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The name of husband in thy place o'er me,
In broad Thessalia, though her sire in rank,
Herself in beauty, bear the palm from all.
Enough for me these children. Grant the Gods
These for my joys, when thou, chief joy, art fled.
And deem not mine shall be a twelvemonth's grief;
But long as life, dear lady, shall endure,
In sorrow I shall hate my parents' forms,
Those warm lip-friends, who were so cold in act.
'Twas thou didst save me, pawning for my life
Thy dearest hopes ! have I not cause to grieve,
When such a partner fails by stroke of death.
Cease revels; cease ye, troops of banqueters;
Garlands and songs, ye dwell with me no more.
Farewell, my lyre; henceforth I touch thee not,
Nor lift my heart in song to Libyan flute,
For life's chief joys are fled from me with thee.
Thine image wrought by artist's cunning hand,
Shall mimic soon thy presence in my couch ;
And I will bend me and enclasp my arms
Around thy much-loved neck, and call thy name,
And seem to hold thee, though I hold thee not;
A chill delight, I ween: yet haply thus
I lighten my heart's burden: and in dreams
Thy visits may delight me. Friends are sweet
To view, though brief their stay, in stilly night.
Oh ! for the strains that flowed from Orphean tongue,
That so thy daughter, Ceres, and her Lord
I might have won by song, to spare my wife.
Descending then, nor Pluto's dog should stay
My haste; nor Charon slaving at his oar,
Boatman of shades; till I had brought her back.
Yet, wife, whene'er I die, expect me there;
Prepare a chamber : we will meet below:
For I will bid my children lay my corpse
In these same cedar casings, side by side
With thee, my loved one. From thy faithful heart
I would not be divided, e'en in death.
CHOR. I too, will join thee in this grief of griefs,
As friend with friend : right worthy is our queen.
Alc. Children, yourselves bave heard your sire declare
His love shall centre in no other wife,
To rule o'er you, or to detract from me.
ADM. Again I swear it, and will make it good.
Alc. Upon this pledge I these to thee consign.
ADM. I hail a precious gift from precious hands.
Alc. Be in my stead as mother to these twain !
420 ADM. Much nced I should : since they must lack thy care. Alc. Children, I die, when most I ought to live. ADM. Oh! whither shall I turn, depriv'd of thee? Alc. Time soothes all grief. The dead claim no account. Adm. Yet take me hence. O Gods, lead on below. Alc. I shall suffice, who go in room of thee. ADM. Oh fate! of what a wife I stand bereft. Alc. Mine eye grows heavy. Lo ! 'tis dark around. Adm. If thou dost leave, I am indeed undone; Alc. Speak of me as undone, as nothing now.
430 Adm. Nay ; raise thine eyes : nor leave thy children thus. Alc. In sooth I would not, children--but-farewellADM. Look on them : look. Alc. Alcestis is no more. ADM. How ! dost thou leave us? Alc. Av-farewell. ADM. Woe's me. Art. It is too true. Our queen is now no more. EUMELUS. Bitter fate! my gentle mother From this earth is gone below!
440 After this day of no other
Shall she feel the sunny glow.
Sad she left us. Sadly she
Left an orphan lot to me.
See her eyelids. See ! behold her
Rest her cold hands by her side:
Hear me, mother! colder, colder,
Say, dost thou my prayer deride.
Mother, I thy nestling call,
As on thy dear lips I fall.
ADM. She hears not: sees not. O remorseless blow!
Thou smitest me, and these my little
EUMELUS. Young, my father, and forsakeu,
By my mother am I left:
I my fill of woes have taken,
Of her tender care bereft.
Bitter cup! for thee and me,
Sister, to drink equally.
Vainly, vainly didst thou marry,
Father! till your term of age
460 Sweet enjoyment would not tarry :
Death would seize her for his rage.
She is perished : she is flown:
And our house is all undone.
CHOR. Admetus! thou must bear this stroke of fate :
For, trust me, thou hast lost a much-lov'd wife,
Like many else, at first or last. Be sure
That all must some time pay their debt to death.
ADM. I know it well. Not sudden is this grief
In its appearing. It hath torn me long.
But since I now prepare her obsequies,
Abide ye here: and waiting chaunt a hymn
To the dark God, whom no libations reach.
And let Thessalians all, where'er I rule,
Join as I bid, in grief for this dear corpse,
With close shorn hair, and robes of sable hue.
Yoke teams to ev'ry chariot: clip their manes
From off the neck of ev'ry single steed !
Throughout the city, twelve succeeding months,
Let sound of pipe, and pleasing lyre be hushed:
For ne'er shall I consigo a form more kind
Or dear to me to earth. Well hath she earn'd
Each honour I can pay.
She died for me!
CHORUS. Fare thee well! where thou abidest
In the home of sunless shade:
And thy form in darkness hidest,
Which the king of death hath made.
God, whose locks of raven blackness
Robe thy pallid visage o'er ;
And thou, Charon, spurning slackness,
Eager for the other shore;
As with hands on oar and rudder
Thou dost wait thy freight of dead,
Old man, causing all to shudder,
Know that never hast thou sped
Nobler burden o'er the waters
Of the dark lake Acheron,
Than the pride of Colchic daughters
Whom thy dull eye rests upon.
Oft shall minstrels sing thy praises
On the seven string'd mountain lute:
Nor, while bard his voice upraises,
Shall the lyreless hymns be mute.
Both in Sparta, when, returning,
Comes the glad month every year,
When the silver moon is burning
All the live-long night so clear;
In the glad Carneian season :-
And where Athens lifts her head,
Athens o'er whose dwellings reason,
Wealth, and joy, thelr blessings shed.
Yea! in death a deathless story
Thou, Alcestis, dost bequeathe
To the hearts that thirst for glory,
And would earn the minstrel wreath,
Would ’twere mine, sweet shade, to waft thee
From those gloomy cells to light !
Cheating so the boatman crafty,
O'er the lake I'd aid thy flight.
Wife, of all the best, and peerless,
Thou thy lord didst give to day
From the realms so dark and cheerless,
And thine own in barter pay.
On thee may the earth fall lightly !
Should thy lord take other wife,
Hateful to his children, rightly,
Trust me, he shall end his life.
When his mother shrank unwilling
In the grave to hide her head,
And his sire averse to filling,
Ere his time, an earthly bed-
When the twain refused to render
Feeble lives to save their son,
Thou, Alcestis, thine didst tender
Freely, ere its bloom was gone.
If it be my lot to marry,
May I chance on such a bride;
Many lifetimes one might tarry
Never finding one so tried.
Rare in life is such a blessing ;
Happy 'twere such fate to gain :
Life with her were worth possessing,
Endless life unmixt with pain.
HERC. Strangers who dwell in this Pheræan land, Say, can I find Admetus here within ?
Cho. The son of Pheres keeps his palace, Sir. But say, why coms't thou to Thessalian land, And seek'st the halls Pheræan monarchs own?
HERC. Eurystheus claims the service I perform.
Cho. Bound to what labour, whither dost thou roam ?
HERC. I seek the steeds of Thracian Diomed.
Cho. How hard thy task! Thou knowst not then thine host?
Herc. No! nor have trodden yet Bistonian ground.
Cho. By combat only canst thou gain the steeds-
HERC. Yet from the task imposed I must not blench.
Cho. Slaying thou wilt return, or slain lie there.
HERC. Not the first contest this that I shall run.
Cho. What profit hast thou, if their lord is slain?
Herc. The king of Tiryns shall receive the spoils.
Cho. First bridle them! no easy task,
HERC. No hard one; if their nostrils breathe not fire. 560
Chor, They tear men piecemeal with devouring jaws.
HERC. Meet food for mountain beasts, not horses, this !
Cæo. Their blood-stain'd mangers prove the truth I speak.
HERC. Sonship to whom boasts he, that owns these steeds ?
CHOR. To Mars; He rules o'er golden-buckler'd Thrace,
HERC. Tis ever thus-you speak my constant fate.
(Hard is my path: and leads by many a steep :)
Since I must ever battle with the sons,
Whom Mars begat: Lycaon first, and then
Cycnus : and now this third encounter comes,
Which with the steeds and their proud lord I join.
Yet, howsoe'er it be, Alcmena's son
Shall ne'er be seen to dread the foeman's hand.
CHOR. Lo! from the palace comes Admetus forth: Our country's monarch : he, for whom you seek.
(Enter Admetus.) ADM. Hail son of Jove : of Perseus' lineage sprung: HERC. Health to Admetus, lord of Thessaly ! Adm. Would it might be! yet thanks for thy goodwill. Herc. Wherefore these shorn locks, signs of grief so plain? Adm. This day a corpse I bury from mine house. HERC. Thy children! heaven forefend mischance from them. ADM. Safe in the palace both my children bide. HERC. If 'tis thy sire, his age is due to death.
580 Adm. Yet lives he with my mother, good my lord. HERC. Surely thy queen-Alcestis-is not dead? ADM. A twofold tale of her 'tis mine to tell. HERC. Lives she? or dost thou speak of her, as dead? Adm. She is, yet is no more. It grieves my heart.