AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus, Part 10
'Tis fairly said: thus speaks a noble dame,
Nor speaks amiss, when truth informs the boast.
(CLYTEMNESTRA withdraws again into the palace.)
So has she spoken-be it yours to learn
By clear interpreters her specious word.
Turn to me, HeraLD-tell me if anon
The second well-loved lord of Argos comes?
Hath Menelaus safely sped with you?
Alas-brief boon unto my friends it were,
To flatter them, for truth, with falsehoods fair!
Speak joy, if truth be joy, but truth, at worst-
Too plainly, truth and joy are here divorced.
The hero and his bark were rapt away
Far from the Grecian fleet; 'tis truth I say.
Whether in all men's sight from Ilion borne,
Or from the fleet by stress of weather torn?
Full on the mark thy shaft of speech doth light,
And one short word hath told long woes aright.
But say, what now of him each comrade saith?
What their forebodings, of his life or death?
Ask me no more: the truth is known to none,
Save the earth-fostering, all-surveying Sun.
Say, by what doom the fleet of Greece was driven?
How rose, how sank the storm, the wrath of heaven?
Nay, ill it were to mar with sorrow's tale
The day of blissful news. The gods demand
Thanksgiving sundered from solicitude.
If one as HeraLD came with rueful face
To say, The curse has fallen, and the host
Gone down to death; and one wide wound has reached
The city's heart, and out of many homes
Many are cast and consecrate to death,
Beneath the double scourge, that Ares loves,
The bloody pair, the fire and sword of doom-
If such sore burden weighed upon my tongue,
'Twere fit to speak such words as gladden fiends.
But-coming as he comes who bringeth news
Of safe return from toil, and issues fair,
To men rejoicing in a weal restored-
Dare I to dash good words with ill, and say
For fire and sea, that erst held bitter feud,
Now swore conspiracy and pledged their faith,
Wasting the Argives worn with toil and war.
Night and great horror of the rising wave
Came o'er us, and the blasts that blow from Thrace
Clashed ship with ship, and some with plunging prow
Thro' scudding drifts of spray and raving storm
Vanished, as strays by some ill shepherd driven.
And when at length the sun rose bright, we saw
Th' Aegaean sea-field flecked with flowers of death,
Corpses of Grecian men and shattered hulls.
For us indeed, some god, as well I deem,
No human power, laid hand upon our helm,
Snatched us or prayed us from the powers of air,
And brought our bark thro'all, unharmed in hull:
And saving Fortune sat and steered us fair,
So that no surge should gulf us deep in brine,
Nor grind our keel upon a rocky shore.
So 'scaped we death that lurks beneath the sea,
But, under day's white light, mistrustful all
Of fortune's smile, we sat and brooded deep,
Shepherds forlorn of thoughts that wandered wild
O'er this new woe; for smitten was our host,
And lost as ashes scattered from the pyre.
Of whom if any draw his life-breath yet,
Be well assured, he deems of us as dead,
As we of him no other fate forebode.
But heaven save all! If Menelaus live,
He will not tarry, but will surely come:
Therefore if anywhere the high sun's ray
Descries him upon earth, preserved by Zeus,
Who wills not yet to wipe his race away,
Hope still there is that homeward he may wend.
Enough-thou hast the truth unto THE END.
(The HeraLD departs.)