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• 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!” “ 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:
For out of Herakles a great glow broke.
There stood a victor worthy of a prize :
The violet-crown that withers on the brow
Of the half-hearted claimant. Oh, he knew
The signs of battle hard fought and well won,
This queller of the monsters ! knew his friend
Planted firm foot, now, on the loathly thing
That was Admetos late ! " would die,” he knew,
Ere let the reptile raise its crest again.
If that was truth, why try the true friend more?
• Then, since thou canst be faithful to the death,
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 ! ”
Obey me! Who knows but the favor done
May faii into its place as duty too?”
So, he was humble, would decline no more
Bearing a burden: he just sighed, • Alas!
Wouldst thou hadst never brought this prize from game !
“ Yet, when I conquered there, thou conqueredst !"
“ All excellently urged! Yet — spite of all,
600 Bear with me! 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 !” “ 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!” “Oh, time will come when thou shalt praise me! Now – Only obey!”
“ Then, servants, since my house 610 Must needs receive this woman, take her there !"
"I shall not trust this woman to the care Of servants."
• Why, conduct her in, thyself, 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 I submit !” Courage, friend! Come, stretch hand forth! Good! Now touch
620 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 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 !”
Ah, but 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!
It was the crowning grace of that great heart,
To keep back joy: procrastinate the truth
Until the wife, who had made proof and found
The husband wanting, might essay once more,
Hear, see, and feel him renovated now
Able to do, now, all herself had done,
Risen to the height of her: so, hand in hand,
The two might go together, live and die.
Beside, when he found speech, you guess the speech.
He could not think he saw his wife again :
It was some mocking God that used the bliss
To make him mad ! Till Herakles must help:
Assure him that no spectre mocked at all;
He was embracing whom he buried once.
Still, - did he touch, might he address the true,
True eye, true body of the true live wife?
And Herakles said, smiling, “ All was truth.
Spectre? Admetos had not made his guest
One who played ghost-invoker, or such cheat !
Oh, he might speak and have response, in time !
All heart could wish was gained now — life for death :
Only the rapture must not grow immense :
Take care, nor wake the envy of the Gods!”
“Oh thou, of greatest Zeus true son,” — so spoke
Admetos when the closing word must come,
“Go ever in a glory of success,
And save, that sire, his offspring to the end !
For thou hast
raised me and mine
Up again to this light and life !” Then asked
Tremblingly, how was trod the perilous path
Out of the dark into the light and life:
How it happened with Alkestis there.
And Herakles said little, but enough -
How he engaged in combat with that king
O'the daemons: how the field of contest lay
By the tomb's self: how he sprung from ambuscade,
Captured Death, caught him in that pair of hands.
But all the time, Alkestis moved not once
Out of the set gaze and the silent smile ;
And a cold fear ran through Admetos' frame:
“Why does she stand and front me, silent thus ? "
Herakles solemnly replied, “Not yet
Is it allowable thou hear the things
She has to tell thee; let evanish quite
That consecration to the lower Gods,
And on our upper world the third day rise !
Lead her in, meanwhile; good and true thou art,
Good, true, remain thou !
To stranger-guests the old way! So, farewell !
Since forth I fare, fulfil my urgent task
Set by the king, the son of Sthenelos."
Fain would Admetos keep that splendid smile
Ever to lighten him. Stay with us, thou heart !
Remain our house-friend!"
“ At some other day ! Now, of necessity, I haste !” smiled he.
“ But mayst thou prosper, go forth on a foot Sure to return! Through all the tetrarchy, Command my subjects that they institute
Thanksgiving-dances for the glad event,
And bid each altar smoke with sacrifice !
For we are minded to begin a fresh
Existence, better than the life before ;
Seeing I own myself supremely blest.”
Whereupon all the friendly moralists
Drew this conclusion: chirped, each beard to each :
• Manifold are thy shapings, Providence !
Many a hopeless matter Gods arrange.
What we expected never came to pass :
What we did not expect Gods brought to bear;
So have things gone, this whole experience through!"
Ah, but if you had seen the play itself!
They say, my poet failed to get the prize :
Sophokles got the prize, - great name! They say,
Sophokles also means to make a piece,
Model a new Admetos, a new wife :
Success to him! One thing has many sides.
The great name! But no good supplants a good,
Nor beauty undoes beauty. Sophokles
Will carve and carry a fresh cup, brimful
Of beauty and good, firm to the altar-foot,
And glorify the Dionusiac shrine :
Not clash against this crater in the place
Where the God put it when his mouth had drained,
To the last dregs, libation life-blood-like,
And praised Euripides forevermore -
The Human with his droppings of warm tears.