Tragedies of Sophocles (Plumptre 1878)/Appendix
RHYMED CHORAL ODES AND
ŒDIPUS THE KING.
What wert thou, Ο thou voice
Of Zeus, that bad'st rejoice,
Floating to Thebes from Pytho gold-abounding?
I tremble; every sense
Thrills with the dread suspense;
(O Delian Pæan, hear our cries resounding!)
My soul is filled with fears,
What thou wilt work on earth,
Or now or in the circling years;—
Speak, child of golden Hope, thou Voice of heavenly birth!
Athena, first of all,
Thee, child of Zeus, I call,
And Artemis thy sister with us dwelling,
Whom, on her glorious throne,
Our agora doth own,
And Phœbos in the archer's skill excelling;
Come, Ο ye Guardians three,
If e'er in days of yore
Ye bade the tide of evil flee,
Drive off this fiery woe as once ye drove before.
Yea come; for lo! I fail
To tell my woes' vast tale;
For all my host in fear and sickness languish,
And weapons fail each mind;
For the earth's increase kind
Is gone, and women faint in childbirth's anguish:
Thou see'st men, one by one,
Like bird of fleetest wing,
Swifter than flashing ray of sun,
Pass to His gloomy shore who reigns of darkness King.
Countless the spoil of death;
Our city perisheth,
And on the tainted earth our infants lie;
The tender heart is cold,
And wives and matrons old,
Now here, now there, by every altar cry.
And clear the Pæans gleam,
And chants of sorrow born;
Ο golden child of Zeus supreme,
Put forth thy power to help, bright-eyed as is the morn!
And Ares, mighty One,
Who weaponless comes on,
And fierce and hot with battle-cry assaileth,—
Bid him in flight to tread
By Amphitrite's bed,
Or Thrakia's homeless coast where wild wave waileth.
If aught is spared by night,
It droops before the day;
Ο Thou who wield'st the lightning's blazing might,
Ο Zeus our Father, dart thy thunder him to slay!
And oh! Lykeian king,
That from thy gold-wrought string
Thy arrows might go forth in strength excelling;
And all the flashing rays
That Artemis displays,
Who on the Lykian mountains hath her dwelling!
Thee, Bacchos, I invoke,
Whose name our land hath borne,
Come, wine-flushed, gold-crowned. Mænad-girt, with smoke
Of blazing torch against that God, of Gods the scorn.
Who was it that the rock of Delphos named,
In speech oracular,
That wrought with bloody hands his deeds dark-shamed?
Well may he wander far,
With footstep swifter and more strong
Than wind-winged steed that flies along;
For on him leaps, in Heaven's own panoply,
With fire and flash, the son of Zeus most High,
And with Him, dread and fell,
The dark Fates follow, irresistible.
For 'twas but now from out the snowy height
Of old Parnassos shone
The Voice that bade us all to bring to light
The unknown guilty one;
Each forest wild, each rocky shore,
Like untamed bull, he wanders o'er,
In dreary loneliness with dreary tread,
Seeking to shun dark oracles and dread,
From Delphi's central shrine;
And yet they hover round with life and strength divine.
Dread things, yea, dread the augur wise hath stirred;
I know not or to answer Aye, or No;
In vain, perplexed, I seek the fitting word,
And lost in fears nor past nor future know:
What cause of strife so fell
Between the son of Polybos hath come,
And those, the heirs of old Labdakid home,
I have found none to tell:
From none comes well-tried word,
That I should war against the glory great
Of Œdipus my lord,
Or make myself the avenger of an unknown fate.
Yet Zeus and King Apollo, they are wise,
And know the secret things that mortals do;
But that a prophet sees with clearer eyes
Than these I see with, is no judgment true.
Though one in wisdom high
May wisdom of another far excel;
Yet I, until I see it 'stablished well,
Will ne'er take up the cry:
One thing is clear, she came,
The wingèd maiden,—and men found him wise;
Our city hailed his name,
And from my heart the charge of baseness ne'er shall rise.
Would 'twere my lot to lead
My life in holiest purity of speech,
In purity of deed,
Of deed and word whose Laws high-soaring reach
Through all the vast concave.
Heaven-born, Olympos their one only sire!
To these man never gave
The breath of life, nor shall they e'er expire
In dim oblivion cold:
In these God shews as great and never waxeth old.
The wantonness of pride
Begets the tyrant,—wanton pride, full-flushed
With thoughts vain, idle, wide,
That to the height of topmost fame hath rushed,
And then hath fallen low,
Into dark evil where it cannot take
One step from out that woe.
I cannot bid the Gods this order break
Of toil for noblest end;
Yea, still I call on God as guardian and as friend.
But if there be who walks too haughtily
In action or in speech,
Who the great might of Justice dares defy,
Whom nought can reverence teach,
Ill fate be his for that his ill-starred scorn,
Unless he choose to win
Henceforth the gain that is of Justice born,
And holds aloof from sin,
Nor lays rash hand on things inviolable.
Who now will strive to guard
His soul against the darts of passion fell?
If such deeds gain reward,
What boots it yet again
In choral dance to chant my wonted strain?
No more will I at yonder spot divine,
Earth's centre, kneeling fall,
In Abæ's temple, or Olympiads shrine,
Unless, in sight of all,
These things appear as tokens clear and true.
But oh, Thou Lord and King,
If unto Thee that name be rightly due,
Let it not 'scape Thee, or thy deathless might!
For now the words of old
To Laios uttered, they despise and slight;
Nor does Apollo hold
His place in men's esteem,
And things divine are counted as a dream.
Ο race of mortal men,
I number you and deem
That ye, although ye live,
Are but an empty dream.
What man, yea, what, knows more
Of happiness and peace,
Than just the idle show,
And then the sure decrease?
Thy fate as pattern given,
Ο Œdipus, my king,
Thy doom, yea thine, I say,
I know of none I count as truly prospering.
Thou, once with strange success,
As archer taking aim,
Did'st hit the mark in all,
Great riches and great fame;
And did'st, (O Zeus!) lay low
The maiden skilled in song,
The monster terrible,
With talons crook'd and long.
Thou against death wast seen
Thy country's sure defence;
And therefore thou art king;
To thee the Lord of Thebes we all our homage bring.
And who of all men is more wretched now?
Who dwells with woe perpetually as thou,
In chance and change of life,
Ο Œdipus renowned, for whom was won
The same wide haven, sheltering sire and son?
Ah how, Ο mother-wife,
Could that defilèd bed, when he had come,
Receive him and be dumb?
Time, the all-seeing, finds thee out at last,
And passes sentence on the hateful past,
The wedlock none might wed,
Where son and spouse in strange confusion met.
Ah, son of Laios, would I could forget!
In one true word, thy succour gave me breath,
By thee I sleep in death.
ŒDIPUS AT COLONOS.
Yes, thou art come, Ο guest,
Where our dear land is brightest of the bright,
Land in its good steeds blest,
Our home, Colonos, gleaming fair and white;
The nightingale still haunteth all our woods
Green with the flush of spring,
And sweet melodious floods
Of softest song through grove and thicket ring;
She dwelleth in the shade
Of glossy ivy, dark as purpling wine,
And the untrodden glade
Of trees that hang their myriad fruit divine,
Unscathed by blast of storm;
Here Dionysos finds his dear-loved home,
Here, revel-flushed, his form
Is wont with those his fair nurse-nymphs to roam.
Here, as Heaven drops its dew,
Narcissus grows with fair bells clustered o'er,
Wreath to the Dread Ones due,
The Mighty Goddesses whom we adore;
And here is seen the crocus, golden-eyed;
The sleepless streams ne'er fail;
Still wandering on they glide,
And clear Kephisos waters all the vale;
Daily each night and morn
It winds through all the wide and fair champaign,
And pours its flood new-born
From the clear freshets of the fallen rain;
The Muses scorn it not,
But here, rejoicing, their high feast-days hold,
And here, in this blest spot,
Dwells Aphrodite in her car of gold.
And here hath grown long while
A marvel and a wonder such as ne'er
I heard of otherwhere,—
Nor in great Asia's land nor Dorian Isle
That Pelops owned as his;
Full great this marvel is,—
A plant unfailing, native to the place,
Terror to every sword
Of fierce invading horde,
The grey-green Olive, rearing numerous race,
Which none or young or old
Shall smite in pride o'erbold;
For still the orb of Zeus that all things sees
Looks on it from on high,
Zeus, the great guardian of our olive-trees,
And she, Athena, with grey gleaming eye.
And yet another praise,
The chiefest boast of this our mother state,
My tongue must now relate,
The gift of that great God who ocean sways;—
Of this our native ground
The greatest glory found,
Its goodly steeds and goodly colts I sing,
And, goodly too, its sea;
Ο Son of Cronos, Thee
We own, Thou great Poseidon, Lord and King,
For thou hast made it ours
To boast these wondrous dowers,
First in our city did'st first on horses fleet
Place the subduing bit;
And through the sea the oars well-handled flit,
Following the Nereids with their hundred feet!
Fain would I be where meet,
In brazen-throated war,
The rush of foes who wheel in onset fleet,
Or by the Pythian shore,
Or where the waving torches gleam afar,
Where the Dread Powers watch o'er
Their mystic rites for men that mortal are,
E'en they whose golden key
Hath touched the tongue of priests, Eumolpidæ:
There, there, I deem, our Theseus leads the fight,
And those two sisters, dauntless, undismayed,
Will meet, with eager clamour of delight
That nothing leaves unsaid,
Where through these lands they tread.
Or do they now, perchance,
On to the western slope
Of old Œatis' snowy crest advance,
Hastening on swiftest steed,
Or in swift chariots each with other cope?
Now will be spoil indeed:
Dread is their might who form our country's hope,
And dread the strength of those
Whom Theseus leads to triumph o'er their foes.
Each bit is glittering, all the squadrons speed;
Shaking their reins, they urge their horses on,
E'en they who serve Athena on her steed,
Or Rhea's ocean Son,
Who makes the earth his throne.
Act they, or linger still?
Ah, how my soul forecasts the coming fate,
That he, against his will,
Will yield the maid whose daring has been great,
Who hath borne greatest ill
From hands of her own kin; but, soon or late,
Zeus works to-day great things;
I prophesy of glorious victories.
Ah! would that I on wings,
Swift as a dove on airy cloud that flies,
Might glad my longing eye
With sight of that much yearned-for victory!
Ο Zeus! that reign'st on high,
All-seeing, grant the rulers of our land,
In strength of victory,
With good success in ambush there to stand;
And Thou, his child revered,
Athena Pallas; Thou, the huntsman-God,
Apollo, loved and feared.
And she, thy sister, who the woods hath trod
Following the dappled deer
Swift-footed; lo! on each of you I call,—
Come, bringing succour near
To this our land, and to its people all.
One whose desire is strong
For length of days,
Who slights the middle path,
True path of praise;
He in my eyes shall seem
Mere dreamer vain;
For ofttimes length of days
Brings nought but pain;
And joys—thou can'st not now
Their dwelling guess,
When once a man gives way
To hope's excess;
At last the helper comes
That comes to all,
When Hades' doom appears
And dark shades fall;
Lyreless and songless then,
No wedding guest,
Death comes to work the end,
Death, last and best.
Never to be at all,
Excels all fame;
Quickly, next best, to pass
From whence we came.
When youth hath passed away,
With follies vain,
Who then is free from cares?
Where is not pain?
Murders and strifes and wars,
Envy and hate;
Then, evil worst of all,
The old man's fate:
Powerless and wayward then,
No friend to cheer,—
All ills on ills are met,
All dwelling there.
Thus this poor sufferer lives,
Not I alone;
As on far northern coast
Wild waters moan,
So without rest or hope,
Woes round him swarm,
Dread as the waves that rage,
Dark as the storm,—
Some from the far, far west
Where sunsets glow;
Some where through eastern skies
Dawn's bright rays flow;
These where the burning south
Feels the hot light,
Those where Rhipæan hills
Rise in dark night.
New sorrows throng on me,
From new source come,
New evils from this blind man's misery,
This stranger to our home;
Unless it be that Destiny has brought
What shall at last prevail;
For lo! I dare not say that any thought
Of the high Gods shall fail.
Time ever sees these things, beholds them all,
Bringing full round his wheel,
Upraising in a day the things that fall:—
Ο Zeus! that thunder-peal!
Lo! the loud thunder sweeps,
Heaven-sent and dread;
And panic terror through each white hair creeps
That crowns my aged head;
I shudder in my soul, for yet again
The flashing lightning gleams.
What shall I say? What issue will it gain?
Fear fills my waking dreams;
For not in vain do all these portents rise,
Nor void of end foreknown;
O flashing fire that blazest through the skies!
Ο Zeus, the Almighty One!
Ah me! ah me! again
Resounds the crash that pierces in its might:
Be pitiful, be pitiful, Ο God!
If aught thou bringest black and dark as night,
To this our mother earth:
Yea, may I still find favour in thy sight
Nor gain boon little worth
Of seeing one on whom all curses fall!
King Zeus, on thee I call!
My son, come on, come on,
E'en though thou dost thy sacred station keep
There on the valley's edge,
For great Poseidon, Lord of Ocean deep;
For now the stranger-guest
His thanks on thee and on thy state would heap,
And bless thee, being blest.
Come therefore quickly; come, Ο Prince and King,
And timely counsel bring.
If right it be with prayers and litanies
To worship Her who reigns,
Goddess in darkness clad,
Or Thee, Ο King of those
Who dwell 'neath sunless skies,
Aidoneus, Ο Aidoneus, I implore!
Grant that the stranger tread the darkling plains,
The dwellings of the dead and Stygian shore,
With no long agony,
No voice of wailing cry;
For so, though many woes unmerited
Come on him, God, the Just, shall yet lift up his head.
Ye Goddesses who dwell in darkest gloom,
And thou, strange form and dread,
Monster untamed and wild,
Who crouchest, so they say,
By well-worn gates of doom,
And barkest from thy cavern, warder strong,
In Hades (so the rumours ever spread;)
Grant to our friend clear space to pass along;
(O Thou who owe'st to Earth
And Tartaros thy birth!)
There where he nears the chambers drear and dread;
Thee I implore, who still dost sleep as sleep the dead.
Ray of the golden sun,
Fairest of all
That e'er in Thebes have lit
Her seven gates tall,
Then did'st thou shine on us,
In golden gleams;
As day's bright eye did'st come,
O'er Dirkè's streams,
Driving the warrior strong,
With snow-white shield
Who had from Argos come,
Armed for the field:
Him Thou did'st put to flight,
With headlong speed,
Yea, hurl in shameful rout,
Spurring his steed.
Him Polyneikes, urged by quarrel dread,
Brought to our land a foe;
He with shrill scream, as eagle over-head,
Hovered with wing of snow,
With many armed warriors, shield on breast,
And helmet's waving crest.
And so he came and stood,
In fierce, hot hate,
With spears that slaughter craved,
Round each tall gate.
He went, his jaws unfilled
With blood of ours,
Ere pine-fed blaze had seized
Our crown of towers.
So great the battle-din
Around his rear,—
The crash, that Ares loves,
Of shield and spear:
Hard conflict that and stiff
For well-matched foe,
The dragon fierce who fought
And laid him low.
For Zeus the lofty speech of boastful pride
And sees them as they flow in torrent wide,
Proud of gold panoply,—
With fire swift-flung he hurls from rampart high
One who shouts "Victory!"
So smitten down he fell
Straight to the echoing earth,
He who, with torch of fire,
And mad with frenzied mirth,
Swooped on our hearth and home
With blasts of bitter hate.
So fared they; Ares wroth
To each brought different fate,
And so appeared, in hour of greatest need,
Our chariot's worthiest steed.
For seven great captains at our seven gates stood,
Equals with equals matched, and left their arms
Tribute to Zeus on high,—
All but the brothers, hateful in their mood,
Who, from one father and one mother born,
Each claiming victory,
Wielded their spears in murderous, deadliest hate,
And shared one common fate.
But now since Victory comes,
Mighty and glorious named,
Giving great cause of joy
To Thebes for chariots famed;
Of these our conflicts past
Learn ye forgetfulness,
And with our night-long dance
Around each temple press;
And Bacchos, making Thebes to ring again,
Let Him begin the strain.
But now the prince and sovereign of our land,
Creon, Menœkeus' son, with counsels new,
Following new turns of fate,
Comes, having matters of great weight in hand;
For he has called us all to conference,
The elders of his state,
And by one common summons for us sent,
For this high parliament.
Many the things that strange and wondrous are,
None stranger and more wonderful than man;
He dares to wander far,
With stormy blast across the hoary sea,
Where nought his eye can scan
But waves still surging round unceasingly;
And Earth, of all the Gods,
Mightiest, unwearied, indestructible,
He weareth year by year, and breaks her clods,
While the keen plough-share marks its furrows well,
Still turning to and fro;
And still he bids his steeds
Through daily taskwork go.
And lo! with snare and net he captives makes
Of all the swift-winged tribes that flit through air;
Wild, untamed beasts he takes;
And many a sea-born dweller of the deep
He with devices rare
Snares in his mesh,—man, wonderful in skill;
And all brute things that dwell
In forest dark, or roam upon the hill,
He by his craft makes subject to his need,
And brings upon the neck of rough-maned steed
The yoke that makes him bend,
And binds the mountain bull
Resisting to the end.
And speech, and subtle thought,
Swift as the wind,
And temper duly wrought
To statesman's mind,—
These he hath learnt, and how to flee the power
Of cold that none may bear,
And all the tempest darts of arrowy shower
That hurtle through the air:
Armed at all points, unarmed he nought shall meet
That coming time reveals;
Only from Hades finds he no retreat,
Though many a sore disease that hopeless seemed heals.
And lo! with all this skill,
Beyond hope's dream,
He now to good inclines,
And now to ill;
Now holding fast his country's ancient laws,
And in the state's esteem
Most honoured; but dishonoured, should he cause
The thing as evil known
To rule his heart in wantonness of pride;
Ne'er may he dwell with me,
Nor share my counsels, prompting at my side,
Who evil deeds like this still works perpetually!
Ah! happy are the souls that know not ill;
For they whose house is struck by wrath divine,
Find that no sorrow faileth, creeping still
Through long descent of old ancestral line;
So is it as a wave
Of ocean's billowing surge,
(Where Thrakian storm-winds rave,
And floods of darkness from the depths emerge,)
Rolls the black sand from out the lowest deep,
And shores re-echoing wail, as rough blasts o'er them sweep.
Woes upon woes fast falling on the race
Of Labdacos that faileth still I see,
Nor can one age for that which comes win grace,
But still some God hurls all to misery;
All power to heal is fled;
For her, the one faint light,
That o'er the last root spread,
And in the house of Œdipus was bright,
Now doth the blood-stained scythe of Gods below
Cut down, man s frenzied word and dread Erinnys' woe.
What pride of man, Ο Zeus, in check can hold
Thy power divine,
Which nor sleep seizeth that makes all things old,
Nor the long months of God in endless line?
Thou grow'st not old with time,
But ruling in thy might,
For ever dwellest in thy home sublime,
Olympos, glittering in its sheen of light:
And through the years' long tale,
The far time or the near,
As through the past, this law shall still prevail:—
Nought comes to life of man without or woe or fear.
For unto many men come hopes that rove,
Bringing vain joy,
And unto many cheats of blinded love;
Subtly it creeps upon the unconscious boy,
Until his feet wax bold
To tempt the blazing fire.
For wisely was it said by one of old,
True speech, far-famed, for all men to admire,
That evil seems as good
To him whom God would slay,
Through doom of evil passion in the blood;
And he without that doom scarce passeth e'en a day.
Ο Erôs, irresistible in fight,
Thou rushest on thy prey,
Or on fair maiden's blushing cheeks
All night dost lurking stay;
Over the sea thou roamest evermore,
Or through the huts of shepherds rough and poor:
None of the deathless Ones can flee,
Nor mortal men escape from thee;
And mad is he who comes beneath thy sway.
Minds of the righteous, true and faithful found,
Thou turn'st aside to ill,
And now this strife of nearest kin
Thou stirrest at thy will.
Mighty is Love in glance of beauteous bride,
Enthroned it sits with great laws at its side;
And One, in wondrous might,
Makes merry at the sight,
The Goddess Aphrodite, conquering still.
So even I am borne along
Beyond the bounds that law uprears,
And, seeing this, am no more strong
To stay the fountain of my tears;
For lo! Antigone doth tread
The path to that wide couch where slumber all the dead.
Yes, Ο my friends and countrymen, ye see
How I my last path tread,
And look on the last ray of brilliancy
By yonder bright sun shed,—
This once, but never more; for Hades vast,
Drear home of all the dead,
Leads me, in life, where Acheron flows fast,
Sharing no marriage bed:
No marriage hymn was mine in all the past,
But Acheron I wed.
And dost thou not depart,
Glorious, with highest praise,
To where the dead are gathered in the gloom,
Not smitten by the wasting plague's fell dart,
Nor slain, as sharp sword slays?
But free and living still,
Thou, of thine own free will,
Descendest to the darkness of the tomb.
I heard of one, the child of Tantalos,
The Phrygian, crushed with woes,
And there, hard by the crag of Sipylos,
As creeping ivy grows,
So crept the shoots of rock o'er life and breath;
And, as the rumour goes,
The showers ne'er leave her, wasting in her death,
Nor yet the drifting snows;
From weeping brows they drip on rocks beneath;
Thus God my life overthrows.
And yet a Goddess she, of birth divine,
And we frail mortals, and of mortal race;
And for weak woman it is highest grace
That fate the Gods have suffered should be thine.
Alas! ye mock at me;
Why thus laugh on?
As yet I still live here,
Not wholly gone.
Ο fellow citizens
Of city treasure-stored!
Ο streams of Dirkè's brook!
Ο grove of Thebes adored,
Where stand the chariots fair!—
I bid you witness give,
How, by my friends unwept,
I pass while yet I live,
To yonder heaped-up mound of new-made tomb;
Ah, miserable me!
Nor dwelling among men, nor with the dead,
Bearing this new, drear doom,
Disowned by those who live, and those whose life hath fled.
Thou hast gone far in boldness, yea, too far,
And now against the throne of Right on high,
My child, thou stumblest in thy waywardness;
Thou fillest up thy father's misery.
Ah! there thou touchest on
My bitterest care,
The thrice-told tale of woe
My sire did bear,
The fate of all who take
From Labdacos their name;
Woes of my mother's bed!
Embrace of foulest shame,
Mother's and son's, whence I
(O misery!) was born;
Whom now I go to meet,
Unwed, accursed, forlorn.
Ah, brother! thou, in evil wedlock wed,
Hast, in that death of thine,
Made me, who still survived, as numbered with the dead.
Holy it may be, holy awe to shew,
But power with him with whom due power doth rest
Admits not of defiance without sin;
And thou from self-willed pride yet sufferest.
Friendless, unwept, unwed,
I wend in sorrow my appointed way;
No more may I behold this sacred ray
By yon bright glory shed,
And yet no single friend
Utters a wail for my unwept-for end.
City of Thebes, my fathers' ancient home,
Ye Gods of days of old,
I linger not. They drag me to my doom:
Princes of Thebes, behold;
See ye what I, the last of kingly race,
And at whose hands I suffer sore disgrace,
Because all holy ties I still as holy hold.
So once of old the form of Danae bore
The loss of heavenly light,
In palace strong with brazen fastenings bright,
And, in her tomb-like chamber evermore,
Did long a prisoner dwell;
Yet she, my child, my child, was high in birth,
And golden shower, that flowed from Zeus to earth,
She cherishèd right well:
Ah, strange and dread the power of Destiny,
Which neither proud and full prosperity,
Nor Ares in his power,
Nor dark, sea-beaten ships, nor tower,
Are able to defy.
So too the son of Dryas once was bound,
King of Edonian race;
Rough-tempered, he, for words of foul disgrace,
At Dionysos' hands stern sentence found,
In rocky cave confined:
And so there faileth, drop by drop, the life
Of one whose soul was racked by maddening strife;
And then he called to mind
That he had touched the God with ribald tongue;
For he essayed to check the Mænads' throng,
And quench the sacred fire,
And stirred to jealousy the choir
Of Muses loving song.
Hard by the gloomy rocks where two seas meet
The shores of Bosporos rise,
And Salmydessos, the wild Thrakians' seat,
Where Ares saw upon the bleeding eyes
A wound accursèd, made in hellish mood
Of step-dame stern and fierce,—
Eyes that were torn by hands deep dyed in blood,
And points of spindles, quick and sharp to pierce.
And they, poor wretches, wail their wretched fate,
Birth stained with foul disgrace;
They wail their mother's lot, of lineage great,
Descended from the old Erectheid race;
And she in yon far distant caverns vast,
Daughter of Boreas, grew,
On lofty crag, amid the stormy blast;
And yet on her the Fates their dread spell threw.
Ο Thou of many a name,
Joy of Cadmeian bride,
Child of great Zeus loud-thundering from the sky!
Thou rulest o'er Italia great in fame,
And dwellest where the havens open wide
Of Deo, whom Eleusis throneth high.
Ο Bacchos, who in Thebes delightest most,
Fair mother-city of the Bacchic throng,
Or where Ismenos' stream flows full and strong,
Or by the brood that sprang from dragon's armèd host.
Thee the bright flame saw there,
O'er rock of double crest,
Where nymphs of Corycos in revel roam,
And bright Castalia's fountain floweth fair;
And Thee, the banks of Nysa ivy-drest,
And the green shore, of many a vine the home,
Lead forth with joy, a welcome visitant,
In all the open spaces of the town,
While words scarce mortal come our joy to crown,
And make our Thebes resound with rapture jubilant.
Yes, this of all that are,
Cities of ancient note,
Thou honourest most by far,
Thou, and thy mother whom the thunder smote;
And now since all the land
By sharp, sore pestilence is smitten low,
Come Thou with feet still cleansing as they go,
Or o'er Parnassian height,
Or where the waters bright
Make their perpetual moan to shores on either hand.
O Thou that lead'st the choir
Of stars in yonder skies
That breathe with living fire,
The Lord and ruler of the night's loud cries;
Child of great Zeus adored!
Appear, O King! with all thy Thyiad train,
Who, all night long, in dance that fires the brain,
Raise shouts of ecstasy,
With fierce and frenzied cry,
Still honouring thee, Iacchos. King and Lord.
Ο holy light of morn!
Ο air that dost the whole earth compass round!
Oft have ye heard my cries of grief forlorn,
And oft the echoing sound
Of blows the breast that smite,
When darkness yields to light;
And for my nightly vigils they know well,
Those loathed couches of my hated home,
How I upon my father's sorrows dwell;
To whom in no strange land did Ares come,
Breathing out slaughter dread;
But she, my mother, and her paramour,
Ægisthos, smote him dead
With axe of murderous power;
As men who timber hew
Cut down a lofty oak, so him they slew;
And from none else but me
Comes touch of sympathy,
Though thou wast doomed to die,
My father, with such shame and foulest ignominy.
And, lo! I will not fail
To weep and mourn with wailings and with sighs,
While yet I see the bright stars in the skies,
Or watch the daylight glad,—
No, no, I will not fail,
Like sorrowing nightingale,
Before the gate to pour my sorrows free,
My woe and sorrow at my father's doom.
Ο house of Hades and Persephone,
Ο Hermes, guide of dwellers in the gloom,
Thou, awful Curse, and ye,
Erinnyes, daughters of the Gods, most dread,
Whose eyes for ever see
Men foully slain, and those whose marriage bed
The lust of evil guile
Doth stealthily defile,
Come, come, avengers of my father's fate!
Come, send my brother back!
For I the courage lack,
Alone to bear the burden of this evil weight.
Ο child, Electra, child
Of mother doomed to all extremest ill,
Why thus in wailing wild
Dost thou unceasing pour thy sorrows still
For him who, long ago,
Caught in thy mother's base and godless cheat,
Fell by the fatal blow,
Our chieftain, Agamemnon? Yea, may he
Who planned this vile deceit
(If so to speak is meet)
Perish most wretchedly!
Ο daughters of the brave and true of heart,
Ye come to comfort me in all my woe;
I know your love, yea, know its every part;
And yet I have no wish to stop the flow
Of tears and wailings for my ill-starred sire;
But, Ο my friends, who meet,
With true affection, all my heart's desire,
Suffer me thus, I pray,
To pine and waste away.
And yet thou can'st not raise
Thy father, nor with wailing nor with prayer,
From Hades' darkling ways,
And gloomy lake where all that die repair;
But thou, thus grieving still,
Dost pass, brought low, from evil one might bear
To that worst form of ill,
In which for deepest woe is no relief.
Ah me! why striv'st thou so
For such increase of woe,
Still adding to my grief?
Ah, weak as infant he who can forget
His parents that have perished wretchedly;
Far more she pleaseth me that mourneth yet,
And "Itys, Itys," wails unceasingly;
The bird heart-broken, messenger of Heaven.
Ah, Niobe, most sad!
To thee, I deem, high fate divine was given,
For thou in cavern grot,
Still weeping, ceasest not.
Ah, not for thee alone
Of mortal race hath come the taste of woes.
What cause hast thou above those twain to moan,
In whom the self-same blood of kindred flows,
Iphianassa and Chrysothemis?
And one in youth obscure and sad doth live,
Yet blest, at least, in this,
That unto him Mykenæ famed shall give
Its welcome as the son of noble sire,
Beneath the care of Zeus' almighty hand,
Returning once again, Orestes, to our land.
Yes, he it is for whom I waste away,
Wailing for him, in vain, unweariedly;
And in my sorrow know no bridal day,
But weep sad tears from eyelids never dry,
Bearing my endless weight
Of dark and dreary fate:
And he remembers not
All that I did for him, and all he knew.
What message comes, yea, what,
That is not cheated of fulfilment true?
He yearneth still for home;
Yet yearning will not come.
Take heart, my child, take heart;
Still mighty in the heavens Zeus doth reign,
Who sees the whole world, rules its every part:
To Him do thou commit thy bitter pain,
Nor be thou over-vexèd, nor forget
Those whom thou hatest sorely evermore;
Time is a kind God yet;
For neither he who dwells on Crisa's shore,
Where feed the oxen, Agamemnon's son,
Unheeding, there lives on;
Nor yet the God who reigns
By Acheron's waters o'er his dark and drear domains.
Nay, but the larger half of life is gone,
And all hope fails, and I no more can bear;
No parents left, I waste my days alone,
And no true husband guardeth me from fear;
Like one of alien race,
I, in my sore disgrace,
My father's chambers tend,
In this unsightly and unseemly dress,
And still as slave attend,
And wait on tables in my sore distress,
Tables that empty stand,
No friends on either hand.
Sad was thy father's cry,
When home he came, and sad when, as he lay,
The stern, keen blow came nigh
Of brazen hatchet sharp to smite and slay;
Guile was it that devised the murderous crime,
And lust that slew him there,
Strangely strange form begetting of old time;
Whether a God it were,
Or one of mortal race,
Who wrought these deeds of darkness and disgrace.
Ο day of all the days that ever came,
Most hateful unto me!
Ο night! Ο woes of banquets none may name,
Which he, my sire, did see!
Foul death which their hands wrought,
The two that took by basest treachery
Him who my life's joy brought,
And so destroyed, destroyed me utterly.
May He who dwells in might,
On yon Olympian height,
Give them to grieve with guilt-avenging groan,
And ne'er may they whose souls such deeds have known
Share in good fortune bright!
Take heed, and speak no more;
Hast thou no thought from what high, prosperous state
Thou now art passing o'er,
Into what sorrow lorn and desolate?
For thou hast gained a burden infinite
Of woe and wretchedness,
Still cherishing thy wrath in sore despite,
Fierce war and bitterness;
And yet it were ill done
To come in conflict with a mighty one.
By sufferings dire, most dire, I was constrained;
I know it, wrath blinds not;
And yet I will not hide, though direly pained,
The misery of my lot,
Not while in life I dwell.
Ah me! from whom, my friends, companions dear,
From whom that thinketh well,
Shall I a word in season hope to hear?
Ο ye, who fain would cheer,
Leave me, oh, leave me here,
For these my woes as endless shall be known;
Nor will I cease to make my wailing moan,
And weep full many a tear.
And yet of mere good will,
As mother fond and true,
I bid thee this vain toil no more pursue,
Still breeding ill on ill.
Nay; but what bounds are set to baseness here?
Come, tell me this, I pray,
How can it e'er be right
Those who are dead to slight?
Where did that law appear?
May I ne'er walk in honour in their way,
Nor if aught good be mine,
Dwell with it happily,
Should I the wings confine
That rise with bitter cry,
And bid them cease to pay
Due reverence to my father past away!
If he who dies be but as dust and nought,
And poor and helpless lie,
And these no vengeance meet for what they wrought,
Then truly awe will die,
And all men lose their natural piety.
Unless I be a brainstruck, erring seer,
Wanting in wisdom true,
Right doth her course pursue,
With dim foreshadowing:
She in her hands doth righteous victory bring,
And will ere long appear.
Yes, courage comes to me,
Hearing but now the tidings that they bring,
These visions breathing forth sweet hope and glee.
For never shall thy father, Lord and King
Of all the Hellenes' race,
Forget the dire disgrace,
Nor that sharp brazen axe of yon far time,
Which slew him with all shame of foulest crime.
And so with many a foot and many a hand,
Lurking in ambush dread,
Shall come with brazen tread,
For lo! the clasp of blood-stained marriage-bed
Came in foul wedlock's band
On those who might not wed;
And now, in face of these things, I must deem
That those who did or shared the deed of guilt
Shall have good reason to mislike their dream:
Yea, oracles are vain,
In dreams or prophet's strain,
Unless this shadowy phantom of the night
Shall reach its goal, victorious in the right.
Ο chariot-race of old,
Full of great woe untold,
From Pelops' hand;
How did'st thou come, yon time,
Dark with the guilt of crime,
To this our land!
For since the ocean wave
Gave Myrtilos a grave,
Out of the golden car
Hurled headlong forth afar,
With shame and foul despite,
No shame hath failed to light
On this our dwelling-place,
Bringing most foul disgrace.
Why, when we see on high
The birds whose wisdom is of noblest worth,
Still caring to supply
The wants of those from whom they had their birth,
Who fed their nestling youth,
Why do not we like boon with like requite?
Nay, by the lightning bright
Of Zeus, and heavenly strength of Law and Truth,
Not long shall we live on unpunishèd.
Ο Fame! for us poor mortals wont to bear
Thy tidings to the region of the dead,
Lift up thy wailing drear,
And to the Atreidæ, as they sleep below,
Report the shame, the discord, and the woe.
Tell them those ills of old, yea, tell again,
And add that now the hot and bitter strife
Of these their children twain
Yields to no charm of fellowship in life.
Electra, now forlorn,
Deserted sails upon a stormy sea,
And in her misery,
Her father's fortune ceaseth not to mourn,
Like nightingale that waileth evermore;
She little recks if death be in the way,
And stands prepared to sleep and wake no more,
If only she those two Erinnyes slay:
Who of all souls that are, with her can vie
For fair repute of filial loyalty?
No, none of all that boast a noble fame
Would wish his fair repute to stain and spot,
By living basely, stript of honoured name;
And thou, my child, did'st choose thy dreary lot,
Thine evil lot, bewept with many a tear,
Arming against the thing that right defies;
And these two glories .in one word dost bear
Known as true daughter, excellent and wise.
Ah, may'st thou live and be as much above
Thy foes in might and wealth as now below
Thou dwellest ruled by those thou can'st not love!
For I have seen thee on thy sad path go—
No pleasant pathway that—but gaining still
The meed of praise for all the holiest laws,
Which highest place in heavenly order fill,
By this thy reverence winning God's applause.
THE MAIDENS OF TRACHIS.
Ο Thou, to whom the star-bespangled Night,
Slain and despoiled, gives birth,
And lulls again to rest, Ο Sun-God bright,
Thee, Helios, I implore,
Tell me on what far shore
Alcmena's son is dwelling on the earth,
(O Thou, whose glory gleaming
In blaze of light is streaming!)
Or by the ocean-valley's deep descent,
Or taking rest in either continent,
Tell Thou, with whom there dwells
A power to see which all our sight excels.
For, lo! I hear that she with anxious thought,
Our Deianeira, sighs,
The bride of old in fierce, hot conflict sought;
And like some lonely bird,
Whose wailing cry is heard,
Can never close in slumber tearless eyes,
But still is forced to cherish
Dread fear lest he should perish;
And so in marriage couch, of spouse bereft,
Wears out her life, to lonely darkness left,
And ever fears a fate
Full fraught with evil, dreary, desolate.
For even as one sees
Or South or North wind sweep resistless on,
And toss the vexèd seas,
The wild waves rushing, surging one by one,
So him of Cadmos born,
By many a great grief worn,
A Cretan sea of troubles vexeth still;
And yet some great God's might
Keeps him from Death's dark night,
And ever guards from each extremest ill.
I, therefore, blaming this,
Will come with words, though pleasant, thwarting thee:
I say thou dost amiss
To let thy better hope all wasted be.
The King who all doth hold,
Great son of Cronos old,
Hath given to no man fortune free from woe;
But still the wheeling sphere,
Where turns the northern Bear,
Brings joy and sorrow circling as they go.
It stayeth not on earth,
Nor star-bespangled Night, nor gloomy Fate,
Nor riches, nor high birth;
But still it comes and goes,
Lighting on these or those,
Or joy abounding, or the low estate.
And this I say that thou,
My queen, should'st bear in mind:
For who hath seen in all the past till now
Zeus to his children known as careless or unkind?
Let the loud shout arise,
With clear, re-echoing cries,
From maidens bright and fair with youth's fresh glow;
And let the cry of men,
Again and yet again,
Hail great Apollo, bearer of the bow:
Pæans on pæans raise,
Ye maidens, in his praise,
And on his sister call, Ortygian Artemis,
The huntress of the deer,
With torches flashing clear,
And all the Nymphs whose dwelling near us is.
I quiver through each vein,
And dare not slight thy strain,
Ο flute, thou sovereign master of my soul;
Lo! the twined ivy-wreath
Stirs me with passionate breath,
And bids me leap in Bacchic strife beneath its strong control.
Great is the power the Kyprian Goddess wields:
I speak not of the things
That touch on Heaven's high kings,
I will not tell how e'en the son of Cronos yields
To wiles that mock and cheat;
Nor how the dark retreat
Of Hades she invades and captive makes
Poseidaôn, whose touch the great earth shakes.
But who were they who came,
As combatants of fame,
To woo the hand of that fair virgin bride?
Who strove with many a blow
And wrestlings, bending low,
And cloud of dust all round that did the conflict hide?
One was a mighty river, dread to see,
A bull with four limbs long,
And lofty horns and strong,
The Acheloös stream from far Œniadæ;
And one from Thebes did go,
Shaking his well-strung bow,
With spear and club, the son of Zeus most high.
And they in hot and deadly rivalry,
Seeking for marriage bed,
Came to the combat dread;
And she, the Kyprian Goddess, fair to see,
There, in the midst, alone
Stood by, the Mighty One,
Wielding the umpire's rod in her supremacy.
Clash of hands was there,
And din of clanging bow,
And horns that smote the air,
And wrestlings, limbs with limbs, and many a sturdy blow,
And many a cry of pain on either side;
And she, the fair-faced, tender, delicate,
Upon the bank that gave good prospect sate,
Waiting for one to claim her as his bride.
(So, as her mother told,
I tell that tale of old;)
And there the sad, pale face of sorrowing maid,
Thus wooed and won with strife,
Awaits her lot as wife,
Like lonely heifer wandering far in wildest glade.
Ο ye whose dwelling lies
By the warm springs that to the harbour flow,
Or where the tall rocks rise
And cliffs of Œta; ye who wont to go
Hard by the Melian lake,
And coasts where roams the golden-arrowed queen,
Where Hellenes counsel take,
And there at Pylæ famed their agora convene,
Quickly to you the flute
Shall raise in music sweet no tuneless strain,
But one that well may suit
The answering lyre from out the Muses' train:
For now Alcmena's son,
Who Zeus his father calls, returneth home;
With spoils that he hath won,
High prize of valour, now will he exulting come:
E'en he of whom we thought
Twelve long months, knowing nought,
As of an exile far upon the sea;
While, weeping for her lord,
Her tears the poor wife poured,
And her sad heart grew faint with misery,
But now to fury wrought,
Great Ares hath the end of all her dark days brought.
Oh, may he come, yes, come!
Ne'er, till he reach his home,
May his swift ship know hazards nor delays!
Leaving the sea-washed shrine,
Where he, in rite divine,
Is said to offer sacrifice and praise,
So may he come, all calm,
Soothed at the Kentaur's hest by that anointing balm!
See, Ο ye maidens, how the sacred word
Of that far-seeing Providence of Heaven
Hath sped, through which we heard
That, when the twelfth full harvest-tide should come,
Its months completed, there should then be given
To the true son of Zeus full rest at home
From many a toil and woe;
And rightly all things go;
For how can one who seeth not the day
In bondage still to evils wear his life away?
For if with murderous cloud from Kentaur fierce
A subtle fate wrap all his stalwart frame,
And the hot venom pierce,
Which Death begat and spotted dragon reared,
How can he hope to see the sun's bright flame,
Beyond to-day, by form fell, dark, and feared,
Of Hydra done to death,
While words of crafty breath
And deadly throbs of pain that seize and burn,
Caused by the swarth-maned monster, all his might o'erturn?
And she, (ah misery!)
Seeing a great evil to her home draw nigh
Of marriage strange and new,
Hath failed to scan aright the things she knew,
And now has cause to mourn
The alien counsel of fell converse born;
She pours, I trow, in fears,
A pelting rain of fast down-dropping tears;
And coming Destiny
Unfolds a subtle, great calamity.
The flood of tears flows fast;
Sore evil spreads, like which in all the past
Ne'er from most hostile foe
Came on the son of Zeus far-famed, a woe
That well might move to tears.
Ο thou dark point of war's victorious spears,
Thou broughtest then yon bride,
Won where Œchalia soareth in its pride;
And she of Kypros still
In speechless might, is seen to work out Heaven's high will.
Which calleth first for lament?
What grief takes widest extent?
Hard question this to decide for me in my measureless woe!
Some sorrows dwell with us near,
And some we await in our fear,
And the present and future alike in one common dreariness flow.
Ah! would that some gale, blowing soft,
Would come on my hearth and my home,
And bear me away, far aloft,
Where never the terror might come,—
Terror that makes the life fail—
Of seeing the strong son of Zeus—
Yes, seeing him (so runs the tale)
In pain that none may unloose,
Come to his home, smitten low,
A marvel and portent of woe.
Nearer—no longer from far,
I wail him as nightingale wails;
The tread of strange footsteps I hear. . . .
But how is he brought? As one fails,
Wrapt in his care for a friend,
To break the hush with his tread;
So, voiceless, on him they attend:
Ah, shall I deem him as dead?
Or may I hope that he lies,
Deep sleep closing his eyes?
Ah, woe is me for thee, my father dear!
Woe, woe, for all my misery and fear!
What sorrow cometh next?
What counsel can I find for soul perplexed?
Hush, boy, hush! lest thou stir
Thy sore vexed father's anguish dark and drear;
He lives, in sleep laid low;
Curb thou thy lips, no murmur let him hear.
What say'st thou? Lives he still?
Thou wilt not rouse him now he slumbers sound.
My child, nor stir his ill,
Nor bid it run its fierce, relentless round.
And yet my mind is vexed,
Brooding o'er sorrow, shaken and perplexed.
What spot of earth is this?
Among what men am I?
By pain that will not cease,
Worn out with agony;
Ah, miserable me!
Again the accursèd venom gnaws through me.
Elder [to Hyllos.]
Did'st thou not know what gain
It were to silence keep,
Nor banish from the eyes of one in pain
The dew of kindly sleep?
And yet I know not how
To hold my peace, such pain beholding now.
Ο ye Kenæan heights
Whereon mine altars stood,
What meed for holiest rites
Have ye wrought, and for good
Such outrage brought on me!
Would God I ne'er had cast on you mine eye,
Nor lived to see
This crown of frenzied, unsoothed agony.
What minstrel apt to charm,
What leech with skilful arm,
Apart from Zeus, this pain could tranquil keep?
(Wonder far off were that to gaze upon!)
Ah me! but leave me, leave me yet to sleep,
Leave me to sleep, me, miserable one.
Where dost thou touch me? Say,
Where lay to rest?
Ah! thou wilt slay me, slay:
What slumbered thou hast roused to life again;
It seizes me, it creeps, this weary pain.
Where are ye, who, of all
That Hellas hers doth call,
Are found most evil, reckless of the right?
For whom I wore my life,
In ceaseless, dreary strife,
Slaying by land and sea dread forms of might;
Yet now to him who lies
In these sharp agonies,
Not one will bring the fire
Or sword, wherewith to work his heart's desire;
And none will come and smite
His head to death's dark night,
And end his misery;
Ah me! fie on you, fie.
Come, boy, thou son of him who lieth there,
Come thou and help, the work o'ertasketh me;
Thine eye is young and clear;
Thy vision more than mine to save and free.
I lend my hand to lift;
But neither from within, nor yet without,
May I a life forgetting pain work out;
Zeus only gives that gift.
Boy, boy! where, where art thou?
Come, lift me up; yea, this way raise thou me.
Oh me! Ο cursed Fates!
It leaps again, it leaps upon me now,
That scourge that desolates,
Fierce, stem, inexorable agony.
Ο Pallas, Pallas! Now it bites again,
That bitter throb of pain:
Come, boy, in mercy smite
The father that begat thee; draw thy sword,
Sword none will dare to blame:
Heal thou the evil plight
With which thy mother, sold to guilt abhorred,
Hath kindled all my wrath with this foul shame.
Ah, might I see her fallen even so,
As she hath brought me low!
Ο Hades, dear and sweet,
Brother of Zeus on high,
Smite me with quickest death-blow, I entreat,
And give me rest, give rest from this my misery!
Ο Son of Telamon,
Who hast thine home in sea-girt Salamis,
Where the waves plash and moan,
I joy when all with thee goes well and right;
But when the stroke of Zeus thy head doth smite,
Or from the Danai evil rumour flies,
Spread far by enemies,
Then am I filled with dread, and, like a dove,
In fear and trembling move,
And glance with shuddering eyes.
And now this very night, its end just come,
Great sorrows on us press,
Hearing ill news, that thou
Hast rushed upon the meadow where they roam,
Our good steeds numberless,
And there hast slain the Danai's treasured spoil,
All that was left us, won by war's sharp toil,
And dost destroy them now
With the keen, bright-edged sword.
Yea, such the gist of every whispered word
Odysseus now to each man's hearing brings,
And gains belief too well;
For lo! he tells of things
That now are found of thee too credible,
And every one that hears
Rejoiceth more than he who tells the tale,
And has but taunts and jeers
For all the sorrows that o'er thee prevail;
For if one takes his aim
Against the great,
He shall not fail, attacking their fair fame;
But one who should relate
Such tales of me would little credence gain;
For envy still attends on high estate:
And yet the poor but little may sustain,
Weak tower and bulwark they,
Who have not great and mighty men their stay;
And still the great must own
The poor and weak the best props of their throne.
Yet men are slow to see,
Senseless and blind, the truth of laws like these.
And now, Ο king, on thee
Such men pour idle clamour, as they please,
And we are weak and frail,
And without thee to ward them off we fail;
But when thy form shall fill their souls with fear,
As flocks of wingèd birds in fluttering haste,
When swoops a vulture near,
Raise din and chattering loud,
So, should'st thou once appear,
They too would crouch in dread, a dumb and voiceless crowd.
Yes, of a truth, the huntress Artemis,
Daughter of Zeus, the wild bull bringing low,
(O dark and evil fame!
Ο mother of my shame!)
She, she hath urged and driven thee on to this,
Against the people's herds with sword to go.
Was it for conquest whence she did not bear
In war's success her share?
Or was she tricked of gifts of glorious spoils,
Or wild deer quarry, taken in the toils?
Or was it Enyalios, brazen-clad,
Brooding o'er fancied slight
For help in war whence he no booty had,
Who thus avenged his wrong in stratagems of night?
For never else, Ο son of Telamon,
Had'st thou, from peace and healthy calmness driven,
(Turning so far astray
As these poor brutes to slay,)
To dark, sinister ill so madly gone!
It may be that this evil comes from Heaven;
But Zeus and Phœbos, may they still avert
The Argives' words of hurt!
But if the mighty kings, with evil will,
Spread tidings false, or, sunk m deepest ill,
That off-shoot of the stock of Sisyphos,
Do not, Ο king, I pray,
Still by the waves in tents abiding thus,
Take to thy shame and mine the evil that they say.
Rise from thy seat, arise,
Where all too long thou hast unmoved stayed on,
Kindling a woe that spreadeth to the skies,
While thy foes' haughty scorn its course doth run,
With nothing to restrain,
As in a thicket when the wind blows fair;
And all take up the strain,
And tell of things that drive me to despair:
For me is nought but pain.
Ο men, who came to aid
Our Aias, ye who trace your ancient birth
To old Erectheus, sprung from out the earth,
We who watch, half afraid,
Far from his home, o'er Telamon's dear son,
Have cause enough to wail;
Aias, the dread, strong, mighty to prevail,
Lies smitten low
By stormy blast of wild tempestuous woe.
What trouble burdensome,
In place of peace and rest,
Hath the night to us brought?
Ο thou from Phrygia come,
Child of Teleutas old,
Speak thou at our behest,
For Aias holds thee high in his esteem,
Prize of his prowess bold;
And thou would'st speak not ignorant, I deem.
Yet how can I speak aught
Of what with woe unspeakable is fraught?
Dreadful and dark the things that thou wilt hear;
For Aias in the night
Hath fallen in evil plight:
Yes he, the great, far-famed, sits raving there.
Such the dread sight would meet thy shrinking eyes
Within his tent,
His victims slaughtered, mangled, blood-besprent,
The hero's sacrifice.
Ah me! what news of fear
Of him, the man of spirit bright and keen,
Thou bringest to our ear,
Tidings we may not bear,
While yet no way of 'scaping them is seen,
By the great Danai spread,
Which mighty Rumour swells to form more dread.
Ah me! I fear, I fear,
What creepeth near and near;
In sight of all men draws he nigh to death;
For he with hand to frenzy turned aside,
And dark sword's edge hath slain
The herds that roamed the plain
And keepers who were there the steeds to guide.
Ah me! 'Twas thence he rushed,
Dragging the flock of sheep as bound with chain;
And some he stabbed until the blood outgushed,
And some with one sharp stroke he clove in twain;
And, seizing two swift rams with white-woolled feet,
Of one he took the head and tore the tongue,
And both away he flung;
The other to a column bound upright,
Taking his chariot's rein,
And with his double scourge that rings again,
Still more and more did smite,
Uttering foul words of shame,
Which never from a man, but from a demon came.
Now it is time to hide
One's head beneath the shelter of the veil,
Or in the ships that glide,
Swiftly o'er ocean's tide,
On bench of rowers sitting swift to sail:
Such are the threats they fling,
The two Atreidæ, each a sovereign king,
Against me, and I dread
Lest I should lie there dead,
By fearful fate of stoning doomed to die,
Sharing the woe of him our lord and friend,
Whom shame and dark disgrace,
That none may dare to face,
As prisoner keep, and hold him to the end.
Nay, it is so no more;
For as the swift South-west,
That rushes on without the lightning-blaze,
Soon lulls its tempest roar,
So he is calm; and now his care-worn breast
Broods o'er new trouble, filled with sore amaze;
For to look out on ills ourselves have wrought,
Which no hand else has brought,
This of all grief and pain
Is hardest to sustain.
Ο sailors dear to me, my true friends still,
Ye only faithful found,
Ye see how o'er me waves of deadly ill
Go surging round and round.
Ah me! Too well thou speakest all the truth.
[Aside.] Yet his acts show how frenzied is his soul.
Ο race of men who with my good ship sailed,
Who came and plied the oar,
Ye only have in trouble never failed;
Now slay me, I implore.
Hush, hush! nor seek fresh ill on ill to pour,
Nor make the weight of sorrow more and more.
Thou see'st the brave and bold,
(Fearless in fight was he,)
His prowess show on brute beasts of the field:
Ah me! What scorn and outrage fall on me!
Dear lord! I pray thee, Aias, speak not thus.
Away! Wilt thou not go?
Away with thee! . . . Woe, woe!
Nay, by the Gods, be calm and yield to us.
Ο wretched fool, whose hands have failed to keep
My foe's accursèd brood,
And falling on horn'd kine and goodly sheep,
Poured out their purple blood!
Why wilt thou grieve at what is past and done?
These things can never be but as they are.
Ο thou, who spy'st out all,
Thou son of Lartios, tool for all things vile,
Of all the host to shame the meanest thrall,
For joy of heart, I trow, thou now wilt smile.
It is through God we all or smile or wail.
Ah! might I see him near,
Sore vexèd though I be with grief and fear. . . .
Hush thy rash speech. What! See'st not where thou art?
Ο Zeus, my father's God! Ah would that I,
Might on that scoundrel foe
And those two kings my vengeance work, and die
Myself by that same blow!
When this thou prayest, pray for my death too.
Why should I care for life when thou art dead?
O dark that art my light!
Ο gloom that art to me supremely bright!
Oh, take me, I entreat,
Take me to dwell with you; I am not meet
To look to Heaven's high race
For any helping grace,
Nor yet to men whose brief days swiftly fleet.
But She, the mighty One,
Daughter of Zeus on high,
With shameful contumely,
My life to death hath done.
Where, where is room for flight?
Or whither roam and stay?
If evil day still follows evil night,
And we are hunting for a madman's prey,
Then should the whole host, hurling thrice strong spear,
Smite me and slay me here.
Ah misery! That one so brave and good
Should say the things he never dared before!
Ο ye paths of the waves!
Grove on the shore, and sea-encompassed caves!
Long time ye held me bound,
Imprisoned long, too long, on Troïa's ground,
But now no longer—no,
As long as life shall flow;
This let him know with whom is wisdom found;
And ye, Ο streams, that glide,
Scamandros, murmuring near,
Friend to the Argives dear,
No longer at your side
Shall ye this hero see,
Of whom I dare proclaim,
Though great the boast, that of all Hellenes he
To Troïa came of mightiest name and fame;
But now, disgraced and whelmed with infamy,
All helpless here I lie.
Ο glorious Salamis!
Thou dwellest where the salt waves hurl their sprays,
Crowned with all brightest bliss,
And all men own thee worthy of great praise;
And I (ah, wretched me!
The time is long since I abandoned thee)
In Ida staying still,
Or when the frost was chill,
Or when the grass was green upon the hill,
Through all the long, long months innumerable,
Here, worn with sorrow, dwell.
And Aias with us still,
Stays as fresh foe, and difficult to heal,
Dwelling with frenzied ill;
Whom thou of old did'st send with sword of steel,
Mighty in strife of war;
And now, in dreary loneliness of soul,
To all his friends around
Great sorrow is he found;
And deeds that did in noblest good abound,
With Atreus' sons, as deeds of foe to foe,
Are fallen, fallen low.
Now of a truth outworn
With length of years,
In hoary age his mother loud shall mourn,
When she with bitter tears
Of that his frenzied mood shall hear the tale,
And weep, ah, well-a-day!
Nor will she utter wail
Like mourning nightingale,
That sadly sings in tone of mood distressed;
But echoing hands shall smite upon her breast,
And she, her grey hair tearing, shall lament alway.
Far better did he lie
In Hades drear,
Who is sore vexed, sore vexed with vanity,
Who doth no more appear
(Though boasting high descent in long array)
Steadfast in temper true,
But wanders far astray;
Ah, father, dark the day!
So sad a tale awaits thee now to hear,
Thy child's sore trouble, woe that none may bear,
Which until now the sons of Æacos ne'er knew.
I thrill with eager delight,
And with passionate joy I leap;
Io Pan! Io Pan! Io Pan!
Come over the waves from the height
Of the cliffs of Kyllene, where sweep
The storm-blasts of snow in their might!
Come, come, Ο King, at the head
Of the dance of the Gods as they tread,
That thou, with me, may'st twine
The self-taught Nysian line,
Or Knossian dance divine!
Right well I now may dance:
And o'er Icarian wave,
Coming with will to save,
May Delos' King, Apollo, gloriously advance!
Yes, the dark sorrow and pain,
Far from me Ares hath set;
Io Pan! Io Pan! once more;
And now, Ο Zeus, yet again
May our swift-sailing vessels be met
By the dawn with clear light in its train.
Our Aias from woe is released,
And the wrath of the Gods hath appeased,
And now, with holiest care,
He offers reverent prayer.
Ah, great Time nought will spare:
Nought can I count as strange,
Since, out of hopeless pain,
Aias is calm again,
Nor lets his fierce hot wrath against the Atreidæ range.
When will they cease, the years,
The long, long tale of years that come and go,
Bringing their ceaseless fears,
The toils of war that scatter woe on woe,
Through Troïa's champaign wide,
Reproach and shame to all the Hellenes' pride?
Would that he first had trod
The wide, vast Heaven, or Hades, home of all,
Who erst the Hellenes showed
The hateful strife where men in conflict fall!
Ah, woes that woes begat!
For he, yes he, hath made men desolate.
Yes he, e'en he, hath made it mine
To know nor joy of flowery wreaths,
Nor deep cups flowing o'er with wine,
Nor the sweet strain the soft flute breathes;
Nor yet (ah, woe! ah, cursed spite!)
The joy that crowns the livelong night.
Yes, he from love and all its joy
Has cut me off, ah me! ah me!
And here I linger still in Troy,
By all uncared for, sad to see,
My hair still wet with dew and rain,
Sad keepsake they from Troïa's plain!
Till now from every fear by night,
And bulwark against darts of foe,
Aias stood forward in his might,
But now the stern God lays him low:
Ah me! ah me! What share have I,
Yea what, in mirth and revelry?
Ah! would that I my flight could take
Where o'er the sea the dark crags frown,
And on the rocks the wild waves break,
And woods the height of Sunion crown,
That so we might with welcome bless
Great Athens in her holiness!
What must I say or hide, Ο master dear,
In a strange land, myself a stranger here,
To one who looks askance
With shy, suspecting glance?
Ever his skill excels
The counsel and the skill of other men,
With whom the sceptre dwells
That Zeus bestows from Heaven on those that reign.
And now on thee, Ο boy,
Comes all this might of venerable days;
Tell me then what employ
Thou bid'st me serve in, tending all thy ways.
Perchance thou fain would'st know
Where he in that remotest corner lies:
Take courage then, and hither turn thine eyes;
But when he comes, that traveller, with his bow
Waking our fear,
Then, from this cavern drawing back,
As helper still be near,
And strive to serve me so that nothing lack.
Long since I cared for what thou bid'st me care,
To work out all that on thy need may bear;
And now I pray thee tell
Where he may chance to dwell—
What region is his home?
Not out of season is it this to hear,
Lest he should subtly come,
And unawares fall on me here or there.
Say where does he abide,
What pathway does he travel to and fro?
Do his steps homeward glide,
Or does he tread the paths that outward go?
Thou see'st this cavern open at each end,
With chambers in the rock.
And where is he, that sufferer, absent now?
To me it is full clear
That he in search for food his slow way wends,
Not far off now, but near;
For so, the rumour runs, his life he spends,
With swift-winged arrows smiting down his prey,
Wretched and wretchedly;
And none to him draws nigh,
With power to heal, and charm his grief away.
I pity him in truth,
How he with none to care of all that live,
With no face near that he has known in youth,
Still dwells alone where none may succour give,
Plagued with a plague full sore:
And as each chance comes on him, evermore
Wanders forth wretchedly,
Ah me, how is 't he still endures to live
In this his misery?
Ο struggles that the Gods to mortals give!
Ο miserable race,
Of those whose lives have failed to find the middle place!
He, born of ancient sires,
And falling short of none that went before,
Now lies bereaved of all that life requires,
In lonely grief, none near him evermore,
Dwelling with dappled deer,
Or rough and grisly beasts, and called to bear
Both pain and hunger still;
Bearing sore weight of overwhelming ill,
Evil that none may heal,
And bitter wailing cry that doth its woe reveal.
Nought of all this is marvellous to me,
For, if my soul has any power to see.
These sufferings from the ruthless Chryse sent
Come with divine intent;
And all that now he bears
With no friend's loving cares,
It needs must be that still
It worketh a God's will,
That he the darts of Gods invincible
Should yet refrain from hurling against Troy
Till the full time is come,
When, as by fated doom,
(For thus it is they tell,)
It shall be his that city to destroy.
Chor.Hush, hush, boy.
Neop.What means this?
Chor.The heavy tread I hear,
As of a man who doth his sad life wear,
Somewhere, or here or there,
It falls, I say, it falls
Upon the listening sense,
That moan of one who, worn with anguish, crawls:
Those gasps of pain intense,
Heard from afar, to hide his anguish fail,
The groans he utters tell their own sad tale.
But now, boy . . .
Neop.What comes next?
Chor.New counsels form and try;
For now the man is not far off but nigh,
With no soft whispered sigh,
As shepherd with his reed,
Who through the meadow strays;
But he or falling in sore stress of need,
Sharp cry of pain doth raise;
Or he has seen our ship in harbour sail,
Strange sight! and comes in fear our presence here to wail.
I heard the story old,
Though never was it given me to behold,
How Cronos' mighty son
Bound on the wheel that still went whirling on,
The man who dared draw nigh
The holy marriage-bed of Zeus on high;
But never heard I tell,
Or with mine eyes saw fate more dark and fell
Than that which this man bound,
Though he nor guilty of foul deeds was found,
Nor yet of broken trust,
But still was known as just among the just;
And now he perisheth
With this unlooked for, undeservèd death:
And wonder fills my soul,
How he, still listening to the surge's roll,
Had strength his life to bear,
Life where no moment came but brought a tear.
Here where none near him came,
Himself his only neighbour, weak and lame,
None, in the island born,
Sharing his woe, to whom his soul might mourn,
With loud re-echoing cry,
The gnawing pains, the blood-fraught misery,—
Who might with herbs assuage
The gore that oozes, in its fevered rage,
From out his foot's sore wound,
(Should that ill seize him,) from the parent ground
Still gathering what was meet;
And now this way, now that he dragged his feet,
Trailing his weary way,
(Like children, who, their nurse being absent, stray,)
Where any ease might be,
Whene'er his pain sore-vexing left him free.
No food had he from out the sacred ground,
Nor aught of all we share,
Keen workers as we are,
Only what he with wingèd arrows found,
From his swift-darting bow.
Ο soul, worn down with woe!
That for ten years ne'er knew the wine-cup's taste,
But turning still his gaze
Where the pool stagnant stays,
Thither he aye his dreary pathway traced.
But now since he hath met with true-born son
Of men of valour, he
Shall rise up blest and free:
One who, in ship that o'er the sea had flown,
After long months hath come,
And leads him to his home,
Where nymphs of Melia dwell, and, bearing shield,
The hero oft hath trod,
Equal with Gods, a God,
Bright with Heaven's fire o'er Œta's lofty field.
Ο sleep, that know'st not pain!
Ο sleep, that know'st not care!
Would thou might'st come with blessed, balmy air,
And blessing long remain,
And from his eyes ward off the noon-tide blaze,
Now full upon him poured;
Come as our Healer, Lord!
And thou, my son, look well to all thy ways;
What next demands our thought?
What now must needs be wrought?
Thou see'st him; and I ask
Why we delay our task;
Occasion that still holds to counsel right,
With quickest speed appears as conqueror in the fight.
True, he indeed heareth nought, but yet I see that all vainly
We hunt after this man's bow, in good ship sailing without him.
There is the crown of success, him the God bade us bring with us;
Sore shame were it now with lies to boast of a task still unfinished.
This, boy, will God provide,
But when thou speak'st again,
Speak, boy, Ο speak in low and whispered strain;
Of those so sorely tried
Sleep is but sleepless, quick to glance and see;
But look with all thy skill,
What way to work thy will,
And gain that prize, yea that, all secretly.
Thou knowest whose we are,
And if his thoughts thou share,
Then may the men who see with clearest eyes,
Look out ahead for sore perplexities.
Yes, boy, 'tis come, the hour;
Sightless the man lies there,
Stretched as in midnight's power,
No friend or helper near,
(Yea, sleep is sound and sweet
Beneath the noontide heat,)
And hath lost all command
Of limb, or foot, or hand,
But looks as one to Hades drawing nigh;
See to it that thou speakest seasonably:
Far as I search around
The toil that wakes no fear is still the noblest found.
Ο cave of hollow grot,
Now in the noontide hot,
Now cold with icy breath,
I may not then leave thee at any time,
But thou must still be with me e'en till death.
Ah miserable me!
Ο dwelling fullest known
Of pain and wailing moan
From me, ah misery!
What now shall be my daily lot of life?
What hopes to me remain
My daily food to gain?
The timid birds will fly
Through the wild breezy sky;
For all my strength is vanished utterly.
Thou, thou against thyself hast sentence passed,
Ο thou worn out and pained!
No spell of mightier Power is o'er thee cast,
For when thou mightest wisdom's path have gained,
Thou did'st, in wilful mood,
Prefer thine evil genius to the good.
Ah, worn with woe am I,
Worn out with misery,
Exposed to wanton scorn,
I in the years that come must pine away,
With no man near me, desolate, forlorn.
Ah me, ah, woe is me!
No longer wielding still,
In hands that once were strong,
My swift darts, can I hunger's cravings fill:
But crafty speech of meaning dark and wrong
Has subtly crept on me.
Oh, that I might but see
The man who planned this crime,
Sharing for equal time
The woe and pain that have been mine so long!
Fate was it, yea, 'twas Fate,
Fate of the Gods, no subtlety of guile,
That brought thy captive state;
Turn then on others all thy bitter hate,
Thy curses hard and vile;
I care at least for this,
That thou my proffered friendship should'st not miss.
Ah me, upon the shore,
Where the wild waters roar,
He sits and laughs at me,
And tosseth in his hand
What cheered my misery,
What ne'er till now another might command.
Ο bow, most dear to me,
Torn from these hands of mine,
If thou hast sense to see,
Thou lookest piteously
At this poor mate of thine,
The friend of Heracles,
Who never more shall wield thee as of old;
And thou, full ill at ease,
Art bent by hands of one for mischief bold,
All shameful deeds beholding,
Deeds of fierce wrath and hate,
And thousand evils from base thoughts unfolding,
Which none till now had ever dared to perpetrate.
It is a man's true part,
Of what is just to speak with words of good;
But, having eased his heart,
Not to launch forth his speech of bitter mood.
He was but one, urged on
By many to their will,
And for his friends hath won
A common help against a sore and pressing ill.
Ο wingèd birds that fly
Through the clear, open sky,
Ο tribes, whose eyes gleam bright,
Of beasts that roam the hills,
No more will ye in flight
Forth from my dwelling draw me at your will;
For I no more possess
The might I had of old
(Ah me for my distress!)
In those fierce weapons bold;
But now, with little care
This place is guarded against dreadest ill,
And none need now beware.
Come ye, 'tis now your hour to feast at will;
On me your vengeance wreaking,
This livid flesh devour:
I soon shall fail; for who, life's nurture seeking,
Can live on air, deprived of all earth's kind fields pour?
Nay, by the Gods, if still
Aught can thy feeling quicken for a friend,
Draw near, with all good will,
To one who fain his steps to thee would bend;
But know, yea, know full well,
'Tis thine to end this woe.
Sad is't our ills to swell,
While they, in myriad forms, around us ever grow.
Come, then, and let us bid farewell
To this lone island where I dwell:
Farewell, Ο home that still did'st keep
Due vigil o'er me in my sleep;
Ye nymphs by stream or wood that roam;
Thou mighty voice of ocean's foam,
Where oftentimes my head was wet
With drivings of the South wind's fret;
And oft the mount that Hermes owns
Sent forth its answer to my groans,
The wailing loud as echo given
To me by tempest-storms sore driven;
And ye, Ο fountains clear and cool,
Thou Lykian well, the wolves' own pool—
We leave you, yea, we leave at last,
Though small our hope in long years past:
Farewell, Ο plain of Lemnos' isle,
Around whose coasts the bright waves smile,
Send me with prosperous voyage and fair
Where the great Destinies may bear,
Counsel of friends, and God supreme in Heaven,
Who all this lot of ours hath well and wisely given.
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