The Phoenician Women


Euripides. The Plays of Euripides, Translated into English Prose from the Text of Paley. Vol. II. Coleridge, Edward P., translator. London: George Bell and Sons, 1891.

  1. Maidens, I hear your Phoenician voice, and my old feet drag their tottering steps. O my son,
  2. at last after countless days I see your face; throw your arms about your mother’s breast, stretch out to me your cheeks and the dark, curly locks of your hair, overshadowing my neck.
  3. Hail to you! all hail! scarcely here in your mother’s arms, beyond hope and expectation. What can I say to you? How in every way, by hands, by words, in the mazy delight
  4. of the dance, shall I find the pleasure of my former joy? Ah! my son, you left your father’s house desolate, when your brother’s outrage drove you away in exile.
  5. Truly you were missed alike by your friends and Thebes. And so I cut my white hair and let it fall for grief, in tears, not clad in robes of white, my son,
  6. but taking instead these dark rags.
  7. While in the house the old blind man, always possessed by his tearful longing for the pair of brothers estranged from the home,
  8. rushed to kill himself with the sword or by the noose suspended over his chamber-roof, moaning his curses on his sons;
  9. and now he hides himself in darkness, always weeping and lamenting. And you, my child, I hear you have married and are begetting children to your joy in a foreign home,
  10. and are courting a foreign alliance, a ceaseless regret to me your mother and to Laius your ancestor, ruin brought by your marriage. I was not the one who lit for you the marriage-torch,
  11. the custom in marriage for a happy mother; Ismenus had no part at your wedding in supplying the luxurious bath, and there was silence through the streets of Thebes, at the entrance of your bride.
  12. Curses on them! whether the sword or strife or your father that is to blame, or heaven’s visitation that has burst riotously upon the house of Oedipus; for on me has come all the anguish of these evils.
Chorus Leader
  1. Their offspring are a wonderful thing to women; all of them have some love for their children.
  1. Mother, I have come among enemies wisely or foolishly; but all men must love their native land; whoever says otherwise
  2. is pleased to say so, but his thoughts are turned elsewhere. I was so fearful and in such terror, lest my brother should kill me by treachery, that I came through the city sword in hand, looking all round. I had one advantage,
  3. the truce and your word, which brought me to to the paternal walls; and I arrived here weeping, to see after a long time my home and the altars of the gods, the training ground, scene of my childhood, and the water of Dirce, from which I was unjustly driven to live in a foreign city,
  4. a stream of tears flowing from my eyes. Now, grief upon grief, I see you with hair cut short and in black robes, alas for my sorrows!
  5. What a terrible thing, mother, is hatred between dear friends.
  6. and how hard it makes reconciliation
  7. What is my old father doing within the house, looking on darkness? What of my two sisters? Surely the unhappy ones lament my exile?