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THE SUPPLIANTS by Aeschylus, Part I

490 BC
by Aeschylus
translated by E.D.A. Morshead

(SCENE:-A sacred precinct near the shore in Argos. Several statues
of the gods can be seen, as well as a large altar. As the play
opens, DANAUS, and his fifty daughters, the maidens who compose
the CHORUS, enter. Their costumes have an oriental richness about
them not characteristic of the strictly Greek. They carry also the
wands of suppliants. The CHORUS is singing.)

Zeus! Lord and guard of suppliant hands
Look down benign on us who crave
Thine aid-whom winds and waters drave
From where, through drifting shifting sands,
Pours Nilus to the wave.
From where the green land, god-possest,
Closes and fronts the Syrian waste,
We flee as exiles, yet unbanned
By murder's sentence from our land;
But-since Aegyptus had decreed
His sons should wed his brother's seed,-
Ourselves we tore from bonds abhorred,
From wedlock not of heart but hand,
Nor brooked to call a kinsman lord!

And Danaus, our sire and guide,
The king of counsel, pond'ring well
The dice of fortune as they fell,
Out of two griefs the kindlier chose,
And bade us fly, with him beside,
Heedless what winds or waves arose,
And o'er the wide sea waters haste,
Until to Argos' shore at last
Our wandering pinnace came-
Argos, the immemorial home
Of her from whom we boast to come-
Io, the ox-horned maiden, whom,
After long wandering, woe, and scathe,
Zeus with a touch, a mystic breath,
Made mother of our name.
Therefore, of all the lands of earth,
On this most gladly step we forth,
And in our hands aloft we bear-
Sole weapon for a suppliant's wear-
The olive-shoot, with wool enwound!
City, and land, and waters wan
Of Inachus, and gods most high,
And ye who, deep beneath the ground,
Bring vengeance weird on mortal man,
Powers of the grave, on you we cry!
And unto Zeus the Saviour, guard
Of mortals' holy purity!
Receive ye us-keep watch and ward
Above the suppliant maiden band!
Chaste be the heart of this your land
Towards the weak! but, ere the throng,
The wanton swarm, from Egypt sprung,
Leap forth upon the silted shore,
Thrust back their swift-rowed bark again,
Repel them, urge them to the main!
And there, 'mid storm and lightning's shine,
And scudding drift and thunder's roar,
Deep death be theirs, in stormy brine!
Before they foully grasp and win
Us, maiden-children of their kin,
And climb the couch by law denied,
And wrong each weak reluctant bride.

strophe 1

And now on her I call,
Mine ancestress, who far on Egypt's shore
A young cow's semblance wore,-
A maiden once, by Hera's malice changed!
And then on him withal,
Who, as amid the flowers the grazing creature ranged,
Was in her by a breath of Zeus conceived;
And, as the hour of birth drew nigh,
By fate fulfilled, unto the light he came;-
And Epaphus for name,
Born from the touch of Zeus, the child received

antistrophe 1

On him, on him I cry,
And him for patron hold-
While in this grassy vale I stand,
Where lo roamed of old!
And here, recounting all her toil and pain,
Signs will I show to those who rule the land
That I am child of hers; and all shall understand,
Hearing the doubtful tale of the dim past made plain.


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