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Specimens of Greek Tragedy - Aeschylus and Sophocles
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SPECIMENS OF GREEK TRAGEDY

Translated By

GOLDWIN SMITH, D.C.L.



AESCHYLUS AND SOPHOCLES



1893



PREFACE.

Greek drama, forerunner of ours, had its origin in the festival of Dionysus, god of wine, which was celebrated with dance, song, and recitative. The recitative, being in character, was improved into the Drama, the chief author of the improvement, tradition says, being Thespis. But the dance and song were retained, and became the Chorus, that peculiar feature of the Greek play. This seems to be the general account of the matter, and especially of the combination of the lyric with the dramatic element, so far as we can see through the mist of an unrecorded age.

Thirlwall, still perhaps the soundest and most judicious, though not the most vivid or enthusiastic, historian of Greece, traces the origin of the Drama to "the great choral compositions uniting the attractions of music and action to those of a lofty poetry, which formed the favourite entertainment of the Dorian cities." This, he says, appears to have been the germ out of which, by the introduction of a new element, the recitation of a performer who assumed a character and perhaps from the first shifted his mask, so as to exhibit the outlines of a simple story in a few scenes parted by the intervening song of the Chorus, Thespis and his successors unfolded the Attic Tragedy. Of the further development of the Drama in the age of Pericles, Thirlwall says:—

"The drama was the branch of literature which peculiarly signalised the age of Pericles; and it belongs to the political, no less than to the literary, history of these times, and deserves to be considered in both points of view. The steps by which it was brought through a series of innovations to the form which it presents in its earliest extant remains, are still a subject of controversy among antiquarians; and even the poetical character of the authors by whom these changes were effected, and of their works, is involved in great uncertainty. We have reason to believe that it was no want of merit, or of absolute worth, which caused them to be neglected and forgotten, but only the superior attraction of the form which the drama finally assumed. Of Phrynichus in particular, the immediate predecessor of Aeschylus, we are led to conceive a very favourable opinion, both by the manner in which he is mentioned by the ancients who were acquainted with his poems, and by the effect which it is recorded to have produced upon his audience. It is clear that Aeschylus, who found him in undisputed possession of the public favour, regarded him as a worthy rival, and was in part stimulated by emulation to unfold the capacities of their common art by a variety of new inventions. These, however, were so important as to entitle their author to be considered as the father of Attic tragedy. This title he would have deserved, if he had only introduced the dialogue, which distinguished his drama from that of the preceding poets, who had told the story of each piece in a series of monologues. So long as this was the case, the lyrical part must have created the chief interest; and the difference between the Attic tragedy and the choral songs which were exhibited in a similar manner in the Dorian cities was perhaps not so striking as their agreement. The innovation made by Aeschylus altered the whole character of the poem; raised the purely dramatic portion from a subordinate to the principal rank, and expanded it into a richly varied and well organised composition. With him, it would seem, and as a natural consequence of this great change, arose the usage, which to us appears so singular, of exhibiting what was sometimes called a trilogy, which comprised three distinct tragedies at the same time."

Grote says:—

"The tragic drama belonged essentially to the festivals in honour of the god Dionysus; being originally a chorus sung in his honour, to which were successively superadded: First, an iambic monologue; next, a dialogue with two actors; lastly, a regular plot with three actors, and a chorus itself interwoven into the scene. Its subjects were from the beginning, and always continued to be, persons either divine or heroic above the level of historical life, and borrowed from what was called the mythical past. 'The Persae' of Aeschylus, indeed, forms a splendid exception; but the two analogous dramas of his contemporary, Phrynichus, 'The Phoenissae,' and 'The Capture of Miletus,' were not successful enough to invite subsequent tragedians to meddle with contemporary events. To three serious dramas, or a trilogy—at first connected together by a sequence of subject more or less loose, but afterwards unconnected and on distinct subjects, through an innovation introduced by Sophocles, if not before—the tragic poet added a fourth or satyrical drama; the characters of which were satyrs, the companions of the god Dionysus, and other historic or mythical persons exhibited in farce. He thus made up a total of four dramas, or a tetralogy, which he got up and brought forward to contend for the prize at the festival. The expense of training the chorus and actors was chiefly furnished by the choregi,—wealthy citizens, of whom one was named for each of the ten tribes, and whose honour and vanity were greatly interested in obtaining a prize. At first these exhibitions took place on a temporary stage, with nothing but wooden supports and scaffolding; but shortly after the year 500 B.C., on an occasion when the poets Aeschylus and Pratinas were contending for the prize, this stage gave way during the ceremony, and lamentable mischief was the result. After that misfortune, a permanent theatre of stone was provided. To what extent the project was realised before the invasion of Xerxes we do not accurately know; but after his destructive occupation of Athens, the theatre, if any existed previously, would have to be rebuilt or renovated, along with other injured portions of the city."

Curtius says:—

"Thespis was the founder of Attic tragedy. He had introduced a preliminary system of order into the alternation of recitative and song, into the business of the actor, and into the management of dress and stage. Solon was said to have disliked the art of Thespis, regarding as dangerous the violent excitement of feelings by means of phantastic representation; the Tyrants, on the other hand, encouraged this new popular diversion; it suited their policy that the poor should be entertained at the expense of the rich; the competition of rival tragic choirs was introduced; and the stage near the black poplar on the market-place became a centre of the festive merry- makings in Attica."

Curtius thinks that Pisistratus, as a popular usurper and opponent of the aristocracy, encouraged the worship of the popular god Dionysus with the Tragic Chorus, and he gives Pisistratus the credit of this glorious innovation. A similar policy was ascribed to Cleisthenes of Sicyon by Herodotus (v. 67).

The Chorus thus remaining wedded to the Drama, parts the action with lyric pieces more or less connected with it, and expressive of the feelings which it excites. In Aeschylus and Sophocles the connection is generally close; less close in Euripides. The Chorus also occasionally joins in the dialogue, moralising or sympathising, and sometimes, it must be owned, in a rather commonplace and insipid strain. In "The Eumenides" of Aeschylus, the chorus of Furies takes part as a character in the drama; in "The Suppliants" it plays the principal part.

The Drama came to perfection with Athenian art generally, and with Athens herself in the period which followed the Persian war. The performance of plays at the Dionysiac festival was an important event in Athenian life. The whole city was gathered in the great open-air theatre consecrated to Dionysus, whose priest occupied the seat of honour. All the free men, at least, were gathered there; and when we talk about the intellectual superiority of the Athenian people, we must bear in mind that a condition of Athenian culture was the delegation of industry to the slave. That audience was probably the liveliest, most quick-witted, most appreciative, and most critical that the world ever saw. Prizes were given to the authors of the best pieces. Each tragedian exhibited three pieces, which at first formed a connected series, though afterwards this rule was disregarded. After the three tragic pieces was performed a satyric drama, to relieve the mind from the strain of tragedy, and perhaps also as a conventional tribute to the jollity of the god of wine. In the Elizabethan Drama the tragic and comic are blended as they are in life.

The subjects were taken usually from mythology, especially from the circle of legends relating to the siege of Troy, to the tragic history of the house of Atreus, the equally tragic history of the house of Laius, and the adventures of Hercules. The subject of "The Persae" of Aeschylus is a contemporary event, but this, as Grote says, was an exception. Heroic action and suffering, the awful force of destiny and of the will of heaven, are the general themes of Aeschylus and Sophocles; passion, especially feminine passion, is more frequently the theme of Euripides. Romantic love, the staple of the modern drama and novel, was hardly known to the Greeks, whose romantic affection was friendship, such as that of Orestes and Pylades, or Achilles and Patroclus. The only approach to romantic love in the extant drama is the love of Haemon and Antigone in the "Antigone" of Sophocles; and even here it is subordinate to the conflict between state law and law divine, which is the key-note of the piece; while the lovers do not meet upon the scene. The sterner and fiercer passions, on the whole, predominate, though Euripides has given us touching pictures of conjugal, fraternal, and sisterly love. In the "Oedipus Coloneus" of Sophocles also, filial love and the gentler feelings play a part in harmony with the closing scene of the old man's unhappy life. In the "Philoctetes," Sophocles introduces, as an element of tragedy, physical pain, though it is combined with moral suffering.

A popular entertainment was of course adapted to the tastes of the people. Debate, both political and forensic, was almost the daily bread of the people of Athens. The Athenian loved smart repartee and display of the power of fencing with words. The thrust and parry of wit in the single-line dialogues (stichomythia) pleased them more than it pleases us. Rhetoric had a practical interest when not only the victory of a man's opinions in the political assembly, but his life and property before the popular tribunal, might depend on his tongue. The Drama was also used in the absence of a press for political or social teaching, and for the insinuation of political or social opinions. In reading these passages we must throw ourselves back twenty-three centuries, into an age when political and social observation was new, like politics and civilised society themselves, and ideas familiar to us now were fresh and struggling for expression. The remark may be extended to the political philosophy which struggles for expression in the speeches of Thucydides.

The trio of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides has been compared with that of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Beaumont and Fletcher, and with that of Corneille, Racine, and Voltaire. The parallel will hardly hold good except as an illustration of the course of youth, perfection, and decay through which every art or product of imagination seems to run, unlike science, which continually advances. The epoch of the Athenian three, like that of the Elizabethan three, like that of the great Spanish dramatists, was one of national achievement, and their drama was thoroughly national; whereas the French drama was the highly artificial entertainment of an exclusive Court.

Aeschylus (B.C. 525-456) was the heroic poet of Athens. He had fought certainly at Marathon, and, we may be pretty sure, at Salamis, so that the narrative of the battle of Salamis in "The Persae" is probably that of an eye-witness; and that he had fought at Marathon, not that he had won the prize in drama, was the inscription which he desired for his tomb. He is of the old school of thought and sentiment, full of reverence for religion and for eternal law. The growing scepticism had not touched him. His morality is lofty and austere. In politics he was a conservative, of the party of Cimon, opposed to the radically democratic party of Pericles; and his drama, especially the Oresteian trilogy, teems with conservative sentiment and allusion. His characters are of heroic cast. He deals superbly with the moral forces and destiny; though it may be that more philosophy has been found in him, especially by his German commentators, than is there, and that obscurity arising from his imperfect command of language has sometimes been mistaken for depth. His "Agamemnon" is generally deemed the masterpiece of Greek tragedy. His language is stately and swelling, in keeping with the heroic part of his characters; sometimes it is too swelling, and even bombastic. Though he is the greatest of all, art in him had not arrived at technical perfection. He reminds us sometimes of the Aeginetan marbles, rather than the frieze of the Parthenon.

In Sophocles (B.C. 495-405) the dramatic art has arrived at technical perfection. His drama is regarded as the literary counterpart of the Parthenon. Its calm and statuesque excellence exactly met the requirements of the taste which we call classic, and seems to correspond with the character of the dramatist, which was notably gentle, and with his form, which was typically beautiful. His characters are less heroic, and nearer to common humanity than those of Aeschylus. He appeals more to pity. His art is more subtle, especially in the treatment, for which he is famous, of the irony of fate. In politics, social sentiment, and religion, while he is more of the generation of Pericles than Aeschylus, he is still conservative and orthodox. If he belongs to democracy, it is a democracy still kept within moral bounds, and owning a master in its great chief, with whom he seems to have been personally connected. Nor does he ever court popularity by bringing the personages of the heroic age down to the common level. He, as well as Aeschylus, is dear to Aristophanes, the satiric poet of conservatism, while Euripides is hateful.

Euripides (B.C. 480-406) perhaps slightly resembles Voltaire in this, that he belongs to a different historic zone from his two predecessors, from Sophocles as well as from Aeschylus, in political and social sentiment, though not in date. He belongs to a full-blown democracy, and is evidently the dramatic poet of the people. To please the people he lays dignity and stateliness aside, brings heroic characters down to a common level, and introduces characters which are unheroic. He gives the people plenty of passion, especially of feminine passion, without being nice as to its sources, or rejecting such stories as those of Phaedra and Medea, which would have been alien to the taste, not only of Aeschylus, but of Sophocles. He gives them plenty of politics, plenty of rhetoric, plenty of discussion, political and moral, plenty of speculation, which in those days was novel, now and then a little scepticism. His "Alcestis" is melodrama verging on sentimental comedy, and heralding the sentimental comedy of Menander known to us in the versions of Terence. The chord of pathos he can touch well. His degradation, as the old school thought it, of the drama of Aeschylus and Sophocles, and what they deemed his pandering to vulgar taste, brought upon him the bitter satire of Aristophanes. Yet he did not win many prizes. Perhaps the vast theatre and the grand choric accompaniments harmonised ill with his unheroic style. He is clearly connected with the Sophists, and with the generation the morality of which had been unsettled by the violence of faction and the fury of the Peloponnesian war. Still there is no reason for saying that he preached moral scepticism or impiety. Probably he did not intend to preach anything, but to please his popular audience and to win the prize. The line quoted against him, "My lips have sworn, but my mind is unsworn," read in its place, has nothing in it immoral. Perhaps he had his moods: he was religious when he wrote "The Bacchae." As little ground is there for dubbing him a woman-hater. If he has his Phaedra and Medea, he has also his Alcestis and Electra. He seems to have prided himself on his choric odes. Some of them have beauty in themselves, but they are little relevant to the play.

A full and critical account of the plays will not be expected in the Preface to a series of extracts; it will be found in such literary histories as that of Professor Mahaffy. Nor can it be necessary to dilate on the merit of the pieces selected. The sublime agony of Prometheus Bound, the majesty of wickedness in Clytaemnestra, the martial grandeur of the siege of Thebes, or of the battle of Salamis, in Aeschylus; the awful doom of Oedipus, his mysterious end, the heroic despair of Ajax, the martyrdom of Antigone to duty, in Sophocles; the passion of Phaedra and Medea, the conjugal self-sacrifice of Alcestis, the narratives of the deaths of Polyxena and the slaughter of Pentheus by the Bacchae, in Euripides, speak for themselves, if the translation is at all faithful, and find their best comment in the reader's natural appreciation.

The number of those who do not read the originals will be increased by the dropping of Greek from the academical course. To give them something like an equivalent for the original in English is the object of a translation. As prose can never be an equivalent for poetry, and as the thoughts and diction of poetry are alien to prose, it is necessary to run the risks of a translation in verse. To translate as far as possible line for line, is requisite in the case of the Greek dramatists, if we would not lose the form and balance which are of the essence of Greek art. It is necessary also to preserve as much as possible the simplicity of diction, and to avoid words and phrases suggestive of very modern ideas. After all, it is difficult, with a material so motley and irregular as the English language, to produce anything like the pure marble of the Greek. There are translations of Greek tragedies or parts of them by writers of high poetic reputation, which are no doubt poetry, but are not Greek art.

The lyric portions of the Greek Drama are admired and even enthusiastically praised by literary judges whose verdict we shall not presume to dispute. To translation, however, the choric odes hardly lend themselves. Their dithyrambic character, their high-flown language, strained metaphors, tortuous constructions, and frequent, perhaps studied, obscurity, render it almost impossible to reproduce them in the forms of our poetry. Nor perhaps when they are strictly analysed will much be found, in many of them at least, of the material whereof modern poetry is made. They are, in fact, the libretto of a chant accompanied by dancing, and must have owed much to the melody and movement. In attempting to render the grand choric odes of the "Agamemnon," moreover, the translator is perplexed by corruptions of the text and by the various interpretations of commentators, who, though they all agree as to the moral pregnancy and sublimity of the passage, frequently differ as to its precise meaning. A metrical translation of these odes in English is apt to remind us of the metrical versions of the Hebrew Psalms. A part of one chorus in Aeschylus, which forms a distinct picture, has been given in rhythmical prose; three choruses of Sophocles and two of Euripides have, not without misgiving, been rendered in verse.

The spelling of proper names is in a state of somewhat chaotic transition which makes it difficult to take a definite course. The precisians themselves are not consistent: they still speak of Troy, Athens, Plato, and Aristotle. In the versions themselves the Greek forms have been preferred, though a pedantic extreme has been avoided. In the Preface and Introduction the forms familiar to the English reader have been used.

For Aeschylus and Euripides, the editions of Paley in the Bibliotheca Classica have been used; for Sophocles, that of Mr. Lewis Campbell.



CONTENTS

PREFACE

AESCHYLUS.

PROMETHEUS BOUND.

Introduction

Prometheus is brought in by the Spirits of Might and Force, Hephaestus accompanying them. Lines 1-113

The Sin of Prometheus. Lines 444-533

Prometheus defies Zeus. Lines 928-1114

THE PERSIANS.

Introduction

Atossa's Dream. Lines 1478-216

The Battle of Salamis and the Destruction of the Persian Fleet. Lines 251-473

THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.

Introduction

The Champions. Lines 370-673

AGAMEMNON.

Introduction

The Fall of Troy announced at Mycenae. Lines 1-39

The Chorus recounts the Sacrifice of Iphigenia. Lines 177-240

The Meeting of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra. Lines 828-947

Cassandra's Prophecy. Lines 1149-1391

Cassandra's Prophecy fulfilled. Lines 1343-1554

THE CHOEPHOROE.

Introduction

Orestes discovers himself to Electra. Lines 158-274

Clytaemnestra pleads to her Son Orestes for her Life in Vain. Lines 860-916

THE EUMENIDES (FURIES).

Introduction

Orestes is tried as a Matricide before the Court of the Areopagus at Athens. Lines 536-747

SOPHOCLES.

OEDIPUS THE KING.

Introduction

The Plague-stricken Thebans supplicate Oedipus for Relief. Lines 1-77

Oedipus calls upon Tiresias to reveal the Murderer of Laius. Lines 300-462

The Death of Polybus announced. The Secret of Oedipus's Incest and Murder revealed. Lines 924-1085

Jocasta hangs herself and Oedipus puts out his Eyes. The Scene described. Lines 1223-1296

Oedipus bewails his Calamities. His Colloquy with Creon. Lines 1369-1514

OEDIPUS AT COLONUS.

Introduction

Oedipus and Antigone arrive at Colonus and enter the Consecrated Ground. Lines 1-110

The Chorus chants the Praises of Colonus. Lines 668-719

Length of Days: Choric Hymn. Lines 1211-1238

The End of Oedipus. Lines 1579-1667

ANTIGONE.

Introduction

Antigone proposes to Ismene to take a Part in paying the Last Rites to their Brother Polynices. Lines 1-99

Antigone is caught by the Guard paying Funeral Rites to the Corpse of Polynices, and is brought before Creon. Lines 384-581

A Colloquy between Creon and his Son Haemon, to whom Antigone is betrothed. Lines 631-780

The Power of Love: Choric Hymn. Lines 781-800

Antigone is sent to her Death by Creon. Lines 882-928

Creon, having been brought to Repentance by the Denunciations of the Prophet Tiresias, sets out to bury the Corpse of Polynices and release Antigone from the Cave of Death. The Issue is recounted by a Messenger to the Queen, Eurydice. Lines 1155-1243

AJAX.

Introduction

Tecmessa, a Captive with whom Ajax lives as his Wife, tells the Chorus of Salaminian Mariners what has befallen their Chieftain. Lines 284-330

Ajax bewails his own Fall. Tecmessa tries to comfort him and turn him from Violent Courses. Lines 430-595

Ajax pretends to be softened, and to be going forth only for the Harmless Purpose of Purification in a Running Stream, though he is really going to his Death. Lines 646-692

The Last Speech of Ajax. Lines 815-865

ELECTRA.

Introduction

The Tutor of Orestes tells Clytaemnestra a Fictitious Story of her Son's Death by a Fall in a Chariot Race. Electra is on the Scene. Lines 660-822

Electra's Sister Chrysothemis, having found the offerings of Orestes on his Father's Tomb, brings what she deems glad Tidings to Electra, who meets her with the Announcement that the Pedagogos has just brought Certain News of their Brother's Death. Electra, now reduced to Despair, proposes to Chrysothemis that they should themselves attempt to slay Aegisthus. Lines 871-1057

Orestes enters with the Urn which, it is pretended, contains his Ashes. His Recognition ensues. Lines 1097-1231

THE TRACHINIAE

Introduction

Deianira imparts the Secret of her Device for regaining the Love of her Husband, Hercules, and puts the Fatal Robe into the Hands of Lichas, the Herald, that he may carry it to Hercules. Lines 531-632

Deianira recounts to the Chorus an Alarming and Portentous Incident. Then Hyllus, the Son of Hercules, comes and announces the Catastrophe. Lines 663-820

PHILOCTETES.

Introduction

Ulysses explains the Plan of Action to Neoptolemus, and labours to bend him to his Purpose. Lines 1-134

Neoptolemus having filched the Bow of Philoctetes, Philoctetes prays him to restore it. Lines 927-962



AESCHYLUS



PROMETHEUS BOUND.

Prometheus, the good Titan, has been raising mankind from the condition of primeval brutes by teaching them the arts of civilisation. At last he steals fire from heaven for their use. By this he incurs the wrath of Zeus, who, having deposed his father Chronos, has become king of the gods. As a punishment Prometheus is condemned by Zeus to be chained to a rock in the Caucasus, with an eagle always feeding on his breast. But Prometheus knows the secret of a mysterious marriage which is destined in time to take place, and by the offspring of which Zeus in his turn is to be dethroned. Strong in his consciousness of this, he defies Zeus, who by the agency of Hermes tries in vain to wrest the secret from him. The persons of the drama, besides Prometheus, are Hephaestus, better known by his Latin name of Vulcan, Might and Force personified, Hermes the messenger of Heaven, and the wandering Io. The chorus consists of sea- nymphs, who sympathise with the suffering Prometheus. This drama is a sublime enigma. Aeschylus was conservative and deeply religious. How could he write a play the hero of which is a benefactor of man struggling against the tyranny of the king of the gods, and the sequel of which found a fit and congenial composer in Shelley, whose sentiment and manner the "Prometheus Bound" wonderfully anticipates and perhaps helped to form? Again, how could the Athenians, in an age when their piety had not yet given way to scepticism, have endured such dramatic treatment of the chief of the gods? It is almost as if a Mystery Play had been presented in the Middle Ages with Satan for the hero and the First Person of the Trinity in the character of an oppressor. Perhaps the position of Zeus in the drama as a usurper may, in some degree, have softened the religious effect.

* * * * *

Prometheus is brought in by the Spirits of Might and Force, Hephaestus accompanying them.

LINES 1-113.

SCENE: The Caucasus.

MIGHT.

Unto earth's utmost boundary we have come, To Scythia's realm, th' untrodden wilderness. Hephaestus, now it is thy part to do The Almighty Father's bidding, and to bind This arch-deceiver to yon lowering cliff With bonds of everlasting adamant. Thy attribute, all-fabricating fire, He stole and gave to man. Such is the crime For which he pays the penalty to Heaven, That he may learn henceforth meekly to bear The rule of Zeus and less befriend mankind.

HEPHAESTUS.

Spirits of Might and Force, by you the word Of Zeus has been fulfilled; your task is done. But I—to bind a god, one of my kin, To a storm-beaten cliff, my heart abhors. And yet this must I do, for woe is him That does not what the Almighty Sire commands. Thou high-aspiring son of Themis sage, Unwilling is the hand that rivets thee Indissolubly to this lonely rock, Where thou shalt see no face and hear no voice Of man, but, scorched by the sun's burning ray, Change thy fair hue for dark, and long for night With starry kirtle to close up the day, And for the morn to melt the frosts of night, Still racked with tortures endlessly renewed, And which to end redeemer none is born. Such is the guerdon of thy love for man. A god thyself, thou gav'st, despite the gods, To mortals more than is a mortal's due. And therefore must thou keep this dreary rock, Erect, with frame unbending, reft of sleep, And many a bootless wail of agony Shalt utter. Change of mind in Zeus is none, Ruthless the rule when power is newly won.

MIGHT.

To work! A truce to these weak wails of ruth. Whom the gods hate why dost thou not abhor— Him that betrayed thy attribute to man?

HEPHAESTUS.

Great force have kindred and companionship.

MIGHT.

True, but to disobey the Almighty Sire How canst thou dare? Fearest thou not this more?

HEPHAESTUS.

Relentless still and pitiless art thou.

MIGHT.

Thy wailings are no medicines for his woes; Then waste no pains on that which profits naught.

HEPHAESTUS.

O thrice accurs'd this master-craft of mine!

MIGHT.

Why dost thou curse it? Simple truth to say, Thy art is no way guilty of these ills.

HEPHAESTUS.

Would it had fallen to any lot but mine.

MIGHT.

The one thing to the gods themselves denied [Footnote: In this passage I have retained the old reading eprachthae with the interpretation of the Scholiast.] Is sovereignty, for Zeus alone is free.

HEPHAESTUS.

Too well I know it, and gainsay it not.

MIGHT.

Be quick, then, and make fast this sinner's chain, Lest the Almighty see thee loitering.

HEPHAESTUS.

Here are the fetters for his arms; behold them.

MIGHT.

Grasp him, and with thy hammer round his arms Strike and strike hard and clench them to the rock.

HEPHAESTUS.

The work goes on apace and tarries not.

MIGHT.

Strike harder, clench, leave nothing loose; his craft, E'en in extremity, can find a way.

HEPHAESTUS.

This arm is fixed past any power to loose.

MIGHT.

Clench now the other firmly; let him know That all his cunning is no match for Zeus.

HEPHAESTUS.

Fault with my work can no one find save he.

MIGHT.

Drive then the ruthless spike of adamant Right through the sinner's breast and see it holds.

HEPHAESTUS.

Alas, Prometheus! I bemoan thy pains.

MIGHT.

Thou loiterest, moaning for the foe of Zeus; One day thou mayest be moaning for thyself.

HEPHAESTUS.

Thou see'st a sight most piteous to behold.

MIGHT.

I see yon sinner meeting his desert. Proceed, make fast the fetters round his sides.

HEPHAESTUS.

Needs must I do it, press me not too hard.

MIGHT.

Press thee I will, and shout into thine ear. Go down and clench the gyves about his legs.

HEPHAESTUS.

That work with little labour has been done.

MIGHT.

Now let thy hammer all the bonds make fast; The overseer of this thy work is stern.

HEPHAESTUS.

Thy speech is ruthless as thy looks are grim.

MIGHT.

Be thou soft-hearted an thou wilt, but spare To flout my sternness and my strong resolve.

HEPHAESTUS.

Let us be gone; the gyves are on his legs.

MIGHT.

There revel in thy insolence, there rob Gods of their attributes to give to man. Can mortal man in aught thy durance ease? Ill chosen was the name that thou hast borne. Foresight it means, but thou dost foresight need To set thy limbs free from his handiwork.

PROMETHEUS.

O glorious firmament; O swift-winged winds, Ye rivers and ye gleaming ocean waves Innumerable, and thou great Mother Earth, Thou, too, O sun, with thy all-seeing eye, Look how a god is treated by the gods! See the pains that I must bear, Even to the thousandth year! Such the chains that heaven's new king Forges for my torturing. Ah me! Ah me! my present woe Does but the pangs to come foreshow, Pangs that an end will never know.

Yet hold! The darkness of futurity Is to my eye not dark, nor can aught come That I do not foresee. Our destiny We all must bear as lightly as we may, Since none may wrestle with necessity. And yet to speak or not to speak alike Is miserable. High service done to man— For this I bear the adamantine chain. I to its elemental fountain tracked, In fern-pith stored and bore by stealth away, Fire, source and teacher of all arts to men. Such mine offence, whereof the penalty I pay, thus chained in face of earth and heaven.

* * * * *

THE SIN OF PROMETHEUS.

LINES 444-533.

PROMETHEUS.

Think not it is from pride or wantonness That I forbear to speak; my heart is wrung With looking on these ignominious bonds. Who was it that to these new deities Their attributes apportioned? Who but I? Of that no more; to you as well as me The tale is known; but list while I recount How vile was man's estate, how void was man Of reason, till I gave him mind and sense. Not that I would upbraid the race of men: I would but show my own benevolence. Eyesight they had, yet nothing saw aright; Ears, and yet heard not; but like forms in dreams, For ages lived a life confused, nor bricks Nor woodwork had to build them sunny homes, But dwelt beneath the ground, as do the tribes Diminutive of ants, in sunless caves. Nor had they signs to mark the season's change, Coming of winter or of flowery spring Or of boon summer; but at random wrought In all things, till I taught them to discern The risings and the settings of the stars; The use of numbers, crown of sciences, Was my invention; mine were letters too, The implement of mind in all its works. First I trained beasts to draw beneath the yoke, The collar to endure, the rider bear, And thus relieve man of his heaviest toils. First taught the steed, obedient to the rein, To draw the chariot, wealth's proud appanage. Nor, before me, did any launch the barque With its white wings to rove the ocean wave. These blessings, hapless that I am, have I Devised for man, and yet device have none Myself to liberate from these fell bonds.

CHORUS.

Sad is thy lot, to thy unwisdom due. Now, like a bad physician that himself Has into sickness fallen, thou dost despair And hast no medicine for thine own disease.

PROMETHEUS.

Hear what remains, and thou wilt wonder more At all the feats of my inventive mind. Greatest of all was this; when they fell sick Men had no help, no medicine edible, Potion or ointment, but for lack of cure Wasted away and perished, till my skill Taught them to mix the juice of sovran herbs, With which they now ward off all maladies. Of divination many ways I traced, Laid down the rules for telling which of dreams Would be fulfilled, and of foreboding sounds The mystery unfolded. Then I taught What sights are ominous to wayfarers. I showed which of the birds that wing the heavens Were lucky, which unlucky, and what were Their loves and hatreds and foregatherings. Then what the flesh of victims signified, Of its appearances which pleased the gods, How shaped, how streaked each part behoved to be, And the burnt offerings on the altar laid, Thighs wrapped in fat and chine. I read the signs Of sacrificial flames unread before. More yet I did; the wealth that lurks for man In earth's dark womb,—gold, silver, iron, brass,— Who was it brought all this to light but I? All others lie who would the honour claim. In one short sentence a long tale is told Alone Prometheus gave all arts to man.

CHORUS.

Take heed; be not to mortals overkind, But to thyself in this dire strait unkind. Good hope have I, one day to see thee stand Free from those bonds and mate the power of Zeus.

PROMETHEUS.

Not yet that consummation fate ordains. A thousand years of agony must pass Before my tortured frame puts off this chain. For skill is weak matched with necessity.

CHORUS.

Who, then, is pilot of necessity?

PROMETHEUS.

Fates three, and the unchanged Erinnyes.

CHORUS.

And have these powers the mastery over Zeus?

PROMETHEUS.

Not Zeus himself can baffle destiny.

CHORUS.

What is his destiny but endless rule?

PROMETHEUS.

I may not tell thee; importune me not.

CHORUS.

Dread is the secret that thou hidest thus.

PROMETHEUS.

Think of some other question; this to tell The time is not yet ripe; deep in my breast The secret must be buried; thus alone May I from chains and tortures be set free.

* * * * *

PROMETHEUS DEFIES ZEUS.

LINES 928-1114.

PROMETHEUS.

Yet, yet shall Zeus, for all his proud self-will, Be humbled. On a wedlock he is bent Whereof the fateful offspring shall one day Hurl him from sovereignty to nothingness, And so fulfil the curse old Chronos spake, When from his immemorial throne he fell. And this his doom how to escape not one Of all the gods can rede him saving I. But to me all is known. Then let him sit Triumphant while his thunders roll through heaven, And his hand grasps the flaming thunderbolt; All his artillery shall not save its lord From utter shame and ruin bottomless. Such the antagonist himself arrays Against himself, dread and invincible, One who a fiercer than the lightning's flame, A louder than the thunder's peal shall find, And wrest the truncheon that makes earth to quake, Poseidon's trident, from its wielder's hand. Wrecked on misfortune's rock, he then shall know How high it is to reign, to serve how low.

CHORUS.

Thy wish is father to thy prophecy.

PROMETHEUS.

My wish is one with destiny's decree.

CHORUS.

Think'st thou that Zeus will e'er his master find?

PROMETHEUS.

Ay! and a load harder than mine to bear.

CHORUS.

Dost thou not fear to cast such words at Zeus?

PROMETHEUS.

What should I fear when I must never die?

CHORUS.

But Zeus may yet enhance thine agony.

PROMETHEUS.

Prepared for all, his malice I defy.

CHORUS.

'Tis wise to bow to the inevitable.

PROMETHEUS.

Cringe, if thou wilt, sue, bend the knee to power. Little reck I of Zeus. Then let him work His tyrant will for his allotted span. Not long shall he be monarch of the gods. But lo! the Almighty's henchman I behold, That errands bears for this new dynasty; His lacqueyship must some new fiat bring.

(Enter HERMES.)

HERMES.

Thou of the crafty soul and bitter tongue, Sinner, that did'st betray to mortal man The attributes of gods, stealer of fire, The Father bids thee tell what wedlock this That thou dost boast shall hurl him from his throne. Speak plain, Prometheus, and take heed that I Have not a second journey, for such shifts, As well thou seest, turn not the heart of Zeus.

PROMETHEUS.

High are the words and full of majesty For him that runs the errands of the gods. New are ye, new to rule, and deem your tower Of puissance proof against calamity. Yet therefrom two lords I have seen cast out; A third, him that now reigns, cast out shall see Most quickly and most foully. Think'st thou I Will crouch before these gods of yesterday? Far, far from me that thought of shame. Do thou The way thou camest measure back with speed, For to thy question I give answer none.

HERMES.

It was by such self-will before displayed, That thou did'st pluck these woes upon thy head.

PROMETHEUS.

My woes, how great so e'er, I would not change For servitude like thine; of that be sure.

HERMES.

Better, thou think'st, be bondsman to this rock Than be the faithful pursuivant of Zeus.

PROMETHEUS.

'Tis meet the scorner should be met with scorn.

HERMES.

Thou seem'st to revel in thy present lot.

PROMETHEUS.

Revel! I would that I could see my foes Thus revelling, of whom I count thee one.

HERMES.

Layest thou the blame on me of thy mischance?

PROMETHEUS.

I hate, without exception, all the gods Who my good deeds with injury requite.

HERMES.

Thy words bespeak no common sickness thine.

PROMETHEUS.

If hating foes be sickness, I am sick.

HERMES.

Thou wert past bearing wert thou prosperous.

PROMETHEUS.

Alas!

HERMES.

Zeus knows not how to say Alas!

PROMETHEUS.

Time in its course can teach us anything.

HERMES.

Yet thee it has not taught to rule thy tongue.

PROMETHEUS..

No, else I had not parleyed with a slave.

HERMES.

It seems thou wilt not tell what Zeus demands.

PROMETHEUS.

Were I his debtor I the debt would pay.

HERMES.

As though I were a child thou twittest me.

PROMETHEUS.

Art thou not sillier than a silly child, To think that I will tell thee what thou ask'st? No torture does Zeus know, he has no rack By which he can my secret wrest from me, Till from these cruel bonds I am released. Let him hurl lightnings with his red right hand, Let him with whirling snow and earthquake shock, Confound and wreck this universal frame, Never shall he constrain me to reveal The child of fate that hurls him from his throne.

HERMES.

Look, will this insolence amend thy lot?

PROMETHEUS.

I have well looked, and fixed is my resolve.

HERMES.

Bow thy proud soul, insensate wretch, and do What wisdom bids in thine extremity.

PROMETHEUS.

Waste no more words, thou dost but chide the sea; Dream not that I can be o'erawed by Zeus, That I will from my manhood derogate And sue to him that from my soul I hate, With womanish uplifting of my hands, For liberation from these fetters.—Never!

HERMES.

Methinks I spend my eloquence in vain, For all my prayers nor melt nor move thy heart. Like a raw colt that pulls against the reins, Taking the bit between his teeth, art thou. And yet thy mettle will but weakness prove; For dogged resolution by itself, With wisdom unallied, is impotence. See if thou wilt not to my words give ear, What stormy billows of resistless woe Will overwhelm thee. First the Almighty Sire Will with his thunder cleave this beetling rock, And bury thee beneath its shattered base, Within its stony arms enfolding thee; And many an age shall pass ere thou return To daylight. Then the winged hound of Zeus, The ravening eagle with devouring maw, Shall deeply trench thy quivering flesh and come, Day after day, an uninvited guest, To feast upon thy ulcerated heart. Of this thy agony expect no end Until some god appears to take on him Thy load of suffering, and for thee descend To the dark depths of the dread under-world. Advise thee then, and deem not that my words Are feigned, for I in bitter earnest speak. The lips of the Almighty cannot lie; Each word they utter surely is fulfilled. Use then thy forecast and be circumspect, Nor o'er good counsel let self-will prevail.

CHORUS.

As seems to us, Hermes has spoken well, In that he redes thee put away self-will, And take far-sighted prudence to thy heart. Give ear; for one so wise to err were shame.

PROMETHEUS.

Well known beforehand was to me The purport of this embassy. His foe am I, he is my foe, And I his worst can undergo. Then let his forked lightnings flash, Heaven with his pealing thunder crash: Let him the wild winds loose and make Earth to her deep foundation shake; Bid the swoll'n waves, by tempest driven, Mount up and drench the stars of heaven; And let my helpless form be hurled Headlong to the dark under-world Midst raging wreck of earth and sky.— There ends his power, I cannot die. HERMES.

Madness it is inspires thy thought. Thy words are words of one distraught. What here is wanting that can be Sure token of insanity? But now, ye ocean nymphs whose eyes Weep for yon sinner's agonies, Go hence, the heavens begin to lower, Go hence, or with its awful stour The thunder will your souls o'erpower.

CHORUS.

Go hence; good Hermes, change thy rede And I will to thy words give heed. But ne'er to me such counsel name As e'en to think upon were shame, Whate'er Prometheus may betide, Be mine to suffer at his side. Of all foul things abhorred by me The most abhorred is perfidy.

HERMES.

Lay then to heart what now I say, And think not in destruction's day On fortune's spite the blame to throw, Or say that Zeus has wrought your woe. When thou hast rushed into the net Of doom for fate by folly set, Thou wilt thy just reward have met.

PROMETHEUS.

Now the dread hour has come: earth reels, Through heaven the crashing thunder peals, Forked lightnings blaze about the sky, The sand in clouds is whirled on high; From east, from west, from south, from north, The winds in mad career rush forth, And elemental battle join; The welkin mingles with the brine; Upon me comes in flood and fire The blast of the Almighty's ire. Look, holy mother, on this sight; Look on it, Aether, source of light, See justice overborne by might.



THE PERSIANS

Xerxes has led the hosts of Asia on the fatal expedition against Hellas. His mother, Atossa, remaining at Susa, has a fatal dream, which she recounts to the chorus of aged Persians.

* * * * *

ATOSSA'S DREAM.

LINES 178-216.

ATOSSA.

By dreams I have been haunted every night, Since with his armament my son went forth To smite the land of the Ionians. Yet never dream has come so startling clear As last night's vision; let me tell it thee:— Methought two women, beauteously attired, The robes of one in Persian fashion wrought. Those of her mate in Dorian, met my view. In stature they surpassed all womankind; Peerless their forms; sisters they were in blood. The heritage and dwelling-place of one Was Hellas, of the other Asia. Between these two methought a strife arose, Which when my son perceived, he checked their wrath And calmed them, and beneath his chariot's yoke He led them both, and o'er their necks the rein He stretched. Then of her trappings one seemed proud And to the bit her mouth obedient lent. But her companion, like a restive steed, The harness broke, and, heeding not the bit, O'erthrew the car and snapped the yoke in twain. My son falls, and his sire Darius comes To aid and comfort him, whom when he sees, Xerxes his garments rends in sign of woe. Such was my dream. When morning came I rose, And first the night's pollution purged away With purifying waters, then I sought The altar, with my sacrificial train To lay the gift, which turns the wrath divine, Of honeyed meal before the powers who save. Behold an eagle flying in affright To Phoebus' shrine; fear struck me mute, my friends. Then lo! a falcon on the eagle swoops, Assails him with his wings and tears his head With angry talons, while the mightier bird Cowers unresisting. Awful 'twas to see, Awful it is for you to hear. My son, If well he fares, will boundless glory win, If ill—yet he no reckoning owes the state; Let him but live and he is master here.

* * * * *

SALAMIS.

The battle narrated by a Persian coming from the scene.

LINES 251-473.

MESSENGER.

Alas! ye cities all of Asia, Alas! thou Persia, treasure-house of wealth, How at one stroke has your prosperity Been overthrown and Persia's glory lost! Ill-luck has he that evil tidings brings, Yet needs must I my tale of woe unfold. Persians, our host has perished utterly.

* * * * * * *

ATOSSA.

O'erwhelming sorrow has long held me mute. Disaster such as this transcends all thought, Bars all enquiry, chokes all utterance. And yet we mortals must misfortune bear When heaven ordains. Then, though thy heart be wrung, Calm thee and tell us all, that we may know Who of our warriors lives, whom we must mourn Among our chiefs, as having by his death Left void the station of his high command.

MESSENGER.

Xerxes himself lives and beholds the sun.

ATOSSA.

Thy word is sunshine to my sorrowing house; A cheerful day after a dismal night.

MESSENGER.

Artembares, that led ten thousand horse, Lies slain upon the rough Silenian shore; And Dadaces, that led a thousand more, Pierced by a spear plunged headlong from his barque; And Tenagon, Bactria's true son and pride, Lies on the wave-washed beach of Ajax' Isle. Lileus, Arsames, Argestes too, Round the dove-haunted island drifting, struck Its girdling rocks on fell disaster's day. Matallus, that from Chrysa came, has fallen, He that dark horsemen thrice ten thousand led; The flowing beard that graced his cheek in gore Steeped unto crimson turned its russet hue. Arabian Magos, Bactrian Artames, Die in a strange land, never to return; And Tharybis, of five times fifty sail Commander, Lyrna's son, with his fair face By foul mischance of war has been laid low. While, bravest of the brave, Syennesis, Cilicia's admiral, who to the foe Most trouble gave, has met a glorious doom.

ATOSSA.

Alas! this overtops the height of woe; For Persia naught remains but shame and wail. But now take up thy story, let me hear What was the number of the Hellenic fleet, That thus it dared our Persian armament In battle with encountering prows to brave.

MESSENGER.

Know that if numbers could have gained the day Victory was ours, for the Hellenic fleet Counted in all but thrice a hundred sail, Of which were ten for swiftness set apart. But with a thousand galleys Xerxes came— His muster-roll I know—whereof the ships For swiftness picked two hundred were and seven. Think you herein ours was the weaker side? Some deity against us turned the scale, And brought confusion on our armament, The powers of Heaven for Pallas' city fight.

ATOSSA.

Has Athens then escaped the avenger's hand?

MESSENGER.

Her walls are scatheless while her men remain.

ATOSSA.

Recount then how began the naval fight.

MESSENGER.

Lady, the origin of all our woes Was the appearance of some evil power. A man of Hellas from the Athenian fleet Came forth unto thy son, King Xerxes, said That, when the darkling shades of night came on, His countrymen would flee, leaping aboard Their ships, each as he might, to save their lives. Which when King Xerxes heard, suspecting not The Hellene's treachery nor the spite of heaven, He gives this order to his admirals:— As soon as daylight faded from the earth, And darkness overspread the face of heaven, In three divisions our main force to range, Barring each outlet and each water-way, And with the rest to circle Ajax' Isle; All being warned that if the Hellenes found A part unguarded and escaped their doom, Each with his head should pay the penalty. This fiat he with heart uplift sent forth, As little knowing what the gods ordained. Obedient to the word, our seamen all Prepared their evening meal, then every man In order to the rowlock lashed his oar. Soon as the light of evening died away And night came on, each man who plied the oar Went to his ship with all the men-at-arms, And the word passed along the lines of war. Then they put forth, each in his place assigned, And through the live-long night the captains kept Our weary seamen toiling at the oar. So passed the hours of darkness, yet the fleet Of Hellas showed no sign of stealthy flight. But when the white steeds of returning day Suffused the land and sea with orient light, From the Hellenic fleet the hymn of war Pealed forth in unison, and echo loud Rang out in answer from the rocky isle. Amazement on the host of Asia fell And consternation, for no thought of flight Was in that solemn chant, but courage high, Desire of battle, hope of victory. Then did the trumpet, thrilling, fire all hearts. The word was given, and with concordant sweep Their dashing oars at once upturned the brine, And soon their whole armada was in sight. The right wing first came forth in fair array, The whole fleet followed and the shout was raised Through all the lines, "On, sons of Hellas, on; On, for the freedom of your fatherland, Your wives, your children, your forefathers' graves, The temples of your gods; all are at stake." In answer rang on our side, loud and wide, The Persian war-cry. Time to lose was none. At once, encountering with their brazen beaks The squadrons met. A ship of Hellas first Charged a Phoenician galley and stove in Her stern-works; general then the onset grew. At first the prowess of our Persian host Made head, but, crowded in the narrow strait, Our galleys, powerless mutual aid to lend, Dashed on their consorts with their brazen beaks, And swept each other's banks of oars away. Meanwhile the watchful foe, surrounding them, Charged on the rout; ship after ship went down Before him, and the sea was lost to sight Beneath the drifting wrecks and floating dead. Then all resistance ended, and our ships Plied one and all their oars in panic flight. The foe, as 'twere a haul of tunny fish, With splintered oars and fragments of the wreck Assailed and slaughtered them; the waters rang With mingled cries of death and victory, Till night's dark veil descending closed the scene. The sum of our disasters, though I spoke For ten long days, I never could unfold. Know in a word, so vast a multitude Has never fallen in one disastrous day.

ATOSSA.

Alas! a huge wave of calamity Has broken on our universal realm.

MESSENGER.

Thou art but half way through this tale of woe, For a disaster on our army fell Which twice outweighed all this that I have told.

ATOSSA.

Can fortune's spite what thou hast told surpass? Go on, recount this new calamity Which in thy estimation outweighs all.

MESSENGER.

The very flower of all our Persian host, The trusted pillars of our monarchy, Have met a piteous and a shameful end.

ATOSSA.

Ah! woe is me for this dire history. Recount, then, how our noblest warriors fell.

MESSENGER.

An isle there is in face of Salamis, Small and without a haven, on whose strand Dance-loving Pan his measure often treads. Thither the King despatched these chosen bands That when from sinking ships crews swam ashore, They of their foes might make an easy prey, And their friends rescue from a watery grave, Ill the event foreseeing. For when heaven Gave the Hellenes victory on the sea, At once their bodies they in armour sheathed, Leaped from their galleys forth, and all the isle With arms encircled. Outlet for escape Our hopeless bands had none. A ceaseless storm Of stones was rained upon them, and the shafts, Whistling from many a bowstring, scattered death. At last, combining in one charge, the foe Fell on them, stabbed them, hacked them limb from limb, Nor stayed the butchery till the last was slain. Xerxes, when he such utter ruin saw From the high throne where, on an eminence Hard by the sea, he overlooked the scene, Sent forth a piercing cry and rent his clothes; Then gave his troops the order to retreat And headlong took to flight. Now thou dost know The harvest and the aftermath of woe.



THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.

The unnatural brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, are competitors for the lordship of Thebes. Eteocles is in possession. Polynices, having married the daughter of Adrastus, King of Argos, leads an army, raised by the help of his father-in-law, against Thebes.

In this army there are seven champions. The Argive army is drawn out in array against the city in seven divisions, each division facing one of the seven gates of Thebes, and with a champion at its head. The champions are described to Eteocles by a Theban, who has been sent to watch the movements of the enemy. Under the name of Amphiaraus lurks a description of Aristides "the just," the head of the conservative party to which Aeschylus belonged, whose conscientiousness and moderation are obliquely contrasted with the revolutionary violence of the ultra-democratic party headed by Themistocles. The chorus consists of Theban maidens.

* * * * *

THE CHAMPIONS.

LINES 370-673.

MESSENGER.

The order of our foemen you shall hear, And at which gate each champion has his post. Tydeus stands ready at the Proetian gate, Fuming, for still the seer forbids to ford Ismenus, since the omens are not fair. Thereat the chieftain, mad with warlike rage As is a snake with heat at noonday, raves; And on the prudent seer Oeclides heaps Taunts of faint-heartedness and craven fear. While thus he storms, wild on his helmet waves, The shaggy crest threefold, and on his shield The brazen bells ring out a fearful note. Upon that shield a proud device he wears, A firmament all luminous with stars, While in the centre shines the moon full-orbed, Empress of constellations, eye of night. Thus in his boastful panoply he stalks Along the river panting for the fray, As a proud charger at the trumpet sound Frets, paws the earth, and flecks his bit with foam. Think whom thou hast to cope with this dread chief, Who of that gate unbarred shall warder be.

ETEOCLES.

My spirit quails at no proud panoply. Escutcheons wound not, nor will waving crests Or clashing bells bite without thrust of spear. This night of which thou tellest on his shield, Albeit it blaze with all the stars of heaven, May to the bearer's self prove ominous; For if death's night should fall upon his eyes His boastfulness will turn to prophecy, And his device will have foreshown his doom. To cope with Tydeus and that post to guard, I send the gallant son of Astacus, Whose noble blood is loyal to the rule Of honour and abhors vainglorious words, Whose chivalry fears nothing but reproach, Sprung from that remnant of the Earth-born race, Which the sword spared, a true son of the soil, Melanippus. Ares' hand the die will cast, But nature sends our soldier to the field To drive the invader from his mother-land.

CHORUS.

Heaven shield our country's champion with its might, Him who will combat for the right, And guard our warriors all from perils of the fight.

MESSENGER.

Good fortune on thy chosen warder wait. Before the Electran gate stands Capaneus, Whose giant frame o'ertops e'en Tydeus' self. His vaunts are more than mortal, and he hurls Against our towers threats which may heaven forfend. Be it the will of heaven or not, he vows That he will storm this town, nor Zeus himself With red right hand shall scare him from his prey. Of lightnings or of thunderbolts he recks No more than of the rays of noonday sun. For his device he bears a naked man With burning torch in hand, whose legend says In golden letters, "I will fire this town." Bethink thee whom thou hast this chief to mate, Who without quailing will his vaunts withstand.

ETEOCLES.

Why, here we have gain added unto gain. When pride and folly in the heart abide, The tongue fails not their presence to betray. Capaneus threatens what his hand would do, Scorning the gods, and with unchastened lips, Madly exulting, vents against high heaven And heaven's high king his swelling blasphemies. Surely I trust that on his impious head The lightning shall be launched more fiery far Than are the rays of any noonday sun. To meet him with his braggart menaces Stout Polyphontus goes, a gallant soul, Who well can hold the post, so Artemis And all protecting gods his arm will aid. Tell us whose lot is at another gate.

CHORUS.

Perish the man who would lay low our towers; Smite him with lightning, kindly powers, Ere he can storm our home and spoil our virgin bowers.

MESSENGER.

Hear, then, who has his post at the next gate. Eteocles is his name, him the third lot, Forth from the brazen helmet leaping, set To lead his band against the Eastern gate. There to and fro he wheels his fiery steeds, That pant in their caparisons to charge The portal, and with snorting nostrils proud Make uncouth music through their mouth-pieces. Nor lowly the device upon his shield: A man-at-arms is on a ladder seen Scaling the wall of a beleaguered town, And underneath the vaunting legend dares Ares himself to beat back the assault. Against this champion you must bid go forth One that can save our town from slavery.

ETEOCLES.

He goes—is gone, with victory on his helm; A chief whose boasting is in deeds, not words, Megareus, of earth-born lineage, Creon's son. Him shall no snortings of impetuous steeds Scare from the gate, but either with his blood He will repay the earth that gave him life, Or both the warriors and the town to boot Bear off and with the spoils adorn his home. Give us some more vainglory; stint not speech.

CHORUS.

Good luck with him that guards my city go, Ill luck with the o'erweening foe. High is their boast; may Zeus, the avenger, lay them low.

MESSENGER.

At the fourth gate, where stands Athene's fane Of Onke hight, another chief appears, Towering with giant bulk—Hippomedon. Broad as a threshing-floor his buckler is, And terror seized me as he whirled it round. Nor was it any common craftsman's hand That wrought the emblem which that buckler bears, A Typhon vomiting with fiery mouth, Black clouds of smoke, the wavering mate of fire. And all around his hollow buckler's rim A coil of twining snakes is riveted. Loud is his battle-cry. By Ares fired He like a Maenad storms and raves for fight. Against this champion's onset guard thee well; Already rout is threatened at the gate.

ETEOCLES.

The deity herself that has her fane Hard by the gates, abhorring insolence, Will ward this deadly serpent from her brood. But as our man, valiant Hyperbius, The son of Oenops, to the lists has gone, Ready at need to brave the risks of war, In form, in spirit, and in arms alike Reproachless. Hermes well has matched the pair. For as each champion is the other's foe, So are the gods that on their shields they bear: Hippomedon has Typhon breathing fire, But on the buckler of Hyperbius Is Zeus the unconquered, thunderbolt in hand; And who e'er knew the arm of Zeus to fail? Such are the patron deities of whom The weaker are the foe's, the mightier ours. So will it fare with those they patronise, If Zeus o'er Typhon has the mastery; For Zeus, the saviour, on Hyperbius' shield Blazoned, will save his liegeman in the fight.

CHORUS.

The foe of Zeus bearing that form of hate, By gods and mortals reprobate, The hell fiend soon, I trust, shall fall before the gate.

MESSENGER.

So may it be, now to the fifth I come Whose station is at the Borraean gates, Hard by the tomb that holds Amphion's dust. This champion swears by what he higher deems Than god and dearer than his eyes, his spear, That he will Cadmus' city storm and sack In heaven's despite. So vows the wood nymph's son, That fair-faced stripling, scarcely yet a man, For on his cheek still blooms the down of youth. Marshal his mood and fierce his countenance, And all unlike the maiden name he bears. Nor does he lack his share of boastfulness, For on the shield that with its brazen round His body fenced, he bore our city's shame, The rav'ning Sphynx, in burnished effigy Empaled, and grasping in her felon claws The limbs of a Cadmean citizen; Which on the bearer drew a shower of darts. Battle to huckster is not his intent, Nor to have marched so far and marched in vain. His name Parthenopaeus, Arcady His home, Argos his nurse, whom to requite He threatens that from which heaven save our towers.

ETEOCLES.

Yes, only let their thoughts be paid them home [Footnote: Two lines in this speech appear to have been lost.] By the just gods, they with their impious vaunts Will be consumed and perish utterly. To cope with thy Arcadian goes a man Modest in speech but nowise slack in deed, Actor, his brother of whom last I spake, Who will not let a tongue without an arm Within our gates rave to our overthrow, Nor entrance give the foe, who on his shield To flout us bears the hated effigy. His Sphynx, midst rattling darts, will hardly thank Him that advanced her to our battlements.— Heaven grant that as I say the event may be.

CHORUS.

Thy tidings pierce my fluttering breast, and fright Makes all my tresses rise upright At that fell foeman's vaunt; may heaven confound his spite.

MESSENGER.

Five were accursed; one righteous man succeeds The seer Amphiaraus, good and brave. His post is at the Homoloian gate. Here he reproaches heaps on Tydeus' head, Calling him murderer and the public bane, Leader of Argos in all evil ways, The Furies' pursuivant, henchman of death, That has Adrastus to his ruin trained. Thy brother too, stained by his father's fate, Great Polynices, with accusing face Turned heavenward, he upbraids and thus he speaks: "Certes a deed it is to please the gods, Fair to recount and glorious to hand down, Thus thy own city to lay low and raze Her temples with an alien soldiery. What stream can wash away a mother's curse? How shall thy country, captive to a foe By thee set on, requite thee with her love? For me, this hostile land must be my tomb And be enriched with my prophetic bones. Forward! I look for no inglorious grave." Thus spake the seer as he before him threw His glittering shield. On it was no device. Foremost to be, not seem, was still his aim. His soul is as a plough-land deep and rich, From which a harvest of good counsels grows. Against him send some worthy opposite. He most is to be feared who fears the gods.

ETEOCLES.

Woe worth the day that links the righteous man To the dark fortunes of iniquity. In all the world is nothing so malign, Of fruit so poisonous, as an evil friend. One day shall ye behold the pious man, Going on ship-board with an impious crew, Sink amid sinners reprobate of heaven. Another day shall ye behold the just, In an outlawed and godless commonwealth, Snared like their fellows in the net of doom And struck by the avenging rod of heaven. And so this seer, this son of Oeclees, A wise, just, blameless, and god-fearing man, A famous prophet, to an impious host Against his better judgment misallied And drawn to march with them whose bourne is hell, With them must perish; such the stern decree. Hardly, I think, he will assault the gate; Not that his heart will faint or arm will fail, But that he knows he on this field must die, Unless Apollo's oracle prove false, Which if he tells not, prudence seals his lips. Yet shall our champion be stout Lasthenes, A churlish gate-ward to intruders he, An aged head upon a youthful frame. Quick is his eye and nimble is his hand From the shield's cover to dart forth the spear. But who shall win the gods alone can tell.

CHORUS.

O hear our righteous prayer, ye heavenly powers, The ruin be the foe's, not ours, And may the thunder smite him who would storm our towers.

MESSENGER.

The chief whose post is at the seventh gate Is thine own brother; hear his direful prayers, His imprecations on our commonwealth. He prays that he may mount our battlements, Be there proclaimed our king, shout victory, Meet thee, and slay thee, and insult thee slain, Or, living, drive thee forth a banished man, Disgracing thee as thou hast him disgraced. With such fell words and adjurations dire Of his paternal gods to hear his prayer, Strong Polynices makes the field resound. A shield he bears, fair-shaped and newly-wrought, Whereon a twofold emblem is empaled: A lady with a stately mien leads on The golden likeness of a man-at-arms, The legend says that Justice is her name And she is bringing back a banished man To claim his native city and his home. [Footnote: Four lines, probably spurious, if not interpolated, are here omitted.]

ETEOCLES.

O madness of the wicked, heaven-abhorred! O hapless race of Oedipus my sire, Alas! a father's curse is here fulfilled. But now away with tears, away with wails, Lest a worse cause of lamentation come. For Polynices, all too truly named, [Footnote: The last part of the name means strife.] Soon shall he know what his device portends, And whether golden letters on his shield, Vaunt as they may, shall bring the boaster home. Perchance if Justice, virgin child of Zeus, Were in his thoughts and deeds, so it might be; But neither when he issued from the womb, Nor in his childhood's days, nor in his youth, Nor since the beard has gathered on his chin, Has Justice e'er vouchsafed a word to him. Nor now, when on his native soil he treads In enmity, is Justice at his side. Nor could the deity deserve her name If she could be a miscreant's paramour. Herein I put my trust, and will myself Accept this combat; better right has none; Chieftains alike we meet, brethren we are And deadly enemies. My armour, ho!



AGAMEMNON.

The only complete specimen of a trilogy extant is the "Oresteia" of Aeschylus, comprising the "Agamemnon," the "Choephoroe" (Mourners), and the "Eumenides" (Furies). In this series are presented the murder of Agamemnon on his return from the conquest of Troy, by his queen, Clytemnestra, and her paramour, Aegisthus; the slaying of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus by the avenger of blood, Orestes, son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, at the bidding of Apollo; the pursuit of Orestes as a matricide by the Furies; and his final acquittal and restoration by the favour of Apollo and Athene. The trilogy is full of political sentiment and allusion. The last piece, "Eumenides," has a distinct political purpose. In the murder of Agamemnon in his home, after his return from his victory over the Asiatic enemies of Hellas, by Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, the audience could hardly fail to see a parallel to the persecution of Cimon, the hero of the conservative party to which Aeschylus belonged, after his victories over the Persians, by the leaders of the democratic party, Pericles and Ephialtes.

* * * * *

THE FALL OF TROY ANNOUNCED AT MYCENAE, WHERE AGAMEMNON'S PALACE IS, BY BEACON FIRES.

LINES 1-39.

THE WATCHMAN.

Grant me, oh gods, deliverance from this toil, This year-long watch, which, couched upon the roof Of the Atridae, dog-like I have kept, Scanning the nightly gatherings of the stars, Those radiant potentates, that throned on high, Lead on the changing seasons for mankind. And now I still am looking for the sign, The beacon light which is to flash from Troy The tidings of the city's fall, for so Ordains the will of our man-hearted queen. Broken my rest, my couch is drenched with dew, And by no pleasant dream is visited. In place of slumber fear waits on me there, So that my eyes can never close in sleep; And if to sing or whistle I essay, In hope to charm away my drowsiness, Straightway I fall to weeping for this house, That into evil hands of late has fallen. Would but the light, that happy tidings bears, Shine through the dark to end our sufferings. (Beacon light appears,) Offspring of night, all hail! A glorious day Thou dost to Argos bring, with many a dance And song in honour of this victory. Joy! joy! I go to call on Agamemnon's queen To leave her couch, and forthwith in her halls Bid the glad voice of jubilation rise To greet this beacon fire. If true it be That Troy is taken, as the light proclaims, My watch the highest throw of fortune's dice Has cast, and with my lords all must be well. No more I say, a heavy curb is laid Upon my lips; these walls, if they had voice, Would tell their secret; as for me, I speak To those who know, to others I am mute.

* * * * *

THE SACRIFICE OF IPHIGENIA.

The chorus recounts the sacrifice of Iphigenia, one of the train of horrors connected with the doom of the house of Atreus.

LINES 177-240.

CHORUS.

Wind-bound and suffering dearth, the Achaean fleet O'er against Calchis lay. On Aulis' tide-washed shore, While from the Strymon gales, Bearing delay and famine on their wing, Bane of the mariner, Wasting both hull and rope, Were wearing out the flower of Argive youth. Then did the seer proclaim For that unwelcome wind A new and cruel cure In name of Artemis. Which, hearing, the Atridae with their staves Smote on the ground and wept.

Then spake the elder King: "To disobey were dire, Yet dire it is to slay My child, the pride and beauty of my home, And at the altar stain A father's hand with blood of virgin sacrifice. Which way is not despair? How can I prove disloyal to the host, And this alliance lose? If for this sacrifice of virgin life, The wind to lay, heaven calls So sternly, I obey."

Fate's yoke when he had donned, Over his spirit came A dark, unholy change; Thenceforth he doffed all pity and remorse. From the heart of man delusion strong, Parent of evil, casts out virtuous fear. Unmoved, he slew his child a war to aid Waged for a woman's wrong Upon the fleet's behalf. Her prayers, her calling on her father's name, Her virgin youth, Those royal warriors held of no account. Prayer said, her father bade the ministers Lift her that, fainting, in her robes sank down Upon the altar, as it were a kid, And guard upon her beauteous lips to set Of forceful silence, lest A curse might issue from them on the house. Letting her saffron veil fall on the ground, She smote each minister of sacrifice With piteous glances, mute As is a picture, and in vain essayed To speak. She many a time In hospitable hall Had sung, and with her innocent, chaste voice Wished to her sire health and prosperity. What then ensued I saw not nor recount. The seer's behest was done.

* * * * *

THE MEETING OF AGAMEMNON AND CLYTAEMNESTRA.

LINES 828-947.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Friends, aged citizens of Argos here, I will not shrink from speaking of my love, Since years wear off a woman's bashfulness. Myself alone can tell the life I led While my lord lay before the walls of Troy. Sad, passing sad, the lot of woman left Lorn of her consort in the lonely home, And hearing day by day reports of ill; Every new comer bringing evil news, And the last worse than him that went before. Had my lord met all wounds that rumour gave, His body had been but one net of wounds; Had he, as oft as rumour blew him, died, He must have been a three-lived Geryon, And thrice put on a shroud of funeral earth Above him, reckoning not the earth below, Thrice dead, and in three several graves interred. Driven to despair mid all these dark reports, By hanging oft I sought to end my days, And was by others saved and forced to live. Hence is it that thy child, pledge of our love, Orestes, is not here to greet his sire, As had been meet. Let not that trouble thee. Strophios the Phocian took the boy in trust, Thine ancient friend in arms, forewarning us That troublous times might come, should aught befall My lord, and the unbridled multitude O'erthrow the senate, as mankind are wont To trample on the fallen. 'Tis truth I tell. The very fountains of my tears are dry, Sorrow no drop hath left, my eyes are sore Through my night watchings for the beacon light That should bring news of thee, but brought it not. A gnat's light whirring broke the dream of thee That in an hour compressed an age of woe. Now all this past, from carking sorrow free, I hail my lord, the watchdog of our fold, The ship's main stay, the pillar that upbears A lofty roof, dear as an only child, Welcome as land to seamen tossed at sea, As cheerful day after the stormiest night, As well-spring to the thirsty traveller. Sweet after careful stress is careless ease. Such is my salutation to my lord, Which should not draw on us the evil eye. Enough we've borne already. Now, beloved, Step from thy chariot; yet not on the earth Shall Ilium's glorious conqueror set his foot. Haste, haste, ye handmaidens, to whom the charge Was given to spread the ground with tapestry, And make a purple pathway for my lord, Whom justice brings to his unlooked for home. For aught beside, care, lovingly awake, The gods so willing, shall good order take.

AGAMEMNON.

Daughter of Leda, guardian of my home, Thy speech is as my absence, long drawn out. Well measured praise from other lips must come; I pray thee stint thy woman's blandishments, Nor, like some proud barbarian's minion vile, Crawl to my feet with abject flatteries. I would not have thy draperies on me draw The evil eye; to gods such state belongs, Not mortals; for a mortal thus to tread On broidery were to tempt the wrath of heaven. Pay to me honours human, not divine. Foot-cloths or broidery need I none to tell What fame will voice aloud. Discretion still Is the best gift of heaven, and he alone Is truly blest who prospers to the end. Let but this fortune hold, I've naught to fear.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Yet herein yield to her that loves thee well.

AGAMEMNON.

Know that I will not swerve from my resolve.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Is it some vow, vowed in an hour of fear?

AGAMEMNON.

I well knew my own mind when thus I spoke.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Had Priam conquered, what would he have done?

AGAMEMNON.

He, certes, would have trod on tapestry.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Be not affrighted by the tongues of men.

AGAMEMNON.

Yet is the people's voice a mighty power.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Who shrinks from envy dares not to be great.

AGAMEMNON

To love contention is not womanly.

CLYTAEMNESTRA

Yet the victorious can afford defeat.

AGAMEMNON.

Dost thou, too, prize defeat as victory?

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Defeat or victory, yield thee at my prayer.

AGAMEMNON.

So be it, an thou wilt. Let some one loose My sandals, lest if, proudly shod with these, I tread a path so costly, I may draw, Presumptuous, from above the evil eye. Great shame it were our substance thus to waste, Trampling on costly web with sandaled feet. Of that enough. Now take this stranger in (Pointing to Cassandra.) In kindly wise; who gently use their power Shall merit mercy in the eye of heaven. Misfortune, not misdoing, makes the slave. This damsel, choicest flower of all we won, The army's gift to me, have I brought home. Now let me, since my will has bent to thine, Walk over purple to my royal hall.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

There is a sea, there is a boundless sea, And in its depths is gendered purple dye Of costliest kind for vestments numberless. Of this, the gods be thanked, our palace holds Abundance, want or stint is there unknown. Purple enow would I have gladly given To trample in the mire, had oracles Enjoined to pay such ransom for thy life. With thee unto the leafless trunk has come A leafy shelter from the dog-star's heat; Since thy return to thy beloved hearth, Our wintry frost shall yield to summer's sun, And coolness, in the heat that turns the grape, Reign in the house whose head is there once more. Zeus, father in whose hands all issues are, Give issue to thy counsels and my prayer.

* * * * *

CASSANDRA'S PROPHECY.

LINES 1149-1391.

CASSANDRA.

Now shall my oracle no more peer forth As from her virgin veil a bashful bride; It shall grow clearer as the sky is cleared By the brisk wind, and like a sunlit wave Shall mount the billows of calamity. No more in riddles will I prophesy. Follow and bear me witness as I hunt, Upon the trail of immemorial crime. Within this house a company abides, Singing in unison no mirthful strain, A band of revellers that, to fire its heart, Hath quaffed, not wine, but blood of murdered men, The Furies that shall never quit these gates. A hymn they sing, within the haunted hall, Of the primeval curse, and tell in turn What loathly vengeance paid a brother's shame. [Footnote: Alluding to the banquet of Thyestes.] Say, does my arrow miss or hit the mark? Am I a begging, babbling soothsayer? Bear witness on thy oath how well I know, Untaught, the sinful record of this house.

CHORUS.

What virtue hath an oath's solemnity To make wrong right? Amazement fills my soul To hear a stranger from beyond the sea Thus hit the truth as though thou hadst been here.

CASSANDRA.

Apollo bade me be a prophetess.

CHORUS.

Was the god smitten with a mortal love?

CASSANDRA.

Shame ever to this hour hath sealed my lips.

CHORUS.

Prosperity is always delicate.

CASSANDRA.

A wooer he who well could touch my heart.

CHORUS.

Were children then begotten of your love?

CASSANDRA.

I broke my plighted troth to Loxias.

CHORUS.

When thou already hadst received the gift?

CASSANDRA.

Yea; I foretold my country all its woes.

CHORUS.

How was it Loxias failed to punish thee?

CASSANDRA.

My punishment was ne'er to be believed.

CHORUS.

To us what thou foreshow'st seems all too true.

CASSANDRA.

Once more prophetic pangs come over me. Mark ye those children on the palace there, In aspect like the spectral shapes of dreams? Meseems they by a kinsman's sword were slain. See, in their hands they bear a loathsome feast, The piteous flesh of which their father ate. Vengeance is coming, yonder in the lair A lion lurks, a coward skulking beast, Plotting against my late returned lord. My lord, I say, for slavery is my doom. The army's chief that o'erthrew Ilium Knows little what yon shameless paramour, After her long and so fair-seeming speech, Is bent to do in an accursed hour, Like a fell fiend lurking in ambush there. O crime of crimes, a woman slays her mate,— What can I call her? The most poisonous snake; A Scylla, with her lair among the rocks, Lying in wait for luckless mariners; Death's dam, against her kin implacably Breathing her venom. What a shout she raised Of exultation, as for battle won! She feigns rejoicing at her lord's return. Believe or disbelieve me; naught I care That which must come, must come. Thou soon shalt see And rue the truth of this my prophecy.

CHORUS.

Thyestes, feasted with his children's flesh, Shuddering, I understood, and am appalled At hearing all so painted to the life. But for the rest, I wander from the course.

CASSANDRA.

I say thou shalt see Agamemnon die.

CHORUS.

Hush, hapless maid, speak no ill-omened words.

CASSANDRA.

Place for well-omened words this work has none.

CHORUS.

Not if it come to pass, which heaven forfend.

CASSANDRA.

While thou art praying they prepare to smite.

CHORUS.

Where is the man to do so foul a deed?

CASSANDRA.

Ill hast thou understood my prophecy.

CHORUS.

By whom and how thy words have not revealed.

CASSANDRA.

And yet I know too well thy country's tongue.

CHORUS.

So do our prophets, yet their words are dark.

CASSANDRA.

Ah, me! how fierce the fire, it fills my veins. Spare me, Apollo, god of Lycia, spare. Yon lioness that, since her royal mate Departed, with a caitiff wolf has lain, Will slay me, and as one that poison brews Will in the caldron cast her jealousy, And while she whets the knife to slay her lord Say she takes vengeance for his lawless love. Why do I bear on me these mockeries, This prophet's wand, this fillet round my neck? Go, lead the way to death; I follow soon; Go, and adorn some other curse than me. Behold Apollo's self is stripping me Of my prophetic garb, and in that garb Already has he, with unpitying eyes, Seen me and mine the foeman's laughing-stock. I had to bear the name of tramp, be spurned As a poor famished beggar on the street. And now the prophet to unprophet me Has led me into this decoy of death, Where for the altars of my sire, the block Of butchery soon must my hot life-blood drink. Yet shall we not fall unavenged of heaven. Another minister of justice comes, His sire's avenger on the womb that bore him. A wanderer banished from his native land, He shall return to put the coping stone On murder's pile; for so the gods have sworn, And his fall'n father's hand shall beckon him. But why should I, forlorn, bemoan my fate, Since I have seen Ilium, my fatherland, Faring as it has fared, and they who dwelt Therein so worsted in the court of heaven? Be it accomplished, to my doom I go. Hear me, ye gates of death, sure be the stroke, That easily with no long agony My blood may flow, and the last sleep be mine.

CHORUS.

O maiden, thrice unhappy, yet inspired, If truly, as thy long address imports, Thou dost foresee thy fate, what bids thee go As goes a doomed steer to the sacrifice?

CASSANDRA.

Friends, there is no escaping by delay.

CHORUS.

And yet of times to die the last is best.

CASSANDRA.

The day has come; naught shall I gain by flight.

CHORUS.

Great-hearted maiden, strong is thy resolve.

CASSANDRA.

Not on the happy is such praise bestowed.

CHORUS.

Yet to die gloriously is happiness.

CASSANDRA.

Father, alas, for thee and thy brave sons!

CHORUS.

How now? What fearful object meets thine eye?

CASSANDRA.

Ah, me! Ah, me!

CHORUS.

What means thy shriek? What phantom dost thou see?

CASSANDRA.

There is a smell of murder from that house.

CHORUS.

Nay, 'tis the smell of household sacrifice.

CASSANDRA.

It is the odour of a charnel-house.

CHORUS.

No savour that of Syrian frankincense.

CASSANDRA.

I go my own and Agamemnon's dirge To chant within the halls. Good-bye to life. Strangers, alas! Not like a foolish bird scared at the bush Am I. Bear witness, when I am no more, When for my woman's blood a woman dies, And for a man ill-wed a man is slain; With my last breath I crave of ye this boon.

CHORUS.

I weep to see thee going to thy doom.

CASSANDRA.

Once more I fain would speak; not to renew Weak wailings, but to call on yonder sun And bid him bring the avenger to requite The cruel murderess of a poor weak slave. Alas! for man, if in his prosperous hour, Fate faintly limns the shape of happiness, Soon comes the sponge and wipes the picture out; And sad is the beginning, worse the end.

* * * * *

CASSANDRA'S PROPHECY FULFILLED.

The doorway of the palace opens and reveals Clytaemnestra within the portal standing over the corpse of Agamemnon. She has slain him with an axe in the bath, having entangled him in a sleeveless robe.

LINES 1343-1554.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Much did I say before to serve the time Which now to contradict I think no shame. How else could hate encircle with its toils The enemy that was a seeming friend, So that the prey might not o'erleap the net? Old is the quarrel; over my revenge Long have I brooded, now it comes at last. Here where I stand the deed of death was done, And I so managed, I deny it not, That he could neither fly nor fend the blow. As he had been a fish I round him cast, Like a close net, a rich but deadly robe. Twice did I strike, twice did he groan, then sank; And as he lay another stroke I gave, To make the lucky number, and commend His soul to Hades, guardian of the dead. So did his angry spirit pass away, While over me he threw a jet of blood, Which gladdened me as doth the rain from heaven The corn-field in the swelling of the ear. Elders of Argos, hear! This have I done, And in this glory, take it as ye will. To pour a glad libation on the corpse, Did piety permit, were more than just. He mixed a bowl of curses for the house, And what he mixed himself came home to drink.

CHORUS.

Amazement fills us at thy hardihood That thus dost triumph o'er thy murdered lord.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Ye think to deal with a weak woman's heart, But I, with soul unquailing, to your face Tell you, approve or damn me as you may, Here Agamemnon lies, my lord that was, A corpse that is, the work of this right hand, Its righteous work. There is no more to say.

CHORUS.

Lady, what baleful herb Of earth or potion dire Drawn from the flowing ocean, hadst thou drunk, That on thee thou hast brought the public curse? Thou hast cast off, cut off; Thyself will be cast out, A thing of loathing to our citizens.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Yea, thy award to me is banishment, And execration, and the people's curse. But no such measure didst thou mete this man When recklessly, as it had been a beast, While in his pastures sheep were numberless, He sacrificed his child, the dearest child That I had borne, to charm the Thracian gales. Him from the land to drive for his foul deed Thy justice moved thee not. But now I come Before the bar, the judge is merciless. I warn thee that thy threats are launched at one Who, if thou canst in equal combat win, Will yield; but, should heaven otherwise ordain, Thou may'st too late be put to wisdom's school.

CHORUS.

High, lady, is thy heart, And haughty is thy speech; Thy soul with murder is intoxicate; Upon thy brow is the red stain of blood Unexpiated. Yet Wilt thou, of aid bereft, As thou hast struck, feel the avenging blow.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Hear while once more my solemn oath I pledge. By the accomplished vengeance of my child, By those dread powers whose sacrifice lies there, I look not to see fear within my halls, While on the hearth Aegisthus lights the fire And to his mate is true as he is now. With him for shield I shall not be afraid. Low lies the man that did betray my love, That toy of each Chryseis in the camp; And with him lies this captive soothsayer, His faithful leman and his sea-mate too. For what they did the pair have dearly paid. One there ye see, the other like a swan, When she had sung her dying melody, Fell in her paramour's embrace and lent Fresh relish to my feast of happiness.

CHORUS.

Would that a death, painless, not lingering, Would on me bring the everlasting sleep, Since my kind guard, That for a woman's sake so much Braved, by a woman's hand has met his end. O Helen, thou for whom beneath Troy's wall Myriads were doomed to die, At last through thee the gout Of blood which in this house Was uneffaced, fresh murder has begot.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Pray not for death to come In ire at this my deed, With Helen be not wroth Because her murderous face Many a bold Danaan slew And woe unmeasured brought.

CHORUS.

Fiend, that dost haunt the hall Of the Tantalidae, And in a woman showed A man's strength to my bane, See how upon the dead, Perched like a raven dire, She chants her impious strain.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Now speakest thou aright, Calling upon the fiend That raveneth this race. From him proceeds that lust Congenital of blood That ever craves fresh gore.

CHORUS.

A demon dire and fell Thou to this house Would'st in dark strain assign. Ah, me! All comes from Zeus, Of all things source and cause, Without whom naught befalls Mankind. Of all this train Of woes, what was there not by heaven decreed? How shall I wail thee, king, How vent my loyal grief? In this fell spider's web thou liest low, Expiring by a stroke Accursed as no freeman ought to lie, By treachery struck down With its two-handed axe.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Charge not on me this deed. Imagine not that I Am Agamemnon's queen. Like to the dead man's wife The fiend that vengeance takes For Atreus' ghastly feast Here hath repaid the debt, A man for infants slain.

CHORUS.

Oh, whither can I turn, In vain my mind I task. The house thus wrecked, despair lies every way. I shudder at this pouring rain of blood, No more by drops it falls. Fate for some other murderous deed On a new whetstone sharpens her knife's edge. Would earth had swallowed me Ere in the silver vessel of the bath I saw my king laid low. Who will his funeral rites Perform? Wilt thou be able unabashed, Having thy husband slain, To wail for him, and to his injured shade Requital for such wrong By unloved service pay?

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