John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 14 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 14 of 29)
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• •••••• ••

" Sun, and thou light of day, and heavenly dance 360
O' the fleet cloud-figure ! " (so her passion paused,
While the awe-stricken hushand made his moan.
Muttered now this now that ineptitude ;)
" Sun that sees thee and me, a suffering pair,
Who did the Gods no wrong whence thou should'st
die ! " 365

Then, as if caught up, carried in their course,
Fleeting and free as cloud and sunbeam are.
She missed no happiness that lay heneath :
" O thou wide earth, from these my palace roofs.
To distant nuptial chambers once my own 370

In that lolkos of my ancestry ! " —
There the flight failed her. " Raise thee, wretched one !
Give us not up ! Pray pity from the Gods ! "

Vainly Admetos : for " I see it — see

The two-oared boat ! The ferryer of the dead, 375


Charon, hand hard upon the boatman's-pole,
Calls me — even now calls — ' Why delayest thou ?
Quick ! Thou obstructest all made ready here
For prompt departure : quick, then ! ' "

" Woe is me !
A bitter voyage this to undergo, sso

Even i' the telling! Adverse Powers above,
How do ye plague us ! "

Then a shiver ran :
" He has me — seest not ? — hales me, — who is it ? —
To the hall o' the Dead — ah, who but Hades' self ,^
He, with the wings there, glares at me, one gaze 385
All that blue brilliance, under the eyebrow !
What wilt thou do ? Unhand me ! Such a way
I have to traverse, all unhappy one ! "

" Way — piteous to thy friends, but, most of all,
Me and thy children : ours assuredly 390

A common partnership in grief like this ! "

Whereat they closed about her ; hut " Let be !
Leave, let me lie now ! Strength forsakes my feet.
Hades is here, and shadowy on my eyes
Comes the night creeping. Children — children, now
Indeed, a mother is no more for you ! 396

Farewell, O children, long enjoy the light ! "

" Ah me, the melancholy word I hear,

Oppressive beyond every kind of death !

No, by the Deities, take heart nor dare 400

To give me up — no, by our children too

Made orphans of ! But rise, be resolute,

1 Here, as in Homer, Hades is a person, not a place, — the lord of
tlie lower world.


Since, thou departed, I no more remain !

For in thee are we bound up, to exist

Or cease to be — so we adore thy love ! " 405

— Which brought out truth to judgment. At this

And protestation^ all the truth in her
Claimed to assert itself: she loaved away
The hlue-eyed hlach-wing^d phantom, held in check
The advancing pageantry of Hades there^ 410

And^ with no change in her own countenance.
She fixed her eyes on the protesting man,
And let her lips unlock their sentence, — so !

" Admetos, — how things go with me thou seest, —

I wish to tell thee, ere I die, what things 415

I will should follow. I — to honor thee,

Secure for thee, by my own soul's exchange,

Continued looking on the daylight here —

Die for thee — yet, if so I pleased, might live,

Nay, wed what man of Thessaly I would, 420

And dwell i' the dome with pomp and queenliness.

I would not, — would not live bereft of thee.

With children orphaned, neither shrank at all.

Though having gifts of youth wherein I joyed.

Yet, who begot thee and who gave thee birth, 425

Both of these gave thee up ; no less, a term

Of life was reached when death became them well,

Ay, well — to save their child and glorious die :

Since thou wast all they had, nor hope remained

Of having other children in thy place. 43c

So, I and thou had lived out our full time.

Nor thou, left lonely of thy wife, would st groan

With children reared in orphanage : but thus


Some God disposed things, willed they so should be.

Be they so ! Now do thou remember this, 435

Do me in turn a favor — favor, since

Certainly I shall never claim my due,

For nothing is more precious than a life ;

But a fit favor, as thyself wilt say.

Loving our children here no less than I, 440

If head and heart be sound in thee at least :

Uphold them, make them masters of my house,

Nor wed and give a step-dame to the pair.

Who, being a worse wife than I, through spite

Will raise her hand against both thine and mine. 445

Never do this at least, I pray to thee !

For hostile the new-comer, the step-dame,

To the old brood — a very viper she

For gentleness ! Here stand they, boy and girl ;

The boy has got a father, a defence 450

Tower-like, he speaks to and has answer from :

But thou, my girl, how will thy virginhood

Conclude itself in marriage fittingly ?

Upon what sort of sire-found yoke-fellow

Art thou to chance ? with all to apprehend — 455

Lest, casting on thee some unkind report.

She blast thy nuptials in the bloom of youth.

For neither shall thy mother watch thee wed,

Nor hearten thee in childbirth, standing by

Just when a mother's presence helps the most ! 460

No, for I have to die : and this my ill

Comes to me, nor to-morrow, no, nor yet

The third day of the month, but now, even now,

I shall be reckoned among those no more.

Farewell, be happy ! And to thee, indeed, 465

Husband, the boast remains permissible

Thou hadst a wife was worthy ! and to you,

Children : as good a mother gave you birth."


" Have courage ! " interposed the friends. " For him
I have no scruple to declare — all this 470

Will he perform, except he fail of sense."


" All this shall be — shall be ! " Admetos sobbed :

" Fear not ! And, since I had thee living, dead

Alone wilt thou be called my wife : no fear

That some Thessalian ever styles herself 475

Bride, hails this man for husband in thy place !

No woman, be she of such lofty line

Or such surpassing beauty otherwise !

Enough of children : gain from these I have,

Such only may the Gods grant ! since in thee ^ 48o

Absolute is our loss, where all was gain.

And I shall bear for thee no year-long grief.

But grief that lasts while my own days last, love !

Love ! For my hate is she who bore me, now :

And him I hate, my father : loving-ones 435

Truly, in word not deed ! But thou didst pay

All dearest to thee down, and buy my life.

Saving me so ! Is there not cause enough

That I who part with such companionship -

In thee, should make my moan ? I moan, and more :

For I will end the f eastings — social flow 491

O' the wine friends flock for, garlands and the Muse

That graced my dwelling. Never now for me

To touch the lyre, to lift my soul in song

At summons of the Lydian flute ; since thou 495

From out my life hast emptied all the joy !

And this thy body, in thy likeness wrought

By some wise hand of the artificers.

Shall lie disposed within my marriage-bed :

This I will fall on, this enfold about, 500

Call by thy name, — my dear wife in my arms


Even thongli I have not, I shall seem to have —

A cold delight, indeed, but all the same

So should I lighten of its weight my soul !

And, wandering my way in dreams perchance, 505

Thyself wilt bless me : for, come when they will,

Even by night our loves are sweet to see.

But were the tongue and tune of Orpheus ^ mine,

So that to Kore ^ crying, or her lord,

In hymns, from Hades I might rescue thee — 510

Down would I go, and neither Plouton's dog -

Nor Charon, he whose oar sends souls across,

Should stay me till again I made thee stand

Living, within the light I But, failing this,

There, where thou art, await me when I die, sis

Make ready our abode, my house-mate still !

For in the self-same cedar, me with thee

Will I provide that these our friends shall place,

My side lay close by thy side ! Never, corpse

Although I be, would I division bear 520

From thee, my faithful one of all the world ! "

. . , All she seemed to notice in Ms speech s48

Was what concerned her children.

So^ bending to her children all her love, 553

She fastened on their father^ s only word

To purpose now, and followed it with this :

" O children, now yourselves have heard these things —

Your father saying he will never wed

Another woman to be over you,

Nor yet dishonor me ! "

^ The greatest of mythical musicians, "who rescued his wife Eury-
dice from Hades, but lost her before reaching the upper world.
^ Cora or the Maiden, applied to Persephone, goddess of the dead.


" And now at least
I say it, and I will accomplish too ! " seo

" Then, for such promise of accomplishment,
Take from my hand these children ! "

" Thus I take —
Dear gift from the dear hand ! "

" Do thou become
Mother, now, to these children in my place I "

" Great the necessity I should be so, 565

At least, to these bereaved of thee ! "

" Child — child I
Just when 1 needed most to live, below
Am I departing from you both ! "

" Ah me !
And what shall I do, then, left lonely thus ? "

" Time will appease thee : who is dead is naught." s?'?

" Take me with thee — take, by the Gods below I "

" We are sufficient, we who die for thee."

" O Powers, ye widow me of what a wife ! "

" And truly the dimmed eye draws earthward now ! "

" Wife, if thou leav'st me, I am lost indeed ! " 575

" She once was — now is nothing, thou mayst say."

" Raise thy face, nor forsake thy children thus ! "

" Ah, willingly indeed I leave them not !
But — fare ye well, my children ! "

" Look on them —
Look ! "

" I am nothingness."

" What dost thou ? Leav'st . . ."
" Farewell ! "


And in the hreatJi she passed away.
" Undone — me miserable ! " moaned the hing^ 682
While friends released the long -suspended sigh,
" Gone is she : no wife for Admetos more ! " -

SucK was the signal : how the woe hrohe forth, 585
Why tellf — or how the children's tears ran fast
Bidding their father note the eyelids' stare,
Hands' droop, each dreadful circumstance of death.

" Ay, she hears not, she sees not : I and you,

'T is plain, are stricken hard and have to bear ! " 590

Was all Admetos answered.

So, friends came round him, tooh him hy the hand, eoe

Bade him remember our mortality.

Its due, its doom: how neither was he first.

Nor would he last, to thus deplore the loved.

" I understand," slov^ the words came at last. eio

" Nor of a sudden did the evil here

Fly on me : I have known it long ago,

Ay, and essayed myself in misery ;

Nothing is new. You have to stay, you friends,

Because the next need is to carry forth 615

The corpse here : you must stay and do your part,

Chant proper paean to the God below ;

Drink-sacrifice he likes not. I decree

That all Thessalians over whom I rule

Hold grief in common with me ; let them shear 620

Their locks, and be the peplos black they show !

And you who to the chariot yoke your steeds.

Or manage steeds one-frontleted, — I charge,

Clip from each neck with steel the mane away !


And through my city, nor of flute nor lyre 625

Be there a sound till twelve full moons succeed.
For I shall never bury any corpse
Dearer than this to me, nor better friend :
i One worthy of all honor from me, since
I Me she has died for, she and she alone."


With that, he sought the inmost of the house.
He and his dead, to get gravels garniture.

While the friends sang the paean that should peal.

" Daughter of Pelias with farewell from me,

I' the house of Hades have thy unsunned home ! 635

Let Hades know, the dark-haired deity, —

And he who sits to row and steer alike,

Old corpse-conductor, let him know he bears

Over the Acherontian lake, this time,

I' the two-oared boat, the best — oh, best by far 64o

Of womankind ! For thee, Alkestis Queen !

Many a time those haunters of the Muse

Shall sing thee to the seven-stringed mountain-shell,^

And glorify in hymns that need no harp.

At Sparta when the cycle comes about, 645

And that Karneian month ^ wherein the moon

Rises and never sets the whole nigfht throusfh :

So too at splendid and magnificent

Athenai.^ Such the spread of thy renown.

And such the lay that, dying, thou hast left 65o

Singer and sayer. O that I availed

Of my own might to send thee once again

From Hades' hall, Kokutos' stream,* by help

O' the oar that dips the river, back to day ! "

^ The Greek lyre, made in early times with a tortoise-shell as
sounding board. 2 August-September,

^ Athens. * Cocytus, a river of Hades.




So, the song sank to prattle in her praise : ess

" Light, from above thee, lady, fall the earth,

Thou only one of womankind to die.

Wife for her husband ! If Admetos take

Anything to him like a second spouse —

Hate from his offspring and from us shall be eeo

His portion, let the king assure himself !

No mind his mother had to hide in earth

Her body for her son's sake, nor his sire

ad heart to save whom he begot, — not they,
The white-haired wretches ! only thou it was, ees

I' the bloom of youth, didst save him and so die !
Might it be mine to chance on such a mate
And partner ! For there 's penury in life
Of such allowance: were she mine at least.
So wonderful a wife, assuredly 67o

She would companion me throughout my days
And never once bring sorrow ! "

A great voice —
" My hosts here ! "

Oh, the thrill that ran through us I 673

Sudden into the midst of sorrow, leapt ' ess

Along with the gay cheer of that great voice,

Hope, joy, salvation : Ilerahles was here! eeo

Himself, o' the threshold, sent his voice on first

To herald all that human and divine

I ' the weary happy face of him, — half God,

Half man, which made the god-part God the more.

" Hosts mine," he hrohe upon the sorrow with,

" Inhabitants of this Pheraian soil,

Chance I upon Admetos inside here ? " 697


" He Is in the house," they answered. After all, 722
They might have told the story, talked their best
About the inevitable sorrow here. 724

" Yea, Pheres' son is in-doors, Herakles. 728

But say, what sends thee to Thessalian soil.
Brought by what business to this Pherai town ? " 730

" A certain labor that I have to do
Eurustheus the Tirunthian," laughed the God.

" And whither wendest — on what wandering
Bound now ? " {They had an instinct, guessed what

. meant
Wanderings, labors, in the God^s light mouth.^ 735

" After the Thrakian Diomedes' car
With the four horses." ^

" Ah, but canst thou that ?
Art inexperienced in thy host to be? "

" All-inexperienced : I have never gone
As yet to the land o' the Bistones." ^

" Then, look
By no means to be master of the steeds 741

Without a battle ! "

" Battle there may be :
I must refuse no labor, all the same."

" Certainly, either having slain a foe

Wilt thou return to us, or, slain thyself, 745

Stay there ! "

" And, even if the game be so.
The risk in it were not the first I run."

1 Referring to the eighth labor of Heracles. Cf. p. 195.
^ A tribe of Thracians.


" But, say thou overpower the lord o' the place,
What more advantage dost expect thereby ? "

" I shall drive off his horses to the king." 760

" No easy handling them to bit the jaw ! "

" Easy enough ; except, at least, they breathe

Fire from their nostrils ! "

" But they mince up men

With those quick jaws ! "

" You talk of provender

For mountain-beasts, and not mere horses' food ! " 755
" Thou mayst behold their mangers caked with gore ! ''

" And of what sire does he who bred them boast
Himself the son ? "

" Of Ares, king o' the targe —
Thrakian, of gold throughout."

Another laugh,
" Why, just the labor, just the lot for me 760

Dost thou describe in what I recognize !
Since hard and harder, high and higher yet,
Truly this lot of mine is like to go
If I must needs join battle with the brood
Of Ares : ay, I fought Lukaon first, 765

And again, Kuknos : ^ now engage in strife
This third time, with such horses and such lord.
But there is nobody shall ever see
Alkmene's son shrink foemen's hand before ! "

They gladly stopped the dialogue^ 775

Shifted the hurthen to new shoulder straight^

1 Referring' to two notable contests of Heracles : with Lycaon, king
of Arcadia, and Cycnus (see page 195, line 433), a son of Ares.


As, " Look where comes the lord o' the land, him-
Admetos, from the palace ! " they outbroke
In some surprise^ as well as much relief.
WTiat had induced the Icing to waive his right 78o

And luxury of woe in loneliness?

Out he came quietly ; the hair was cli2ot,

A nd the garb sable ; else no outward sign

Of sorrow as he came and faced his friend. iu

" Hail, child of Zeus, and sprung from Perseus ^ too ! "
The salutation ran without a fault. 787

" And thou, Admetos, King of Thessaly ! "

" Would, as thou wishest me, the grace might fall !
But my good- wisher, that thou art, I know." 790

" What 's here ? these shorn locks, this sad show of
thee ? "

" I must inter a certain corpse to-day."

" Now, from thy children God avert mischance ! "

" They live, my children ; all are in the house ! "

" Thy father — if 't is he departs indeed, 795

His age was ripe at least."

" My father lives,
And she who bore me lives too, Herakles."

" It cannot be thy wife Alkestis gone ? "

" Two-fold the tale is, I can tell of her."

" Dead dost thou speak of her, or living yet ? " soo

" She is — and is not : hence the pain to me ! "

^ Alcmene, the mother of Heracles, was the granddaughter of Per-


" I learn no whit the more, so dark thy speech ! "

" Know'st thou not on what fate she needs must fall ? "

" I know she is resigned to die for thee."

" How lives she still, then, if submitting so ? '* sos

" Eh, weep her not beforehand ! wait till then ! '*

" Who is to die is dead ; doing is done."

" To be and not to be are thought diverse."

" Thou judgest this — I, that way, Herakles ! "

" Well, but declare what causes thy complaint ! 8io
Who is the man has died from out thy friends ? "

" No man : I had a woman in my mind."

" Alien, or some one born akin to thee ? "

" Alien : but still related to my house."

" How did it happen then that here she died ? " sis

" Her father dying left his orphan here." _,

, " Alas, Admetos — would we found thee gay,
Not grieving ! " -

" What as if about to do
/ \ Subjoinest thou that comment ? "

" I shall seek

, r

> Another hearth, proceed to other hosts." 820

" Never, O king, shall that be ! No such ill
•^ Betide me!"

" Nay, to mourners should there come
"^^ A guest, he proves importunate ! "

" The dead —
A(^ Dead are they : but go thou within my house ! "

" 'T is base carousing beside friends who mourn." 825



^" The guest-rooms, whither we shall lead thee, lie
Apart from ours."

" Nay, let me go my way !
-i^Ten thousandfold the favor I shall thank ! "

»^ " It may not be thou goest to the hearth

Of any man but me ! " so made an end sse

Admetos, softly and decisively,

Of the alteixation. Herahles forbore :

And the Icing hade a servant lead the way,

Open the guest-rooms ranged remote from view

O' the main hall ; tell the functionaries, next, 835

They had to furnish forth a plenteous feast.

And then shut close the doors o' the hall, midway,

" Because it is not proper friends who feast

Should hear a groaning or be grieved," qiioth he* ,

The Mng, too, watched great Herahles go off 860

All faith, love, and obedience to a friend.

And when they questioned him, the simjjle ones,

" What dost thou ? Such calamity to face,

Lies full before thee — and thou art so bold

As play the host, Admetos ? Hast thy wits ? " 865

He replied calmly to each chiding tongue :

" But if from house and home I forced away

A coming guest, wouldst thou have praised me more ?

No, truly ! since calamity were mine,

Nowise diminished ; while I showed myseK sto

Unhappy and inhospitable too :

So adding to my ills this other ill,

That mine were styled a stranger-hating house.

Myself have ever found this man the best

Of entertainers when I went his way 875

To parched and thirsty Argos."


" If so be —
Why didst thou hide what destiny was here,
When one came that was kindly, as thou say'st ? '*

" He never would have willed to cross my door

Had he known aught of my calamities. 880

And probably to some of you I seem

Unwise enough in doing what I do ;

Such will scarce praise me : but these halls of mine

Know not to drive off and dishonor guests."

And so^ the duty done^ he turned once more ass

To go-and husy him about his dead.

As for the symjyathizers left to muse,

There was a change, a new light thrown on things,

Contagion from the magnanimity

O' the man whose life lay on his hand so light, 890

As up he stepped, pursuing duty still

" Higher and harder^'' as he laughed and said.

Somehow they found no folly now in the act

They blamed erewhile : Admetos* private grief

Shrank to a someiohat pettier obstacle 395

/' the way o' the world: they saw good days had

And good days, peradventure, still might be,
Now that they overlooked the present cloud
Heavy upon the palace opposite.
And soon the thought took words and music thus. 900

" Harbor of many a stranger, free to friend,
Ever and always, O thou house o' the man
We mourn for ! Thee, Apollon's very self,
The lyric Puthian, deigned inhabit once,
Become a shepherd here in thy domains,^ 905

1 See page 201, line 5.


And pipe, adown the winding hill-side paths,
Pastoral marriage-poems to thy flocks
At feed : while with them fed in fellowship,
Through joy i' the music, spot-skin lynxes ; ay.
And lions too, the bloody company, 910

Came, leaving Othrus' dell ; ^ and round thy lyre,
Phoibos, there danced the speckle-coated fawn,
Pacing on lightsome fetlock past the pines
Tress-topped, the creature's natural boundary,
Into the open everywhere ; such heart 915

Had she within her, beating joyous beats,
At the sweet reassurance of thy song !
Therefore the lot o' the master is, to live - -

In a home multitudinous with herds.
Along by the fair-flowing Boibian lake,^ 920

Limited, that ploughed land and pasture-plain,
Only where stand the sun's steeds, stabled west
I' the cloud, by that mid-air which makes the clime
Of those Molossoi : ^ and he rules as well
O'er the Aigaian,^ up to Pelion's shore, — 925

Sea-stretch without a port ! Such lord have we ;
And here he opens house now, as of old.
Takes to the heart of it a guest again :
Though moist the eyelid of the master, still
Mourning his dear wife's body, dead but now ! " 930
• ••••••••

They ended^for Admetos entered now ; 940

Having disposed all duteously indoors. ...

He would have hidden the hind presence there 950

Observe that, — si?ice the corpse was coming out,
Cared for in all things that hefit the case,
Carried aloft, in decency and state,

1 In Thessaly. 2 j^ Thessaly.

^ A people of Epirus, near to Thessaly. * The Aeg-ean Sea.


To the last hurial j)lace and hurning inle.} —

'' T were 'pvo'per friends addressed^ as custom promj^ts^

Alkestis hound on her last journeying . 956

" Unhappy in thy daring ! Noble dame, 1238

Best of the good, farewell ! With favoring face
May Hermes the infernal,^ Hades too, 1240

Receive thee ! And if there, — ay, there, — some

Of further dignity await the good,
Sharing with them, mayst thou sit throned by her
The Bride of Hades,^ in companionship ! "

Wherewith^ the sad procession wound away^ 1245

Made slowly for the suburb sepulchre.

. . . We faced about, 1256

Fronted the palace where the mid-hall-gate
Opened^ ...

\_Saw'] a certain ancient servitor: . . . 1266

This functionary was the trusted one
We saw deputed by Admetos late 1275

To lead in Heraldes, . . .

" Many the guests " — so he soliloquized vm

In musings burdensome to breast before,
When it seemed not too prudent tongue should wag —
" Many, and from all quarters of this world,
The guests I now have known frequent our house,
For whom I spread the banquet ; but than this.
Never a worse one did I yet receive
At the hearth here ! One who seeing, first of all, 1390
The master's sorrow, entered gate the same,
, And had the hardihood to house himself.

1 But if the body had been burned, Heracles could not have recov'
ered Alcestis from Death.

2 Hermes was the escort of the dead to the lower world.
^ Persephone.





Did things stop there ! But, modest by no means,

He took what entertainment lay to hand,

Knowing of our misfortune, — did we fail

In aught of the fit service, urged us serve

Just as a guest expects ! ^And in his hands

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 14 of 29)