THE CHOEPHORI by Aeschylus, Part 11
Ah woe is me! thy word our ruin tells;
From roof-tree unto base are we despoiled.-
O thou whom nevermore we wrestle down,
Thou Fury of this home, how oft and oft
Thou dost descry what far aloof is laid,
Yea, from afar dost bend th' unerring bow
And rendest from my wretchedness its friends;
As now ORESTES -who, a brief while since,
Safe from the mire of death stood warily,-
Was the home's hope to cure th' exulting wrong;
Now thou ordainest, Let the ill abide.
To host and hostess thus with fortune blest,
Lief had I come with better news to bear
Unto your greeting and acquaintanceship;
For what goodwill lies deeper than the bond
Of guest and host? and wrong abhorred it were,
As well I deem, if I, who pledged my faith
To one, and greetings from the other had,
Bore not aright the tidings 'twixt the twain.
Whate'er thy news, thou shalt not welcome lack,
Meet and deserved, nor scant our grace shall be.
Hadst thou thyself not come, such tale to tell,
Another, sure, had borne it to our ears.
But lo! the hour is here when travelling guests,
Fresh from the daylong labour of the road,
Should win their rightful due. (To the slave)
Take him within
To the man-chamber's hospitable rest-
Him and these fellow-farers at his side;
Give them such guest-right as beseems our halls;
I bid thee do as thou shalt answer for it,
And I unto the prince who rules our home
Will tell the tale, and, since we lack not friends,
With them will counsel how this hap to bear.
(CLYTEMNESTRA goes back into the palace. ORESTES and
PYLADES are conducted to the guest quarters.)
So be it done-
Sister-servants, when draws nigh
Time for us aloud to cry
ORESTES and his victory?
O holy earth and holy tomb
Over the grave-pit heaped on high,
Where low doth AGAMEMNON lie,
The king of ships, the army's lord!
Now is the hour-give ear and come,
For now doth Craft her aid afford,
And Hermes, guard of shades in hell,
Stands o'er their strife, to sentinel
The dooming of the sword.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
I wot the stranger worketh woe within-
For lo! I see come forth, suffused with tears,
ORESTES ' NURSE. (The NURSE enters from the palace.)
What ho, Kilissa-thou
Beyond the doors? Where goest thou? Methinks
Some grief unbidden walketh at thy side.
My mistress bids me, with what speed I may,
Call in AEGISTHUS to the stranger guests,
That he may come, and stinding face to face,
A man with men, way thus more clearly learn
This rumour new. Thus speaking, to her slaves
Laughter for what is wrought-to her desire
Too well; but ill, ill, ill besets the house,
Brought by the tale these guests have told so clear.
And he, God wot, will gladden all his heart
Hearing this rumour. Woe and well-a-day!
The bitter mingled cup of ancient woes,
Hard to be borne, that here in Atreus' house
Befell, was grievous to mine inmost heart,
But never yet did I endure such pain.
All else I bore with set soul patiently;
But now-alack, alack!--ORESTES dear,
The day and night-long travail of my soul
Whom from his mother's womb, a new-born child,
I clasped and cherished! Many a time and oft
Toilsome and profitless my service was,
When his shrill outcry called me from my couch!
For the young child, before the sense is born,
Hath but a dumb thing's life, must needs be NURSEd
As its own nature bids. The swaddled thing
Hath nought of speech, whate'er discomfort come,-
Hunger or thirst or lower weakling need,-
For the babe's stomach works its own relief.
Which knowing well before, yet oft surprised,
'Twas mine to cleanse the swaddling clothes-poor
Was NURSE to tend and fuller to make white:
Two works in one, two handicrafts I took,
When in mine arms the father laid the boy.
And now he's dead-alack and well-a-day!
Yet must I go to him whose wrongful power
Pollutes this house-fair tidings these to him!
Say then, with what array she bids him come?
What say'st thou! Speak. more clearly for mine ear.