THE CHOEPHORI by Aeschylus, Part 10
And since of the crimes of the cruel I tell, let my singing record
The bitter wedlock and loveless, the curse on these halls
The crafty device of a woman, whereby did a chieftain fall,
A warrior stern in his wrath, the fear of his enemies all,-
A song of dishonour, untimely! and cold is the hearth that was
And ruled by the cowardly spear, the woman's unwomanly arm.
But the summit and crown of all crimes is that which in Lemnos
A woe and a mourning it is, a shame and a spitting to tell;
And he that in after time doth speak of his deadliest thought,
Doth say, It is like to the deed that of old time in Lemnos was
And loathed of men were the doers, and perished, they and their
For the gods brought hate upon them; none loveth the impious
It is well of these tales to tell; for the sword in the grasp of
With a cleaving, a piercing blow to the innermost heart doth
And the deed unlawfully done is not trodden down nor forgot,
When the sinner out-steppeth the law and heedeth the high God not;
But justice hath planted the anvil, and Destiny forgeth the sword
That shall smite in her chosen time; by her is the child restored;
And, darkly devising, the Fiend of the house, world-cursed, will
The price of the blood of the slain, that was shed in the bygone
(The scene now is before the palace. ORESTES and PYLADES enter,
still dressed as travellers.)
ORESTES (knocking at the palace gate)
What ho! slave, ho! I smite the palace gate
In vain, it seems; what ho, attend within,-
Once more, attend; come forth and ope the halls,
If yet AEGISTHUS holds them hospitable.
SLAVE (from within)
Anon, anon! (Opens the door)
Speak, from what land art thou, and sent from whom?
Go, tell to them who rule the palace-halls,
Since 'tis to them I come with tidings new-
(Delay not-Night's dark car is speeding on,
And time is now for wayfarers to cast
Anchor in haven, wheresoe'er a house
Doth welcome strangers)-that there now come forth
Some one who holds authority within-
The queen, or, if some man, more seemly were it;
For when man standeth face to face with man,
No stammering modesty confounds their speech,
But each to each doth tell his meaning clear.
(CLYTEMNESTRA comes out of the palace.)
Speak on, O strangers: have ye need of aught?
Here is whate'er beseems a house like this-
Warm bath and bed, tired Nature's soft restorer,
And courteous eyes to greet you; and if aught
Of graver import needeth act as well,
That, as man's charge, I to a man will tell.
A Daulian man am I, from Phocis bound,
And as with mine own travel-scrip self-laden
I went toward Argos, parting hitherward
With travelling foot, there did encounter me
One whom I knew not and who knew not me,
But asked my purposed way nor hid his own,
And, as we talked together, told his name-
Strophius of Phocis; then he said, "Good sir,
Since in all case thou art to Argos bound,
Forget not this my message, heed it well,
Tell to his own, ORESTES is no more.
And-whatsoe'er his kinsfolk shall resolve.
Whether to bear his dust unto his home,
Or lay him here, in death as erst in life
Exiled for aye, a child of banishment-
Bring me their hest, upon thy backward road;
For now in brazen compass of an urn
His ashes lie, their dues of weeping paid."
So much I heard, and so much tell to thee,
Not knowing if I speak unto his kin
Who rule his home; but well, I deem, it were,
Such news should earliest reach a parent's ear.