DIE DIENERIN in «Alkestis»

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    Act II 

    The Attendant with the Chorus.

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    THE ATTENDANT:
    The best of wives indeed; who will gainsay it?
    What could the brightest pattern of her sex
    Do more? What greater proof give of the honour
    She bears her husband, than a ready will
    To die for him! This all the city knows.
    How in the house she hath demeaned herself
    Will claim thy admiration. When she knew
    The destined day was come, in fountain water
    She bathed her lily-tinctured limbs, then took
    From her rich chests of odorous cedar formed
    A splendid robe, and her most radiant dress;
    Thus gorgeously arrayed she stood before
    The hallowed flames, and thus addressed her prayer:
    " O queen, I go to the infernal shades,
    Yet, ere I go, with reverence let me breathe
    My last request—Protect my orphan children,
    Make my son happy with the wife he loves,
    And wed my daughter to a noble husband:
    Nor let them, like their mother, to the tomb
    Untimely sink, but in their native land
    Be blest through lengthened life to honoured age."
    Then to each altar in the royal house
    She went, and crowned it, and addressed her vows,
    Plucking the myrtle bough: nor tear, nor sigh
    Came from her, neither did th' approaching ill
    Change the fresh beauties of her vermeil cheek.
    Her chamber then she visits, and her bed;
    There are tears flowed, and thus she spoke: "O bed,
    To which my wedded lord, for whom I die,
    Led me a virgin bride, farewell! To thee
    No blame do I impute, for me alone
    Hast thou destroyed. Disdaining to betray
    Thee, and my lord, I die. To thee shall come
    Some other woman, not more chaste, perchance
    More happy." As she lay, she kissed the couch,
    And bathed it with a flood of tears: that passed,
    She left her chamber, then returned, and oft
    She left it, oft returned, and on the couch
    Fondly, each time she entered, cast herself.
    Her children, as they hung upon her robes
    Weeping, she raised, and clasped them to her breast
    Each after each, as now about to die.
    Each servant through the house burst into tears
    In pity of their mistress; she to each
    Stretched her right hand ; nor was there one so mean
    To whom she spoke not, and admitted him
    To speak to her again. Within the house
    These are our griefs. Admetus must have died,
    Have perished; but escaping is immersed
    In sorrows, which his heart shall ne'er forget.

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