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THE CHOEPHORI by Aeschylus, Part 09

ORESTES
Earth and my father's grave, to you I call-
Give this her dream fulfilment, and thro' me.
I read it in each part coincident
With what shall be; for mark, that serpent sprang
From the same womb as I, in swaddling bands
By the same hands was swathed, lipped the same breast,
And sucking forth the same sweet mother's-milk
Infused a clot of blood; and in alarm
She cried upon her wound the cry of pain.
The rede is clear: the thing of dread she NURSEd,
The death of blood she dies; and I, 'tis I,
In semblance of a serpent, that must slay her.
Thou art my seer, and thus I read the dream.
LEADER
So do; yet ere thou doest, speak to us,
Bidding some act, some, by not acting, aid.
ORESTES
Brief my command: I bid my sister pass
In silence to the house, and all I bid
This my design with wariness conceal,
That they who did by craft a chieftain slay
May by like craft and in like noose be talen,
Dying the death which Loxias foretold-
Apollo, king and prophet undisproved.
I with this warrior PYLADES will come
In likeness of a stranger, full equipt
As travellers come, and at the palace gates
Will stand, as stranger yet in friendship's bond
Unto this house allied; and each of us
Will speak the tongue that round Parnassus sounds,
Feigning such speech as Phocian voices use.
And what if none of those that tend the gates
Shall welcome us with gladness, since the house
With ills divine is baunted? If this hap,
We at the gate will bide, till, passing by,
Some townsman make conjecture and proclaim,
How? is AEGISTHUS here, and knowingly
Keeps suppliants aloof, by bolt and bar?
Then shall I win my way; and if I cross
The threshold of the gate, the palace' guard,
And find him throned where once my father sat-
Or if he come anon, and face to face
Confronting, drop his eyes from mine-I swear
He shall not utter, Who art thou and whence?
Ere my steel leap, and compassed round with death
Low he shall lie: and thus, full-fed with doom,
The Fury of the house shall drain once more
A deep third draught of rich unmingled blood.
But thou, O sister, look that all within
Be well prepared to give these things event.
And ye-I say 'twere well to bear a tongue
Full of fair silence and of fitting speech
As each beseems the time; and last, do thou,
Hermes the warder-god, keep watch and ward,
And guide to victory my striving sword.
(ORESTES , PYLADES, and ELECTRA depart.)

CHORUS (singing)
strophe 1

Many and marvellous the things of fear
Earth's breast doth bear;
And the sea's lap with many monsters teems,
And windy levin-bolts and meteor gleams
Breed many deadly things-
Unknown and flying forms, with fear upon their wings,
And in their tread is death;
And rushing whirlwinds, of whose blasting breath
Man's tongue can tell.

antistrophe 1

But who can tell aright the fiercer thing,
The aweless soul, within man's breast inhabiting?
Who tell how, passion-fraught and love-distraught,
The woman's eager, craving thought
Doth wed mankind to woe and ruin fell?
Yea, how the loveless love that doth posses
The woman, even as the lioness,
Doth rend and wrest apart, with eager strife,
The link of wedded life?

strophe 2

Let him be the witness, whose thought is not borne on light wings
thro' the air,
But abideth with knowledge, what thing was wrought by Althea's
despair;
For she marr'd the life-grace of her son, with ill counsel
rekindled the flame
That was quenched as it glowed on the brand, what time from his
mother he came,
With the cry of a new-born child; and the brand from the burning
she won,
For the Fates had foretold it coeval, in life and in death, with
her son.

antistrophe 2

Yea, and man's hate tells of another, even Scylla of murderous
guile,
Who slew for an enemy's sake her father, won o'er by the wile
And the gifts of Cretan Minos, the gauds of the high-wrought gold;
For she clipped from her father's head the lock that should never
wax old,
As he breathed in the silence of sleep, and knew not her craft and
her crime-
But Hermes, the guard of the dead, doth grasp her, in fulness of
time.

 

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