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Oh, hear me, hear me, mother!
Tis I that on thee fall,
Tis I whose mouth thine presses,
Tis I that on thee call.
Adm. You call on one that neither hears nor sees;
We both are stricken with a heavy grief.
Eum. But young I'm left, my father!
My sister! I and thou
Have met with greatest trouble,
We have no mother now.
In vain, in vain, my father!
Were you twain ere united;
Ere ye grew old together,
Has all your joy been blighted.
She's gone away before thee,
And thou art left alone;
Untimely dead, my mother!
The house is all undone.
Chor. Admetus, you must bear this heavy stroke ;
You're neither first nor last to have such loss ;
Think death a debt which we have all to pay.
Adm. I know it; nor this ill came unawares ;
With fear of it I have been long afflicted.
But I will now appoint the burial :
Chant ye, mean-while, a hymn to gloomy Dis,
The implacable god of the Subterrane.
Let the Thessalians, over whom I rule,
With their locks shorn and in black robes appear;
Your chariots yoke, and shear the coursers' ma nes;
And for twelve moons let neither flute nor lyre
Sound in the city; for I shall ne'er inter
A dearer or a more deserving one:
Oh, worthiest of all honours I can pay
Is she that only dared to die for me !
Exeunt ADMETUS and the children and
attendants bearing away the body. Chor. Daughter of Pelias! now farewell !
Since thou must forever dwell
In the subterranean halls,
Where the sun's light never falls.
Let the god, whose tresses flow
With a glooming blackness, know,
And the Rower, old and dread,
Ferryman of all the dead,
That this woman is the best,
Of the rarest worth possest,
It was e'er his lot to take
O'er the Acherontian lake.
Thy praise shall minstrels often tell
On the seven-toned mountain shell,
And in solemn hymns and sweet
Oft without the lyre repeat,
Both in Sparta, when they keep
The Carnean feast, nor sleep,
While the vernal moon all ni ht
Shineth on them glad and bright,
Aud in Athens, famed in story,
Rich in splendour, wealth, and glory.
Such a theme thy death supplies
For the minstrel's melodies.
Would that it did on me depend
That thou shouldst to the light ascend !
From the realm of Dis supreme,
Where Cocytus rolls his stream,
From the land of shadows black
Would that I could waft thee back,
Bring thee up to earth again
By the river Subterrane!
Thou, of women thou alone,
For thy husband's life thine own
Didst to Hades freely give,
Dying that thy spouse might live.
Lightly lie the earth o'er thee !
If with other ever he
Link in love, his children's hate
And our scorn upon him wait.
His mother was not willing found
To hide her body under ground,
Was not willing, though she bore him,
To the grave to go before him;
Nor did his old father dare,
When they both had hoary hair,
Neither of them dared to go,
As his substitute below.
But thou didst-and in the hour
Of thy youth's fresh-breathing flower,
Ere he's loveliest hues had fled,
Dying in thy husband's stead.
Oh, with such mate may I pair-
But such lot in life is rare-
For tis certain such a wife
Would ne'er cause a pain in life.
Her. Phereans, is Admetus now at home?
Chor. He is within ; but tell us, Hercules,
What brings you to this part of Thessaly?
Her. Eurystheus has appointed me a task.
Chor. Where must you travel, and for what exploit ?
Her. To Thrace, and for the steeds of Diomede.
Chor. How can you do this ? do you know the man?
Her. No! I was ne'er in the Bistonian land.
Chor. Those steeds cannot be won without a battle.
Her. And I cannot renounce this enterprise.
Chor. You must slay some one ere you can return, Or else remain there being slain yourself.
Her. Tis not my first adventure.
If you are victor over Diomede?
Her. To take the steeds to the Tirynthian king.
Chor. It is no easy thing to bridle them.
Her. Except they from their nostrils breathe out fire.
Chor. But they devour men with their ravenous jaws.
Her. So feed, not horses, but the mountain beasts.
Chor. You'll see their stalls defiled with human gore.
Her. Whom does their trainer boast of as his sire ?
Chor. The King of Thracian shields, enriched with gold,
Calls Mars his sire.
Thus does fate deal with me,
Still tasking me with arduous enterprise ;
If I must with the sons of Mars contend,
First with Lycaon, and with Cycnus next,
Now with a third, this king and his fierce steeds.
But none shall ever see Alcmeda's son
Shrink from encounter with a hostile hand.
Chor. And, lo! Admetus from the palace comes.
Adm. Hail, son of Zeus, prince of the blood of Perseus !
Her. Admetus, prince of the Thessalians, hail !
Adm. Would that your “ hail” was suited to my state,
For your good will toward me well I know.
Her. Why are your locks in sign of mourning shorn ?
Adm. To-day I have to bury somebody:
Her. Tis not one of your children? Heaven forbid !
Adm. My children are within, alive and well.
Her. If tis thy father, he went full of years.
Adm. My father and my mother are alive.
Her. It cannot be Alcestis that is dead?
Adm. Of her I have to speak a twofold tale.
Her. Speak you of her as living, or as dead?
Adm. She is and is not ; but she is my grief.
Her. I am no wiser, for you speak in riddles.
Adm. Do you not know the doom imposed on her ?
Her. I know she undertook to die for you.
Adm. How is she living then if bound to this?
Her. Weep not beforehand; wait until the event.
Adm. One just about to die is dead already,
And one that's dead no longer is in being.
Her. To be, and not to be, are different things.
Adm. You judge in one way-in another I.
Her. But wherefore are you weeping? Who is dead?
Adm. A woman :-we were speaking of a woman.
Her. One of thy blood, or of no kin to thee?
Adm. Not of my blood, but to my heart most dear.
Her. And did she in thy house depart this life?
Adm. Her father being dead, she lived with us.
Her. Oh, that you were not mourning!
With what aim
Do you say this?
To seek another host.
Adm. That must not be; let not such ill occur.
Her. A guest is grievous to a house in grief.
Adm. The dead are dead : come, go within at once.
Her. To feast with mourners is a shameful thing.
Adm. The guest-rooms are apart.
Nay! let me go,
I'll owe you thousand thanks.
It must not be;
Elsewhere you must not go: lead on, and throw, to an Attendant,
The guest-rooms open ; bid the purveyor
Provide fit entertainment for my guest ;
Shut too the doors of the mid-hal, lest groans,
It were not well, should reach the feaster's ears,
And with unwelcome grief mar his content.
HERCULES goes into the Palace.
Chor. What means this? When so great mischance has fallen,
Is it a season for receiving guests?
Adm. Had I driven from my house a new come guest,
Would you have praised me? No! I had not lost
My grief, but rather hospitality;
And such impeachment of my house had been
Another added to my present ills.
Besides, when I to thirsty Argos go,
my guest is my most worthy host.
Chor. Why did you then from such a friend conceal
Your present trouble ?
Had he known my grief,
He never would have gone within my doors.
Yet will he think I was not wise in this
He'll not like it; but my roof knows not how
To turn away and to dishonour guests.
into the Palace. Chor. House! where a liberal spirit is dwelling,
In hospitable grace excelling,
Under thy roof the bright Apollo,
The master of the golden lyre,
Dwelt a shepherd, in the days
That on his steps the flocks did follow
O'er hill and slope with glad desire
To hear his pastoral lays.
Then with the flocks were wont to hie,
Such influence had his minstrelsy!
The spotted lynxes, meek and tame;
And then were seen, from Othrys drawn,
Tawny lions in his train;
And from the tall pine-forest came,
With a light foot, the dappled fawn,
Rejoicing in the strain.
So in a place that most excels
In flocks and herds Admetus dwells,
Where Ossa his tall shadow flings
O'er Bæbe, lake of freshest springs :
The boundary of his domains,
Of eared fields and pasture plains,
Is the Molossian clime that lies
Toward the region of the skies,
Where glide the coursers of the sun
Into the dusk, their day's work done;
And his sway doth to Pelion reach,
Far as the Ægean's portless beach.
And now the guest-rooms open fie,
And he the guest with courtesy
Bade welcome, though with eyelid wet:
He lingers with the lost one yet.
And o'er the corse his tears doth shed,
Lamenting o'er his newly dead.
nature well is known
By sense of honour, felt and shown.
It seems a spirit of wisdom true
Is in the good, in all they do;
And on this truth my soul doth rest,
The godly always fare the best.
ADMETUS enters, followed by the bearers with the body of ALCESTIS.
Adm. My kind Phereans! these attendants now
Convey the corse with honour to the tomb,
Salute ye as the custom is, the dead,
That now upon the latest journey goes.
Chor, Here comes your sire, with the slow foot of age;
And his train follows with his funeral gifts,
And ornaments, in honour of the dead.
Enter PHERES and Train.
Pher. I'm come, my son, in very sympathy;
A good wise and a chaste you've lost indeed.
Yet this affliction, though hard to be borne,
You must e'en bear : accept these offerings,
And let them go with her under the ground.
Tis fit her body should have honour due,
Since by a voluntary death she saved
Thy life, nor let my age in sorrow pine
From being childless. She has left behind
The memory of a life, that to her sex
Gives glory, from the lustre of this deed.
My son's preserver, our support, farewell !
In Hades' mansion be it well with thee?
Such marriage profits men, else better far
Not to submit unto the marriage yoke.
Adm. Thou art come unbidden to this funeral,
Nor do I count thy presence that of friend.
Thy funeral gifts and offerings I refuse;
Owing thee nothing shall she be interred..
My danger was thy time for sympathy;
Dost thou mourn her, that then didst stand aloof?
Thou that, being old, didst let a young one die ?
No father thou of mine, nor was I born
Of my reputed mother, but some slave
Brought me to light, and I was privily placed
At thy wife's breast. No! thou art not my father,
Thy conduct clearly showed my thought is right;
Else no man ever was so mean of spirit,
That thou at such an age, the goal of life,
For thy own son shouldst lack the heart to dię !:
But didst permit a woman, of no kin,
Whom I may well esteem both sire and mother,
To die instead. Yet dying for thy son,
Thy life had then been finished with renown ;
And think how short its small remainder is ;
Then had my wife and I both lived together,
Nor I been left to groan in widowhood.
And thou hast tasted all the joys of life ;
Thy flower of manhood passed in sovereignty,
And I thy son succeeded to thy place;
So that not childless hadst thou left thy house
For others to despoil. Nor canst thou say.
I ever did dishonour thine old age,
For I have showed thee greatest reverence.
But what return had I from both my parents !
Get other children without loss of time
To nourish thine old age, and deck thy corse,
And lay it out ; for I'll not bury thee,
Since for thy part I had been dead here now.
If I've found other to preserve my life,
I owe that other fillial care and love.
The prayer the old make for death is vain pretence,
Of age complaining, and life's weary hours ;
For soon as death comes near, not one is found
Willing to die ; age then no burden is.