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EUMENDIDES by Aeschylus, Part 10

LEADER
If the vote grip thee, thou shalt change that word.
ORESTES
Strong is my hope; my buried sire shall aid.
LEADER
Go to now, trust the dead, a matricide!
ORESTES
Yea, for in her combined two stains of sin.
LEADER
How? speak this clearly to the judges' mind.
ORESTES
Slaying her husband, she did slay my sire.
LEADER
Therefore thou livest; death assoils her deed.
ORESTES
Then while she lived why didst thou hunt her not?
LEADER
She was not kin by blood to him she slew.
ORESTES
And I, am I by blood my mother's kin?
LEADER
O cursed with murder's guilt, how else wert thou
The burden of her womb? Dost thou forswear
Thy mother's kinship, closest bond of love?
ORESTES
It is thine hour, Apollo-speak the law,
Averring if this deed were justly done;
For done it is, and clear and undenied.
But if to thee this murder's cause seem right
Or wrongful, speak-that I to these may tell.
Apollo
To you, Athena's mighty council-court,
Justly for justice will I plead, even I,
The prophet-god, nor cheat you by one word.
For never spake I from my prophet-seat
One word, of man, of woman, or of state,
Save what the Father of Olympian gods
Commanded unto me. I rede you then,
Bethink you of my plea, how strong it stands,
And follow the decree of Zeus our sire,-
For oaths prevail not over Zeus' command.
LEADER
Go to; thou sayest that from Zeus befell
The oracle that this ORESTES bade
With vengeance quit the slaying of his sire,
And hold as nought his mother's right of kin!
Apollo
Yea, for it stands not with a common death,
That he should die, a chieftain and a king
Decked with the sceptre which high heaven confers-
Die, and by female hands, not smitten down
By a far-shooting bow, held stalwartly
By some strong Amazon. Another doom
Was his: O Pallas, hear, and ye who sit
In judgment, to discern this thing aright!-
She with a specious voice of welcome true
Hailed him, returning from the mighty mart
Where war for life gives fame, triumphant home;
Then o'er the laver, as he bathed himself,
She spread from head to foot a covering net,
And in THE ENDless mesh of cunning robes
Enwound and trapped her lord, and smote him down.
Lo, ye have heard what doom this chieftain met,
The majesty of Greece, the fleet's high lord:
Such as I tell it, let it gall your ears,
Who stand as judges to decide this cause.
LEADER
Zeus, as thou sayest, holds a father's death
As first of crimes,-yet he of his own act
Cast into chains his father, Cronus old:
How suits that deed with that which now ye tell?
O ye who judge, I bid ye mark my words!
Apollo
O monsters loathed of all, O scorn of gods,
He that hath bound may loose: a cure there is.
Yea, many a plan that can unbind the chain.
But when the thirsty dust sucks up man's blood
Once shed in death, he shall arise no more.
No chant nor charm for this my Sire hath wrought.
All else there is, he moulds and shifts at will,
Not scant of strength nor breath, whate'er he do.
LEADER
Think yet, for what acquittal thou dost plead:
He who hath shed a mother's kindred blood,
Shall he in Argos dwell, where dwelt his sire?
How shall he stand before the city's shrines,
How share the clansmen's holy lustral bowl?
Apollo
This too I answer; mark a soothfast word
Not the true parent is the woman's womb
That bears the child; she doth but NURSE the seed
New-sown: the male is parent; she for him,
As stranger for a stranger, hoards the germ
Of life, unless the god its promise blight.
And proof hereof before you will I set.
Birth may from fathers, without mothers, be:
See at your side a witness of the same,
Athena, daughter of Olympian Zeus,
Never within the darkness of the womb
Fostered nor fashioned, but a bud more bright
Than any goddess in her breast might bear.
And I, O Pallas, howsoe'er I may,
Henceforth will glorify thy town, thy clan,
And for this end have sent my suppliant here
Unto thy shrine; that he from this time forth
Be loyal unto thee for evermore,
O goddess-queen, and thou unto thy side
Mayst win and hold him faithful, and his line,
And that for aye this pledge and troth remain
To children's children of AtheniaD seed.

 

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