Hermione writes to Orestes but addresses her long absent mother too:
“As a small child I was without my mother
And my father was always at war.
Even though they were alive—I was bereft of both.
Mother: in those first years I never brought you
loving words from the uncertain mouth of a little girl.
I never reached around your neck with too short arms
Nor sat as a welcome burden in your lap.”
parva mea sine matre fui; pater arma ferebat;
et duo cum vivant, orba duobus eram.
non tibi blanditias primis, mea mater, in annis
incerto dictas ore puella tuli.
non ego captavi brevibus tua colla lacertis,
nec gremio sedi sarcina grata tuo.
“When the Titan pushes higher his shining stallions,
I enjoy more freedom in my miserable sadness;
When night hides me wailing and weeping
In my bedroom, and I have stretched out on a hateful bed,
My eyes fill with swelling tears instead of sleep
And I retreat from my husband as I would from an enemy.
I am often this thunderstruck and unmindful of place
after I have touched Scyrian limbs with an ignorant hand.
But when I understand the sin, I leave the body touched by evil
And I know that I have unclean hands.
Often, Orestes’ name leaves my mouth instead of Neoptolemus
And an error of speech is the omen I love.”
cum tamen altus equis Titan radiantibus instant,
perfruor infelix liberiore malo;
nox ubi me thalamis ululantem et acerba gementem
condidit in maesto procubuique toro,
pro somno lacrimis oculi funguntur obortis
quaque licet fugio sicut ab hoste viro.
saepe malis stupeo rerumque oblita locique
ignara tetigi Scyria membra manu;
utque nefas sensi, male corpora tacta relinquo
et mihi pollutas credor habere manus.
saepe Neoptolemi pro nomine nomen Orestis
exit, et errorem vocis ut omen amo.
Hermione, daughter of Helen and Menelaos, was in some accounts married to Neoptolemus (Achilles’ son) even though Orestes (her cousin and son of Agamemnon) loved her. The conflict between Orestes and Neoptolemus over her, a sort of proxy for the strife between their fathers, continues in most accounts until Orestes arranges for the murder of his adversary. In this poem, Hermione writes to her cousin from her unhappy marriage with Neoptolemus (Scyrian, because he was born on Scyrus!).