EL.Think you the wretch in heartfelt agony
Weeps inconsolably her perished son?
She left us with a laugh! O misery!
How thou hast ruined me, dear brother mine,
By dying! Thou hast torn from out my heart
The only hope I cherished yet, that thou
Living wouldst come hereafter to avenge
Thy father’s woes and mine. Where must I go?
Since I am left of thee and of my sire
Bereaved and lonely, and once more must be
The drudge and menial of my bitterest foes,
My father’s murderers. Say, is it well?
Nay, nevermore will I consort with these,
But sinking here before the palace gate,
Thus, friendless, I will wither out my life.
Hereat if any in the house be vexed,
Let them destroy me; for to take my life
Were kindness, and to live is only pain:
Life hath not kindled my desires with joy.
O ever-blazing sun!I 1
O lightning of the eternal Sire!
Can ye behold this done
And tamely hide your all-avenging fire?
EL. Ah me!
CH. 2. My daughter, why these tears?
CH. 3. Weep not, calm thy fears.
EL. You kill me.
CH. 4. How?
A hope for one beneath
So clearly sunk in death,
’Tis to afflict me more
Already pining sore.
One in a woman’s toilsI 2 [837-870]
Was tangled, buried by her glittering coils,
Who now beneath—
EL. Ah woe!
CH. 6. Rules with a spirit unimpaired and strong.
EL. O dreadful!
CH. 7. Dreadful was the wrong.
EL. But she was quelled.
CH. 8. Ay.
That faithful mourner knew
A brother’s aid. But I
Have no man now. The one
I had, is gone, is gone.
Rapt into nothingness.
CH. 9. Thou art wrung with sore distress.II 1
I know it. Too well I know,
Taught by a life of woe,
Where horror dwells without relief.
CH. 10. Our eyes have seen thy grief.
EL. Then comfort not again—
CH. 11. Whither now turns thy strain?
One utterly bereft,
Seeing no hope is left,
Of help from hands owning the same great sire.
CH. 12. ’Tis nature’s debt.II 2
On sharp-cut dragging thongs,
’Midst wildly trampling throngs
Of swiftly racing hoofs, like him,
Poor hapless one?
And boundless was the harm.
Yea, severed from mine arm,
By strangers kept—
CH. 14. O pain!
Hidden he must remain,
Of me unsepulchred, unmourned, unwept.
Driven by delight, dear sister, I am come,
Reckless of dignity, with headlong speed.
For news I bear of joy and sweet relief
From ills that drew from thee thy ceaseless moan.
Whence couldst thou hear of succour for my woes,
That close in darkness without hope of dawn?
Here is Orestes, learn it from my mouth,
As certainly as you now look on me.
What? Art thou mad, unhappy one, to laugh
Over thine own calamity and mine?
No, by our father’s hearth, I say not this
In mockery. I tell you he is come.
Me miserable! Who hath given thine ear
The word that so hath wrought on thy belief?
Myself am the eyewitness, no one else
Gained my belief, but proofs I clearly saw.
What sign hath so engrossed thine eye, poor girl?
What sight hath fired thee with this quenchless glow?
But list to me, I pray thee, that henceforth
Thou mayest account me clear eyed, or a fool!
EL. By all means, if it pleasure thee, say on.
Well, I will tell thee all I saw:—I came
Unto the ancient tomb that holds our sire;
And from the topmost mound I marked a stream
Of milk fresh-flowing, and his resting place
Ringed round with garlands of all flowers that blow.
I marvelled at the sight, and peered about,
Lest some one might be nearer than we knew.
But finding all was quiet in the spot,
I ventured closer to the tomb, and there,
Hard by the limit, I beheld a curl
Of hair new shorn, with all the gloss of youth
And straight it struck my heart, as with a sense
Of something seen, ah me! long, long ago,
And told me that my sight encountered here
The token of Orestes, dearest soul
Then, clasping it, I did not cry aloud,
But straight mine eyes were filled with tears of joy.
[page 156][907-943] And now as much as then I feel assured
He and none else bestowed this ornament.
To whom beyond thyself and me belongs
Such consecration? And I know this well,
I did it not,—nor thou. Impossible!
Thou canst not worship even the blessèd Gods
Forth of this roof, unpunished. And, most sure,
Our mother is not minded so to act,
Nor, had she done it, could we fail to know.
This offering comes then of Orestes’ hand.
Take courage, dear one. Not one fate pursues
One house perpetually, but changeth still.
Ours was a sullen Genius, but perchance
This day begins the assurance of much good.
EL. Oh how I pity thine infatuate mind!
CHR. Why? Dost thou find no comfort in my news?
EL. You know not where you roam. Far wide! far wide!
CHR. Not know? when I have seen it with mine eyes?
Dear, he is dead. Look not to him, poor girl!
Salvation comes to thee no more from him.
CHR. Oh me, unfortunate! Who told thee this?
EL. He who stood by and saw his life destroyed.
CHR. Amazement seizes me. Where is that man?
EL. Right welcome to the mother there within.
Me miserable! Who then can have decked
With all those ceremonies our father’s tomb?
I cannot but suppose some hand hath brought
These gifts in memory of Orestes dead.
O cruel fate! While I in ecstasy
Sped with such news, all ignorant, it seems,
Of our dire fortune; and, arriving, find
Fresh sorrows added to the former woe.
It is so, sister; yet if thou wilt list
To me, thou mayest disperse this heaviness.
CHR. What? Shall I raise the dead again to life?
EL. I did not mean so. I am not so fond.
CHR. What bid you then that I have power to do?
EL. To endure courageously what I enjoin.
[page 157][944-981] CHR. So it make profit, I will not refuse.
EL. Remember, without toil no plan may thrive!
CHR. I know it, and will aid thee to my power.
Then hearken my resolve. Thou seëst now,
We have no friendly succour in the world;
But death has taken all, and we are left
Two only. I, so long as I could hear
My brother lived and flourished, still had hope
He would arise to wreak his father’s blood.
But now that he is gone, to thee I turn,
To help thy sister boldly to destroy
The guilty author of our father’s death,
Aegisthus.—Wherefore hide it from thee now?
—Yea, sister! Till what term wilt thou remain
Inactive? To what end? What hope is yet
Left standing? Surely thou hast cause to grieve,
Bobbed of thy father’s opulent heritage,
And feeling bitterly the creeping years
That find thee still a virgin and unwed.
Nay, nor imagine thou shalt ever know
That blessing. Not so careless of his life
Is King Aegisthus, as to risk the birth
Of sons from us, to his most certain fall.
But if thou wilt but follow my resolve,
First thou shalt win renown of piety
From our dead father, and our brother too,
Who rest beneath the ground, and shalt be free
For evermore in station as in birth,
And nobly matched in marriage, for the good
Draw gazers to them still. Then seest thou not
What meed of honour, if thou dost my will,
Thou shalt apportion to thyself and me?
For who, beholding us, what citizen,
What foreigner, will not extend the hand
Of admiration, and exclaim, ‘See, friends,
These scions of one stock, these noble twain,
These that have saved their father’s house from woe,
Who once when foes were mighty, set their life
Upon a cast, and stood forth to avenge
The stain of blood! Who will not love the pair
[page 158][981-1018] And do them reverence? Who will not give
Honour at festivals, and in the throng
Of popular resort, to these in chief,
For their high courage and their bold emprise?’
Such fame will follow us in all the world.
Living or dying, still to be renowned.
Ah, then, comply, dear sister; give thy sire
This toil—this labour to thy brother give;
End these my sufferings, end thine own regret:
The well-born cannot bear to live in shame.
In such affairs, for those who speak and hear
Wise thoughtfulness is still the best ally.
True, noble women, and before she spake
Sound thought should have prevented the rash talk
That now hath proved her reckless. What wild aim
Beckons thee forth in arming this design
Whereto thou wouldst demand my ministry?
Dost not perceive, thou art not man but woman,
Of strength inferior to thine enemies,—
Their Genius daily prospering more and more,
Whilst ours is dwindling into nothingness?
Who then that plots against a life so strong
Shall quit him of the danger without harm?
Take heed we do not add to our distress
Should some one hear of this our colloquy.
Small help and poor advantage ’twere for us
To win brief praise and then inglorious die.
Nay, death is not so hateful as when one
Desiring death is balked of that desire.
And I beseech thee, ere in utter ruin
We perish and make desolate our race,
Refrain thy rage. And I will guard for thee
In silence these thy words unrealized;
If thou wilt learn this wisdom from long time,
Having no strength, to bend before the strong.
Comply. Than prudence and a heedful mind,
No fairer treasure can be found for men.
Thy words have not surprised me. Well I knew
The good I offered would come back with scorn.
[page 159][1019-1052] I, all alone and with a single hand,
Must do this. For it shall not rest undone.
Would thou hadst been thus minded when our sire
Lay dying! In one act thou hadst compassed all.
EL. My spirit was the same: my mind was less.
CHR. Be such the life-long temper of thy mind!
EL. Thine admonition augurs little aid.
CHR. Yea. For the attempt would bring me certain bane.
EL. I envy thee thy prudence, hate thy fear.
CHR. Even when thou speak’st me fair, I will endure it.
EL. Take heart. That never will be thine from me.
CHR. Long time remains to settle that account.
EL. I find no profit in thee. Go thy way.
CHR. Profit there is, hadst thou a mind to learn.
EL. Go to thy mother and declare all this!
CHR. I am not so in hatred of thy life.
EL. Yet know the shame thou wouldst prepare for me.
CHR. No, no! Not shame, but care for thine estate.
EL. Must I still follow as thou thinkest good?
CHR. When thou hast wisdom, thou shalt be the guide.
EL. ’Tis hard when error wears the garb of sense.
CHR. Right. That is the misfortune of your case.
EL. Why? Feel you not the justice of my speech?
CHR. Justice may chance to bring me injury.
EL. I care not, I, to live by such a rule.
CHR. Well, if you do it, you will find me wise.
EL. Well, I will do it, nought dismayed by thee.
CHR. Speak you plain sooth? and will you not be counselled?
EL. No, for bad counsel is of all most hateful.
CHR. You take the sense of nothing that I say.
EL. Long since, not newly, my resolve is firm.
Then I will go. Thy heart will ne’er be brought
To praise my words, nor I thine action here.
Then go within! I will not follow thee,
[page 160][1053-1089] Though thou desire it vehemently. None
Would be so fond to hunt on a cold trail.
If this seem wisdom to thee, then be wise
Thy way: but in the hour of misery,
When it hath caught thee, thou wilt praise my words. [Exit CHRYSOTHEMIS
Wise are the birds of airI 1
That with true filial care
For those provide convenient food
Who gave them birth, who wrought their good.
Why will not men the like perfection prove?
Else, by the fires above,
And heavenly Rectitude,
Fierce recompense they shall not long elude.
O darkling rumour, world-o’er-wandering voice
That piercest to the shades beneath the ground,
To dead Atrides waft a sound
Of sad reproach, not bidding him rejoice.
Stained is the ancestral hall,I 2
Broken the battle-call,
That heretofore his children twain
In loving concord did sustain.
Alone, deserted, vexed, Electra sails,
Storm-tossed with rugged gales,
Like piteous Philomel, and pining sore
For her lost father;—might she but bring down
That two-fold Fury, caring not for death,
But ready to resign her breath,
What maid so worthy of a sire’s renown?
None who inherit from a noble race,II 1
Complying with things base
Will let their ancient glory be defiled.
So ’twas thy choice, dear child,
Through homeless misery to win a two-fold prize,
Purging the sin and shame
That cloud the Argive name,
So to be called most noble and most wise.
May’st thou surpass thy foes in wealth and powerII 2 [1090-1123]
As o’er thee now they tower!
Since I have found thee, not in bright estate,
Nor blessed by wayward fate,
But through thy loyalty to Heaven’s eternal cause
Wearing the stainless crown
Of perfectest renown,
And richly dowered by the mightiest laws.
Enter ORESTES and PYLADES, with the urn.
Say, dames and damsels, have we heard aright,
And speed we to the goal of our desire?
CH. And what desire or quest hath brought thee hither?
OR. I seek Aegisthus’ dwelling all this while.
CH. Welcome. The tongue that told thee hath no blame.
Which of you all will signify within
Our joint arrival,—not unwelcome here.
CH. This maiden, if the nearest should report.
Mistress, wilt thou go yonder and make known,
That certain Phocians on Aegisthus wait?
Oh! can it be that you are come to bring
Clear proofs of the sad rumour we have heard?
I know not what ye have heard. Old Strophius
Charged me with tidings of Orestes’ fate.
EL. What, stranger? How this terror steals on me!
Bearing scant remnants of his body dead
In this small vase thou seest, we bring them home.
O sorrow! thou art here: I see full well
That burden of my heart in present view.
If thou hast tears for aught Orestes suffered,
Know that he lies within this vessel’s room.
Ah, sir! by all in Heaven, if yonder urn
Hide him, ah! give it once into my hand,
That o’er that dust I may lament and mourn
Myself and mine own house and all our woe!
Bring it and give her, whosoe’er she be.
[page 162][1124-1163] For not an enemy—this petition shows it—
But of his friends or kindred, is this maid.
[The urn is given into ELECTRA’S hands
O monument of him whom o’er all else
I loved! sole relic of Orestes’ life,
How cold in this thy welcome is the hope
Wherein I decked thee as I sent thee forth!
Then bright was thy departure, whom I now
Bear lightly, a mere nothing, in my hands.
Would I had gone from life, ere I dispatched
Thee from my arms that saved thee to a land
Of strangers, stealing thee from death! For then
Thou hadst been quiet on that far off day,
And had thy portion in our father’s tomb
Now thou hast perished in the stranger land
Far from thy sister, lorn and comfortless
And I, O wretchedness! neither have bathed
And laid thee forth, nor from the blazing fire
Collected the sad burden, as was meet
But thou, when foreign hands have tended thee
Com’st a small handful in a narrow shell
Woe for the constant care I spent on thee
Of old all vainly, with sweet toil! For never
Wast thou thy mother’s darling, nay, but mine,
And I of all the household most thy nurse,
While ‘sister, sister,’ was thy voice to me
But now all this is vanished in one day,
Dying in thy death. Thou hast carried all away
As with a whirlwind, and art gone. No more
My father lives, thyself art lost in death,
I am dead, who lived in thee. Our enemies
Laugh loudly, and she maddens in her joy,
Our mother most unmotherly, of whom
Thy secret missives ofttimes told me, thou
Wouldst be the punisher. But that fair hope
The hapless Genius of thy lot and mine
Hath reft away, and gives thee thus to me,—
For thy loved form thy dust and fruitless shade
O bitterness! O piteous sight! Woe! woe!
Oh! sent on thy dire journey, dearest one,
[page 163][1164-1197] How thou hast ruined me! Thou hast indeed,
Dear brother! Then receive me to thyself,
Hide me in this thy covering, there to dwell,
Me who am nothing, with thy nothingness,
For ever! Yea, when thou wert here above,
I ever shared with thee in all, and now
I would not have thee shut me from thy tomb.
Oh! let me die and follow thee! the dead,
My mind assures me now, have no more pain.
Electra, think! Thou hadst a mortal sire,
And mortal was thy brother. Grieve not far.
O me! What shall I speak, or which way turn
The desperate word? I cannot hold my tongue.
EL. What pain o’ercomes thee? Wherefore speak’st thou so?
OR. Can this be famed Electra I behold?
EL. No other. In sad case, as you may see
OR. Ah! deep indeed was this calamity!
EL. Is’t possible that thou shouldst grieve for me?
OR. O ruined form! abandoned to disgrace!
EL. ’Tis me you mean, stranger, I feel it now.
OR. Woe ’s me! Untrimmed for bridal, hapless maid!
EL. Why this fixed gaze, O stranger! that deep groan?
OR. How all unknowing was I of mine ill!
EL. What thing hath passed to make it known to thee?
OR. The sight of thee attired with boundless woe.
EL. And yet thine eye sees little of my pain.
OR. Can aught be still more hateful to be seen?
EL. I have my dwelling with the murderers—
OR. Of whom? What evil would thy words disclose?
EL. Of him who gave me birth. I am their slave.
OR. Whose power compels thee to this sufferance?
EL. One called my mother, most unmotherly.
OR. How? by main force, or by degrading shames?
EL. By force and shames, and every kind of evil.
OR. And is there none to succour or prevent?
EL. None. Him I had, you give me here in dust.
[page 164][1199-1229] OR. How mine eye pities thee this while, poor maid!
EL. Know now, none ever pitied me but you.
OR. None ever came whose heart like sorrow wrung.
EL. Is’t possible we have some kinsman here?
OR. I will tell it, if these women here be friendly.
EL. They are. They may be trusted. Only speak.
OR. Let go yon vase, that thou may’st learn the whole.
EL. Nay, by the Gods! be not so cruel, sir!
OR. Obey me and thou shalt not come to harm.
EL. Ah, never rob me of what most I love!
OR. You must not hold it.
O me miserable
For thee, Orestes, if I lose thy tomb!
OR. Speak no rash word. Thou hast no right to mourn.
EL. No right to mourn my brother who is gone?
OR. Such utterance belongs not to thy tongue,
EL. Oh, am I thus dishonoured of the dead?
OR. Far from dishonour. But this ne’er was thine.
EL. Is’t not Orestes’ body that I bear?
OR. Nay, but the idle dressing of a tale.
EL. And where is his poor body’s resting-place?
OR. Nowhere. Seek not the living with the dead,
EL. My son, what saidst thou?
OR. Nought but what is true.
EL. Doth he yet live?
OR. If I have life in me.
EL. Art thou Orestes?
Let my signet here,
That was our father’s, tell thine eyes, I am.
EL. O day of days!
OR. Time hath no happier hour.
EL. Is it thy voice?
OR. Hearken not otherwhere.
EL. Have my arms caught thee?
OR. Hold me so for aye!
O dearest women, Argives of my home!
Ye see Orestes, dead in craft, but now
By that same craft delivered and preserved.
We see, dear daughter, and the gladsome tear
Steals from our eye to greet the bright event.
Offspring of him I loved beyond all telling!I 1
Ah! thou art come,—hast found me, eye to eye
Behold’st the face thou didst desire to see.
OR. True, I am here; but bide in silence still.
OR. Hush! speak not loud, lest one within should hearken.
By ever-virgin Artemis, ne’er will I
Think worthy of my fear
This useless mass of woman-cowardice
Burdening the house within,
Not peering out of door.
Yet know that women too have might in war.
Of that methinks thou hast feeling evidence.
Ah me! thou hast unveiled
And thrust before my gaze
That burning load of my distress
No time will soothe, no remedy will heal.
I know that too. But when we are face to face
With the evildoers,—then let remembrance work.
All times alike are fit with instant painI 2
Justly to mind me of that dreadful day;
Even now but hardly hath my tongue been free.
OR. Yes, that is it. Therefore preserve this boon.
OR. Put limits to unseasonable talk.
Ah! brother, who, when thou art come,
Could find it meet to exchange
Language for silence, as thou bidst me do?
Since beyond hope or thought
Was this thy sight to me.
OR. God gave me to your sight when so he willed.
O heaven of grace beyond
The joy I knew but now!
If God hath brought thee to our roof,
A miracle of bounty then is here.
I hate to curb the gladness of thy spirit,
But yet I fear this ecstasy of joy.
Oh! after all these years,II
Now thou at length hast sped
Thy dearest advent on the wished-for way,
Do not, in all this woe
Thou seest surrounding me—
OR. What means this prayer?
Forbid me not my joy,
Nor make me lose the brightness of thy face!
OR. Deep were my wrath at him who should attempt it.
EL. Is my prayer heard?
OR. Why doubt it?
Friends, I learned
A tale beyond my thought; and hearing I restrained
My passion, voiceless in my misery,
Uttering no cry. But now
I have thee safe; now, dearest, thou art come,
With thy blest countenance, which I
Can ne’er forget, even at the worst of woe.
A truce now to unnecessary words.
My mother’s vileness and Aegisthus’ waste,
Draining and squandering with spendthrift hand
Our patrimony, tell me not anew.
Such talk might stifle opportunity.
But teach me, as befits the present need,
What place may serve by lurking vigilance
Or sudden apparition to o’erwhelm
Our foes in the adventure of to-day.
And, when we pass within, take heedful care
Bright looks betray thee not unto our mother.
But groan as for the dire calamity
Vainly reported:—Let’s achieve success,
Then with free hearts we may rejoice and laugh.
Dear brother, wheresoe’er thy pleasure leads,
My will shall follow, since the joys I know,
Not from myself I took them, but from thee.
And ne’er would I consent thy slightest grief
[page 167][1305-1342] Should win for me great gain. Ill should I then
Serve the divinity of this high hour!
Thou knowest how matters in the palace stand.
Thou hast surely heard, Aegisthus is from home,
And she, our mother, is within. Nor fear
She should behold me with a smiling face.
Mine ancient hate of her hath sunk too deep.
And from the time I saw thee, tears of joy
Will cease not. Wherefore should I stint their flow?
I, who in this thy coming have beheld
Thee dead and living? Strangely hast thou wrought
On me;—that should my father come alive,
I would not think the sight were miracle,
But sober truth. Since such thy presence, then,
Lead as thy spirit prompts. For I alone
Of two things surely had achieved one,
Noble deliverance or a noble death.
Be silent; for I hear within the house
A footstep coming forth.
Strangers, go in!
For none within the palace will reject
Your burden, nor be gladdened by the event.
Enter the Old Man.
O lost in folly and bereft of soul!
Is’t that your care for life hath ebbed away,
Or were you born without intelligence,
When fallen, not near, but in the midst of ill,
And that the greatest, ye perceive it not?
Had I not watched the doors this while, your deeds
Had gone within the palace ere yourselves.
But, as things are, my care hath fenced you round.
Now, then, have done with long-protracted talk,
And this insatiable outburst of joy,
And enter, for in such attempts as these
Delay is harmful: and ’tis more than time.
OR. But how shall I find matters there within?
OLD M. Well. You are shielded by their ignorance.
OR. That means you have delivered me as dead.
OLD M. Alone of dead men thou art here above.
[page 168][1343-1375] OR. Doth this delight them, or how went the talk?
I will report, when all is done. Meanwhile,
Know, all is well with them, even what is evil.
EL. Who is this, brother? I beseech thee, tell.
OR. Dost not perceive?
EL. I cannot even imagine.
OR. Know’st not into whose hands thou gav’st me once?
EL. Whose hands? How say you?
His, who through thy care
Conveyed me secretly to Phocis’ plain.
What! is this he, whom I, of all the band,
Found singly faithful in our father’s death?
OR. He is that man. No more!
O gladsome day!
Dear only saviour of our father’s house,
How earnest thou hither? Art thou he indeed,
That didst preserve Orestes and myself
From many sorrows? O dear hands, kind feet,
Swift in our service,—how couldst thou so long
Be near, nor show one gleam, but didst destroy
My heart with words, hiding the loveliest deeds?
Father!—in thee methinks I see my father.
O welcome! thou of all the world to me
Most hated and most loved in one short hour.
Enough, dear maiden! Many nights and days
Are circling hitherward, that shall reveal
In clear recountment all that came between.
But to you two that stand beside I tell,
Now is your moment, with the Queen alone,
And none of men within; but if you pause,
Know that with others of profounder skill
You’ll have to strive, more than your present foes.
Then, Pylades, we need no more to dwell
On words, but enter on this act with speed,
First worshipping the holy shrines o’ the Gods
That were my father’s, harboured at the gate.
[They pass within. ELECTRA remains in an attitude of prayer
O King Apollo! hear them graciously,
And hear me too, that with incessant hand
Honoured thee richly from my former store!
And now, fierce slayer, I importune thee,
And woo thee with such gifts as I can give,
Be kindly aidant to this enterprise,
And make the world take note, what meed of bane
Heaven still bestows on man’s iniquity.[ELECTRA goes within
Lo, where the War-god moves1
With soft, sure footstep, on to his design,
Breathing hot slaughter of an evil feud!
Even now the inevitable hounds that track
Dark deeds of hideous crime
Are gone beneath the covert of the domes.
Not long in wavering suspense shall hang
The dreaming presage of my wistful soul.
For lo! within is led2
With crafty tread the avenger of the shades,
Even to his father’s throne of ancient power,
And in his hand the bright new-sharpened death!
And Hermes, Maia’s son,
Is leading him, and hath concealed the guile
Even to the fatal end in clouds of night.
His time of weary waiting all is o’er.
O dearest women! they are even now
About it. Only bide in silence still.
CH. What is the present scene?
She decks the vase
For burial, and they both are standing by.
CH. And wherefore hast thou darted forth?
Aegisthus’ coming, that he enter not
Ah! ah! Woe for the house,
Desert of friends, and filled with hands of death!
EL. A cry within! Did ye not hear it, friends?
[page 170][1407-1432] CH. Would I had not! I heard, and shivered through.
Oh me! Alas, Aegisthus! where art thou?
EL. Hark! yet again that sound!
O son, have pity!
Pity the womb that bare thee.
Thou hadst none
For him, nor for his father, in that day.
Poor city! hapless race!1
Thy destiny to-day
Wears thee away, away.
What morn shall see thy face?
CLY. (within). Oh, I am smitten!
Give a second stroke,
If thou hast power.
CLY. (within). Oh me! again, again!
EL. Would thou wert shrieking for Aegisthus too!
The curse hath found, and they in earth who lie
Are living powers to-day.
Long dead, they drain away
The streaming blood of those who made them die.
Enter ORESTES and PYLADES.
Behold, they come, they come!
His red hand dripping as he moves
With drops of sacrifice the War-god loves.
My ’wildered heart is dumb.
EL. How is it with you, brother?
Spake rightfully, the state within is well.
EL. Wretched one, is she dead?
No more have fear
Thou shalt be slighted by thy mother’s will.
CH. Cease, for I see Aegisthus near in view.
EL. In, in again, boys!
Where do ye behold
To our hand from yonder gate
He comes with beaming look.
Haste, with what speed ye may,2 [1433-1461]
Stand on the doorway stone,
That, having thus much done,
Ye may do all to-day.
OR. Fear not: we will perform it.
Speed ye now:
Follow your thought.
OR. We are already there.
EL. Leave matters here to me. All shall go well. [Exit ORESTES with PYLADES
Few words, as if in gentleness, ’twere good
To utter in his ear,
That, eager and unware,
One step may launch him on the field of blood.
Which of you know where are the Phocian men
Who brought the news I hear, Orestes’ life
Hath suffered shipwreck in a chariot-race?
You, you I question, you in former time
So fearless! You methinks most feelingly
Can tell us, for it touches you most near.
I know: assure thee. Else had I not heard
The dearest of all fortunes to my heart.
AEG. Where are the strangers then? Enlighten me.
EL. Yonder. Their hostess entertained them well.
AEG. And did they certainly report him dead?
EL. Not only so. They showed him to our sight.
AEG. May this clear evidence be mine to see?
EL. I envy not the sight that waits you there.
AEG. Against their wont thy words have given me joy.
EL. Much joy be thine, if this be joy to thee!
Silence, I say! Wide let the gates be flung!
For all the Myceneans to behold
And all in Argolis, that if but one
Hath heretofore been buoyed on empty hopes
Fixed in Orestes, seeing him now dead,
[page 172][1462-1493] He may accept my manage, and not wait
For our stern chastisement to teach him sense.
My lesson is already learnt: at length
I am schooled to labour with the stronger will.
[The body of CLYTEMNESTRA is disclosed under a veil: ORESTES standing by
Zeus! Divine envy surely hath laid low
The form I here behold. But if the truth
Provoke Heaven’s wrath, be it unexpressed.—Unveil!
Off with all hindrance, that mine eye may see,
And I may mourn my kinsman as I should.
Thyself put forth thy hand. Not mine but thine
To look and speak with kindness to this corse.
I will, for thou advisest well; but thou,
Call Clytemnestra, if she be within. [AEGISTHUS lifts the shroud
OR. She is beside thee, gaze not otherwhere.
AEG. What do I see! oh!
OR. Why so strange? Whom fear you?
Who are the men into whose midmost toils
All hapless I am fallen?
Ha! knowest thou not
Thou hast been taking living men for dead?
I understand that saying. Woe is me!
I know, Orestes’ voice addresseth me.
OR. A prophet! How wert thou so long deceived?
AEG. Undone, undone! Yet let me speak one word.
Brother, by Heaven, no more! Let him not speak.
When death is certain, what do men in woe
Gain from a little time? Kill him at once!
And, killed, expose him to such burial
From dogs and vultures, as beseemeth such,
Far from our view. Nought less will solace me
For the remembrance of a life of pain.
Go in and tarry not. No contest this
Of verbal question, but of life or death.
Why drive you me within? If this you do
Be noble, why must darkness hide the deed?
Why not destroy me out of hand?
Enter, and in the place where ye cut down
My father, thou shalt yield thy life to me.
Is there no help but this abode must see
The past and future ills of Pelops’ race?
Thine anyhow. That I can prophesy
With perfect inspiration to thine ear.
AEG. The skill you boast belonged not to your sire.
OR. You question and delay. Go in!
AEG. Lead on.
OR. Nay, go thou first.
AEG. That I may not escape thee?
No, that thou may’st not have thy wish in death.
I may not stint one drop of bitterness.
And would this doom were given without reprieve,
If any try to act beyond the law,
To kill them. Then the wicked would be few.
LEADER OF CH.
O seed of Atreus! how triumphantly
Through grief and hardness thou hast freedom found,
With full achievement in this onset crowned!