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

The Appeal of Andromache

By Jean Racine (1639–1699)

From ‘Andromaque’: Translation of Robert Bruce Boswell

Scene: The palace of Pyrrhus, at Buthrotum in Epirus.Present: Andromache, Hermione, Cleone, Cephissa.

ANDROMACHE[to Hermione]—Why fly you, madam? Is it not a sight

To please you, Hector’s widow at your knees,

Weeping? But not with tears of jealousy

I come, nor do I envy you the heart

Surrendered to your charms. A cruel hand

Robbed me of him whom only I admired.

Love’s flame was lit by Hector long ago,

With him it was extinguished in the tomb.

But he has left a son. Some day you’ll know

How closely to one’s heart a son can cling;

But you will never know, I wish it not,

How keen the pang when danger threatens him,

And they would take him from you,—all that’s left

To soothe a blighted heart. Ah, when worn out

With ten long years of woe, the Trojans sought

Your mother’s life, on Hector I prevailed

To succor her. O’er Pyrrhus you have power

As I had then o’er Hector. Can they dread

The infant he has left? Him let me hide

In some far distant isle. And they may trust

My fears to keep him there, taught but to weep

With me.
Hermione—I feel for you, but duty holds

My tongue tied, when my sire declares his will:

It is by him that Pyrrhus’s wrath is stirred.

But who can bend him better than yourself?

His soul has long been subject to your eyes:

Make him pronounce the word, and I’ll consent.

Andromache—How scornfully did she refuse my prayer!

Cephissa—Accept her counsel. See him, as she says;

One look of yours may Greece and her confound—

But look, he seeks you of his own accord.

Enter Pyrrhus and Phœnix
Pyrrhus[to Phœnix]—Where is the princess? Said you not that she

Was here?
Phœnix—I thought so.
Andromache[to Cephissa]—Now you see what power

My eyes have over him!
Pyrrhus—What says she?

Is lost!
Phœnix—Hermione is gone, and we

Will follow.
Cephissa—Speak! Why obstinately dumb?

Andromache—Has he not promised them my child?
Cephissa—But not

Given him up.
Andromache—Vain are my tears,—his death

Is certain.
Pyrrhus—How her pride disdains to look

My way!
Andromache—I should but irritate him more.

Let us retire.
Pyrrhus—Come, Hector’s son shall be

Yielded to Greece.
Andromache[throwing herself at his feet]—Stop, sire. What will you do?

Give up the son? Why not the mother, then?

Where is the kindness that you swore to me

So lately? Can I touch no chord at least

Of pity? Does this sentence bar all hope

Of pardon?
Pyrrhus—Phœnix knows my word is pledged.

Andromache—No dangers were too great for you to brave

On my behalf!
Pyrrhus—Blind then, I now can see.

Your wishes might have won his pardon once;

You ne’er so much as asked it. Now you come

Too late.
Andromache—Full well you understood, my lord,

The sigh that feared repulse. Forgive the trace

Of pride, that died not with my royal rank,

And made me shrink from importunity.

My lord, you know, had it not been for you,

Andromache would never have embraced

A master’s knees.
Pyrrhus—No, in your secret soul

You hate me, scorn to owe me anything.

This son, the only object of your care,—

You would have loved him less, had he been saved

Through me. You hate me with a bitter scorn,

And worse than all the other Greeks combined.

Enjoy at leisure such a noble rage.

Come, Phœnix.
Andromache—I will go where Hector’s gone.

Andromache—What further can I say to him?

The author of my woes, he knows them all.

[To Pyrrhus]—See to what state you have reduced me, sire!

I’ve seen my father slain, our walls enwrapt

In flames, and all our family cut off,

My husband’s bloody corpse dragged through the dust,

His only son reserved for chains with me.

For his sake I endure to live a slave.

Yea, more, this thought has sometimes brought relief,—

That fate has fixed my place of exile here;

The son of many kings beneath your sway

Is happier as a slave than he could be

Elsewhere, and I had hoped his prison walls

Might be a place of refuge. Priam found

Achilles could respect his fallen state:

I thought his son more generous still. That trust,

My Hector, pardon, when I deemed thy foe

Too noble to commit a dastard’s crime!

Ah, had he but allowed us to abide

Where for thine ashes I had raised a tomb,

And ending there his hatred and our woes,

Parted us not from thy beloved remains!

Pyrrhus—Go and await me, Phœnix.—
Madam, stay.

Your tears may yet win back this cherished son.

Yes, I regret that, moving you to weep,

I armed you with a weapon ’gainst myself;

I thought I could have brought more hatred here.

You might at least consent to look at me:

See, are my eyes those of an angry judge,

Whose pleasure ’tis to cause you misery?

Why force me to be faithless to yourself?

Now for your son’s sake let us cease to hate.

’Tis I who urge you, Save the child from death.

Must sighs of mine beg you to spare his life?

And must I clasp your knees to plead for him?

Once more, but once,—Save him and save yourself.

I know what solemn vows for you I break,

What hatred I bring down upon myself.

Hermione shall go, and on her brow

For crown I set a burning brand of shame;

And in the fane decked for her marriage rites

Her royal diadem yourself shall wear.

This offer, lady, is no longer one

You can afford to scorn. Perish or reign!

A year’s contempt has made me desperate,

Nor can I any longer live in doubt,

Harassed by fears and mingling threats with groans.

To lose you is to die,—’tis death to wait.

I leave you to consider, and will come

To bring you to the temple where this child

My fury shall destroy before your eyes,

Or where in love I crown you as my queen.