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Ovid XIII Chapter 6: 481-575 Hecuba's lament and transformation
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|The Trojan women lift her body, counting over the lamented children of Priam, and recounting how much blood one house has surrendered. They weep for you, girl, and for you, Hecuba, who were lately called the royal wife, the royal parent, the image of bright Asia, now in evil circumstances, even for a prisoner, whom victorious Ulysses would not have wanted, except for the fact that you had given birth to Hector: a partner for his mother that Hector would scarcely have imagined! Embracing the body of Polyxena, now empty of that brave spirit, she sheds the tears for her that she has shed so often for her husband, sons and country. She pours her tears over her daughter's wound, covers her lips with kisses, and beats at her own bruised breast. Then, tearing at her white hair caked with blood, and plucking at her breast, she said this amongst other things: Child - since, what else is left me? - your mother's last grief, Child, you lie there, and I see your wound, that is my wound. Look, you also have your wound, so that I might lose none of my children without bloodshed. Because you were a woman, I thought you safe from the sword: yet, a woman, you have died by the sword: and that same Achilles who has ruined Troy and made me childless, who has destroyed so many of your brothers, has killed you in the same way. Yet when he fell to the arrow of Paris, and Phoebus, I said: "Now surely, Achilles is no longer to be feared." Yet even then I still needed to fear him. His very ashes in the tomb are hostile to our race: even in the grave we feel his enmity: I gave birth for the Aeacidae! Mighty Ilium is in the dust, and, in a grievous outcome, our ruined State is ended. But still, it ended: in me, only, Pergama remains. My grief still takes it course. A moment ago I was endowed with the greatest things, so many sons and daughters, sons-in-law, and daughters-in-law, and my husband. Now, exiled, destitute, torn from the tombs of my loved ones, I am dragged off as a prize, to serve Penelope. She will point me out to the women of Ithaca, as I spin the wool she gives me, and say: "This is the famous mother of Hector, this is Priam's queen." Now you, Polyxena, after so many have been lost, you, who were the only one left to comfort your mother's grief, have been sacrificed on an enemy tomb! I have borne offerings for the enemy dead! Why do I remain, unyielding? Why do I linger here? Why do you preserve me, wrinkled old age? Why prolong an old woman's life, cruel gods, unless it is for me to view more funerals? Who would have thought Priam could be happy when Pergama has fallen? Yet he is happy, in death! He did not see you killed, daughter, but left his kingdom and his life together. Do I imagine you will be endowed with funereal splendour, and your body laid to rest in the ancestral tomb? That is not our house's fate! Your mother's tears will be your funeral gift, and the wastes of foreign sand. I have lost everything: now an only child is left, once the youngest son of my family, his mother's dearest, a reason to endure life for a brief space of time, Polydorus, sent to these shores, to the Ismarian king. But why do I delay, meanwhile, the cleansing of your cruel wound with water, your face spattered with drops of blood?' She spoke, and went to the shore, with the stumbling steps of an old woman, tearing at her white hair. 'Give me an urn, women of Troy!' said the unhappy mother, wanting to draw water from the sea. There, she saw Polydorus's body, thrown on the beach, covered with open wounds made by Thracian spears. The Trojan women cried out, but she was dumb with grief. The grief itself obliterated both her powers of speech and the tears welling inside, and she stood unmoving like solid rock, at one moment with her gaze fixed on the ground, the next lifting her face grimly towards the sky. Now she looked at her dead son's face, now at his wounds, mostly at his wounds, awakening a growing anger in herself. Then it blazed out, and she, as if she were still a queen, determined on vengeance, her whole mind filled with thoughts of punishment. Hecuba, her grief mixed with anger, forgetting her age, but not forgetting her rage, like a lioness maddened by the theft of her unweaned cub, that, though she cannot see her enemy, follows the traces she finds of his footsteps, found her way to the author of the dreadful crime, Polymestor. She made out that she wanted to show him a secret hoard of gold, to be given to her son. The Thracian believed her, and with his usual desire for gain, came with her secretly. Then with smooth and cunning words, he said: 'Do not delay, Hecuba: give me your gift to your son! It will all be for him, both what you give and what was given before, I swear by the gods.' She gazed at him, grimly, as he spoke and swore his lying oath, until, her seething anger boiling over, she called on her train of captive women to attack the man, and drove her nails into his deceitful eyes, and (made strong by anger) tore the eyeballs from their sockets, and dipped her hand, and drank, stained with his sinful blood, not from his eyes (nothing of them remained) but from the holes that were his eyes. The Thracians, enraged by the murder of their king, attacked the Trojan woman, hurling stones and missiles, but she chased the stones they threw, snapping at them with a harsh growling, and, readying her jaws for words, barked when she tried to speak. The place is still there, and takes its name, Cynossema, the Monument of the Bitch, from this, and she still howls mournfully amongst the Sithonian fields, remembering endlessly her ancient suffering. Her fate moved the Trojans and her enemies the Greeks, and it moved all the gods as well, yes, all, so that even Juno, Jove's sister-wife, said that Hecuba did not merit such misfortune.||
Troades excipiunt deploratosque recensent |
Priamidas et quot dederit domus una cruores,
teque gemunt, virgo, teque, o modo regia coniunx,
regia dicta parens, Asiae florentis imago,
nunc etiam praedae mala sors; quam victor Ulixes
esse suam nollet, nisi quod tamen Hectora partu
edideras: dominum matri vix repperit Hector!
quae corpus conplexa animae tam fortis inane,
quas totiens patriae dederat natisque viroque,
huic quoque dat lacrimas; lacrimas in vulnera fundit
osculaque ore tegit consuetaque pectora plangit
canitiemque suam concretam sanguine vellens
plura quidem, sed et haec laniato pectore, dixit:
'nata, tuae—quid enim superest?—dolor ultime matris,
nata, iaces, videoque tuum, mea vulnera, vulnus:
en, ne perdiderim quemquam sine caede meorum,
tu quoque vulnus habes; at te, quia femina, rebar
a ferro tutam: cecidisti et femina ferro,
totque tuos idem fratres, te perdidit idem,
exitium Troiae nostrique orbator, Achilles;
at postquam cecidit Paridis Phoebique sagittis,
nunc certe, dixi, non est metuendus Achilles:
nunc quoque mi metuendus erat; cinis ipse sepulti
in genus hoc saevit, tumulo quoque sensimus hostem:
Aeacidae fecunda fui! iacet Ilion ingens,
eventuque gravi finita est publica clades,
sed finita tamen; soli mihi Pergama restant.
in cursuque meus dolor est: modo maxima rerum,
tot generis natisque potens nuribusque viroque
nunc trahor exul, inops, tumulis avulsa meorum,
Penelopae munus, quae me data pensa trahentem
matribus ostendens Ithacis "haec Hectoris illa est
clara parens, haec est" dicet "Priameia coniunx,"
postque tot amissos tu nunc, quae sola levabas
maternos luctus, hostilia busta piasti!
inferias hosti peperi! quo ferrea resto?
quidve moror? quo me servas, annosa senectus?
quo, di crudeles, nisi uti nova funera cernam,
vivacem differtis anum? quis posse putaret
felicem Priamum post diruta Pergama dici?
felix morte sua est! nec te, mea nata, peremptam
adspicit et vitam pariter regnumque reliquit.
at, puto, funeribus dotabere, regia virgo,
condeturque tuum monumentis corpus avitis!
non haec est fortuna domus: tibi munera matris
contingent fletus peregrinaeque haustus harenae!
omnia perdidimus: superest, cur vivere tempus
in breve sustineam, proles gratissima matri,
nunc solus, quondam minimus de stirpe virili,
has datus Ismario regi Polydorus in oras.
quid moror interea crudelia vulnera lymphis
abluere et sparsos inmiti sanguine vultus?'
Dixit et ad litus passu processit anili,
albentes lacerata comas. 'date, Troades, urnam!'
dixerat infelix, liquidas hauriret ut undas:
adspicit eiectum Polydori in litore corpus
factaque Threiciis ingentia vulnera telis;
Troades exclamant, obmutuit illa dolore,
et pariter vocem lacrimasque introrsus obortas
devorat ipse dolor, duroque simillima saxo
torpet et adversa figit modo lumina terra,
interdum torvos sustollit ad aethera vultus,
nunc positi spectat vultum, nunc vulnera nati,
vulnera praecipue, seque armat et instruit ira.
qua simul exarsit, tamquam regina maneret,
ulcisci statuit poenaeque in imagine tota est,
utque furit catulo lactente orbata leaena
signaque nacta pedum sequitur, quem non videt, hostem,
sic Hecabe, postquam cum luctu miscuit iram,
non oblita animorum, annorum oblita suorum,
vadit ad artificem dirae, Polymestora, caedis
conloquiumque petit; nam se monstrare relictum
velle latens illi, quod nato redderet, aurum.
credidit Odrysius praedaeque adsuetus amore
in secreta venit: tum blando callidus ore
'tolle moras, Hecabe,' dixit 'da munera nato!
omne fore illius, quod das, quod et ante dedisti,
per superos iuro.' spectat truculenta loquentem
falsaque iurantem tumidaque exaestuat ira
atque ita correpto captivarum agmina matrum
invocat et digitos in perfida lumina condit
expellitque genis oculos (facit ira potentem)
inmergitque manus foedataque sanguine sonti
non lumen (neque enim superest), loca luminis haurit.
clade sui Thracum gens inritata tyranni
Troada telorum lapidumque incessere iactu
coepit, at haec missum rauco cum murmure saxum
morsibus insequitur rictuque in verba parato
latravit, conata loqui: locus exstat et ex re
nomen habet, veterumque diu memor illa malorum
tum quoque Sithonios ululavit maesta per agros.
illius Troasque suos hostesque Pelasgos,
illius fortuna deos quoque moverat omnes,
sic omnes, ut et ipsa Iovis coniunxque sororque
eventus Hecaben meruisse negaverit illos.