Archive for April 6th, 2017

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Chorus of Trojan Women from “The Daughters of Troy” by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Is it true, or does an idle story
Make the timid dream that after death,
When the loved one shuts the wearied eyelids,
When the last day’s sun has come and gone,
And the funeral urn has hid the ashes,
He shall still live on among the shades?
Does it not avail to bear the dear one
To the grave? Must misery still endure
Longer life beyond? Does not all perish
When the fleeting spirit fades in air
Cloudlike? When the dreaded fire is lighted
‘Neath the body, does no part remain?
Whatsoe’er the rising sun or setting
Sees; whatever ebbing tide or flood
Of the ocean with blue waters washes,
Time with Pegasean flight destroys.
Like the sweep of whirling constellations,
Like the circling of their king the sun,
Haste the ages. As obliquely turning
Hecate speeds, so all must seek their fate;
He who touches once the gloomy water
Sacred to the god, exists no more.
As the sordid smoke from smoldering embers
Swiftly dies, or as a heavy cloud,
That the north wind scatters, ends its being,
So the soul that rules us slips away;
After death is nothing ; death is nothing
But the last mete of a swift-run race,
Which to eager souls gives hope, to fearful
Sets a limit to their fears. Believe
Eager time and the abyss engulf us;
Death is fatal to the flesh, nor spares
Spirit even; Tænaris, the kingdom
Of the gloomy monarch, and the door
Where sits Cerberus and guards the portal,
Are but empty rumors, senseless names,
Fables vain, that trouble anxious sleep.
Ask you whither go we after death?
Where they lie who never have been born.

From: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus and Harris, Ella Isabel, Two Tragedies of Seneca: Medea and The Daughters of Troy. Rendered into English Verse with an Introduction, 1899, Houghton, Miflin and Company: Boston and New York, pp. 62-63.

Date: c50 (original in Latin); 1899 (translation in English)

By: Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c4 BCE-65 CE)

Translated by: Ella Isabel Harris (1859-1923)