Woman's Love For Her Country
( Originally Published 1902 )
WHEN the Greeks were about to set sail in their expedition against Troy, Agamemnon offended the gods, and they declared that his army should not be successful in the undertaking until he should offer his daughter Iphigenia as a sacrifice. The struggle between his duty as the commander of the army and his affection for his daughter almost set him crazy. At the urgent entreaties of his brother Menelaus and the soldiers, he determined to offer the sacrifice. Under the pretense of giving her in marriage to Achilles, he sent a letter to his wife and daughter, summoning them to his camp. After the let-ter had been sent his heart was so troubled that he spent a whole night in agonizing debate with himself. " He had a lamp before him and in his hand a tablet of pine wood whereon he wrote. But he seemed not to remain in the same mind about that which he wrote ; for now he would blot out the letters and then would write them again; and now he fastened the seal upon the tablet, and then he broke it. And as he did this he wept and was like to a man distracted." The letter he signed and sealed at last countermanded the first one, and ordered the daughter to remain at home. The courier had scarcely started upon the journey when he met the mother and daughter in a royal chariot coming to the marriage. When the daughter discovered the deceit, she made this heartrending plea for her life:
"I would, my father, that I had the voice of Orpheus, who made even the rocks to follow him, that I might persuade thee; but now all that I have I give, even these tears. O, my father, I am thy child ; slay me not before my time. This light is sweet to look upon; drive me not from it, to the land of darkness. I was the first to call thee father and the first to whom thou didst say, `my child.' I hoped thou wouldst say to me, ` Some day, my child, I shall see thee a happy wife in the home of a rich husband,' and I. would answer, `And I will receive thee with all love when thou art old, and pay thee back for all the benefits thou hast done unto me.' Have pity upon me and slay me not." When she learned that the fate of the army hung upon the event she freely consented to die. Achilles, when he saw the injustice of the father in deceiving her, and saw her beautiful person and more beautiful heroism, insisted on her becoming his wife in these words : " Lady, I love thee well, when I see how noble thou art. And if thou wilt, I will carry thee to my home." Menelaus himself relented, and asked the father to spare his daughter and disband the army. The daughter refused the clemency, and insisted on offering herself as a sacrifice for her country.
Although only a few women have led armies or carried weapons, from the earliest ages woman has been singularly loyal to her country. During the very siege made possible by the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the women of Troy cut off their hair to make bow-strings, and asked the men to send the arrow to the heart of the foe. Woman not only has to bear and train the men that become the soldiers, but in time of war she has to endure the hardships and make sacrifices corresponding to those of the men in the field. The added responsibilities and the diminished support caused by the absence of the men, are as severe as the toils or trials of the men on the march or in the camp. And the agony of heart at the loneliness and fear of danger to the loved ones, the news of sickness, wounds or death, is as great as that endured by the soldier at the front. The tears of love she sheds are just as sacred and made out of the same material as the blood that stains the field of battle. The pen of history and of poetry, able and faithful though it has been, has not justly recorded the loyalty and heroism of American women or fittingly embalmed their deeds.