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

Hippolytus’s Disaster

By Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.)

From William Cranston Lawton’s ‘Three Dramas of Euripides’

WE, near the sea-shore, where it greets the waves,

Were currying with combs our horses’ manes,

Lamenting; for the message came to us

That in this land Hippolytus should set foot

No more, to wretched exile sent by thee.

He also, with the selfsame tale of tears,

Came to us on the beach, and following him,

A myriad throng of comrades marched along.

After a time he ceased to weep, and said:—

“Why am I frenzied thus? I must obey

My father: harness to the car my steeds,

O slaves; for now this city is mine no more:”

And thereupon did every man make haste.

Quicker than one could speak, we set the steeds,

All fully harnessed, at their master’s side.

Then from the chariot rail he seized the reins,

Upon the footboard set his booted feet;

And first, with hands upraised to heaven, he said:—

“Zeus, may I live no more, if I am base!

But may my sire know how he does me wrong,

Whether I lie in death, or see the light.”

With that he took the goad in hand, and urged

The colts; and we attendants by his car

Followed, beside our lord, along the road

Toward Argos and to Epidauria.

When we had entered the deserted land,

There was a coast that lies beside this realm,

Bordering already the Saronic gulf.

There, like Zeus’s thunder, from the earth a roar

Resounded deep,—a fearful thing to hear!

The horses pricked their ears, and raised their heads

Aloft; and on us boyish terror fell,

Wondering whence came the sound; but then we glanced

Toward the sea-beaten shore, and saw a wave

Divine, that rose to heaven, so that mine eye

Beheld no longer the Skironian crags;

The isthmus and Asclepios’s rock were hid.

Swelling aloft, and white with bubbling foam,

With roaring sound the billow neared the spot

Where on the beach the four-horse chariot stood.

And from the mighty breaker as it fell,

A bull, a furious monster, issued forth.

The land, that with his bellowings was filled,

Re-echoed fearfully, and we who gazed

Found it too grim a sight to look upon.

A dreadful panic seized at once the steeds.

Their master, fully trained in all the arts

Of horsemanship, laid hold upon the reins,

And pulled as does a sailor at the oar,

Back-leaning, all his weight upon the thongs.

But champing with their jaws the fire-wrought bit,

They burst away; nor could the pilot hand,

Nor curb, nor massive chariot hold them in.

And now, if toward a softer spot of earth

The helmsman strove to turn and guide their course,

The bull appeared in front, and drove them back,

Maddening with affright the four-horse team.

Or if with frenzied mind they neared the rocks,

He followed silent at the chariot’s rim,

Until he overthrew and cast it down,

Dashing the wheel against a stone. Then all

Lay wildly mingled. High aloft were tossed

The naves, and linchpins from the axletrees.

While he, poor wretch, entangled in the reins,

Was dragged along, inextricably bound.

His gentle head was dashed upon the rock,

His flesh was bruised; and piteous were his words:

“Stand! ye who at my mangers took your food,

And crush me not! Alas! my father’s curse!

Who is there here will save an upright man?”

And many would; but we were come too late,

With tardy feet. So he, released from thongs

And well-cut reins,—but how I do not know,—

Is fallen, breathing yet a little life.

The steeds and cursèd bull were hid from sight,

But where I know not, in the rocky land.

[And then the messenger lifts his head defiantly to face the unrelenting King, and adds:—]

I am a slave within thy house, O King,

But this at least I never will believe,

That he, thy son, was guilty: not although

The whole of womankind go hang themselves,

And with their letters fill the pines that grow

On Ida. For that he was noble I know!