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Of victims, and I can surprise and seize him,
None shall release my panting prisoner.
Till he resign the woman. If I fail
To take him captive so, and he abstains
From coming near to taste the clotted gore,
Then to the sunless mansions will I go
Of fair Proserpine and her gloomy lord,
And ask her at their hands: I have no doubt
That I shall bring Alcestis up again,
And give her back to his embracing arms,
Who welcomed and received me in his house,
Though smitten with a sore calamity,
Which from respect for me he nobly hid.
What man of Thessaly has toward guests
A larger spirit and heart more bountiful ?
Or what Hellenian? Never shall he say,
While he was noble, I was otherwise.
[Exit HERCULES. ADMETUS and the company of mourners return. "
Adm. Qh, sad aspect, and entrance drear
Of my poor widowed house! Oh, where
Can I find rest? where go? what say?
Or how be silent? Woful day!
Would all were o'er with me forlorn,
A wretch to worst affliction born!
I count the dead the only blest,
And long to be with them at rest.
To tread on earth not gladdens me,
Nor the sun's cheerful beams to see :
One pledge of joy I had-Death stole her,
And Hades has my life's consoler.
Chor. Go in, and solitary moan;
Thy loss is worthy many a groan.
Ay, groan! I know thy heavy lot,
But thy lamenting helps her not.
Her sweet face ne'er to see again
Is grief indeed--and grief in vain !
Adm. This, like an ulcer, frets my core,
Never to see my sweet wife more!
What worse ill has man through life
Than to lose his faithful wife ?
Better that I had dwelt alone
Without the consort--that is gone!
Happy are they whose life is single,
That never with these sweet ones mingle!
The grief for ills that only touch
A single life, is not so much :
But to perceive our children droop
Under disease's mortal swoop;
And to behold the bridal bed
Defiled by Death, untenanted
Of the beloved lately there-
That is a grief too hard to bear!
When a man too might, if he chose,
Refrain from having ties like those.
Chor. Who by struggling can get free
From resistless fate? Adm.
Wo's me! Chor. Wilt no bound to sorrow set ? Adm. Wo! wo!
Chor. Hard to bear, but yet
Bear it: thou art-
Oh! wretch forlorn !
Chor. Not first from whom wife has been torn.
But different men in different ways
The burden of distress o'erlays.
Adm. Oh, vain regret, and lasting sorrow,
For them that wake up to no morrow!
When I headlong wished to follow
Her to the sepulchral hollow,
Why did ye me from death restrain,
From lying where my dead is lain?
Then Hades had been pleased to take,
Together ferried o'er his lake,
Two faithful souls instead of one,
Two loving souls together gone.
Chor. I had a kinsman old and hoary,
That had one child, his hope and glory;
And on that son death sudden fell
The old man bore it passing well.
Adm. My house! how can I dwell in thee,
Since this sad change has fall’n on me?
'Twixt life before, and that behind,
Oh, what a difference I find !
With light of many a Pelian torch
I whilom passed within the porch,
With bridal songs, and in my hand
My wife, the lady of the land !
Then was there many a cheerful voice
To bid the happy pair rejoice,
A noble match, well come together,
Both nobly born, in life's spring-weather :-
But now instead of nuptial songs
The wailing voice its note prolongs ;
And for white shining robes to-day
I'm marshalled by a black array,
To what was once a happy spot
The chamber where-where she is not !
Chor. This came on thee in grief untried,
And after fortune's happy tide;
But thou, at least, hast saved thy life;
And from her loved thy loving wife
Is gone indeed :-is this thing new?
"Tis but what Death is used to do.
Adm. I deem her fortune happier than mine own;
It may not seem so, but I think it is;
For her no grief shall ever touch again,
And she, removed from care, with glory rests;
While I, that should have died, escaping death,
Must now drag on a weary, woful life-
I see it now. How can I bear my home?
What pleasure can I look for ? whom addressing?
By whom addrest ? oh, whither shall I turn ?
The solitude within will drive me out,
When I behold the place void where she slept,
The seat whereon she sat; the house neglected;
And when the children, clinging to my knees,
Weep for their mother; and these poor kind crcatures
Bewailing what a mistress they have lost !
Such is my state within doors; but without
The nuptials solemnized in Thessaly,
The troops of lovely women, will distract me;
For never can I bear to look upon
Her friends, that number the same years she did.
Then whosoever loves me not will say :-
“ Behold a man (in seeming such at least),
That ignominious lives, and dared not die,
But let his wife become his substitute,
And hates his parents that would not consent
To die for him the death the coward shrunk from.”
This ill report be added to my grief,
And tell me, friends, if better 'tis to live
Suffering at once ill fame and misery?
Chor. I too have risen upon the pinion
Of song, sustained with knowledge high;
But never have I known dominion
Like that of stern Necessity.
No charm on Thracian table writ,
Though wisest Orpheus uttered it-
No remedy that Phæbus taught
His gons, with healing virtue fraught,
To be dispensed to mortals frail,
Against this Power doth aught avail.
To her alone is none approach
By vows at altar, statue, fane-
'Tis vain the victim's life to broach-
She sees not, hears not-prayer is vain.
Dread Goddess ! spare me ; for with thee
Zeus brings about whate'er must be.
The iron of the Chalybes
Is tamed by thee: nor is the stress
Of thy stern spirit e'er checked in force
By any touch of soft remorse.
Thee, my prince! she holdeth now
In chains resistless ; bear it thou !
Weeping cannot raise the dead.
Sons of mortal mothers bred,
Stealth-begotten of the gods,
Also lie in Death's abodes.
Dear she was while yet in life,
Dear too, now, when she is not ;
For thine was the noblest wife
Ever fell to mortal's lot.
Let the tomb that covers her
Be not as a sepulchre
O'er the dead. Her praises meet
Shall the traveller repeat,
As to Spirit of the Day,
Ere he passes on his way:-
“ She that once did death endure,
Of free will, to save her spouse,
Now is Spirit blest and pure-
Hail, sweet Saint! and hear our vows !".
But lo! here comes Alcmena's son again.
Hercules enters with a lady, whose face is concealed with a thick veil.
Her. 'Tis right with freedom to address a friend,
And not to hide offence we take at him.
I thought myself one worthy, as one near
In friendship, to demand what was your grief:
You told me not 'twas your wife's funeral,
But as 'twere death did not concern you nearly ;
You entertained me as a welcome guest :
Mean-while I crowned myself with myrtle wreath,
And freely poured libations to the gods,
E'en in the house of mourning : 'twas not well-
I blame you for't, but will not with reproaches
Add to your grief. Hear why I have returned :-
Receive and keep for me this woman safely,
Till with the Thracian mares I come again,
When I have slain the rude Bistonian king.
But should I meet mischance (which Heaven forbid !)
Accept her as a gift ; with toil I won her.
It chanced I came upon a ring was set
For public games, in which, as worth my pains,
I took a part, and she became my prize.
The victors in the lighter games won horses ;
Those in the greater, herds of horned cattle ;
This woman was the last and noblest prize.
It had been base not to contend for this ;
I did, was victor, and commit her now
To your protection ; fairly did I win her,
And not by theft; you will perchance, hereafter,
Yourself commend me for the pains I took.
Adm. Neither from slight, nor thinking you no friend,
Did I conceal my wife's unhappy fate ;
But to my grief I had but added grief,
If you had gone to any other host :
To weep my own misfortune was enough.
But for this woman, if it may be so,
('Mong the Phereans you have many friends,)
Commit her to the charge of other man,
That has not suffered in the way I have.
The sight of her would only feed my grief,
Nor could I keep from tears, beholding her.
Make not a sick man worse ; I've wo enough:
Where could she lodge ? her figure shows her youthful';
In the men's quarters ? no! young blood is hot,
Not easy to restrain ; could she be there
Unblemished ? of your interest 'tis I think.
Or shall she have the chamber of the dead ?
Sleep in her bed ? I fear a double censure ;
Lest any blame me with the injurious thought,
That I have tae'n a youthful paramour,
False to the memory of my best preserver;
Then that of my own conscience, for I owe
The dead (that well deserves it) love like awe.
Lady! whoe'er thou art, thou dost in truth,
In height and shape, resemble my Alcestis-
Now, by the gods, remove her from my sight!
Afflict not further an afflicted man.
Take her away! methinks I see my wife,
When I see her; it stirs my troubled heart;
And see! the fountains of my tears gush out.
Ah, wretch undone! how raw my wound is yet!
How new, how bitter is my taste of wo!
Chor. I cannot praise thy lot; but all must bear,
Whoe'er they be, the measure God appoints.
Her. How gladly would I bring, had I the power, Thy wife from the under-world to thee and light!
Adm. I doubt it not: but how can such thing be? It is impossible to raise the dead! Her. Grieve not too much; endure the stroke with patience. Adm. To preach is easier than to practise it. Her. Can groaning help you, though you groan for ever? Adm, Ay, 'tis no help; yet I've a liking for't.
Her. Grief for a buried love makes the tear flow.
Adm. She's gone! and I'm undone beyond expression !
Her. You lost a glorious creature.
And with her
Lost sense of joy, and relishi of my life.
Her. Time will compose the swelling grief yet new.
Adm. 'Twill do it, if time be death.
Will comfort you.
Hush, hush! how can you speak so ?
Her. Will you then live a lonely widower?
Adm. No woman e'er shall be my bed-fellow !
Her. Think you this of advantage to the dead ?
Adm. I'm bound to honour her, where'er she be.
Her. Right, right! I say ; but you'll be thought a fool.
Adm. That let them call me, but a bridegroom never !
Her. I praise you for your loyalty in love.
Adm. If ever I betray her, may I perish!
Her. Take now this noble dame into the house.
Adm. Prythee, excuse me, by thy father Zeus.
Her. But not to do this is not for thy good.
Adm. And doing it will cut me to the heart..
Her. Do it; you'll not repent it; be persuaded.
Adm. Alas! would you had never won the prize!
Her. Yet in my triumph you participate.
Adm. Thanks for your nobleness ; but let her go.
Her. Yes! if it must be so, but look to 't first.
Adm. It must be so, unless you would incense me.
Her. From knowing what I do, I'll run the risk.
Adm. Prevail then, but I like not your proceeding.
Her. Some time or other you will praise me for 't.
Adm. Conduct her in then, if it must be so. To his Attendants.
Her. I will not give her over to your servants.
Adm. Then lead her in yourself.
Into your hands,
And into yours alone, will I commit her.
Adm. I will not touch her—but she may go in.
Her. I trust in you, and in your hands I place her.
Adm. Against my will you force me to this act.
Her. Boldly advance thy hand, and touch the stranger.
Adm. As tho' it were to touch the Gorgon's head!
Her. Hast hold of her.
Then hold her fast;
Hereafter will you call me generous guest.
But look on her-(he lifts her veil)—and see if she resembles
Thy lost Alcestis-and from sorrow cease.
Adm. Ye gods! what shall I say ? a miracle !
Is it my wife I see, my very wife?
Or else do the gods in derision mock me
With a false joy, a pleasant madness only ?
Her. It is no false presentment, but your wife.
Adm. Look that it be no phantom from below.
Her. You cannot take me for a necromancer !
Adm. My wife ? My buried wife ?
Yes! it is she;
I do not wonder at your unbelief.
Adm. May I touch, speak to her ?
Yes ! speak to her ;
You have indeed all that you most desired.
Adm. Sweet face and person of my dearest wife!
When I did think to see thee never more,
Beyond all hope do I possess thee now?