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ELECTRA by Euripides, Part 06

PEASANT
I will take this message to the old man, if it seem good to
thee; but get thee in at once and there make ready. A woman, when
she chooses, can find dainties in plenty to garnish a feast.
Besides, there is quite enough in the house to satisfy them with
food for one day at least. 'Tis in such cases, when I come to muse
thereon, that I discern the mighty power of wealth, whether to give to
strangers, or to expend in curing the body when it falls sick; but our
daily food is a small matter; for all of us, rich as well as poor, are
in like case, as soon as we are satisfied.

(The PEASANT departs as ELECTRA enters the hut.)

CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

Ye famous ships, that on a day were brought to land at Troy by
those countless oars, what time ye led the Nereids' dance, where the
dolphin music-loving rolled and gambolled round your dusky prows,
escorting Achilles, nimble son of Thetis, when he went with
AGAMEMNON to the banks of Trojan Simois;

antistrophe 1

When Nereids left Euboea's strand, bringing from Hephaestus'
golden forge the harness he had fashioned for that warrior's use;
him long they sought o'er Pelion and Ossa's spurs, ranging the
sacred glens and the peaks of Nymphaea, where his knightly sire was
training up a light for Hellas, even the sea-born son of Thetis, a
warrior swift to help the sons of Atreus.

strophe 2

One that came from Ilium, and set foot in the haven of Nauplia,
told me that on the circle of thy far-famed targe, O son of Thetis,
was wrought this blazon, a terror to the Phrygians; on the rim of
the buckler Perseus with winged sandals, was bearing in his hand
across the main the Gorgon's head, just severed by the aid of
Hermes, the messenger of Zeus, that rural god whom Maia bore;

antistrophe 2

While in the centre of the shield the sun's bright orb flashed
light on the backs of his winged coursers; there too was the
heavenly choir of stars, Pleiades and Hyades, to dazzle Hector's
eyes and make him flee; and upon his gold-forged helm were sphinxes,
bearing in their talons the prey of which the minstrels sing; on his
breast-plate was lioness breathing flame, her eye upon Peirene's
steed, in eagerness to rend it.
There too in murderous fray four-footed steeds were prancing,
while oer their backs uprose dark clouds of dust. But he who led these
warriors stout, was slain by wedding thee, malignant child of
Tyndareus! Wherefore shall the gods of heaven one day send thee to thy
doom, and I shall yet live to see the sword at thy throat, drinking
its crimson tide.

(The OLD MAN, the former servant of AGAMEMNON,
enters. ELECTRA presently appears at the door of the hut.)

OLD MAN
Where is the young princess, my mistress, AGAMEMNON's daughter,
whom I NURSEd in days gone by? Oh! how steep is the approach to this
house, a hard climb for these old wasted feet of mine! Still, to reach
such friends as these, I must drag my bent old back and tottering
knees up it. Ah, daughter!-for I see thee now at thy door,-lo! I
have brought the this tender lamb from my own flock, having taken it
from its dam, with garlands too and cheese straight from the press,
and this flask of choice old wine with fragrant bouquet; 'tis small
perhaps, but pour a cup thereof into some weaker drink, and it is a
luscious draught. Let some one carry these gifts into the house for
the guests; for I would fain wipe from my eyes the rising tears on
this tattered cloak.
ELECTRA
Why stands the tear-drop in thine eye, old friend? Is it that my
sorrows have been recalled to thee after an interval? or art thou
bewailing the sad exile of ORESTES , and my father's fate, whom thou
didst once fondle in thy arms, in vain, alas! for thee and for thy
friends?
OLD MAN
Ah yes! in vain; but still I could not bear to leave him thus; and
so I added this to my journey that I sought his grave, and, falling
thereupon, wept o'er its desolation; then did I open the wine-skin, my
gift to thy guests, and poured a libation, and set myrtle-sprigs round
the tomb. And lo! upon the grave itself I saw a black ram had been
offered, and there was blood, not long poured forth, and severed locks
of auburn hair. Much I wondered, my daughter, who had dared approach
the tomb; certainly 'twas no Argive. Nay, thy brother may perchance
have come by stealth, and going thither have done honour to his
father's wretched grave. Look at the hair, compare it with thy own, to
see if the colour of these cut locks is the same; for children in
whose veins runs the same father's blood have a close resemblance in
many features.
ELECTRA
Old sir, thy words are unworthy of a wise man, if thou thinkest my
own brave brother would have come to this land by stealth for fear
of AEGISTHUS. In the next place, how should our hair correspond? His
is the hair of a gallant youth trained up in manly sports, mine a
woman's curled and combed; nay, that is a hopeless clue. Besides, thou
couldst find many, whose hair is of the same colour, albeit not sprung
from the same blood. No, maybe 'twas some stranger cut off his hair in
pity at his tomb, or one that came to spy this land privily.

 

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