Let me then speak; but where shall I begin.
Thy insults to recount? With what conclude?
Or how pursue the train of my discourse?
I never with the opening morn forbore
To breathe my silent plaints, which to thy face
I wished to utter, from my former fears
If e’er I should be free: I now am free.
Now, to thee living what I wished to speak,
I will recount. Thou hast destroyed my hopes,
Made me an orphan, him and me bereft
Of a dear father, by no wrongs enforced.
My mother basely wedding, thou hast slain
The glorious leader of the Grecian arms,
Yet never didst thou tread the fields of Troy.
Nay, such thy folly, thou couldst hope to find
My mother, shouldst thou wed her, nought of ill
To thee intending: hence my father’s bed
By thee was foully wronged. But let him know
Who with forbidden love another’s wife
Corrupts, then by necessity constrained
Receives her as his own, should he expect
To find that chastity preserved to him,
Which to her former bed was not preserved,
He must be wretched from his frustrate hope.
And what a life of misery didst thou lead,
Though not by thee deemed ill? Thy conscious mind
Of thy unholy nuptials felt the guilt:
My mother knew that she an impious man
In thee had wedded; and, polluted both,
Thou hadst her fortune, she thy wickedness.
‘Mongst all the Argives, this had fame divulged,
The man obeys the wife, and not the wife
Her husband: shameful this, when in the house
The woman sovereign rules, and not the man.
And when of children speaks the public voice
As from the mother, not the father sprung,
To me it is unpleasing. He who weds
A wife of higher rank and nobler blood,
Sinks into nothing, in her splendour lost.
Thus truth unknown, thy pride was most deceived,
Thyself as great thou vauntedst, in the power
Of riches vainly elevate; but these
Are nothing, their enjoyment frail and brief;
Nature is firm, not riches; she remains
For ever, and triumphant lifts her head.
But unjust wealth, which sojourns with the base,
Glitters for some short space, then flies away.
To women thy demeanour I shall pass
Unmentioned, for to speak it ill beseems
A virgin’s tongue; yet I shall make it known
By indistinct suggestion. Arrogance
Swelled thy vain mind, for that the royal house
Was thine, and beauty graced thy perfect form.
But be not mine a husband whose fair face
In softness with a virgin’s vies, but one
Of manly manners; for the sons of such
By martial toils are trained to glorious deeds:
The beauteous only to the dance give grace.
Perish, thou wretch, to nothing noble formed;
Such was thou found, and vengeance on thy head
At length hath burst; so perish all, that dare
Atrocious deeds! Nor deem, though fair his course
At first, that he hath vanquished Justice ere
He shall have reached the goal, the end of life.