'mongst men; wherefore are the wise most careful not to bring about
a quarrel with their friends.
Why, pray, should one call these old men wise, or those who once
had a reputation in Hellas for being so? when thou, the great
Peleus, son of famous father, kin to me through marriage, employest
language disgraceful to thyself and abusive of me because of a
barbarian woman, though thou shouldst have banished her far beyond the
streams of Nile or Phasis, and ever encouraged me; seeing that she
comes from Asia's continent where fell so many of the sons of
Hellas, victims to the spear; and likewise because she shared in the
spilling of thy son's blood; for Paris who slew thy son Achilles,
was brother to Hector, whose wife she was. And dost thou enter the
same abode with her, and deign to let her share thy board, and
suffer her to rear her brood of vipers in thy house? But I, after
all this foresight for thee, old man, and myself, am to have her
torn from my clutches for wishing to slay her. Yet come now, for
'tis no disgrace to argue; suppose my daughter has no child, while
this woman's sons grow up, wilt thou set them up to rule the land of
Phthia, barbarians born and bred to lord it over Hellenes? Am I then
so void of sense because I hate injustice, and thou so full of
cleverness? Consider yet another point; say thou hadst given a
daughter of thine to some citizen, and hadst then seen her thus
treated, wouldst thou have sat looking on in silence? I trow not. Dost
thou then for a foreigner rail thus at thy nearest friends? Again,
thou mayst say, husband and wife have an equally strong case if she is
wronged by him, and similarly if he find her guilty of indiscretion in
his house; yet while he has ample powers in his own hands, she depends
on parents and friends for her case. Surely then I am right in helping
my own kin! Thou art in thy dotage; for thou wilt do me more good by
speaking of my generalship than by concealing it. Helen's trouble
was not of her own choosing, but sent by heaven, and it proved a great
benefit to Hellas; her sons, till then untried in war or arms,
turned to deeds of prowess, and it is experience which teaches man all
he knows. I showed my wisdom in refraining from slaying my wife,
directly I caught sight of her. Would that thou too hadst ne'er
slain Phocus! All this I bring before thee in pure good-will, not from
anger. But if thou resent it, thy tongue may wag till it ache, yet
shall I gain by prudent forethought.
Cease now from idle words, 'twere better far, for fear ye both
alike go wrong.
Alas! what evil customs now prevail in Hellas! Whene'er the host
sets up a trophy o'er the foe, men no more consider this the work of
those who really toiled, but the general gets the credit for it. Now
he was but one among ten thousand others to brandish his spear; he
only did the work of one; but yet he wins more praise than they.
Again, as magistrates in all the grandeur of office they scorn the
common folk, though they are naught themselves; whereas those others
are ten thousand times more wise than they, if daring combine with
judgment. Even so thou and thy brother, exalted by the toilsome
efforts of others, now take your seats in all the swollen pride of
Trojan fame and Trojan generalship. But I will teach thee henceforth
to consider Idaean Paris a foe less terrible than Peleus, unless
forthwith thou pack from this roof, thou and thy childless daughter
too, whom my own true son will hale through his halls by the hair of
her head; for her barrenness will not let her endure fruitfulness in
others, because she has no children herself. Still if misfortune
prevents her bearing offspring, is that a reason why we should be left
childless? Begone! ye varlets, let her go! I will soon see if anyone
will hinder me from loosing her hands. (to ANDROMACHE) Arise; these
trembling hands of mine will untie the twisted thongs that bind
thee. Out on thee, coward! is this how thou hast galled her wrists?
Didst think thou wert lashing up a lion or bull? or wert afraid she
would snatch a sword and defend herself against thee? Come, child,
nestle to thy mother's arms; help me loose her bonds; I will yet
rear thee in Phthia to be their bitter foe. If your reputation for
prowess and the battles ye have fought were taken from you Spartans,
in all else, be very sure, you have not your inferiors.
The race of old men practises no restraint; and their testiness
makes it hard to check them.
Thou art only too ready to rush into abuse; while, as for me, I
came to Phthia by constraint and have therefore no intention either of
doing or suffering anything mean. Now must I return home, for I have
no time to waste; for there is a city not so very far from Sparta,
which aforetime was friendly but now is hostile; against her will I
march with my army and bring her into subjection. And when I have
arranged that matter as I wish, I will return; and face to face with
my son-in-law I will give my version of the story and hear his. And if
he punish her, and for the future she exercise self-control, she shall
find me do the like; but if he storm, I'll storm as well; and every
act of mine shall be a reflex of his own. As for thy babbling, I can
bear it easily; for, like to a shadow as thou art, thy voice is all
thou hast, and thou art powerless to do aught but talk.
(MENELAUS and his retinue withdraw.)
Lead on, my child, safe beneath my sheltering wing, and thou
too, poor lady; for thou art come into a quiet haven after the rude
Heaven reward thee and all thy race, old sire, for having saved my
child and me his hapless mother! Only beware lest they fall upon us
twain in some lonely spot upon the road and force me from thee, when
they see thy age, my weakness, and this child's tender years; take
heed to this, that we be not a second time made captive, after
Forbear such words, prompted by a woman's cowardice. Go on thy
way; who will lay a finger on you? Methinks he will do it to his cost,
For by heaven's grace I rule o'er many a knight and spearman bold in
my kingdom of Phthia; yea, and myself can still stand straight, no
bent old man as thou dost think; such a fellow as that a mere look
from me will put to flight in spite of my years. For e'en an old
man, be he brave, is worth a host of raw youths; for what avails a
fine figure if a man is coward?
(PELEUS, ANDROMACHE, and MOLOSSUS go out.)
Oh! to have never been born, or sprung from noble sires, the
heir to mansions richly stored; for if aught untoward e'er befall,
there is no lack of champions for sons of noble parents, and there
is honour and glory for them when they are proclaimed scions of
illustrious lines; time detracts not from the legacy these good men
leave, but the light of their goodness still burns on when they are
Better is it not to win a discreditable victory, than to make
justice miscarry by an invidious exercise of power; for such a
victory, though men think it sweet for the moment, grows barren in
time and comes near being a stain on a house. This is the life I
commend, this the life I set before me as my ideal, to exercise no
authority beyond what is right either in the marriage-chamber or in
O aged son of Aeacus! now am I sure that thou wert with the
Lapithae, wielding thy famous spear, when they fought the Centaurs;
and on Argo's deck didst pass the cheerless strait beyond the sea-beat
Symplegades on her voyage famed; and when in days long gone the son of
Zeus spread slaughter round Troy's famous town, thou too didst share
his triumphant return to Europe.
(The NURSE OF HERMIONE enters.)
Alas! good friends, what a succession of troubles is to-day
provided us! My mistress Hermione within the house, deserted by her
father and in remorse for her monstrous deed in plotting the death
of Andromache and her child, is bent on dying; for she is afraid her
husband will in requital for this expel her with dishonour from his
house or put her to death, because she tried to slay the innocent. And
the servants that watch her can scarce restrain her efforts to hang
herself, scarce catch the sword and wrest it from her hand. So
bitter is her anguish, and she hath recognized the villainy of her
former deeds. As for me, friends, I am weary of keeping my mistress
from the fatal noose; do ye go in and try to save her life; for if
strangers come, they prove more persuasive than the friends of every
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Ah yes! I hear an outcry in the house amongst the servants,
confirming the news thou hast brought. Poor sufferer! she seems
about to show lively grief for her grave crimes; for she has escaped
her servants' hands and is rushing from the house, eager to end her
(HERMIONE enters, in agitation. She is carrying
a sword which the NURSE wrests from her.)
Woe, woe is me! I will rend my hair and tear cruel furrows in my
My child, what wilt thou do? Wilt thou disfigure thyself?
Ah me! ah me! Begone, thou fine-spun veil! float from my head
Daughter, cover up thy bosom, fasten thy robe.
Why should I cover it? My crimes against my lord are manifest
and clear, they cannot be hidden.
Art so grieved at having devised thy rival's death?
Yea, I deeply mourn my fatal deeds of daring; alas! I am now
accursed in all men's eyes!
Thy husband will pardon thee this error.
Oh! why didst thou hunt me to snatch away my sword? Give, oh! give
it back, dear nurse, that I may thrust it through my heart Why dost
thou prevent me hanging myself?
What! was I to let thy madness lead thee on to death?
Ah me, my destiny! Where can I find some friendly fire? To what
rocky height can I climb above the sea or 'mid some wooded mountain
glen, there to die and trouble but the dead?
Why vex thyself thus? on all of us sooner or later heaven's
Thou hast left me, O my father, left me like a stranded bark,
all alone, without an oar. My lord will surely slay me; no home is
mine henceforth beneath my husband's roof. What god is there to
whose statue I can as a suppliant haste? or shall I throw myself in
slavish wise at slavish knees? Would I could speed away from
Phthia's land on bird's dark pinion, or like that pine-built ship, the
first that ever sailed betwixt the rocks Cyanean!
My child, I can as little praise thy previous sinful excesses,
committed against the Trojan captive, as thy present exaggerated
terror. Thy husband will never listen to a barbarian's weak pleading
and reject his marriage with thee for this. For thou wast no captive
from Troy whom he wedded, but the daughter of a gallant sire, with a
rich dower, from a city too of no mean prosperity. Nor will thy father
forsake thee, as thou dreadest, and allow thee to be cast out from
this house. Nay, enter now, nor show thyself before the palace, lest
the sight of thee there bring reproach upon thee, my daughter.
(The NURSE departs as ORESTES and his attendants enter.)
Lo! a stranger of foreign appearance from some other land comes
hurrying towards us.
Women of this foreign land! is this the home, the palace of
Thou hast it; but who art thou to ask such a question?
The son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, by name Orestes, on ply way
to the oracle of Zeus at Dodona. But now that I am come to Phthia, I
am resolved to inquire about my kinswoman, Hermione of Sparta; is
she alive and well? for though she dwells in a land far from my own, I
love her none the less.
Son of Agamemnon, thy appearing is as a haven from the storm to
sailors; by thy knees I pray, have pity on me in my distress, on me of
whose fortunes thou art inquiring. About thy knees I twine my arms
with all the force of sacred fillets.
Ha! what is this? Am I mistaken or do I really see before me the
queen of this palace, the daughter of Menelaus?
The same, that only child whom Helen, daughter of Tyndareus,
bore my father in his halls; never doubt that.
O saviour Phoebus, grant us respite from our woe! But what is
the matter? art thou afflicted by gods or men?
Partly by myself, partly by the man who wedded me, and partly by
some god. On every side I see ruin.
Why, what misfortune could happen to a woman as yet childless,
unless her honour is concerned?
My very ill! Thou hast hit my case exactly.
On whom has thy husband set his affections in thy stead?
On his captive, Hector's wife.
An evil case indeed, for a man to have two wives!
'Tis even thus. So I resented it.
Didst thou with woman's craft devise a plot against thy rival?
Yes, to slay her and her bastard child.
And didst thou slay them, or did something happen to rescue them
It was old Peleus, who showed regard to the weaker side.
Hadst thou any accomplice in this attempted murder?
My father came from Sparta for this very purpose.
And was he after all defeated by that old man's prowess?
Oh no! but by shame; and he hath gone and left me all alone.
I understand; thou art afraid of thy husband for what thou hast
Thou hast guessed it; for he will have a right to slay me. What
can say for myself? Yet I beseech thee by Zeus the god of our
family, send me to a land as far as possible from this, or to my
father's house; for these very walls seem to cry out "Begone!"
the land of Phthia hates me. But if my lord return ere that from the
oracle of Phoebus, he will put me to death on a shameful charge, or
enslave me to his mistress, whom ruled before. Maybe some one will
say, "How was it thou didst go thus astray?" I was ruined by evil
women who came to me and puffed me up with words like these: "Wait!
wilt thou suffer that vile captive, a mere bondmaid, to dwell within
thy house and share thy wedded rights? By Heaven's queen! if it were
my house she should not live to reap my marriage-harvest!" And I
listened to the words of these Sirens, the cunning, knavish, subtle
praters, and was filled with silly thoughts. What need had I to care
about my lord? I had all I wanted, wealth in plenty, a house in
which I was mistress, and as for children, mine would be born in
wedlock, while hers would be bastards, half-slaves to mine. Oh! never,
never,-this truth will I repeat,-should men of sense, who have
wives, allow women-folk to visit them in their homes, for they teach
them evil; one, to gain some private end, helps to corrupt their
honour; another, having made a slip herself, wants a companion in
misfortune, while many are wantons; and hence it is men's houses are
tainted. Wherefore keep strict guard upon the portals of your houses
with bolts and bars; for these visits of strange women lead to no good
result, but a world of ill.
Thou hast given thy tongue too free a rein regarding thy own
sex. I can pardon thee in this case, but still women ought to smooth
over their sisters' weaknesses.
'Twas sage counsel he gave who taught men to hear the arguments on
both sides. I, for instance, though aware of the confusion in this
house, the quarrel between thee and Hector's wife, waited awhile and
watched to see whether thou wouldst stay here or from fear of that
captive art minded to quit these halls. Now it was not so much
regard for thy message that brought me thither, as the intention of
carrying thee away from this house, if, as now, thou shouldst grant me
a chance of saying so. For thou wert mine formerly, but art now living
with thy present husband through thy father's baseness; since he,
before invading Troy's domains, betrothed thee to me, and then
afterwards promised thee to thy present lord, provided he captured the
city of Troy.
So, as soon as Achilles' son returned hither, I forgave thy
father, but entreated the bridegroom to forego his marriage with thee,
telling him all I had endured and my present misfortune; I might get a
wife, I said, from amongst friends, but outside their circle 'twas
no easy task for one exiled like myself from home. Thereat he grew
abusive, taunting me with my mother's murder and those
blood-boltered fiends. And I was humbled by the fortunes of my
house, and though 'tis true, I grieved, yet did I bear my sorrow,
and reluctantly departed, robbed of thy promised hand. Now
therefore, since thou findest thy fortune so abruptly changed and
art fallen thus on evil days and hast no help, I will take thee
hence and place thee in thy father's hands. For kinship hath strong
claims, and in adversity there is naught better than a kinsman's
As for my marriage, my father must look to it; 'tis not for me
to decide. Yes, take me hence as soon as may be, lest my husband
come back to his house before I am gone, or Peleus hear that I am
deserting his son's abode and pursue me with his swift steeds.
Rest easy about the old man's power; and, as for Achilles' son
with all his insolence to me, never fear him; such a crafty net this
hand hath woven and set for his death with knots that none can
loose; whereof I will not speak before the time, but, when my plot
begins to work, Delphi's rock will witness it. If but my allies in the
Pythian land abide by their oaths, this same murderer of his mother
will show that no one else shall marry thee my rightful bride. To
his cost will he demand satisfaction of King Phoebus for his
father's blood; nor shall his repentance avail him though he is now
submitting to the god. No! he shall perish miserably by Apollo's
hand and my false accusations; so shall he find out my enmity. For the
deity upsets the fortune of them that hate him, and suffers them not
to be high-minded.
(ORESTES and HERMIONE depart.)
O Phoebus! who didst fence the hill of Ilium with a fair coronal
of towers, and thou, ocean-god! coursing o'er the main with thy dark
steeds, wherefore did ye hand over in dishonour your own handiwork
to the war-god, master of the spear, abandoning Troy to wretchedness?
Many a well-horsed car ye yoked on the banks of Simois, and many a
bloody tournament did ye ordain with never a prize to win; and Ilium's
princes are dead and gone; no longer in Troy is seen the blaze of fire
on altars of the gods with the smoke of incense.
The son of Atreus is no more, slain by the hand of his wife, and
she herself hath paid the debt of blood by death, and from her
children's hands received her doom. The god's own bidding from his
oracle was levelled against her, in the day that Agamemnon's son set
forth from Argos and visited his shrine; so he slew her, aye, spilt
his own mother's blood. O Phoebus, O thou power divine, how can I
believe the story?
Anon wherever Hellenes gather, was heard the voice of lamentation,
mothers weeping o'er their children's fate, as they left their homes
to mate with strangers. Ah! thou art not the only one, nor thy dear
ones either, on whom the cloud of grief hath fallen. Hellas had to
bear the visitation, and thence the scourge crossed to Phrygia's
fruitful fields, raining the bloody drops the death-god loves.
(PELEUS enters in haste.)
Ye dames of Phthia, answer my questions. I heard a vague rumour
that the daughter of Menelaus had left these halls and fled; so now
I am come in hot haste to learn if this be true; for it is the duty of
those who are at home to labour in the interests of their absent
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Thou hast heard aright, O Peleus; ill would it become me to hide
the evil case in which I now find myself; our queen has fled and
left these halls.
What did she fear? explain that to me.
She was afraid her lord would cast her out.
In return for plotting his child's death? surely not?
Yea, and she was afraid of yon captive.
With whom did she leave the house? with her father?
The son of Agamemnon came and took her hence.
What view hath he to further thereby? Will he marry her?
Yes, and he is plotting thy grandson's death.
From an ambuscade, or meeting him fairly face to face?
In the holy place of Loxias, leagued with Delphians.
God help us. This is a present danger. Hasten one of you with
all speed to the Pythian altar and tell our friends there what has
happened here, ere Achilles' son be slain by his enemies.
(A MESSENGER enters.)
Woe worth the day! what evil tidings have I brought for thee,
old sire, and for all who love my master! woe is me!
Alas! my prophetic soul hath a presentiment.
Aged Peleus, hearken! Thy grandson is no more; so grievously is he
smitten by the men of Delphi and the stranger from Mycenae.
Ah! what wilt thou do, old man? Fall not; uplift thyself.
I am a thing of naught; death is come upon me. My voice is choked,
my limbs droop beneath me.
Hearken; if thou art eager also to avenge thy friends, lift up
thyself and hear what happened.
Ah, destiny! how tightly hast thou caught me in thy toils, a
poor old man at life's extremest verge! But tell me how he was taken
from me, my one son's only child; unwelcome as such news is, I fain
would hear it.
As soon as we reached the famous soil of Phoebus, for three
whole days were we feasting our eyes with the sight. And this, it
seems, caused suspicion; for the folk, who dwell near the god's
shrine, began to collect in groups, while Agamemnon's son, going to
and fro through the town, would whisper in each man's ear malignant
hints: "Do ye see yon fellow, going in and out of the god's
treasure-chambers, which are full of the gold stored there by all
mankind? He is come hither a second time on the same mission as
before, eager to sack the temple of Phoebus." Thereon there ran an
angry murmur through the city, and the magistrates flocked to their
council-chamber, while those, who have charge of the god's
treasures, had a guard privately placed amongst the colonnades. But
we, knowing naught as yet of this, took sheep fed in the pastures of
Parnassus, and went our way and stationed ourselves at the altars with
vouchers and Pythian seers. And one said: "What prayer, young warrior,
wouldst thou have us offer to the god? Wherefore art thou come?" And
he answered: "I wish to make atonement to Phoebus for my past
transgression; for once I claimed from him satisfaction for my
father's blood." Thereupon the rumour, spread by Orestes, proved to
have great weight, suggesting that my master was lying and had come on
a shameful errand. But he crosses the threshold of the temple to
pray to Phoebus before his oracle, and was busy with his
burnt-offering; when a body of men armed with swords set themselves in
ambush against him in the cover of the bay-trees, and Clytemnestra's
son, that had contrived the whole plot was one of them. There stood
the young man praying to the god in sight of all, when lo! with
their sharp swords they stabbed Achilles' unprotected son from behind.
But he stepped back, for it was not a mortal wound he had received,
and drew his sword, and snatching armour from the pegs where it hung
on a pillar, took his stand upon the altar-steps, the picture of a
warrior grim; then cried he to the sons of Delphi, and asked them:
"Why seek to slay me when I am come on a holy mission? What cause is
there why I should die? But of all that throng of bystanders, no man
answered him a word, but they set to hurling stones. Then he, though
bruised and battered by the showers of missiles from all sides,
covered himself behind his mail and tried to ward off the attack,
holding his shield first here, then there, at arm's length, but all of
no avail; for a storm of darts, arrows and javelins, hurtling spits
with double points, and butchers' knives for slaying steers, came
flying at his feet; and terrible was the war-dance thou hadst then
seen thy grandson dance to avoid their marksmanship. At last, when
they were hemming him in on all sides, allowing him no breathing
space, he left the shelter of the altar, the hearth where victims
are placed, and with one bound was on them as on the Trojans of
yore; and they turned and fled like doves when they see the hawk. Many
fell in the confusion: some wounded, and others trodden down by one
another along the narrow passages; and in that hushed holy house
uprose unholy din and echoed back from the rocks. Calm and still my
master stood there in his gleaming harness like a flash of light, till
from the inmost shrine there came a voice of thrilling horror,
stirring the crowd to make a stand. Then fell Achilles' son, smitten
through the flank by some Delphian's biting blade, some fellow that
slew him with a host to help; and as he fell, there was not one that
did not stab him, or cast a rock and batter his corpse. So his whole
body, once so fair, was marred with savage wounds. At last they cast
the lifeless clay, Iying near the altar, forth from the fragrant fane.
And we gathered up his remains forthwith and are bringing them to
thee, old prince, to mourn and weep and honour with a deep-dug tomb.
This is how that prince who vouchsafeth oracles to others, that
judge of what is right for all the world, hath revenged himself on
Achilles' son, remembering his ancient quarrel as a wicked man
would. How then can he be wise?
(The MESSENGER withdraws as the body of Neoptolemus
is carried in on a bier. The following lines
between PELEUS and the CHORUS are
Lo! e'en now our prince is being carried on a bier from Delphi's
land unto his home. Woe for him and his sad fate, and woe for thee,
old sire! for this is not the welcome thou wouldst give Achilles' son,
the lion's whelp; thyself too by this sad mischance dost share his
Ah! woe is me! here is a sad sight for me to see and take unto
my halls! Ah me! ah me! I am undone, thou city of Thessaly! My line
now ends; I have no children left me in my home. Oh! the sorrows
seem born to endure! What friend can I look to for relief? Ah, dear
lips, and cheeks, and hands! Would thy destiny had slain the 'neath
Ilium's walls beside the banks of Simois!
Had he so died, my aged lord, he had won him honour thereby, and
thine had been the happier lot.
O marriage, marriage, woe to thee! thou bane of my home, thou
destroyer of my city! Ah my child, my boy, would that the honour of
wedding thee, fraught with evil as it was to my children and house,
had not thrown o'er thee, my son, Hermione's deadly net! that the
thunderbolt had slain her sooner! and that thou, rash mortal, hadst
never charged the great god Phoebus with aiming that murderous shaft
that spilt thy hero-father's blood!
Woe! woe! alas! With due observance of funeral rites will I
begin the mourning for my dead master.
Alack and well-a-day! I take up the tearful dirge, ah me! old
and wretched as I am.
'Tis Heaven's decree; God willed this heavy stroke.
O darling child, thou hast left me all alone in my halls, old
and childless by thy loss.
Thou shouldst have died, old sire, before thy children.
Shall I not tear my hair, and smite upon my head with grievous
blows? O city! of both my children hath Phoebus robbed me.
What evils thou hast suffered, what sorrows thou hast seen, thou
poor old man! what shall be thy life hereafter?
Childless, desolate, with no limit to my grief, I must drain the
cup of woe, until I die.
'Twas all in vain the gods wished thee joy on thy wedding day.
All my hopes have flown away, fallen short of my high boasts.
A lonely dweller in a lonely home art thou.
I have no city any longer; there! on the ground my sceptre do
cast; and thou, daughter of Nereus, 'neath thy dim grotto, shalt see
me grovelling in the dust, a ruined king.
Look, look! (A dim form of divine appearance is seen hovering
mid air.) What is that moving? what influence divine am I conscious
of? Look, maidens, mark it well; see, yonder is some deity, wafted
through the lustrous air and alighting on the plains of Phthia, home
THETIS (from above)
O Peleus! because of my wedded days with thee now long agone, I
Thetis am come from the halls of Nereus. And first I counsel thee
not to grieve to excess in thy present distress, for I too who need
ne'er have borne children to my sorrow, have lost the child of our
love, Achilles swift of foot, foremost of the sons of Hellas. Next
will I declare why I am come, and do thou give ear. Carry yonder
corpse, Achilles' son, to the Pythian altar and there bury it, a
reproach to Delphi, that his tomb may proclaim the violent death he
met at the hand of Orestes. And for his captive wife Andromache,-she
must dwell in the Molossian land, united in honourable wedlock with
Helenus, and with her this babe, the sole survivor as he is of all the
line of Aeacus, for from him a succession of prosperous kings of
Molossia is to go on unbroken; for the race that springs from thee and
me, my aged lord, must not thus be brought to naught; no! nor Troy's
line either; for her fate too is cared for by the gods, albeit her
fall was due to the eager wish of Pallas. Thee too, that thou mayst
know the saving grace of wedding me, will I, a goddess born and
daughter of a god, release from all the ills that flesh is heir to and
make a deity to know not death nor decay. From henceforth in the halls
of Nereus shalt thou dwell with me, god and goddess together; thence
shalt thou rise dry-shod from out the main and see Achilles, our
dear son, settled in his island-home by the strand of Leuce, that is
girdled by the Euxine sea. But get thee to Delphi's god-built town,
carrying this corpse with thee, and, after thou hast buried him,
return and settle in the cave which time hath hollowed in the Sepian
rock and there abide, till from the sea I come with choir of fifty
Nereids to be thy escort thence; for fate's decree thou must fulfil;
such is the pleasure of Zeus. Cease then to mourn the dead; this is
the lot which heaven assigns to all, and all must pay their debt to
Great queen, my honoured wife, from Nereus sprung, all hail!
thou art acting herein as befits thyself and thy children. So I will
stay my grief at thy bidding, goddess, and, when I have buried the
dead, will seek the glens of Pelion, even the place where I took thy
beauteous form to my embrace. Surely after this every prudent man will
seek to marry a wife of noble stock and give his daughter to a husband
good and true, never setting his heart on a worthless woman, not
even though she bring a sumptuous dowry to his house. So would men
ne'er suffer ill at heaven's hand.
Many are the shapes of Heaven's denizens, and many a thing they
bring to pass contrary to our expectation; that which we thought would
be is not accomplished, while for the unexpected God finds out a
way. E'en such hath been the issue of this matter.