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THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES by Aeschylus, Part 04

LEADER
Alack, the battering at the gates is loud!
ETEOCLES
Peace! stay your tongue, or else the town may hear!
LEADER
O warders of the walls, betray them not!
ETEOCLES
Beshrew your cries! in silence face your fate.
LEADER
Gods of our city, see me not enslaved!
ETEOCLES
On me, on all, thy cries bring slavery.
LEADER
Zeus, strong to smite, turn upon foes thy blow!
ETEOCLES
Zeus, what a curse are women, wrought by thee!
LEADER
Weak wretches, even as men, when cities fall.
What! clasping gods, yet voicing thy despair?
LEADER
In the sick heart, fear maketh prey of speech.
ETEOCLES
Light is the thing I ask thee-do my will!
LEADER
Ask swiftly: swiftly shall I know my power.
ETEOCLES
Silence, weak wretch! nor put thy friends in fear.
LEADER
I speak no more: the general fate be mine!
ETEOCLES
I take that word as wiser than the rest.
Nay, more: these images possess thy will-
Pray, in their strength, that Heaven be on our side!
Then hear my prayers withal, and then ring out
The female triumph-note, thy privilege-
Yea, utter forth the usage Hellas knows,
The cry beside the altars, sounding clear
Encouragement to friends, alarm to foes.
But I unto all gods that guard our walls,
Lords of the plain or warders of the mart
And to Ismenus' stream and Dirce's rills,
I swear, if Fortune smiles and saves our town,
That we will make our altars reek with blood
Of sheep and kine, shed forth unto the gods,
And with victorious tokens front our fanes-
Corslets and casques that once our foemen wore,
Spear-shattered now-to deck these holy homes!
Be such thy vows to Heaven-away with sighs,
Away with outcry vain and barbarous,
That shall avail not, in a general doom!
But I will back, and, with six chosen men
Myself the seventh, to confront the foe
In this great aspect of a poised war,
Return and plant them at the sevenfold gates,
Or e'er the prompt and clamorous battle-scouts
Haste to inflame our counsel with the need.
(ETEOCLES and his retinue go out.)

CHORUS (singing)
strophe 1

I mark his words, yet, dark and deep,
My heart's alarm forbiddeth sleep!
Close-clinging cares around my soul
Enkindle fears beyond control,
Presageful of what doom may fall
From the great leaguer of the wall!
So a poor dove is faint with fear
For her weak nestlings, while anew
Glides on the snaky ravisher!
In troop and squadron, hand on hand,
They climb and throng, and hemmed we stand,
While on the warders of our town
The flinty shower comes hurtling down!
Gods born of Zeus! put forth your might
For Cadmus' city, realm, and right!

antistrophe 1

What nobler land shall e'er be yours,
If once ye give to hostile powers
The deep rich soil, and Dirce's wave,
The nursing stream, Poseidon gave
And Tethys' children? Up and save!
Cast on the ranks that hem us round
A deadly panic, make them fling
Their arms in terror on the ground,
And die in carnage! thence shall spring
High honour for our clan and king!
Come at our wailing cry, and stand
As throned sentries of our land!

strophe 2

For pity and sorrow it were that this immemorial town
Should sink to be slave of the spear, to dust and to ashes gone
down,
By the gods of Achaean worship and arms of Achaean might
Sacked and defiled and dishonoured, its women the prize of the
fight-
That, haled by the hair as a steed, their mantles dishevelled and
torn,
The maiden and matron alike should pass to the wedlock of scorn!
I hear it arise from the city, the manifold wail of despair-
Woe, woe for the doom that shall be-as in grasp of the foeman
they fare!

 

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