The Legacy Of Helen Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 01:29:01
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Category: History

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A monologue from the play by Euripides
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. i. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1920.
HELEN: To what illsHave I been subject, O my dear companions!Did not my mother, as a prodigyWhich wondering mortals gaze at, bring me forth?For neither Grecian nor barbaric dameTill then produced an egg, in which her childrenEnveloped lay, as they report, from JoveLeda engendered. My whole life and allThat hath befallen me, but conspires to formOne series of miraculous events;To Juno some, and to my beauty someAre owing. Would to Heaven, that, like a tabletWhose picture is effaced, I could exchangeThis form for one less comely, since the GreeksForgetting those abundant gifts showered downBy 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 speciesOf misery is afflicted by the gods,Although the weight of Heaven’s chastising handBe grievous, may with fortitude endureSuch visitation: but by many woesAm I oppressed, and first of all exposedTo slanderous tongues, although I ne’er have erred.It were a lesser evil e’en to sinThan be suspected falsely. Then the gods,‘Midst men of barbarous manners, placed me farFrom my loved country: torn from every friend,I languish here, to servitude consignedAlthough of free born race: for ‘midst barbariansAre all enslaved but one, their haughty lord.My fortunes had this single anchor left,Perchance my husband might at length arriveTo 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 powerOf adverse fortune only: this one dangerThere yet remains, if at my native landI should again arrive, they will confine meIn a close dungeon, thinking me that HelenWho dwelt in Ilion, till she thence was borneBy Menelaus. Were my husband living,We might have known each other, by producingThose tokens to which none beside are privy:But this will never be, nor can he e’erReturn in safety. To what purpose thenDo I still lengthen out this wretched being?To what new fortunes am I still reserved?Shall I select a husband, but to varyMy present ills, to dwell beneath the roofOf a barbarian, at luxurious boardsWith wealth abounding, seated? for the dameWhom wedlock couples with the man she hatesDeath is the best expedient. But with gloryHow shall I die? the fatal noose appearsTo be so base, that e’en in slaves ’tis heldUnseemly thus to perish; in the poniardThere’s somewhat great and generous. But to meDelays 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.

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