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My daughter you lie dead, I see your wounds—
they are indeed my own. Lest I should lose
one child of mine without a cruel sword,
you have your wound. I thought, because
you were a woman, you were safe from swords.
But you, a woman, felt the deadly steel.
That same Achilles, who has given to death
so many of your brothers, caused your death,
the bane of Troy and the serpent by my nest!
When Paris and when Phoebus with their shafts
had laid him low, ‘Ah, now at least,’ I said,
‘Achilles will no longer cause me dread.’
Yet even then he still was to be feared.
For him I have been fertile! Mighty Troy
now lies in ruin, and the public woe
is ended in one vast calamity.
For me alone the woe of Troy still lives.
“But lately on the pinnacle of fame,
surrounded by my powerful sons-in-law,
daughters, and daughters-in-law, and strong
in my great husband, I am exiled now,
and destitute, and forced from the sad tombs
of those I love, to wretched slavery,
serving Penelope: who showing me
to curious dames of Ithaca, will point
and say, while I am bending to my task,
‘Look at that woman who was widely known,
the mother of great Hector, once the wife
of Priam!’ After so many have been lost,
now you, last comfort of a mother's grief,
must make atonement on the foeman's tomb.
I bore a victim for my enemy.
“Why do I live—an iron witted wretch?
Why do I linger? Why does cruel age
detain me? Why, pernicious deities,
thus hold me to this earth, unless you will
that I may weep at future funerals?
After the fall of Troy, who would suppose
King Priam could be happy? Blest in death,
he has not seen my daughter's dreadful fate.
He lost at once his kingdom and his life.
“Can I imagine you, a royal maid,
will soon be honored with due funeral rites,
and will be buried in our family tomb?
Such fortune comes no more to your sad house.
A drift of foreign sand will be your grave,
the parting gift will be your mother's tears.
We have lost everything! But no, there is
one reason why I should endure a while.
His mother's dearest, now her only child,
once youngest of that company of sons,
my Polydorus lives here on these shores
protected by the friendly Thracian king.
Then why delay to bathe these cruel wounds,
her dear face spattered with the dreadful blood?”
So Hecuba went wailing towards the shore
with aged step and tearing her gray hair.
At last the unhappy mother said, “Give me
an urn; O, Trojan women!” for, she wished
to dip up salt sea water. But just then,
she saw the corpse of her last son, thrown out
upon the shore; her Polydorus, killed,
disfigured with deep wounds of Thracian swords.
The Trojan women cried aloud, and she
was struck dumb with her agony, which quite
consumed both voice and tears within her heart—
rigid and still she seemed as a hard rock.
And now she gazes at the earth in front
now lifts her haggard face up toward the skies,
now scans that body lying stark and dead,
now scans his wounds and most of all the wounds.
She arms herself and draws up all her wrath.
It burned as if she still held regal power
she gave up all life to the single thought
of quick revenge. Just as a lioness
rages when plundered of her suckling cub
and follows on his trail the unseen foe,
so, Hecuba with rage mixed in her grief
forgetful of her years, not her intent,
went hastily to Polymnestor, who
contrived this dreadful murder, and desired
an interview, pretending it was her wish
to show him hidden gold, for her lost son.
The Odrysian king believed it all:
accustomed to the love of gain, he went
with her, in secret, to the spot she chose.
Then craftily he said in his bland way:
“Oh, Hecuba, you need not wait, give now,
munificently to your son—and all
you give, and all that you have given,
by the good gods, I swear, shall be his own.”
She eyed him sternly as he spoke
and swore so falsely.—Then her rage boiled over,
and, seconded by all her captive train,
she flew at him and drove her fingers deep
in his perfidious eyes; and tore them from
his face—and plunged her hands into the raw
and bleeding sockets (passion made her strong),
defiled with his bad blood. How could she tear
his eyes, gone from their seats? She wildly gouged
the sightless sockets of his bleeding face!
The Thracians, angered by such violence done
upon their king, immediately attacked
the Trojan matron with their stones and darts
but she with hoarse growling and snapping jaws
sprang at the stones, and, when she tried to speak,
she barked like a fierce dog. The place still bears
a name suggested by her hideous change.
And she, long mindful! of her old time woe,
ran howling dismally in Thracian fields.
Her sad fate moved the Trojans and the Greeks,
her friends and foes, and all the heavenly gods.
Yes all, for even the sister-wife of Jove
denied that Hecuba deserved such fate.
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