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AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus, Part 1

450 BC
AGAMEMNON
by Aeschylus
translated by E.D.A. Morshead
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

A WATCHMAN
CHORUS OF ARGIVE ELDERS
CLYTEMNESTRA, wife of AGAMEMNON
A HeraLD
AGAMEMNON, King of Argos
CASSANDRA, daughter of Priam, and slave of AGAMEMNON
AEGISTHUS, son of Thyestes, cousin of AGAMEMNON
Servants, ATTENDANTs, Soldiers
AGAMEMNON
(SCENE:-Before the palace of AGAMEMNON in Argos. In front of the
palace there are statues of the gods, and altars prepared for
sacrifice. It is night. On the roof of the palace can be
discerned a WATCHMAN.)

WATCHMAN
I pray the gods to quit me of my toils,
To close the watch I keep, this livelong year;
For as a watch-dog lying, not at rest,
Propped on one arm, upon the palace-roof
Of Atreus' race, too long, too well I know
The starry conclave of the midnight sky,
Too well, the splendours of the firmament,
The lords of light, whose kingly aspect shows-
What time they set or climb the sky in turn-
The year's divisions, bringing frost or fire.

And now, as ever, am I set to mark
When shall stream up the glow of signal-flame,
The bale-fire bright, and tell its Trojan tale-
Troy town is ta'en: such issue holds in hope
She in whose woman's breast beats heart of man.

Thus upon mine unrestful couch I lie,
Bathed with the dews of night, unvisited
By dreams-ah me!-for in the place of sleep
Stands Fear as my familiar, and repels
The soft repose that would mine eyelids seal.

And if at whiles, for the lost balm of sleep,
I medicine my soul with melody
Of trill or song-anon to tears I turn,
Wailing the woe that broods upon this home,
Not now by honour guided as of old-

But now at last fair fall the welcome hour
That sets me free, whene'er the thick night glow
With beacon-fire of hope deferred no more.
All hail!
(A beacon-light is seen reddening the distant sky.)
Fire of the night, that brings my spirit day,
Shedding on Argos light, and dance, and song,
Greetings to fortune, hail!

Let my loud summons ring within the ears
Of AGAMEMNON's queen, that she anon
Start from her couch and with a shrill voice cry
A joyous welcome to the beacon-blaze,
For Ilion's fall; such fiery message gleams
From yon high flame; and I, before the rest,
Will foot the lightsome measure of our joy;
For I can say, My master's dice fell fair-
Behold! the triple sice, the lucky flame!
Now be my lot to clasp, in loyal love,
The hand of him restored, who rules our home:
Home-but I say no more: upon my tongue
Treads hard the ox o' the adage.

Had it voice,
The home itself might soothliest tell its tale;
I, of set will, speak words the wise may learn,
To others, nought remember nor discern.
(He withdraws. The CHORUS OF ARGIVE ELDERS enters, each
leaning on a staff. During their song CLYTEMNESTRA
appears in the background, kindling the altars.)
CHORUS (singing)
Ten livelong years have rolled away,
Since the twin lords of sceptred sway,
By Zeus endowed with pride of place,
The doughty chiefs of Atreus' race,
Went forth of yore,
To plead with Priam, face to face,
Before the judgment-seat of War!

A thousand ships from Argive land
Put forth to bear the martial band,
That with a spirit stern and strong
Went out to right the kingdom's wrong-
Pealed, as they went, the battle-song,
Wild as the vultures' cry;
When o'er the eyrie, soaring high,
In wild bereaved agony,
Around, around, in airy rings,
They wheel with oarage of their wings,
But not the eyas-brood behold,
That called them to the nest of old;
But let Apollo from the sky,
Or Pan, or Zeus, but hear the cry,
The exile cry, the wail forlorn,
Of birds from whom their home is torn-
On those who wrought the rapine fell,

 

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