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ELECTRA by Sophocles, Part 07


CHRYSOTHEMIS
Nay, by our father's hearth, I speak not in mockery; I tell thee that he is with us indeed.

ELECTRA
Ah, woe is me! And from whom hast thou heard this tale, which thou believest so lightly?

CHRYSOTHEMIS
I believe it on mine own knowledge, not on hearsay; I have seen clear proofs.

ELECTRA
What hast thou seen, poor girl, to warrant thy belief? Whither, wonder hast thou turned thine eyes, that thou art fevered with this baneful fire?

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Then, for the gods' love, listen, that thou mayest know my story, before deciding whether I am sane or foolish.

ELECTRA
Speak on, then, if thou findest pleasure in speaking.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Well, thou shalt hear all that I have seen. When I came to our father's ancient tomb, I saw that streams of milk had lately flowed from the top of the mound, and that his sepulchre was encircled with garlands of all flowers that blow. I was astonished at the sight, and peered about, lest haply some one should be close to my side. But when I perceived that all the place was in stillness, I crept nearer to the tomb; and on the mound's edge I saw a lock of hair, freshly severed.

And the moment that I saw it, ah me, a familiar image rushed upon my soul, telling me that there I beheld a token of him whom most I love, Orestes. Then I took it in my hands, and uttered no ill-omened word, but the tears of joy straightway filled mine eyes. And I know well, as knew then, that this fair tribute has come from none but him. Whose part else was that, save mine and thine? And I did it not, I know,- nor thou; how shouldst thou?- when thou canst not leave this house, even to worship the gods, but at thy peril. Nor, again, does our mother's heart incline to do such deeds, nor could she have so done without our knowledge.

No, these offerings are from Orestes! Come, dear sister, courage! No mortal life is attended by a changeless fortune. Ours was once gloomy; but this day, perchance, will seal the promise of much good.

ELECTRA
Alas for thy folly! How I have been pitying thee!

CHRYSOTHEMIS
What, are not my tidings welcome?

ELECTRA
Thou knowest not whither or into what dreams thou wanderest.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Should I not know what mine own eyes have seen?

ELECTRA
He is dead, poor girl; and thy hopes in that deliverer are gone: look not to him.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Woe, woe is me! From whom hast thou heard this?

ELECTRA
From the man who was present when he perished.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
And where is he? Wonder steals over my mind.

ELECTRA
He is within, a guest not unpleasing to our mother.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Ah, woe is me! Whose, then, can have been those ample offerings to our father's tomb?

ELECTRA
Most likely, I think, some one brought those gifts in memory of the dead Orestes.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Oh, hapless that I am! And I was bringing such news in joyous haste, ignorant, it seems, how dire was our plight; but now that I have come, I find fresh sorrows added to the old!

ELECTRA
So stands thy case; yet, if thou wilt hearken to me, thou wilt lighten the load of our present trouble.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Can I ever raise the dead to life?

ELECTRA
I meant not that; I am not so foolish.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
What biddest thou, then, for which my strength avails?

ELECTRA
That thou be brave in doing what I enjoin.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Nay, if any good can be done, I will not refuse,

ELECTRA
Remember, nothing succeeds without toil.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
I know it, and will share thy burden with all my power.

ELECTRA
Hear, then, how I am resolved to act. As for the support of friends, thou thyself must know that we have none; Hades hath taken our friends away. and we two are left alone. I, so long as I heard that my brother still lived and prospered, had hopes that he would yet come to avenge the murder of our sire. But now that he is no more, I look next to thee, not to flinch from aiding me thy sister to slay our father's murderer, Aegisthus:- I must have no secret from thee more.

How long art thou to wait inactive? What hope is left standing, to which thine eyes can turn? Thou hast to complain that thou art robbed of thy father's heritage; thou hast to mourn that thus far thy life is fading without nuptial song or wedded love. Nay, and do not hope that such joys will ever be thine; Aegisthus is not so ill-advised as ever to permit that children should spring from thee or me for his own sure destruction. But if thou wilt follow my counsels, first thou wilt win praise of piety from our dead sire below, and from our brother too; next, thou shalt be called free henceforth, as thou wert born, and shalt find worthy bridals; for noble natures draw the gaze of all.

Then seest thou not what fair fame thou wilt win for thyself and for me, by hearkening to my word? What citizen or stranger, when he sees us, will not greet us with praises such as these?- 'Behold these two sisters, my friends, who saved their father's house; who, when their foes were firmly planted of yore, took their lives in their hands and stood forth as avengers of blood! Worthy of love are these twain, worthy of reverence from all; at festivals, and wherever the folk are assembled, let these be honoured of all men for their prowess.' Thus will every one speak of us, so that in life and in death our glory shall not fail.

Come, dear sister, hearken! Work with thy sire, share the burden of thy brother, win rest from woes for me and for thyself,- mindful of this, that an ignoble life brings shame upon the noble.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
In such case as this, forethought is helpful for those who speak and those who hear.

CHRYSOTHEMIS
Yea, and before she spake, my friends, were she blest with a sound mind, she would have remembered caution, as she doth not remember it.

Now whither canst thou have turned thine eyes, that thou art arming thyself with such rashness, and calling me to aid thee? Seest thou not, thou art a woman, not a man, and no match for thine adversaries in strength? And their fortune prospers day by day, while ours is ebbing and coming to nought. Who, then, plotting to vanquish a foe so strong, shall escape without suffering deadly scathe? See that we change not our evil plight to worse, if any one hears these words. It brings us no relief or benefit, if, after winning fair fame, we die an ignominious death; for mere death is not the bitterest, but rather when one who wants to die cannot obtain even that boon.

Nay, I beseech thee, before we are utterly destroyed, and leave our house desolate, restrain thy rage! I will take care that thy words remain secret and harmless; and learn thou the prudence, at last though late, of yielding, when so helpless, to thy rulers.

 

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