The God Poseidon.
The Goddess Pallas Athena.
Hecuba, Queen of Troy, wife of Priam, mother of Hector and Paris.
Cassandra, daughter of Hecuba, a prophetess.
Andromache, wife of Hector, Prince of Troy.
Helen, wife of Menelaüs, King of Sparta; carried off by Paris, Prince of Troy.
Talthybius, Herald of the Greeks.
Menelaus, King of Sparta, and, together with his brother Agamemnon, General of the Greeks.
Soldiers attendant on Talthybius and Menelaus.
Chorus of Captive Trojan Women, young and old, maiden and married.
The Troädes was first acted in the year 415 B.C. “The first prize was won by Xenocles, whoever he may have been, with the four plays Oedipus, Lycaön, Bacchae and Athamas, a Satyr-play. The second by Euripides with the Alexander, Palamêdês, Troädes and Sisyphus, a Satyr-play.” — Aelian, Varia Historia, ii. 8.
The scene represents a battlefield, a few days after the battle. At the back are the walls of Troy, partially ruined. In front of them, to right and left, are some huts, containing those of the Captive Women who have been specially set apart for the chief Greek leaders. At one side some dead bodies of armed men are visible. In front a tall woman with white hair is lying on the ground asleep.
It is the dusk of early dawn, before sunrise. The figure of the god Poseidon is dimly seen before the walls.
Up from Aegean caverns, pool by pool
Of blue salt sea, where feet most beautiful
Of Nereïd maidens weave beneath the foam
Their long sea-dances, I, their lord, am come,
Poseidon of the Sea. ’Twas I whose power,
With great Apollo, builded tower by tower
These walls of Troy; and still my care doth stand
True to the ancient People of my hand;
Which now as smoke is perished, in the shock
Of Argive spears. Down from Parnassus’ rock
The Greek Epeios came, of Phocian seed,
And wrought by Pallas’ mysteries a Steed
Marvellous, big with arms; and through my wall
It passed, a death-fraught image magical.
The groves are empty and the sanctuaries
Run red with blood. Unburied Priam lies
By his own hearth, on God’s high altar-stair,
And Phrygian gold goes forth and raiment rare
To the Argive ships; and weary soldiers roam
Waiting the wind that blows at last for home,
For wives and children, left long years away,
Beyond the seed’s tenth fullness and decay,
To work this land’s undoing.
And for me,
Since Argive Hera conquereth, and she
Who wrought with Hera to the Phrygians’ woe,
Pallas, behold, I bow mine head and go
Forth from great Ilion and mine altars old.
When a still city lieth in the hold
Of Desolation, all God’s spirit there
Is sick and turns from worship. — Hearken where
The ancient River waileth with a voice
Of many women, portioned by the choice
Of war amid new lords, as the lots leap
For Thessaly, or Argos, or the steep
Of Theseus’ Rock. And others yet there are,
High women, chosen from the waste of war
For the great kings, behind these portals hid;
And with them that Laconian Tyndarid,
Helen, like them a prisoner and a prize.
And this unhappy one — would any eyes
Gaze now on Hecuba? Here at the Gates
She lies ’mid many tears for many fates
Of wrong. One child beside Achilles’ grave
In secret slain, Polyxena the brave,
Lies bleeding. Priam and his sons are gone;
And, lo, Cassandra, she the Chosen One,
Whom Lord Apollo spared to walk her way
A swift and virgin spirit, on this day
Lust hath her, and she goeth garlanded
A bride of wrath to Agamemnon’s bed.
[He turns to go; and another divine Presence becomes visible in the dusk. It is the goddess Pallas Athena.
Is it the will
Of God’s high Brother, to whose hand is given
Great power of old, and worship of all Heaven,
To suffer speech from one whose enmities
This day are cast aside?
His will it is:
Kindred and long companionship withal,
Most high Athena, are things magical.
Blest be thy gentle mood! — Methinks I see
A road of comfort here, for thee and me.
Thou hast some counsel of the Gods, or word
Spoken of Zeus? Or is it tidings heard
From some far Spirit?
For this Ilion’s sake,
Whereon we tread, I seek thee, and would make
My hand as thine.
Hath that old hate and deep
Failed, where she lieth in her ashen sleep?
Thou pitiest her?
Speak first; wilt thou be one
In heart with me and hand till all be done?
Yea; but lay bare thy heart. For this land’s sake
Thou comest, not for Hellas?
I would make
Mine ancient enemies laugh for joy, and bring
On these Greek ships a bitter homecoming.
Swift is thy spirit’s path, and strange withal,
And hot thy love and hate, where’er they fall.
A deadly wrong they did me, yea within
Mine holy place: thou knowest?
And no man rose and smote him; not a frown
Nor word from all the Greeks!
And ’twas thine hand
That gave them Troy!
Therefore with thee I stand
To smite them.
All thou cravest, even now
Is ready in mine heart. What seekest thou?
An homecoming that striveth ever more
And cometh to no home.
Here on the shore
Wouldst hold them or amid mine own salt foam?
When the last ship hath bared her sail for home!
Zeus shall send rain, long rain and flaw of driven
Hail, and a whirling darkness blown from heaven;
To me his levin-light he promiseth
O’er ships and men, for scourging and hot death:
Do thou make wild the roads of the sea, and steep
With war of waves and yawning of the deep,
Till dead men choke Euboea’s curling bay.
So Greece shall dread even in an after day
My house, nor scorn the Watchers of strange lands!
I give thy boon unbartered. These mine hands
Shall stir the waste Aegean; reefs that cross
The Delian pathways, jag-torn Myconos,
Scyros and Lemnos, yea, and storm-driven
Caphêreus with the bones of drownèd men
Shall glut him. — Go thy ways, and bid the Sire
Yield to thine hand the arrows of his fire.
Then wait thine hour, when the last ship shall wind
Her cable coil for home!
How are ye blind,
Ye treaders down of cities, ye that cast
Temples to desolation, and lay waste
Tombs, the untrodden sanctuaries where lie
The ancient dead; yourselves so soon to die!
The day slowly dawns: Hecuba wakes.
Up from the earth, O weary head!
This is not Troy, about, above —
Not Troy, nor we the lords thereof.
Thou breaking neck, be strengthenèd!
Endure and chafe not. The winds rave
And falter. Down the world’s wide road,
Float, float where streams the breath of God;
Nor turn thy prow to breast the wave.
Ah woe! ... For what woe lacketh here?
My children lost, my land, my lord.
O thou great wealth of glory, stored
Of old in Ilion, year by year
We watched … and wert thou nothingness?
What is there that I fear to say?
And yet, what help? ... Ah, well-a-day,
This ache of lying, comfortless
And haunted! Ah, my side, my brow
And temples! All with changeful pain
My body rocketh, and would fain
Move to the tune of tears that flow:
For tears are music too, and keep
A song unheard in hearts that weep.
[She rises and gazes towards the Greek ships far off on the shore.
O ships, O crowding faces
Of ships, O hurrying beat
Of oars as of crawling feet,
How found ye our holy places?
Threading the narrows through,
Out from the gulfs of the Greek,
Out to the clear dark blue,
With hate ye came and with joy,
And the noise of your music flew,
Clarion and pipe did shriek,
As the coilèd cords ye threw,
Held in the heart of Troy!
What sought ye then that ye came?
A woman, a thing abhorred:
A King’s wife that her lord
Hateth: and Castor’s shame
Is hot for her sake, and the reeds
Of old Eurôtas stir
With the noise of the name of her.
She slew mine ancient King,
The Sower of fifty Seeds,
And cast forth mine and me,
As shipwrecked men, that cling
To a reef in an empty sea.
Who am I that I sit
Here at a Greek king’s door,
Yea, in the dust of it?
A slave that men drive before,
A woman that hath no home,
Weeping alone for her dead;
A low and bruisèd head,
And the glory struck therefrom.
[She starts up from her solitary brooding, and calls to the other Trojan Women in the huts.
O Mothers of the Brazen Spear,
And maidens, maidens, brides of shame,
Troy is a smoke, a dying flame;
Together we will weep for her:
I call ye as a wide-wing’d bird
Calleth the children of her fold,
To cry, ah, not the cry men heard
In Ilion, not the songs of old,
That echoed when my hand was true
On Priam’s sceptre, and my feet
Touched on the stone one signal beat,
And out the Dardan music rolled;
And Troy’s great Gods gave ear thereto.
[The door of one of the huts on the right opens, and the Women steal out severally, startled and afraid.
How say’st thou? Whither moves thy cry,
Thy bitter cry? Behind our door
We heard thy heavy heart outpour
Its sorrow: and there shivered by
Fear and a quick sob shaken
From prisoned hearts that shall be free no more!