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2d Semich. Before the gates I do not see
The lustral water wont to be
So placed, whene'er a corse doth lie;
Nor in the vestibule descry
The locks in sign of sorrow shorn
By them that for a dead one mourn;
Nor for the young, cut off by fate,
The women's hands reverberate.
1st Semich. Yet this is the appointed day-
2d Semich. What's that? What is it that you say?
1st Semich. In which she downward should depart.
2d Semich. Ye've touched my soul, ye've touched my heart.
All that in life true virtue cherish
Must mourn whene'er the virtuous perish.
Chorus. There is no spot on all earth round,
To which a winged ship can bound,
Nor Lycia, nor the thirsty plain
Of Ammon's immemorial fane,
By sending whither one can save
This hapless lady from the grave;
For fate abrupt is near at hand :-
Of them that by the altars stand,
And make the blood of victims flow,
I know not unto whom to go.
Only the son of Phæbus might
Recover her again to light,
If he yet lived: the dead he raised,
Till from the hand of Zeus out-blazed
The levin-brand and laid him low.
What hope for her life can I know?
All could be done the king has done :-
Of all the gods the altars run
With blood of victims--but this ill
Is, notwithstanding, cureless still.
A Female Servant is seen coming from the Palace.
But from the house a weeping woman comes.
What shall we hear ? when our lords suffer aught,
Our mournful sympathy is justified;
We fain would learn if she be dead or not.
Serv. Ye may now call her both alive and dead.
Chor. How can one be alive and dead at once?
Serv. She's as it were laid out, near her last gasp.
Chor. Ah, wretched husband, losing what a wife!
Serv. He knows not yet, but soon will feel the loss.
Chor. Is there no longer hope of saving her ?
Serv. It is the day appointed her to die.
Chor. Are not the fitting preparations made?
Serv. The pomp is ready for her burial.
Chor. Let her then know she dies with best renown,
As noblest wife of all beneath the sun.
Serv. Who will deny it? Oh! what must she be
That can outparagon her excellence ?
How can a wife show greater proof of love
Than giving her own life to save her lord's ?
But this the country round already knows;
Ye'll be astonished more at what I'll tell you.
When she perceived the appointed day was come,
She bathed in water from the running stream,
And from the cedar chest took rich attire,
Her lovely person carefully arraying,
And standing at the sacred hearth, exclaimed:-
“Queen Vesta! I am going now below,
And kneel and pray to thee the latest time,
To guard the children I leave motherless ;
A loving consort for the boy provide,
And for the girl a brave and noble spouse ;
Nor let them die untimely as I do,
But with all blessings in their fatherland
Bring to completion a life full of joy."
And then she went, and every altar crowned,
Stripping the foliage from the myrtle boughs,
And prayed without a tear, without a groan;
Nor did the coming wo change in the least
Her bright complexion. To the bridal room,
And bed, she next advanced, but there she wept,
And said, “O bed, where virgin to his arms
I came, for whom I die to-day, farewell!
I hate thee nct, though thou hast brought me death ;
Loth was I to betray my lord and thee.
Thee will another after me possess,
Not chaster, but perchance more fortunate."
Then on the bed she flung herself, and kissed it,
And from her eyes let fall a flood of tears;
At last she rose and turned to leave the room,
Oft made the attempt, and often she returned,
And cast herself again upon the bed.
Her children, clinging to her garments, wept;
She took them in her arms, and kissed them both,
First one, then the other, as about to die :
The servants, pitying her, were all in tears;
She gave her hand to all
, was spoken to,
And for the meanest had a parting word.
Such wo is working in our master's house !
But had he died, twould have been o'er with him;
Escaping death he has a lifelong grief.
Chor. Surely Admetus groans, with grief oppresí, If he must lose so excellent a wife.
Serv. He weeps indeed, sustains her in his arms, And
prays her not to leave him, asking for
What cannot be; for she is going fast,
And visibly droops and sinks, passing away.
She hangs a languid burden on his arm;
Yet still, though faintly gasping out her breath,
She would behold the bright rays of the sun,
As what she never more shall see again,
But for the latest time will look upon
Light's glorious orb. : I'll go and say ye are here.
For not all subjects wish well to their lords,
Nor with them grieving truly sympathize;
But to my master ye are friends of old.
Chor. 'Oh Zeus, can there be any way
Of escaping from this wo to-day?
Or any refuge for our master
From his foreseen and worst disaster ?
Our hair must we in sorrow shear,
And the black robes of mourning wear.
Tis plain, tis plain, this grief must be,
But let us, friends, still bend the knee;
The gods, indeed, have mighty power :-
King Pæn! hear us, in this hour
Of his distress thy good-will show,
And save Admetus from his wo.
Find out some help for him-as thou
Hast done before oh find it now!
Arrest the stroke of Death, and save
The best of women from the grave.
Ah, son of Pheres ! joy-forsaken,
Since from thee thy wife is taken-
Sufficient cause to raise the knife,
Or fix the noose, against one's life.
For thou to-day must see lie dead
Thy dear, more dear than can be said.
Behold her with her mate forlorn!
O land of Pheres, cry and mourn
For this best woman downward taken,
To Hades' mansion subterrane.
I'll never say tis my belief
That wedlock's joy exceeds the grief:
This ere to-day twas mine to learn,
And in the king's case I discern,
Who'll lead, when he has lost his wife,
A life-not worth the name of life.
ALCESTIS enters, supported by ADMETUS, and accompanied by
their two children.
Alc. O sun ! and light, and clouds of Heaven, In fleecy rolls revolved and driven !
Adm. That sun beholds two wretched creatures here, Who have done nothing wherefore thou shouldst die.
Alc. O earth! and palace, and thou bed, For my espousals whilom spread!
Adm. Cheer up, unhappy consort ; leave me not,
But pray the sovereign gods to pity us.
Alc. I see the two-oared boat! I see
The ferryman of all the dead !
With pole in hand, he calls for me-
Tis Charon calls, with accent dread,
And vehemently chides my stay,
“Come quickly, come! why this delay?"
Adm. Wretch that I am ! oh cruelest voyage to me!
My dearest, doomed wife ! what wo is ours !
Alc. Some winged Hades pulls me now
Unto the dead ! do you not see?
From underneath his sable brow
The King of Terrors glares at me!
What wilt thou do? unhand me! oh!
Loose me! on what a path I go!
Adm. Path dismal to thy friends, and most to me,
And to these children, sharers of my grief.
Alc. Lay me down ! I cannot stand ;
Hades now is near at hand;
O'er mine eyes the last of sleeps,
The long night of darkness creeps.
Children ! now my life is o'er,
And your mother is no more ;
May your lives with joy be bright,
May ye long behold the light !
Adm. Ah, woful speech for me to hear,
Harder than any death to bear!
Oh by the gods, and by these ties,
Motherless, when their mother dies,
Forsake me not ! arise, dear wife !
While I have thee, I still have life;
Without thy being mine is o'er,
So much I love thee and adore.
Alc. Admetus, you perceive how tis with me,
But I would tell my wishes ere I die.
How I've loved, honoured thee, appears in this,
I die when not to die was in my power,
Giving my life that thou may'st see the light.
I might have lived and wedde with some chief
Of Thessaly, and dwelt in princely state ;
But without thee, my children fatherless,
I was not willing to drag on my life ;
Nor spared myself
, still in the bloom of youth,
Life's freshness, in whose sweets I took delight.
Yet both thy parents, both near life's last goal,
Betrayed thee, when they might have nobly died,
And so have saved their son, their only child,
With no hope left of other progeny.
Had either of them dared to die for thee,
We twain had lived, nor thou disconsolate
Been left to rear the children whom I leave
But some god brought about it should be so.
Well, be it so ! then make me a return-
One equal to my claim I cannot ask,
For nothing is more precious than one's life-
However, tis a just one, thou wilt own.
Thou lovest these little ones no less than I;
At least if right thy thoughts and feelings be;
Then bring them up as princes in my house,
Nor introduce an envious stepmother,
Loss kind in her affections than myself,
Tu lurd it o'er them with a heavy hand.
Remember my request : a stepdame hates
The children of a former marriage born;
To them no milder than an adder is.
My boy will in his father find a tower,
But how, my girl, shalt thou fit training have?
How will thy father's consort act to thee?
Oh, may she not by slanderous rumour spoil
Thy hope of marriage in thy bloom of youth !
Thy mother ne'er shall deck thee as a bride,
Nor, where a mother kinder is than all,
Amid thy groans of childbirth comfort thee!
For I must die—not when to-morrow comes,
Nor on the third day of the month, but now,
E'en now must I be numbered with the dead.
My husband, and my children ! fare-ye-well,
And prosper! Ye can say no man e'er had
A better wife, no children better mother.
Chor. Fear not: I'll answer for him, he will keep Thy last injunctions, if he keep his senses.
Adm. It shall be so, it shall be, doubt it not :-
Since I had thee when living, still when dead
Shalt thou be my sole wife: none after thee
Shall call me husband, nor Thessalian bride,
Nor one of any land, though most complete
In beauty, daughter of the noblest sire.
The number of my children is enough ;
I pray the gods may have joy of them,
For I have none of thee. But I shall feel
Grief for thy loss, not only for a year,
But while I live; and both my parents hate,
Who were my friends in word but not in deed.
To save mine thou hast given thy dearest life-
Must I not groan then losing such a spouse ?
Henceforth no feasts for me, no revellers,
No garlands, and no music in my house,
As heretofore ; nor will I touch the lyre,
Nor breathe again upon the Libyan fute
Oh never, never shall I have the heart,
For thou hast taken away my joy of life.
But modelled by a skilful artist's hand,
Thine image shall be laid upon my bed;
And I will fall on it, and repeat thy name,
And think I have, alas! not having thee-
Cold comfort ! but some little ease of mind;
And in my dreams the vision of my love
Shall give me joy; tis pleasant to behold
A friend at all times, even in the night.
But if I had the tongue and melody
Of Orpheus, as to appease with ravishment
Of holy hymns Proserpine, or her lord,
And from their gloomy realm recover thee,
I would go down: then neither Pluto's hound,
Nor Charon at his oar, the ferryman
Of the Departed, should inhibit me;
But I would bring thee back to life and light.
Expect me there, however, when I die,
And have a mansion ready for us both.
For I will give these children charge, to inclose
My bones with thine, and lay me by thy side;
May I be joined with thee, sole faithful found,
To be no more divided, when I'm dead!
Chor. I'll sympathize with thee, as friend with friend; Her singular merit well deserves our grief.
Alc. My children, ye have heard your father's pledge,
That he will not so much dishonour me,
As to take other wife to rule o'er you.
Adm. Again I give it, and will keep it too.
Alc. So pledged, receive these children from my hand.
Adm. A precious gift from dear hands I receive.
Alc. Be thou a mother to them in my stead.
Adm. Thy loss compels me to this added charge.
Alc. My children, I depart when I should live.
Adm. Ah! what shall I do, widowed and forlorn ?
Alc. Time will console thee, for the dead are nothing.
Adm. Oh take me with thee, take me, by the gods !
Alc. I die for thee-one victim is enough.
Adm. Oh Fate ! of what a wife thou spoilest me!
Alc. Darkness lies heavy on my drooping eyes.
Adm. I am undone, if thou forsakest me.
Alc. Speak of me as no more, as nothing now.
Adm. Lift up thy face, abandon not thy children.
Alc. Not willingly—my children, oh ! farewell !
Adm. Look on them, look, oh look!
I am no more.
Adm. Ah! do
and depart? Alc.
Adm. I'm lost.
Chor. She's gone, Admetus has no wife.
Eumelus. Alas for my misfortune!
Alas! I am undone ;
My mother's gone, my father,
No more she sees the sun.
Oh, see her eyelid drooping
Over the cold dark eye,
And see her arms extended,
How lifelessly they lie!