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THE SUPPLIANTS by Aeschylus, Part IV

Children, be wary-wary he with whom
Ye come, your trusty sire and steersman old:
And that same caution hold I here on land,
And bid you hoard my words, inscribing them
On memory's tablets. Lo, I see afar
Dust, voiceless HeraLD of a host, arise;
And hark, within their griding sockets ring
Axles of hurrying wheels! I see approach,
Borne in curved cars, by speeding horses drawn,
A speared and shielded band. The chiefs, perchance.
Of this their land are hitherward intent
To look on us, of whom they yet have heard
By messengers alone. But come who may,
And come he peaceful or in ravening wrath
Spurred on his path, 'twere best, in any case,
Damsels, to cling unto this altar-mound
Made sacred to their gods of festival,-
A shrine is stronger than a tower to save,
A shield that none may cleave. Step swift thereto,
And in your left hands hold with reverence
The white-crowned wands of suppliance, the sign
Beloved of Zeus, compassion's lord, and speak
To those that question you, words meek and low
And piteous, as beseems your stranger state,
Clearly avowing of this flight of yours
The bloodless cause; and on your utterance
See to it well that modesty attend;
From downcast eyes, from brows of pure control,
Let chastity look forth; nor, when ye speak,
Be voluble nor eager-they that dwell
Within this land are sternly swift to chide.
And be your words submissive: heed this well;
For weak ye are, outcasts on stranger lands,
And froward talk beseems not strengthless hands.
O father, warily to us aware
Thy words are spoken, and thy wisdom's hest
My mind shall hoard, with Zeus our sire to aid.
Even so-with gracious aspect let him aid.
Fain were I now to seat me by thy side-
Now dally not, but put our thought in act.
Zeus, pity our distress, or e'er we die.
If so he will, your toils to joy will turn.
Lo, on this shrine, the semblance of a bird.
Zeus' bird of dawn it is; invoke the sign.
Thus I invoke the saving rays of morn.
Next, bright Apollo, exiled once from heaven.
The exiled god will pity our exile.
Yea, may he pity, giving grace and aid.
Whom next invoke I, of these other gods?
Lo, here a trident, symbol of a god.
Who gave sea-safety; may he bless on land!
This next is Hermes, carved in Grecian wise.
Then let him HeraLD help to freedom won.
Lastly, adore this altar consecrate
To many lesser gods in one; then crouch
On holy ground, a flock of doves that flee,
Scared by no alien hawks, a kin not kind,
Hateful, and fain of love more hateful still,
Foul is the bird that rends another bird,
And foul the men who hale unwilling maids,
From sire unwilling, to the bridal bed.
Never on earth, nor in the lower world,
Shall lewdness such as theirs escape the ban:
There too, if men say right, a God there is
Who upon dead men turns their sin to doom,
To final doom. Take heed, draw hitherward,
That from this hap your safety ye may win.
(The KING OF ARGOS enters, followed by his ATTENDANTs and
Speak-of what land are ye? No Grecian band
Is this to whom I speak, with Eastern robes
And wrappings richly dight: no Argive maid,
No woman in all Greece such garb doth wear,
This too gives marvel, how unto this land,
UnHERALDed, unfriended, without guide,
And without fear, ye came? yet wands I see,
True sign of suppliance, by you laid down
On shrines of these our gods of festival.
No land but Greece can rede such signs aright.
Much else there is, conjecture well might guess,
But let words teach the man who stands to hear.
True is the word thou spakest of my garb;
But speak I unto thee as citizen,
Or Hermes' wandbearer, or chieftain king?


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