Page:Euripides the Rationalist.djvu/73

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



have been for him to go through the only alternative. No man of sensibility, who had acted as he has done, could fail to be aware that, however he might gloze or bluster, to all impartial eyes he must make a sorry figure. Admetus is perfectly aware of it. After the burial, in the cold forlornness of his return to the house, he vividly depicts the advantage which malice would take of him, and the effect that it would produce. I have cited the passage before, but I will cite it again (it is worth while), this time in the version of Browning:

And then, whoever is a foe of mine,
And lights on me—why, this will be his word—
'See there! alive ignobly, there he skulks
That played the dastard when it came to die,
And giving her he wedded, in exchange,
Kept himself out of Hades safe and sound,
The coward! Do you call that creature—man?
He hates his parents for declining death,
Just as if he himself would gladly die!'
This sort of reputation shall I have.

'That', subjoins Balaustion aptly, 'was the truth'. Perhaps in supposing that such hostility would be quite and for ever invincible, he is carried by remorse somewhat beyond the truth. It is, I fear, conceivable that a year or so later his banquets might, by the favour of the gods, have been as well attended as ever. But while the affair was fresh, the opinion of the world would undoubtedly have been such as he describes. And this truth, though Balaustion may not be wrong in saying that it is fully realised only when it is confessed, is felt, palpably felt as a determining motive, by his instincts all along. It is impossible that Admetus should not shrink, as one would shrink from flaying, even although one had never been flayed before, from the thought of walking after the bier of Alcestis, first of a noble train, before the assembled townsfolk of Pherae, in the presence of the parents whom he so preposterously maligns, of the kin of his wife (Euripides does not forget them), and of all the curious who could manage to reach the place, knowing that all were saying, to themselves if not audibly,

See there! alive ignobly, there he skulks!

His plan is, and all his actions up to the burial have no other