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THE CHOEPHORI by Aeschylus, Part 13

antistrophe 3

And thou, O child, when Time and Chance agree,
Up to the deed that for thy sire is done!
And if she wail unto thee, Spare, O son-
Cry, Aid, O father-and achieve the deed,
The horror of man's tongue, the gods' great need!
Hold in thy breast such heart as Perseus had,
The bitter woe work forth,
Appease the summons of the dead,
The wrath of friends on earth;
Yea, set within a sign of blood and doom,
And do to utter death him that polilites thy home.
(AEGISTHUS enters alone.)
AEGISTHUS
Hither and not unsummoned have I come;
For a new rumour, borne by stranger men
Arriving hither, hath attained mine ears,
Of hap unwished-for, even ORESTES ' death.
This were new sorrow, a blood-bolter'd load
Laid on the house that doth already bow
Beneath a former wound that festers deep.
Dare I opine these words have truth and life?
Or are they tales, of woman's terror born,
That fly in the void air, and die disproved?
Canst thou tell aught, and prove it to my soul?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
What we have heard, we heard; go thou within
Thyself to ask the strangers of their tale.
Strengthless are tidings, thro' another heard;
Question is his, to whom the tale is brought.
AEGISTHUS
I too will meet and test the messenger,
Whether himself stood witness of the death,
Or tells it merely from dim rumour learnt:
None shall cheat me, whose soul hath watchful eyes.
(He goes into the palace.)
CHORUS (singing)
Zeus, Zeus! what word to me is given?
What cry or prayer, invoking heaven,
Shall first by me be uttered?
What speech of craft-nor all revealing,
Nor all too warily concealing-
Ending my speech, shall aid the deed?
For lo! in readiness is laid
The dark emprise, the rending blade;
Blood-dropping daggers shall achieve
The dateless doom of Atreus' name,
Or-kindling torch and joyful flame
In sign of new-won liberty-
Once more ORESTES shall retrieve
His father's wealth, and, throned on high,
Shall hold the city's fealty.
So mighty is the grasp whereby,
Heaven-holpen, he shall trip and throw,
Unseconded, a double foe.
Ho for the victory!
(A loud cry is heard within.)
VOICE OF AEGISTHUS
Help, help, alas!
CHORUS
Ho there, ho I how is't within?
Is't done? is't over? Stand we here aloof
While it is wrought, that guiltless we may seem
Of this dark deed; with death is strife fulfilled.
(An ATTENDANT enters from the palace.)
ATTENDANT
O woe, O woe, my lord is done to death!
Woe, woe, and woe again, AEGISTHUS gone!
Hasten, fling wide the doors, unloose the bolts
Of the queen's chamber. O for some young strength
To match the need! but aid availeth nought
To him laid low for ever. Help, help, help
Sure to deaf ears I shout, and call in vain
To slumber ineffectual. What ho!
The queen! how fareth CLYTEMNESTRA's self?
Her neck too, hers, is close upon the steel,
And soon shall sing, hewn thro' as justice wills.
(CLYTEMNESTRA enters.)
CLYTEMNESTRA
What ails thee, raising this ado for us?
ATTENDANT
I say the dead are come to slay the living.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Alack, I read thy riddles all too clear-
We slew by craft and by like craft shall die.
Swift, bring the axe that slew my lord of old;
I'll know anon or death or victory-
So stands the curse, so I confront it here.
(ORESTES rushes from the palace; his sword dripping with
blood. PYLADES is with him.)
ORESTES
Thee too I seek: for him what's done will serve.
CLYTEMNESTRA
Woe, woe! AEGISTHUS, spouse and champion, slain!
ORESTES
What, lov'st the man? then in his grave lie down,
Be his in death, desert him nevermore!
CLYTEMNESTRA
Stay, child, and fear to strike. O son, this breast
Pillowed thine head full oft, while, drowsed with sleep,
Thy toothless mouth drew mother's milk from me.

 

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