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EUMENDIDES by Aeschylus, Part 07

antistrophe 4

Who of mortals hearing
Doth not quake for awe,
Hearing all that Fate thro' hand of God hath given us
For ordinance and law?
Yea, this right to us, in dark abysm and backward
Of ages it befell:
None shall wrong mine office, tho' in nether regions
And sunless dark I dwell.
(ATHENA enters.)
Athena
Far off I heard the clamour of your cry,
As by Scamander's side I set my foot
Asserting right upon the land given o'er
To me by those who o'er Achaea's host
Held sway and LEADERship: no scanty part
Of all they won by spear and sword, to me
They gave it, land and all that grew thereon,
As chosen heirloom for my Theseus' clan.
Thence summoned, sped I with a tireless foot,-
Hummed on the wind, instead of wings, the fold
Of this mine aegis, by my feet propelled,
As, linked to mettled horses, speeds a car.
And now, beholding here Earth's nether brood,
I fear it nought, yet are mine eyes amazed
With wonder. Who are ye? of all I ask,
And of this stranger to my statue clinging.
But ye-your shape is like no human form,
Like to no goddess whom the gods behold,
Like to no shape which mortal women wear.
Yet to stand by and chide a monstrous form
Is all unjust-from such words Right revolts.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
O child of Zeus, one word shall tell thee all.
We are the children of eternal Night,
And Furies in the Underworld are called.
Athena
I know your lineage now and eke your name.
LEADER
Yea, and eftsoons indeed my rights shalt know.
Athena
Fain would I learn them; speak them clearly forth,
LEADER
We chase from home the murderers of men.
Athena
And where at last can he that slew make pause?
LEADER
Where this is law-All joy abandon here.
Athena
Say, do ye bay this man to such a flight?
LEADER
Yea, for of choice he did his mother slay.
Athena
Urged by no fear of other wrath and doom?
LEADER
What spur can rightly goad to matricide?
Athena
Two stand to plead-one only have I heard.
LEADER
He wiR not swear nor challenge us to oath.
Athena
The form of justice, not its deed, thou willest.
LEADER
Prove thou that word; thou art not scant of skill.
Athena
I say that oaths shall not enforce the wrong.
LEADER
Then test the cause, judge and award the right.
Athena
Will ye to me then this decision trust?
LEADER
Yea, reverencing true child of worthy sire.
Athena (to ORESTES )
O man unknown, make thou thy plea in turn.
Speak forth thy land, thy lineage, and thy woes;
Then, if thou canst, avert this bitter blame-
If, as I deem, in confidence of right
Thou sittest hard beside my holy place,
Clasping this statue, as Ixion sat,
A sacred suppliant for Zeus to cleanse,-
To all this answer me in words made plain.
ORESTES
O queen Athena, first from thy last words
Will I a great solicitude remove.
Not one blood-guilty am I; no foul stain
Clings to thine image from my clinging hand;
Whereof one potent proof I have to tell.
Lo, the law stands-The slayer shall not plead,
Till by the hand of him who cleanses blood
A suckling creature's blood besprinkle him.
Long since have I this expiation done,-
In many a home, slain beasts and running streams
Have cleansed me. Thus I speak away that fear.
Next, of my lineage quickly thou shalt learn:
An Argive am I, and right well thou know'st
My sire, that AGAMEMNON who arrayed
The fleet and them that went therein to war-
That chief with whom thy hand combined to crush
To an uncitied heap what once was Troy;
That AGAMEMNON, when he homeward came,
Was brought unto no honourable death,
Slain by the dark-souled wife who brought me forth
To him,-enwound and slain in wily nets,
Blazoned with blood that in the laver ran.
And I, returning from an exiled youth,
Slew her, my mother-lo, it stands avowed!
With blood for blood avenging my loved sire;
And in this deed doth Loxias bear part,
Decreeing agonies, to goad my will,
Unless by me the guilty found their doom.
Do thou decide if right or wrong were done-
Thy dooming, whatsoe'er it be, contents me.

 

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