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Hippolytus by Euripides


By Euripides

Translated by GILBERT MURRAY


   THESEUS,  King of Athens and Trozên
   PHAEDRA,  daughter of Minos, King of Crete, wife to Theseus
   HIPPOLYTUS,  bastard son of Theseus and the Amazon Hippolyte

The scene is laid in Trozên. The play was first acted when Epameinon
was Archon, Olympiad 87, year 4 (B.C. 429). Euripides was first, Iophon
second, Ion third.

  Great among men, and not unnamed am I,
  The Cyprian, in God's inmost halls on high.
  And wheresoe'er from Pontus to the far
  Red West men dwell, and see the glad day-star,
  And worship Me, the pious heart I bless,
  And wreck that life that lives in stubbornness.
  For that there is, even in a great God's mind,
  That hungereth for the praise of human kind.

  So runs my word; and soon the very deed
  Shall follow. For this Prince of Theseus' seed,
  Hippolytus, child of that dead Amazon,
  And reared by saintly Pittheus in his own
  Strait ways, hath dared, alone of all Trozên,
  To hold me least of spirits and most mean,
  And spurns my spell and seeks no woman's kiss,
  But great Apollo's sister, Artemis,
  He holds of all most high, gives love and praise,
  And through the wild dark woods for ever strays,
  He and the Maid together, with swift hounds
  To slay all angry beasts from out these bounds,
  To more than mortal friendship consecrate!

  I grudge it not. No grudge know I, nor hate;
  Yet, seeing he hath offended, I this day
  Shall smite Hippolytus. Long since my way
  Was opened, nor needs now much labour more.

  For once from Pittheus' castle to the shore
  Of Athens came Hippolytus over-seas
  Seeking the vision of the Mysteries.
  And Phaedra there, his father's Queen high-born;
  Saw him, and as she saw, her heart was torn
  With great love, by the working of my will.
  And for his sake, long since, on Pallas' hill,
  Deep in the rock, that Love no more might roam,
  She built a shrine, and named it Love-at-home :
  And the rock held it, but its face alway
  Seeks Trozên o'er the seas. Then came the day
  When Theseus, for the blood of kinsmen shed,
  Spake doom of exile on himself, and fled,
  Phaedra beside him, even to this Trozên.
  And here that grievous and amazed Queen,
  Wounded and wondering, with ne'er a word,
  Wastes slowly; and her secret none hath heard
  Nor dreamed.

  But never thus this love shall end!
  To Theseus' ear some whisper will I send,
  And all be bare! And that proud Prince, my foe,
  His sire shall slay with curses. Even so
  Endeth that boon the great Lord of the Main
  To Theseus gave, the Three Prayers not in vain.

  And she, not in dishonour, yet shall die.
  I would not rate this woman's pain so high
  As not to pay mine haters in full fee
  That vengeance that shall make all well with me.

  But soft, here comes he, striding from the chase,
  Our Prince Hippolytus!—I will go my ways.—
  And hunters at his heels: and a loud throng
  Glorying Artemis with praise and song!
  Little he knows that Hell's gates opened are,
  And this his last look on the great Day-star!
      [APHRODITE withdraws, unseen by HIPPOLYTUS
       and a band of huntsmen, who enter from the left, singing.
       They pass the Statue of APHRODITE without notice. ]

  Follow, O follow me,
  Singing on your ways
  Her in whose hand are we,
  Her whose own flock we be,
  The Zeus-Child, the Heavenly;
  To Artemis be praise!

  Hail to thee, Maiden blest,
  Proudest and holiest:
  God's Daughter, great in bliss,
  Leto-born, Artemis!
  Hail to thee, Maiden, far
  Fairest of all that are,
  Yea, and most high thine home,
  Child of the Father's hall;
  Hear, O most virginal,
  Hear, O most fair of all,
  In high God's golden dome.

    [ The huntsmen have gathered about the altar of ARTEMIS.
     HIPPOLYTUS now advances from them, and approaches the Statue
     with a wreath in his hand. ]

  To thee this wreathed garland, from a green
  And virgin meadow bear I, O my Queen,
  Where never shepherd leads his grazing ewes
  Nor scythe has touched. Only the river dews
  Gleam, and the spring bee sings, and in the glade
  Hath Solitude her mystic garden made.
    No evil hand may cull it: only he
  Whose heart hath known the heart of Purity,
  Unlearned of man, and true whate'er befall.
  Take therefore from pure hands this coronal,
  O mistress loved, thy golden hair to twine.
  For, sole of living men, this grace is mine,
  To dwell with thee, and speak, and hear replies
  Of voice divine, though none may see thine eyes.
    Oh, keep me to the end in this same road!
      [ An OLD HUNTSMAN,  who has stood apart from
        the rest, here comes up to HIPPOLYTUS.]

  My Prince—for "Master" name I none but God—
  Gave I good counsel, wouldst thou welcome it?

  Right gladly, friend; else were I poor of wit.

  Knowest thou one law, that through the world has won?

  What wouldst thou? And how runs thy law? Say on.

  It hates that Pride that speaks not all men fair!

  And rightly.   Pride breeds hatred everywhere.

  And good words love, and grace in all men's sight?

  Aye, and much gain withal, for trouble slight.

  How deem'st thou of the Gods? Are they the same?

  Surely: we are but fashioned on their frame.

  Why then wilt thou be proud, and worship not..

  Whom? If the name be speakable, speak out!

  She stands here at thy gate: the Cyprian Queen!

  I greet her from afar: my life is clean.

  Clean? Nay, proud, proud; a mark for all to scan!

  Each mind hath its own bent, for God or man.

  God grant thee happiness.. and wiser thought!

  These Spirits that reign in darkness like me not.

  What the Gods ask, O Son, that man must pay!

    HIPPOLYTUS ( turning from him to the others ).
  On, huntsmen, to the Castle! Make your way
  Straight to the feast room; 'tis a merry thing
  After the chase, a board of banqueting.
  And see the steeds be groomed, and in array
  The chariot dight. I drive them forth to-day
    [ He pauses, and makes a slight gesture of reverence to the Statue on
     the left. Then to the OLD HUNTSMAN.]
  That for thy Cyprian, friend, and nought beside!
    [HIPPOLYTUS follows the huntsmen, who stream by the central door in
     the Castle. The OLD HUNTSMAN remains]

    HUNTSMAN ( approaching the Statue and kneeling )
  O Cyprian—for a young man in his pride
  I will not follow!—here before thee, meek,
  In that one language that a slave may speak,
  I pray thee; Oh, if some wild heart in froth
  Of youth surges against thee, be not wroth
  For ever! Nay, be far and hear not then:
  Gods should be gentler and more wise than men!
    [ He rises and follows the others into the Castle.]

    The Orchestra is empty for a moment, then there enter from right and
    left several Trosenian women young and old. Their number eventually
    amounts to fifteen.

  There riseth a rock-born river,
  Of Ocean's tribe, men say;
  The crags of it gleam and quiver,
  And pitchers dip in the spray:
  A woman was there with raiment white
  To bathe and spread in the warm sunlight,
  And she told a tale to me there by the river
  The tale of the Queen and her evil day:

  How, ailing beyond allayment,
  Within she hath bowed her head,
  And with shadow of silken raiment
  The bright brown hair bespread.
  For three long days she hath lain forlorn,
  Her lips untainted of flesh or corn,
    For that secret sorrow beyond allayment
      That steers to the far sad shore of the dead.

    Some Women
  Is this some Spirit, O child of man?
  Doth Hecat hold thee perchance, or Pan?
  Doth she of the Mountains work her ban,
    Or the dread Corybantes bind thee?

  Nay, is it sin that upon thee lies,
  Sin of forgotten sacrifice,
  In thine own Dictynna's sea-wild eyes?
    Who in Limna here can find thee;
  For the Deep's dry floor is her easy way,
  And she moves in the salt wet whirl of the spray.

    Other Women
  Or doth the Lord of Erechtheus' race,
  Thy Theseus, watch for a fairer face,
  For secret arms in a silent place,
    Far from thy love or chiding?

  Or hath there landed, amid the loud
  Hum of Piraeus' sailor-crowd,
  Some Cretan venturer, weary-browed,
    Who bears to the Queen some tiding;
  Some far home-grief, that hath bowed her low,
  And chained her soul to a bed of woe?

    An Older Woman
  Nay—know yet not?—this burden hath alway lain
  On the devious being of woman; yea, burdens twain,
  The burden of Wild Will and the burden of Pain.
  Through my heart once that wind of terror sped;
    But I, in fear confessèd,
  Cried from the dark to Her in heavenly bliss,
  The Helper of Pain, the Bow-Maid Artemis:
  Whose feet I praise for ever, where they tread
    Far off among the blessèd!

  But see, the Queen's grey nurse at the door,
  Sad-eyed and sterner, methinks, than of yore
    With the Queen. Doth she lead her hither
  To the wind and sun?—Ah, fain would I know
  What strange betiding hath blanched that brow
    And made that young life wither.
    [ The NURSE comes out from the central door followed by PHAEDRA,
     who is supported by two handmaids. They make ready a couch for
     PHAEDRA to lie upon.]

  O sick and sore are the days of men!
  What wouldst thou?  What shall I change again
  Here is the Sun for thee; here is the sky;
  And thy weary pillows wind-swept lie,
    By the castle door.
  But the cloud of thy brow is dark, I ween;
  And soon thou wilt back to thy bower within:
  So swift to change is the path of thy feet,
  And near things hateful, and far things sweet;
    So was it before!

  Oh, pain were better than tending pain!
  For that were single, and this is twain,
  With grief of heart and labour of limb.
  Yet all man's life is but ailing and dim,
    And rest upon earth comes never.
  But if any far-off state there be,
  Dearer than life to mortality;
  The hand of the Dark hath hold thereof,
  And mist is under and mist above.
  And so we are sick of life, and cling
  On earth to this nameless and shining thing.
  For other life is a fountain sealed,
  And the deeps below are unrevealed,
    And we drift on legends for ever!
    [PHAEDRA during this has been laid on her couch;
     she speaks to the handmaids.]

  Yes; lift me: not my head so low.
    There, hold my arms.—Fair arms they seem!—
  My poor limbs scarce obey me now!
  Take off that hood that weighs my brow,
    And let my long hair stream.

  Nay, toss not, Child, so feveredly.
    The sickness best will win relief
  By quiet rest and constancy.
    All men have grief.

    PHAEDRA ( not noticing her )
  Oh for a deep and dewy spring,
    With runlets cold to draw and drink!
  And a great meadow blossoming,
  Long-grassed, and poplars in a ring,
    To rest me by the brink!

  Nay, Child!   Shall strangers hear this tone
  So wild, and thoughts so fever-flown?

  Oh, take me to the Mountain! Oh,
  Pass the great pines and through the wood,
  Up where the lean hounds softly go,
    A-whine for wild things' blood,
  And madly flies the dappled roe.
  O God, to shout and speed them there,
  An arrow by my chestnut hair
  Drawn tight, and one keen glimmering spear—
      Ah! if I could!

  What wouldst thou with them—fancies all!—
  Thy hunting and thy fountain brink?
  What wouldst thou? By the city wall
  Canst hear our own brook plash and fall
    Downhill, if thou wouldst drink.

  O Mistress of the Sea-lorn Mere
    Where horse-hoofs beat the sand and sing,
  O Artemis, that I were there
  To tame Enetian steeds and steer
      Swift chariots in the ring!

  Nay, mountainward but now thy hands
    Yearned out, with craving for the chase;
  And now toward the unseaswept sands
    Thou roamest, where the coursers pace!
    O wild young steed, what prophet knows
  The power that holds thy curb, and throws
    Thy swift heart from its race?
    [ At these words PHAEDRA gradually recovers herself
     and pays attention. ]

  What have I said? Woe's me! And where
    Gone straying from my wholesome mind?
  What? Did I fall in some god's snare?
    —Nurse, veil my head again, and blind
    Mine eyes.—There is a tear behind
    That lash.—Oh, I am sick with shame!
      Aye, but it hath a sting,
    To come to reason; yet the name
      Of madness is an awful thing.—
  Could I but die in one swift flame
    Unthinking, unknowing!

  I veil thy face, Child.—Would that so
    Mine own were veiled for evermore,
    So sore I love thee!... Though the lore
  Of long life mocks me, and I know
  How love should be a lightsome thing
    Not rooted in the deep o' the heart;
    With gentle ties, to twine apart
  If need so call, or closer cling.—
  Why do I love thee so? O fool,
    O fool, the heart that bleeds for twain,
    And builds, men tell us, walls of pain,
  To walk by love's unswerving rule
  The same for ever, stern and true!
    For "Thorough" is no word of peace:
    'Tis "Naught-too-much" makes trouble cease.
  And many a wise man bows thereto.
    [ The LEADER OF THE CHORUS here approaches the NURSE.]

  Nurse of our Queen, thou watcher old and true,
  We see her great affliction, but no clue
  Have we to learn the sickness. Wouldst thou tell
  The name and sort thereof, 'twould like us well.

  Small leechcraft have I, and she tells no man.

  Thou know'st no cause? Nor when the unrest began?

  It all comes to the same. She will not speak.

    LEADER ( turning and looking at PHAEDRA).
  How she is changed and wasted! And how weak!

  'Tis the third day she hath fasted utterly.

  What, is she mad? Or doth she seek to die?

  I know not. But to death it sure must lead.

  'Tis strange that Theseus takes hereof no heed.

  She hides her wound, and vows it is not so.

  Can he not look into her face and know?

  Nay, he is on a journey these last days.

  Canst thou not force her, then? Or think of ways
  To trap the secret of the sick heart's pain?

  Have I not tried all ways, and all in vain?
  Yet will I cease not now, and thou shalt tell
  If in her grief I serve my mistress well!
      [ She goes across to where PHAEDRA lies; and
       presently, while speaking, kneels by her.]
  Dear daughter mine, all that before was said
  Let both of us forget; and thou instead
  Be kindlier, and unlock that prisoned brow.
  And I, who followed then the wrong road, now
  Will leave it and be wiser. If thou fear
  Some secret sickness, there be women here
  To give thee comfort. [PHAEDRA shakes her head.
              No; not secret? Then
  Is it a sickness meet for aid of men?
  Speak, that a leech may tend thee.
                  Silent still?
  Nay, Child, what profits silence? If 'tis ill
  This that I counsel, makes me see the wrong:
  If well, then yield to me.
              Nay, Child, I long
  For one kind word, one look!
      [PHAEDRA lies motionless. The NURSE rises. ]
              Oh, woe is me!
  Women, we labour here all fruitlessly,
  All as far off as ever from her heart!
  She ever scorned me, and now hears no part
  Of all my prayers! [ Turning to PHAEDRA again. ]
              Nay, hear thou shalt, and be,
  If so thou will, more wild than the wild sea;
  But know, thou art thy little ones' betrayer!
  If thou die now, shall child of thine be heir
  To Theseus' castle? Nay, not thine, I ween,
  But hers! That barbèd Amazonian Queen
  Hath left a child to bend thy children low,
  A bastard royal-hearted—sayst not so?—

    [ She starts up, sitting, and throws the veil off.]

           That stings thee?

                  Nurse, most sore
  Thou hast hurt me! In God's name, speak that name no more.

  Thou seest? Thy mind is clear; but with thy mind
  Thou wilt not save thy children, nor be kind
  To thine own life.

  My children?  Nay, most dear
  I love them,—Far, far other grief is here.

    NURSE ( after a pause, wondering )
  Thy hand is clean, O Child, from stain of blood?

  My hand is clean; but is my heart, O God?

  Some enemy's spell hath made thy spirit dim?

  He hates me not that slays me, nor I him.

  Theseus, the King, hath wronged thee in man's wise?

  Ah, could but I stand guiltless in his eyes!

  O speak! What is this death-fraught mystery?

  Nay, leave me to my wrong. I wrong not thee.

    NURSE ( suddenly throwing herself in supplication at PHAEDRA'S feet )
  Not wrong me, whom thou wouldst all desolate leave?

    PHAEDRA ( rising and trying to move away )
  What wouldst thou? Force me? Clinging to my sleeve?

  Yea, to thy knees; and weep; and let not go!

  Woe to thee, Woman, if thou learn it, woe!

  I know no bitterer woe than losing thee.

  Yet the deed shall honour me.

  Why hide what honours thee? 'Tis all I claim!

  Why, so I build up honour out of shame!

  Then speak, and higher still thy fame shall stand.

  Go, in God's name!—Nay, leave me; loose my hand!

  Never, until thou grant me what I pray.

    PHAEDRA ( yielding, after a pause )
  So be it. I dare not tear that hand away.

    NURSE ( rising and releasing PHAEDRA )
  Tell all thou wilt, Daughter. I speak no more.

    PHAEDRA ( after a long pause )
  Mother, poor Mother, that didst love so sore!

  What mean'st thou, Child? The Wild Bull of the Tide?

  And thou, sad sister, Dionysus' bride!

  Child! wouldst thou shame the house where thou wast born?

  And I the third, sinking most all-forlorn!

    NURSE ( to herself )
  I am all lost and feared. What will she say?

  From there my grief comes, not from yesterday.

  I come no nearer to thy parable.

  Oh, would that thou could'st tell what I must tell!

  I am no seer in things I wot not of.

    PHAEDRA ( again hesitating )
  What is it that they mean, who say

  A thing most sweet, my Child, yet dolorous.

  Only the half, belike, hath fallen on us!

    NURSE  ( starting )
  On thee? Love?—Oh, what say'st thou? What man's son?

  What man's? There was a Queen, an Amazon...

  Hippolytus, say'st thou?

    PHAEDRA ( again wrapping her face in the veil )
                             Nay, 'twas thou, not I!
    [PHAEDRA sinks back on the couch and covers her face again.
    The NURSE starts violently from her and walks up and down. ]

  O God! what wilt thou say, Child? Wouldst thou try
  To kill me?—Oh, 'tis more than I can bear;
  Women. I will no more of it, this glare
  Of hated day, this shining of the sky.
  I will fling down my body, and let it lie
  Till life be gone!
              Women, God rest with you,
  My works are over! For the pure and true
  Are forced to evil, against their own heart's vow,
  And love it!
    [ She suddenly sees the Statue of CYPRIS,  and
     stands with her eyes riveted upon it. ]
      Ah, Cyprian! No god art thou,
  But more than god, and greater, that hath thrust
  Me and my queen and all our house to dust!
    [ She throws herself on the ground close to the statue. ]


    Some Women
  O Women, have ye heard? Nay, dare ye hear
    The desolate cry of the young Queen's misery?

    A Woman
  My Queen, I love thee dear,
    Yet liefer were I dead than framed like thee.

  Woe, woe to me for this thy bitter bane,
  Surely the food man feeds upon is pain!

  How wilt thou bear thee through this livelong day,
    Lost, and thine evil naked to the light?
  Strange things are close upon us—who shall say
    How strange?—save one thing that is plain to sight,
  The stroke of the Cyprian and the fall thereof
  On thee, thou child of the Isle of fearful Love!

    [PHAEDRA during this has risen from the couch and comes forward
     collectedly. As she speaks the NURSE gradually rouses herself,
     and listens more calmly. ]

  O Women, dwellers in this portal-seat
  Of Pelops' land, gazing towards my Crete,
  How oft, in other days than these, have I
  Through night's long hours thought of man's misery,
  And how this life is wrecked! And, to mine eyes,
  Not in man's knowledge, not in wisdom, lies
  The lack that makes for sorrow. Nay, we scan
  And know the right—for wit hath many a man—
  But will not to the last end strive and serve.
  For some grow too soon weary, and some swerve
  To other paths, setting before the Right
  The diverse far-off image of Delight:
  And many are delights beneath the sun!
  Long hours of converse; and to sit alone
  Musing—a deadly happiness!—and Shame:
  Though two things there be hidden in one name,
  And Shame can be slow poison if it will;
    This is the truth I saw then, and see still;
  Nor is there any magic that can stain
  That white truth for me, or make me blind again.
  Come, I will show thee how my spirit hath moved.
  When the first stab came, and I knew I loved,
  I cast about how best to face mine ill.
  And the first thought that came, was to be still
  And hide my sickness.—For no trust there is
  In man's tongue, that so well admonishes
  And counsels and betrays, and waxes fat
  With griefs of its own gathering!—After that
  I would my madness bravely bear, and try
  To conquer by mine own heart's purity.
    My third mind, when these two availed me naught
  To quell love was to die—
    [ Motion of protest among the Women. ]
           —the best, best thought— —Gainsay me not—of all that man can say!
  I would not have mine honour hidden away;
  Why should I have my shame before men's eyes
  Kept living? And I knew, in deadly wise,
  Shame was the deed and shame the suffering;
  And I a woman, too, to face the thing,
  Despised of all!

      Oh, utterly accurst
  Be she of women, whoso dared the first
  To cast her honour out to a strange man!
  'Twas in some great house, surely, that began
  This plague upon us; then the baser kind,
  When the good led towards evil, followed blind
  And joyous! Cursed be they whose lips are clean
  And wise and seemly, but their hearts within
  Rank with bad daring! How can they, O Thou
  That walkest on the waves, great Cyprian, how
  Smile in their husbands' faces, and not fall,
  Not cower before the Darkness that knows all,
  Aye, dread the dead still chambers, lest one day
  The stones find voice, and all be finished!
  Friends, 'tis for this I die; lest I stand there
  Having shamed my husband and the babes I bare.
  In ancient Athens they shall some day dwell,
  My babes, free men, free-spoken, honourable,

  And when one asks their mother, proud of me!
  For, oh, it cows a man, though bold he be,
  To know a mother's or a father's sin.
    'Tis written, one way is there, one, to win
  This life's race, could man keep it from his birth,
  A true clean spirit. And through all this earth
  To every false man, that hour comes apace
  When Time holds up a mirror to his face,
  And girl-like, marvelling, there he stares to see
  How foul his heart! Be it not so with me!

  Ah, God, how sweet is virtue, and how wise,
  And honour its due meed in all men's eyes!

    NURSE ( who has now risen and recovered herself )
  Mistress, a sharp swift terror struck me low
  A moment since, hearing of this thy woe.
  But now—I was a coward! And men say
  Our second thought the wiser is alway.
    This is no monstrous thing; no grief too dire
  To meet with quiet thinking. In her ire
  A most strong goddess hath swept down on thee.
  Thou lovest. Is that so strange? Many there be
  Beside thee!... And because thou lovest, wilt fall
  And die! And must all lovers die, then? All
  That are or shall be? A blithe law for them!
  Nay, when in might she swoops, no strength can stem
  Cypris; and if man yields him, she is sweet;
  But is he proud and stubborn? From his feet
  She lifts him, and—how think you?—flings to scorn!
    She ranges with the stars of eve and morn,
  She wanders in the heaving of the sea,
  And all life lives from her.—Aye, this is she
  That sows Love's seed and brings Love's fruit to birth;
  And great Love's brethren are all we on earth!
    Nay, they who con grey books of ancient days
  Or dwell among the Muses, tell—and praise—
  How Zeus himself once yearned for Semelê;
  How maiden Eôs in her radiancy
  Swept Kephalos to heaven away, away,
  For sore love's sake. And there they dwell, men say,
  And fear not, fret not; for a thing too stern
  Hath met and crushed them!
                          And must thou, then, turn
  And struggle? Sprang there from thy father's blood
  Thy little soul all lonely? Or the god
  That rules thee, is he other than our gods?
    Nay, yield thee to men's ways, and kiss their rods!
  How many, deem'st thou, of men good and wise
  Know their own home's blot, and avert their eyes?
  How many fathers, when a son has strayed
  And toiled beneath the Cyprian, bring him aid,
  Not chiding? And man's wisdom e'er hath been
  To keep what is not good to see, unseen!
    A straight and perfect life is not for man;
  Nay, in a shut house, let him, if he can,
  'Mid sheltered rooms, make all lines true. But here,
  Out in the wide sea fallen, and full of fear,
  Hopest thou so easily to swim to land?
    Canst thou but set thine ill days on one hand
  And more good days on the other, verily,
  O child of woman, life is well with thee!

    [ She pauses, and then draws nearer to PHAEDRA.]

  Nay, dear my daughter, cease thine evil mind,
  Cease thy fierce pride! For pride it is, and blind,
  To seek to outpass gods!—Love on and dare:
  A god hath willed it! And, since pain is there,
  Make the pain sleep! Songs are there to bring calm,
  And magic words. And I shall find the balm,
  Be sure, to heal thee. Else in sore dismay
  Were men, could not we women find our way!

  Help is there, Queen, in all this woman says,
  To ease thy suffering. But 'tis thee I praise;
  Albeit that praise is harder to thine ear
  Than all her chiding was, and bitterer!

  Oh, this it is hath flung to dogs and birds
  Men's lives and homes and cities-fair false word!
  Oh, why speak things to please our ears? We crave
  Not that. Tis honour, honour, we must save!

  Why prate so proud! 'Tis no words, brave nor base
  Thou cravest; 'tis a man's arms!

    [PHAEDRA moves indignantly.]

                                        Up and face
  The truth of what thou art, and name it straight!
  Were not thy life thrown open here for Fate
  To beat on; hadst thou been a woman pure
  Or wise or strong; never had I for lure
  Of joy nor heartache led thee on to this!
  But when a whole life one great battle is,
  To win or lose—no man can blame me then.

  Shame on thee! Lock those lips, and ne'er again
  Let word nor thought so foul have harbour there!

  Foul, if thou wilt: but better than the fair
  For thee and me. And better, too, the deed
  Behind them, if it save thee in thy need,
  Than that word Honour thou wilt die to win!

  Nay, in God's name,—such wisdom and such sin
  Are all about thy lips!—urge me no more.
  For all the soul within me is wrought o'er
  By Love; and if thou speak and speak, I may
  Be spent, and drift where now I shrink away.

  Well, if thou wilt!—'Twere best never to err,
  But, having erred, to take a counsellor
  Is second.—Mark me now. I have within
  love-philtres, to make peace where storm hath been,
  That, with no shame, no scathe of mind, shall save
  Thy life from anguish; wilt but thou be brave!
                            [ To herself, rejecting.]
  Ah, but from him, the well-beloved, some sign
  We need, or word, or raiment's hem, to twine
  Amid the charm, and one spell knit from twain.

  Is it a potion or a salve? Be plain.

  Who knows? Seek to be helped, Child, not to know.

  Why art thou ever subtle? I dread thee, so.

  Thou wouldst dread everything!—What dost thou dread?

  Least to his ear some word be whispered.

  Let be, Child! I will make all well with thee!
  —Only do thou, O Cyprian of the Sea,
  Be with me! And mine own heart, come what may,
  Shall know what ear to seek, what word to say!

    [ The NURSE,  having spoken these last words in prayer apart to the
     Statue of CYPRIS,  turns back and goes into the house. PHAEDRA sits
     pensive again on her couch till towards the end of the following Song,
     when she rises and bends close to the door.]


  Erôs, Erôs, who blindest, tear by tear,
    Men's eyes with hunger; thou swift Foe
      that  pliest
  Deep in our hearts joy like an edgèd spear;
  Come  not  to  me  with  Evil  haunting  near,
  Wrath on the wind, nor jarring of the clear
    Wing's music as thou fliest!
  There is no shaft that burneth, not in fire,
  Not in wild stars, far off and flinging fear,
  As in thine hands the shaft of All Desire,
    Erôs, Child of the Highest!

  In vain, in vain, by old Alpheüs' shore
    The blood of many bulls doth stain the river
  And all Greece bows on Phoebus' Pythian floor;
  Yet bring we to the Master of Man no store
  The Keybearer, who standeth at the door
    Close-barred, where hideth ever
  The heart of the shrine. Yea, though he sack
      man's  life
  Like a sacked city, and moveth evermore
  Girt with calamity and strange ways of strife,
  Him have we worshipped never!

  There roamed a Steed in Oechalia's wild,
    A Maid without yoke, without Master,
  And Love she knew not, that far King's child;
  But he came, he came, with a song in the night.
  With fire, with blood; and she strove in flight,
  A Torrent Spirit, a Maenad white,
    Faster and vainly faster,
  Sealed unto Heracles by the Cyprian's Might.
    Alas, thou Bride of Disaster!

  O Mouth of Dirce, O god-built wall,
    That Dirce's wells run under,
  Ye know the Cyprian's fleet footfall!
  Ye saw the heavens around her flare,
  When she lulled to her sleep that Mother fair
    Of twy-born Bacchus, and decked her there
      The Bride of the bladed Thunder.
  For her breath is on all that hath life, and she floats in the air,
    Bee-like, death-like, a wonder.
    [ During the last lines PHAEDRA has approached the door
     and is listening.]

  Silence ye Women! Something is amiss.

  How? In the house?—Phaedra, what fear is this?

  Let me but listen! There are voices. Hark!

  I hold my peace: yet is thy presage dark.

      Oh, misery!
  O God, that such a thing should fall on me!

      What sound, what word,
  O Women, Friend, makes that sharp terror start
  Out at thy lips? What ominous cry half-heard
      Hath leapt upon thine heart?

  I am undone!—Bend to the door and hark,
    Hark what a tone sounds there, and sinks away!

  Thou art beside the bars. 'Tis thine to mark
    The castle's floating message. Say, Oh, say
      What thing hath come to thee?

    PHAEDRA ( calmly )
      Why, what thing should it be?
  The son of that proud Amazon speaks again
  In bitter wrath: speaks to my handmaiden!

  I hear a noise of voices, nothing clear.
    For thee the din hath words, as through barred locks
      Floating, at thy heart it knocks.

  "Pander of Sin" it says.—Now canst thou hear?—
    And there: "Betrayer of a master's bed."

      Ah me, betrayed! Betrayed!
    Sweet Princess, thou art ill bested,
  Thy secret brought to light, and ruin near,
    By her thou heldest dear,
  By her that should have loved thee and obeyed!

  Aye, I am slain. She thought to help my fall
  With love instead of honour, and wrecked all.

      Where wilt thou turn thee, where?
  And what help seek, O wounded to despair?

  I know not, save one thing to die right soon.
  For such as me God keeps no other boon.

    [ The door in the centre bursts open, and HIPPOLYTUS comes forth,
     closely followed by the NURSE. PHAEDRA cowers aside.]

  O Mother Earth, O Sun that makest clean,
  What poison have I heard, what speechless sin!

  Hush O my Prince, lest others mark, and guess...

  I have heard horrors! Shall I hold my peace?

  Yea by this fair right arm, Son, by thy pledge...

  Down with that hand! Touch not my garment's edge!

  Oh, by thy knees, be silent or I die!

  Why, when thy speech was all so guiltless? Why?

  It is not meet, fair Son, for every ear!

  Good words can bravely forth, and have no fear.

  Thine oath, thine oath! I took thine oath before!

  'Twas but my tongue, 'twas not my soul that swore.

  O Son, what wilt thou? Wilt thou slay thy kin?

  I own no kindred with the spawn of sin!
                    [ He flings her from him.]

  Nay, spare me! Man was born to err; oh, spare!

  O God, why hast Thou made this gleaming snare,
  Woman, to dog us on the happy earth?
  Was it Thy will to make Man, why his birth
  Through Love and Woman? Could we not have rolled
  Our store of prayer and offering, royal gold
  Silver and weight of bronze before Thy feet,
  And bought of God new child souls, as were meet
  For each man's sacrifice, and dwelt in homes
  Free, where nor Love nor Woman goes and comes
   How, is that daughter not a bane confessed,
  Whom her own sire sends forth—(He knows her best!)—
  And, will some man but take her, pays a dower!
  And he, poor fool, takes home the poison-flower;
  Laughs to hang jewels on the deadly thing
  He joys in; labours for her robe-wearing,
  Till wealth and peace are dead. He smarts the less
  In whose high seat is set a Nothingness,
  A woman naught availing. Worst of all
  The wise deep-thoughted! Never in my hall
  May she sit throned who thinks and waits and sighs!
  For Cypris breeds most evil in the wise,
  And least in her whose heart has naught within;
  For puny wit can work but puny sin.
    Why do we let their handmaids pass the gate?
  Wild beasts were best, voiceless and fanged, to wait
  About their rooms, that they might speak with none,
  Nor ever hear one answering human tone!
  But now dark women in still chambers lay
  Plans that creep out into light of day
  On handmaids' lips—[ Turning to the NURSE.]
          As thine accursèd head
  Braved the high honour of my Father's bed.
  And came to traffic... Our white torrent's spray
  Shall drench mine ears to wash those words away!
  And couldst thou dream that I...? I feel impure
  Still at the very hearing! Know for sure,
  Woman, naught but mine honour saves ye both.
  Hadst thou not trapped me with that guileful oath,
  No power had held me secret till the King
  Knew all! But now, while he is journeying,
  I too will go my ways and make no sound.
  And when he comes again, I shall be found
  Beside him, silent, watching with what grace
  Thou and thy mistress shall greet him face to face!
  Then shall I have the taste of it, and know
  What woman's guile is.—Woe upon you, woe!
  How can I too much hate you, while the ill
  Ye work upon the world grows deadlier still?
  Too much? Make woman pure, and wild Love tame,
  Or let me cry for ever on their shame!
    [ He goes off in fury to the left.
     PHAEDRA still cowering in her place begins to sob.]

  Sad, sad and evil-starred is Woman's state.
    What shelter now is left or guard?
  What spell to loose the iron knot of fate?
    And this thing, O my God,
  O thou sweet Sunlight, is but my desert!
  I cannot fly before the avenging rod
    Falls, cannot hide my hurt.
  What help, O ye who love me, can come near,
    What god or man appear,
  To aid a thing so evil and so lost?
  Lost, for this anguish presses, soon or late,
  To that swift river that no life hath crossed.
  No woman ever lived so desolate!

  Ah me, the time for deeds is gone; the boast
  Proved vain that spake thine handmaid; and all lost!
    [ At these words PHAEDRA suddenly remembers the NURSE,  who is
     cowering silently where HIPPOLYTUS had thrown her from him.
     She turns upon her.]

  O wicked, wicked, wicked! Murderess heart
  To them that loved thee! Hast thou played thy part?
  Am I enough trod down?
                              May Zeus, my sire,
  Blast and uproot thee! Stab thee dead with fire!
  Said I not—Knew I not thine heart?—to name
  To no one soul this that is now my shame?
  And thou couldst not be silent! So no more
  I die in honour. But enough; a store
  Of new words must be spoke and new things thought.
  This man's whole being to one blade is wrought
  Of rage against me. Even now he speeds
  To abase me to the King with thy misdeeds;
  Tell Pittheus; fill the land with talk of sin!
    Cursèd be thou, and whoso else leaps in
  To bring bad aid to friends that want it not.
    [ The NURSE has raised herself, and faces PHAEDRA,
     downcast but calm.]

  Mistress, thou blamest me; and all thy lot
  So bitter sore is, and the sting so wild,
  I bear with all. Yet, if I would, my Child,
  I have mine answer, couldst thou hearken aught.
    I nursed thee, and I love thee; and I sought
  Only some balm to heal thy deep despair,
  And found—not what I sought for. Else I were
  Wise, and thy friend, and good, had all sped right.
  So fares it with us all in the world's sight.

  First stab me to the heart, then humour me
  With words! 'Tis fair; 'tis all as it should be!

  We talk too long, Child. I did ill; but, oh,
  There is a way to save thee, even so!

  A way? No more ways! One way hast thou trod
  Already, foul and false and loathed of god!
  Begone out of my sight; and ponder how
  Thine own life stands! I need no helpers now.
    [ She turns from the NURSE,  who creeps abashed away into the Castle.]

  Only do ye, high Daughters of Trozên,
  Let all ye hear be as it had not been;
  Know naught, and speak of naught! 'Tis my last prayer.

  By God's pure daughter, Artemis, I swear,
  No word will I of these thy griefs reveal!

  'Tis well. But now, yea, even while I reel
  And falter, one poor hope, as hope now is,
  I clutch at in this coil of miseries;
  To save some honour for my children's sake;
  Yea, for myself some fragment, though things break
  In ruin around me. Nay, I will not shame
  The old proud Cretan castle whence I came,
  I will not cower before King Theseus' eyes,
  Abased, for want of one life's sacrifice!

  What wilt thou?   Some dire deed beyond recall?

    PHAEDRA ( musing )
  Die; but how die?

        Let not such wild words fall!

    PHAEDRA ( turning upon her )
  Give thou not such light counsel! Let me be
  To sate the Cyprian that is murdering me!
  To-day shall be her day; and, all strife past
  Her bitter Love shall quell me at the last.
    Yet, dying, shall I die another's bane!
  He shall not stand so proud where I have lain
  Bent in the dust! Oh, he shall stoop to share
  The life I live in, and learn mercy there!
    [ She goes off wildly into the Castle.]


  Could I take me to some cavern for mine hiding,
    In the hill-tops where the Sun scarce hath trod;
  Or a cloud make the home of mine abiding,
    As a bird among the bird-droves of God!
      Could I wing me to my rest amid the roar
      Of the deep Adriatic on the shore,
  Where the waters of Eridanus are clear,
  And Phaëthon's sad sisters by his grave
  Weep into the river, and each tear
    Gleams, a drop of amber, in the wave.

  To the strand of the Daughters of the Sunset,
    The Apple-tree, the singing and the gold;
  Where the mariner must stay him from his onset,
  And the red wave is tranquil as of old;
    Yea, beyond that Pillar of the End
    That Atlas guardeth, would I wend;
  Where a voice of living waters never ceaseth
    In God's quiet garden by the sea,
  And Earth, the ancient life-giver, increaseth
    Joy among the meadows, like a tree.

  O shallop of Crete, whose milk-white wing
  Through the swell and the storm-beating,
    Bore us thy Prince's daughter,
  Was it well she came from a joyous home
  To a far King's bridal across the foam?
    What joy hath her bridal brought her?
  Sure some spell upon either hand
  Flew with thee from the Cretan strand,
  Seeking Athena's tower divine;
  And there, where Munychus fronts the brine,
  Crept by the shore-flung cables' line,
    The curse from the Cretan water!

  And for that dark spell that about her clings,
  Sick desires of forbidden things
    The soul of her rend and sever;
  The bitter tide of calamity
  Hath risen above her lips; and she,
    Where bends she her last endeavour?
  She will hie her alone to her bridal room,
  And a rope swing slow in the rafters' gloom;
  And a fair white neck shall creep to the noose,
  A-shudder with dread, yet firm to choose
  The one strait way for fame, and lose
    The Love and the pain for ever.

    [ The Voice of the NURSE is heard from within, crying,
     at first inarticulately, then clearly.]

  Help ho! The Queen! Help, whoso hearkeneth!
  Help! Theseus' spouse caught in a noose of death!

  God, is it so soon finished? That bright head
  Swinging beneath the rafters! Phaedra dead!

  O haste! This knot about her throat is made
  So fast! Will no one bring me a swift blade?

  Say, friends, what think ye? Should we haste within,
  And from her own hand's knotting loose the Queen?

  Nay, are there not men there? 'Tis an ill road
  In life, to finger at another's load.

  Let it lie straight! Alas! the cold white thing
  That guards his empty castle for the King!

  Ah! "Let it lie straight!" Heard ye what she said?
  No need for helpers now; the Queen is dead!
    [ The Women, intent upon the voices from the Castle, have not noticed
     the approach of THESEUS. He enters from the left; his dress and the
     garland on his head show that he has returned from some oracle or
     special abode of a God. He stands for a moment perplexed.]

  Ho, Women, and what means this loud acclaim
  Within the house? The vassals' outcry came
  To smite mine ears far off. It were more meet
  To fling out wide the Castle gates, and greet
  With a joy held from God's Presence!
    [ The confusion and horror of the Women's faces gradually affects him.
     A dirge-cry comes from the Castle.]

  Not Pittheus? Hath Time struck that hoary brow?
  Old is he, old, I know. But sore it were,
  Returning thus, to find his empty chair!
    [ The Women hesitate; then the Leader comes forward.]

  O Theseus, not on any old man's head
  This stroke falls. Young and tender is the dead.

  Ye Gods! One of my children torn from me?

  Thy motherless children live, most grievously.

  How sayst thou? What? My wife?...
                                 Say how she died.
  In a high death-knot that her own hands tied.

  A fit of the old cold anguish? Tell me all—
  That held her?   Or did some fresh thing befall?

  We know no more. But now arrived we be,
  Theseus, to mourn for thy calamity.
    [THESEUS stays for a moment silent, and puts his hand on his brow.
     He notices the wreath.]

  What? And all garlanded I come to her
  With flowers, most evil-starred God's-messenger!
    Ho, varlets, loose the portal bars; undo
  The bolts; and let me see the bitter view
  Of her whose death hath brought me to mine own.
    [ The great central door of the Castle is thrown open wide, and the body
     of PHAEDRA is seen lying on a bier, surrounded by a group of
     Handmaids, wailing.]

  Ah me, what thou hast suffered and hast done:
    A deed to wrap this roof in flame!
  Why was thine hand so strong, thine heart so bold?
  Wherefore. O dead in anger, dead in shame,
  The long, long wrestling ere thy breath was cold?
          O ill-starred Wife,
  What brought this blackness over all thy life?
    [ A throng of Men and Women has gradually collected.]

          Ah me, this is the last
  —Hear, O my countrymen!—and bitterest
  Of Theseus' labours! Fortune all unblest,
  How hath thine heavy heel across me passed!
  Is it the stain of sins done long ago,
          Some fell God still remembereth,
  That must so dim and fret my life with death?
  I cannot win to shore; and the waves flow
  Above mine eyes, to be surmounted not.
          Ah wife, sweet wife, what name
          Can fit thine heavy lot?
  Gone like a wild bird, like a blowing flame,
  In one swift gust, where all things are forgot!
          Alas! this misery!
  Sure 'tis some stroke of God's great anger rolled
          From age to age on me,
  For some dire sin wrought by dim kings of old.

  Sire, this great grief hath come to many an one,
  A true wife lost. Thou art not all alone.

          Deep, deep beneath the Earth,
          Dark may my dwelling be,
  And night my heart's one comrade, in the dearth,
  O Love, of thy most sweet society.
  This is my death, O Phaedra, more than thine.
    [ He turns suddenly on the Attendants.]
  Speak who speak can! What was it? What malign
  Swift stroke, O heart discounselled, leapt on thee?
    [ He bends over PHAEDRA; then, as no one speaks looks fiercely up.]
  What, will ye speak? Or are they dumb as death,
  This herd of thralls, my high house harboureth?
    [ There is no answer. He bends again over PHAEDRA.]

          Woe, woe! God brings to birth
  A new grief here, close on the other's tread!
          My life hath lost its worth.
  May all go now with what is finishèd!
  The castle of my King is overthrown,
  A house no more, a house vanished and gone!

  O God, if it may be in any way,
  Let not this house be wrecked! Help us who pray!
  I know not what is here: some unseen thing
  That shows the Bird of Evil on the wing.
   [THESEUS has read the tablet and breaks out in uncontrollable emotion.]

  Oh, horror piled on horror!—Here is writ...
  Nay, who could bear it, who could speak of it?

  What, O my King? If I may hear it, speak!

  Doth not the tablet cry aloud, yea, shriek,
  Things not to be forgotten?—Oh, to fly
  And hide mine head! No more a man am I.
      God what ghastly music echoes here!

  How wild thy voice! Some terrible thing is near.

  No; my lips' gates will hold it back no more;
  This deadly word,
  That struggles on the brink and will not o'er,
  Yet will not stay unheard.
    [ He raises his hand, to make proclamation to all present.]
  Ho, hearken all this land!
    [ The people gather expectantly about him.]
  Hippolytus by violence hath laid hand
  On this my wife, forgetting God's great eye.
    [ Murmurs of amazement and horror; THESEUS, apparently calm,
     raises both arms to heaven. ]
  Therefore, O Thou my Father, hear my cry,
  Poseidon! Thou didst grant me for mine own
  Three prayers; for one of these, slay now my son,
  Hippolytus; let him not outlive this day,
  If true thy promise was! Lo, thus I pray.

  Oh, call that wild prayer back! O King, take heed!
  I know that thou wilt live to rue this deed.

  It may not be.—And more, I cast him out
  From all my realms. He shall be held about
  By two great dooms. Or by Poseidon's breath
  He shall fall swiftly to the house of Death;
  Or wandering, outcast, o'er strange land and sea,
  Shall live and drain the cup of misery.

  Ah; see! here comes he at the point of need.
  Shake off that evil mood, O King; have heed
  For all thine house and folk—Great Theseus, hear!
    [THESEUS stands silent in fierce gloom.
     HIPPOLYTUS comes in from the right. ]

  Father, I heard thy cry, and sped in fear
  To help thee, but I see not yet the cause
  That racked thee so. Say, Father, what it was.
    [ The murmurs in the crowd, the silent gloom of his Father,
     and the horror of the Chorus-women gradually work on HIPPOLYTUS
    and bewilder him. He catches sight of the bier. ]
  Ah, what is that! Nay, Father, not the Queen
    [ Murmurs in the crowd. ]
  'Tis most strange. 'Tis passing strange, I ween.
  'Twas here I left her. Scarce an hour hath run
  Since here she stood and looked on this same sun.
  What is it with her? Wherefore did she die?
    [THESEUS remains silent. The murmurs increase. ]
  Father, to thee I speak. Oh, tell me, why,
  Why art thou silent? What doth silence know
  Of skill to stem the bitter flood of woe?
  And human hearts in sorrow crave the more,
  For knowledge, though the knowledge grieve them sore.
  It is not love, to veil thy sorrows in
  From one most near to thee, and more than kin.

    THESEUS ( to himself )
  Fond race of men, so striving and so blind,
  Ten thousand arts and wisdoms can ye find,
  Desiring all and all imagining:
  But ne'er have reached nor understood one thing,
  To make a true heart there where no heart is!

  That were indeed beyond man's mysteries,
  To make a false heart true against his will.
  But why this subtle talk? It likes me ill,
  Father; thy speech runs wild beneath this blow.

    THESEUS ( as before )
  O would that God had given us here below
  Some test of love, some sifting of the soul,
  To tell the false and true! Or through the whole
  Of men two voices ran, one true and right,
  The other as chance willed it; that we might
  Convict the liar by the true man's tone,
  And not live duped forever, every one!

    HIPPOLYTUS ( misunderstanding him; then guessing at something
                of the truth )
  What? Hath some friend proved false?
                                Or in thine ear
  Whispered some slander? Stand I tainted here,
  Though utterly innocent?   [ Murmurs from the crowd.]
                            Yea, dazed am I;
  'Tis thy words daze me, falling all awry,
  Away from reason, by fell fancies vexed!

  O heart of man, what height wilt venture next?
  What end comes to thy daring and thy crime?
  For if with each man's life 'twill higher climb,
  And every age break out in blood and lies
  Beyond its fathers, must not God devise
  Some new world far from ours, to hold therein
  Such brood of all unfaithfulness and sin?
    Look, all, upon this man, my son, his life
  Sprung forth from mine! He hath defiled my wife;
  And standeth here convicted by the dead,
  A most black villain!
    [HIPPOLYTUS falls back with a cry and covers his face with his robe.]
                       Nay, hide not thine head!
  Pollution, is it? Thee it will not stain.
  Look up, and face thy Father's eyes again!
    Thou friend of Gods, of all mankind elect;
  Thou the pure heart, by thoughts of ill unflecked!
  I care not for thy boasts. I am not mad,
  To deem that Gods love best the base and bad.
    Now is thy day! Now vaunt thee; thou so pure,
  No flesh of life may pass thy lips! Now lure
  Fools after thee; call Orpheus King and Lord;
  Make ecstasies and wonders! Thumb thine hoard
  Of ancient scrolls and ghostly mysteries—
  Now thou art caught and known!
                         Shun men like these,
  I charge ye all! With solemn words they chase
  their prey, and in their hearts plot foul disgrace.
  My wife is dead.—"Ha, so that saves thee now,"
  That is what grips thee worst, thou caitiff, thou!
  What oaths, what subtle words, shall stronger be
  Than this dead hand, to clear the guilt from thee?
    "She hated thee," thou sayest; "the bastard born
  Is ever sore and bitter as a thorn
  To the true brood."—A sorry bargainer
  In the ills and goods of life thou makest her,
  If all her best-beloved she cast away
  To wreck blind hate on thee!—What, wilt thou say
  "Through every woman's nature one blind strand
  Of passion winds, that men scarce understand?"—
  Are we so different? Know I not the fire
  And perilous flood of a young man's desire,
  Desperate as any woman, and as blind,
  When Cypris stings? Save that the man behind
  Has all men's strength to aid him. Nay, 'twas thou...
    But what avail to wrangle with thee now,
  When the dead speaks for all to understand,
  A perfect witness!
                     Hie thee from this land
  To exile with all speed. Come never more
  To god-built Athens, not to the utmost shore
  Of any realm where Theseus' arm is strong!
  What? Shall I bow my head beneath this wrong,
  And cower to thee? Not Isthmian Sinis so
  Will bear men witness that I laid him low,
  Nor Skiron's rocks, that share the salt sea's prey,
  Grant that my hand hath weight vile things to slay!

  Alas! whom shall I call of mortal men
  Happy? The highest are cast down again.

  Father, the hot strained fury of thy heart
  Is terrible. Yet, albeit so swift thou art
  Of speech, if all this matter were laid bare,
  Speech were not then so swift; nay, nor so fair...
    [ Murmurs again in the crowd.]
  I have no skill before a crowd to tell
  My thoughts. 'Twere best with few, that know me well.—
  Nay that is natural; tongues that sound but rude
  In wise men's ears, speak to the multitude
  With music.
             None the less, since there is come
  This stroke upon me, I must not be dumb,
  But speak perforce... And there will I begin
  Where thou beganst, as though to strip my sin
  Naked, and I not speak a word!
                                  Dost see
  This sunlight and this earth? I swear to thee
  There dwelleth not in these one man—deny
  All that thou wilt!—more pure of sin than I.
    Two things I know on earth: God's worship first;
  Next to win friends about me, few, that thirst
  To hold them clean of all unrighteousness.
  Our rule doth curse the tempters, and no less
  Who yieldeth to the tempters.—How, thou say'st,
  "Dupes that I jest at?" Nay; I make a jest
  Of no man. I am honest to the end,
  Near or far off, with him I call my friend.
  And most in that one thing, where now thy mesh
  Would grip me, stainless quite! No woman's flesh
  Hath e'er this body touched. Of all such deed
  Naught wot I, save what things a man may read
  In pictures or hear spoke; nor am I fain,
  Being virgin-souled, to read or hear again.
    My life of innocence moves thee not; so be it.
  Show then what hath seduced me; let me see it.
  Was that poor flesh so passing fair, beyond
  All woman's loveliness?
                         Was I some fond
  False plotter, that I schemed to win through her
  Thy castle's heirdom? Fond indeed I were!
  Nay, a stark madman! "But a crown," thou sayest,
  "Usurped, is sweet." Nay, rather most unblest
  To all wise-hearted; sweet to fools and them
  Whose eyes are blinded by the diadem.
  In contests of all valour fain would I
  Lead Hellas; but in rank and majesty
  Not lead, but be at ease, with good men near
  To love me, free to work and not to fear.
  That brings more joy than any crown or throne.
    [ He sees from the demeanor of THESEUS and of the crowd that his words
     are not winning them, but rather making them bitterer than before.
     It comes to his lips to speak the whole truth.]
  I have said my say; save one alone
    O had I here some witness in my need,
  As I was witness! Could she hear me plead,
  Face me and face the sunlight; well I know,
  Our deeds would search us out for thee, and show
  Who lies!
          But now, I swear—so hear me both,
  The Earth beneath and Zeus who Guards the Oath—
  I never touched this woman that was thine!
  No words could win me to it, nor incline
  My heart to dream it. May God strike me down,
  Nameless and fameless, without home or town,
  An outcast and a wanderer of the world;
  May my dead bones rest never, but be hurled
  From sea to land, from land to angry sea,
  If evil is my heart and false to thee!
    [ He waits a moment; but sees that his Father is unmoved.
     The truth again comes to his lips.]
  If 'twas some fear that made her cast away
  Her life... I know not. More I must not say.
  Right hath she done when in her was no right;
  And Right I follow to mine own despite!

  It is enough! God's name is witness large,
  And thy great oath, to assoil thee of this charge,

  Is not the man a juggler and a mage,
  Cool wits and one right oath—what more?—to assuage
  Sin and the wrath of injured fatherhood!

  Am I so cool? Nay, Father, 'tis thy mood
  That makes me marvel! By my faith, wert thou
  The son, and I the sire; and deemed I now
  In very truth thou hadst my wife assailed,
  I had not exiled thee, nor stood and railed,
  But lifted once mine arm, and struck thee dead!

  Thou gentle judge! Thou shalt not so be sped
  To simple death, nor by thine own decree.
  Swift death is bliss to men in misery.
  Far off, friendless forever, thou shalt drain
  Amid strange cities the last dregs of pain!

  Wilt verily cast me now beyond thy pale,
  Not wait for Time, the lifter of the veil?

  Aye, if I could, past Pontus, and the red
  Atlantic marge! So do I hate thine head.

  Wilt weigh nor oath nor faith nor prophet's word
  To prove me? Drive me from thy sight unheard?

  This tablet here, that needs no prophet's lot
  To speak from, tells me all. I ponder not
  Thy fowls that fly above us! Let them fly.

  O ye great Gods, wherefore unlock not I
  My lips, ere yet ye have slain me utterly,
  Ye whom I love most? No. It may not be!
  The one heart that I need I ne'er should gain
  To trust me. I should break mine oath in vain.

  Death! but he chokes me with his saintly tone!—
  Up, get thee from this land! Begone! Begone!

  Where shall I turn me? Think. To what friend's door
  Betake me, banished on a charge so sore?

  Whoso delights to welcome to his hall
  Vile ravishers... to guard his hearth withal!

  Thou seekst my heart, my tears? Aye, let it be
  Thus! I am vile to all men, and to thee!

  There was a time for tears and thought; the time
  Ere thou didst up and gird thee to thy crime.

  Ye stones, will ye not speak? Ye castle walls!
  Bear witness if I be so vile, so false!

  Aye, fly to voiceless witnesses! Yet here
  A dumb deed speaks against thee, and speaks clear!

  Would I could stand and watch this thing, and see
  My face, and weep for very pity of me!

  Full of thyself, as ever! Not a thought
  For them that gave thee birth; nay, they are naught!

  O my wronged Mother! O my birth of shame!
  May none I love e'er bear a bastard's name!

    THESEUS ( in a sudden blaze of rage )
  Up, thralls, and drag him from my presence! What,
  'Tis but a foreign felon! Heard ye not?
    [ The thralls still hesitate in spite of his fury. ]

  They touch me at their peril! Thine own hand
  Lift, if thou canst, to drive me from the land.

  That will I straight, unless my will be done!
    [HIPPOLYTUS comes close to him and kneels. ]
  Nay! Not for thee my pity! Get thee gone!
    [HIPPOLYTUS rises, makes a sign of submission, and slowly moves away.
     THESEUS,  as soon as he sees him going, turns rapidly and enters the
     Castle.  The door is closed again. HIPPOLYTUS has stopped for a
     moment before the Statue of ARTEMIS,  and, as THESEUS departs,
     breaks out in prayer. ]

  So; it is done! O dark and miserable!
  I see it all, but see not how to tell
  The tale.—O thou belovèd, Leto's Maid,
  Chase-comrade, fellow-rester in the glade,
  Lo, I am driven with a caitiff's brand
  Forth from great Athens! Fare ye well, O land
  And city of old Erechtheus! Thou, Trozên,
  What riches of glad youth mine eyes have seen
  In thy broad plain! Farewell! This is the end;
  The last word, the last look!
                             Come, every friend
  And fellow of my youth that still may stay,
  Give me god-speed and cheer me on my way.
  Ne'er shall ye see a man more pure of spot
  Than me, though mine own Father loves me not!
    [HIPPOLYTUS goes away to the right, followed by many Huntsmen and other
     young men. The rest of the crowd has by this time dispersed, except the
     Women of the Chorus and some Men of the Chorus of Huntsmen.]


  Surely the thought of the Gods hath balm in it alway, to win me
  Far from my griefs; and a thought, deep in the dark of my mind,
  Clings to a great Understanding. Yet all the spirit within me
  Faints, when I watch men's deeds matched with the guerdon they find.
              For Good comes in Evil's traces,
              And the Evil the Good replaces;
              And Life, 'mid the changing faces,
                Wandereth weak and blind.

  What wilt thou grant me, O God? Lo, this is the prayer of my travail—
  Some well-being; and chance not very bitter thereby;
  Spirit uncrippled by pain; and a mind not deep to unravel
  Truth unseen, nor yet dark with the brand of a lie.
              With a veering mood to borrow
              Its light from every morrow,
              Fair friends and no deep sorrow,
                Well could man live and die!

  Yet my spirit is no more clean,
      And the weft of my hope is torn,
  For the deed of wrong that mine eyes have seen,
      The lie and the rage and the scorn;
    A Star among men, yea, a Star
      That in Hellas was bright,
    By a Father's wrath driven far
      To the wilds and the night.
    Oh, alas for the sands of the shore!
      Alas for the brakes of the hill,
    Where the wolves shall fear thee no more,
      And thy cry to Dictynna is still!

  No more in the yoke of thy car
      Shall the colts of Enetia fleet;
  Nor Limna's echoes quiver afar
      To the clatter of galloping feet.
    The sleepless music of old,
      That leaped in the lyre,
    Ceaseth now, and is cold,
      In the halls of thy sire.
    The bowers are discrowned and unladen
      Where Artemis lay on the lea;
    And the love-dream of many a maiden
      Lost, in the losing of thee.

    A Maiden
  And I, even I,
  For thy fall, O Friend,
    Amid tears and tears,
  Endure to the end
    Of the empty years,
          Of a life run dry.
  In vain didst thou bear him,
    Thou Mother forlorn!
  Ye Gods that did snare him,
    Lo, I cast in your faces
  My hate and my scorn!
    Ye love-linkèd Graces,
      (Alas for the day!)
         Was he naught, then, to you,
       That ye cast him away,
         The stainless and true,
           From the old happy places?

  Look yonder! 'Tis the Prince's man, I ween
  Speeding toward this gate, most dark of mien.
    [A HENCHMAN enters in haste.]

  Ye women, whither shall I go to seek
  King Theseus? Is he in this dwelling? Speak!

  Lo, where he cometh through the Castle gate!
    [THESEUS comes out from the Castle.]

  O King, I bear thee tidings of dire weight
  To thee, aye, and to every man, I ween,
  From Athens to the marches of Trozên.

  What? Some new stroke hath touched, unknown to me,
  The sister cities of my sovranty?

  Hippolytus is...Nay, not dead; but stark
  Outstretched, a hairsbreadth this side of the dark.

    THESEUS ( as though unmoved )
  How slain? Was there some other man, whose wife
  He had like mine denied, that sought his life?

  His own wild team destroyed him, and the dire
  Curse of thy lips.
                    The boon of thy great Sire
  Is granted thee, O King, and thy son slain.

  Ye Gods! And thou, Poseidon! Not in vain
  I called thee Father; thou hast heard my prayer!
  How did he die? Speak on. How closed the snare
  Of Heaven to slay the shamer of my blood?

  'Twas by the bank of beating sea we stood,
  We thralls, and decked the steeds, and combed each mane;
  Weeping; for word had come that ne'er again
  The foot of our Hippolytus should roam
  This land, but waste in exile by thy doom.
    So stood we till he came, and in his tone
  No music now save sorrow's, like our own,
  And in his train a concourse without end
  Of many a chase-fellow and many a friend.
  At last he brushed his sobs away, and spake:
  "Why this fond loitering? I would not break
  My Father's law—Ho, there! My coursers four
  And chariot, quick! This land is mine no more."
    Thereat, be sure, each man of us made speed.
  Swifter than speech we brought them up, each steed
  Well dight and shining, at our Prince's side.
  He grasped the reins upon the rail: one stride
  And there he stood, a perfect charioteer,
  Each foot in its own station set. Then clear
  His voice rose, and his arms to heaven were spread:
  "O Zeus, if I be false, strike thou me dead!
  But, dead or living, let my Father see
  One day, how falsely he hath hated me!"
    Even as he spake, he lifted up the goad
  And smote; and the steeds sprang. And down the road
  We henchmen followed, hard beside the rein,
  Each hand, to speed him, toward the Argive plain
  And Epidaurus.
                    So we made our way
  Up toward the desert region, where the bay
  Curls to a promontory near the verge
  Of our Trozên, facing the southward surge
  Of Saron's gulf. Just there an angry sound,
  Slow-swelling, like God's thunder underground
  Broke on us, and we trembled. And the steeds
  Pricked their ears skyward, and threw back their heads.
  And wonder came on all men, and affright,
  Whence rose that awful voice. And swift our sight
  Turned seaward, down the salt and roaring sand.
    And there, above the horizon, seemed to stand
  A wave unearthly, crested in the sky;
  Till Skiron's Cape first vanished from mine eye,
  Then sank the Isthmus hidden, then the rock
  Of Epidaurus. Then it broke, one shock
  And roar of gasping sea and spray flung far,
  And shoreward swept, where stood the Prince's car.
    Three lines of wave together raced, and, full
  In the white crest of them, a wild Sea-Bull
  Flung to the shore, a fell and marvellous Thing.
  The whole land held his voice, and answering
  Roared in each echo. And all we, gazing there,
  Gazed seeing not; 'twas more than eyes could bear.
    Then straight upon the team wild terror fell.
  Howbeit, the Prince, cool-eyed and knowing well
  Each changing mood a horse has, gripped the reins
  Hard in both hands; then as an oarsman strains
  Up from his bench, so strained he on the thong,
  Back in the chariot swinging. But the young
  Wild steeds bit hard the curb, and fled afar;
  Nor rein nor guiding hand nor morticed car
  Stayed them at all. For when he veered them round,
  And aimed their flying feet to grassy ground,
  In front uprose that Thing, and turned again
  The four great coursers, terror-mad. But when
  Their blind rage drove them toward the rocky places,
  Silent and ever nearer to the traces,
  It followed rockward, till one wheel-edge grazed.
    The chariot tript and flew, and all was mazed
  In turmoil. Up went wheel-box with a din,
  Where the rock jagged, and nave and axle-pin.
  And there—the long reins round him—there was he
  Dragging, entangled irretrievably.
  A dear head battering at the chariot side,
  Sharp rocks, and rippled flesh, and a voice that cried:
  "Stay, stay, O ye who fattened at my stalls,
  Dash me not into nothing!—O thou false
  Curse of my Father!—Help! Help, whoso can,
  An innocent, innocent and stainless man!"
    Many there were that laboured then, I wot,
  To bear him succour, but could reach him not,
  Till—who knows how?—at last the tangled rein
  Unclasped him, and he fell, some little vein
  Of life still pulsing in him.
                                All beside,
  The steeds, the hornèd Horror of the Tide,
  Had vanished—who knows where?—in that wild land.
    O King, I am a bondsman of thine hand;
  Yet love nor fear nor duty me shall win
  To say thine innocent son hath died in sin.
  All women born may hang themselves, for me,
  And swing their dying words from every tree
  On Ida! For I know that he was true!

  O God, so cometh new disaster, new
  Despair! And no escape from what must be!

  Hate of the man thus stricken lifted me
  At first to joy at hearing of thy tale;
  But now, some shame before the Gods, some pale
  Pity for mine own blood, hath o'er me come.
  I laugh not, neither weep, at this fell doom.

  How then? Behoves it bear him here, or how
  Best do thy pleasure?—Speak, Lord. Yet if thou
  Wilt mark at all my word, thou wilt not be
  Fierce-hearted to thy child in misery.

  Aye, bring him hither. Let me see the face
  Of him who durst deny my deep disgrace
  And his own sin; yea, speak with him, and prove
  His clear guilt by God's judgments from above.
    [ The HENCHMAN departs to fetch HIPPOLYTUS; THESEUS sits waiting in
     stern gloom, while the CHORUS sing. At the close of their song a
     Divine Figure is seen approaching on a cloud in the air and the voice
     of ARTEMIS speaks.]

          Thou comest to bend the pride
            Of the hearts of God and man,
          Cypris; and by thy side,
            In earth-encircling span,
          He of the changing plumes,
          The Wing that the world illumes,
          As over the leagues of land flies he,
          Over the salt and sounding sea.

          For mad is the heart of Love,
            And gold the gleam of his wing;
          And all to the spell thereof
            Bend, when he makes his spring;
          All life that is wild and young
            In mountain and wave and stream,
          All that of earth is sprung,
            Or breathes in the red sunbeam;
          Yea, and Mankind. O'er all a royal throne,
          Cyprian, Cyprian, is thine alone!

  O thou that rulest in Aegeus' Hall,
  I charge thee, hearken!
                         Yea, it is I,
  Artemis, Virgin of God most High.
  Thou bitter King, art thou glad withal
      For thy murdered son?
  For thine ear bent low to a lying Queen,
  For thine heart so swift amid things unseen?
  Lo, all may see what end thou hast won!
  Go, sink thine head in the waste abyss;
  Or aloft to another world than this,
      Birdwise with wings,
      Fly far to thine hiding,
  Far over this blood that clots and clings;
  For in righteous men and in holy things
      No rest is thine nor abiding!
    [ The cloud has become stationary in the air. ]
  Hear, Theseus, all the story of thy grief!
  Verily, I bring but anguish, not relief;
  Yet, 'twas for this I came, to show how high
  And clean was thy son's heart, that he may die
  Honoured of men; aye, and to tell no less
  The frenzy, or in some sort the nobleness,
  Of thy dead wife. One Spirit there is, whom we
  That know the joy of white virginity,
  Most hate in heaven. She sent her fire to run
  In Phaedra's veins, so that she loved thy son.
  Yet strove she long with love, and in the stress
  Fell not, till by her Nurse's craftiness
  Betrayed, who stole, with oaths of secrecy,
  To entreat thy son. And he, most righteously,
  Nor did her will, nor, when thy railing scorn
  Beat on him, broke the oath that he had sworn,
  For God's sake. And thy Phaedra, panic-eyed,
  Wrote a false writ, and slew thy son, and died,
  Lying; but thou wast nimble to believe!
    [THESEUS,  at first bewildered, then dumfounded,
     now utters a deep groan. ]
  It stings thee, Theseus?—Nay, hear on and grieve
  Yet sorer. Wottest thou three prayers were thine
  Of sure fulfilment, from thy Sire divine?
  Hast thou no foes about thee, then, that one—
  Thou vile King!—must be turned against thy son?
  The deed was thine. Thy Sea-born Sire but heard
  The call of prayer, and bowed him to his word.
  But thou in his eyes and in mine art found
  Evil, who wouldst not think, nor probe, nor sound
  The deeps of prophet's lore, nor day by day
  Leave Time to search; but swifter than man may,
  Let loose the curse to slay thine innocent son!

  O Goddess, let me die!

                      Nay; thou hast done
  A heavy wrong; yet even beyond this ill
  Abides for thee forgiveness. 'Twas the will
  Of Cypris that these evil things should be,
  Sating her wrath. And this immutably
  Hath Zeus ordained in heaven: no God may thwart
  A God's fixed will; we grieve but stand apart.
  Else, but for fear of the Great Father's blame,
  Never had I to such extreme of shame
  Bowed me, be sure, as here to stand and see
  Slain him I loved best of mortality!
    Thy fault, O King, its ignorance sunders wide
  From very wickedness; and she who died
  By death the more disarmed thee, making dumb
  The voice of question. And the storm has come
  Most bitterly of all on thee! Yet I
  Have mine own sorrow, too. When good men die,
  There is no joy in heaven, albeit our ire
  On child and house of the evil falls like fire.
    [ A throng is seen approaching; HIPPOLYTUS enters,
     supported by his attendants. ]

    Lo, it is he! The bright young head
        Yet upright there!
    Ah the torn flesh and the blood-stained hair;
      Alas for the kindred's trouble!
    It falls as fire from a God's hand sped,
      Two deaths, and mourning double.

        Ah, pain, pain, pain!
  O unrighteous curse!   O unrighteous sire!
  No hope.—My head is stabbed with fire,
  And a leaping spasm about my brain.
    Stay, let me rest. I can no more.
  O fell, fell steeds that my own hand fed,
  Have ye maimed me and slain, that loved me of yore?
  —Soft there, ye thralls!   No trembling hands
  As ye lift me, now!—Who is that that stands
  At the right?—Now firm, and with measured tread,
  Lift one accursèd and stricken sore
          By a father's sinning.

  Thou, Zeus, dost see me? Yea, it is I;
  The proud and pure, the server of God,
  The white and shining in sanctity!
  To a visible death, to an open sod,
              I walk my ways;
  And all the labour of saintly days
              Lost, lost, without meaning!

              Ah God, it crawls
                This agony, over me!
              Let be, ye thralls!
                Come, Death, and cover me:
            Come, O thou Healer blest!

              But a little more,
                And my soul is clear,
              And the anguish o'er!
            Oh, a spear, a spear!
          To rend my soul to its rest!

  Oh, strange, false Curse! Was there some blood-stained head,
  Some father of my line, unpunishèd,
             Whose guilt lived in his kin,
  And passed, and slept, till after this long day
  It lights... Oh, why on me? Me, far away
             And innocent of sin?

             O words that cannot save!
           When will this breathing end in that last deep
  Pain that is painlessness? 'Tis sleep I crave.
           When wilt thou bring me sleep,
  Thou dark and midnight magic of the grave!

  Sore-stricken man, bethink thee in this stress,
  Thou dost but die for thine own nobleness.

  O breath of heavenly fragrance! Though my pain
  Burns, I can feel thee and find rest again.
  The Goddess Artemis is with me here.

  With thee and loving thee, poor sufferer!

  Dost see me, Mistress, nearing my last sleep?

  Aye, and would weep for thee, if Gods could weep.

  Who now shall hunt with thee or hold thy quiver?

  He dies but my love cleaves to him for ever.

  Who guide thy chariot, keep thy shrine-flowers fresh?

  The accursed Cyprian caught him in her mesh!

  The Cyprian? Now I see it!—Aye, 'twas she.

  She missed her worship, loathed thy chastity!

  Three lives by her one hand! 'Tis all clear now.

  Yea, three; thy father and his Queen and thou.

  My father; yea, he too is pitiable!

  A plotting Goddess tripped him, and he fell.

  Father, where art thou?... Oh, thou sufferest sore!

  Even unto death, child. There is joy no more.

  I pity thee in this coil; aye, more than me.

  Would I could lie there dead instead of thee!

  Oh, bitter bounty of Poseidon's love!

  Would God my lips had never breathed thereof!

    HIPPOLYTUS ( gently )
  Nay, thine own rage had slain me then, some wise!

  A lying spirit had made blind mine eyes!

  Ah me!
  Would that a mortal's curse could reach to God!

  Let be! For not, though deep beneath the sod
  Thou liest, not unrequited nor unsung
  Shall this fell stroke, from Cypris' rancour sprung,
  Quell thee, mine own, the saintly and the true!
    My hand shall win its vengeance through and through,
  Piercing with flawless shaft what heart soe'er
  Of all men living is most dear to Her.
  Yea, and to thee, for this sore travail's sake,
  Honours most high in Trozên will I make;
  For yokeless maids before their bridal night
  Shall shear for thee their tresses; and a rite
  Of honouring tears be thine in ceaseless store;
  And virgin's thoughts in music evermore
  Turn toward thee, and praise thee in the Song
  Of Phaedra's far-famed love and thy great wrong.
    O seed of ancient Aegeus, bend thee now
  And clasp thy son. Aye, hold and fear not thou!
  Not knowingly hast thou slain him; and man's way,
  When Gods send error, needs must fall astray.
    And thou, Hippolytus, shrink not from the King,
  Thy father. Thou wast born to bear this thing.
    Farewell! I may not watch man's fleeting breath,
  Nor strain mine eyes with the effluence of death.
  And sure that Terror now is very near.
    [ The cloud slowly rises and floats away.]

  Farewell, farewell, most Blessèd! Lift thee clear
  Of soiling men! Thou wilt not grieve in heaven
  For my long love!...Father, thou art forgiven.
  It was Her will. I am not wroth with thee...
  I have obeyed Her all my days!...
                                      Ah me,
  The dark is drawing down upon mine eyes;
  It hath me!... Father!... Hold me! Help me rise!

    THESEUS ( supporting him in his arms )
  Ah, woe! How dost thou torture me, my son!

  I see the Great Gates opening. I am gone.

  Gone? And my hand red-reeking from this thing!

  Nay, nay; thou art assoiled of manslaying.

  Thou leav'st me clear of murder? Sayst thou so?

  Yea, by the Virgin of the Stainless Bow!

  Dear Son! Ah, now I see thy nobleness!

  Pray that a true-born child may fill my place.

  Ah me, thy righteous and god-fearing heart!

  A long farewell, dear Father, ere we part!
    [THESEUS bends down and embraces him passionately.]

  Not yet!—O hope and bear while thou hast breath!

  Lo, I have borne my burden. This is death...
  Quick, Father; lay the mantle on my face.
    [THESEUS covers his face with a mantle and rises. ]

  Ye bounds of Pallas and of Pelops' race,
  What greatness have ye lost!
                               Woe, woe is me!
  Thou Cyprian, long shall I remember thee!

        On all this folk, both low and high,
        A grief hath fallen beyond men's fears.
        There cometh a throbbing of many tears,
          A sound as of waters falling.
            For when great men die,
          A mighty name and a bitter cry
          Rise up from a nation calling.
       [ They move into the Castle, carrying the body of HIPPOLYTUS.]