The Tragedies of Euripides Part 52
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(ADM. Woe! woe!)
endure, thou art not the first man that hast lost
(ADM. Ah me! me!)
thy wife; but calamity appearing afflicts different men in different shapes.
ADM. O lasting griefs, and sorrows for our friends beneath the earth!--Why did you hinder me from throwing myself into her hallowed grave, and from lying dead with her, by far the most excellent woman? And Pluto would have retained instead of one, two most faithful souls having together passed over the infernal lake.
CHOR. I had a certain kinsman, whose son worthy to be lamented, an only child, died in his house; but nevertheless he bore his calamity with moderation, being bereft of child, though now hastening to gray hairs, and advanced in life.
ADM. O house, how can I enter in? and how dwell in thee now my fortune has undergone this change? Ah me! for there is great difference between: then indeed with Pelian torches, and with bridal songs I entered in, bearing the hand of my dear wife, and there followed a loud-shouting revelry hailing happy both her that is dead and me, inasmuch as being noble, and born of illustrious parents both, we were united together: but now the groan instead of hymeneals, and black array instead of white robes, usher me in to my deserted couch.
CHOR. This grief came quick on happy fortune to thee unschooled in evil: but thou hast saved thy life. Thy wife is dead, she left her love behind: what new thing this? Death has ere this destroyed many wives.
ADM. My friends, I deem the fortune of my wife more happy than mine own, even although these things appear not so. For her indeed no grief shall ever touch, and she hath with glory ceased from many toils. But I, who ought not to have lived, though I have scaped destiny, shall pass a bitter life; I but now perceive. For how can I bear the entering into this house?
Whom speaking to, or by whom addressed, can I have joy in entering?
Whither shall I turn me? For the solitude within will drive me forth, when I see the place where my wife used to lie, empty, and the seat whereon she used to sit, and the floor throughout the house all dirty, and when my children falling about my knees weep their mother, and they lament their mistress, _thinking_ what a lady they have lost from out of the house. Such things within the house; but abroad the nuptials of the Thessalians and the assemblies full of women will torture me: for I shall not be able to look on the companions of my wife. But whoever is mine enemy will say thus of me: "See that man, who basely lives, who dared not to die, but giving in his stead her, whom he married, escaped Hades, (and then does he seem to be a man?) and hates his parents, himself not willing to die."--Such report shall I have in addition to my woes; why then is it the more honorable course for me to live, my friends, having an evil character and an evil fortune?
CHOR. I too have both been borne aloft through song, and having very much handled arguments have found nothing more powerful than Necessity: nor is there any cure in the Thracian tablets which Orpheus wrote, nor among those medicines, which Phbus gave the sons of aesculapius, dispensing
them to wretched mortals. But neither to the altars nor to the image of this Goddess alone, is it lawful to approach, she hears not victims. Do not, O revered one, come on me more severe, than hitherto in my life. For Jove, whatever he have assented to, with thee brings this to pass. Thou too perforce subduest the iron among the Chalybi; nor has thy rugged spirit any remorse.
And thee, _Admetus_, the Goddess hath seized in the inevitable grasp of her hand; but bear it, for thou wilt never by weeping bring back on earth the dead from beneath. Even the sons of the Gods by stealth begotten perish in death. Dear she was while she was with us, and dear even now when dead. But thou didst join to thy bed the noblest wife of all women. Nor let the tomb of thy wife be accounted as the mound over the dead that perish, but let it be honored equally with the Gods, a thing for travelers to adore: and some one, going out of his direct road, shall say thus: "She in olden time died for her husband, but now she is a blest divinity: Hail, O adored one, and be propitious!" Such words will be addressed to her.--And lo! here comes, as it seems, the son of Alcmena to thy house, Admetus.
HERCULES, ADMETUS, CHORUS.
HER. One should speak freely to a friend, Admetus, and, not in silence keep within our bosoms what we blame. Now I thought myself worthy as a friend to stand near thy calamities, and to search them out; but thou didst not tell me that it was thy wife's corse that demanded thy attention; but didst receive me in thy house, as though occupied in grief for one not thine. And I crowned my head and poured out to the Gods libations in thy house which had suffered this calamity. And I _do_ blame thee, I blame thee, having met with this treatment! not that I wish to grieve thee in thy miseries. But wherefore I am come, having turned back again, I will tell thee. Receive and take care of this woman for me, until I come hither driving the Thracian mares, having slain the king of the Bistonians. But if I meet with what I pray I may not meet with, (for may I return!) I give thee her as an attendant of thy palace. But with much toil came she into my hands; for I find some who had proposed a public contest for wrestlers, worthy of my labors, from whence I bear off her, having received her as the prize of my victory; for those who conquered in the lighter exercises had to receive horses, but those again who conquered in the greater, the boxing and the wrestling, cattle, and a woman was added to these; but in me, who happened to be there, it had been base to neglect this glorious gain. But, as I said, the woman ought to be a care to you, for I am come not having obtained her by stealth, but with labor; but at some time or other thou too wilt perhaps commend me for it.
ADM. By no means slighting thee, nor considering thee among mine enemies, did I conceal from thee the unhappy fate of my wife; but this had been a grief added to grief, if thou hadst gone to the house of another host: but it was sufficient for me to weep my own calamity. But the woman, if it is in any way possible, I beseech thee, O king, bid some one of the Thessalians, who has not suffered what I have, to take care of (but thou hast many friends among the Pheraeans) lest thou remind me of my misfortunes. I can not, beholding her in the house, refrain from weeping; add not a sickness to me already sick; for I am enough weighed down with misery. Where besides in the house can a youthful woman be maintained? for she is youthful, as she evinces by her garb and her attire; shall she then live in the men's apartment? And how will she be undefiled, living among young men? A man in his vigor, Hercules, it is no easy thing to restrain; but I have a care for thee. Or can I maintain her, having made her enter the chamber of her that is dead? And how can I introduce her into her bed?
I fear a double accusation, both from the citizens, lest any should convict me of having betrayed my benefactress, and lying in the bed of another girl; and I ought to have much regard toward the dead (and she deserves my respect). But thou, O lady, whoever thou art, know that thou hast the same size of person with Alcestis, and art like her in figure. Ah me! take by the Gods this woman from mine eyes, lest you destroy me already destroyed.
For I think, when I look upon her, that I behold my wife; and it agitates my heart, and from mine eyes the streams break forth; O unhappy I, how lately did I begin to taste this bitter grief!
CHOR. I can not indeed speak well of thy fortune; but it behooves thee, whatever thou art, to bear with firmness the dispensation of the Gods.
HER. Oh would that I had such power as to bring thy wife to the light from the infernal mansions, and to do this service for thee!
ADM. Well know I that thou hast the will: but how can this be? It is not possible for the dead to come into the light.
HER. Do not, I pray, go beyond all bound, but bear it decently,
ADM. Tis easier to exhort, than suffering to endure.
HER. But what advantage can you gain if you wish to groan forever?
ADM. I know that too myself; but a certain love impels me.
HER. For to love one that is dead draws the tear.
ADM. She hath destroyed me, and yet more than my words express.
HER. Thou hast lost an excellent wife; who will deny it?
ADM. _Ay,_ so that I am no longer delighted with life.
HER. Time will soften the evil, but now it is yet in its vigor on thee.
ADM. Time thou mayst say, if to die be time.
HER. A wife will bid it cease, and the desire of a new marriage.
ADM. Hold thy peace--What saidst thou? I could not have supposed it.
HER. But why? what, wilt not marry, but pass a widowed life alone?
ADM. There is no woman that shall lie with me.
HER. Dost thou think that thou art in aught benefiting her that is dead?
ADM. Her, wherever she is, I am bound to honor.
HER. I praise you indeed, I praise you; but you incur the charge of folly.
ADM. _Praise me, or praise me not;_ for you shall never call me bridegroom.
HER. I do praise thee, because thou art a faithful friend to thy wife.
ADM. May I die, when I forsake her, although she is not!
HER. Receive then this noble woman into thine house.
ADM. Do not, I beseech thee by thy father Jove.
HER. And yet you will be acting wrong, if you do not this.
ADM. Yes, and if I do it, I shall have my heart gnawed with sorrow.
HER. Be prevailed upon: perhaps this favor may be proved a duty.
ADM. Ah! would that you had never borne her off from the contest!
HER. Yet with me conquering thou'rt victorious too.
ADM. Thou hast well spoken; but let the woman depart.
HER. She shall depart, if it is needful; but first see whether it be needful.
ADM. It is needful, if thou at least dost not mean to make me angry.
The Tragedies of Euripides Part 52
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The Tragedies of Euripides Part 52 summary
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