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ELECTRA by Euripides, Part 02


ORESTES
Ah PYLADES, I put thee first 'mongst men for thy love, thy loyalty
and friendliness to me; for thou alone of all my friends wouldst still
honour poor ORESTES , in spite of the grievous plight whereto I am
reduced by AEGISTHUS, who with my accursed mother's aid slew my
sire. I am come from Apollo's mystic shrine to the soil of Argos,
without the knowledge of any, to avenge my father's death upon his
murderers. Last night went unto his tomb and wept thereon, cutting off
my hair as an offering and pouring o'er the grave the blood of a sheep
for sacrifice, unmarked by those who lord it o'er this land. And now
though I enter not the walled town, yet by coming to the borders of
the land I combine two objects; I can escape to another country if any
spy me out and recognize me, and at the same time seek my sister,
for I am told she is a maid no longer but is married and living
here, that I may meet her, and, after enlisting her aid in the deed of
blood, learn for certain what is happening in the town. Let us now,
since dawn is uplifting her radiant eye, step aside from this path.
For maybe some labouring man or serving maid will come in sight, of
whom we may inquire whether it is here that my sister hath her home.
Lo! yonder I see a servant bearing a full pitcher of water on her
shaven head; let us sit down and make inquiry of this bond-maid, if
haply we may glean some tidings of the matter which brought us hither,
PYLADES.

(They retire a little, as ELECTRA returns from the spring.)

ELECTRA (chanting)

strophe 1

Bestir thy lagging feet, 'tis high time; on, on o'er thy path of
tears! ah misery! I am AGAMEMNON's daughter, she whom CLYTEMNESTRA,
hateful child of Tyndareus, bare; hapless ELECTRA is the name my
countrymen call me. Ah me! for my cruel lot, my hateful existence! O
my father AGAMEMNON! in Hades art thou laid, butchered by thy wife and
AEGISTHUS. Come, raise with me that dirge once more; uplift the
woful strain that brings relief.

antistrophe 1

On, on o'er thy path of tears! ah misery! And thou, poor
brother, in what city and house art thou a slave, leaving thy
suffering sister behind in the halls of our fathers to drain the cup
of bitterness? Oh! come, great Zeus, to set me free from this life
of sorrow, and to avenge my sire in the blood of his foes, bringing
the wanderer home to Argos.

strophe 2

Take this pitcher from my head, put it down, that I may wake
betimes, while it is yet night, my lamentation for my sire, my doleful
chant, my dirge of death, for thee, my father in thy grave, which
day by day I do rehearse, rending my skin with my nails, and smiting
on my shaven head in mourning for thy death. Woe, woe! rend the cheek;
like a swan with clear loud note beside the brimming river calling
to its parent dear that lies a-dying in the meshes of the crafty
net, so I bewail thee, my hapless sire,

antistrophe 2

After that last fatal bath of thine laid out most piteously in
death. Oh I the horror of that axe which hacked thee so cruelly, my
sire I oh! the bitter thought that prompted thy return from Troy! With
no garlands or victor's crowns did thy wife welcome thee, but with his
two-edged sword she made thee the sad sport of AEGISTHUS and kept
her treacherous paramour.

(The CHORUS OF ARGIVE COUNTRY-WOMEN enter. The following
lines between ELECTRA and the CHORUS are sung responsively.)

CHORUS

strophe

O ELECTRA, daughter of AGAMEMNON, to thy rustic cot I come, for
a messenger hath arrived, a highlander from Mycenae, one who lives
on milk, announcing that the Argives are proclaiming a sacrifice for
the third day from now, and all our maidens are to go to Hera's
temple.
ELECTRA
Kind friends, my heart is not set on festivity, nor do necklaces
of gold cause any flutter in my sorrowing bosom, nor will I stand up
with the maidens of Argos to beat my foot in the mazy dance. Tears
have been my meat day and night; ah misery! See my unkempt hair, my
tattered dress; are they fit for a princess, a daughter of
AGAMEMNON, or for Troy which once thought of my father as its captor?
CHORUS

antistrophe

Mighty is the goddess; so come, and borrow of me broidered robes
for apparel and jewels of gold that add a further grace to beauty's
charms. Dost think to triumph o'er thy foes by tears, if thou honour
not the gods? 'Tis not by lamentation but by pious prayers to heaved
that thou, my daughter, wilt make fortune smile on thee.

 

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