From Chastity

Hippolytus by Euripides

Attendants of Hippolytus.
Chorus of Trœzenian Women.
Nurse of Phædra.
First Messenger.
Second Messenger.

Scene.—Before the palace of Pittheus at Trœzen.

Aph. Wide o’er man my realm extends, and proud the name that I, the goddess Cypris, bear, both in heaven’s courts and ‘mongst all those who dwell within the limits of the sea and the bounds of Atlas, beholding the sun-god’s light; those that respect my power I advance to honour, but bring to ruin all who vaunt themselves at me. For even in the race of gods this feeling finds a home, even pleasure at the honour men pay them. And the truth of this I soon will show; for that son of Theseus, born of the Amazon, Hippolytus, whom holy Pittheus taught, alone of all the dwellers in this land of Trœzen, calls me vilest of the deities. Love he scorns, and, as for marriage, will none of it; but Artemis, daughter of Zeus, sister of Phœbus, he doth honour, counting her the chief of goddesses, and ever through the greenwood, attendant on his virgin goddess, he clears the earth of wild beasts with his fleet hounds, enjoying the comradeship of one too high for mortal ken. ‘Tis not this I grudge him, no! why should I? But for his sins against me, I will this very day take vengeance on Hippolytus; for long ago I cleared the ground of many obstacles, so it needs but trifling toil. For as he came one day from the home of Pittheus to witness the solemn mystic rites and be initiated therein in Pandion’s land, Phædra, his father’s noble wife, caught sight of him, and by my designs she found her heart was seized with wild desire. And ere she came to this Trœzenian realm, a temple did she rear to Cypris hard by the rock of Pallas where it o’erlooks this country, for love of the youth in another land; and to win his love in days to come she called after his name the temple she had founded for the goddess. Now, when Theseus left the land of Cecrops, flying the pollution of the blood of Pallas’ sons, and with his wife sailed to this shore, content to suffer exile for a year, then began the wretched wife to pine away in silence, moaning ‘neath love’s cruel scourge, and none of her servants knows what ails her. But this passion of hers must not fail thus. No, I will discover the matter to Theseus, and all shall be laid bare. Then will the father slay his child, my bitter foe, by curses, for the lord Poseidon granted this boon to Theseus; three wishes of the god to ask, nor ever ask in vain. So Phædra is to die, an honoured death ’tis true, but still to die; for I will not let her suffering outweigh the payment of such forfeit by my foes as shall satisfy my honour. But lo! I see the son of Theseus coming hither—Hippolytus, fresh from the labours of the chase. I will get me hence. At his back follows a long train of retainers, in joyous cries of revelry uniting and hymns of praise to Artemis, his goddess; for little he recks that Death hath oped his gates for him, and that this is his last look upon the light.

Hip. Come follow, friends, singing to Artemis, daughter of Zeus, throned in the sky, whose votaries we are.

Att. Lady goddess, awful queen, daughter of Zeus, all hail! hail! child of Latona and of Zeus, peerless mid the virgin choir, who hast thy dwelling in heaven’s wide mansions at thy noble father’s court, in the golden house of Zeus.

Hip. All hail! most beauteous Artemis, lovelier far than all the daughters of Olympus! For thee, O mistress mine, I bring this woven wreath, culled from a virgin meadow, where nor shepherd dares to herd his flock nor ever scythe hath mown, but o’er the mead unshorn the bee doth wing its way in spring; and with the dew from rivers drawn purity that garden tends. Such as know no cunning lore, yet in whose nature self-control, made perfect, hath a home, these may pluck the flowers, but not the wicked world. Accept, I pray, dear mistress, mine this chaplet from my holy hand to crown thy locks of gold; for I, and none other of mortals, have this high guerdon, to be with thee, with thee converse, hearing thy voice, though not thy face beholding. So be it mine to end my life as I began.

Att. My prince! we needs must call upon the gods, our lords, so wilt thou listen to a friendly word from me?

Hip. Why, that will I! else were I proved a fool.

Att. Dost know, then, the way of the world?

Hip. Not I; but wherefore such a question?

Att. It hates reserve which careth not for all men’s love.

Hip. And rightly too; reserve in man is ever galling.

Att. But there’s a charm in courteous affability?

Hip. The greatest surely; aye, and profit, too, at trifling cost.

Att. Dost think the same law holds in heaven as well?

Hip. I trow it doth, since all our laws we men from heaven draw.

Att. Why, then, dost thou neglect to greet an august goddess?

Hip. Whom speak’st thou of? Keep watch upon thy tongue lest it some mischief cause.

Att. Cypris I mean, whose image is stationed o’er thy gate.

Hip. I greet her from afar, preserving still my chastity.

Att. Yet is she an august goddess, far renowned on earth.

Hip. ‘Mongst gods as well as men we have our several preferences.

Att. I wish thee luck, and wisdom too, so far as thou dost need it.

Hip. No god, whose worship craves the night, hath charms for me.

Att. My son, we should avail us of the gifts that gods confer.

Hip. Go in, my faithful followers, and make ready food within the house; a well-filled board hath charms after the chase is o’er. Rub down my steeds ye must, that when I have had my fill I may yoke them to the chariot and give them proper exercise. As for thy Queen of Love, a long farewell to her.

[Exit Hippolytus.
Att. Meantime I with sober mind, for I must not copy my young master, do offer up my prayer to thy image, lady Cypris, in such words as it becomes a slave to use. But thou should’st pardon all, who, in youth’s impetuous heat, speak idle words of thee; make as though thou hearest not, for gods must needs be wiser than the sons of men.

The compete text of Hippolytus from Wikisource