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AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus, Part 15

antistrophe 1

And now mine eyes and not another's see
Their safe return.

Yet none the less in me
The inner spirit sings a boding song,
Self-prompted, sings the Furies' strain-
And seeks, and seeks in vain,
To hope and to be strong!

Ah! to some end of Fate, unseen, unguessed,
Are these wild throbbings of my heart and breast-
Yea, of some doom they tell-
Each pulse, a knell.
Lief, lief I were, that all
To unfulfilment's hidden realm might fall.

strophe 2

Too far, too far our mortal spirits strive,
Grasping at utter weal, unsatisfied-
Till the fell curse, that dwelleth hard beside,
Thrust down the sundering wall. Too fair they blow,
The gales that waft our bark on Fortune's tide!
Swiftly we sail, the sooner an to drive
Upon the hidden rock, the reef of woe.
Then if the hand of caution warily
Sling forth into the sea
Part of the freight, lest all should sink below,
From the deep death it saves the bark: even so,
Doom-laden though it be, once more may rise
His household, who is timely wise.

How oft the famine-stricken field
Is saved by God's large gift, the new year's yield!

antistrophe 2

But blood of man once spilled,
Once at his feet shed forth, and darkening the plain,-
Nor chant nor charm can call it back again.
So Zeus hath willed:

Else had he spared the leech Asclepius, skilled
To bring man from the dead: the hand divine
Did smite himself with death-a warning and a sign-

Ah me! if Fate, ordained of old,
Held not the will of gods constrained, controlled,
Helpless to us-ward, and apart-
Swifter than speech my heart
Had poured its presage out!
Now, fretting, chafing in the dark of doubt,
'Tis hopeless to unfold
Truth, from fear's tangled skein; and, yearning to proclaim
Its thought, my soul is prophecy and flame.

(CLYTEMNESTRA comes out of the palace and addresses CASSANDRA,
who has remained motionless in her chariot.)

Get thee within thou too, Cassandra, go!
For Zeus to thee in gracious mercy grants
To share the sprinklings of the lustral bowl,
Beside the altar of his guardianship,
Slave among many slaves. What, haughty still?
Step from the car; Alcmena's son, 'tis said,
Was sold perforce and bore the yoke of old.
Ay, hard it is, but, if such fate befall,
'Tis a fair chance to serve within a home
Of ancient wealth and power. An upstart lord,
To whom wealth's harvest came beyond his hope,
Is as a lion to his slaves, in all
Exceeding fierce, immoderate in sway.
Pass in: thou hearest what our ways will be.
Clear unto thee, O maid, is her command,
But thou-within the toils of Fate thou art-
If such thy will, I urge thee to obey;
Yet I misdoubt thou dost nor hear nor heed.
I wot-unless like swallows she doth use
Some strange barbarian tongue from oversea-
My words must speak persuasion to her soul.
Obey: there is no gentler way than this.
Step from the car's high seat and follow her.
Truce to this bootless waiting here without!
I will not stay: beside the central shrine
The victims stand, prepared for knife and fire-
Offerings from hearts beyond all hope made glad.
Thou-if thou reckest aught of my command,
'Twere well done soon: but if thy sense be shut
From these my words, let thy barbarian hand
Fulfil by gesture the default of speech.


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