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THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES by Aeschylus, Part 09

THE SPY
Last, let me name yon seventh antagonist,
Thy brother's self, at the seventh portal set-
Hear with what wrath he imprecates our doom,
Vowing to mount the wall, though banished hence,
And peal aloud the wild exulting cry-
The town is ta'en-then clash his sword with thine,
Giving and taking death in close embrace,
Or, if thou 'scapest, flinging upon thee,
As robber of his honour and his home,
The doom of exile such as he has borne.
So clamours he and so invokes the gods
Who guard his race and home, to hear and heed
The curse that sounds in Polyneices' name!
He bears a round shield, fresh from forge and fire,
And wrought upon it is a twofold sign-
For lo, a woman leads decorously
The figure of a warrior wrought in gold;
And thus the legend runs-I Justice am,
And I will bring the hero home again,
To hold once more his place within this town,
Once more to pace his sire's ancestral hall.
Such are the symbols, by our foemen shown-
Now make thine own decision, whom to send
Against this last opponent! I have said-
Nor canst thou in my tidings find a flaw-
Thine is it, now, to steer the course aright.
ETEOCLES
Ah me, the madman, and the curse of Heaven
And woe for us, the lamentable line
Of Oedipus, and woe that in this house
Our father's curse must find accomplishment!
But now, a truce to tears and loud lament,
Lest they should breed a still more rueful wail!
As for this Polyneices, named too well,
Soon shall we know how this device shall end-
Whether the gold-wrought symbols on his shield,
In their mad vaunting and bewildered pride,
Shall guide him as a victor to his home!
For had but justice, maiden-child of Zeus,
Stood by his act and thought, it might have been!
Yet never, from the day he reached the light
Out of the darkness of his mother's womb,
Never in childhood, nor in youthful prime,
Nor when his chin was gathering its beard,
Hath justice hailed or claimed him as her own.
Therefore I deem not that she standeth now
To aid him in this outrage on his home!
Misnamed, in truth, were justice, utterly,
If to impiety she lent her hand.
Sure in this faith, I will myself go forth
And match me with him; who hath fairer claim?
Ruler, against one fain to snatch the rule,
Brother with brother matched, and foe with foe,
Will I confront the issue. To the wall!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
O thou true heart, O child of Oedipus,
Be not, in wrath, too like the man whose name
Murmurs an evil omen! 'Tis enough
That Cadmus' clan should strive with Arges' host,
For blood there is that can atone that stain!
But-brother upon brother dealing death-
Not time itself can expiate the sin!
ETEOCLES
If man find hurt, yet clasp his honour still,
'Tis well; the dead have honour, nought beside.
Hurt, with dishonour, wins no word of praise!
CHORUS (chanting)
Ah, what is thy desire?
Let not the lust and ravin of the sword
Bear thee adown the tide accursed, abhorred!
Fling off thy passion's rage, thy spirit's prompting dire!
ETEOCLES
Nay-since the god is urgent for our doom,
Let Laius' house, by Phoebus loathed and scorned,
Follow the gale of destiny, and win
Its great inheritance, the gulf of hell!
CHORUS (chanting)
Ruthless thy craving is-
Craving for kindred and forbidden blood
To be outpoured-a sacrifice imbrued
With sin, a bitter fruit of murderous enmities!
ETEOCLES
Yea, my own father's fateful Curse proclaims-
A ghastly presence, and her eyes are dry-
Strike! honour is the prize, not life prolonged!
CHORUS (chanting)
Ah, be not urged of her! for none shall dare
To call thee coward, in thy throned estate!
Will not the Fury in her sable pal
Pass outward from these halls, what time the gods
Welcome a votive offering from our hands?
ETEOCLES
The gods! long since they hold us in contempt,
Scornful of gifts thus offered by the lost!
Why should we fawn and flinch away from doom?
CHORUS (chanting)
Now, when it stands beside thee! for its power
May, with a changing gust of milder mood,
Temper the blast that bloweth wild and rude
And frenzied, in this hour!
ETEOCLES
Ay, kindled by the curse of Oedipus-
All too prophetic, out of dreamland came
The vision, meting out our sire's estate!

 

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