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ELECTRA by Euripides, Part 15

ELECTRA
Ah me! alas! and whither can I go? What share have I henceforth in
dance or marriage rite? What husband will accept me as his bride?
ORESTES
Again thy fancy changes with the wind; for now thou thinkest
aright, though not so formerly; an awful deed didst thou urge thy
brother against his will to commit, dear sister. Oh! didst thou see
how the poor victim threw open her robe and showed her bosom as
smote her, sinking on her knees, poor wretch? And her hair I-
ELECTRA
Full well I know the agony through which thou didst pass at
hearing thy own mother's bitter cry.
ORESTES
Ah yes! she laid her band upon my chin, and cried aloud, "My
child, I entreat thee!" and she clung about my neck, so that I let
fall the sword.
ELECTRA
O my poor mother! How didst thou endure to see her breathe her
last before thy eyes?
ORESTES
I threw my mantle o'er them and began the sacrifice by plunging
the sword into my mother's throat.
ELECTRA
Yet 'twas I that urged thee on, yea, and likewise grasped the
steel. Oh! I have done an awful deed.
ORESTES
Oh! take and hide our mother's corpse beneath a pall, and close
her gaping wound. (Turning to the corpse) Ah! thy murderers were thine
own children.
ELECTRA (covering the corpse)
There! thou corpse both loved and loathed; still o'er thee I
cast robe, to end the grievous troubles of our house.
CHORUS
See! where o'er the roof-top spirits are appearing, or gods
maybe from heaven, for this is not a road that mortals tread. Why come
they thus where mortal eyes can see them clearly?
(THE DIOSCURI appear from above.)
DIOSCURI
Hearken, son of AGAMEMNON. We, the twin sons of Zeus, thy mother's
sisters, call thee, even Castor and his brother Polydeuces. 'Tis but
now we have reached Argos after stilling the fury of the sea for
mariners, having seen the slaying of our sister, thy mother. She
hath received her just reward, but thine is no righteous act, and
Phoebus-but no! he is my king, my lips are sealed-is Phoebus still,
albeit the oracle he gave thee was no great proof of his wsdom. But we
must acquiesce herein. Henceforth must thou follow what Zeus and
destiny ordain for thee. On PYLADES bestow ELECTRA for his wife to
take unto his home; do thou leave Argos, for after thy mother's murder
thou mayst not set foot in the city. And those grim goddesses of doom,
that glare like savage hounds, will drive thee mad and chase thee to
and fro; but go thou to Athens and make thy prayer to the holy image
of Pallas, for she will close their fierce serpents' mouths, so that
they touch thee not, holding o'er thy head her aegis with the Gorgon's
head. A hill there is, to Ares sacred, where first the gods in
conclave sat to decide the law of blood, in the day that savage Ares
slew Halirrothius, son of the ocean-king, in anger for the violence he
offered to his daughter's honour; from that time all decisions given
there are most holy and have heaven's sanction. There must thou have
this murder tried; and if equal votes are given, they shall save
thee from death in the decision, for Loxias will take the blame upon
himself, since it was his oracle that advised thy mother's murder. And
this shall be the law for all posterity; in every trial the accused
shall win his case if the votes are equal. Then shall those dread
goddesses, stricken with grief at this, vanish into a cleft of the
earth close to the hill, revered by men henceforth as a place for holy
oracles; whilst thou must settle in a city of Arcadia on the banks
of the river Alpheus near the shrine of Lycaean Apollo, and the city
shall be called after thy name. To thee I say this. As for the
corpse of AEGISTHUS, the citizens of Argos must give it burial; but
Menelaus, who has just arrived at Nauplia from the sack of Troy, shall
bury the, mother, Helen helping him; for she hath come from her
sojourn in Egypt in the halls of Proteus, and hath never been to Troy;
but Zeus, to stir up strife and bloodshed in the world, sent forth a
phantom of Helen to Ilium. Now let PYLADES take his maiden wife and
bear her to his home in Achaea; also he must conduct thy so-called
kinsman to the land of Phocis, and there reward him well. But go
thyself along the narrow Isthmus, and seek Cecropia's happy home.
For once thou hast fulfilled the doom appointed for this murder,
thou shalt be blest and free from all thy troubles.
(The remaining lines of the play are chanted.)
CHORUS
Ye sons of Zeus, may we draw near to speak with you?
DIOSCURI
Ye may, since ye are not polluted by this murder.
ORESTES
May I too share your converse, of Tyndareus?
DIOSCURI
Thou too! for to Phoebus will I ascribe this deed of blood.
CHORUS
How was it that ye, the brothers of the murdered woman, gods
too, did not ward the doom-goddesses from her roof?
DIOSCURI
'Twas fate that brought resistless doom to her, and that
thoughtless oracle that Phoebus gave.
ELECTRA
But why did the god, and wherefore did his oracles make me my
mother's murderer?
DIOSCURI
A share in the deed, a share in its doom; one ancestral curse hath
ruined both of you.

 

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