In heaven-high musings and many,
Far-seeking and deep debate,
Of strong things find I not any
That is as the strength of Fate.
Help nor healing is told
In soothsayings uttered of old,
In the Thracian runes, the verses
Engraven of Orpheus’ pen;
No balm of virtue to save
Apollo aforetime gave,
Who stayeth with tender mercies
The plagues of the children of men.
She hath not her habitation
In temples that hands have wrought;
Him that bringeth oblation,
Behold, she heedeth him naught.
Be thou not wroth with us more,
O mistress, than heretofore;
For what God willeth soever,
That thou bringest to be;
Thou breakest in sunder the brand
Far forged in the Iron Land;
Thine heart is cruel, and never
Came pity anigh unto thee.
Thee, too, O King, hath she taken
And bound in her tenfold chain;
Yet faint not, neither complain:
The dead thou wilt no awaken
For all thy weeping again.
They perish, whom gods begot;
The night releaseth them not.
Beloved was she that died
And dear shall ever abide,
For this was the queen among women,
Admetus, that lay by thy side.
Not as the multitude lowly
Asleep in their sepulchres,
Not as their grave be hers,
But like as the gods held holy,
The worship of wayfarers.
Yea, all that travel the way
Far off shall see it and say,
Lo, erst for her lord she died,
To-day she sitteth enskied;
Hail, lady, be gracious to usward;
That always her honor abide.
c. 480–406 BC
Translated by A.E. Housman
The Alcestis of Euripides (The Pennsylvania State University)