The Tragedies of Euripides Part 39

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Great in the sight of mortals, and not without a name am I the G.o.ddess Venus, and in heaven: and of as many as dwell within the ocean and the boundaries of Atlas, beholding the light of the sun, those indeed, who reverence my authority, I advance to honor; but overthrow as many as hold themselves high toward me. For this is in sooth a property inherent even in the race of the G.o.ds, that "they rejoice when honored by men." But quickly will I show the truth of these words: for the son of Theseus, born of the Amazon, Hippolytus, pupil of the chaste Pittheus, alone of the inhabitants of this land of Trzene, says that I am of deities the vilest, and rejects the bridal bed, and will have nothing to do with marriage. But Dian, the sister of Phbus, daughter of Jove, he honors, esteeming her the greatest of deities. And through the green wood ever accompanying the virgin, with his swift dogs he clears the beasts from off the earth, having formed a fellows.h.i.+p greater than mortal ought. This indeed I grudge him not; for wherefore should I? but wherein he has erred toward me, I will avenge me on Hippolytus this very day: and having cleared most of the difficulties beforehand,[1] I need not much labor. For Phaedra, his father's n.o.ble wife, having seen him, (as he was going once from the house of Pittheus to the land of Pandion, in order to see and afterward be fully admitted to the hallowed mysteries,) was smitten in her heart with fierce love by my design. And even before she came to this land of Trzene, at the very rock of Pallas that overlooks this land, she raised a temple to Venus, loving an absent love; and gave out afterward,[2] that the G.o.ddess was honored with her temple for Hippolytus's sake. But now since Theseus has left the land of Cecrops, in order to avoid the pollution of the murder of the sons of Pallas, and is sailing to this land with his wife, having submitted to a year's banishment from his people; there indeed groaning and stricken with the stings of love, the wretched woman perishes in secret; and not one of her domestics is conscious of her malady. But this love must by no means fall to the ground in this way: but I will open the matter to Theseus, and it shall become manifest. And him that is our enemy shall the father kill with imprecations, which Neptune, king of the ocean, granted as a privilege to Theseus, that he should make no prayer thrice to the G.o.d in vain. But Phaedra dies, an ill.u.s.trious woman indeed, yet still [she must die]; for I will not make her ills of that high consequence, that will hinder my enemies from giving me such full vengeance as may content me. But, as I see the son of Theseus coming, having left the toil of the chase, I will depart from this spot. But with him a numerous train of attendants following behind raise a clamor, praising the G.o.ddess Dian with hymns, for he knows not that the gates of h.e.l.l are opened, and that this day is the last he beholds.


HIPP. Follow, follow, singing the heavenly Dian, daughter of Jove; Dian, under whose protection we are.

ATT. Holy, holy, most hallowed offspring of Jove, hail! hail! O Dian, daughter of Latona and of Jove, most beauteous by far of virgins, who, born of an ill.u.s.trious sire, in the vast heaven dwellest in the palace of Jove, that mansion rich in gold.

HIPP. Hail, O most beauteous, most beauteous of virgins in Olympus, Dian!

For thee, my mistress, bear I this wreathed garland from the pure mead, where neither does the shepherd think fit to feed his flocks, nor yet came iron there, but the bee ranges over the pure and vernal mead, and Reverence waters it with river dews. Whosoever has chast.i.ty, not that which is taught in schools, but that which is by nature, for this description of persons it is lawful thence to pluck, but for the evil it is not lawful.[3] But, O my dear mistress, receive this wreath to bind your golden tresses from a pious hand. For to me alone of mortals is allowed this privilege. With thee I am both present, and exchange words with thee, hearing thy voice, but not seeing thy countenance. But may I finish the last turn of my course of life, even as I began.

ATT. O king, (for the G.o.ds alone ought we to call Lords,) will you hear somewhat from me, who advise you well?

HIPP. Most certainly, or else I should not seem wise.

ATT. Knowest thou then the law, which is established among men?

HIPP. I know not; but what is the one, about which thou askest me?

ATT. To hate haughtiness, and that which is disagreeable to all.

HIPP. And rightly; for what haughty mortal is not odious?

ATT. And in the affable is there any charm?

HIPP. A very great one indeed, and gain with little toil.

ATT. Dost thou suppose that the same thing holds also among the G.o.ds?

HIPP. Certainly, forasmuch as we mortals use the laws of the G.o.ds.

ATT. How is it then that thou addressest not a venerable G.o.ddess?

HIPP. Whom? but take heed that thy mouth err not.[4]

ATT. Venus, who hath her station at thy gates.

HIPP. I, who am chaste, salute her at a distance.

ATT. Venerable is she, however, and of note among mortals.

HIPP. Different G.o.ds and men are objects of regard to different persons.

ATT. May you be blest, having as much sense as you require.[5]

HIPP. No one of the G.o.ds, that is wors.h.i.+ped by night, delights me.

ATT. My son, we must conform to the honors of the G.o.ds.

HIPP. Depart, my companions, and having entered the house, prepare the viands: delightful after the chase is the full table.--And I must rub down my horses, that having yoked them to the car, when I am satiated with the repast, I may give them their proper exercise. But to your Venus I bid a long farewell.

ATT. But we, for one must not imitate the young, having our thoughts such, as it becomes slaves to give utterance to, will adore thy image, O Venus, our mistress; but thou shouldest pardon, if any one having intense feelings of mind by reason of his youth, speak foolishly: seem not to hear these things, for G.o.ds must needs be wiser than men.

CHOR. There is a rock near the ocean,[6] distilling water, which sends forth from its precipices a flowing fountain, wherein they dip their urns; where was a friend of mine wetting the purple vests in the dew of the stream, and she laid them down on the back of the warm sunny cliff: from hence first came to me the report concerning my mistress, that she, worn with the bed of sickness, keeps her person within the house, and that fine vests veil her auburn head. And I hear that she this day for the third keeps her body untouched by the fruit of Ceres, [which she receives not]

into her ambrosial mouth, wis.h.i.+ng in secret suffering to hasten to the unhappy goal of death. For heaven-possessed, O lady, or whether by Pan, or by Hecate, or by the venerable Corybantes, or by the mother who haunts the mountains, thou art raving. But thou art thus tormented on account of some fault committed against the Cretan huntress, profane because of unoffered sacred cakes. For she goes through the sea and beyond the land on the eddies of the watery brine. Or some one in the palace misguides thy n.o.ble husband, the chief of the Athenians, by secret concubinage in thy bed. Or some sailor who put from port at Crete, hath sailed to the harbor most friendly to mariners, bringing some message to the queen; and, confined to her couch, she is bound in soul by sorrow for its sufferings. But wretched helplessness is wont to dwell with the wayward const.i.tution of women, both on account of their throes and their loss of reason. Once through my womb shot this thrill, but I invoked the heavenly Dian, who gives easy throes, who presides over the bow, and to me she came ever much to be blessed, as well as the other G.o.ds. But lo! the old nurse is bringing her out of the palace before the gates; and the sad cloud upon her brows is increased.

What it can possibly be, my soul desires to know, with what can be afflicted the person of the queen, of color so changed.[7]


Alas! the evils of men, and their odious diseases! what shall I do for thee? and what not do? lo! here is the clear light for thee, here the air: and now is thy couch whereon thou liest sick removed from out of the house: for every word you spoke was to come hither; but soon you will be in a hurry to go to your chamber back again: for you are soon changed, and are pleased with nothing. Nor does what is present delight you, but what is not present you think more agreeable. It is a better thing to be sick, than to tend the sick: the one is a simple ill, but with the other is joined both pain of mind and toil of hands. But the whole life of men is full of grief, nor is there rest from toils. But whatever else there be more dear than life, darkness enveloping hides it in clouds. Hence we appear to dote on this present state, because it gleams on earth, through inexperience of another life, and the non-appearance of the things beneath the earth. But we are blindly carried away by fables.

PHae. Raise my body, place my head upright--I am faint in the joints of my limbs, my friends, lay hold of my fair-formed hands, O attendants--The dressing on my head is heavy for me to support--take it off, let flow my ringlets on my shoulders.

NUR. Be of good courage, my child, and do not thus painfully s.h.i.+ft [the posture of] your body. But you will bear your sickness more easily both with quiet, and with a n.o.ble temper, for it is necessary for mortals to suffer misery.

PHae. Alas! alas! would I could draw from the dewy fountain the drink of pure waters, and that under the alders, and in the leafy mead reclining I might rest!

NUR. O my child, what sayest thou? Wilt thou not desist from uttering these things before the mult.i.tude, blurting forth a speech of madness?[8]

PHae. Bear me to the mountain--I will go to the wood, and by the pine-trees, where tread the dogs the slayers of beasts, pursuing the dappled hinds--By the G.o.ds I long to cheer on the hounds, and by the side of my auburn hair to hurl the Thessalian javelin bearing the lanced weapon in my hand.

NUR. Wherefore in the name of heaven, my child, do you hanker after these things? wherefore have you any anxiety for hunting? and wherefore do you long for the fountain streams? for by the towers there is a perpetual flow of water, whence may be your draught.

PHae. O Dian, mistress of Limna near the sea, and of the exercises of the rattling steeds, would that I were on thy plains, breaking the Henetian colts.

NUR. Wherefore again have you madly uttered this word? at one time having ascended the mountain you set forth with the desire of hunting; but now again you long for the colts on the wave-beaten sands. These things demand much skill in prophecy [to find out], who it is of the G.o.ds that torments thee, O lady, and strikes mad thy senses.

PHae. Wretch that I am, what then have I committed? whither have I wandered from my sound mind? I have gone mad; I have fallen by the evil influence of some G.o.d. Alas! alas! unhappy that I am--Nurse, cover my head again, for I am ashamed of the things I have spoken: cover me; a tear trickles down my eyes, and my sight is turned to my disgrace. For to be in one's right mind causes grief: but madness is an ill; yet it is better to perish, nothing knowing of one's ills.

NUR. I cover thee--but when in sooth will death cover my body? Length of life teaches me many things. For it behooves mortals to form moderate friends.h.i.+ps with each other, and not to the very marrow of the soul: and the affections of the mind should be dissoluble, and so that we can slacken them, or tighten.[9] But that one soul should feel pangs for two, as I now grieve for her, is a heavy burden. The concerns of life carried to too great an extent, they say, bring rather destruction than delight, and are rather at enmity with health. Thus I praise what is in extreme less than _the sentiment of_ "Nothing in excess;" and the wise will agree with me.

CHOR. O aged woman, faithful nurse of the queen Phaedra, we see indeed the wretched state of this lady, but it is not clear what her disease is: but we would wish to inquire and hear from you.

NUR. I know not by my inquiries; for she is not willing to speak.

CHOR. Nor what is the origin of these pangs?

NUR. You come to the same result; for she is silent with regard to all these things.

CHOR. How feeble she is, and wasted away as to her body!

NUR. How could it be otherwise, seeing that she has abstained from food these three days?

CHOR. From the violence of her calamity is it, or does she endeavor to die?

NUR. To die; but she fasts to the dissolution of her life.

CHOR. An extraordinary thing you have been telling me, if this conduct meets the approbation of her husband.

NUR. [He nothing knows,] for she conceals this calamity, and denies that she is ill.

The Tragedies of Euripides Part 39

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The Tragedies of Euripides Part 39 summary

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