Hekaba 342-388

Polyxena:
I see you, Odysseus, under your garment your right
hand hidden and your face turned
back, lest I touch your beard.
Take heart: you have avoided Zeus of Suppliants concerning me;
since I will follow both because I am forced
and I long to die; and if I do not wish it,
I will appear a wicked and life-loving woman.
For why must I live? Insofar as my father was lord
of all Phrygians, this was my first way of life;
since I was reared with noble expectations
as a maiden for kings, no small rivalry for marriage
had I, or for whose hearth and home I would arrive;
I was the unfortunate princess of those of Mt. Ida,
admired among the women and maidens,
equal to the gods except only dying;
and now I am a slave. At first the title
sets me to love to die, being so unaccustomed;
but then, perhaps, the heart of the rough masters
I would meet with, someone who might buy me for silver,
being the sister of Hektor and of many others,
or to be set to the task of baking and grinding in the household,
to sweep the house or to set me to the weaver’s shuttle
he would force me to lead the miserable day;
and meanwhile a slave bought somewhere my bed
would stain, once worthy of monarchs.
No, indeed: I cast out from my eyes while free
this light, my living body sent to Hades.
Lead me, Odysseus, and in leading make an end of me;
neither of hope nor of expectation do I see
any courage around me that I should ever fare well.
Mother, do not put yourself in my path,
neither in word nor deed; wish with me
to die before I meet with shame not suited to my worth.
For anyone who is not accustomed to taste of misfortunes,
bears it but feels the pain upon her neck placed in the yoke;
and dying would be far more fortunate
than living; for not living nobly is a great toil.
Choros:
It is a fierce and marked character among mortals
to be born of the good, comes to greater worth
does the name of the well-born for those worthy.
Hekaba:
You have spoken nobly, daughter, but to the noble
pain is added, and if one must for that child
of Peleus make a thank-offering, and you, Odysseus,
bear the blame, then do not kill this girl,
but lead me to the fire of Achilleus,
goad me, do not spare me: I birthed Paris,
who, casting his arrows, destroyed the child of Thetis.

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