Dramas of Aeschylus (Swanwick)/Choephori

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For other English-language translations of this work, see Choephori (Aeschylus).

 

CHOEPHORI.

 

 

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.

Orestes.
Chorus of Captive Women.
Electra.
Clytemnestra.
Ægisthos.
Pylades.
Nurse.
Attendant.




[Scene.—The royal palace in Argos, as in the previous tragedy. The tomb of Agamemnon is seen in the orchestra. Orestes and Pylades enter in the garb of travellers. They approach the tomb. Orestes ascends the steps.]

 

 

CHOEPHORI.[1]

Orestes.

THEE, shade-escorting Hermes, I invoke,
In Hades guardian of my royal sire,—
To me, thy suppliant, be saviour thou,
My firm ally,—for to this land I come
Exile no more;—on this sepulchral mound
Father I call thee,—hearken to my cry!—

*****

A primal lock, as nurture-gift, I vowed
To Inachos, and now this second lock,
Griefs token. Father, I devote to thee,—
For, absent from thy funeral obsequies,
I could not then as mourner wail thy death,
Nor speed with outstretched hand thy royal bier.

[The Chorus, arrayed in mourning costume, come forth from the palace. Electra closes the procession.]

What sight is this? What company of women 10
Is wending hitherward, in sable weeds
Conspicuous? What disaster bringeth them?
Doth a new sorrow fall upon our house?
Or rightly may I deem that to my sire
They bear libations,—soothing to the dead?
It must be so, for yonder, as I think,
Steering this way, Electra comes, my sister,
Signal by depth of woe. Oh, grant me, Zeus,
To venge my father's death;—be thou to me
Ally propitious!—Now, my Pylades,
Stand we apart, that I may clearly learn
What may import this suppliant female train.

[They conceal themselves.

[While the Chorus encircle the tomb, they sing the following Ode.]


Chorus. Strophe I.

Sent from the palace, forth I tread, 20
Libations bearing to the dead,
Guiding, with hands swift-clapped, a doleful train.
Marred is my cheek with many a gory stain,
Nail-ploughed each new-cut furrow bleeds;
My heart on cries of dolour sateless feeds.
Rending my flaxen-tissued vest,
With smileless passion, uncontrolled,
Grief doth my sorrow-stricken breast
Dismantle of the garment's decent fold.


Antistrophe I.

For, shrill of voice, hair-bristling Fear,
In Atreus' household vision-seer, 30
Breathing forth rage in sleep,—at dead of night
From the recesses of these royal halls,
Rang out a cry of wild affright
That heavy on the women's chambers falls.
And dream-interpreters proclaim,
Pledged to the truth, in Heaven's name,
That unavenged 'neath earth, the slain
Against their slayers wrathfully complain.


Strophe II.

Such graceless grace, against the threatened ill
Devising cure, (oh fostering earth!)
The godless woman sends me to fulfil.
To speak the words prescribed I dread; 40
For ah! when blood hath once been shed,
Falling to earth, what ransom can be paid?
Woe for the sorrow-stricken hearth
Woe for the home in ruin laid!
Sunless, of men abhorred, a murky cloud
Doth through the master's fall the dwelling shroud.


Antistrophe II.

The majesty invincible of old,
Matchless, supreme, who filled the ear
Of faithful lieges, and their heart controlled,
Standeth aloof;—Fear reigneth now,
For to Prosperity men bow, 50
Which they as God, ay more than God, revere.
But Justice' stroke some swift doth whelm
In light who dwell; on others wait,
Lingering, their woes in Darkness' glimmering realm;
Others sheer Night enshrouds in blackest fate


Strophe III.

When nurturing earth is blood-drenched, lo
Fixed is for aye the vengeance-crying gore;—
And he who shed it, paying Atè's score,
Doth burgeon out in all-entangling woe. 60


Antistrophe III.

The bridal couch if man profane,
Hopeless is cure; though in one common flood,
To purify the hand defiled by blood,
All streams commingling flow, they flow in vain.


Epode.

But for myself, through Heaven's command,
The captured city's doom I share;—
Led hither from my native land,
'Tis mine the menial's lot to bear.
Their acts, whose will my fortune sways,
Just or unjust, I needs must praise: 70
Beneath my vest grief's anguished throes
Shrouding, I quell my bitter hate;—
While numbed in heart by secret woes,
Of my true lords I weep the hapless fate.


Electra.

Ye captive women, yo who tend this home,
Since ye are present to escort with me
These lustral rites, your counsel now I crave.
How, while I pour these off'rings on the tomb,
Speak friendly words? and how invoke my Sire? 80
Shall I declare that from a loving wife
To her dear lord I bear them? from my mother?
My courage fails, nor know I what to speak,
Pouring libations on my father's tomb.
Or shall I pray, as holy wont enjoins,
That to the senders of these chaplets, he
Requital may accord, ay! meed of ill.
Or, with no mark of honour, silently,
For so my father perished, shall I pour
These offerings, potion to be drunk by earth,
Then, tossing o'er my head the lustral urn,
(As one who loathèd refuse forth has cast,) 90
With eyes averted, back retrace my steps?
Be ye partakers in my counsel, friends,
For in this house one common hate we share.
Through fear hide not the feelings of your heart;
For what is destined waits alike the free
And him o'ermastered by another's hand;—
If ye have aught more wise to urge, say on.


Chorus.

Thy father's tomb revering as an altar,
Since thou commandest, I will speak my thoughts.


Electra.

Speak, as my father's tomb revering. 100

 

Chorus.

Pour—
High claims uplifting for the wise of heart.


Electra.

But of our friends whom thus may I address?


Chorus.

First name thyself and whoso hates Ægisthos.


Electra.

Then for myself and thee pour I this prayer.


Chorus.

Hearing my words, do thou interpret them.


Electra.

Whom else to number with this friendly band?


Chorus.

Think of Orestes though an exile still.


Electra.

'Tis well,—not vainly hast thou prompted me.


Chorus.

Now for the guilty,—mindful of his death,—


Electra.

What shall I say? unskilled, instruct me thou. 110


Chorus.

Pray that to them may come or god, or mortal,—


Electra.

As judge or as avenger meanest thou?

 

Chorus.

Say plainly, who shall death with death requite.


Electra.

May I the gods thus pray nor impious be?


Chorus.

How not requite an enemy with ill?


Electra.

Of powers above the earth and powers below
Herald supreme, escorter of the shades,
Hermes, now summon to attend my prayer
The guardians of my father's house, dread powers,
Throned in the nether world, and mother Earth, 120
Who all things bringeth forth, who fosters all,
And doth of all receive again the germ.
And I, libations pouring to the dead,
Thus pray, my Sire invoking;—"Pity me,
And dear Orestes pity;—how shall we
Rule in our palace-home? for sold, alas!
By her who bare us, we as outcasts stray;
While, for Ægisthos, 'complice in thy death,
Her lord she bartered;—slavish is my lot,
Orestes exiled from his wealth, the while
Revel the twain, exulting in thy toils. 130
That home Orestes may at length return,
By glad success escorted, I implore.
Give ear, and grant me, Father, to become
Sounder of mind by far than is my mother,
With hands more pure. For us these orisons;
But for thy foes, Father, this prayer I urge,
That Justice, thine avenger, may appear,
So that thy slayers may in turn be slain.
For them an evil utterance I pour.
To us upsend these blessings from below, 140
With gods, and Earth, and Justice conquest-crowned."
Over such prayers, libations, lo! I pour.
Yours be it now, lifting the solemn wail,
To crown with dole the pæan of the dead.


[While the Chorus sings the following Ode, Electra ascends the steps of the tomb, and pours the libation.]


Chorus. Strophe.

Drop ye for the dead
Tears with pattering sound;
Lustral rain is shed
O'er the hallowed mound,
From the pure which screeneth bale,
While the powers of Evil quail.
Hear, O master, at thy tomb, 150
Whispered sounds from sorrow's murky gloom.


Antistrophe.

Now in measured flow
Tune the notes of woe!
When will warrior brave,
(War-god strong to save
Houses in the dust laid low,)
Hurl the spear, from hornèd bow
Wing the arrow's deadly flight,
Or wield the hilted brand in closer fight?

 

Electra.


These earth-drained off'rings hath my sire received.

[She perceives the lock of hair laid by Orestes.]

Ha! this new wonder ponder now with me.


Chorus.

Speak on; yet palpitates my heart with fear?


Electra.

Laid on the tomb this lock new shorn I see. 160


Chorus.

Shorn from what man, or what deep-girdled maid?


Electra.

Who here will guess may easily divine.


Chorus.

Although the elder, I from thee would learn.


Electra.

There is but one who could have shorn this hair.


Chorus.

True, foes are they who with the lock should mourn.


Electra.

And further, it is like, yea, very like—


Chorus.

Like what? Like whose? That I am fain to learn.

 

Electra.

In sooth I find it greatly like mine own.


Chorus.

Then should it be Orestes' stealthy gift?


Electra.

The semblance of his clust'ring locks it bears. 170


Chorus.

But hither how could he have dared to come?


Electra.

He this shorn lock hath sent to grace his sire.


Chorus.

Not less bewept by me what now thou sayest,
If, living, he may never tread this land.


Electra.

Rolls o'er my heart a surge of bitterness,
Smitten am I as with a piercing shaft;
And from these eyes, while gazing on this lock,
The thirsty drops of sorrow's wintry flood
Flow unrestrained. For how may I conceive
That other of the townsmen owns this hair? 180
And certes, she who slew him sheared it not,
My mother,—all unworthy of the name,
Who towards her children bears a godless mind.
Yet how with full assurance may I call
This off'ring his, dearest of mortal men,
Orestes,—still, hope fawns upon my heart.
Alas!—
Oh had it, herald-like, a friendly voice,
So I by doubt no more should be distraught.
Then had it clearly counselled me this lock
To loathe, if severed from a foeman's head, 190
Or else, akin to me, had shared my grief,
Gracing this tomb, an honour to my sire.


Chorus.

But let us call upon the gods, who know
In what dire storms, like sailors, we are whirled;
Since if by them our safety is ordained,
From tiny seed may spring a mighty stock.


[Electra, descending the steps of the tomb.]

Electra.

And lo, these traces—yet another sign;
Footprints that tally with my own;—and see,
Two diverse outlines are impressed, his own,
And also of some fellow-wayfarer. 200
The impress of this foot, from heel to toe,
Thus measured, hath the symmetry of mine.
Travails my heart—disordered is my wit.


[Orestes approaching her.]

Orestes.

Acknowledging to Heaven thy prayers fulfilled,
Pray that the further issue may be blest.

 

Electra.

What have I won by favour of the gods?


Orestes.

Thou seest those for whom thou long hast prayed.


Electra.

How knowest thou for whom I raised the prayer?


Orestes.

I know Orestes in thy heart enshrined.


Electra.

And say wherein are now my prayers fulfilled? 210


Orestes.

Myself am he;—seek none than me more dear.


Electra.

Stranger, around me wouldst thou weave some snare?


Orestes.

Myself against myself would then contrive.


Electra.

Wouldest thou mock at my calamity?


Orestes.

I at mine own should mock, mocked I at thine.


Electra.

Art thou Orestes? Thou to whom I speak?


Orestes.

Myself thou seest, and discernest not;
Yet gazing on this lock of mourning hair,
And in my footprints marking well my track,
Thy fluttered thoughts did paint me to thine eye. 220
This lock, thy brother's, like in hue to thine,
Mark well, applying it whence it was shorn;
Mark too this garment, by thy shuttle wrought,
Scenes of the chase, embroidered by thy hand.
Be calm,—through joy lose not thy self-control;
For deadly are, I know, those near in blood.


Electra.

Oh! cherished darling of thy father's house,
Hope of our race, thou precious seed, long wept,
Trusting in thy strong arm thou shalt regain
Thy natal home. O name beloved, in which 230
Centre four dear affections; for perforce,
Thee I must hail as father, and on thee
Love for my mother, justly hated, falls;
And for my sister, pitilessly slain.
My faithful brother hast thou ever been,
My pride, my awe;—only may Strength and Right,
With Zeus supreme, third Saviour, aid thy cause.


Orestes.

Zeus, Zeus, beholder be thou of these woes;—
Mark the young brood, reft of their eagle-sire,
Who perished in the folds, the snaky toils 240
Of direful serpent;—orphaned they endure
The pangs of hunger; not yet strong of wing
To carry to the nest the eagle's prey.
So mayest thou behold us twain, myself,
And her, Electra, oflfspring sire-bereft,
Thus doomed to common exile from our home.


Electra.

And if of sire who greatly honoured thee
With many a sacrifice, thou slay the brood,
Whence, from like hand, wilt festive gifts obtain?
As none, if thou the eaglets slay, henceforth 250
To mortals will thy trusty omens bear;
Nor, if all withered, shall this royal stock,
On sacrificial days, support thine altars.
O foster it, and raise, from low estate,
A house which now seems fallen utterly.


Chorus.

Oh children, Saviours of your father's hearth,
Forbear, lest some one should o'erhear your words
And all, with gossip-loving tongue, rehearse
To those in power; whom dead I fain would see
Blazing 'mid spirting pine-wood's pitchy brands. 260


Orestes.

Of Loxias the mighty oracle
Will not betray me, urging me to brave
This peril, oft exhorting me, and 'gainst
My inmost reins tempestuous ills denouncing,
Failed I to chase my father's murderers.
Stript bare and goaded on by forfeiture,
He bade me slay them as my sire they slew,
Declaring I should else atonement make
With my own life and many grievous woes.
For earth-born med'cines, that to other mortals 270
Are poison-antidotes, shall in us twain,
So he avers, show forth these maladies;—
A leprous canker, cleaving to the flesh,
That eats with rancorous tooth the vital strength,
And through disease blanches the youthful locks;
Next of the Furies other dread assaults
He pictured, springing from my father's blood.
For the dark shafts of those beneath the earth,
(The slain who cry for vengeance to their kin,)
With frenzy wild, and groundless fear at night,
Disturb and harass his distracted soul, 280
Who clearly in the darkness Phœbos sees
To knit his brow.—Thus from the town they chase
The wretch all mangled with the brazen scourge.
Moreover to such caitiff is denied
Or festal cup to share, or solemn pledge,
While from the altars, him, a father's wrath
Unseen excludes;—him may no host receive
To cleanse, with purifying rite, from guilt;—
Till, friendless and dishonoured, dies the wretch,
The shrivelled prey of all-destructive doom;
Such oracles I needs must trust; and e'en 290
Mistrustful were I, vengeance must be wrought;
For many divers promptings mingle here;—
The god's command, heart-sorrow for my sire,
And indigence hard-pressing, these forbid
That citizens, of mortals most renowned,
Who, with heroic spirit, wasted Troy,
Be slaves of women twain. For womanish
His soul! If not, the issue soon he'll know.

 

Chorus.

Ye mighty Fates, end ye the great emprize,
As Right, with Heaven's high sanction, hath decreed;— 300
"Let tongue of Hatred pay back tongue of Hate;"
Thus with her mighty utt'rance Justice cries,
Due penalty exacting for each deed.
"Let murder on the murderous stroke await!"—
"Doer of wrong must sufifer."—This sage lore,
Tradition utters, trebly hoar.


Orestes. Strophe I.

What word or deed of mine,
Father unblest,
Can I, from this confine,
Waft to thy couch of rest, 310
Changing thy murky gloom
Into bright day!
Nathless to grace thy tomb,
Welcome to Atreus' line,
Pour we the lay.—


Chorus. Strophe II.

My son, the wasting jaws of fire
Quell not the spirit of the dead,
Full late he manifests his ire.—
When mourned is he whose blood is shed,
The slayer is revealed. In time,
For slaughtered parents, righteous cry 320
Of orphans, raised unceasingly,
Availeth to search out the hidden crime.

 

Electra. Antistrophe I.

In turn, our tearful strain,
O Father, hear!
Hark how thy children twain
Wail forth their anthems drear!
Exiles, we seek thy tomb,
Sad, suppliant pair;
Say what of good is here!
What hope relieves our gloom! 330
Triumphs despair.


Chorus. Strophe.

And yet, should so the god ordain,
Hereafter, gladder notes shall sound;—
Instead of this funereal strain
In palace-halls shall ring amain
A pæan to the dear one newly found.


Orestes. Strophe III.

Oh haddest thou, 'neath Ilion's walls,
But perished, by some Lycian spear
Transfixed, my father, to thy halls
Glory bequeathing, while thy proud career
A lustre o'er the path had shed 340
Which now in gloom thy children tread;
Beyond the wave, by numbers reared, a mound,
No burthen to thy house, thou then hadst found.


Chorus. Antistrophe II.

Dear to the dear ones in the fight
Who perished nobly, thou hadst lain,—
With majesty arrayed, and might,
A king in Pluto's gloomy reign,
Serving the great ones who command 350
In Hades.—For in upper day
King was he over kings, whose hand
The fatal sceptre wields which men obey.


Electra. Antistrophe III.

Nay, Father, under Troia's wall
With other victims of the spear,
What need for thee in death to fall,
And near Scamander grace a foreign bier?
Oh rather might the murderous twain
Themselves have met their death-blow, slain 360
By kindred hands, so from afar the tale
Had reached thine ear, shielded thyself from bale.


Chorus. [Mesode.]

Richer, my child, thy words than gold;—
Bliss Hyperborean they excel,
It may not be! Of scourge twofold
The clang resounds.—Already dwell
'Neath earth your champions; here who reign
Have hands unclean; hateful to me the twain;
Them in more direful hate these children hold.


Electra. Strophe IV.

Like dart thy word of dread,
Piercing mine car, hath sped.
Zeus, Zeus, upsending from below
Late thine avenging blow,—
Upon man's daring, crafty deed,
To parents thou dost deal their righteous meed.


Chorus. Strophe V.

Oh be it mine to celebrate,
Triumphantly, the howl of pain,
From caitiff smitten to the death,
From woman yielding up her breath! 380
For why the rage dissemble now
That shakes my soul? at my heart's prow
Relentless gales of vengeful hate,
And stormful rancour, blow amain.


Orestes. Antistrophe IV.

Oh that, with arm of might
Great Zeus, who guards the right,
Woe, woe,—would strike the guilty pair!
Come peace to this domain!
Just meed may the unjust obtain! 390
Earth, and ye powers of Hades, hear my prayer.


Chorus. Antistrophe.

For law it is, when on the plain
Blood hath been shed, new blood must fall.
Carnage doth to the Fury call;
Avenger of the earlier slain,
She comes, new Ruin leading in her train.


Electra. Strophe VI.

Oh Earth, and ye who rule below,
Behold, and ye dread Furies of the slain,
Behold us, outcast, miserable twain;
Poor remnant of the Atridæ;—whither go? 400
Oh! Sov'reign Zeus, what refuge from our woe?


Chorus. Antistrophe V.

Throbbeth my woman's heart with fear,
The while thy dirge mine ear assails;
At one time hopeful courage wanes,
And darkness o'er my inmost reins
Broods, as the doleful sound I hear.
Then once again kind hope prevails;
She with new strength uplifts my heart,
And, full of grace, bids conscious grief depart.


Orestes. Antistrophe VI.

Can grief by flattery be subdued, 410
Or soothed by fawning? No, to quell the pain
By parent's hate engendered, charms are vain;
Like savage wolf that ravens for its food,
Tameless from birth is sorrow's torturing brood.


Chorus. Strophe VII.

With Arian beat I strike my breast;
My outstretched hands in wild unrest,
With Kissian mourner's rhythmic woe,
In quick succession,—to and fro,
Shower from all quarters blow on blow;
While with the burly rings amain
My battered head and my distracted brain. 420

 

Electra.

Cruel, all-daring, Mother, woe!
Alas, as foeman buries foe,
A king, no trusty liegemen near,
Thy wedded lord without a tear,
Thou hadst the heart unwailed to send below.


Orestes. Strophe VIII.

All the dishonour thou hast shown:
Therefore shall she our Sire's disgrace atone,
Far as the gods prevail,
Far as my hands avail;
Then may I perish when she lieth prone! 430


Chorus. Antistrophe VIII.

Maimed was he;—let this whet thy hate;
And with like outrage him she did entomb,
That for thy life his fate
Might be too sore a weight.
Such was thy Father's ignominious doom!


Electra. Antistrophe VII.

Our Father's lot thy words proclaim;
While I, despised, a thing of nought,
Shut out like vicious cur with shame,
Forgot to smile; alone, I sought
Solace in weeping,—anguish-fraught. 440
Hearing the tale my lips impart,
Grave it, my brother, on thy inmost heart.

 

Chorus.

Piercing thine ear, oh may my word
Find access to the depths within!
True is the tale. Thy spirit gird
To hear what yet thou hast not heard!
Now, with undaunted heart the strife begin.


Orestes. Strophe IX.

Thine aid, O Father, to thy dear ones lend!


Electra.

Weeping sad tears, my voice with his I blend.


Chorus.

Our prayers, in concert, to the shades descend;
Give ear, and rising to the day 450
Against our foes join thou the fray.


Orestes. Antistrophe IX.

Ares shall cope with Ares,—Right with Right.


Electra.

Ye gods, give righteous judgment in the fight.


Chorus.

Hearing your prayers, I tremble: hid in night,
Tarries from Eld the doom of Fate;
Invoked it cometh, sure, though late.


Orestes and Electra. Strophe X.

Oh curse that in our house doth reign!
Discordant Atè's murd'rous blow!
Alas intolerable pain! 460
Alas for cureless woe!


Chorus. Antistrophe X.

No foreign aid can bring relief;
No! from yourselves the cure must flow.
'Tis blood must staunch your household grief.
So chant we to the gods below.


Chorus-Leader.

Hear, blessed powers;
Beneath the earth our orisons attend!
And with aspèct benign,
Succour and conquest to these children send!


Orestes.

My Father, in no kingly fashion slain, 470
To me, thy suppliant, grant to sway thy house.


Electra.

I too, my Father, need thy gracious aid,
That scathless I may work Ægisthos' doom.


Orestes.

So mortal men to thee shall dedicate
The solemn banquet;—else, unhonoured thou,
When grateful reek rich off 'rings to the dead.


Electra.

Nuptial libations of my heritage
I too will bring from the paternal home,
And chief in honour will this tomb adorn.

 

Orestes.

O Earth, my sire upsend to watch the fray. 480


Electra.

Persephone, oh grant us fair success!


Orestes.

Think, Father, of the bath that reaved thy life.


Electra.

Think of the net in which they tangled thee.


Orestes.

In shackles, not of brass, wast snared, my father.


Electra.

Basely enveloped in the treacherous folds.


Orestes.

Art thou not roused by these reproaches. Sire?


Electra.

Dost to thy dear ones not uplift thine head?


Orestes.

Either send Justice, ally to thy friends,
Or give them in like grasp thy foes to hold,
If thou, o'erthrown, wouldst victor be in turn. 490


Electra.

And hearken, Father, this my last appeal;
Behold thy fledglings nestled on thy tomb;
Pity thy progeny of either sex,
Nor Pelops' remnant seed exterminate;
For thus, though dying here, thou art not dead.
For children are as voices that prolong
The dead man's fame; like corks they float the net,
The flaxen line upbearing from the deep.
Hearken! For thine own sake this wail we raise; 500
Thyself art saved in honouring this plaint.


Chorus.

Unblamed in sooth have ye your speech prolonged,
Due to his tomb and unlamented fate.
But since to action now thy soul is braced,
To work forthwith! Put Fortune to the test.


Orestes.

So be it! yet not out of course I ask
What mean these off'rings? By what motive swayed,
Seeks she too late to med'cine cureless bale?
For to the dead, who heeds it not, she sends
A sorry tribute;—I divine it not!
Her crime o'er tops the gift;—for should we pour 510
Earth's treasures to atone for one man's blood,
Vain were the toil;—so runs the ancient saw.
But if thou knowest answer to my prayer.


Chorus.

That can I, son, for I was there;—by dreams,
And troublous terrors of the night appalled,
The godless woman sent these sacred rites.


Orestes.

Heard ye the dream, and truly can rehearse?

 

Chorus.

She, as herself relates, a dragon bare.


Orestes.

And what the scope, the issue, of the tale?


Chorus.

In swathing-clothes she moored it as a child. 520


Orestes.

What nurture might the new-born horror crave?


Chorus.

She, in her dream, herself held forth the breast.


Orestes.

How by the pest the nipple then unscathed?


Chorus.

With nurture-milk it sucked the clotted blood.


Orestes.

Not vain the dream but by her husband sent;—


Chorus.

In terror shrieked she, waking up from sleep,
And many torches, in the darkness quenched,
Gleamed through the palace in our mistress' aid;
Libations to the tomb forthwith she sends
Devising for her woe a sovereign cure. 530


Orestes.

I to this earth and to my father's tomb
Pray that this dream be consummate in me.
And as I read it, sooth, it tallies well.
For if the snake, quitting the self-same womb,
Was girded straightway with my swathing-clothes,
And, gaping round the breast that nourished me,
Sucked with my nurture-milk the clotted blood,
While she in terror, at the portent shrieked;—
Clear is it, as she reared the ghastly pest,
So forceful must she die. I, dragon-like, 540
Myself shall slay her, as this dream declares.—
As augur of these portents thee I choose.


Chorus.

So let it be! But now direct thy friends,
These how to act, or those aloof to bide.


Orestes.

Hear then, in brief;—Sister, go thou within;
But these I counsel to conceal my plans.
For as with guile an honoured man they slew,
Themselves with guile shall be entrapped, and die
In the same toils, foretold by Loxias,
Apollo Lord, no faithless seer of yore.— 550
For I, equipped for travel, with this man,
With Pylades, will reach the outer gate;
I as a stranger;—he as ransom-friend;—
Familiar both with the Parnassian speech,
The tongue of Phocis we will imitate.
And if no friendly warder, on the plea
That by dire evils is the house possessed,
Will give us entrance, we without will bide,
Until some passer guess our plight, and say,
"If that Ægisthos knoweth, being at home, 560
Why 'gainst the suppliant doth he shut the door?"
Then if the threshold of the gates I cross,
And him discover on my father's seat,—
Or should he meet me face to face, and set
His eyes on me, ere he can speak the word,
"Whence is this stranger?"—I will lay him dead,
Spitting his body round my nimble steel.
The Fury thus, of gore insatiate,
Shall blood untempered quaff, third, crowning draught.
[To Electra.
Go thou,—keep watchful guard within the house, 570
That all, well ordered, fitly may combine.
[To the Chorus.
To you a tongue of wisdom I commend,
To speak in season, or from speech refrain.—
[To Pylades.
And for the rest let this man look to it,
When in the strife of swords this arm hath won.


[Exeunt Orestes and Pylades. Electra enters the palace.]


Chorus. Strophe I.

Full many a horror drear
And ghastly, Earth doth rear;—
With direful monsters teems encircling Ocean;
Meteors, with threatening sheen, 580
Hang heaven and earth between;—
The tempest's wrath still raves with wild commotion;
These, and dire wingèd things, and things that crawl,
Thou mayst describe them all.

 

Antistrophe I.

But man's audacious might
What words can paint aright,
Or woman's daring spirit who may tell?
Her passion's frenzied throes,
Co-mates of mortal woes?
For love unlovely, when its evil spell 590
'Mong brutes or men the feebler sex befools,
Conjugial bands o'errules.


Strophe II.

Let him confirm the truth I sing,
Whose thoughts soar not on Folly's wing,
Knowing full well what Thestios' daughter planned[2];—
Her fiery plot, child-murdering;
Wretched, who burnt her son's coeval brand.
Born with him when he cried
First from the mother's womb;—
Like-aged with him it died, 600
When dawned his day of doom.


Antistrophe II.

Needs must we loathe another dame,
The bloody Scylla, known to fame,[3]
Who, lured by Minos' gifts of fine-wrought gold,
Neck-gear from Crete,—devoid of shame,
Nisos, her father, to his foemen sold.
Deep-breathing, free from care,
In slumber while he lay,
Ruthless she cut th' immortal hair: 610
And Hermes seized his prey.


Strophe III.

But since these direful woes have burst,
Untimely, into song:—
Be the foul wedlock too accursed,
That doth this palace wrong.—
And cursèd be the plot that snared
(By woman's brain devised,)
The armèd chief who foemen scared,
Whom faithful lieges prized.
Dear is to me the unstained hearth, and dear
In woman's hand the unaudacious spear.


Antistrophe III.

But first of woes in every clime, 620
The Lemnian is deplored;—[4]
And still the most detested crime
As Lemnian is abhorred.
Branded with infamy by men,
The impious disappear;
For whom the righteous gods condemn,
No mortal dares revere.—
The lore which thus we chant in choral strain,
Say ye, doth Reason at her bar arraign?


Strophe IV.

Right through the lungs doth Justice' hand
Drive home the bitter steel; 630
The majesty of Zeus they dared withstand,
And to the ground, with reckless heel,
Trampled his high command.

 

Antistrophe IV.

Firm based is Justice; Fate of yore
Forged weapon for the blow;
Deep-souled Erinys doth in time restore
Th' avenger to his home, and, lo!
Of ancient blood he pays the score.


[Enter Orestes and Pylades, with Attendants, all in the garb of travellers.]


Orestes.

[Knocking at the gate.
Boy, hear the knocking, at the outer gate;— 640
Who is within? Hola! Again I call.—
For the third time I crave a parley here,
If that Ægisthos heeds the stranger's rights.


Attendant.

Well, well, I hear. Who art thou, friend, and whence?


Orestes.

Me to the rulers of this house announce,
For unto them, bearer of news, I come.
Haste, for Night's dusky car rolls on apace,
And time it is for weary traveller
Anchor to drop in hospitable home.
Let one in trust, a woman bearing rule, 650
Come forth; yet more decorous were a man.
For when by bashfulness the tongue is swayed
Darkened is speech;—boldly man speaks to man,
And tells his message forth without reserve.

[Exit Attendant.

[Clytemnestra comes forth from the palace with Attendants.]


Clytemnestra.

Strangers, if aught ye need, say on, for here
Is whatsoe'er beseemeth halls like these;—
Warm baths, the easeful couch that charmeth toil,
The welcome presence too of honest eyes.
But if your mission here doth counsel crave,
'Tis men's concern:—we will inform them straight. 660


Orestes.

From Phocis I, a Daulian, stranger here.—
What time my home I left, for Argos bound,
Starting on foot, with baggage self-equipped,
A man to me unknown, as I to him,
Met me, inquired my route and told me his
Strophios, the Phocian, as in talk I learned.
"Stranger," he said, "since Argos is thy goal,
Say to the parents,"—strictly mark my words,—
"Dead is Orestes;—grave it on thy mind;—
Whether the counsel of his friends prevail 670
To bring him home, or give him sepulture,
Alien for aye;—bear thou their mandates back;
For now the brazen urn doth shroud from sight
The ashes of the hero duly wept."
Such words I heard, and tell thee;—if to those
Who here bear rule I speak, kin to the dead,
I know not;—but 'tis meet his sire should know.


Electra.

Woe's me! Then are we utterly undone!
O household Fury, hard to grapple with,
How many, though aloof, thou visitest,
Piercing with well-aimed arrows from afar,
While wretched me thou hast stript bare of friends.
And now, Orestes, who, by lucky chance,
His foot from ruin's slough had well-nigh freed,
Cancels by death our cherished hope, sole cure
Of the ill revelry that reigneth here.


Orestes.

With hosts so richly dowered I fain had sought
Acquaintance and kind cheer, as messenger
Bearing more welcome tidings; for what bond
More friendly than of stranger to his hosts? 690
Yet not to consummate for friends a charge
So weighty, deemed I an impiety,
By promise bound, and pledges of good-will.


Clytemnestra.

Worthy regard not less shalt thou receive;
Nor have the less fair welcome to this house.
Another all the same had brought thy news.
But time it is that strangers who have made
A day-long journey should their strength recruit.
[To an attendant.
To the men's chambers usher him as guest;
His escort too, and fellow-traveller. 700
There be they tended as befits this house.
Do ye my will as who must give account.
Ourselves will to the rulers of this house
Impart the tidings, and not poor in friends,
We will take counsel touching this mischance.

[Exeunt all except the Chorus.


Chorus.

Dear handmaidens! Sisters dear!
When, oh when, full voiced and clear,
Shall we, for Orestes' sake,
Loud the joyous Pæan wake?
Hallowed Earth! Oh shrine revered!
Funeral barrow high upreared, 710
O'er the naval hero-king,
Now give ear, deliv'rance bring!
Strikes the hour;—persuasive Guile
Enters now the lists. The while
Hermes leads to watch the fight
Of murd'rous swords and subtle wile,
Erinys, brood of Night.


[Enter Kilissa, the Nurse, weeping.]


Chorus-Leader.

This stranger, as it seems, is causing bale,
For I behold Orestes' nurse in tears;
Where wendest thou, Kilissa, past the gates?
Sorrow, I trow, unbidden goes with thee. 720


Nurse.

My mistress bade me summon with all speed
Ægisthos to the strangers, that he may
More clearly learn, as man from man, this tale
Newly announced. Before the menial train,
She, at the tidings by these strangers brought,
'Neath mournful eyes a lurking smile hath veiled,
Exulting in events joyous for her,
But to this house with direst issue fraught;—
But he no doubt will in his soul rejoice,
Hearing the tale. Alas! unhappy me! 730
How did the ancient troubles, hard to bear,
Whose blended horror darkened Atreus' house,
With anguish pierce my heart! But ne'er before,
Have I a sorrow like to this endured.
All other ills I patiently have borne,
But dear Orestes, darling of my soul,
Whom from his mother's womb I fondly reared,
Whose piercing summons waked me up at night,
And for whose sake full many a fruitless toil
I bore ungrudging;—for like lamb unweaned, 740
The witless infant we perforce must rear
According to its mood;—how otherwise!
For while in swathing-clothes no voice it hath,
When pressed by hunger, thirst, or nature's call,
But wilful is each tender organ's play.
Such wants presaging, ay, and oft deceived,
As cleanser of his swaddling bands, I ween,
Fuller and nurse had common duty there.
I thus installed in double handicraft,
The young Orestes for his father reared.
Oh wretched me to hear that he is dead; 750
But now I go, the spoiler of this house
To seek;—right gladly will he learn the tale.

 

Chorus.

And how equipped doth she then bid him come?


Nurse.

How? Speak again that I may clearly know.


Chorus.

Whether with body-guards, or all alone?


Nurse.

Spear-bearing followers she bids him bring.


Chorus.

Bear not this message to our hateful lord.
But with all speed do thou with cheerful mien
Bid him approach, that fearless he may hear;
For crooked word the messenger makes straight. 760


Nurse.

How! art thou sound of mind such tidings hearing?


Chorus.

But haply Zeus a change-wind may vouchsafe.


Nurse.

And how? Orestes gone, hope of the house.


Chorus.

Not yet! Dull prophet might interpret here.


Nurse.

What! knowest aught beyond what hath been told?

 

Chorus.

Go, bear thy message. Do as we enjoin,
What the gods purpose, that will they effect.


Nurse.

Well, go I will, obeying thy behest,
Fair be the issue by the gift of Heaven!

[Exit.


Chorus. Strophe I.

Sire of Olympian gods, thy suppliant calls! 770
Oh waft propitious Fortune to these halls!
Dispensing justice with omniscient might,
Bless thou my longing sight!
This boon I crave! Guard him, great Zeus, and save!


Strophe II.

Him, in these halls ancestral, place
Before his foeman;—bring them face to face!
Him if thou lift to greatness, Power divine,
Requital double, three-fold, shall be thine.


Antistrophe I.

Of him whom thou didst love behold the son 780
Orphaned, a colt harnessed in sorrow's trace;
Set thou a limit to his toilsome race!
Grant him his course to run,
With steps firm planted, and well-ordered pace!


Strophe III.

You too, frequenting the recess
Of wealth-rejoicing homes, I now address;
Hear, ye consentient Gods! Through bloody deed
Retributive, wash out the gore, 790
Dread heirloom from those slain of yore.
Let murder in this palace cease to breed,
When paid the bloody score!


Mesode.

Thou tenant of the cave,—great Spirit,
Give to the hero to inherit
His halls ancestral;—may his eyes,
Fearless and bright,
Peer freely forth from sorrow's veilèd night.


Antistrophe III.

May Maia's son, well-versed in guile,
Upon the righteous cause propitious smile! 800
Dark words and subtle speaking, he by night
Men's eyes o'ercloudeth, nor by day
More manifest his secret way.
Yet many a deed, in darkness veiled awhile,
By him is brought to light.


Strophe IV.

The work achieved, we'll chant the glorious ode;
Our woman's strain,
Propitious, with the mourners' stringed refrain,
Shall ransom this abode.
Then shall we own the sway of righteous laws,
While Atè from our friends her curse withdraws. 810

 

Antistrophe II.

When the fierce business must be done,
When in thine ear she whimpers forth, "My Son;"
Steeling thy heart, invoke thy slaughtered sire,
And consummate unblamed the vengeance dire.


Antistrophe IV.

With heart of Perseus steadfast in thy breast,
For the dear love
Of friends below the earth, and friends above,
Complete the sacrifice;—
Within the house plant thou grim Death,—dire guest,—
And let the murderer forfeit murder's price. 820


[Enter Ægisthos.]

Ægisthos.

Not uninvoked I come, but hither called;—
For strangers, as I learn, are here arrived,
Bearers of news, unwelcome to our ears,—
Orestes' death,—which, charged upon this house,
From former wound still ulcerate and sore,
To me a burden were, dripping with fear.
But say,—these tidings must I hold for true,
Or rumours deem them, coined by women's fears, 830
That aimless cleave the air, and aimless die?
Knowest thou aught that may my mind assure?


Chorus.

We have but heard: going thyself within,
Question these strangers;—second-hand reports
Avail not as to hour the tale oneself.

 

Ægisthos.

Fain would I see the messenger and learn
Whether himself was present at the death,
Or if from blind report this tale he heard;
A mind clear-sighted they will not deceive.

[Exit into the palace.


Chorus.

Zeus, great Zeus, how frame my cry 840
Thine aid to win?
How, invoking thee on high,
My strain begin?

For anon with murderous blow,
Either shall the gory blade
Atreus' royal house o'erthrow,—
Prone in dust for ever laid,—
Or in Freedom's sacred name,
Kindling fire and holy light,
Shall the rightful heir reclaim
Wealth and crown,—his twofold right. 850

Sole against the tyrant pair,
To such deadly grapple hies
Agamemnon's godlike heir;—
None to follow if he dies![5]
Crown, oh crown, the great emprize!


Ægisthos.
[Behind the scene.]

Alas, woe's me! Alas!

 

Chorus.

Hark! Hark! again!
How is't? What's wrought within?
Stand we aloof while Slaughter does her work,
That of these ills we guiltless may appear:
For now achieved the issue is of strife.

[The Chorus retire to the further side of the tomb.]


Servant.
[Rushing out of the palace.]

Oh woe! oh grievous woe! our master's slain; 860
Yet once again, and for the third time, woe.
Ægisthos is no more.—With utmost speed

[He knocks at the door of the women's palace.]

Fling open now, and of the women's doors,
The bars unloose; full strength is needed here,
Not for the slain; what booteth aid to him?
Alas! alas! what, shout I to the deaf,
Or clamour vainly in dull sleepers' ears?
What doeth Clytemnestra? Where is she?
Her neck it seems toucheth the razor's edge;
Herself, ere long shall perish, justly slain. 870


Clytemnestra.
[Enters hurriedly, unattended.]

What is't? What tumult raise ye in the house?


Servant.

The dead, I tell you, now the living slays.

 

Clytemnestra.

Alas! of these dark words the sense I catch;
Through guile we perish, as through guile we slew.
Quick, bring a deadly axe;—

[Exit Servant.

We'll see anon
Whether we vanquished are, or vanquisher;
For to this crisis hath the evil come.


[Orestes and Pylades come forth from the palace, the door of which remains open.]


Orestes.

Thee too I seek,—he there hath had his due.


Clytemnestra.

Alas! beloved Ægisthos, art thou dead?


Orestes.

Dost love this man? With him, in the same tomb, 880
Then shalt thou lie;—still faithful found in death.


Clytemnestra.

Hold! hold! my son;—Revere, my child, this breast
From which, a sleeping infant, thou full oft,
With toothless gums, thy nurture-milk hast sucked.


Orestes.

Speak, Pylades;—Through filial reverence,
Shall I forbear to shed a mother's blood?


Pylades.

The Pythian oracles, still unfulfilled,
Where are they, and thine own firm-plighted vows?
Choose all for foemen rather than the gods.


Orestes.

Thou hast prevailed; wisely thou promptest me;
[To Clytemnestra.
So follow;—by his side I thee would slay. 890
In life thou didst exalt him o'er my sire;
Since him thou lovest, sleep with him in death;
Whom thou wast bound to love thou didst abhor.


Clytemnestra.

I nourished thee;—with thee I would grow old.


Orestes.

Thou, slayer of my father, dwell with me!


Clytemnestra.

Fate was, my child, accomplice in these woes.


Orestes.

And Fate it is who doth this death ordain.


Clytemnestra.

Dost not a parent's curse revere, my child?


Orestes.

My mother, thou didst cast me forth for woe.


Clytemnestra.

Not outcast wast thou in a friendly house. 900


Orestes.

Sold doubly was I, scion of free sire.

 

Clytemnestra.

Where then the price for which I bartered thee?


Orestes.

It shameth me, in sooth, to charge thee home.


Clytemnestra.

But tell with mine the errors of thy sire.


Orestes.

Sitting at home blame not abroad who toils.


Clytemnestra.

For wives 'tis grievous to live spouseless, child.


Orestes.

The husband's toil supports the wife at home.


Clytemnestra.

Thy mother, O my child, art nerved to slay?


Orestes.

Thyself art guilty of thy death, not I.


Clytemnestra.

Take heed, beware thy mother's vengeful hounds. 910


Orestes.

Those of my sire how 'scape if thee I spare?


Clytemnestra.

Living, vain moanings to a tomb I pour.


Orestes.

Ay, for my father's fate doth work thy doom.

 

Clytemnestra.

Ah me! this snake it is I bare and reared.


Orestes.

True prophet was thy dream-engendered fear.
Him thou didst slay whom thou shouldst not have slain.
So doom unseemly suffer in thy turn.

[Orestes drags his mother into the palace, followed by Pylades.]


Chorus.

E'en of this pair I weep the twofold woe.
But since Orestes hath the bloody height
Achieved of dire revenge, one hope remains,
Not quenched the eye of Atreus' royal house. 920


Strophe I.

Justice, in time, with heavy doom,
Smote all of Priam's name;
So Agamemnon, to thy home,
Twin Lions, twofold Ares, came:
Suppliant at Pythos' shrine,
By oracles divine,
Sped on his way, the exile wins the game.


Strophe II.

Hail jubilant the house redeemed from bale!
The godless pair no more
Shall waste its gathered store. 930
Hail, joyous riddance, hail!

 

Antistrophe I.

Subtle of soul, Requital came,
Dark-veiled who joins the fight;—
Daughter of Zeus, whom mortals name
Justice, their aim thus pointing right;
She with firm hand, the knife
Unsheaths for mortal strife,
While 'gainst her foes she breathes destruction's blight.


Strophe III.

For Loxias, the king, 940
Who in Parnassian cavern holds his seat,
Doth vengeance hither bring,
Guilelessly guileful; lame, yet sure her feet.
Weighty the utterance; the power divine,
No consort is of guilt; needs must we pay
Homage to His heaven-ruling sway.
Clearly the light doth shine!


Antistrophe II.

Reft was I of the sun whose sudden ray
Did with new joy illume
These halls, long sunk in gloom; 950
It gleamed,—then died away.


Antistrophe III.

Anon, the cheering light,
New kindled, in this house shall shine once more,
What time, with lustral rite,
From the polluted hearth is purged the gore,
And Atè put to flight. With form benign,
Fortune, long time an alien, comes to claim
Her home, redeemed from shame.
Clearly the light doth shine!


[The scene opens, and Orestes is discovered standing over the bodies. Pylades with him and servants display the robe of Agamemnon.]


Orestes.

Behold the tyrants of this land, the twain 960
My sire who murdered, and this palace reaved.
Majestic once sat they upon their thrones,
United now, as by their fate appears,
And faithful to their pledges, e'en in death.
Death to my wretched sire conjoined they swore,
Conjoined to die;—well have they kept their oath.
But further, ye who hearken to these woes,
Mark this device, my wretched father's snare,
His hands which fettered and his feet which yoked.
Unfold it,—form a ring,—and, standing near, 970
Display the Hero's death-robe, that the Sire,
Not mine, but He who all these woes surveys,
Helios, my mother's impious deeds may mark;
So in my trial, at some future time,
He by my side may stand, and witness bear
That justly I did prosecute to death
My mother;—for of base Ægisthos' doom
Reeketh me not;—he, as adulterer,
The lawful forfeit of his crime hath paid.
But for the woman who this snare devised
Against the husband, unto whom she bore
The tender weight of children 'neath her zone,
Burden once dear, but now her deadly foe; 980
What deem ye of her? Might she not have been
A viper, or torpedo, which by touch
Corrupteth where it bites not? true if judged
For reckless daring and unrighteous will.
How name this thing, using well-omened words?
Toil for wild beast, the laver's ghastly pall,
Shrouding the dead man's feet? A net, a snare,
Might'st call it, or a feet-entangling robe.
Such were some robber's gear, whose trade it is
Strangers to dupe and plunder of their wealth;
While slaying many a one with such device, 990
With many a crime his seething brain might teem.
May no such woman house with me! Ye gods,
Devote me rather to a childless death!


Chorus. Strophe.

Alas! alas, for doings fraught with doom!
A loathsome death has brought thee to the tomb.
Woe! Woe!
To the survivor grief is but in bloom.


Orestes.

Did she the deed or not? To me this robe
Attests that she Ægisthos' sword imbrued;
Behold the death-stain tallies with the time 1000
Marring the broidered garment's varied dyes.
One while I praise my slaughtered sire, anon,
As present at the scene I wail his death.
This robe invoking that achieved his doom,
Deeds I lament, and woes, and all my race,
Pollution reaping from this victory.


Chorus. Antistrophe.

Alas! alas! no son of mortal race,
Unscathed life's pathway to the end may trace.
Woe! Woe!
Fadeth one grief, another comes apace.


Orestes.

That ye betimes may learn, (since I myself 1010
Know not the issue,) for as charioteer
With steeds ungoverned, from the course I swerve;
Thoughts past control are whirling me along,
Their captive slave; while terror in my heart
Her pæan and her frenzied dance prepares.
Hear me, my friends, while Reason holds her seat;
With Justice' sanction I my mother smote,
My father's slayer, a god-hated pest.
As prime incitement to the daring act
Of Loxias I plead this oracle;
That, if I slew, blameless I should be held; 1020
But if I failed;—my doom I will not speak;
For bowshot cannot reach such mighty woe.
And now behold,—bearing this olive-branch,
Enwreathed with wool, as suppliant I seek
Earth's navel stone, Apollo's seat, where burns
The flame of fire, deathless that hath been named,
Fleeing from kindred blood. For other hearth
Did Loxias forbid me to approach.
And let all Argive men, in after time,
Bear witness for me how these woes were wrought;
Living, an exile from this land I roam;
Leaving behind, when dead, these fateful words.


Chorus.

Noble thy deed, then yoke not now thy mouth
To bodeful speech, nor vent ill-omened words,
Since thou, with lucky stroke lopping the head
From serpent twain, all Argos' state hast freed.


[The Furies are seen rising in the background.]


Orestes.

Ah! ah! ye handmaids, Gorgon-like they come,
Vested in sable stoles, their locks entwined
With clustering snakes. No longer may I bide.


Chorus.

Dearest of mortals to thy father, say, 1040
What fancies scare thee? Hold, yield not to fear.


Orestes.

To me no woe-engendered fancies these;
Too well I know my mother's vengeful hounds.


Chorus.

Still reeking is the blood upon thy hand,
Hence is it that distraction smites thy brain.

 

Orestes.

Apollo lord! swarming they press around,
And from their eyes there drippeth loathsome gore.


Chorus.

One cleanser hast thou, cling to Loxias,
He will uphold thee, and will free from bale.


Orestes.

These shapes ye see not, but I see them. Lo, 1050
They drive me forth,—no longer can I bide.

[He rushes out.


Chorus.

But blessings on thee, and, in direst strait,
May He who views thee graciously protect!

[While singing the following Ode the Chorus enters the palace.]

Now in Mycenae's royal halls,
The storm, o'er Atreus' race that lowers,
Running its course, for the third time hath burst.
Child-devouring horror first,
Brooded o'er these walls;
Next a monarch's deadly bale,
When the chief whom we bewail,
War-leader to Achaea's martial powers, 1060
In the bath lay dead.
Now, behold a third is come,—
Saviour, shall I say, or doom?
From what quarter sped?
Full-accomplished, when shall Fate,
Lulled to rest, her stormy ire abate?



  1. The libation-pourers.
  2. The story of Meleager, as related by Phœnix to Achilles (Il. ix. 529), is fundamentally opposed to that of the later poets. In Homer nothing is heard of the fatal brand. Meleager had, in some unfortunate fray, killed his mother's brother; upon which his mother solemnly cursed him, and prayed to Pluto and Persephone for his death. At this he was so indignant (or so paralysed for battle by believing in the curse), that he refused to defend his native city, Calydon, at a critical moment, and was only at last prevailed on by his wife to take arms and save it. Here the story ends in Homer; though he says that the Fury who stalks in darkness heard the mother's curse.

    According to the later poets, Meleager had slain seven brothers of his mother. At his birth she had been informed by the Fates that he would live until a certain log of wood then burning on the hearth was consumed. On this she snatched it off, extinguished it, and kept it carefully in a chest. But now, in rage for the loss of so many brothers, she threw it into the fire, and forthwith her son perished.

  3. Nisos, king of Megara, is said to have had on his head a certain purple lock, upon which, according to the words of an oracle, his life depended. Scylla, his daughter, knew it, and bribed by a golden necklace, the gift of Minos, king of Crete, she cut the fatal lock, and thus caused her father's death.
  4. Herodotus, after relating how the Lemnian women had been put to death by their husbands, adds, "From this crime, and that which the women perpetrated before this, who, with the assistance of Thoas, killed their own husbands, all cruel actions are wont to be called Lemnian throughout Greece."—(vi. 138.)
  5. Ἔφεδρος, an antagonist in reserve. The Chorus uses the technical language of wrestlers in the games.



 

CHOEPHORI.

A few NOTES on the Text, by F. W. Newman.

The text of this play, especially in the Choral Odes, is manifestly very corrupt, and the corruption may have been a thousand years earlier than any MS. of it which came down to the age of printing. The Greek Commentator, whom we call the Scholiast, is often puerile, and absurdly satisfied with a very erroneous text. Thereby we are driven to conjectural improvement, if we are to attain a text worthy of the poet. Some of the following suggestions, I believe, seemed to my friend Miss Anna Swanwick to deserve her acceptance.


v. 56. Read μένει χρονίζοντας ἄχη, omitting βρύει.

64. Here retain βρύειν, probably with παγκαρτέρας for παναρκέτας.

65. For ἐκ μιᾶς ὁδοῦ, I wish ἐκ παγκυμίας ὁμοῦ.

67. ἰοῦσαν ἄτην all reject, μάτην meets general approval; but we seem to need κλύσειεν ἂν μάτην before metre and sense are satisfied.

71, 72, we require [δεῖ] δίκαια, μὴ δίκαια, [μὴ] πρέποντ᾽ ἀρχαῖσι μου for ἀρχαῖς βίου; and in 73, βίαια φυρωμένον for βίαι φερομένων.

150. σεβάσω must be wrong; σεβάσια (reverential), though not in our dictionaries, may be right. This piece is Antistrophic, but the Antistrophe abounds in small errors. I propose: 152, for ἀνὴρ to read ἂν ἥκοι; in 154, τίς ἐκ κεροῖν παλιντόνοιν ἐνεργοῖ for vulg. τά τ᾽ ἐκχεροῖν παλίντονα ἐν ἔργῳ.

270. Hermann has arbitrarily changed μειλίγματα (assuagements) into its opposite, μηνίματα, but πιφαύσκων is the faulty word. The smallest available change is to place a comma after βροτοῖς (other mortals), and write πιφαύσκειν εἶπε τάσδε νῷν. . . . Here πιφαύσκειν means προφαίνειν, with a future idea as presently in ἐπαντέλλειν.

361. The sense seems manifestly to require πάρος δὲ, τοὺς κτανόν τας νιν οὕτω δαμῆναι, [καὐτῶν] θαν. . . .

368. For ὀδυνᾶσαι, Dindorf has δύνασαι, but the sense requires οὐ δύνασαι.

370. For τῶν μὲν ἀρωγοὶ, which is unintelligible, I believe the poet wrote in continuation, δοῦπος ἱκνεῖται σφῷν μὲν ἀρωγὸν. . . . Even so it is quite unexplained what is the "double scourge." Orestes complains of Penury, Electra of Dishonor. These may well be the double misery which (says the Chorus) thou art unable [to avert]. To me a whole line seems lost, such as:

οὐ δύνασαι γὰρ
[σπάνιν ἀργαλέαν χὐβριν ἀπείργειν].
ἀλλὰ διπλῆς γὰρ τῆσδε μαράγνης
δοῦπος ἱκνεῖται σφῷν μὲν ἀρωγὸν
κατὰ γῆς ἤδη.

Thus δύνασαι has an infinitive ἀπείργειν to complete it, "To wish for lofty success is useless, when you cannot [even repel Penury and Insult]." The crack of this double scourge reaches now your champion in the underworld."

374. παισὶ δὲ μᾶλλον γεγένηται is hopeless nonsense. Μᾶλλον has nothing to compare. Γεγένηται, "it has become," has neither Predicate nor Subject. Neither word is hero endurable. I find nothing more probable than to write τέρμων for τούτων, with: Στυγερῶν τέρμων | παισὶ δ᾽ ἁμιλλῶν πεπόνηται. "But for (or by) the children a limit of hateful contests has been hard-earned." The unusual position of δὲ in the fourth place may have led to punctuating after τέρμων. On this would follow a general corruption.

377. For τελεῖται, I propose τέλει σύ.

384–407. Strophe and Antistrophe both corrupt. In my notion:—

384.. . . . φρενὸς οἷον ἔμπας
ποτᾶται, πάροιθέν τε πρώρας ἄηται,
[κῆρος] ἔγκοτον στύγος;

[δριμὺς καρδίας θυμὸς being a mere interpretation.]

407.σπλάγχνα δέ μοι κελαινοῦ-
ται πρὸς ἔπος· τότ᾽ ἂν δ᾽ αὖτ᾽
ἐπαλθὴς χαρὰ ῥεῖ᾽ ἀπέστασεν ἄλγος,
πρὸς τ᾽ ἔσανεν αἰκάλως.
ΟΡ.τί σάναντες τύχοιμεν ἂν, τάπερ
πάθοιμεν ἄχεα πρὸς γ᾽ ἐτῶν; [omitting τεκομένων]
πάρεστι σαίνειν, . . . .

391. Read Πιστὰ δ᾽ ἕλοιτο. . . . "may (Jupiter) elect Trustees, Regents."

400. Omit φθιμένων.

613. For ἀκαίρως δὲ, I suggest Ἀχαιοῖς γε. For ἀπεύχετον, I accept Blomfield's ἀπευκτέον. For ἐπικότῳ, metre and sense require ὑπερκότῳ. Place a colon after it: then for σέβας τίων I claim σεβαστέον.

633. A verb is lost to which the vulgate παρεκβάντες is nomin. and τὸ μὴ θέμις πατεύμενον is accusative. The particle οὐ makes sheer nonsense. I propose, instead of it, the verb ὤλεσαν. In the Antist. to contrast child and father, I imagine τέκνον δ᾽ ἐπεισφέρει δόμοισι [τοῖς πατρὸς, χ᾽] αἱμάτων. No one will say that πατρὸς is here superfluous, nor can any smaller change reconcile the metres.

773. In this eminently corrupt Ode, nothing but audacity can succeed. I propose:

773, 4. δὸς τύχας πλεῖν δόμοις κυρίως, πανσόφῳ
σθένει μαιομένᾳ σ᾽ ἰδεῖν διαδικάσαι.

783. For ἐν δρόμῳ προστιθεὶς, I suggest κἀν δρόμῳ προστιθείης. . . .

784, 5. Perhaps: κτίσας σωζομένον ῥυθμῴ ποτε διαθεῖ
ἔμπεδον. . . .

[κτίσας is my conjecture, or say, stop-gap, for the impossible τίς ἂν.]

793. Read τοῖνδε καλῶς κταμένοιν, and herewith end the third strophe.

795, For ἀνιδεῖν, which cannot here be right, perhaps ἀναπνεῖν, gain respite.

799. For ἐπιφορώτατος, metre and sense suggest ὁ φωριώτατος. (To change νομίζετε in the strophe for the convenience of this ἐπιφορώτατος cannot be approved.)

801. For κρύπτ᾽ ἄσκοπον δ᾽, I require κρύφα μὲν εὔσκοπον δ᾽, giving right metre and sense.

802. For νύκτα πρό τ᾽ ὀμμάτων read νύκτωρ προὐμμάτων.

803. For ἐμφανέστερος, Schütz well writes ἐμφανέστερον. χρῄζων is a superfluous word. I think πολλὰ δὲ κἄλλα φανεῖ should close the 3rd antistrophe.

805. The 4th and 5th are variously corrupt. I believe in
καὶ τότ᾽ ὠδὰν, κλυτὸν δωμάτων λύτρον

[Song, opposed to twanging of the lyre.] I try further:

808.μεθήσομεν πόλει· τὸ δ᾽ εὔ-
νουν ἔμοιγε κέρδος αὐξ-
ανεῖ τάδ᾽, Ἄτα δ᾽ ἀπέστω φίλων!

Τάδε nomin. will mean "Songs and Music." No smaller changes can succeed; but the words εὔνουν ἔμοιγε are necessarily very uncertain. Vulg. εὖ ἐμὸν ἐμὸν.

815. For περαίνων excellently Blomf. has πέραιν᾽ οὐκ.

820. προπρᾶξον χάριν σφαγᾶς λυτῆρος is a possible text. In next line τιθεὶς can hardly be right. The sense wanted is "from thy inmost heart venting rage." Καθεὶς or μεθεὶς is possible. Paley's correction of φοινίαν ἄταν into φοινίαν ἄγαν (sanguinary rancour) quite commends itself.

940–7 is terribly corrupt. No one can make good sense, good structure, and good metre without grave changes. I have proposed

τῶν πέρι Λοξίας, ὁ Παρνασσίας. . . , ἐποχθέων,
τὰν ἀδόλως δολίαν, βλαψίπουν, ἐν χρόνοις οἷσιν [for
θεῖσιν] †ἐποίχεται, or οἶσι μετοίχεται.

Next: κρατεῖ τοι λόγος, τὸ, θεῖον περ ὄντα μὴ ὑπουργεῖν [Δία] κακοῖς, . . . . rather μήδ᾽? or δὴ οκὐ?

949. A new enigma. The word in brackets might be ποίμενα. I do not believe it was. It might be μείρακα; but the edd. give us ψάλιον. I have imagined τάλιδα, equivalent to παρθένον, and here used of a young man, as παρθένον notoriously may be. That the termination does not necessitate a feminine idea, we see in ψαλίδα. Then for ψάλιον οἰκιῶν ἀναγέμαν δόμοις, I suggest:

μέγαν ἀφῃρέθην [τάλιδα], Φωκέων
ἄγαμον ἐν δόμοις.

In 951, after ἀεὶ add [τύχας ἀμμένων] as the lost line, and in next verse χρόνῳ for χρόνος. Presently for θρεομένοις μέτοικοι, I wish τ᾽ ἐραμένοισιν μετοίκοις.

F. W. Newman.