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THE PERSIANS by Aeschylus, Part 10

With what a winged course the oracles
Haste their completion! With the lightning's speed
Jove on my son hath hurled his threaten'd vengeance:
Yet I implored the gods that it might fall
In time's late process: but when rashness drives
Impetuous on, the scourge of Heaven upraised
Lashes the Fury forward; hence these ills
Pour headlong on my friends. Not weighing this,
My son, with all the fiery pride of youth,
Hath quickened their arrival, while he hoped
To bind the sacred Hellespont, to hold
The raging Bosphorus, like a slave, in chains,
And dared the advent'rous passage, bridging firm
With links of solid iron his wondrous way,
To lead his numerous host; and swell'd with thoughts
Presumptuous, deem'd, vain mortal! that his power
Should rise above the gods, and Neptune's might.
And was riot this the phrensy of the soul?
But much I fear lest all my treasured wealth
Fall to some daring hand an easy prey.
This from too frequent converse with bad men
The impetuous Xerxes learn'd; these caught his ear
With thy great deeds, as winning for thy sons
Vast riches with thy conquering spear, while he
Tim'rous and slothful, never, save in sport,
Lifted his lance, nor added to the wealth
Won by his noble fathers. This reproach
Oft by bad men repeated, urged his soul
To attempt this war, and lead his troops to Greece.
Great deeds have they achieved, and memorable
For ages: never hath this wasted state
Suffer'd such ruin, since heaven's awful king
Gave to one lord Asia's extended plains
White with innumerous flocks, and to his hands
Consign'd the imperial sceptre. Her brave hosts
A Mede first led; the virtues of his son
Fix'd firm the empire, for his temperate soul
Breathed prudence. Cyrus next, by fortune graced,
Adorn'd the throne, and bless'd his grateful friends
With peace: he to his mighty monarchy
Join'd Lydia, and the Phrygians; to his power
Ionia bent reluctant; but the gods
His son then wore the regal diadem.
With victory his gentle virtues crown'd
His son then wore the regal diadem.
Next to disgrace his country, and to stain
The splendid glories of this ancient throne,
Rose Mardus: him, with righteous vengeance fired
Artaphernes, and his confederate chiefs
Crush'd in his palace: Maraphis assumed
The sceptre: after him Artaphernes.
Me next to this exalted eminence,
Crowning my great ambition, Fortune raised.
In many a glorious field my glittering spear
Flamed in the van of Persia's numerous hosts;
But never wrought such ruin to the state.
Xerxes, my son, in all the pride of youth
Listens to youthful counsels, my commands
No more remember'd; hence, my hoary friends,
Not the whole line of Persia's sceptred lords,
You know it well, so wasted her brave sons.
Why this? To what fair end are these thy words
Directed? Sovereign lord, instruct thy Persians
How, mid this ruin, best to guide their state.
No more 'gainst Greece lead your embattled hosts;
Not though your deep'ning phalanx spreads the field
Outnumb'ring theirs: their very earth fights for them.
What may thy words import? How fight for them?
With famine it destroys your cumbrous train.
Choice levies, prompt for action, will we send,
Those, in the fields of Greece that now remain,
Shall not revisit safe the Persian shore.
What! shall not all the host of Persia pass
Again from Europe o'er the Hellespont?
Of all their numbers few, if aught avails
The faith of heaven-sent oracles to him
That weighs the past, in their accomplishment
Not partial: hence he left, in faithless hope
Confiding, his selected train of heroes.
These have their station where Asopus flows
Wat'ring the plain, whose grateful currents roll
Diffusing plenty through Boeotia's fields.
There misery waits to crush them with the load
Of heaviest ills, in vengeance for their proud
And impious daring; for where'er they held
Through Greece their march, they fear'd not to profane
The statues of the gods; their hallow'd shrines
Emblazed, o'erturn'd their altars, and in ruins,
Rent from their firm foundations, to the ground
Levell'd their temples; such their frantic deeds,
Nor less their suff'rings; greater still await them;
For Vengeance hath not wasted all her stores;
The heap yet swells; for in Plataea's plains
Beneath the Doric spear the clotted mas
Of carnage shall arise, that the high mounds,
Piled o'er the dead, to late posterity
Shall give this silent record to men's eyes,
That proud aspiring thoughts but ill beseem
Weak mortals: for oppression, when it springs,
Puts forth the blade of vengeance, and its fruit
Yields a ripe harvest of repentant wo.
Behold this vengeance, and remember Greece,
Remember Athens: henceforth let not pride,
Her present state disdaining, strive to grasp
Another's, and her treasured happiness
Shed on the ground: such insolent attempts
Awake the vengeance of offended Jove.
But you, whose age demands more temperate thoughts,
With words of well-placed counsel teach his youth
To curb that pride, which from the gods calls down
Destruction on his head. (To ATOSSA) And thou, whose age
The miseries of thy Xerxes sink with sorrow,
Go to thy house, thence choose the richest robe,
And meet thy son; for through the rage of grief
His gorgeous vestments from his royal limbs
Are foully rent. With gentlest courtesy
Soothe his affliction; for is duteous ear,
I know, will listen to thy voice alone.
Now to the realms of darkness I descend.
My ancient friends, farewell, and mid these ills
Each day in pleasures battle your drooping spirits,
For treasured riches naught avail the dead.
(The GHOST OF DARIUS vanishes into the tomb.)


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