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If head and heart be sound in thee at least.
Farewell, be happy! And to thee, indeed,
The chorus cheerfully undertake for Admetus that he will perform his wife's wishes. Admetus also answers up for himself. He mixes, it will be seen, a bitter dash of the unfilial with the overflowing sweet of his conjugal : Admetos. Fear not, and, since I had thee living, dead
Alone wilt thou be called my wife: no fear
And I shall bear for thee no year-long grief,
But were the tongue and tune of Orpheus mine,
For in the self-same cedar, me with thee,
From thee, my faithful one of all the world!
Your father saying he will never wed
Nor yet dishonor me!
And now at least
Take from my hand these children !
Thus I take
Do thou become
At least to these bereaved of thee !
Am I departing from you both!
Ah me !
Alk. We are sufficient, we who die for thee.
Alk. And truly the dimmed eye draws earthward now !
Alk. She once was—now is nothing, thou may'st say.
But-fare ye well, my children !
Look on them-
I am nothingness.
What dost thou ! Leav'st
The most pathetic of the tragedians, Aristotle considers Euripides to be. Here, exercising good art, the poet prolongs the pathos of the scene of death with additional exclamations from Admetus, from the children, and from the chorus of bystanders. Admetus bids his Thessalian subjects share his grief with him. They must clip their own locks, and shear their horses' manes. Twelve months they must refrain from cheerful music.
The chorus hereupon chant, moving in mystic dance the while, as follows (for this lyric strain we use Mr. Potter's rhymed version) :
Immortal bliss be thine,
Immortal pleasures round thee flow,
Be the black-brow'd Pluto told,
And the Stygian boatman old,
The dead conveying o'er the tide,
His light skiff never bore:
Thy praise the bards shall tell,
Or when they sweep the solemn strings,
Or in Sparta's jocund bowers
Circling when the vernal hours
Full-orb'd the high moon rolls her light;
Shows her magnific state;
Again to view this golden light,
To leave that boat, to leave that dreary shore,
Where Cocytus, deep and wide,
Rolls along his sullen tide!
For thy lord's life daredst give thy own.
And be thou ever bless'd !
When, to avert his doom,
Nor would his ancient father die
Though the hand of time had spread
Hoar hairs o'er each aged head ;
The darksome way thou daredst to go,
Be mine so true a wife,
In the foregoing version of this Euripidean chorus, our readers have the opportunity of studying the symmetry, or correspondence in measure, between line and line, in strophe and antistrophe of the elaborate Greek choral ode.
The sorrowful monotony of the play now suffers a sudden, almost staggering, interruption. Heracles (Hercules) bursts in with a gruff and bluff heartiness of unconscious discord, which Mr. Browning well reproduces. He conceives this demigod as a great, wholesome-hearted, generous champion of mankind, feeding enormously, but not gluttonously, simply to repair the waste of his prodigious exertions on behalf of the suffering. He thus, through his Greek girl Balaustion puts a fine poetic gloss upon what otherwise would seem gross conduct on Heracles's part,
We must shorten the story of how Admetus concealed from Heracles the true situation of affairs and got him to stay as guest, under the impression that only a stranger woman of the house had died. Admetus did not quite lie outright to his guest-friend. Who is the man that has died ? inquires Heracles. Not a man-a woman, evades Admetus. Alien, then, or born kin of thine ? pursues Heracles. Alien, parries Admetus, though still related to my house. Bystanders and domestics are surprised to see Admetus insist at such cost on being hospitable to the stranger. However, the complaisant chorus laud the hospitality of the house in a strain which, fortunately, we are able to show our readers under a noble form given to it by one who signs only the initials “T. E. W." to this choice fragment of translation, published first as a contribution to the “ College Magazine," Dublin, October, 1857 :
Hail, house of the open door,
To the guest and the wanderer free!
Deigned to inhabit thee.
Through the upland rocks
To the feeding flocks
With the joy of the mighty spell ;
From the leafy Othrys' dell;
Light tripped fawn
O'er the level lawn
The house where the lord Admetus bides
Of the pleasant Beebian lake;