The Plays of Euripides (Coleridge)/Ion
Chorus of Creusa's Handmaidens.
Old Man Servant.
Servant of Creusa.
Scene.—Before Apollo's Temple at Delphi.
Her. Atlas, who bears upon his brazen back the pressure of the sky, ancient dwelling of the gods, begat Maia from a daughter of one of those gods, and she bare me Hermes to mighty Zeus, to be the servant of the powers divine. Lo! I am come to this land of Delphi where sits Phœbus on the centre of the world and giveth oracles to men, ever chanting lays prophetic of things that are to be. Now there is a city in Hellas of no small note, called after Pallas, goddess of the golden lance; there did Phœbus force his love on Creusa, daughter of Erechtheus, beneath the rock of Pallas, northward of Athens' steep realm, called Macræ by the kings of Attica. And she without her father's knowledge—for such was the god's good pleasure,—bore the burden in her womb unto the end, and when her time came, she brought forth a child in the house and carried him away to the self-same cave wherein the god declared his love to her, and she cradled him in the hollow of a rounded ark and cast him forth to die, observant of the custom of her ancestors and of earth-born Erichthonius, whom the daughter of Zeus gave into the charge of the daughters of Agraulus, after setting on either side, to keep him safe, a guard of serpents twain. Hence in that land among the Erechthidæ 'tis a custom to protect their babes with charms of golden snakes. But ere she left the babe to die, the young mother tied about him her own broidered robe. And this is the request that Phœbus craves of me, for he is my brother, "Go, brother, to those children of the soil that dwell in glorious Athens, for well thou knowest Athena's city, and take a new-born babe from out the hollow rock, his cradle and his swaddling-clothes as well, and bear him to my prophetic shrine at Delphi, and set him at the entering-in of my temple. What else remains shall be my care, for that child is mine, that thou mayst know it." So I, to do my brother Loxias a service, took up the woven ark and bore it off, and at the threshold of the shrine I have laid the babe, after opening the lid of the wicker cradle that the child might be seen. But just as the sun-god was starting forth to run his course, a priestess chanced to enter the god's shrine; and when her eyes lit upon the tender babe she thought it strange that any Delphian maid should dare to cast her child of shame down at the temple of the god; wherefore her purpose was to remove him beyond the altar, but from pity she renounced her cruel thought, and the god to help his child did second her pity to save the babe from being cast out. So she took and brought him up, but she knew not that Phœbus was his sire nor of the mother that bare him, nor yet did the child know his parents. While yet he was a child, around the altar that fed him he would ramble at his play, but when he came to man's estate, the Delphians made him treasurer of the god and steward of all his store, and found him true, and so until the present day he leads a holy life in the god's temple. Meantime Creusa, mother of this youth, is wedded to Xuthus; and thus it came to pass; a war broke out 'twixt Athens and the folk of Chalcodon who dwell in the land of Eubœa; and Xuthus took part therein and helped to end it, for which he received the hand of Creusa as his guerdon, albeit he was no native, but an Achæan, sprung from Æolus, the son of Zeus; and after many years of wedded life he and Creusa still are childless; wherefore they are come to this oracle of Apollo in their desire for offspring. To this end is Loxias guiding their destiny nor hath it escaped his ken, as some suppose. For when Xuthus enters this shrine, the god will give him his own son and declare that Xuthus is the sire, that so the boy may come to his mother's home and be acknowledged by Creusa, while the marriage of Loxias remains a secret and the child obtains his rights; and he shall cause him to be called Ion, founder of a realm in Asia, through all the breadth of Hellas. But now will I get me to yon grotto 'neath the laurel's shade that I may learn what is decreed about the child. For I see the son of Loxias now coming forth to cleanse the gateway in front of the temple with boughs of laurel. I greet him first of all the gods by his name Ion which he soon shall bear.
Ion. Lo! the sun-god is e'en now turning towards the earth his chariot-car resplendent; before yon fire the stars retire to night's mysterious gloom from forth the firmament; the peaks of Parnassus, where no man may set foot, are all ablaze and hail the car of day for mortal's service. To Phœbus' roof mounts up the smoke of myrrh, offering of the desert; there on the holy tripod sits the Delphian priestess, chanting to the ears of Hellas in numbers loud, whate'er Apollo doth proclaim. Ye Delphians, votaries of Phœbus, away! to Castalia's gushing fount as silver clear, and, when ye have bathed you in its waters pure, enter the shrine; and keep your lips in holy silence that it may be well, careful to utter words of good omen amongst yourselves to those who wish to consult the oracle; while I with laurel-sprays and sacred wreaths and drops of water sprinkled o'er the floor will purify the entrance to the shrine of Phœbus, my task each day from childhood's hour; and with my bow will I put to flight the flocks of feathered fowls that harm his sacred offerings; for here in Phœbus' shrine, which nurtured me, I minister, an orphan, fatherless and motherless.
Come, thou tender laurel-shoot, gathered from gardens divine to wait upon the glorious god, thou that sweepest clean the altar of Phœbus hard by his shrine, where holy founts, that ever gush with ceaseless flow, bedew the myrtle's hallowed spray wherewith I cleanse the temple-floor the livelong day, so soon as the swift sun-god wings his flight on high, in my daily ministration. Hail Pæan, prince of healing! blest, ah! doubly blest be thou, child of Latona! Fair the service that I render to thee, Phœbus, before thy house, honouring thy seat of prophecy; a glorious task I count it, to serve not mortal man but deathless gods; wherefore I never weary of performing holy services. Phœbus is to me as the father that begot me, for as such I praise the god that gives me food. 'Tis Phœbus, who dwelleth in the temple, whom I call by that helpful name of father. Hail Pæan, healing god, good luck to thee and blessing, child of Latona! My task is nearly done of sweeping with the laurel broom, so now from a golden ewer will I sprinkle o'er the ground water from Castalia's gushing spring, scattering the liquid dew with hands from all defilement free. Oh may I never cease thus to serve Phœbus, or, if I do, may fortune smile upon me!
Ha! they come, the feathered tribes, leaving their nests on Parnassus. I forbid ye to settle on the coping or enter the gilded dome. Thou herald of Zeus, that masterest the might of other birds with those talons of thine, once more shall my arrow o'ertake thee.
Lo! another comes sailing towards the altar, a swan this time; take thy bright plumes elsewhere; the lyre that Phœbus tuneth to thy song shall never save thee from the bow; so fly away, and settle at the Delian mere, for if thou wilt not hearken, thy blood shall choke the utterance of thy fair melody.
Ha! what new bird comes now? Does it mean to lodge a nest of dry straw for its brood beneath the gables? Soon shall my twanging bow drive thee away. Dost not hear me? Away and rear thy young amid the streams of swirling Alpheus, or get thee to the woody Isthmian glen, that Phœbus' offerings and his shrine may take no hurt. I am loth to slay ye, ye messengers to mortal man of messages from heaven; still must I serve Phœbus, to whose tasks I am devoted, nor will I cease to minister to those that give me food.
1st Cho. It is not in holy Athens only that there are courts of the gods with fine colonnades, and the worship of Apollo, guardian of highways; but here, too, at the shrine of Loxias, son of Latona, shines the lovely eye of day on faces twain.
2nd Cho. Just look at this! here is the son of Zeus killing with his scimitar of gold the watersnake of Lerna. Do look at him, my friend!
1st Cho. Yes, I see. And close to him stands another with a blazing torch uplifted; who is he? Can this be the warrior Iolaus whose story is told on my broidery, who shares with the son of Zeus his labours and helps him in the moil?
3rd Cho. Oh! but look at this! a man mounted on a winged horse, killing a fire-breathing monster with three bodies.
1st Cho. I am turning my eyes in every direction. Behold the rout of the giants carved on these walls of stone.
4th Cho. Yes, yes, good friends, I am looking.
5th Cho. Dost see her standing over Enceladus brandishing her shield with the Gorgon's head?
6th Cho. I see Pallas, my own goddess.
7th Cho. Again, dost see the massy thunderbolt all aflame in the far-darting hands of Zeus?
8th Cho. I do; 'tis blasting with its flame Mimas, that deadly foe.
9th Cho. Bromius too, the god of revelry, is slaying another of the sons of Earth with his thyrsus of ivy, never meant for battle.
1st Cho. Thou that art stationed by this fane, to thee I do address me, may we pass the threshold of these vaults, with our fair white feet?
Ion. Nay, ye must not, stranger ladies.
10th Cho. May I ask thee about something I have heard?
Ion. What wouldst thou ask?
11th Cho. Is it really true that the temple of Phœbus stands upon the centre of the world?
Ion. Aye, there it stands with garlands decked and gorgeous all around.
12th Cho. E'en so the legend saith.
Ion. If ye have offered a sacrificial cake before the shrine and have aught ye wish to ask Phœbus, approach the altar; but enter not the inmost sanctuary, save ye have sacrificed sheep.
13th Cho. I understand; but we have no mind to trespass against the god's law; the pictures here without will amuse us.
Ion. Feast your eyes on all ye may.
14th Cho. My mistress gave me leave to see these vaulted chambers.
Ion. Whose handmaids do ye avow yourselves?
15th Cho. The temple, where Pallas dwells, is the nursing-home of my lords. But lo! here is she of whom thou askest.
Ion. Lady, whosoe'er thou art, I see thou art of noble birth, and thy bearing proves thy gentle breeding. For from his bearing one may mostly judge whether a man is nobly born. Yet am I much amazed to see thee close thine eyes in grief and with tears bedew thy noble face, when thou standest face to face with the holy oracle of Loxias. Why, lady, art thou thus disquieted? Here, where all others show their joy at sight of Phœbus' sanctuary, thine eye is wet with tears.
Cre. Most courteously, sir stranger, dost thou express surprise at these my tears; the sight of this temple of Apollo recalled to me a memory of long ago, and somehow my thoughts went wandering home, though I am here myself. Ah, hapless race of women! ah, ye reckless gods! What shall I say? to what standard shall we refer justice if through the injustice of our lords and masters we are brought to ruin?
Ion. Why, lady, art thou thus cast down, past all finding out?
Cre. 'Tis naught; I have shot my bolt; for what remains, I say no more, nor seek thou further to inquire.
Ion. Who art thou and whence? who is the father that begat thee? by what name are we to call thee?
Cre. Creusa is my name, the daughter of Erechtheus I; my native land is Athens.
Ion. A glorious city thine, lady, a noble line of ancestry! with what reverence I behold thee!
Cre. Thus far, no further goes my luck, good sir.
Ion. Pray, is the current legend true———
Cre. What is thy question? I fain would learn.
Ion. Was thy father's grandsire really sprung from Earth?
Cre. Yes, Erichthonius was; but my high birth avails me not.
Ion. Is it true Athena reared him from the ground?
Cre. Aye, and into maidens' hands, though not his mother's—
Ion. Consigned him, did she? as 'tis wont to be set forth in painting.
Cre. Yes, to the daughters of Cecrops, to keep him safe unseen.
Ion. I have heard the maidens opened the ark wherein the goddess laid him.
Cre. And so they died, dabbling with their blood the rocky cliff.
Ion. Even so. But what of this next story? Is it true or groundless?
Cre. What is thy question? Ask on, I have no calls upon my leisure.
Ion. Did thy sire Erechtheus offer thy sisters as a sacrifice?
Cre. For his country's sake he did endure to slay the maids as victims.
Ion. And how didst thou, alone of all thy sisters, escape?
Cre. I was still a tender babe in my mother's arms.
Ion. Did the earth really open its mouth and swallow thy father?
Cre. The sea-god smote and slew him with his trident.
Ion. Is there a spot there called Macræ?
Cre. Why ask that? what memories thou recallest!
Ion. Doth the Pythian god with his flashing fire do honour to the place?
Cre. Honour, yes! Honour, indeed! would I had never seen the spot!
Ion. How now? dost thou abhor that which the god holds dear?
Cre. No, no; but I and that cave are witnesses of a deed of shame.
Ion. Lady, who is the Athenian lord that calls thee wife?
Cre. No citizen of Athens, but a stranger from another land.
Ion. Who is he? he must have been one of noble birth.
Cre. Xuthus, son of Æolus, sprung from Zeus.
Ion. And how did he, a stranger, win thee a native born?
Cre. Hard by Athens lies a neighbouring township, Eubœa.
Ion. With a bounding line of waters in between, so I have heard.
Cre. This did he sack, making common cause with Cecrops' sons.
Ion. Coming as an ally, maybe; he won thy hand for this?
Cre. Yes, this was his dower of battle, the prize of his prowess.
Ion. Art thou come to the oracle alone, or with thy lord?
Cre. With him. But he is now visiting the cavern of Trophonius.
Ion. As a spectator merely, or to consult the oracle?
Cre. 'Tis his wish to hear the self-same answer from Trophonius and Phœbus too.
Ion. Is it to seek earth's produce or fruit of offspring that ye come?
Cre. We are childless, though wedded these many years.
Ion. Hast thou never been a mother? art thou wholly childless?
Cre. Phœbus knows whether I am childless.
Ion. Unhappy wife! how this doth mar thy fortune else so happy!
Cre. But who art thou? how blest I count thy mother!
Ion. Lady, I am called the servant of Apollo, and so I am.
Cre. An offering of thy city, or sold to him by some master?
Ion. Naught know I but this, that I am called the slave of Loxias.
Cre. Then do I in my turn pity thee, sir stranger.
Ion. Because I know not her that bare me, or him that begat me.
Cre. Is thy home here in the temple, or hast thou a house to dwell in?
Ion. The god's whole temple is my house, wherever sleep o'ertakes me.
Cre. Was it as a child or young man that thou camest to the temple?
Ion. Those who seem to know the truth, say I was but a babe.
Cre. What Delphian maid, then, weaned thee?
Ion. I never knew a mother's breast. But she who brought me up—
Cre. Who was she, unhappy youth? I see thy sufferings in my own.
Ion. The priestess of Phœbus; I look on her as my mother.
Cre. Until thou camest unto man's estate, what nurture hadst thou?
Ion. The altar fed me, and the bounty of each casual guest.
Cre. Woe is thy mother, then, whoe'er she was!
Ion. Maybe my birth was some poor woman's wrong.
Cre. Hast thou any store, for thy dress is costly enough?
Ion. The god I serve gives me these robes to wear.
Cre. Wert thou never eager to inquire into thy birth?
Ion. Ah! yes, lady! but I have no clue at all to guide me.
Cre. Alas! I know another woman who hath suffered as thy mother did.
Ion. Who is she? If she would but help me in the task, how happy should I be!
Cre. 'Tis she on whose account I have preceded my husband hither.
Ion. What are thy wishes? be sure I will serve thee, lady.
Cre. I would fain obtain a secret answer from Apollo's oracle.
Ion. Name it, then; the rest will I undertake for thee.
Cre. Hear, then, this story. Yet am I ashamed.
Ion. Thus wilt thou accomplish naught, for shame is a goddess slow to act.
Cre. A friend of mine asserts that Phœbus lay with her.
Ion. Phœbus with a mortal woman? Stranger lady, say not so.
Cre. Yea, and she bare the god a child without her father's knowledge.
Ion. It cannot be; some man did wrong her, and she is ashamed of it.
Cre. This she denies herself; and she hath suffered further woe.
Ion. How so, if she was wedded to a god?
Cre. The babe she bare she did expose.
Ion. Where is the child who was thus cast forth? is he yet alive?
Cre. No man knoweth. That is the very thing I would ask the oracle.
Ion. But if he be no more, how did he perish?
Cre. She supposes that beasts devoured the hapless babe.
Ion. What proof led her to form this opinion?
Cre. She came to the place where she exposed him, but found him no longer there.
Ion. Were any drops of blood upon the path?
Cre. None, she says; and yet she ranged the ground to and fro.
Ion. How long is it since the babe was destroyed?
Cre. Thy age and his would measure out the self-same span, were he alive.
Ion. Hath she given birth to no other child since then?
Cre. The god doth wrong her, and wretched is she in having no child.
Ion. But what if Phœbus privily removed her child, and is rearing it?
Cre. Then is he acting unfairly in keeping to himself alone a joy he ought to share.
Ion. Ah me! this misfortune sounds so like my own.
Cre. Thee too, fair sir, thy poor mother misses, I am sure.
Ion. Oh! call me not back to piteous thoughts I had forgotten.
Cre. I am dumb; proceed with that which touches my inquiry.
Ion. Dost know the one weak point in this thy story?
Cre. 'Tis all weak in that poor lady's case.
Ion. How should the god declare that which he wishes hidden?
Cre. He must, if here upon the tripod he sits for all Hellas to seek to.
Ion. He is ashamed of the deed; do not question him.
Cre. Aye, but his victim has her sorrows too.
Ion. There is none who will act as thy medium in this. For were Phœbus in his own temple proved a villain, he would justly wreak his vengeance on the man who expounded to thee his oracles; desist then, lady; we must not prophesy against the god's will, for it would be the height of folly in us, were we to try and make the gods against their will declare reluctant truths either by sacrifice of sheep at their altars, or by omens from birds. For those answers we strive to extort from heaven, lady, are goods that bring no blessing on our getting; but what they freely offer, thereby we profit.
Cho. Many are the chances that befall the many tribes of men, and diverse are their forms. But scarce one happy scene canst thou find in all the life of man.
Cre. Ah! Phœbus, here as there, art thou unjust to that absent sufferer, whose cause I now am pleading. Thou didst not preserve thy child, as in duty bound, nor wilt thou, for all thy prophetic skill, answer his mother's questioning, that, if he be no more, a mound may be raised o'er him, or, if he live, he may some day be restored to his mother's eyes. In vain is this the home of oracles if the god prevents me from learning what I wish to ask. But lo! I see my noble lord, Xuthus, nigh at hand, returning from the lair of Trophonius; say nothing, sir, to my husband of what I have told thee, lest I incur reproach for troubling about secrets, and the matter take a different turn to that which I sought to give it. For women stand towards men in a difficult position, and the virtuous from being mingled with the wicked amongst us are hated; such is our unhappy destiny.
Xut. First to the god all hail! for he must receive the first-fruits of my salutation, and next all hail to thee, my wife! Has my delay in arriving caused thee alarm?
Cre. By no means; but thou art come at an anxious time. Tell me what response thou bringest from Trophonius, touching our future hopes of mutual offspring.
Xut. He deigned not to forestal the prophecies of Phœbus. This only did he say, that neither thou nor I should return unto our house childless from the shrine.
Cre. Majestic mother of Phœbus, to our journey grant success, and may our previous dealings with thy son now find a better issue!
Xut. It will be so; but who acts as the god's spokesman here?
Ion. I serve outside the shrine, others within, who stand near the tripod, even the noblest of the Delphians chosen by lot, sir stranger.
Xut. 'Tis well; I have attained the utmost of my wishes. I will go within; for I am told that a victim has been slain in public before the temple for strangers, and to-day,—for it is a lucky day,—I would fain receive the god's oracle. Do thou, my wife, take branches of laurel, and seated at the altars pray to the gods that I may carry home from Apollo's shrine an answer that bodeth well for offspring.
Cre. All this shall be. Now, at any rate, if Loxias would retrieve his former sins, e'en though he cannot be my friend entirely, yet will I accept whate'er he deigns to give, because he is a god.
[Exeunt Xuthus and Creusa.
Ion. Why doth this stranger lady hint dark reproaches against the god unceasingly, either out of affection for her on whose behalf she seeks the oracle, or maybe because she is hiding something needing secrecy? Yet what have I to do with the daughter of Erectheus? She is naught to me. No, I will go to the laver, and from golden ewers sprinkle the holy water. Yet must I warn Phœbus of what is happening to him; he ravishes a maid and proves unfaithful to her, and after secretly begetting a son leaves him to die. O! Phœbus, do not so, but as thou art supreme, follow in virtue's track; for whosoever of mortal men transgresses, him the gods punish. How, then, can it be just that you should enact your laws for men, and yourselves incur the charge of breaking them? Now I will put this case, though it will never happen. Wert thou, wert Poseidon, and Zeus, the lord of heaven, to make atonement to mankind for every act of lawless love, ye would empty your temples in paying the fines for your misdeeds. For when ye pursue pleasure in preference to the claims of prudence, ye act unjustly; no longer is it fair to call men wicked, if we are imitating the evil deeds of gods, but rather those who give us such examples.
Cho. On thee I call, Athena mine, at whose birth-throes no kindly goddess lent her aid, delivered as thou wert by Titan Prometheus from the forehead of Zeus. Come, O lady Victory, come to the Pythian shrine, winging thy way from the gilded chambers of Olympus to the city's streets, where Phœbus at his altar on the centre of the world brings his oracles to pass beside the dance-encircled tripod; come, too, thou daughter of Latona, together come, ye virgin goddesses, fair sisters of Phœbus! And be this your prayer, fair maidens, that the ancient house of Erechtheus may obtain by clear oracles the blessing of children, though late it come. For this brings to man a settled source of all-surpassing bliss, even to such as see in their ancestral halls a splendid race of strong young parents blest with offspring, to inherit from their sires their wealth in due succession after other children; yea, for they are a defence in time of trouble, and add a charm to weal, affording to their fatherland a saving help in battle. Give me before the pomp of wealth or royal marriages the careful nurture of noble children. The childless life I do abhor, and him who thinks it good I blame; to a happy life amongst my children, blest with moderate wealth, may I hold fast.
Ye haunts of Pan, and rocks hard by the grots of Macræ, where Agraulos' daughters three trip it lightly o'er the green grass-lawns before the shrine of Pallas, to the music of the piper's varied note, what time thou, Pan, art piping in those caves of thine, where a maiden once that had a child by Phœbus, unhappy mother! exposed her babe, forced issue of herwooing, for birds to tear and beasts to rend, a bloody banquet! Never have I seen it told in woven tale or legend that children born to gods by daughters of earth have any share in bliss.
Ion. Attendant maids, that watch and wait your mistress here at the steps of the temple fragrant with incense, say, hath Xuthus already left the holy tripod and the sanctuary, or doth he still abide within to ask yet further of his childlessness?
Cho. He is still in the temple, sir, nor hath he passed this threshold yet. But hark! I hear a footstep at the outlet of the door, and lo! thou mayst see my master this moment coming out.
Xut. All hail! my son; that word suits well as my first greeting to thee.
Ion. 'Tis well with me; do but restrain thyself, and then both of us will be happy.
Xut. Give me thy hand to grasp, thy body to embrace.
Ion. Art thou in thy senses, sir, or hath some spiteful god reft thee of them?
Xut. I am in my senses, for I have found what I hold most dear, and am eager to show my love.
Ion. Cease! touch me not, nor tear these garlands of the god!
Xut. I will embrace thee, for I am not seizing what is not my own, but only finding my own that I love full well.
Ion. Hands off! or thou shalt feel an arrow pierce thy ribs.
Xut. Why dost thou shun me, now that thou findest in me thy nearest and dearest?
Ion. I am not fond of schooling boors and crazy strangers.
Xut. Kill me, burn me, if thou wilt; for, if thou dost, thou wilt be thy father's murderer.
Ion. Thou my father, indeed! Oh! is not news like this enough to make me laugh?
Xut. Not so; my tale, as it proceeds, will prove to thee what I assert.
Ion. Pray, what hast thou to tell me?
Xut. That I am thy own father, and thou my very child.
Ion. Who says so?
Xut. Loxias, who gave thee nurture, though thou wert my son.
Ion. Thou art thy own witness.
Xut. Nay, I have learnt the answer of the god.
Ion. Thou art mistaken in the dark riddle thou hast heard.
Xut. It seems then I do not hear aright.
Ion. What said Phœbus?
Xut. That the man who met me———
Ion. When and where?
Xut. As I came forth from the god's temple———
Ion. Well! what should happen to him?
Xut. Should be my own true son.
Ion. Thy own true son, or a gift from others?
Xut. A gift, but mine for all that.
Ion. Am I the first that thou didst meet?
Xut. I have met no other, my son.
Ion. Whence came this piece of luck?
Xut. To both of us alike it causes surprise.
Ion. Ah! but who was my mother?
Xut. I cannot tell.
Ion. Did not Phœbus tell thee that?
Xut. I was so pleased with this, I did not ask him that.
Ion. I must have sprung from mother earth.
Xut. The ground brings forth no children.
Ion. How can I be thine?
Xut. I know not; I refer it to the god.
Ion. Come, let us try another theme.
Xut. Better hold to this, my son.
Ion. Didst thou e'er indulge in illicit amours?
Xut. Yes, in the folly of youth.
Ion. Ere thou didst win Erechtheus' daughter?
Xut. Never since.
Ion. Could it be, then, thou didst beget me?
Xut. The time coincides therewith.
Ion. In that case, how came I hither?
Xut. That puzzles me.
Ion. After that long journey too?
Xut. That, too, perplexes me.
Ion. Didst thou in days gone by come to the Pythian rock?
Xut. Yes, to join in the mystic rites of Bacchus.
Ion. Didst thou lodge with one of the public hosts?
Xut. With one who at Delphi—
Ion. Initiated thee? or what is it thou sayest?
Xut. Among the frantic votaries of Bacchus.
Ion. Wert thou sober, or in thy cups?
Xut. I had indulged in the pleasures of the wine-cup.
Ion. That is just the history of my birth.
Xut. Fate hath discovered thee, my son.
Ion. How came I to the temple?
Xut. Maybe the maid exposed thee.
Ion. I have escaped the shame of slavish birth.
Xut. Acknowledge then thy father, my son.
Ion. It is not right that I should mistrust the god.
Xut. Thou art right there.
Ion. What more can I desire—
Xut. Thine eyes now open to the sights they should.
Ion. Than from a son of Zeus to spring?
Xut. Which is indeed thy lot.
Ion. May I embrace the author of my being?
Xut. Aye, put thy trust in the god.
Ion. Hail to thee, father mine.
Xut. With joy that title I accept.
Ion. This day—
Xut. Hath made me blest.
Ion. Ah, mother dear! shall I ever see thee too? Now more than ever do I long to gaze upon thee, whoe'er thou art. But thou perhaps art dead, and I shall never have the chance.
Cho. We share the good luck of thy house; but still I could have wished my mistress too, and Erechtheus' line? had been blest with children.
Xut. My son, albeit the god hath for thy discovery brought his oracle to a true issue, and united thee to me, while thou, too, hast found what most thou dost desire, till now unconscious of it; still, as touching this anxiety so proper in thee, I feel an equal yearning that thou, my child, mayst find thy mother, and I the wife that bare thee unto me. Maybe we shall discover this, if we leave it to time. But now leave the courts of the god, and this homeless life of thine, and come to Athens, in accordance with thy father's wishes, for there his happy realm and bounteous wealth await thee; nor shalt thou be taunted with base origin and poverty to boot, because in one of these respects thou something lackest, but thou shalt be renowned alike for birth and wealth. Art silent? why dost fix thy eyes upon the ground? Thou art lost in thought, and by this sudden change from thy former cheerfulness, thou strikest thy father with dismay.
Ion. Things assume a different form according as we see them before us, or far off. I am glad at what has happened, since I have found in thee a father; but hear me on some points which I am now deciding. Athens, I am told,—that glorious city of a native race,—owns no aliens; in which case I shall force my entrance there under a twofold disadvantage, as an alien's son and base-born as I am. Branded with this reproach, while as yet I am unsupported, I shall get the name of a mere nobody, a son of nobodies; and if I win my way to the highest place in the state, and seek to be some one, I shall be hated by those who have no influence, for superiority is galling; while 'mongst men of worth who could show their wisdom, but are silent, and take no interest in politics, I shall incur ridicule and be thought a fool for not keeping quiet in such a fault-finding city. Again, if I win a name amongst the men of mark who are engaged in politics, still more will jealous votes bar my progress; for thus, father, is it ever wont to be; they who have the city's ear, and have already made their mark, are most bitter against all rivals. Again, if I, a stranger, come to a home that knows me not, and to that childless wife who before had thee as partner in her sorrow, but now will feel the bitterness of having to bear her fortune all alone,—how, I ask, shall I not fairly earn her hatred, when I take my stand beside thee; while she, still childless, sees thy dear pledge with bitter eyes; and then thou have to choose between deserting me and regarding her, or honouring me and utterly confounding thy home? How many a murder, and death by deadly drugs have wives devised for husbands! Besides, I pity that wife of thine, father, with her childless old age beginning; she little deserves to pine in barrenness, a daughter of a noble race. That princely state we fondly praise is pleasant to the eye; but yet in its mansions sorrow lurks; for who is happy, or by fortune blest, that has to live his life in fear of violence with many a sidelong glance? Rather would I live among the common folk, and taste their bliss, than be a tyrant who delights in making evil men his friends, and hates the good, in terror of his life. Perchance thou wilt tell me, "Gold outweighs all these evils, and wealth is sweet." I have no wish to be abused for holding tightly to my pelf, nor yet to have the trouble of it. Be mine a moderate fortune free from annoyance! Now hear the blessings, father, that here were mine; first, leisure, man's chiefest joy, with but moderate trouble; no villain ever drove me from my path, and that is a grievance hard to bear, to make room and give way to sorry knaves. My duty was to pray unto the gods, or with mortal men converse, a minister to their joys, not to their sorrows. And I was ever dismissing one batch of guests, while another took their place, so that I was always welcome from the charm of novelty. That honesty which men must pray for, even against their will, custom and nature did conspire to plant in me in the sight of Phœbus. Now when I think on this, I deem that I am better here than there, father. So let me live on here, for 'tis an equal charm to joy in high estate, or in a humble fortune find a pleasure.
Cho. Well said! if only those I love find their happiness in thy statement of the case.
Xut. Cease such idle talk, and learn to be happy; for on that spot where I discovered thee, my son, will I begin the rites, since I have chanced on the general banquet, open to all comers, and I will offer thy birth sacrifice which aforetime I left undone. And now will I bring thee to the banquet as my guest and rejoice thy heart, and take thee to the Athenian land as a visitor forsooth, not as my own son. For I will not grieve my wife in her childless sorrow by my good fortune. But in time will I seize a happy moment and prevail on her to let thee wield my sceptre o'er the realm. Thy name shall be Ion, in accordance with what happened, for that thou wert the first to cross my path as I came forth from Apollo's sanctuary. Go, gather every friend thou hast, and with them make merry o'er the flesh of sacrifice, on the eve of thy departure from the town of Delphi. On you, ye handmaids, silence I enjoin, for, if ye say one word to my wife, death awaits you.
Ion. Well, I will go; one thing my fortune lacks, for if I find not her that gave me birth, life is no life to me, my father; and, if I may make the prayer, Oh may that mother be a daughter of Athens! that from her I may inherit freedom of speech. For if a stranger settle in a city free from aliens, e'en though in name he be a citizen, yet doth he find himself tongue-tied and debarred from open utterance.
Cho. Weeping and lamentation and the beginning of mourning I foresee, when my mistress shall see her lord blest with a son, while she is childless and forlorn. What was this oracle thou didst vouchsafe, prophetic son of Latona? Whence came this boy, thy foster-child who lingers in thy temple? who was his mother? I like not thy oracle; I fear there is some treachery. In terror I await the issue of this chance; for strange are these tidings and strange it is that the god declares them to me. There is guile connected with this waif's fortune. All must allow that. Shall we, good friends, throw off disguise and tell our mistress this story about her husband in whom her all was centred and whose hopes, poor lady, she once shared? But now in misery is she plunged, while he enjoys the smiles of fortune; to hoary eld she drifteth fast, while he, her lord, pays no regard to his loved ones,—the wretch, who came an alien to her house to share great wealth and failed to guard her fortunes! Perdition catch this traitor to my lady! never may he succeed in offering to the gods upon their blazing altar a hallowed cake with flames that augur well! He shall know to his cost my regard for my mistress. Now are sire and new-found son bent on the approaching feast. Ho! ye peaks of Parnassus that rear your rocky heads to heaven, where Bacchus with uplifted torch of blazing pine bounds nimbly amid his bacchanals, that range by night! Never to my city come this boy! let him die and leave his young life as it dawns! For should our city fall on evil days, this bringing-in of strangers would supply it with a reason. Enough, enough for us Erechtheus' line that erst held sway!
Cre. Aged retainer of my father Erechtheus while yet he lived and saw the light of day, mount to the god's prophetic shrine that thou mayst share my gladness, if haply Loxias, great king, vouchsafe an answer touching my hopes of offspring; for sweet it is to share with friends prosperity, and sweet likewise to see a friendly face if any ill betide,—which God forbid! As thou of yore didst tend my sire, so now, thy mistress though I am, I take his place in tending thee.
Old Ser. Daughter, thy manners bear good witness still to thy noble lineage; thou hast never brought shame upon those ancestors of thine, the children of the soil. A hand, I prithee, to the shrine! a hand to lean upon! 'Tis a steep path thither, truly; but lend thy aid to guide my steps and make me young again.
Cre. Come follow then, and look where thou art treading.
Old Ser. Behold! though my steps loiter, my thoughts take wings.
Cre. Lean on thy staff as thou climbest this winding path.
Old Ser. Even this staff is a blind guide when I myself can scarcely see.
Cre. True, but do not yield through fatigue.
Old Ser. Never willingly, but I am not master of that which is mine no more.
Cre. Maidens mine, my trusty servants at the loom and web, declare to me how my lord hath fared as touching the question of offspring which brought us hither: for if ye give me good news, ye will cause joy to a mistress who will not prove faithless to her word.
Cho. O fortune!
Old Ser. This prelude to your speech is unlucky.
Cho. Woe is me!
Old Ser. Can it be that the oracles delivered to my master wound me at all?
Cho. Enough! why have aught to do with that which brings down death?
Cre. What means this piteous strain? wherefore this alarm?
Cho. Are we to speak or keep silence? What shall we do?
Cre. Speak; for thou hast somewhat to tell that touches me.
Cho. Then speak I will, though twice to die were mine. O mistress mine! never shalt thou hold a babe within thy arms or clasp him to thy breast.
Cre. Ah me! would I were dead!
Old Ser. My daughter!
Cre. O woe is me for my calamity! Mine is a heritage of suffering and woe that poisons life, good friends.
Old Ser. Ah, my child, 'tis death to us!
Cre. Ah me! ah me! grief drives its weapon through this heart of mine.
Old Ser. Stay thy lamentations.
Cre. Nay, but sorrow lodges here.
Old Ser. Till we learn—
Cre. Ah, what further news is there for me?
Old Ser. Whether our master is in the same plight and shares thy misfortune, or thou art alone in thy misery.
Cho. On him, old sir, Loxias hath bestowed a son, and he is enjoying his good fortune apart from her.
Cre. Herein hast thou declared a further evil crowning all, a grief for me to mourn.
Old Ser. The child of whom thou speakest is he some woman's destined babe, or did the god declare the fate of one already born?
Cho. A youth already born and grown to man's estate doth Phœbus give to him; for I was there myself.
Cre. What sayest thou? nor tongue nor lip should speak the word thou tellest me.
Old Ser. And me. But declare more clearly how this oracle is finding its fulfilment, and say who is the child.
Cho. Whomso thy husband first should meet as he issued from the shrine, him the god gave him for his son.
Cre. Ah me! my fate, it seems, has doomed me to a childless life, and all forlorn am I to dwell in my halls, without an heir.
Old Ser. To whom did the oracle refer? whom did our poor lady's husband meet? how and where did he see him?
Cho. Dear mistress mine, dost know that youth that was sweeping yonder shrine? He is that son.
Cre. Oh! for wings to cleave the liquid air beyond the land of Hellas, away to the western stars, so keen the anguish of my soul, my friends!
Old Ser. Dost know the name his father gave to him, or is that left as yet unsettled and unsaid?
Cho. He called him Ion, because he was the first to cross his path.
Old Ser. Who is his mother?
Cho. That I cannot say. But,—to tell thee all I know, old sir,—her lord is gone, with furtive step, into the hallowed tent, there to offer on this child's behalf such gifts and victims as are offered for a birth, and with his new-found son to celebrate the feast.
Old Ser. Mistress mine, we are betrayed by thy husband, fellow-sufferers thou and I; 'tis a deep-laid plot to outrage us and drive us from Erechtheus' halls. And this I say not from any hatred of thy lord but because I bear thee more love than him; for he, after coming as a stranger to thy city and thy home, and wedding thee, and of thy heritage taking full possession, has been detected in a secret marriage with another woman, by whom he hath children. His secret will I now disclose; when he found thee barren, he was not content to share with thee thy hard lot, but took to himself a slave to be his stealthy paramour and thus begat a son, whom he sent abroad, giving him to some Delphian maid to nurse; and, to escape detection, the child was dedicated to the god and reared in his temple. But when he heard his boy was grown to manhood, he persuaded thee to come hither to inquire about thy childless state. And after this, 'twas not the god that lied, but thy husband, who long had been rearing the child, and he it was that wove this tissue of falsehood, intending, if he were detected, to refer it to the god, whereas if he escaped exposure, to repel all odium, he meant to vest the sovereignty in this son of his. Likewise he devised anew his name, coined to suit the circumstances, Ion, because, as he asserts, he met him on his way.
Cho. Ah! how I ever hate the wicked who plot unrighteousness and then cunningly trick it out. Far rather would I have a virtuous friend of no great intellect than a knave of subtler wit.
Old Ser. Of all thy wretched fate this will be the crowning sorrow, the bringing to thy house to be its lord some slave-girl's child, whose mother is unknown, himself of no account. For this evil had been to itself confined, had he persuaded thee, pleading thy childlessness, to let him establish in the house some high-born mother's son; or if this had displeased thee, he ought to have sought a daughter of Æolus in marriage. Wherefore must thou now put thy woman's wit to work; either take the dagger, or by guile or poison slay thy husband and his son, ere they deal out death to thee; since if thou spare him, thou wilt lose thy own life; for when two foes meet beneath one roof, one or the other must rue it. Myself too am ready to share this labour with thee, and to help destroy the child when I have made my way into the chamber where he is furnishing the feast, and so repaying my masters for my maintenance I am willing either to die or still behold the light of life. 'Tis but a single thing that brands the slave with shame—his name; in all else no upright slave is a whit worse than free-born men.
Cho. I too, beloved mistress, am ready to share thy fate, be it death or victory.
Cre. Ah! my suffering soul! how am I to keep silence? Am I to disclose the secrets of my love and lose all claim to modesty? What is there to keep me back any longer? With whom have I to pit myself in virtue's lists? Hath not my husband proved untrue? Home and children, both are torn from me; all hope is dead; I have not realized my wish to set the matter straight, by hushing up my former union and saying naught about my son of sorrow. No! by the starry seat of Zeus, by her whose home is on my rocks, and by the hallowed strand of Triton's mere with brimming flood, I will no more conceal my love; for if I can lift that burden from my breast I shall rest easier. With tears my eyes are streaming and my heart is wrung with anguish for the treacherous counsels both of men and gods,—traitors they! as I will show, ungrateful traitors to their loves!
O! thou who dost awake that tuneful lyre with seven strings till to its sweet note of music the lifeless pegs of wild ox-horn resound again, thou child of Latona, to yon bright orb of thine will I publish thy reproach. Yes, I saw thee come, the glint of gold upon thy locks, as I was gathering in my folded robe the saffron blooms that blazed like flowers of gold; and by my lily wrist didst thou catch me and ledst me to the cavern's bed, what time I cried aloud upon my mother's name,—thou a god to mate with me in shameless wise to pleasure lady Cypris! Then to my sorrow I bore thee a son, whom, though anguish thrilled my mother's breast, I cast upon that bed of thine, where thou didst join in woful wedlock this unhappy maid. Ah! woe is me! that poor babe I bare thee is now no more; winged fowls have torn and devoured him, but thou art gaily carolling unto thy lyre some song of joy. Hark! thou son of Latona, to thee I call, for that thou dispensest warnings; there at thy golden throne on earth's centre planted will I proclaim a word into thy ear. O! thou wicked bridegroom who art bringing to my husband's house an heir, though from him thou hast received no boon; while that child of thine and mine hath died unrecognized, a prey to carrion birds, his mother's swaddling-clothes all lost. Delos hates thee now, thy bay-tree loves thee not, whose branches sprout beside the tufted palm, where in holy throes Latona, big with child by Zeus, gave birth to thee.
Cho. Ah me! what store of sorrows is here disclosed, enough to draw a tear from every eye!
Old Ser. Daughter, with pity am I filled as a gaze upon thy face; my reason leaves me; for just as I am striving to lighten my spirit of its sea of troubles, comes another wave astern and catches me by reason of thy words; for no sooner hadst thou uttered this tale of present troubles than thou didst turn aside into a fresh track of other woes. What is it thou sayest? What charge against Apollo dost thou bring? What child is this thou dost assert that them didst bear? Where was it in the city that thou didst expose him, for beasts to rejoice o'er his burial? Tell me once again.
Cre. Old friend, although to meet thine eye, I am ashamed, yet will I tell thee.
Old Ser. Full well I know how to lend my friends a generous sympathy.
Cre. Then hearken; dost know a cave toward the north of Cecrops' rock, that we call Macræ?
Old Ser. I know it; there is the shrine of Pan, and his altar hard by.
Cre. That was the scene of my dire conflict.
Old Ser. What conflict? see how my tears start forth to meet thy words.
Cre. Phœbus forced me to a woful marriage.
Old Ser. Was it then this, my daughter, that I noticed myself?
Cre. I know not; but I will tell thee if thou speak the truth.
Old Ser. At the time thou wert mourning in secret some hidden complaint?
Cre. Yes, 'twas then this trouble happened, which now I am declaring to thee.
Old Ser. How then didst conceal thy union with Apollo?
Cre. I bore a child; hear me patiently, old friend.
Old Ser. Where? and who helped thy travail? or didst thou labour all alone?
Cre. All alone, in the cave where I became a wife.
Old Ser. Where is the child? that thou mayst cease thy childless state.
Cre. Dead, old friend, to beasts exposed.
Old Ser. Dead? did Apollo, evil god, no help afford?
Cre. None; my boy is in the halls of Hades.
Old Ser. Who then exposed him? surely not thyself.
Cre. Myself, when 'neath the gloom of night I had wrapped him in my robe.
Old Ser. Did no one share thy secret of the babe's exposure?
Cre. Ill-fortune and secrecy alone.
Old Ser. How couldst thou in the cavern leave thy babe?
Cre. Ah! how? but still I did, with many a word of pity uttered o'er him.
Old Ser. Oh for thy hard heart! Oh for the god's, more hard than thine!
Cre. Hadst thou but seen the babe stretch forth his hands to me!
Old Ser. To find thy mother's breast, to nestle in thy arms?
Cre. By being kept therefrom he suffered grievous wrong from me.
Old Ser. How camest thou to think of casting forth thy babe?
Cre. Methought the god would save his own begotten child.
Old Ser. Ah me! what storms assail thy family's prosperity!
Cre. Why weepest thou, old man, with head close-veiled?
Old Ser. To see the sorrows of thy sire and thee.
Cre. Such is our mortal life; naught abideth in one stay.
Old Ser. Daughter, let us cease to dwell on themes of woe.
Cre. What must I do? Misfortune leaves us helpless.
Old Ser. Avenge thee on the god who first did injure thee.
Cre. How can I, weak mortal as I am, outrun those mightier powers?
Old Ser. Set fire to Apollo's awful sanctuary.
Cre. I am afraid; my present sorrows are enough for me.
Old Ser. Then what thou canst, that dare—thy husband's death.
Cre. Nay, I do respect his former love in the days when he was good and true.
Old Ser. At least, then, slay the boy who hath appeared to supplant thee.
Cre. How can I? would it were possible! how I wish it were!
Old Ser. Arm thy followers with daggers.
Cre. I will about it; but where is the deed to be done?
Old Ser. In the sacred tent, where he is feasting his friends.
Cre. The murder will be too public, and slaves are poor support.
Old Ser. Ah! thou art turning coward. Devise some scheme thyself.
Cre. Well, I too have subtle plans that cannot fail.
Old Ser. If both conditions they fulfil, I will assist thee.
Cre. Hearken then; knowest thou the battle of the earth-born men?
Old Ser. Surely; the fight at Phlegra waged by giants against the gods.
Cre. There Earth brought Gorgon forth, dreadful prodigy.
Old Ser. To aid her sons maybe, and cause the gods hard toil?
Cre. Yea, and Pallas, daughter of Zeus, slew the monster.
Old Ser. What savage form had it assumed?
Cre. A breast-plate of vipers fenced its body.
Old Ser. Is this the tale I heard in days of yore?
Cre. That Athena wears its skin upon her corslet.
Old Ser. Is it this that Pallas wears, called by men her ægis?
Cre. This was the name it received, that day she came to do battle for the gods.
Old Ser. How, daughter, can this harm thy enemies?
Cre. Hast heard of Erichthonius, or no? of course thou hast.
Old Ser. Him whom Earth produced, the founder of thy race?
Cre. To him whilst yet a babe did Pallas give—
Old Ser. Ha! what? thou hast something yet to add.
Cre. Two drops of Gorgon's blood.
Old Ser. What power could they exert on the nature of a human creature?
Cre. The one with death is fraught, the other cures disease.
Old Ser. What held them when she tied them to the child's body?
Cre. With links of gold she fastened them; this to my sire did Erichthonius give.
Old Ser. And at his death it came to thee?
Cre. Yea, and here at my wrist I wear it.
Old Ser. How works the spell of this double gift of Pallas?
Cre. Each drop of gore which trickled from the hollow vein—
Old Ser. What purpose does it serve? what virtue does it carry?
Cre. Wards off disease, and nourishes man's life.
Old Ser. What doth that second drop effect, of which thou madest mention?
Cre. It kills, for it is venom from the Gorgon's snakes.
Old Ser. Dost thou carry this charm mixed in one phial, or separate?
Cre. Separate; for good is no companion for evil.
Old Ser. Daughter dear, thou art fully armed with all thou needest.
Cre. By this must the boy die, and thou must do the deadly deed.
Old Ser. How and where? thine it is to speak, and mine to dare and do.
Cre. In Athens, when to my house he comes.
Old Ser. That is not wisely said; I may object to thy plan as thou to mine.
Cre. How so? Hast thou the same mistrust that I experience?
Old Ser. Thou wilt get the credit of his death, although thou slay him not.
Cre. True; men say stepdames are jealous of their husband's children.
Old Ser. Kill him here then, that so thou mayst deny the murder.
Cre. Well, thus I do anticipate the pleasure.
Old Ser. Yea, and thou wilt from thy husband keep the very secret he would keep from thee.
Cre. Dost know then what to do? Take from my arm this golden bracelet, Athena's gift, some ancient craftsman's work, and seek the spot where my lord is offering secret sacrifice; then when their feasting is o'er and they are about to pour drink-offering to the gods, take this phial in thy robe and pour it into the young man's goblet; [not for all, but for him alone, providing a separate draught,] who thinks to lord it o'er my house. And if once it pass his lips, never shall he come to glorious Athens, but here abide, of life bereft.
Old Ser. Go thou within the house of our public hosts; I the while will set about my appointed task. On! aged foot, grow young again in action, for all that time saith no to thee. Go, aid thy mistress against her enemy, help slay and drag him from her house. 'Tis well to honour piety in the hour of fortune, but when thou wouldst harm thy foe, no law doth block thy path.
Cho. Daughter of Demeter, goddess of highways, queen as thou art of haunting powers of darkness, oh! guide as well the hand that fills by day a cup of death, against those to whom my revered mistress is sending a philtre of the gore that dripped from hellish Gorgon's severed head, yea, 'gainst him who would obtrude upon the halls of the Erechthidæ. Never may alien, from alien stock, lord it o'er my city, no! none save noble Erechtheus' sons! For if this deadly deed and my lady's aims pass unfulfilled, and the right moment for her daring go by, and with it the hope which now sustains her, either will she seize the whetted knife or fasten the noose about her neck, and by ending one sorrow by another will go down to other phases of existence. For never will that daughter of a noble line, while life is hers, endure within the sunshine of her eyes the sight of alien rulers in her halls. I blush for that god of song, if this stranger is to witness the torch-dance, that heralds in the twentieth dawn, around Callichorus' fair springs, a sleepless votary in midnight revels, what time the star-lit firmament of Zeus, the moon, and Nereus' fifty daughters, that trip it lightly o'er the sea and the eternal rivers' tides, join the dance in honour of the maiden with the crown of gold and her majestic mother; where this vagabond, by Phœbus favoured, thinks to reign, entering into other men's hard toil. Look to it, all ye bards, who, in malicious strains, expose our amours and unholy bonds of lawless love; see how far our virtue surpasses man's disloyalty. Change the burden of your song and keep your spiteful verse to brand man's faithlessness. For this scion of the stock of Zeus shows himself a heedless wight, denying to the mistress of his halls the lot of mutual offspring, and, paying all his court to some strange love, hath gotten him a bastard son.
Ser. Ladies of another land, where may I find your mistress, daughter of Erechtheus? For I have searched each nook and corner of this town, and cannot find her.
Cho. What news, my fellow-thrall? why that hurried gait? what tidings bringest thou?
Ser. I am pursued; the rulers of this land are seeking her to stone her to death.
Cho. Alas, what is thy tale? say not we are detected in our secret plot for murdering the boy?
Ser. Thou hast guessed aright; nor wilt thou be the last to share the trouble.
Cho. How was the hidden scheme laid bare? Ser. The god found means to master wrong with right, unwilling to see his shrine polluted.
Cho. How so? I do conjure thee, tell us all. For if to die or yet to live be ours, 'twere sweeter so, when we know all.
Ser. Soon as Xuthus, husband of Creusa, had left the god's prophetic shrine, taking with him his new-found son, to hold the feast and sacrifice that he designed to offer to the gods, himself departed to the place where leaps the Bacchic flame, with blood of sacrifice to dew the double peaks of Dionysus for the son now offered to his gaze, and thus he spake, "My son, abide thou here, and raise a spacious tent by craftsmen's toiling skill; and if I remain long time away after I have sacrificed to the gods of thy birth, let the feast be spread for all friends present." Therewith he took the heifers and went his way. Meantime his stripling son in solemn form set up with upright stays the tent, inclosed but not with walls, taking good heed to guard it 'gainst the blazing midday sun, nor less against his westering beams, the limit of his course; an oblong space of five score feet he meted out [so that it contained ten thousand feet within that measure's square, as science phrases it], intending to invite all Delphi to the feast. Then from the temple-treasury tapestry he took and therewith made a shelter, wondrous sight to see. First o'er the roof-tree he threw a canopy of robes, an offering Heracles, the son of Zeus, had brought unto the god from his Amazonian spoils. On them was broidered many a pictured scene, to wit, Heaven marshalling his host of stars upon the vaulted sky; there was the sun-god urging on his steeds toward his fiery goal, the bright star of evening at his heels. Night too in sable robes went hurrying by, drawn by a single pair, and the stars did bear her company. Across the zenith a Pleiad sailed, and Orion too with falchion dight was there; above was the bear making his tail to turn upon the golden pole. Up shot the moon's full face, that parts the months in twain; there too the Hyades showed their unerring light to mariners; and Dawn, that brings the morning back, was chasing the stars before her. Next on the sides he hung yet other tapestry; barbarian ships bearing down on the fleet of Hellas; and monsters half-man, half-beast; the capture of the Thracian steeds; the hunting of savage stags and lions fierce; while at the entry Cecrops close to his daughters was, wreathing his coils, an offering of some Athenian votary; and in the midst of the banquet-hall he set goblets of gold, while a herald hasted and invited to the feast all citizens who would come. Then, when the tent was full, they decked themselves with garlands and took their fill of the rich viands. Anon after they had put from them the pleasure of eating came an old man and stood in the midst, where his officious zeal provoked loud laughter among the guests; for he would draw from the drinking-pitchers water to wash the hands withal and was wasting as incense the liquid myrrh, and in his charge he took the golden beakers, setting himself unasked to this office. Now when they were come to the time for the flute-players and the general libation, cried out that aged servitor, "Hence with these tiny cups! bring larger goblets, that our guests may find a quicker route to joyousness." Thereon came servants bending 'neath the weight of goblets chased with silver and golden chalices; and that old man, as if to do his youthful lord a special service, chose out and offered to him a brimming bumper, when he had cast into the wine that potent philtre which, men say, his mistress gave to him to end the young man's days on earth; and no man knew of this; but just as he so lately found held in his hand the drink-offering, the others following suit, some servant there uttered a word of evil import; whereat the stripling, as one who had been reared within the shrine amid reputed seers, deemed this an omen and bade them fill a fresh goblet, but that first drink-offering to the god he poured upon the ground and bade all others do the like. And silence stole upon them; while we with water and Phoenician wine were filling high the sacred bowls. While thus we were busied, comes a flight of doves and settles in the tent, for these dwell fearlessly in the courts of Loxias. Soon as the guests had poured away the luscious juice, those thirsty birds did dip their beaks therein, drawing it up into their feathered throats. Now all the rest received no hurt from the god's libation, but one that settled on the spot where the son new-found had poured his wine, no sooner had tasted thereof, than convulsions seized her feathered form and she went mad, and screaming aloud uttered strange unwonted cries; and all the feasters gathered there marvelled to see the bird's cruel agony, for she lay writhing in the toils of death, and her red claws relaxed their hold.
Forthwith the son, vouchsafed by oracles, bared his arm by casting off his cloak and stretched it out across the board crying "Who was it strove to slay me? Proclaim it, old sirrah, for thine was the officious zeal and thine the hand from which I took the cup." With that he caught the grey-beard by the arm and set to searching him that he might take the old man red-handed in the act. So was he detected, and under strong constraint declared Creusa's daring deed and all the trick of the poisoned draught. Forth rushed the young man, whom the oracle of Loxias to his sire assigned, taking with him the banqueters, and standing mid the Delphic nobles made harangue, "O! hallowed soil, a stranger woman, daughter of Erechtheus, seeks to poison me." And the lords of Delphi decreed by general vote that my mistress should be hurled from the rock to die, because she strove to slay the priest and compass his death in the temple. So now is the whole city seeking her, who hath to her sorrow sped a hapless journey; for, coming to crave the boon of offspring from Phœbus, she hath lost her life and children too.
Cho. Ah me! I see no way at all to turn death's hand aside; all, all, ere this, is brought to light owing to that fatal draught of the wine-god's juice mixed for death with drops of viper's gore, quick to slay; detected is our offering to the dead; for me my life must end in woe, while death by stoning waits my mistress. How can I escape? Shall I take wings and fly away, or creep beneath the darksome caverns of the earth, striving to shun the doom of death by stoning? or shall I mount the car drawn by swiftest steeds, or embark upon a ship No man may hide his guilt, save when some god of his own will steals him away. Ah! my poor mistress! what suffering now awaits thy soul? Must then our wish to work another harm end in our own discomfiture, as justice doth decree?
Cre. My trusty maids, the men of death are on my track; the vote of Delphi goes against me; they give me up to die.
Cho. Unhappy one! we know thy sad mischance, how thou art placed.
Cre. Oh! whither can I fly? for scarce had I the start of my pursuers from the house in my race for life; 'tis by stealth alone that I have thus far escaped my foes.
Cho. Where shouldst thou fly except to the altar?
Cre. What good is that to me?
Cho. To slay a suppliant is forbidden.
Cre. Aye, but the law has given me over to death.
Cho. Only if thou fall into their hands.
Cre. Look! here they come, cruel champions of vengeance, eagerly brandishing their swords.
Cho. Sit thee down upon the altar of burnt-offering! for if thou art slain there, thou wilt fix upon thy murderers the stain of bloodguiltiness; but we must bear our fortune.
Ion. O father Cephissus, with the bull-shaped head, what a viper is this thy child, or dragon with fiery eyes that dart a murderous gleam, in whose heart is throned incarnate daring, noxious as those Gorgon drops of venom wherewith she sought to compass my death. Seize her, that the peaks of Parnassus may card the flowing tresses of her hair, for thence shall she be hurled headlong amid the rocks. My lucky star hath kept me from going to Athens, there to fall beneath the power of a step-mother. For I have gauged thy feelings towards me—the full extent of thy bitter hostility—whilst yet amongst my friends; for hadst thou once shut me up within thy house, my road to Hades' halls had led direct from thence. This altar shall not save thee, nor yet Apollo's courts, for that pity thou implorest cries out more loudly for me and my mother, who, though absent in the flesh, is never in name far from me. Behold this cursed woman, see the web of trickery she hath woven! yet comes she cowering to Apollo's altar, thinking to escape the punishment of her misdeeds.
Cre. I warn thee not to slay me, both in my own name and in his at whose altar I am stationed.
Ion. What hast thou to do with Phœbus?
Cre. This body I devote unto that god to keep.
Ion. And yet thou wert for poisoning his' minister?
Cre. But thou wert not Apollo's any longer, but thy father's.
Ion. Nay, I was his son, that is, in absence of a real father.
Cre. Thou wert so then; now 'tis I, not thou, who am Apollo's.
Ion. Well, thou art not guiltless now, whereas I was then.
Cre. I sought to slay thee as an enemy to my house.
Ion. And yet I never invaded thy country, sword in hand.
Cre. Thou didst; and thou it was that wert casting a firebrand into the halls of Erechtheus.
Ion. What sort of brand or flaming fire was it?
Cre. Thou didst design to seize my home against my will, and make it thine.
Ion. What! when my father offered me a kingdom of his getting.
Cre. How had the sons of Æolus any share in the realm of Pallas?
Ion. Arms, not words, he brought to champion it.
Cre. No mere ally could enter into an inheritance in my land.
Ion. And was it then from fear of consequences that thou didst try to slay me?
Cre. Yes, lest I should myself perish if thou wert spared.
Ion. Doth thy childlessness make thee envious that my father found me?
Cre. And thou, wilt thou rob the childless of her home?
Ion. Had I then no share at all in my father's heritage?
Cre. All that his sword and shield had won was thine, and thine alone.
Ion. Quit the altar and sanctuary built for gods.
Cre. Go bid thy own mother, wherever she is, do that.
Ion. Shalt thou escape all punishment, after trying to kill me?
Cre. Not if thou choose to butcher me within this shrine.
Ion. What joy can it give thee to be slain amid the sacred wreaths?
Cre. There is one whom I shall grieve of those who have grieved me.
Ion. Oh ! 'tis passing strange how badly the deity hath enacted laws for mortal men, contrary to all sound judgment; for instance, they should ne'er have suffered impious men to sit at their altars, but should have driven them away; for it was nowise right that hands unclean should touch the altars of the gods, though the righteous deserved to find a refuge there from their oppressors, instead of good and bad alike having recourse to the same divine protection with equal success.
Pyth. Pr. Refrain thyself, my son; for I, the priestess of Phœbus, chosen from all the maids of Delphi in accordance with the tripod's ancient rite, have left that prophetic seat, and am passing o'er this threshold.
Ion. Hail to thee, dear mother mine,—mother, though thou didst not give me birth.
Pyth. Pr. Yes, so have I ever been called, and the title causes me no regret.
Ion. Hast heard how this woman plotted my death?
Pyth. Pr. I have; thou, too, art wrong because of thy harshness.
Ion. Am I not to pay back murderers in their coin?
Pyth. Pr. Wives ever hate the children of a former marriage.
Ion. As I hate step-dames for their evil treatment of me.
Pyth. Pr. Do not so; but leaving, as thou art, the shrine, and setting forth for thy country—
Ion. What then wouldst thou advise me do?
Pyth. Pr. With clean hands seek Athens, attended by good omens.
Ion. Surely any man hath clean hands who slays his enemies.
Pyth. Pr. Do not thou do this; but take the counsel that I have for thee.
Ion. Say on; whate'er thou say'st will be prompted by thy good will.
Pyth. Pr. Dost see this basket that I carry in my arms?
Ion. An ancient ark with chaplets crowned.
Pyth. Pr. Herein I found thee long ago, a newborn babe.
Ion. What sayest thou? there is novelty in the story thou art introducing.
Pyth. Pr. Yea, for I was keeping these relics a secret, but now I show them.
Ion. How camest thou to hide them on that day, now long ago, when thou didst find me?
Pyth. Pr. The god wished to have thee as his servant in his courts.
Ion. Does he no longer wish it? How am I to know this?
Pyth. Pr. By declaring to thee thy sire, he dismisses thee from this land.
Ion. Is it by his command thou keepest these relics, or why?
Pyth. Pr. Loxias put in my heart that day—
Ion. What purpose? Oh! speak, finish thy story.
Pyth. Pr. To preserve what I had found until the present time.
Ion. What weal or woe doth this import to me?
Pyth. Pr. Herein were laid the swaddling-clothes in which thou wert enwrapped.
Ion. These relics thou art producing may help me to find my mother.
Pyth. Pr. Yes, for now the deity so wills it, though not before.
Ion. Hail! thou day of visions lest to me!
Pyth. Pr. Take then the relics and seek thy mother diligently. And when thou hast traversed Asia and the bounds of Europe, thou wilt learn this for thyself; for the god's sake I reared thee, my child, and now to thee do I entrust these relics, which he willed that I should take into my safe keeping, without being bidden; why he willed it I cannot tell thee. For no living soul wist that I had them in my possession, nor yet their hiding-place. And now farewell! as a mother might her child, so I greet thee. The starting-point of thy inquiry for thy mother must be this; first, was it a Delphian maid that gave birth to thee, and exposed thee in this temple; next, was it a daughter of Hellas at all? That is all that I and Phœbus, who shares in thy lot, can do for thee.
[Exit Pythian Priestess.
Ion. Ah me! the tears stream from my eyes when I think of the day my mother bore me, as the fruit of her secret love, only to smuggle her babe away privily, without suckling it; nameless I led a servant's life in the courts of the god. His service truly was kindly, yet was my fortune heavy; for just when I ought to have lain softly in a mother's arms, tasting somewhat of the joys of life, was I deprived of a fond mother's fostering care. Nor less is she a prey to sorrow that bare me, seeing she hath suffered the self-same pang in losing all the joy a son might bring. Now will I take and bear this ark unto the god as an offering, that herein I may discover naught that I would rather not. For if haply my mother proves to be some slave-girl, 'twere worse to find her out than let her rest in silence. O! Phœbus, to thy temple do I dedicate this ark. Yet why? this is to war against the god's intention, who saved these tokens of my mother for my sake. I must undo the lid and bear the worst. For that which fate ordains, I may ne'er o'erstep. O! hallowed wreaths and fastenings, that have kept so safe these relics dear to me; why, ah! why were ye hidden from me? Behold the covering of this rounded ark! No signs of age are here, owing to some miracle; decay hath not touched these chaplets; and yet 'tis long enough since these were stored away.
Cre. Ha! what unlooked-for sight is here?
Ion. Peace, woman! now, as erst, thou art my enemy.
Cre. Silence is not for me. Bid me not be still; for lo! I see the ark wherein I did expose thee, my child, in days gone by, whilst yet a tender babe [in the cavern of Cecrops, 'neath the rocky roof of Macræ]. So now will I leave this altar, though death await me.
Ion. Seize her; she is mad, springing thus from the shelter of the carved altar. Bind her arms.
Cre. Kill! spare not! for I to thee will cleave, and to this ark, and all that is within it.
Ion. Is not this monstrous? here am I laid claim to on a specious pretext.
Cre. Nay, nay, but as a friend art thou by friends now found.
Ion. I a friend of thine! and wouldst thou, then, have slain me privily?
Cre. Thou art my child, if that is what a parent holds most dear.
Ion. An end to thy web of falsehood! Right well will I convict thee.
Cre. My child, that is my aim; God grant I reach it!
Ion. Is this ark empty, or hath it aught within?
Cre. Thy raiment wherein I exposed thee long ago.
Ion. Wilt put a name thereto before thou see it?
Cre. Unless I describe it, I offer to die.
Ion. Say on; there is something strange in this thy confidence.
Cre. Behold the robe my childish fingers wove.
Ion. Describe it; maidens weave many a pattern.
Cre. 'Tis not perfect, but a first lesson, as it were, in weaving.
Ion. Describe its form; thou shalt not catch me thus.
Cre. A Gorgon figures in the centre of the warp.
Ion. Great Zeus! what fate is this that dogs my steps?
Cre. 'Tis fringed with snakes like an ægis.
Ion. Lo! 'tis the very robe; how true we find the voice of God!
Cre. Ah! woven work that erst my virgin shuttle wrought.
Ion. Is there aught beside, or stays thy lucky guessing here?
Cre. There be serpents, too, with jaws of gold, an old-world symbol.
Ion. Is that Athena's gift, bidding her race grow up under their guardianship?
Cre. Yes, to copy our ancestor Erichthonius.
Ion. What is their object? what the use of these golden gauds? pray, tell.
Cre. Necklaces for the new-born babe to wear, my child.
Ion. Lo! here they lie. Yet would I know the third sign.
Cre. About thy brow I bound an olive-wreath that day, plucked from the tree Athena first made grow on her own rock. If haply that is there, it hath not lost its verdure yet, but still is fresh, for it came from the stock that grows not old.
Ion. Mother, dearest mother, with what rapture I behold thee, as on thy cheeks, that share my joy, I press my lips!
Cre. My son, light that in thy mother's eye outshinest yonder sun,—I know the god will pardon me,—in my arms I hold thee, whom I never hoped to find, for I thought thy home was in that nether world, among the ghosts with Queen Persephone.
Ion. Ah, dear mother mine! within thy arms I rest, the dead now brought to light, and dead no more.
Cre. Hail, thou broad expanse of bright blue sky! What words can I find to utter my joy aloud? Whence comes to me such unexpected rapture? To what do I owe this bliss?
Ion. This is the last thing that ever would have occurred to me, mother, that I was thy child.
Cre. With fear I tremble still.
Ion. Dost thou doubt my reality?
Cre. Far from me had I banished these hopes. Whence, O whence, lady, didst thou take my babe into thy arms? Who carried him to the courts of Loxias?
Ion. 'Tis a miracle! Oh! may we for the rest of our career be happy, as we were hapless heretofore.
Cre. In tears wert thou brought forth, my child, and with sorrow to thy mother didst thou leave her arms; but now I breathe again as I press my lips to thy cheek, in full enjoyment of happiness.
Ion. Thy words express our mutual feelings.
Cre. No more am I of son and heir bereft; my house is stablished and my country hath a prince; Erechtheus groweth young again; no longer is the house of the earth-born race plunged in gloom, but lifts its eyes unto the radiant sun.
Ion. Mother mine, since my father too is here, let him share the joy I have brought to thee.
Cre. My child, my child, what sayst thou? How is my sin finding me out!
Ion. What meanest thou?
Cre. Thou art of a different, far different stock.
Ion. Alas for me! Am I a bastard, then, born in thy maiden days?
Cre. Nor nuptial torch nor dance, my child, ushered in my wedding and thy birth.
Ion. O mother, mother! whence do I draw my base origin?
Cre. Be witness she who slew the Gorgon,
Ion. What meanest thou? Cre. She that on my native rocks makes the olive-clad hill her seat.
Ion. Thy words to me are but as cunning riddles. I cannot read them.
Cre. Hard by the rock with nightingales melodious, Phœbus,
Ion. Why dost thou mention Phœbus?
Cre. Forced on me his secret love.
Ion. Say on; for thy story will crown me with fame and fortune.
Cre. And as the tenth month came round I bore a child to Phœbus in secret.
Ion. Oh! thy happy tidings, if thy story is true.
Cre. And about thee as swaddling-clothes I fastened this my maiden work, the faulty efforts of my loom. But to my breast I never held thy lips, or suckled or washed thee with a mother's care; but in a desert cave wert thou cast out to die, for taloned kites to rend and feast upon.
Ion. An awful deed! O mother!
Cre. Fear held me captive, and I cast thy life away, my child; I would, though loth, have slain thee too.
Ion. Thou too wert all but slain by me most impiously.
Cre. O the horror of all I suffered then! O the horror of what is to follow now! To and fro from bad to good we toss, though now the gale is shifting round. May it remain steady! the past brought sorrows enough; but now hath a fair breeze sprung up, my son, to waft us out of woe.
Cho. Let no man ever deem a thing past hoping for, when he turns an eye towards what is happening now.
Ion. O Fortune! who ere now hast changed the lot of countless mortals first to grief, and then to joy again, to what a goal my life had come, even to staining my hands with a mother's blood and enduring sufferings ill-deserved! Ah well! may we not learn these truths daily in all that the bright sun embraces? O mother, in thee have I made a happy discovery, and from my point of view there is no fault to find with my birth; but what remains I fain would speak to thee apart. Come hither, for I would say a word in thine ear, and o'er these matters cast the veil of silence. Bethink thee, mother, carefully; didst thou make the fatal slip, that maidens will, as touching secret amours, and then upon the god wouldst foist the blame, in thy anxiety to escape the shame of my birth asserting that Phœbus is my sire, albeit the god was not the parent.
Cre. Nay, by our queen of Victory, Athena, that fought by Zeus, in days gone by, high on his car against the earth-born giants I swear, no mortal is thy father, my son, but King Loxias himself who brought thee up.
Ion. How then is it he gave his own child to another father, declaring that I was begotten of Xuthus?
Cre. "Begotten" he never said, but as a gift he doth bestow thee his own son on him; for friend might give to friend even his own son to rule his house.
Ion. Mother mine, this thought disturbs my breast, as well it may, whether the god speaks truth or gives an idle oracle.
Cre. Hear, then, my son, the thought that hath occurred to me; Loxias out of kindness is establishing thee in a noble family, for hadst thou been called the god's son, thou hadst never inherited a father's home and name. How couldst thou, when I strove to hide my marriage with him and would have slain thee privily? But he for thy interest is handing thee over to another father.
Ion. Not thus lightly do I pursue the inquiry; nay, I will enter Apollo's shrine and question him whether I am the child of a mortal sire or his own son. Ha! who is that hovering o'er the incense-smoking roof, and showing to our gaze a heavenly face, bright as the sun? Let us fly, mother, that we see not sights divine, unless haply it is right we should.
Ath. Fly not! I am no foe ye seek to shun, but alike in Athens and this place your kindly friend. 'Tis I, Pallas, after whom your land is named, that am here, by Apollo sent in headlong haste; for he thought not fit to appear before you twain, lest his coming might provoke reproaches for the past; but me he sends to proclaim to you his words, how that this is thy mother, and Apollo thy sire; while thyself he doth bestow, as seems him good, not indeed on him that begat thee, nay, but that he may bring thee to a house of high repute. For when this matter was brought to light, he devised a way of deliverance, fearing that thou wouldst be slain by thy mother's wiles and she by thine. Now it was King Apollo's wish to keep this matter secret awhile, and then in Athens to acknowledge this lady as thy mother and thyself as the child of her and Phœbus. But to end the business and discharge his oracles for the god, I bid you hearken; for such was my purpose in yoking my chariot-steeds. Do thou, Creusa, take this stripling and to Cecrops' land set forth; and there upon the monarch's throne establish him, for from Erechtheus' stock is he sprung, and therefore hath a right to rule that land of mine. Through Hellas shall his fame extend; for his children,—four branches springing from one root,—shall give their names to the land and to the tribes of folk therein that dwell upon the rock I love. Teleon shall be the first; and next in order shall come the Hopletes and Argades; and then the Ægicores, called after my ægis, shall form one tribe. And their children again shall in the time appointed found an island home amid the Cyclades and on the sea-coast, thereby strengthening my country; for they shall dwell upon the shores of two continents, of Europe and of Asia, on either side the strait; and in honour of Ion's name shall they be called Ionians and win them high renown. From Xuthus too and thee I see a common stock arise; Dorus, whence the famous Dorian state will spring; and after him Achæus in the land of Pelops; he shall lord it o'er the seaboard nigh to Rhium, and his folk, that bear his name, shall win the proud distinction of their leader's title. Thus in all hath Apollo rightly done; first did he deliver thee of thy babe without sickness, so that thy friends knew naught; and after thou didst bear this child and in swaddling-clothes hadst laid him, he bade Hermes carry him in his arms hither, and did rear him, suffering him not to die. Now therefore hold thy peace as to this thy child's real parentage, that Xuthus may delight in his fond fancy, and thou, lady, continue to enjoy thy blessing. So fare ye well! for to you I bring tidings of a happier fate after this respite from affliction.
Ion. O Pallas, daughter of almighty Zeus, in full assurance will we accept thy words ; for I am convinced of my parentage from Loxias and this lady; which even before was not incredible.
Cre. To what I say give ear. My former blame of Phœbus now is turned to praise, because he now restores to me the babe whom erst he slighted. Now are these portals fair unto mine eyes and this oracle of the god, though before I hated them. With joy now I even cling to the knocker on the door and salute the gates.
Ath. I commend thee for thy sudden change, and thy fair words about the god. 'Tis ever thus; Heaven's justice may tarry awhile, yet comes it at the last in no wise weakened.
Cre. My son, let us set out for home.
Ath. Go; I will follow.
Ion. A guide we well may prize.
Cre. Aye, and one that holds our city dear.
Ath. Go, sit thee down upon the throne of thy ancestors.
Ion. 'Tis my heritage and I value it.
Cho. All hail, Apollo, son of Zeus and Latona! 'Tis only right that he, whose house is sore beset with trouble, should reverence God and keep good heart; for at the last the righteous find their just reward, but the wicked, as their nature is, will never prosper.
- To avoid the cretic foot in νώτοις οὐρανόν, Nauck proposes νώτοισιν φέρων regarding ἐκτρίβων as spurious though not yet emended. In the text here an endeavour has been made to translate ἐκτρίβων.
- i.e. the daughters of Cecrops, a mythical king of Attica.
- For ἐκεῖ Barnes reads ἔτι.
- The Eubœans are so called from Chalcodon, a king of Eubœa.
- Reading with Badham ἄστρα δὲ φεύγει πῦρ τόδ᾽ ἀπ᾽ αἰθέρος.
- τὰν ἀέναον—there is something wanting to the metre, and the text is probably corrupt. Various suggestions for an emendation have been offered, e.g., γᾶς τὰν by Hermann, ῥυτὰν by Fritzsch, etc.
- Kirchhoff's ingenious suggestion is αἱμάξω σ᾽ εἰ μὴ παύσεις, κ.τ.λ.
- Hermann's arrangement is followed, as in Paley's text, in the distribution of lines amongst the several members of the chorus.
- It is doubtful what is here intended, statues or pictures. Paley suggests that the sun and moon, symbols of Apollo and Latona, are indicated; or possibly a temple with two fronts covered with frescoes is to be understood.
- Bellerophon and the Chimæra.
- After ποδι something is wanting; Dindorf supplies βαλὸν (=threshold) which had also occurred to Hermann, and is adopted in Nauck's text.
- MSS. οἴκοι, Nauck ἐκεῖ.
- MSS. ἀνερεύνητα, Nauck ἀνερμήνευτα.
- Reading τιμᾷ. τί τιμᾷ; but Bothe's τιμᾷ γ ἄτιμ᾽· ὡς which is adopted in Nauck's text, is a tempting emendation.
- Paley's explanation is, "though he rejoices in doing justice publicly, (viz. by his oracles,) he does not in his private actions."
- Reading with Badham εἰς τοὔσχατον γάρ.
- Following Nauck's reading ἄλλως ἕδη χρῇ. Paley suggests that the old reading ἐᾷν was a copyist's abbreviation for ἐξερευνᾶν, giving as the sense, "if the god will not vouchsafe any information, I must make inquiries for myself."
- Badham reads ἀφίγμην.
- Conington proposes πέρα for the MSS. πάρος.
- Musgrave reads κουροτρόφοι. The meaning apparently is, houses where two or three generations are represented.
- Nauck reads φρενῶν ἀμοίρους for the MSS. φρενοῦν ἀμούσους.
- MSS. ἀλητείαν, Pierson λατρείαν.
- Badham supplies the lacuna with αὐτὸς τὸ, Scaliger reads the line τὸ μηδὲν ὤν κἀξ οὐδένων κεκλήσομαι.
- Reading ψόγου with Musgrave for φόβου.
- Badham emends τῶν δ᾽ αὖ σοφών, Malthiae τῶν δ᾽ ἐν λόγῷ.
- This line is bracketed by Nauck as spurious. Also lines 614–617 are regarded with suspicion by some editors.
- Reading βίαν, the correction of Stephens for βίον.
- Reading with Badham ἔα δ᾽ ἔμ᾽ αὐτοῦ for MSS. ἐμαυτῷ.
- Conington νόμοισιν.
- Reading the emendation of Hermann, ἀλαλαγὰς, which Nauck adopts, with τ᾽ after στεναγμάτων; the words ἄλλας γε are generally agreed to be corrupt.
- Reading with Nauck τάδε θεοῦ φήμα for MSS. τῳδί ποτ᾽ εὔφημα.
- Reading ἔχει δόλον τύχαν θ᾽ὁ παῖς, for which Nauck has ἔχει δόμων τύχαν.
- To supply the lacuna is perhaps impossible, but the sense is clear.
- Bothe reads τοῦ σοῦ παλαιοὺς ἐκ γένους.
- i.e. strength.
- Nauck reads ἀκήρυκτον for MSS. ἀκύρωτον.
- Reading with Nauck λαθὼν for the MSS. ἐλθὼν. This was Musgrave's proposal. Paley reading ἐλθών suggests as a possible interpretation "having returned to Athens, and wishing to take advantage of the time;" but neither this nor any of the other numerous interpretations are satisfactory.
- Seidler's reading τὸν φθόνον for τὸν χρόνον, though not very probable in itself, gives an intelligible meaning, and its adoption may perhaps be condoned in a passage which Badham gives up in despair (cf. Paley's note).
- Reading σὺ φείσει, Badham's correction for γ᾽ ὑφήσεις. Dindorf condemns line 847, Nauck both this and the two following lines.
- Wakefield ὑπεισελθών.
- Wecklein φρίκᾳ πατρὸς="in fearful dread of my father."
- Reading οἴκτου with Nauck.
- Adopting Musgrave's conjecture καινάς.
- Badham, whom Nauck follows, condemns this line as interrupting the στιχομυθία.
- Nauck ἔχοντας.
- Paley condemns this line.
- i.e. Hecate.
- Bacchus was escorted with a solemn torch procession from Athens to Eleusis on the 20th day of the month Boedromion.
- Persephone or Cora, and Demeter.
- Nauck reads δόμον for πόνον.
- Lines 1138–9 are, as Paley shows at some length, almost undoubtedly the insertion of a clumsy copyist.
- Reiske supplies the lacuna with δαιτός, a simple emendation. Paley suggests εὐθύς.
- There is some doubt as to the word Βυβλινου. Paley on Blomfield's authority, speaks of "Thracian" wine; others say it is called after Byblos in Syria, which was famous for its wine. L. and S. write the word Βιβλίνου from Biblis a hill in Thrace; so too Nauck.
- Nauck regards ἐν συμμάχοις as spurious, and proposes ἐν συμφόρῳ. Paley translates "for among those who have befriended me I reckon your feelings, so far as you were a bane to me," etc., apparently meaning "the outward expression of your hostility here has really been my salvation by showing me what to expect when I was wholly in your power."
- Lines 1364–1368 were marked by Hirzel as spurious, and Nauck in his text concurs in that opinion.
- Badham reads τύχης for τινος.
- Following Paley's emendation σίγα· πολεμία καὶ πάροιθεν ἦσθά μοι for the corrupt MSS. reading, σιγᾶν σὺ πολλὰ καὶ πάροιθεν οἶσθά μοι. Nauck has σιγα σύ· πολλὴ, κ.τ.λ..
- Nauck regards 1399 as spurious; Paley preserves it, but would omit 1400.
- So MSS. λόγῳ, Badham δόλῳ, Wecklein βίᾳ.
- Badham gives an ingenious emendation, τάδ᾽ ἔσθ᾽ ὑφάσμαθ᾽ ὥς σφ᾽ εὑρίσκομεν.
- MSS. ἀρχαῖόν τι. Porson proposed δράκοντε μαρμαίροντε.
- Reading ἣ τέκν᾽ ἐντρέφειν λέγει.
- οὐ φύσασι σε, Stephens' emendation for οὖ φασί σε.
- Fanciful derivations for the names of the four primitive Attic tribes are here given.
- Dobree emends κεἰ τοῦτ᾽ ἄπιστον ἐμοί which certainly gives a meaning more consistent with the facts.
- Kirchhoff reads χαίρετ᾽ for αἵδε δ᾽.