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THE PERSIANS by Aeschylus, Part 04

ATOSSA
Have they sufficient treasures in their houses?
LEADER
Their rich earth yields a copious fount of silver.
ATOSSA
From the strong bow wing they the barbed shaft?
LEADER
They grasp the stout spear, and the massy shield.
ATOSSA
What monarch reigns, whose power commands their ranks?
LEADER
Slaves to no lord, they own no kingly power.
ATOSSA
How can they then resist the invading foe?
LEADER
As to spread havoc through the numerous host,
That round Darius form'd their glitt'ring files.
ATOSSA
Thy words strike deep, and wound the parent's breast
Whose sons are march'd to such a dangerous field.
LEADER
But, if I judge aright, thou soon shalt hear
Each circumstance; for this way, mark him, speeds
A Persian messenger; he bears, be sure,
Tidings of high import, or good or ill.
(A MESSENGER enters.)
MESSENGER
Wo to the towns through Asia's peopled realms!
Wo to the land of Persia, once the port
Of boundless wealth, how is thy glorious state
Vanish'd at once, and all thy spreading honours
Fall'n, lost! Ah me! unhappy is his task
That bears unhappy tidings: but constraint
Compels me to relate this tale of wo.
Persians, the whole barbaric host is fall'n.
CHORUS (chanting)
O horror, horror! What a baleful train
Of recent ills! Ah, Persians, as he speaks
Of ruin, let your tears stream to the earth.
MESSENGER
It is ev'n so, all ruin; and myself,
Beyond all hope returning, view this light.
CHORUS (chanting)
How tedious and oppressive is the weight
Of age, reserved to hear these hopeless ills!
MESSENGER
I speak not from report; but these mine eyes
Beheld the ruin which my tongue would utter.
CHORUS (chanting)
Wo, wo is me! Then has the iron storm,
That darken'd from the realms of Asia, pour'd
In vain its arrowy shower on sacred Greece.
MESSENGER
In heaps the unhappy dead lie on the strand
Of Salamis, and all the neighbouring shores.
CHORUS (chanting)
Unhappy friends, sunk, perish'd in the sea;
Their bodies, mid the wreck of shatter'd ships,
Mangled, and rolling on the encumber'd waves!
MESSENGER
Naught did their bows avail, but all the troops
In the first conflict of the ships were lost.
CHORUS (chanting)
Raise the funereal cry, with dismal notes
Wailing the wretched Persians. Oh, how ill
They plann'd their measures, all their army perish'd!
MESSENGER
O Salamis, how hateful is thy name!
And groans burst from me when I think of Athens.
CHORUS (chanting)
How dreadful to her foes! Call to remembrance
How many Persian dames, wedded in vain,
Hath Athens of their noble husbands widow'd?
ATOSSA
Astonied with these ills, my voice thus long
Hath wanted utterance: griefs like these exceed
The power of speech or question: yet ev'n such,
Inflicted by the gods, must mortal man
Constrain'd by hard necessity endure.
But tell me all, without distraction tell me,
All this calamity, though many a groan
Burst from thy labouring heart. Who is not fallen?
What LEADER must we wail? What sceptred chief
Dying hath left his troops without a lord?
MESSENGER
Xerxes himself lives, and beholds the light.
ATOSSA
That word beams comfort on my house, a ray
That brightens through the melancholy gloom.

 

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