|Helen Monologue by Euripides|
- HELEN: To what ills
- Have I been subject, O my dear companions!
- Did not my mother, as a prodigy
- Which wondering mortals gaze at, bring me forth?
- For neither Grecian nor barbaric dame
- Till then produced an egg, in which her children
- Enveloped lay, as they report, from Jove
- Leda engendered. My whole life and all
- That hath befallen me, but conspires to form
- One series of miraculous events;
- To Juno some, and to my beauty some
- Are owing. Would to Heaven, that, like a tablet
- Whose picture is effaced, I could exchange
- This form for one less comely, since the Greeks
- Forgetting those abundant gifts showered down
- By prosperous Fortune which I now possess,
- Think but of what redounds not to my honour,
- And still remember my ideal shame.
- Whoever therefore, with one single species
- Of misery is afflicted by the gods,
- Although the weight of Heaven's chastising hand
- Be grievous, may with fortitude endure
- Such visitation: but by many woes
- Am I oppressed, and first of all exposed
- To slanderous tongues, although I ne'er have erred.
- It were a lesser evil e'en to sin
- Than be suspected falsely. Then the gods,
- 'Midst men of barbarous manners, placed me far
- From my loved country: torn from every friend,
- I languish here, to servitude consigned
- Although of free born race: for 'midst barbarians
- Are all enslaved but one, their haughty lord.
- My fortunes had this single anchor left,
- Perchance my husband might at length arrive
- To snatch me from my woes; but he, alas!
- Is now no more, my mother too is dead,
- And I am deemed her murd'ress, though unjustly,
- Yet am I branded with this foul reproach;
- And she who was the glory of our house,
- My daughter in the virgin state grown grey,
- Still droops unwedded: my illustrious brothers,
- Castor and Pollux, called the sons of Jove,
- Are now no more. But I impute my death,
- Crushed as I am by all these various woes,
- Not to my own misdeeds, but to the power
- Of adverse fortune only: this one danger
- There yet remains, if at my native land
- I should again arrive, they will confine me
- In a close dungeon, thinking me that Helen
- Who dwelt in Ilion, till she thence was borne
- By Menelaus. Were my husband living,
- We might have known each other, by producing
- Those tokens to which none beside are privy:
- But this will never be, nor can he e'er
- Return in safety. To what purpose then
- Do I still lengthen out this wretched being?
- To what new fortunes am I still reserved?
- Shall I select a husband, but to vary
- My present ills, to dwell beneath the roof
- Of a barbarian, at luxurious boards
- With wealth abounding, seated? for the dame
- Whom wedlock couples with the man she hates
- Death is the best expedient. But with glory
- How shall I die? the fatal noose appears
- To be so base, that e'en in slaves 'tis held
- Unseemly thus to perish; in the poniard
- There's somewhat great and generous. But to me
- Delays are useless: welcome instant death:
- Into such depth of misery am I plunged.
- For beauty renders other women blest,
- But hath to me the source of ruin proved.
Credits: Reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. i. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1920.