THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES by Aeschylus, Part 05
For a woe and a weeping it is, if the maiden inviolate flower
Is plucked by the foe in his might, not culled in the bridal
Alas for the hate and the horror-how say it?-less hateful by far
Is the doom to be slain by the sword, hewn down in the carnage of
For wide, ah! wide is the woe when the foeman has mounted the
There is havoc and terror and flame, and the dark smoke broods
And wild is the war-god's breath, as in frenzy of conquest he
And pollutes with the blast of his lips the glory of holiest
Up to the citadel rise clash and din,
The war-net closes in,
The spear is in the heart: with blood imbrued
Young mothers wail aloud,
For children at their breast who scream and die!
And boys and maidens fly,
Yet scape not the pursuer, in his greed
To thrust and grasp and feed!
Robber with robber joins, each calls his mate
Unto the feast of hate-
The banquet, lo! is spread-seize, rend, and tear!
No need to choose or share!
And all the wealth of earth to waste is poured-
A sight by all abhorred!
The grieving housewives eye it; heaped and blent,
Earth's boons are spoiled and spent,
And waste to nothingness; and O alas,
Young maids, forlorn ye pass-
Fresh horror at your hearts-beneath the power
Of those who crop the flower!
Ye own the ruffian ravisher for lord,
And night brings rites abhorred!
Woe, woe for you! upon your grief and pain
There comes a fouler stain.
(On one side THE SPY enters; on the other, ETEOCLES and
the SIX CHAMPIONS.)
LEADER OF THE FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Look, friends! methinks the scout, who parted hence
To spy upon the foemen, comes with news,
His feet as swift as wafting chariot-wheels.
LEADER OF THE SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
Ay, and our king, the son of Oedipus,
Comes prompt to time, to learn THE SPY's report-
His heart is fainer than his foot is fast!
Well have I scanned the foe, and well can say
Unto which chief, by lot, each gate is given.
Tydeus already with his onset-cry
Storms at the gate called Proetides; but him
The seer Amphiaraus holds at halt,
Nor wills that he should cross Ismenus' ford,
Until the sacrifices promise fair.
But Tydeus, mad with lust of blood and broil,
Like to a cockatrice at noontide hour,
Hisses out wrath and smites with scourge of tongue
The prophet-son of Oecleus-Wise thou art,
Faint against war, and holding back from death!
With such revilings loud upon his lips
He waves the triple plumes that o'er his helm
Float overshadowing, as a courser's mane;
And at his shield's rim, terror in their tone,
Clang and reverberate the brazen bells.
And this proud sign, wrought on his shield, he bears,-
The vault of heaven, inlaid with blazing stars;
And, for the boss, the bright moon glows at full,
The eye of night, the first and lordliest star.
Thus with high-vaunted armour, madly bold,
He clamours by the stream-bank, wild for war,
As a steed panting grimly on his bit,
Held in and chafing for the trumpet's bray!
Whom wilt thou set against him? when the gates
Of Proetus yield, who can his rush repel?
To me, no blazon on a foeman's shield
Shall e'er present a fear! such pointed threats
Are powerless to wound; his plumes and bells,
Without a spear, are snakes without a sting.
Nay, more-that pageant of which thou tellest-
The nightly sky displayed, ablaze with stars,
Upon his shield, palters with double sense
One headstrong fool will find its truth anon!
For, if night fall upon his eyes in death,
Yon vaunting blazon will its own truth prove,
And he is prophet of his folly's fall.
Mine shall it be, to pit against his power
The loyal son of Astacus, as guard
To hold the gateways-a right valiant soul,
Who has in heed the throne of Modesty
And loathes the speech of Pride, and evermore
Shrinks from the base, but knows no other fear.
He springs by stock from those whom Ares spared,
The men called Sown, a right son of the soil,
And Melanippus styled. Now, what his arm
To-day shall do, rests with the dice of war,
And Ares shall ordain it; but his cause
Hath the true badge of Right, to urge him on
To guard, as son, his motherland from wrong.
(MELANIPPUS goes out.)