ANDROMACHE: Hear, that with pleasure I may touch thy soul
Not to be born, I argue, and to die,
Are equal: but to die is better far
Than to live wretched; for he knows not grief
Who hath no sense of misery: but to fall
From fortune's blessed height, to the low state
Of abject wretchedness, distracts the soul
With the keen sense of former happiness.
Like as the light of life she ne'er had seen,
Polyxena is dead, and of her ills
Knows nothing: I, who aimed at glorious rank,
And reached my aim, from fortune widely erred:
All that to prudent matrons gives a grace,
In Hector's house was ever my employ.
First, for in this to women blame is due,
Charged or not charged, to such as rove abroad,
I checked this wand'ring humour, and remained
At home, within my house; nor gay discourse
Of females there admitted, but intent
On ordering what was useful, deemed myself
Well occupied. With silence of the tongue
And cheerfulness of look I entertained
My husband: where my province to command
I knew, and where to yield obedience to him.
The fame of this was bruited through the host
Of Greece, and wrought my ruin; for the son
Of fierce Achilles, soon as I was made
A captive, wished to take me as his wife,
Doomed in the house of those, whose slaught'ring hands
I rue, to be a slave. From my fond heart
Could I rend Hector, and expand my breast
To this new husband, faithless to the dead
Should I appear: if I disdain his love,
I shall excite the malice of my lords.
Short time, they say, to a new lord disarms
A woman's hate: but her my soul abhors,
Who for new nuptials slights her former husband,
And loves another: e'en the social steed,
Divided from its fellow, draws the yoke
Reluctant; yet the beast, by nature formed
Less excellent, nor speech nor reason knows.
O my loved Hector, I was blest in thee,
Thou was the lord of all my wishes, great
In understanding, noble birth, and wealth,
And valour: from my father's house thou first
Ledd'st me a virgin to the bridal bed:
Now thou are perished, and I mount the bark
For Greece, a captive to the servile yoke.
Hath not the death then of Polyxena,
Whom thou bewailest, lighter ills than mine!
For not to me e'en Hope, which still is left
To all of mortal race, remains; no thought
That better fortune e'er will visit me
With pleasing expectation cheats my mind.