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THE SUPPLIANTS by Aeschylus, Part VI

THE KING OF ARGOS
Yea of a truth, in backward scope of time,
Of Argive race ye seem: but say what chance
Fell on you, goading you from home and land?
LEADER
Lord of Pelasgian men, calamity
Is manifold and diverse; as of birds
Feather from feather differs, so of men
The woes are sundry. Who had dared foretell
That this our sudden flight, this hate and fear
Of loathly wedlock, would on Argos' shore
Set forth a race of kindred lineage?
THE KING OF ARGOS
What crave ye of these gods of festival,
Holding up newly-plucked white-tufted boughs?
LEADER
Ne'er to be slaves unto Aegyptus' race.
THE KING OF ARGOS
Doth your own hate, or doth the law forbid?
LEADER
Not as our lords, but as unloved, we chide them.
THE KING OF ARGOS
'Tis from such wedlock that advancement comes,
LEADER
How easy is it, from the weak to turn!
THE KING OF ARGOS
How then toward you can I be conscience-clear?
LEADER
Deny us, though Aegyptus' race demand.
THE KING OF ARGOS
A heavy task thou namest, a rash war.
LEADER
But Justice champions them who strike for her.
THE KING OF ARGOS
Yea, if their side was from the outset hers.
LEADER
Revere the gods thus crowned, who steer the State.
THE KING OF ARGOS
Awe thrills me, seeing these shrines with leafage crowned.

(The whole CHORUS now sings its responses to the KING.)

CHORUS
strophe 1

Yea, stern the wrath of Zeus, the suppliants' lord.
Child of Palaichthon, royal chief
Of thy Pelasgians, hear!
Bow down thine heart to my relief-
A fugitive, a suppliant, swift with fear,
A creature whom the wild wolves chase
O'er toppling crags; in piteous case
Aloud, afar she lows,
Calling the herdsman's trusty arm to save her from her foes!
THE KING OF ARGOS
Lo, with bowed heads beside our city shrines
Ye sit 'neath shade of new-plucked olive-boughs.
Our distant kin's resentment Heaven forefend!
Let not this hap, unhoped and unforeseen,
Bring war on us: for strife we covet not.

CHORUS
antistrophe 1

Justice, the daughter of right-dealing Zeus,
Justice, the queen of suppliants, look down,
That this our plight no ill may loose
Upon your town!
This word, even from the young, let age and wisdom learn:
If thou to suppliants show grace,
Thou shalt not lack Heaven's grace in turn,
So long as virtue's gifts on heavenly shrines have place.
THE KING OF ARGOS
Not at my private hearth ye sit and sue;
And if the city bear a common stain,
Be it the common toil to cleanse the same:
Therefore no pledge, no promise will I give,
Ere counsel with the commonwealth be held.

CHORUS
strophe 2

Nay, but the source of sway, the city's self, art thou,
A power unjudged! thine, only thine,
To rule the right of hearth and shrine!
Before thy throne and sceptre all men bow!
Thou, in all causes lord, beware the curse divine!
THE KING OF ARGOS
May that curse fall upon mine enemies!
I cannot aid you without risk of scathe,
Nor scorn your prayers-unmerciful it were.
Perplexed, distraught I stand, and fear alike
The twofold chance, to do or not to do.

CHORUS
antistrophe 2

Have heed of him who looketh from on high,
The guard of woeful mortals, whosoe'er
Unto their fellows cry,
And find no pity, find no justice there.
Abiding in his wrath, the suppliants' lord
Doth smite, unmoved by cries, unbent by prayerful word.
THE KING OF ARGOS
But if Aegyptus' children grasp you here,
Claiming, their country's right, to hold you theirs
As next of kin, who dares to counter this?
Plead ye your country's laws, if plead ye may,
That upon you they lay no lawful hand.

 

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