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Sweet is yon sun-god's light, yea, it is sweet.

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Yet shalt thou die in ill fame, when thou diest

Nought reck I of ill-speaking o'er my grave

Ah me ! how full of shamelessness is eld !

Not shameless she, — but senseless hast thou found her

Begone: leave me to bury this my dead.

I go: her murderer will bury her.
Thou shalt yet answer for it to her kin.
Surely Akastus is no more a man.
If he of thee claim not his sister's blood.

(Exit Pheres.)
Childless grow old, as ye deserve, while lives
Your child: ye shall not come beneath one roof
With me. If need were to renounce by heralds
Thy fatherhood, I had renounced it now.
Let us — for we must bear the present ill —
Pass on, to lay our dead upon the pyre.

Alas for the loving and daring!
Farewell to the noblest and best!
May Hermes conduct thee down-faring
Kindly, and Hades to rest
Receive thee ! If any atonement
For ills even there may betide
To the good, O thine be enthronement
By Hades' bride!

(Exeunt omnes in funeral procession.)

Euripides and the Alcestis i6i

{Enter Servant.)

Full many a guest, from many a land which came
Unto Admetus' dwelling, have I known.
Have set before them meat : but never guest
More pestilent received I to this hearth:
Who first, albeit he saw my master mourning,
Entered, and passed the threshold unashamed;
Then, nowise courteously received the fare
Found with us, though our woeful plight he knew.
But, what we brought not, hectoring bade us bring.
The ivy cup uplifts he in his hands.
Dissonant-howling. Diverse strains were heard:
For he sang on, regardless all of ills
Darkening Admetus' house; we servants wept
Our mistress: yet we showed not to the guest
Eyes tear-bedewed, for so Admetus bade.
She from the house hath passed: I followed not.
Nor stretched the hand, nor wailed unto my mistress
Farewell, who was to me and all the household
A mother, for from ills untold she saved us,
Assuaging her lord's wrath. Do I not well
To loathe this guest, intruder on our griefs?

{Enter Heracles.)

Ho, fellow, why this solemn brooding look?
Thou, seeing here in presence thy lord's friend.
With visage sour and cloud of knitted brows
Receiv'st him, fretting o'er an alien grief.
Hither to me, that wiser thou may'st grow.
The lot of man — its nature knowest thou?
I trow not : how shouldst thou? Give ear to me.
From all mankind the debt of death is due,
Nor of all mortals is there one that knows
If through the coming morrow he shall live:
This hearing then, and learning it from me,

1 6a Ideals in Greek Literature

Make merry, drink; the life from day to day
Account thine own, all else in fortune's power.
Pass through yon doors and quaff the wine with me,
Thy brows with garlands bound.
What, man! — the mortal must be mortal-minded.
So, for your solemn wights of knitted brows,
For each and all, — if thou for judge wilt take me, —
Life is not truly life, but mere affliction.

All this we know: but now are we in plight
Not meet for laughter and for revelry.

The woman dead is alien-born: grieve not
Exceeding much. Yet live the household's lords.

Live, quotha! — know'st thou not the house's ills?

Yea, if thy master lied not unto me.

Go thou in peace: our lord's ills are for us.

Grief for a stranger such talk heralds not.

Else had I not sore vexed beheld thy revelling.

How! have I sorry handling of mine hosts?

Thou cam' St in hour unmeet for welcoming.
For grief is on us; and thou see'st shorn hair
And vesture of black robes.

Euripides and the Alcestis 163


But who hath died?
Not of the children one, or grey-haired sire?

Nay, but Admetus' wife is dead, O guest.

How say*st thou? — Ha, even then ye gave me welcome?

For shame he could not thrust thee from these doors.

I felt it, when I saw his tear-drowned eyes.
His shaven hair, and face: yet he prevailed.
Saying he bare a stranger- friend to burial.
I passed this threshold in mine heart's despite.
And drank in halls of him that loves the guest.
When thus his plight! — And am I revelling
With head wreath- decked? — That thou should'st ne'er

have told.
When such affliction lay upon the home !
Where doth he bury her? Where shall I find her?

By the straight path that leads Larissa-wards
Shalt see the hewn-stone tomb without the walls.


much-enduring heart and soul of mine.
Now show what son the Lady of Tiryns bare,
Elektryon's child Alkmene, unto Zeus.

For I must save the woman newly dead.

And set in this house again.

And render to Admetus good for good.

1 go. The sable-vestured King of Corpses,
Death, will I watch for, and shall find, I trow.
Drinking the death-draught hard beside the tomb.

164 Ideals in Greek Literature

And if I lie in wait, and dart from ambush,

And seize, and with mine arms' coil compass him,

None is there shall deliver from mine hands

His straining sides, or e'er he yield his prey.

Yea, though I miss the quarry, and he come not

Unto the blood-clot, to the sunless homes

Down will I fare of Kore and her king,*

And make demand. I doubt not I shall lead

Alcestis up, and give to mine host's hands.

Who to his halls received, nor drave me thence.

Albeit smitten with affliction sore,

Who is more guest-fain^ of Thessalians?

Who in all Hellas? — O, he shall not say

That one so princely showed a base man kindness.


O, how can I tread
Thy threshold, fair home?
How shelter mine head
'Neath thy roof, now the doom
Of the God's dice changeth? — ah me, what change upon
all things is come !

For with torches aflame
Of the Pelian pine.
And with bird-song I came
In that hour divine,
Upbearing the hand of a wife — thine hand, O darling mine I

Followed revellers, raising
Acclaim : ever broke
From the lips of them praising.
Of the dead as they spoke.
And of me, how the noble, the children of kings. Love
joined 'neath his yoke.

1 Kore, the Maiden, is a title of Persephone, queen of Hades, and wife of

2 Hospitable.

Euripides and the Alcestis 165

But for bridal song
Is the wail for the dead,
And, for white-robed throng,
Black vesture hath led
Me to halls where the ghost of delight lieth couched on a
desolate bed.


To the trance of thy bliss
Sudden anguish was brought.
Never lesson like this
To thine heart had been taught :
Yet thy life hast thou won, and thy soul hast delivered
from death; — is it bought?


Friends, I account the fortune of my wife
Happier than mine, albeit it seems not so.
For nought of grief shall touch her any more.
And glorious rest she finds from many toils. *
But I, unmeet to live, my doom outrun,
Shall drag out bitter days: I know it now.
The solitude within shall drive me forth.
When so I see my wife's couch tenantless.
And seats whereon she sat, beneath the roof.
All foul the floor; when on my knees my babes
Falling shall weep their mother, servants moan
The peerless mistress from the mansion lost.
All this within; but from the world without
Shall bridals of Thessalians chase me ; throngs
Where women gossip; for I shall not bear
On those companions of my wife to look.
And, if a foe I have, thus shall he scoff;
**Lo there who basely liveth — dared not die,
But whom he wedded gave, a coward's ransom.
And 'scaped from Hades. Count ye him a man?
He hates his parents, though himself was loth
To diel" Such ill report, besides my griefs,

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Shall mine be. Ah, what profit is to live,

friends, in evil fame, in evil plight?

Chorus (Sings.)

Not as mounds of the dead which have died, so account

we the tomb of thy bride.
But O, let the worship and honour that we render to
Gods rest upon her:

Unto her let the wayfarer pray.

As he treadeth the pathway that trendeth

Aside from the highway, and bendeth

At her shrine, he shall say:

**Her life for her lord's was given;

With the Blest now abides she on high.

Hail, Queen, show us grace from thine heaven ! ' '

Even so shall they cry.
But lo, Alkmene's son, as seemeth, yonder,
Admetus, to thine hearth is journeying.

{Enter Heracles, leading a woman wholly veiled.)


Unto a friend behooveth speech outspoken.
Thou gavest me guest-welcome in thine home,
Making pretence of mourning for a stranger.

1 wreathed mine head, I spilled unto the Gods
Drink-offerings in a stricken house, even thine.

I blame thee, thus mishandled, yea, I blame thee.
Yet nowise is my will to gall thy grief.
But wherefore hither turning back I come,
This will I tell. Take, guard for me this maid.
Prize of hard toil unto mine hands she came:
For certain men I found but now arraying
An athlete-strife, toil-worthy, for all comers.
Whence I have won and bring this victor's meed.
But, as I said, this woman be thy care:
For no thief's prize, but toil-achieved, I bring her.
Yea, one day thou perchance shalt say 'twas well.

Euripides and the Alcestis 167


Not flouting thee, nor counting among foes,

My wife's unhappy fate I hid from thee.

But this had been but grief uppiled on grief,

Hadst thou sped hence to be another's guest;

And mine own ills sufficed me to bewail.

But, for the woman — if in any wise

It may be, prince, bid some ThessaHan guard her,

I pray thee, who hath suffered not as I.

In Pherae many a friend and host thou hast.

Awaken not remembrance of my grief.

I could not, seeing her mine halls within.

Be tearless: add not hurt unto mine hurt.

Burdened enough am I by mine affliction.

Nay, in mine house where should a young maid lodge.? —

Needs must I take great heed.

But, woman, thou,

Whoso thou art, know that thy body's stature

Is as Alcestis, and thy form as hers.

Ah me! — lead, for the gods' sake, from my sight

This woman! — Take not my captivity captive.

For, as I look on her, methinks I see

My wife : she stirs mine heart with turmoil : fountains

Of tears burst from mine eyes. O wretched I!

Now first I taste this grief's full bitterness.

O'ershoot not now the mark, but bear all bravely.

Easier to exhort than suffer and be strong.

Time shall bring healing: now is thy griei young.

Time — time? — O yea, if this thy Time be Death!

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I praise thee for that leal thou art to her.

Death be my meed, if I betray her dead.

Receive this woman now these halls within.


that in strife thou ne'er hadst won this maid!

Yet thy friend's victory is surely thine.

Well said: yet let the woman hence depart.

Yea — if need be. First look well — need it be?

Needs must — save thou wilt else be wroth with me.


1 too know what I do, insisting thus.

Have then thy will: thy pleasure is my pain.

Yet one day shalt thou praise me : only yield.

{To Attendants.)
Lead ye her, if mine halls must needs receive.

Not to thy servants* hands will I commit her.

Euripides and the Alcestis 169

Thou lead her in then, if it seems thee good.

Nay, but in thine hands will I place her — thine.

I will not touch her! — Open stand my doors,

Unto thy right hand only trust I her.


king, thou forcest me: I will not this!

Be strong: stretch forth thine hand and touch thy guest.


1 stretch it forth, as to a headless Gorgon.

Hast her?

I have.

Yea, guard her. Thou shalt call
The child of Zeus one day a noble guest.

{Raises the veil, and discloses Alcestis.)
Look on her, if in aught she seems to thee
Like to thy wife. Step forth from grief to Miss.

What shall I say? — Gods! — Marvel this unhoped for!
My wife do I behold in very sooth,
Or doth some god-sent mockery-joy distract me?

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Not so; but this thou seest is thy wife.

What if this be some phantom from the shades?

No ghost-upraiser hast thou ta'en for guest.

How? — whom I buried do I see — my wife?

Doubt not: yet might 'st thou well mistrust thy fortune.

O face, O form of my beloved wife,
Past hope I have thee, who ne'er thought to see thee!

Thou hast: may no god of thy bhss be jealous.


scion nobly-born of Zeus most high,
Blessings on thee! The Father who begat thee
Keep thee! Thou only hast restored my fortunes.
How didst thou bring her from the shades to light?


1 closed in conflict with the Lord of Spirits.

Where, say'st thou, didst thou fight this fight with Death?

From ambush by the tomb mine hands ensnared him.

Now wherefore speechless standeth thus my wife?

Euripides and the Alcestis 171

'Tis not vouchsafed thee yet to hear her voice,
Ere to the Powers beneath the earth she be
Unconsecrated, and the third day come.
But lead her in, and, just man as thou art,
Henceforth, Admetus, reverence still the guest.
Farewell. But I must go, and work the work
Set by the king, the son of Sthenelus.*

O prosper thou, and come again in peace!
For now to happier days than those o'erpast
Have we attained. I own me blest indeed.

O the works of the Gods — in manifold forms they reveal

Manifold things unhoped-for the Gods to accompHshment

And the things that we looked for, the Gods deign not to

fulfill them;
And the paths undiscenied of our eyes, the Gods unseal

So fell this marvellous thing.

{Exeunt omnes.)

There are many questions that Admetus might still
have raised; for example, did Heracles wrest from death
the soul or the body of Alcestis? How was the soul able
to reenter the body? How were the Fates to be appeased
for this second loss, which Death himself had so angrily
prophesied in the opening scene?

Much in the Httle drama is unsatisfying. Despite
Professor Moulton's confident and able defense of
Admetus, he remains to most readers, even as to him-

1 Eurystheus, the king whom the hero Heracles must serve.


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self, ignoble, selfish, unmanly. But Alcestis, at least,
has always claimed the love and admiration of mankind.
In one of his tenderest sonnets Milton has a vision of his
dead wife:

**Methought I saw my late espoused saint
Brought to me like Alcestis from the grave.**

Even Shakspere, in the **Winter's Tale," has imi-
tated freely the return of the dead queen to life. Indeed
Euripides, in many of his plays, seems nearer to modern
romantic drama than to the austerer Attic classicism in
which he was bred. We are glad to remember that both
the Brownings hailed as a near and kindred spirit

"Euripides the human.**


Portions of the "Alcestis" are here taken from a brilliant
translation of all Euripides* plays, in three volumes, by Way, the
choral portions being rendered freely in rhymed measures much
influenced by Swinburne. The prose version in the Bohn Library,
by Coleridge, is prosaic indeed, but careful and scholarly. The
most famous rendering of the "Alcestis" is by Mr. Browning.
Together with much interpolated matter, comment, and argument,
it is imbedded in his long poem "Balaustion's Adventure." Far
more important, and difficult, is Mr. Browning's discussion of
Euripides* and Aristophanes' merits in his "Aristophanes' Apol-
ogy," which includes a very able and faithful poetical rendering
of the Euripidean "Hercules Mad." The present author's first*
book, "Three Dramas of Euripides," covered the "Alcestis,**
"Medea," and "Hippolytus." The attempt was to give, in un-
rhymed English verse, an idea of the Greek rhythm, and to com-
bine with the translation such discussion as an intelligent stranger
might desire when first invited into the Athenian theatre.


Ridicule as a Moral Weapon.

Comedy developed later than tragedy, about the mid-
dle of the fifth century B.C., as another offshoot from the
same Dionysiac cult. Quite unlike the mythic themes
and artistic remoteness of the ^schylean drama, comedy
was up-to-date, homely, grotesque. Though the parts
were taken by male actors only, we hear of Athenian
ladies, even children, among the auditors of tragedy: but
never as present at an Attic comedy. All the decencies
were — not so much violated as rather — forgotten in the
rollicking festival season of the merry wine-god. Despite
frequent prohibitory decrees, the foremost citizens of that
turbulent democracy were unmistakably caricatured in the
masks, named in the text, put to utter ridicule. States-
men all but resistless, Hke Pericles or Cleon, well-beloved
tragic poets like Euripides and Agathon, even the reserved
Athenian ladies, or the orthodox Olympian gods, were here
alike fair game. Provided the world be duly turned topsy-
turvy, and a royal banquet of mirth furnished, all was
permissible. We have but one of the comic poets,
Aristophanes, surviving in a dozen plays, but he has no
rival save the creator of Falstaff, of Caliban, of Malvolio:
if even he.

Aristophanes' dramas cannot be fully and faithfully
rendered to any modern audience. He is absolutely with-


174 Ideals in Greek Literature

out reticence or sense of decency. Yet he often poses,
with unmistakable earnestness, as a moralist. That he
considered Euripides a harmful innovator, ^schylus the
nobler and better dramatist, cannot be questioned. So,
too, the famous attack on Socrates seems to have under-
lying it something of ethical purpose.

Through most of the fifth century, and, on lesser scale,
again in the fourth, Athens was the poHtical centre of an
extended Grecian league or empire. Her citizens were
constantly engaged as jurors to try cases for Athenians
or aliens. Almost any citizen must some day appear,
in his own proper person, as plaintiff or defendant.
Hence rhetoric and oratory became a large part of ele-
mentary education, and essential for any mercantile or
political career. An extremely briUiant and famous group
of ''sophists'* appeared from various Greek lands to
teach, for money, the art of getting on in the world: of
reaching, and holding safely, wealth and official position.
Just at this time arose also Socrates, to teach, or rather
to seek out and discuss, without pay, the true nature and
moral duties of men. Aristophanes could not have been
ignorant of the great gulf between the two types of
teacher. Yet he seized the familiar name and picturesque
mask of the apostle of righteousness, and made him the
center of a most laughable parody on the school of ora-
tory and business college.

No less sharply opposed was Socrates, the preacher of
practical morality, to the vague and baseless conjectures
as to the remoter mysteries of matter, spirit, and creation,
that in his day masqueraded as science, or natural phi-
losophy. Yet of this school also he is made the chief 1
Such is the famous comedy, *'The Clouds."

Aristophanes* Clouds 175

The play had, and still has, a wonderful vogue. In
the ''Apology" it is put prominently among the causes
for the indictment and condemnation of Hellas' greatest
saint and sage. As such it surely demands a place here.

We can give only an outline, citing a few passages or
scenes entire. Old Strepsiades, a thrifty Athenian citizen,
appears first, lying awake in his room.


Strepsiades (Stretching and yawning.)
Ah me! Ah me! will this night never end?

kingly Jove, shall there be no more day?
And yet the cock sung out long time ago;

1 heard him — but my people lie and snore,
Snore in defiance, for the rascals know

It is their privilege in times of war.

Which with its other plagues brings this upon us.

That we mayn't rouse these vermin with a cudgel.

There's my young hopeful too, he sleeps it through,

Snug under five fat blankets at the least.

Would I could sleep so sound! But my poor eyes

Have no sleep in them; what with debts and duns

And stable-keepers' bills, which this fine spark

Heaps on my back, I He awake the whilst:

And what cares he but to coil up his locks.

Ride, drive his horses, dream of them all night.

Whilst I, poor devil, may go hang — for now

The moon in her last quarter wanes apace,

And my usurious creditors are gaping.

What ho ! a light ! bring me my tablets, boy.

That I may set down all, and sum them up.

Debts, creditors, and interest upon interest. —

The youth, Pheidippides, presently awakes.

My father! Why so restless? Who has vex'd you?

176 Ideals in Greek Literature

The sheriff vexes me; he breaks my rest.

Peace,, self-tormentor, let me sleep !


Sleep on!
But take this with you: all these debts of mine
Will double on your head; a plague confound
That cursed match-maker who drew me in
To wed, forsooth, that precious dam of thine.
I liv'd at ease in the country, coarsely clad.
Rough, free, and full withal as oil and honey
And store of stock could fill me, till I took.
Clown as I was, this Hmb of the Alcmaeons,*
This vain, extravagant, high-blooded dame:
Rare bed- fellows and dainty — Were we not?
I, smelling of the wine-vat, figs, and fleeces.
The produce of my farm, all essence she,
Saffron and dainty kisses, paint and washes,
A pampered wanton — idle I'll not call her;
She took due pains in faith to work my ruin.
Which made me tell her, pointing to this cloak,
Now threadbare on my shoulders — *'See, good wife,
This is your work, in troth you toil too hard ! ' '

(The old man makes a bold resolution.)


Get up! Come hither boy! look out!
Yon little wicket, and the hut hard by —
Dost see them?

Clearly. What of that same hut?

1 a very aristocratic family, from which Pericles sprang.

Aristophanes' Clouds 177

Why that's the council chamber of all wisdom:
There the choice spirits dwell who teach the world
That Heaven's great concave is a mighty oven,
And men its burning embers; these are they,
Who can show pleaders how to twist a cause,
So you'll but pay them for it, right or wrong.

And how do you call them?

Troth, I know not that.
But they are men who take a world of pains :
Wondrous good men and able.

Out upon 'em!

Poor rogues, I know them now; you mean those scabs,
Those squalid, barefoot, beggarly impostors,
The sect of Socrates and Chaerephon.

Hush! Hush! be still; don't vent such foohsh prattle;
But if you'll take my counsel, join their college
And quit your riding-school.

What shall I learn?

They have a choice of logic; this for justice.
That for injustice; learn that latter art,
And all these creditors that now beset me.
Shall never touch a drachma that I owe them.

I'll learn of no such masters, nor be made
A scarecrow and a may-game for my comrades:
I have no zeal for starving.

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No, nor I
For feasting you and your fine pampered cattle
At free cost any longer — Horse and foot
To the crows I bequeath you. So be gone!


Well, sir, I have an uncle rich and noble;

Megacles will not let me be unhorsed;

To him I go; I'll trouble you no longer. (Exit.)

Strepsiades (Alone.)

He has thrown me to the ground, but I'll not He there;

I'll up, and with the permission of the gods.

Try if I cannot learn these arts myself:

But being old, sluggish, and dull of wit.

How am I sure these subtleties won't pose me?

Well, I'll attempt it; what avails complaint?

Why don't I knock and enter?

(The scene changes^ showing the inside of the "Thinking-

Disciple (Half opening the door.)

Go, hang yourself, and give the crows a dinner —
What noisy fellow art thou at the door?

Strepsiades of Cicynna, son of Pheidon.


Whoe'er thou art, 'fore heaven thou art a fool
Not to respect these doors; battering so loud.
And kicking with such vengeance, you have marred
The ripe conception of my pregnant brain,
And brought on a miscarriage.

Aristophanes* Clouds 179


Oh! the pity!
Pardon my ignorance, I am country bred
And far afield am come; I pray you tell me
What curious thought my luckless din has strangled,
Just as your brain was hatching.

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