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 15 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 15 of 29)
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Taking the ivied goblet, drinks and drinks "^^ gp*-^

The unmixed product of black mother-earth, ^*^**^

Until the blaze o' the wine went round about isoo

And warmed him ; then he crowns with myrtle sprigs

His head, and howls discordance — twofold lay

Was thereupon for us to listen to —

This fellow singing, namely, nor restrained

A jot by sympathy with sorrows here — isos

While we o' the household mourned our mistress —

That is to say, in silence — never showed
The eyes, which we kept wetting, to the guest —
For there Admetos was imperative.
And so, here am I helping make at home
A guest, some fellow ripe for wickedness,
Kobber or pirate, while she goes her way
Out of our house : and neither was it mine
To follow in procession, nor stretch forth
Hand, wave my lady dear a last farewell,
Lamenting who to me and all of us
Domestics was a mother : myriad harms
She used to ward away from every one.
And mollify her husband's ireful mood.
I ask then, do I justly hate or no
This guest, this interloper on our grief ? "

/So, he stood pett ing up his puny hate^
Parent-wise^ proud of the unfavored habe.
JVot long / A great hand, careful lest it crush,





Startled Mm on the shoulder : up he stared^
And over him, who stood hut Herahles 1

• ••••••••

" Thou, there ! " hailed
This grand henevolence the ungracious one — 1422

" Why look'st so solemn and so thought-absorbed ?
To guests a servant should not sour-faced be,
But do the honors with a mind urbane. 1425

While thou, contrariwise, beholding here
Arrive thy master's comrade, hast for him
A churlish visage, all one beetle-brow —
Having regard to grief that 's out-of-door !
Come hither, and so get to grow more wise ! 1430

Things mortal — know'st the nature that they have ?
No, I imagine ! whence could knowledge spring ?
Give ear to me, then ! For all flesh to die,
Is nature's due ; nor is there any one
Of mortals with assurance he shall last 1435

The coming morrow : for, what 's born of chance
Invisibly proceeds the way it will.
Not to be learned, no fortune-teller's prize.
This, therefore, having heard and known through me,
Gladden thyself ! Drink ! Count the day-by-day 1440
Existence thine, and all the other — chance !
Ay, and pay homage also to by far
The sweetest of divinities for man,
Kupris ! ^ Benignant Goddess will she prove !
But as for aught else, leave and let things be ! . 1445
And trust my counsel, if I seem to speak
To purpose — as I do, apparently.
Wilt not thou, then, — discarding overmuch
Mournfulness, do away with this shut door,
Come drink along with me, be-garlanded 1450

This fashion ? Do so, and — I well know what —

1 A by-name of Aphrodite, goddess of love, worshipped on Cyprus.


From this stern mood, this shrunk-up state of mind,

The pit-pat fall o' the flagon-juice down throat

Soon will dislodge thee from bad harborage !

Men being mortal should think mortal-like : 1455

Since to your solemn, brow-contracting sort,

All of them, — so I lay down law at least, —

Life is not truly life but misery."

Whereto the man with softened surliness :

" We know as much : but deal with matters, now, i460

Hardly befitting mirth and revelry."

" No intimate, this woman that is dead :

Mourn not too much ! For, those o' the house itself.

Thy masters live, remember ! "

" Live indeed ?
Ah, thou know'st nought o' the woe within these walls ! "

*' I do — unless thy master spoke me false i466

Somehow ! "

" Ay, ay, too much he loves a guest,
" Too much, that master mine ! " so muttered he.

" Was it improper he should treat me well.

Because an alien corpse was in the way ? " 1470

" No alien, but most intimate indeed ! "

" Can it be, some woe was, he told me not ? "

" Farewell and go thy way ! Thy cares for thee —
To us, our master's sorrow is a care."

" This word begins no tale of alien woe ! " 1475

" Had it been other woe than intimate,

I could have seen thee feast, nor felt amiss."

" What ! have I suffered strangely from my host? "

" Thou cam'st not at a fit reception-time :

With sorrow here beforehand : and thou seest 148<>

Shorn hair, black robes."


" But who is It tliat 's dead ?
Some child gone ? or the aged sire perhaps ? "

" Admetos' wife, then ! she has perished, guest ! "

" How sayest ? And did ye house me, all the same ? "

" Ay : for he had thee in that reverence i485

He dared not turn thee from his door away ! "

" O hapless and bereft of what a mate ! "

" All of us now are dead, not she alone ! '*

" But I divined it ! seeing, as I did.

His eye that ran with tears, his close-clipt hair, 1490

His countenance ! Though he persuaded me,

Saying it was a stranger's funeral

He went with to the grave : against my wish,

He forced on me that I should enter doors.

Drink in the hall o' the hospitable man 1495

Circumstanced so ! And do I revel yet

With wreath on head ? But — thou to hold thy peace

Nor tell me what a woe oppressed my friend !

Where is he gone to bury her ? Where am I

To go and find her ? " '

" By the road that leads 1500
Straight to Larissa, thou wilt see the tomb,.
Out of the suburb, a carved sepulchre."

So said Ae, and therewith dismissed himself

Inside to his lamenting. 1504

• ••••••••


" O much-enduring heart and hand of mine ! 1524

Now show what sort of son she bore to Zeus,

That daughter of Elektruon, Tiruns' child,^

Alkmene ! for that son must needs save now

1 Tiryns, in Argolis, was the home of Aleniene.


The just-dead lady : ay, establisli here

I' the house again Alkestis, bring about

Comfort and succor to Admetos so ! 1530

I will go lie in wait for Death, black-stoled

King of the corpses ! I shall find him, sure,

Drinking, beside the tomb, o' the sacrifice :

And if I lie in ambuscade, and leap

Out of my lair, and seize — encircle him 1535

Till one hand join the other round about —

There lives not who shall pull him out from me,

Rib-mauled, before he let the woman go !

But even say I miss the booty, — say.

Death comes not to the boltered blood, — why then,

Down go I, to the unsunned dwelling-place 1541

Of Kore and the king there, — make demand.

Confident I shall bring Alkestis back,

So as to put her in the hands of him

My host, that housed me, never drove me off : 15^

Though stricken with sore sorrow, hid the stroke.

Being a noble heart and honoring me !

Who of Thessalians, more than this man, loves

The stranger ? ^ Who, that now inhabits Greece ?

Wherefore he shall not say the man was vile isr

Whom he befriended, — native noble heart ! "

So, one look upward, as if Zeus might laugh

Approval of his human progeny, —

One summons of the whole magnlfic frame.

Each sinew to its service, — up he caught, i55t

And over shoidder cast, the lion-shag.

Let the club go, — for had he not those hands f

And so went striding off, on that straight way

Leads to Larissa and the suburb tomb,

^ Hospitality was a cardinal virtue of the Greeks.


So, to the struggle off strode Herahles, 1573

^^ \ ... And presently 1577

' \^In came the mourners from the funeral^

' ^Dne after one, until we hoped the last

Would he Alkestis and so end our dream, isso

Could they have really left Alkestis lone

T the wayside sepidchre ! Home, all save she !

And when Admetos felt that it was so,

By the stand-still : when he lifted head and face

From the two hiding hands and peplos* fold, i585

And loohed forth, hiew the palace, hnew the hills,

Knew the plains, hnew the friendly frequence there,

And no Alkestis any more again, ^

Why, the whole woe billow-like broke on him, j

" O hateful entry, hateful countenance 1590

O' the widowed halls ! " — he moaned, " What was

to be?
Go there ? Stay here ? Speak, not speak ? All was

Mad and impossible alike ; one way
And only one was sane and safe — to die :
Now he was made aware how dear is death, i5y

How lovable the dead are, how the heart
Yearns in us to go hide where they repose,
When we find sunbeams do no good to see,
Nor earth rests rightly where our footsteps fall.
His wife had been to him the very pledge, leoo

Sun should be sun, earth — earth ; the pledge was

Pact broken, and the world was left no world."
He stared at the impossible mad life :
Stood, while they urged " Advance — advance ! Go



Into the utter dark, thy palace-core ! " leos

They tried what they called comfort^ " touched the

Of the ulceration in his soul," he said,
With memories, — " once thy joy was thus and

True comfort were to let him fling himself ^
Into the hollow grave o' the tomb, and so lae

Let him lie dead along with all he loved,

ne bade him note that his own family .

oasted a certain father whose sole son.
Worthy bewailment, died : and yet the sire
Bore stoutly up against the blow and lived ; leis

For all that he was childless now, and prone
Already to gray hairs, far on in life.
Could such a good example miss effect ?
Why fix foot, stand so, staring at the house,
Why not go in, as that wise kinsman would ? 1620

" Oh that arrangement of the house I know !
How can I enter, how inhabit thee
Now that one cast of fortune changes all ?
Oh me, for much divides the then from now !
Then — with those pine-tree torches, Pelian pomp lezs
And marriage-hymns, I entered, holding high
The hand of my dear wife ; while many-voiced
The revelry that followed me and her
That 's dead now, — friends felicitating both,
As who were lofty-lineaged, each of us im

Born of the best, two wedded and made one ;
Now — wail is wedding-chant's antagonist.
And, for white peplos, stoles in sable state
Herald my way to the deserted couch ! "
1 Verses 1609-1619 are a paraphrase.


The one word more they ventured icas " This grief
Befell thee witless of what sorrow means, i636

Close after prosperous fortune : but, reflect !
Thou hast saved soul and body. Dead, thy wife —
Living, the love she left. What 's novel here ?
Many the man, from whom Death long ago i640

Loosed the life-partner ! "

Then Admetos spoJce :
Turned on the comfort, with no tears, this time.

And as the voice of him grew, gathered strength, i648
And groaned on, and persisted to the end.
We felt how deep had been descent in grief, leso

And with what change he came wp now to light,
And left hehind such littleness as tears,

" Friends, I account the fortune of my wife

Happier than mine, though it seem otherwise :

For, her indeed no grief will ever touch, i655

And she from many a labor pauses now.

Renowned one ! Whereas I, who ought not live,

But do live, by evading destiny.

Sad life am I to lead, I learn at last !

For how shall I bear going in-doors here ? leeo

Accosting whom ? By whom saluted back.

Shall I have joyous entry ? Whither turn ?

Inside, the solitude will drive me forth.

When I behold the empty bed — my wife's —

The seat she used to sit upon, the floor lees

Unsprinkled as when dwellers loved the cool,

The children that will clasp my knees about,

Cry for their mother back : these servants too

Moaning for what a guardian they have lost I

Inside my house such circumstance awaits. im


Outside, — Thessalian people's marriage-feasts

And gatherings for talk will harass me,

With overflow of women everywhere ;

It is impossible I look on them —

Familiars of my wife and just her age ! , i675

And then, whoever is a foe of mine,

And lights on me — why, this will be his word —

' See there ! alive ignobly, there he skulks

That played the dastard when it came to die,

And, giving her he wedded, in exchange, leso

Kept himself out of Hades safe and sound.

The coward ! Do you call that creature — man ? -

He hates his parents for declining death, ,

Just as if he himself would gladly die ! '

This sort of reputation shall I have, 1685

Beside the other ills enough in store.

Ill-famed, ill-faring, — what advantage, friends,

Do you perceive I gain by life for death ? "

TTiat ivas the truth. ... 1689

/^ jThe, grief icas getting to he infinite ^^^ vm

"^^ /i^ Grief ^^endsfell_ hack before. Their office shrank

iP^'^ Tb that old solace of humanity — *"

r .^A~" Being horn mortal., hear grief! Why horn else f "
-X'' And they could only meditate anew, 1700


^* They, too, upborne by airy help of song,

And haply science, which can find the stars.

Had searched the heights : had sounded depths as well

By catching much at books where logic lurked.

Yet nowhere found they aught could overcome 1705

Necessity : not any medicine served.

Which Thrakian tablets treasure,^ Orphic voice

1 Magical incantations ascribed to Orpheus the hard, whose home
was in Thrace.




Wrote itself down upon : nor remedy

Which Phoibos gave to the Asklepiadai ; ^

Cutting the roots of many a virtuous herb i7io

To solace overburdened mortals. None !

Of this sole goddess, never may we go

To altar nor to image : sacrifice

She hears not. All to pray for is — 'Approach !

But, oh, no harder on me, awful one, nib

Than heretofore ! Let life endure thee still I

For, whatsoe'er Zeus' nod decree, that same

In concert with thee hath accomplishment.

Iron, the very stuff o' the Chaluboi,^

Thou, by sheer strength, dost conquer and subdue ; 1720

Nor, of that harsh abrupt resolve of thine,

Any relenting is there ! '

" O my king !
Thee also, in the shackles of those hands,
Not to be shunned, the Goddess grasped ! Yet, bear !
Since never wilt thou lead from underground 1725

The dead ones, wail thy worst ! If mortals die, —
The very children of immortals, too,
Dropped 'mid our darkness, these decay as sure \
Dear indeed was she while among us : dear,
Now she is dead, must she forever be : 1730

Thy portion was to clasp, within thy couch,
The noblest of all women as a wife.
Nor be the tomb of her supposed some heap
That hides mortality : but like the Gods
Honored, a veneration to a world 1735

Of wanderers ! Oft the wanderer, struck thereby.
Who else had sailed past in his merchant-ship,
Ay, he shall leave ship, land, long wind his way

1 Sons, that is, followers, of Aesculapius, the god of healing.
^ See Prometheus, page 117, line 834.



Up to tlie mountain-summit, till there break

Speech forth : * So, this was she, then, died of

old 1740

To save her husband ! now, a deity

She bends above us. Hail, benignant one !

Give good ! ' Such voices so will supplicate.

But — can it be ? Alkmene's offspring comes,

Admetos ! — ^ to thy house advances here ! " 1745

Ay^ he it was advancing ! In he strode, 1757

And took his stand before Admetos, — turned /Kh^-^/s^'^*''*^^
Now by despair to suchjL quietude, "^
He neither raised his face nor spohe, this time, neo
The while his friend surveyed him steadily.

Under the great guard of one arm, there leant 1771

A shrouded something, live and woman-like.
Propped hy the heart-beats ^neath the lion-coat.
When he had finished his survey, it seemed.
The heavings of the heart began subside, 1775

The helpful breath returned, and last the smile
Shone out, all Herakles was back again.
As the words folloioed the saluting hand.
j.V^"^ ^■;/ /., .
\j-^ J)^o friendly man, behoves we freely speak,

^.■\^ Admetos! — nor keep buried, deep in breast, itso

Blame we leave silent. I assuredly
Judged myself proper, if I should approach
By accident calamities of thine,
To be demonstrably thy friend : but thou
Told'st me not of the corpse then claiming care, nss
That was thy wife's, but didst install me guest
I' the house here, as though busied with a grief
Indeed, but then, mere grief beyond thy gate :


And so, I crowned my head, and to the Gods
Poured my libations in thy dwelling-place, i790

With such misfortune round me. And I blame —
Certainly blame thee, having suffered thus !
But still I would not pain thee, pained enough :
So let it pass ! Wherefore I seek thee now,
Having turned back again though onward bound, 179&
That I will tell thee. Take and keep for me
This woman, till I come thy way again,
Driving before me, having killed the king
O' the Bistones, that drove of Thrakian steeds :
In such case, give the woman back to me ! isoo

But should I fare, — as fare I fain would not,
Seeing I hope to prosper and return, —
Then, I bequeath her as thy household slave.
She came into my hands with good hard toil !
For, what find I, when started on my course, 1805

But certain people, a whole country-side,
Holding a wrestling-bout ? as good to me
As a new labor : whence I took, and here
Come keeping with me, this, the victor's prize.
For, such as conquered in the easy work, I810

Gained horses which they drove away : and such
As conquered in the harder, — those who boxed
And wrestled, — cattle ; and, to crown the prize,
A woman followed.^ Chancing as I did.
Base were it to forego this fame and gain ! ms

Well, as I said, I trust her to thy care :
No woman I have kidnapped, understand !
But good hard toil has done it : here I come !
Some day, who knows ? even thou wilt praise the

1 So in the funeral games in honor of Patrochis, described by
Homer, a slave-woman is tlie first prize in the chief contest.


Admetos raised his face and eyed the pair : 1820

Then, hollowly and with suhmission, spoke^
And spoke again, and spoke time after time^
When he perceived the silence of his friend
Would not he broken hy consenting word.
As a tired slave goes adding stone to stone I825

Until he stop some current that molests^
So poor Admetos piled np argument
Vainly against the purpose all too plain
In that great brow acquainted with command,

" Nowise dishonoring, nor amid my foes mo

Ranking thee, did I hide my wife's ill fate ;
But it were grief superimposed on grief,
Shouldst thou have hastened to another home.
My own woe was enough for me to weep !
But, for this woman, — if it so may be, — I835

Bid some Thessalian, — I entreat thee, king ! —
Keep her, — who has not suffered like myself !
Many of the Pheraioi ^ welcome thee.
Be no reminder to me of my ills !
I could not, if I saw her come to live, 1840

Restrain the tear ! Inflict on me diseased
No new disease : woe bends me down enough !
Then, where could she be sheltered in my house,
Female and young too ? For that she is young.
The vesture and adornment prove. Reflect ! 1845

Should such an one inhabit the same roof
With men ? And how, mixed up, a girl, with youths.
Shall she keep pure, in that case ? No light task
To curb the May-day youngster, Herakles !
I only speak because of care for thee. i85a

Or must I, in avoidance of such harm,
^ People of Pherae.


Make lier to enter, lead her life within
The chamber of the dead one, all apart ?
How shall I introduce this other, conch
This where Alkestis lay ? A double blame im

I apprehend : first, from the citizens —
Lest some tongue of them taunt that I betray
My benefactress, fall into the snare
Of a new fresh face : then, the dead one's self, —
Will she not blame me likewise ? Worthy, sure, iseo
Of worship from me ! circumspect my ways,
And jealous of a fault, are bound to be.
But thou, — O woman, whosoe'er thou art,
Know, thou hast all the form, art like as like
Alkestis, in the bodily shape I Ah me ! ises

Take, — - by the Gods, — this woman from my sight,
Lest thou undo me, the undone before !
Since I seem - — seeing her — as if I saw
My own wife ! And confusions cloud my heart,
And from my eyes the springs break forth ! Ah
me 1870

Unhappy — how I taste for the first time
My misery in all its bitterness! "

Whereat the friends conferred : " The chance, in

Was an untoward one -— none said otherwise.
Still, what a God comes giving, good or bad, i875

That, one should take and bear with. Take her,

then!" ' "" "-

Herakles, — not unfastening his hold

On that same misery, beyond mistake

Hoarse in the words, convulsive in theface^ —

" I would that I had such a power," said Ae, im


" As to lead up into the light again

Thy very wife, and grant thee such a grace."

'* Well do I know thou wouldst : but where the hope ?
There is no bringing back the dead to light."

" Be not extravagant in grief, no less ! isss

Bear it, by augury of better things ! "

*' 'T is easier to advise * bear up,' than bear ! "

" But how carve way i' the life that lies before,
If bent on groaning ever for the past ? "

" I myself know that : but a certain love i890

Allures me to the choice I shall not change."

" Ay, but, still loving dead ones, still makes weep.".

" And let it be so ! She has ruined me,
And still more than I say : that answers all."

" Oh, thou hast lost a brave wife : who disputes ? " isss

" So brave a one — that he whom thou behold'st
^ Will never more enjoy his life again ! "

" Time will assuage ! The evil yet is young ! "

" Time, thou mayst say, will ; if time mean — to die."

" A wife — the longing for new marriage-joys 1900

Will stop thy sorrow ! "

" Hush, friend, • — hold thy peace i
What hast thou said ! I could not credit ear ! '^

" How then ? Thou wilt not marry, then, but keep
A widowed couch ? "

" There is not any one
Of womankind shall couch with whom thou seest ! "


" Dost think to profit thus in any way woe

The dead one ? "

" Her, wherever she abide,
My duty is to honor."

" And I praise — ■
Indeed I praise thee ! Still, thou hast to pay
The price of it, in being held a fool ! " mo

" Fool call me — only one name call me not !
Bridegroom ! "

" No : it was praise, I portioned thee,
Of being good true husband to thy wife ! "

" When I betray her, though she is no more.
May I die ! "

And the thing he said was true : i9i5
For out of Herakles a great glow hrohe.

• ■ •• • • • • •

" Then, since thou canst be faithful to the death, 1926
Take, deep into thy house, my dame ! " smiled he.

" Not so ! — I pray, by thy Progenitor ! "

" Thou wilt mistake in disobeying me ! "

" Obeying thee, I have to break my heart ! " 1930

" Obey me ! Who knows but the favor done
May fall into its place as duty too ? "

So^ he was humhle^ loould decline no more
Bearing a hurden : he just sighed " Alas !
Wouldst thou hadst never brought this prize from
game ! " 1935

" Yet, when I conquered there, thou conquered'st I "

" All excellently urged ! Yet — spite of all,
Bear with me I let the woman go away ! "


" She shall go, if needs must : but ere she go,
See if there is need ! "

" Need there is ! At least.
Except I make thee angry with me, so ! " 1941

" But I persist, because I have my spice
Of intuition likewise : take the dame ! "

'' Be thou the victor, then ! But certainly

Thou dost thy friend no pleasure in the act ! " 1945

" Oh, time will come when thou shalt praise me !

Now —
Only obey ! "

" Then, servants, since my house
Must needs receive this woman, take her there ! "

" I shall not trust this woman to the care
Of servants."

" Why, conduct her in, thyself, 1950
If that seem preferable ! "

" I prefer.
With thy good leave, to place her in thy hands ! "

" I would not touch her ! Entry to the house —
That, I concede thee."

" To thy sole right hand,
I mean to trust her ! "

" King ! Thou wrenchest this
Out of me by main force, if 1 submit ! " 1956

" Courage, friend ! Come, stretch hand forth ! Good !

Now touch
The stranger- woman ! "

" There ! A hand I stretch — -
As though it meant to cut off Gorgon's head ! "


"Hast hold of her?"

" Fast hold."

" Why, then, hold fast
And have her ! and, one day, asseverate isei

Thou wilt, I think, thy friend, the son of Zeus,
He was the gentle guest to entertain !
Look at her ! See if she, in any way.
Present thee with resemblance of thy wife ! " wes

ATi^ hut the tears come^find the words at fault !
There is no telling how the hero twitched
The veil off: and there stood, with such fixed eyes
And such slow smile, Alkestis^ silent self I
It was the crowning grace of that great heart, i970

L ^ To keep hack joy : procrastinate the truth
^\ Until the wife, who had made proof and found

-P y^i The husband wanting, might essay once more, ^

I f^ Hear, see, and feel him renovated now— tjtjLn^'^'-'^^J'
Able to do, novi, all herself had done, i>^'-»'*^^5

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 15 of 29)