“I’m mad! I’m mad! Burnt on my brain
I see the bodies of the slain!
The corpses of: father, my son,
My husband! Soon they’ll be no-one
Left me! To live is but a curse!
What can the gods do to me worse?
I die? And so? Life is but bad!
My burning brain! I’m going mad!
The Greeks in battle cut them down
Before, without our Trojan town.
By blade, with arrows, one by one
I lost me yet another son!
Neither the first – nor yet my last
Was Hector slain and then downcast
Behind the victor’s chariot wheels.
The agony! My memory reels!
Achilles! Curse his bloodied blade!
Yet by my Paris was he slayed –
Who’s slain in turn by archers Greek
Before even elapsed a week!
My senses drown in mounting grief!
My suffering is beyond belief!
King Priam near the altar lies
His life-blood dripping. His last cries –
A plea for mercy – never heard
For death denies his final word!
I clasp his body to my breast.
His life bleeds out. I him addressed
With gentle words. Upon my hands
His blood. He no more understands –
For Hades took his noble soul.
Why not mine too? No longer whole
My mind fragments along its seams
Recalling myriad might-have-beens…
Polyxena – sacrificed
Because no winds present sufficed
To waft the Grecian ships back home!
She’s dead! She’s dead! Now I’m alone!
She’s sacrificed to Achilles.
I begged her life! But to my pleas
All hearts turned stone, all ears were dumb.
My sorrow grows. My heart is numb!
I’m drowning in a flood of tears
And dead are all my former fears.
Polydorus – my young boy
We sent outside beleaguered Troy
To Thrace. But did this save him? No!
For Thrace’s king would have it so:
He slays his guest! Butchers my son!
I saw myself what he had done:
The body washed up on our sand –
My son’s corpse slashed by murderers’ hand!
I beat my breast! I tore my hair!
My soul is darkened by despair…
Someone told me the lots were cast.
Some Greeks now drag me to the mast.
What ship? Belongs to Ulysses?
I am his bond-slave? I must please
The man who built the Trojan horse?
Whose ruse succeeding, turned the course
Of war to our Trojan defeat?
This shame my reason will unseat-”
The transformation happens fast
As Hecuba succumbs at last
To heavy griefs, darkest despair.
A shimmer on the beach-side air
Before she can be dragged aboard
The Grecian ship: Hecuba roared!
See what Hecuba is become:
A pitch-black beast under the sun!
Hecuba tears with tooth and claw
Out-fights her captors, bonds up-tore
And battles her way through the men
To freedom: she is free again!
The black hellhound then streaks away –
For old Hecuba died that day.
The hellhound, though, is well I trow.
She hunts amongst the Furies now:
Bloodthirsty, savage, thing of dread
Longing to feast on Grecian dead!