THE CHOEPHORI by Aeschylus, Part 15
For her the god who dwells in deep recess
Beneath Parnassus' brow,
Summons with loud acclaim
To rise, though late and lame,
And come with craft that worketh righteousness.
For even o'er Powers divine this law is strong-
Thou shalt not serve the wrong.
To that which ruleth heaven beseems it that we bow
Lo, freedom's light hath come!
Lo, now is rent away
The grim and curbing bit that held us dumb.
Up to the light, ye halls I this many a day
Too low on earth ye lay.
And Time, the great Accomplisher,
Shall cross the threshold, whensoe'er
He choose with purging hand to cleanse
The palace, driving all pollution thence.
And fair the cast of Fortune's die
Before our state's new lords shall lie,
Not as of old, but bringing fairer doom.
Lo, freedom's light hath come!
(The central doors of the palace open, disclosing ORESTES
standing over the corpses of AEGISTHUS and CLYTEMNESTRA; in
one hand he holds his sword, in the other the robe in which
AGAMEMNON was entangled and slain.)
There lies our country's twofold tyranny,
My father's slayers, spoilers of my home.
Erst were they royal, sitting on the throne,
And loving are they yet,-their common fate
Tells the tale truly, shows their trothplight firm.
They swore to work mine ill-starred father's death,
They swore to die together; 'tis fulfilled.
O ye who stand, this great doom's witnesses,
Behold this too, the dark device which bound
My sire unhappy to his death,-behold
The mesh which trapped his hands, enwound his feet
Stand round, unfold it-'tis the trammel-net
That wrapped a chieftain; hold it that he see,
The father-not my sire, but he whose eye
Is judge of all things, the all-seeing Sun!
Let him behold my mother's damned deed,
Then let him stand, when need shall be to me,
Witness that justly I have sought and slain
My mother; blameless was AEGISTHUS' doom-
He died the death law bids adulterers die.
But she who plotted this accursed thing
To slay her lord, by whom she bare beneath
Her girdle once the burden of her babes,
Beloved erewhile, now turned to hateful foes-
What deem ye of her? or what venomed thing,
Sea-snake or adder, had more power than she
To poison with a touch the flesh unscarred?
So great her daring, such her impious will.
How name her, if I may not speak a curse?
A lion-springe! a laver's swathing cloth,
Wrapping a dead man, twining round his feet-
A net, a trammel, an entangling robe?
Such were the weapon of some strangling thief,
The terror of the road, a cut-purse hound-
With such device full many might he kill,
Full oft exult in heat of villainy.
Ne'er have my house so cursed an indweller-
Heaven send me, rather, childless to be slain!
Woe for each desperate deed!
Woe for the queen, with shame of life bereft!
And ah, for him who still is left,
Madness, dark blossom of a bloody seed!
Did she the deed or not? this robe gives proof,
Imbrued with blood that bathed AEGISTHUS' sword:
Look, how the spurted stain combines with time
To blur the many dyes that once adorned
Its pattern manifold! I now stand here,
Made glad, made sad with blood, exulting, wailing-
Hear, O thou woven web that slew my sire!
I grieve for deed and death and all my home-
Victor, pollution's damned stain for prize.
Alas, that none of mortal men
Can pass his life untouched by pain!
Behold, one woe is here-
Another loometh near.
Hark ye and learn-for what THE END shall be
For me I know not: breaking from the curb
My spirit whirls me off, a conquered prey,
Borne as a charioteer by steeds distraught
Far from the course, and madness in my breast
Burneth to chant its song, and leap, and rave-
Hark ye and learn, friends, ere my reason goes!
I say that rightfully I slew my mother,
A thing God-scorned, that foully slew my sire.
And chiefest wizard of the spell that bound me
Unto this deed I name the Pythian seer
Apollo, who foretold that if I slew,
The guilt of murder done should pass from me;
But if I spared, the fate that should be mine
I dare not blazon forth-the bow of speech
Can reach not to the mark, that doom to tell.
And now behold me, how with branch and crown
I pass, a suppliant made meet to go
Unto Earth's midmost shrine, the holy ground
Of Loxias, and that renowned light
Of ever-burning fire, to 'scape the doom
Of kindred murder: to no other shrine
(So Loxias bade) may I for refuge turn.
Bear witness, Argives, in the after time,
How came on me this dread fatality.
Living, I pass a banished wanderer hence,
To leave in death the memory of this cry.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Nay, but the deed is well; link not thy lips
To speech ill-starred, nor vent ill-boding words-
Who hast to Argos her full freedom given,
Lopping two serpents' heads with timely blow.
Look, look, alas!
Handmaidens, see-what Gorgon shapes throng up
Dusky their robes and all their hair enwound-
Snakes coiled with snakes-off, off,-I must away!
Most loyal of all sons unto thy sire,
What visions thus distract thee? Hold, abide;
Great was thy victory, and shalt thou fear?
These are no dreams, void shapes of haunting ill,
But clear to sight another's hell-hounds come!
Nay, the fresh bloodshed still imbrues thine hands,
And thence distraction sinks into thy soul.
O king Apollo-see, they swarm and throng-
Black blood of hatred dripping from their eyes!
One remedy thou hast; go, touch the shrine
Of Loxias, and rid thee of these woes.
Ye can behold them not, but I behold them.
Up and away! I dare abide no more.
(He rushes out.)
Farewell then as thou mayst,-the god thy friend
Guard thee and aid with chances favouring.
Behold, the storm of woe divine
That raves and beats on Atreus' line
Its great third blast hath blown.
First was Thyestes' loathly woe
The rueful feast of long ago,
On children's flesh, unknown.
And next the kingly chief's despite,
When he who led the Greeks to fight
Was in the bath hewn down.
And now the offspring of the race
Stands in the third, the saviour's place,
To save-or to consume?
O whither, ere it be fulfilled,
Ere its fierce blast be hushed and stilled,
Shall blow the wind of doom?
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