THE PERSIANS by Aeschylus, Part 07
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
O Fortune, heavy with affliction's load,
How bath thy foot crush'd all the Persian race!
Ah me, what sorrows for our ruin'd host
Oppress my soul! Ye visions of the night
Haunting my dreams, how plainly did you show
These ills!-You set them in too fair a light.
Yet, since your bidding hath in this prevail'd,
First to the gods wish I to pour my prayers,
Then to the mighty dead present my off 'rings,
Bringing libations from my house: too late,
I know, to change the past; yet for the future,
If haply better fortune may await it,
Behooves you, on this sad event, to guide
Your friends with faithful counsels. Should my son
Return ere I have finish'd, let your voice
Speak comfort to him; friendly to his house
Attend him, nor let sorrow rise on sorrows.
(ATOSSA and her retinue go out.)
Awful sovereign of the skies,
When now o'er Persia's numerous host
Thou badest the storm with ruin rise,
All her proud vaunts of glory lost,
Ecbatana's imperial head
By thee was wrapp'd in sorrow's dark'ning shade;
Through Susa's palaces with loud lament,
By their soft hands their veils all rent,
The copious tear the virgins pour,
That trickles their bare bosoms o'er.
From her sweet couch up starts the widow'd bride,
Her lord's loved image rushing on her soul,
Throws the rich ornaments of youth aside,
And gives her griefs to flow without control:
Her griefs not causeless; for the mighty slain
Our melting tears demand, and sorrow-soften'd strain.
Now her wailings wide despair
Pours these exhausted regions o'er:
Xerxes, ill-fated, led the war;
Xerxes, ill-fated, leads no more;
Xerxes sent forth the unwise command,
The crowded ships unpeopled all the land;
That land, o'er which Darius held his reign,
Courting the arts of peace, in vain,
O'er all his grateful realms adored,
The stately Susa's gentle lord.
Black o'er the waves his burden'd vessels sweep,
For Greece elate the warlike squadrons fly;
Now crush'd, and whelm'd beneath the indignant deep
The shatter'd wrecks and lifeless heroes lie:
While, from the arms of Greece escaped, with toil
The unshelter'd monarch roams o'er Thracia's dreary soil.
The first in battle slain
By Cychrea's craggy shore
Through sad constraint, ah me! forsaken lie,
All pale and smear'd with gore:-
Raise high the mournful strain,
And let the voice of anguish pierce the sky:-
Or roll beneath the roaring tide,
By monsters rent of touch abhorr'd;
While through the widow'd mansion echoing wide
Sounds the deep groan, and wails its slaughter'd lord:
Pale with his fears the helpless orphan there
Gives the full stream of plaintive grief to flow;
While age its hoary head in deep despair
Bends; list'ning to the shrieks of wo.
With sacred awe
The Persian law
No more shall Asia's realms revere;
To their lord's hand
At his command,
No more the exacted tribute bear.
Who now falls prostrate at the monarch's throne?
His regal greatness is no more.
Now no restraint the wanton tongue shall own,
Free from the golden curb of power;
For on the rocks, wash'd by the beating flood,
His awe commanding nobles lie in blood.
(ATOSSA returns, clad in the garb of mourning; she carries
offerings for the tomb of Darius.)