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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,
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 my friends, but, most of all,
Me and thy children: ours assuredly
A common partnership in grief like this !”
Whereat they closed about her; but “ 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!
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
To give me up — no, by our children too
Made orphans of! But rise, be resolute,
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 !”
- Which brought out truth to judgment. At this word
And protestation, all the truth in her
Claimed to assert itself: she waved away
The blue-eyed, black-wing’d phantom, held in check
The advancing pageantry of Hades there,
And, with no change in her own countenance,
She fixed her eyes on the protesting man,
And let her lips unlock their sentence,
Admetos, -- how things go with me thou seest,
I wish to tell thee, ere I die, what things
I wish should follow. 1- 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,
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,
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.
So, I and thou had lived out our full time,
Nor thou, left lonely of thy wife, wouldst 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,
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,
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.
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
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 –
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 child-birth, standing by
Just when a mother's presence helps the most.
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,
Husband, the boast remains permissible
Thou hadst a wife was worthy! And to you,
Children; as good a mother gave you birth.” [Admetos promises to care tenderly for the children and never to wed again. Alkestis then continues :]
“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!”
" And now at least I say it, and I will accomplish, too!”
• Then, for such promise of accomplishment, Take from my hand these children!”
Dear gift from the dear hand ! ”
66 Do thou become
Mother, now, to these children in my place !”
• Great the necessity I should be so,
At least, to these bereaved of thee !"
Child – child !
Just when I needed most to live, below
Am I departing from you both!”
66 Ah me! And what shall I do, then, left lonely thus ? "
“ Time will appease thee: who is dead is naught.”
" Take me with thee take, by the Gods below!”
" We are sufficient, we who die for thee."
• Oh, 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 ! "
66 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
“ I am nothingness."
What dost thou ? Leav'st • Farewell !"
And in the breath she passed away. • Undone — me miserable!” moaned the king, While friends released the long-suspended sigh. • Gone is she: no wife for Admetos more!"
[The chorus then laments the death of Alkestis, when]
A great voice
My hosts here !"
Oh, the thrill that ran through us !
Never was aught so good and opportune !
As that great interrupting voice. For see!
Here maundered this dispirited old age
Before the palace : whence a something crept
Which told us well enough without a word
What was a-doing inside, - every touch
O’ the garland on those temples, tenderest
Disposure of each arm along its side,
Came putting out what warmth i' the world was left.
Then, as it happens at a sacrifice
When, drop by drop, some lustral bath is brimmed :
Into the thin and clear and cold, at once
They slaughter a whole wine-skin; Bacchos' blood
Sets the white water all aflame : even so,
Sudden into the midst of sorrow, leapt
Along with the gay cheer of that great voice,
Hope, joy, salvation : Herakles was here !
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 broke upon the sorrow with,
• Inhabitants of this Pheraian soil,
Chance I upon Admetos inside here?"
The irresistible sound wholesome heart
O’ the hero, — more than all the mightiness
At labor in the limbs that, for man's sake,
Labored and meant to labor their life-long,
This drove back, dried up sorrow at its source. - How could it brave the happy weary laugh
Of who had bantered sorrow Sorrow here?
What have you done to keep your friend from harm?
Could no one give the life I see he keeps?
Or, say there's sorrow here past friendly help,
Why waste a word or let a tear escape
While other sorrows wait you in the world,
And want the life of you, though helpless here ?”
Clearly there was no telling such an one
How, when their monarch tried who loved him more
Than he loved them, and found they loved, as he,
Each man, himself, and held, no otherwise,
That, of all evils in the world, the worst
Was — being forced to die, whate'er death gain :
How all this selfishness in him and them
Caused certain sorrow which they sang about,
I think that Herakles, who held his life
Out on his hand, for any man to take —
I think his laugh had marred their threnody.