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ELECTRA by Euripides, Part 05

LEADER
Lo! here is thy husband hurrying homeward, his labour done.

PEASANT
(entering and catching sight of strangers talking to ELECTRA)

Ha! who are these strangers I see at my door? And why are they
come hither to my rustic gate? can they want my help? for 'tis
unseemly for a woman to stand talking with young men.
ELECTRA
Dear husband, be not suspicious of me. For thou shalt hear the
truth; these strangers have come to bring me news of ORESTES . Good
sirs, pardon him those words.
PEASANT
What say they? is that hero yet alive and in the light of day?
ELECTRA
He is; at least they say so, and I believe them.
PEASANT
Surely then he hath some memory of his father and thy wrongs?
ELECTRA
These are things to hope for; a man in exile is helpless.
PEASANT
What message have they brought from ORESTES ?
ELECTRA
He sent them to spy out my evil case.
PEASANT
Well, they only see a part of it, though maybe thou art telling
them the rest.
ELECTRA
They know all; there is nothing further they need ask.
PEASANT
Long ere this then shouldst thou have thrown open our doors to
them. Enter, sirs; for in return for your good tidings, shall ye
find such cheer as my house affords. Ho! servants, take their
baggage within; make no excuses, for ye are friends sent by one I
love; and poor though I am, yet will I never show meanness in my
habits.
ORESTES
'Fore heaven! is this the man who is helping thee to frustrate thy
marriage, because he will not shame ORESTES ?
ELECTRA
This is he whom they call my husband, woe is me!
ORESTES
Ah! there is no sure mark to recognize a man's worth; for human
nature hath in it an element of confusion. For I have seen ere now the
son of noble sire prove himself a worthless knave, and virtuous
children sprung from evil parents; likewise dearth in a rich man's
spirit, and in a poor man's frame a mighty soul. By what standard then
shall we rightly judge these things? By wealth? An evil test to use.
By poverty then? Nay, poverty suffers from this, that it teaches a man
to play the villain from necessity. To martial prowess must I turn?
But who could pronounce who is the valiant man merely from the look of
his spear? Better is it to leave these matters to themselves without
troubling. For here is a man of no account in Argos, with no family
reputation to boast, one of the common herd, proved a very hero. A
truce to your folly! ye self-deceivers, swollen with idle fancies;
learn to judge men by their converse, and by their habits decide who
are noble. Such are they who rule aright both states and families;
while those forms of flesh, devoid of intellect, are but
figure-heads in the market-place. The strong arm, again, no more
than the weak awaits the battle-shock, for this depends on natural
courage. Well! absent or present, AGAMEMNON's son, whose business
brings us here, deserves this of us, so let us accept a lodging in
this house. (Calling to his servants) Ho! sirrahs, go within. A humble
host, who does his best, in preference to a wealthy man for me! And so
I thankfully accept this peasant's proffered welcome, though I could
have preferred that thy brother were conducting me to share his
fortune in his halls. Maybe he yet will come; for the oracies of
Loxias are sure, but to man's divining "Farewell" say I.

(ORESTES , PYLADES and their ATTENDANTs go into the hut.)

LEADER
ELECTRA, I feel a warmer glow of joy suffuse my heart than ever
heretofore; perchance our fortune, moving on at last, will find a
happy resting-place.
ELECTRA
O reckless man, why didst thou welcome strangers like these, so
far beyond thy station, knowing the poverty of thy house?
PEASANT
Why? if they are really as noble as they seem, surely they will be
equally content with rich or humble fare.
ELECTRA
Well. since thou hast made this error, poor man as thou art, go to
my father's kind old foster-sire; on the bank of the river Tanaus, the
boundary 'twixt Argos and the land of Sparta, he tends his flocks,
an outcast from the city; bid him come hither to our house and some
provision for the strangers' entertainment. Glad will he be, and
will offer thanks to heaven to hear that the child, whom once he
saved, is yet alive. I shall get nothing from my mother from my
ancestral halls; for we should rue our message, were she to learn,
unnatural wretch! that ORESTES liveth.

 

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