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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘The Trojan Women’

By Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.)

Translation of Sir Gilbert Murray

ANDROMACHE—O Mother, having ears, hear thou this word

Fear-conquering, till thy heart as mine be stirred

With joy. To die is only not to be;

And better to be dead than grievously

Living. They have no pain, they ponder not

Their own wrong. But the living that is brought

From joy to heaviness, his soul doth roam,

As in a desert, lost, from its old home.

Thy daughter lieth now as one unborn,

Dead, and naught knowing of the lust and scorn

That slew her. And I … long since I drew my bow

Straight at the heart of good fame; and I know

My shaft hit; and for that am I the more

Fallen from peace. All that men praise us for,

I loved for Hector’s sake, and sought to win.

I knew that alway, be there hurt therein

Or utter innocence, to roam abroad

Hath ill report for women; so I trod

Down the desire thereof, and walked my way

In mine own garden. And light words and gay

Parley of women never passed my door.

The thoughts of mine own heart … I craved no more …

Spoke with me, and I was happy. Constantly

I brought fair silence and a tranquil eye

For Hector’s greeting, and watched well the way

Of living, where to guide and where obey.

And, lo! some rumor of this peace, being gone

Forth to the Greek, hath cursed me. Achilles’ son,

So soon as I was taken, for his thrall

Chose me. I shall do service in the hall

Of them that slew … How? Shall I thrust aside

Hector’s belovèd face, and open wide

My heart to this new lord? Oh, I should stand

A traitor to the dead! And if my hand

And flesh shrink from him … lo, wrath and despite

O’er all the house, and I a slave!
One night,

One night … aye, men have said it … maketh tame

A woman in a man’s arms…. O shame, shame!

What woman’s lips can so forswear her dead,

And give strange kisses in another’s bed?

Why, not a dumb beast, not a colt will run

In the yoke untroubled, when her mate is gone—

A thing not in God’s image, dull, unmoved

Of reason. O my Hector! best beloved,

That, being mine, wast all in all to me,

My prince, my wise one, O my majesty

Of valiance! No man’s touch had ever come

Near me, when thou from out my father’s home

Didst lead me and make me thine…. And thou art dead,

And I war-flung to slavery and the bread

Of shame in Hellas, over bitter seas!

What knoweth she of evils like to these,

That dead Polyxena, thou weepest for?

There liveth not in my life any more

The hope that others have. Nor will I tell

The lie to mine own heart, that aught is well

Or shall be well…. Yet, O, to dream were sweet!

Leader—Thy feet have trod the pathway of my feet,

And thy clear sorrow teacheth me mine own.

Hecuba—Lo, yonder ships: I ne’er set foot on one,

But tales and pictures tell, when over them

Breaketh a storm not all too strong to stem,

Each man strives hard, the tiller gripped, the mast

Manned, the hull baled, to face it: till at last

Too strong breaks the o’erwhelming sea: lo, then

They cease, and yield them up as broken men

To fate and the wild waters. Even so

I in my many sorrows bear me low,

Nor curse, nor strive that other things may be.

The great wave rolled from God hath conquered me.

But, O, let Hector and the fates that fell

On Hector, sleep. Weep for him ne’er so well,

Thy weeping shall not wake him. Honor thou

The new lord that is set above thee now,

And make of thine own gentle piety

A prize to lure his heart. So shalt thou be

A strength to them that love us, and—God knows,

It may be—rear this babe among his foes,

My Hector’s child, to manhood and great aid

For Ilion. So her stones may yet be laid

One on another, if God will, and wrought

Again to a city! Ah, how thought to thought

Still beckons!… But what minion of the Greek

Is this that cometh, with new words to speak?

[Enter Talthybius with a band of Soldiers. He comes forward slowly and with evident disquiet.]

Talthybius—Spouse of the noblest heart that beat in Troy,

Andromache, hate me not! ’Tis not in joy

I tell thee. But the people and the Kings

Have with one voice …
Andromache—What is it? Evil things

Are on thy lips!
Talthybius—’Tis ordered, this child … Oh,

How can I tell her of it?
Andromache—Doth he not go

With me, to the same master?
Talthybius—There is none

In Greece, shall e’er be master of thy son.

Andromache—How? Will they leave him here to build again

The wreck?…
Talthybius—I know not how to tell thee plain!

Andromache—Thou hast a gentle heart … if it be ill,

And not good, news thou hidest!
Talthybius—’Tis their will

Thy son shall die…. The whole vile thing is said

Andromache—Oh, I could have borne mine enemy’s bed!

Talthybius—And speaking in the council of the host

Odysseus hath prevailed—
Andromache—O lost! lost! lost!…

Forgive me! It is not easy …
Talthybius—… That the son

Of one so perilous be not fostered on

To manhood—
Andromache—God; may his own counsel fall

On his own sons!
Talthybius—… But from this crested wall

Of Troy be dashed, and die…. Nay, let the thing

Be done. Thou shalt be wiser so. Nor cling

So fiercely to him. Suffer as a brave

Woman in bitter pain; nor think to have

Strength which thou hast not. Look about thee here!

Canst thou see help, or refuge anywhere?

Thy land is fallen and thy lord, and thou

A prisoner and alone, one woman; how

Canst battle against us? For thine own good

I would not have thee strive, nor make ill blood

And shame about thee…. Ah, nor move thy lips

In silence there, to cast upon the ships

Thy curse! One word of evil to the host,

This babe shall have no burial, but be tossed

Naked…. Ah, peace! And bear as best thou may

War’s fortune. So thou shalt not go thy way

Leaving this child unburied; nor the Greek

Be stern against thee, if thy heart be meek!

Andromache[to the child]—Go, die, my best-beloved, my cherished one,

In fierce men’s hands, leaving me here alone.

Thy father was too valiant; that is why

They slay thee! Other children, like to die,

Might have been spared for that. But on thy head

His good is turned to evil.
O thou bed

And bridal; O the joining of the hand,

That led me long ago to Hector’s land

To bear, O not a lamb for Grecian swords

To slaughter, but a Prince o’er all the hordes

Enthroned of wide-flung Asia…. Weepest thou?

Nay, why, my little one? Thou canst not know.

And Father will not come; he will not come;

Not once, the great spear flashing, and the tomb

Riven to set thee free! Not one of all

His brethren, nor the might of Ilion’s wall.

How shall it be? One horrible spring … deep, deep

Down. And thy neck … Ah God, so cometh sleep!…

And none to pity thee!… Thou little thing

That curlest in my arms, what sweet scents cling

All round thy neck! Belovèd; can it be

All nothing, that this bosom cradled thee

And fostered; all the weary nights, wherethrough

I watched upon thy sickness, till I grew

Wasted with watching? Kiss me. This one time:

Not ever again. Put up thine arms, and climb

About my neck: now, kiss me, lips to lips….

O, ye have found an anguish that outstrips

All tortures of the East, ye gentle Greeks!

Why will ye slay this innocent, that seeks

No wrong?… O Helen, Helen, thou ill tree

That Tyndareus planted, who shall deem of thee

As child of Zeus? O, thou hast drawn thy breath

From many fathers, Madness, Hate, red Death,

And every rotting poison of the sky!

Zeus knows thee not, thou vampire, draining dry

Greece and the world! God hate thee and destroy,

That with those beautiful eyes hast blasted Troy,

And made the far-famed plains a waste withal.

Quick! take him: drag him: cast him from the wall,

If cast ye will! Tear him, ye beasts, be swift!

God hath undone me, and I cannot lift

One hand, one hand, to save my child from death …

O, hide my head for shame: fling me beneath

Your galleys’ benches!…

[She swoons: then half-rising.]
Quick: I must begone

To the bridal…. I have lost my child, my own!

[The Soldiers close round her.]

Leader—O Troy ill-starred; for one strange woman, one

Abhorrèd kiss, how are thine hosts undone!

Talthybius[bending over Andromache and gradually taking the Child from her]—Come, Child: let be that clasp of love

Outwearied! Walk thy ways with me,

Up to the crested tower, above

Thy father’s wall … Where they decree

Thy soul shall perish.—Hold him: hold!—

Would God some other man might ply

These charges, one of duller mold,

And nearer to the iron than I!

Hecuba—O Child, they rob us of our own,

Child of my Mighty One outworn:

Ours, ours thou art!—Can aught be done

Of deeds, can aught of pain be borne,

To aid thee?—Lo, this beaten head,

This bleeding bosom! These I spread

As gifts to thee. I can thus much.

Woe, woe for Troy, and woe for thee!

What fall yet lacketh, ere we touch

The last dead deep of misery?

[The Child, who has started back from Talthybius, is taken up by one of the Soldiers and borne back towards the city, while Andromache is set again on the Chariot and driven off towards the ships.Talthybius goes with the Child.]