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ELECTRA by Euripides, Part 01

410 BC
by Euripides
translated by E. P. Coleridge
OLD MAN, formerly servant of AGAMEMNON


(SCENE:-Before the hut of the PEASANT, in the country on the
borders of Argolis. It is just before sunrise. The PEASANT is
discovered alone.)

O ARGOS, ancient land, and streams of Inachus, whence on a day
king AGAMEMNON sailed to the realm of Troy, carrying his warriors
aboard a thousand ships; and after he had slain Priam who was reigning
in Ilium and captured the famous city of Dardanus, he came hither to
Argos and has set up high on the temple-walls many a trophy, spoil
of the barbarians. Though all went well with him in Troy, yet was he
slain in his own palace by the guile of his wife CLYTEMNESTRA and
the hand of AEGISTHUS, son of Thyestes. So he died and left behind him
the ancient sceptre of Tantalus, and AEGISTHUS reigns in his stead,
with the daughter of Tyndareus, AGAMEMNON's queen, to wife. Now as for
those whom he left in his halls, when he sailed to Troy, his son
ORESTES and his tender daughter ELECTRA,-the boy ORESTES , as he was
like to be slain by AEGISTHUS, his sire's old foster-father secretly
removed to the land of Phocis and gave to Strophius to bring up, but
the maid ELECTRA abode in her father's house, and soon as she had
budded into maidenhood, came all the princes of Hellas asking her hand
in marriage. But AEGISTHUS kept her at home for fear she might bear
a son to some chieftain who would avenge AGAMEMNON, nor would he
betroth her unto any. But when e'en thus there seemed some room for
fear that she might bear some noble lord a child by stealth and
AEGISTHUS was minded to slay her, her mother, though she had a cruel
heart, yet rescued the maiden from his hand. For she could find
excuses for having slain her husband, but she feared the hatred she
would incur for her children's murder. Wherefore AEGISTHUS devised
this scheme; on AGAMEMNON's son who had escaped his realm by flight he
set a price to be paid to any who should slay him, while he gave
ELECTRA to me in marriage, whose ancestors were citizens of Mycenae.
It is not that I blame myself for; my family was noble enough,
though certainly impoverished, and so my good birth suffers. By making
for her this weak alliance he thought he would have little to fear.
For if some man of high position had married her, he might have
revived the vengeance for AGAMEMNON's murder, which now is sleeping;
in which case AEGISTHUS would have paid the penalty. But Cypris is
my witness that I have ever respected her maidenhood; she is still
as though unwed. Unworthy as I am, honour forbids that I should so
affront the daughter of a better man. Yea, and I am sorry for ORESTES ,
hapless youth, who is called my kinsman, to think that he should
ever return to Argos and behold his sister's wretched marriage. And
whoso counts me but a fool for leaving a tender maid untouched when
I have her in my house, to him I say, he measures purity by the
vicious standard of his own soul, a standard like himself.

(ELECTRA enters from the hut, carrying a water
pitcher on her head. She is meanly clad.)

O sable night, NURSE of the golden stars! beneath thy pall I go to
fetch water from the brook with my pitcher poised upon my head, not
indeed because I am forced to this necessity, but that to the gods I
may display the affronts AEGISTHUS puts upon me, and to the wide
firmament pour out my lamentation for my sire. For my own mother,
the baleful daughter of Tyndareus, hath cast me forth from her house
to gratify her lord; for since she hath borne other children to
AEGISTHUS she puts me and ORESTES on one side at home.
Oh! why, poor maiden, dost thou toil so hard on my behalf, thou
that aforetime wert reared so daintily? why canst thou not forego
thy labour, as I bid thee?
As a god's I count thy kindness to me, for in my distress thou
hast never made a mock at me. 'Tis rare fortune when mortals find such
healing balm for their cruel wounds as 'tis my lot to find in thee.
Wherefore I ought, though thou forbid me, to lighten thy labours, as
far as my strength allows, and share all burdens with thee to ease thy
load. Thou hast enough to do abroad; 'tis only right that I should
keep thy house in order. For when the toiler cometh to his home from
the field, it is pleasant to find all comfortable in the house.
If such thy pleasure, go thy way; for, after all, the spring is no
great distance from my house. And at break of day I will drive my
steers to my glebe and sow my crop. For no idler, though he has the
gods' names ever on his lips, can gather a livelihood without hard

(ELECTRA and the PEASANT go out. A moment
later ORESTES and PYLADES enter.)


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