AESCHYLUS, AGAMEMNON 2
 

AESCHYLUS INDEX

PROMETHEUS BOUND

SUPPLIANT WOMEN

SEVEN AGAINST THEBES

AGAMEMNON

LIBATION BEARERS

EUMENIDES

FRAGMENTS 1 - 56

FRAGMENTS 57 - 154

FRAGMENTS 155 - 272

PAPYRI FRAGMENTS

AGAMEMNON CONT., TRANSLATED BY H. W. SMYTH

[Enter Clytaemestra, attended by maidservants carrying purple tapestries.]

CLYTAEMESTRA
[855] Citizens of Argos, you Elders present here, I shall not be ashamed to confess in your presence my fondness for my husband -- with time diffidence dies away in humans.

[858] Untaught by others, I can tell of my own weary life all the long while my husband was beneath Ilium's walls. First and foremost, it is a terrible evil for a wife to sit forlorn at home, severed from her husband, always hearing many malignant rumors, and for one messenger after another  to come bearing tidings of disaster, each worse than the last, and cry them to the household. And as for wounds, had my husband received so many as rumor kept pouring into the house, no net would have been pierced so full of holes as he. Or if he had died as often as reports claimed, then truly he might have had three bodies, a second Geryon,25 and have boasted of having taken on him a triple cloak of earth [ample that above, of that below I speak not], one death for each different shape. Because of such malignant tales as these, many times others have had to loose the high-hung halter from my neck, held in its strong grip. It is for this reason, in fact, that our boy, Orestes, does not stand here beside me, as he should—he in whom rest the pledges of my love and yours. Nor should you think this strange. For he is in the protecting care of our well-intentioned ally, Strophius of Phocis, who warned me of trouble on two scores—your own peril beneath Ilium's walls, and then the chance that the people in clamorous revolt might overturn the Council, as it is natural for men to trample all the more upon the fallen. Truly such an excuse supports no guile.

[887] As for myself, the welling fountains of my tears are utterly dried up—not a drop remains. In night-long vigils my eyes are sore with weeping for the beacon-lights set for you but always neglected. The faint whir of the buzzing gnat often waked me from dreams in which I beheld more disasters to you than the time of sleep could have compassed.

[895] But now, having born all this, my heart freed from its anxiety, I would hail my husband here as the watchdog of the fold, the savior forestay of the ship, firm-based pillar of the lofty roof, only-begotten son of a father, or land glimpsed by men at sea beyond their hope, dawn most fair to look upon after storm, the gushing stream to thirsty wayfarer—sweet is it to escape all stress of need. Such truly are the greetings of which I deem him worthy. But let envy26 be far removed, since many were the ills we endured before.

[905] And now, I pray you, my dear lord, dismount from your car, but do not set on common earth the foot, my King, that has trampled upon Ilium. [To her attendants] Why this loitering, women, to whom I have assigned the task to strew with tapestries the place where he shall go? Quick! With purple let his path be strewn, that Justice may usher him into a home he never hoped to see. The rest my unslumbering vigilance shall order duly, if it please god, even as is ordained.

AGAMEMNON
[914] Offspring of Leda, guardian of my house, your speech fits well with my absence; for you have drawn it out to ample length. But becoming praise—this prize should rightly proceed from other lips. For the rest, pamper me not as if I were a woman, nor, like some barbarian,27 grovel before me with widemouthed acclaim; and do not draw down envy upon my path by strewing it with tapestries. It is the gods we must honor thus; but it is not possible for a mortal to tread upon embroidered fineries without fear. I tell you to revere me not as a god, but as a man. Footmats and embroideries sound diverse in the voice of Rumor; to think no folly is the best gift of the gods. Only when man's life comes to its end in prosperity dare we pronounce him happy; and if I may act in all things as I do now, I have good confidence.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[931] Come now, tell me this, in accordance with your mind.

AGAMEMNON
[932] Purpose! Be assured that I shall not corrupt my mind.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[933] You would in fear have vowed to the gods to act thus.

AGAMEMNON
[934] If someone with full knowledge had pronounced this word.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[935] What do you suppose that Priam would have done, if he had achieved your triumph?

AGAMEMNON
[936] He would have set foot upon the embroideries, I certainly believe.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[937] Then do not be be ashamed of mortal reproach.

AGAMEMNON
[938] And yet a people's voice is a mighty power.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[939] True, yet he who is unenvied is unenviable.

AGAMEMNON
[940] Surely it is not woman's part to long for fighting.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[941] True, but it is right for the happy victor to yield the victory.

AGAMEMNON
[942] What? is this the kind of victory in strife that you prize?

CLYTAEMESTRA
[943] Oh yield! Yet of your own free will entrust the victory to me.

AGAMEMNON
[944] Well, if you will have your way, quick, let some one loose my sandals, which, slavelike, serve the treading of my foot! As I walk upon these purple vestments may I not be struck from afar by any glance of the gods' jealous eye. A terrible shame it is for one's foot to mar the resources of the house by wasting wealth and costly woven work.

[950] So much for this. This foreign girl receive into the house with kindness. A god from afar looks graciously upon a gentle master; for no one freely takes the yoke of slavery. But she,  the choicest flower of rich treasure, has followed in my train, my army's gift.

[956] Since I have been forced to obey you and must listen to you in this, I will tread upon a purple pathway as I pass to my palace halls.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[958] There is the sea (and who shall drain it dry?) producing stain of abundant purple, costly as silver  and ever fresh, with which to dye our clothes; and of these our house, through the gods, has ample store; it knows no poverty. Vestments enough I would have devoted to be trampled underfoot had it been so ordered in the seat of oracles when I was devising a ransom for your life. For if the root still lives, leaves come again to the house and spread their over-reaching shade against the scorching dog star; so, now that you have come to hearth and home, you show that warmth has come in wintertime;and again, when Zeus makes wine from the bitter grape,28 then immediately there is coolness in the house when its rightful lord occupies his halls. [As Agamemnon enters the palace.] O Zeus, Zeus, you who bring things to fulfilment, fulfill my prayers! May you see to that which you mean to fulfill!
[Exit.]

CHORUS
[975] Why does this terror so persistently hover standing before my prophetic soul? Why does my song, unbidden and unfed, chant strains of augury? Why does assuring confidence not sit on my heart's throne and spurn the terror like an uninterpretable dream? But Time has collected the sands of the shore upon the cables cast thereon when the shipborn army sped forth for Ilium.29

[988] Of their coming home I learn with my own eyes and need no other witness. Yet still my soul within me, self-inspired, intones the lyreless dirge of the avenging spirit, and cannot wholly win its customary confidence of hope. Not for nothing is my bosom disquieted as my heart throbs against my justly fearful breast in eddying tides that warn of some event. But I pray that my expectation may fall out false and not come to fulfilment.

[1001] Truly blooming health does not rest content within its due bounds; for disease ever presses close against it, its neighbor with a common wall.30 So human fortune, when holding onward in straight course strikes upon a hidden reef. And yet, if with a well-measured throw, caution heaves overboard a portion of the gathered wealth, the whole house, with woe overladen, does not founder nor engulf the hull.31 Truly the generous gift from Zeus,  rich and derived from yearly furrows, makes an end of the plague of famine.
[1017] But a man's blood, once it has first fallen by murder to earth in a dark tide—who by magic spell shall call it back? Even he32 who possessed the skill to raise from the dead—did not Zeus make an end of him as warning? And unless one fate ordained of the gods restrains another fate from winning the advantage, my heart would outstrip my tongue and pour forth its fears33; but, as it is, it mutters only in the dark, distressed and hopeless ever to unravel anything in time when my soul's aflame.

[Enter Clytaemestra.]

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1035] Get inside, you too, Cassandra34; since not unkindly has Zeus appointed you to share the holy water of a house where you may take your stand, with many another slave, at the altar of the god who guards its wealth. Get down from the car and do not be too proud; for even Alcmene's son,35 men say, once endured to be sold and eat the bread of slavery. But if such fortune should of necessity fall to the lot of any, there is good cause for thankfulness in having masters of ancient wealth; for they who, beyond their hope, have reaped a rich harvest of possessions, are cruel to their slaves in every way, even exceeding due measure. You have from us such usage as custom warrants.

CHORUS
[1047] It is to you she has been speaking and clearly. Since you are in the toils of destiny, perhaps you will obey, if you are so inclined; but perhaps you will not.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1050] Well, if her language is not strange and foreign, even as a swallow's, I must speak within her comprehension and move her to comply.

CHORUS
[1053] Go with her. With things as they now stand, she gives you the best. Do as she bids and leave your seat in the car.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1055] I have no time to waste with this woman here outside; for already the victims stand by the central hearth awaiting the sacrifice—a joy we never expected to be ours. As for you, if you will take any part, make no delay. But if, failing to understand, you do not catch my meaning, then, instead of speech, make a sign with your barbarian hand.

CHORUS
[1062] It is an interpreter and a plain one that the stranger seems to need. She bears herself like a wild creature newly captured.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1064] No, she is mad and listens to her wild mood, since she has come here from a newly captured city, and does not know how to tolerate the bit until she has foamed away her fretfulness in blood. No! I will waste no more words upon her to be insulted thus.
[Exit.]

CHORUS
[1069] But I will not be angry, since I pity her. Come, unhappy one, leave the car; yield to necessity and take upon you this novel yoke.

CASSANDRA
[1072] Woe, woe, woe! O Apollo, O Apollo!

CHORUS
[1074] Wherefore your cry of “woe” in Loxias' name? He is not the kind of god that has to do with mourners.

CASSANDRA
[1076] Woe, woe, woe! O Apollo, O Apollo!

CHORUS
[1078] Once more with ill-omened words she cries to the god who should not be present at times of lamentation.

CASSANDRA
[1080] Apollo, Apollo! God of the Ways,36 my destroyer! For you have destroyed meand utterlythis second time.37

CHORUS
[1083] I think that she is about to prophesy about her own miseries. The divine gift still abides even in the soul of one enslaved.

CASSANDRA
[1085] Apollo, Apollo! God of the Ways, my destroyer! Ah, what way is this that you have brought me! To what a house!

CHORUS
[1088] To that of Atreus' sons. If you do not perceive this, I'll tell it to you. And you shall not say that it is untrue.

CASSANDRA
[1090] No, no, rather to a god-hating house, a house that knows many a horrible butchery of kin, a slaughter-house of men and a floor swimming with blood.

CHORUS
[1093] The stranger seems keen-scented as a hound; she is on the trail where she will discover blood.

CASSANDRA
[1095] Here is the evidence in which I put my trust! Behold those babies bewailing their own butchery and their roasted flesh eaten by their father!

CHORUS
[1098] Your fame to read the future had reached our ears; but we have no need of prophets here.

CASSANDRA
[1100] Alas, what can she be planning?38 What is this fresh woe she contrives here within, what monstrous, monstrous horror, beyond love's enduring, beyond all remedy? And help39 stands far away!

CHORUS
[1105] These prophesyings pass my comprehension; but those I understood—the whole city rings with them.

CASSANDRA
[1107] Ah, damned woman, will you do this thing? Your husband, the partner of your bed, when you have cheered him with the bath, will you—how shall I tell the end? Soon it will be done. Now this hand, now that, she stretches forth!

CHORUS
[1112] Not yet do I comprehend; for now, after riddles, I am bewildered by dark oracles.

CASSANDRA
[1114] Ah! Ah! What apparition is this? Is it a net of death? No, it is a snare that shares his bed, that shares the guilt of murder. Let the fatal pack, insatiable against the race, raise a shout of jubilance over a victim accursed!40

CHORUS
[1119] What Spirit of Vengeance is this that you bid raise its voice over this house? Your words do not cheer me. Back to my heart surge the drops of my pallid blood, even as when they drip from a mortal wound, ebbing away as life's beams sink low; and death comes speedily.

CASSANDRA
[1125] Ah, ah, see there, see there! Keep the bull from his mate! She has caught him in the robe and gores him with the crafty device of her black horn! He falls in a vessel of water! It is of doom wrought by guile in a murderous bath that I am telling you.

CHORUS
[1130] I cannot boast that I am a keen judge of prophecies; but these, I think, spell some evil. But from prophecies what word of good ever comes to mortals? Through terms of evil their wordy arts bring men to know fear chanted in prophetic strains.

CASSANDRA
[1136] Alas, alas, the sorrow of my ill-starred doom! For it is my own affliction, crowning the cup, that I bewail. Ah, to what end did you bring me here, unhappy as I am? For nothing except to dieand not alone. What else?

CHORUS
[1140] Frenzied in soul you are, by some god possessed, and you wail in wild strains your own fate, like that brown bird that never ceases making lament (ah me!), and in the misery of her heart moans Itys, Itys, throughout all her days abounding in sorrow, the nightingale.

CASSANDRA
[1146] Ah, fate of the clear-voiced nightingale! The gods clothed her in a winged form and gave to her a sweet life without tears.41 But for me waits destruction by the two-edged sword.

CHORUS
[1150] From where come these vain pangs of prophecy that assail you? And why do you mold to melody these terrors with dismal cries blended with piercing strains? How do you know the bounds of the path of your  ill-boding prophecy?

CASSANDRA
[1156] Ah, the marriage, the marriage of Paris, that destroyed his friends! Ah me, Scamander, my native stream! Upon your banks in bygone days, unhappy maid, was I nurtured with fostering care; but now by Cocytus and the banks of Acheron, I think, I soon must chant my prophecies.

CHORUS
[1162] What words are these you utter, words all too plain? A new-born child hearing them could understand. I am smitten with a deadly pain, while, by reason of your cruel fortune, you cry aloud your pitiful moans that break my heart to hear.

CASSANDRA
[1167] O the sufferings, the sufferings of my city utterly destroyed! Alas, the sacrifices my father offered, the many pasturing cattle slain to save its towers! Yet they provided no remedy to save the city from suffering even as it has; and I, my soul on fire, must soon fall to the ground.

CHORUS
[1173] Your present speech chimes with your former strain. Surely some malignant spirit, falling upon you with heavy swoop, moves you to chant your piteous woes fraught with death. But the end I am helpless to discover.

CASSANDRA
[1178] And now, no more shall my prophecy peer forth from behind a veil like a new-wedded bride; but it will rush upon me clear as a fresh wind blowing against the sun's uprising so as to dash against its rays, like a wave, a woe far mightier than mine. No more by riddles will I instruct you. And bear me witness, as, running close behind, I scent the track of crimes done long ago. For from this roof never departs a choir chanting in unison, but singing no harmonious tune; for it tells not of good. And so, gorged on human blood, so as to be the more emboldened, a revel-rout of kindred Furies haunts the house, hard to be drive away. Lodged within its halls they chant their chant, the primal sin; and, each in turn, they spurn with loathing a brother's bed, for they bitterly spurn the one who defiled it.42 Have I missed the mark, or, like a true archer, do I strike my quarry? Or am I prophet of lies, a door-to-door babbler? Bear witness upon your oath that I know the deeds of sin, ancient in story, of this house.

CHORUS
[1198] How could an oath, a pledge although given in honor, effect any cure? Yet I marvel at you that,  though bred beyond the sea, you speak truth of a foreign city, even as if you had been present there.

CASSANDRA
[1202] The seer Apollo appointed me to this office.

CHORUS
[1203] Can it be that he, a god, was smitten with desire?

CASSANDRA
[1204] Before now I was ashamed to speak of this.

CHORUS
[1205] In prosperity all take on airs.

CASSANDRA
[1206] Oh, but he struggled to win me, breathing ardent love for me.

CHORUS
[1207] Did you in due course come to the rite of marriage?

CASSANDRA
[1208] I consented to Loxias but broke my word.

CHORUS
[1209] Were you already possessed by the art inspired of the god?

CASSANDRA
[1210] Already I prophesied to my countrymen all their disasters.

CHORUS
[1211] How came it then that you were unharmed by Loxias' wrath?

CASSANDRA
[1212] Ever since that fault I could persuade no one of anything.

CHORUS
[1213] And yet to us at least the prophecies you utter seem true enough.

CASSANDRA
[1214] Ah, ah! Oh, oh, the agony! Once more the dreadful throes of true prophecy whirl and distract me with their ill-boding onset. Do you see them there—sitting before the house—young creatures like phantoms of dreams? Children, they seem, slaughtered by their own kindred, their hands full of the meat of their own flesh; they are clear to my sight, holding their vitals and their inward parts (piteous burden!), which their father tasted. For this cause I tell you that a strengthless lion, wallowing in his bed, plots vengeance, a watchman waiting (ah me!) for my master's coming home—yes, my master, for I must bear the yoke of slavery. The commander of the fleet and the overthrower of Ilium little knows what deeds shall be brought to evil accomplishment by the hateful hound, whose tongue licked his hand, who stretched forth her ears in gladness, like treacherous Ate. Such boldness has she, a woman to slay a man. What odious monster shall I fitly call her? An Amphisbaena?43 Or a Scylla, tenanting the rocks, a pest to mariners, a raging, devil's mother, breathing relentless war against her husband? And how the all-daring woman raised a shout of triumph, as when the battle turns, the while she feigned to joy at his safe return! And yet, it is all one, whether or not I am believed. What does it matter? What is to come, will come. And soon you, yourself present here, shall with great pity pronounce me all too true a prophetess.

CHORUS
[1242] Thyestes' banquet on his children's flesh I understood, and I tremble. Terror possesses me as I hear the truth, nothing fashioned out of falsehood to resemble truth. But as for the rest I heard I am thrown off the track.

CASSANDRA
[1246] I say you shall look upon Agamemnon dead.

CHORUS
[1247] To words propitious, miserable girl, lull your speech.

CASSANDRA
[1248] Over what I tell no healing god presides.

CHORUS
[1249] No, if it is to be; but may it not be so!

CASSANDRA
[1250] You do but pray; their business is to slay.

CHORUS
[1251] What man is he that contrived this wickedness?

CASSANDRA
[1252] Surely you must have missed the meaning of my prophecies.

CHORUS
[1253] I do not understand the scheme of him who is to do the deed.

CASSANDRA
[1254] And yet all too well I understand the Greek language.

CHORUS
[1255] So too do the Pythian oracles; yet they are hard to understand.

CASSANDRA
[1256] Oh, oh! What fire! It comes upon me! Woe, woe! Lycean Apollo! Ah me, ah me! This two-footed lioness, who mates with a wolf in the absence of the noble lion, will slay me, miserable as I am. Brewing as it were a drug, she vows that with her wrath she will mix requital for me too, while she whets her sword against her husband, to take murderous vengeance for bringing me here. Why then do I bear these mockeries of myself, this wand, these prophetic chaplets on my neck?

[Breaking her wand, she throws it and the other insignia of her prophetic office upon the ground, and tramples them underfoot.]
[1266] You at least I will destroy before I die myself. To destruction with you! And fallen there, thus do I repay you. Enrich with doom some other in my place. Look, Apollo himself is stripping me of my prophetic garb—he that saw me mocked to bitter scorn, even in this bravery, by friends turned foes, with one accord, in vain—but, like some vagrant mountebank, called “beggar,” “wretch,” “starveling,” I bore it all. And now the prophet, having undone me, his prophetess, has brought me to this lethal pass. Instead of my father's altar a block awaits me, where I am to be butchered in a hot and bloody sacrifice. Yet, we shall not die unavenged by the gods; for there shall come in turn another, our avenger, a scion of the race, to slay his mother and exact requital for his sire; an exile, a wanderer, a stranger from this land, he shall return to put the coping-stone upon these unspeakable iniquities of his house. For the gods have sworn a mighty oath that his slain father's outstretched corpse shall bring him home. Why then thus raise my voice in pitiful lament? Since first I saw the city of Ilium fare what it has fared, while her captors, by the gods' sentence, are coming to such an end,  I will go in and meet my fate. I will dare to die. This door I greet as the gates of Death. And I pray that, dealt a mortal stroke, without a struggle, my life-blood ebbing away in easy death, I may close these eyes.

CHORUS
[1295] O woman, pitiful exceedingly and exceeding wise, long has been your speech. But if, in truth, you have knowledge of your own death, how can you step with calm courage to the altar like an ox, driven by the god?

CASSANDRA
[1299] There is no escape; no, my friends, there is none any more.44

CHORUS
[1300] Yet he that is last has the advantage in respect of time.

CASSANDRA
[1301] The day has come; flight would profit me but little.

CHORUS
[1302] Well, be assured, you brave suffering with a courageous spirit.

CASSANDRA
[1303] None who is happy is commended thus.

CHORUS
[1304] Yet surely to die nobly is a blessing for mortals.

CASSANDRA
[1305] Alas for you, my father and for your noble children!
[She starts back in horror.]

CHORUS
[1306] What ails you? What terror turns you back?

CASSANDRA
[1307] Alas, alas!

CHORUS
[1308] Why do you cry “alas”? Unless perhaps there is some horror in your soul.

CASSANDRA
[1309] This house stinks of blood-dripping slaughter.

CHORUS
[1310] And what of that? It is just the savor of victims at the hearth.

CASSANDRA
[1311] It is like a breath from a charnel-house.

CHORUS
[1312] You are not speaking of proud Syrian incense for the house.

CASSANDRA
[1313] Nay, I will go to bewail also within the palace my own and Agamemnon's fate. Enough of life! Alas, my friends, not with vain terror do I shrink, as a bird that fears a bush. After I am dead, bear witness for me of this—when for me, a woman, another woman shall be slain, and for an ill-wedded man another man shall fall.  I claim this favor from you now that my hour is come.

CHORUS
[1321] Poor woman, I pity you for your death foretold.

CASSANDRA
[1322] Yet once more I would like to speak, but not a dirge. I pray to the sun, in presence of his latest light, that my enemies45 may at the same time pay to my avengers a bloody penalty for slaughtering a slave, an easy prey. Alas for human fortune! When prosperous, a mere shadow can overturn it46; if misfortune strikes, the dash of a wet sponge blots out the drawing. And this last I deem far more pitiable than that.
[Enters the palace.]

CHORUS
[1333] It is the nature of all human kind to be unsatisfied with prosperity. From stately halls none bars it with warning voice that utters the words “Enter no more.” So the Blessed Ones have granted to our prince to capture Priam's town; and, divinely-honored, he returns to his home. Yet if he now must pay the penalty for the blood shed by others before him, and by dying for the dead he is to bring to pass retribution of other deaths,47 what mortal man, on hearing this, can boast that he was born with scatheless destiny?

[A shriek is heard from within.]

AGAMEMNON
[1343] Alas! I am struck deep with a mortal blow!

CHORUS
[1344] Silence! Who is this that cries out, wounded by a mortal blow?

AGAMEMNON
[1345] And once again, alas! I am struck by a second blow.

CHORUS
[1346] The deed is done, it seems—to judge by the groans of the king. But come, let us take counsel together if there is perhaps some safe plan of action.

[The members of the Chorus deliver their opinion on the course to be taken.]

[1349] 1. I tell you my advice: summon the townsfolk to bring rescue here to the palace.

[1350] 2. To my thinking we must burst in and charge them with the deed while the sword is still dripping in their hands.

[1352] 3. I, too, am for taking part in some such plan, and vote for action of some sort. It is no time to keep on delaying.

[1354] 4. It is plain. Their opening act marks a plan to set up a tyranny in the State.

[1356] 5.Yes, because we are wasting time, while they, trampling underfoot that famous name, Delay, allow their hands no slumber.

[1358] 6. I know not what plan I could hit on to propose. It is the doer's part likewise to do the planning.

[1360] 7. I too am of this mind, for I know no way to bring the dead back to life by mere words.

[1362] 8. What! To prolong our lives shall we thus submit to the rule of those defilers of the house?

[1364] 9. No, it is not to be endured. No, death would be better, for that would be a milder lot than tyranny.

[1366] 10. And shall we, upon the evidence of mere groans, divine that our lord is dead?

[1368] 11. We should be sure of the facts before we indulge our wrath. For surmise differs from assurance.

[1370] 12. I am supported on all sides to approve this course—that we get clear assurance how it stands with Atreus' son.

[The bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra are disclosed; the queen stands by their side.]

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1372] Much have I said before to serve my need and I shall feel no shame to contradict it now. For how else could one, devising hate against a hated foe who bears the semblance of a friend, fence the snares of ruin too high to be overleaped? This is the contest of an ancient feud, pondered by me of old, and it has come, however long delayed. I stand where I dealt the blow; my purpose is achieved. Thus have I done the deed; deny it I will not. Round him, as if to catch a haul of fish, I cast an impassable net—fatal wealth of robe—so that he should neither escape nor ward off doom. Twice I struck him, and with two groans  his limbs relaxed. Once he had fallen, I dealt him yet a third stroke to grace my prayer to the infernal Zeus, the savior of the dead. Fallen thus, he gasped away his life, and as he breathed forth quick spurts of blood, he struck me with dark drops of gory dew; while I rejoiced no less than the sown earth is gladdened in heaven's refreshing rain at the birthtime of the flower buds.

[1393] Since then the case stands thus, old men of Argos, rejoice, if you would rejoice; as for me, I glory in the deed. And had it been a fitting act to pour libations on the corpse, over him this would have been done justly, more than justly. With so many accursed lies has he filled the mixing-bowl in his own house, and now he has come home and himself drained it to the dregs.

CHORUS
[1399] We are shocked at your tongue, how bold-mouthed you are, that over your husband you can utter such a boastful speech.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1401] You are testing me as if I were a witless woman. But my heart does not quail, and I say to you who know it well—and whether you wish to praise or to blame me, it is all one—here is Agamemnon, my husband, now a corpse, the work of this right hand, a just workman. So stands the case.

CHORUS
[1407] Woman, what poisonous herb nourished by the earth have you tasted, what potion drawn from the flowing sea, that you have taken upon yourself this maddened rage and the loud curses voiced by the public? You have cast him off; you have cut him off; and out from the land shall you be cast, a burden of hatred to your people.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1412] It's now that you would doom me to exile from the land, to the hatred of my people and the execration of the public voice; though then you had nothing to urge against him that lies here. And yet he, valuing no more than if it had been a beast that perished—though sheep were plenty in his fleecy folds—he sacrificed his own child, she whom I bore with dearest travail, to charm the blasts of Thrace. Is it not he whom you should have banished from this land in requital for his polluting deed? No! When you arraign what I have done, you are a stern judge. Well, I warn you: threaten me thus on the understanding that I am prepared, conditions equal, to let you lord it over me if you shall vanquish me by force. But if a god shall bring the contrary to pass, you shall learn discretion though taught the lesson late.

CHORUS
[1426] You are proud of spirit, and your speech is overbearing. Even as your mind is maddened by your deed of blood, upon your face a stain of blood shows full plain to behold. Bereft of all honor, forsaken of your friends, you shall hereafter atone for stroke with stroke,

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1431] Listen then to this too, this the righteous sanction on my oath: by Justice, exacted for my child, by Ate, by the Avenging Spirit, to whom I sacrificed that man, hope does not tread for me the halls of fear, so long as the fire upon my hearth is kindled by Aegisthus, loyal in heart to me as in days gone by. For he is no slight shield of confidence to me. Here lies the man who did me wrong, plaything of each Chryseis at Ilium; and here she lies, his captive, and auguress, and concubine, his oracular faithful whore, yet equally familiar with the seamen's benches. The pair has met no undeserved fate. For he lies thus; while she, who, like a swan, has sung her last lament in death, lies here, his beloved; but to me she has brought for my bed an added relish of delight.

CHORUS
[1448] Alas! Ah that some fate, free from excess of suffering, nor yet with lingering bed of pain, might come full soon and bring to us everlasting and endless sleep, now that our most gracious guardian has been laid low, who in a woman's cause had much endured and by a woman's hand has lost his life.

[1455] O mad Helen, who did yourself alone destroy these many lives, these lives exceeding many, beneath the walls of Troy. Now you have bedecked yourself with your final crown, that shall long last in memory, because of blood not to be washed away. Truly in those days strife, an affliction that has subdued its lord, dwelt in the house.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1462] Do not burden yourself with thoughts such as these, nor invoke upon yourself the fate of death. Nor yet turn your wrath upon Helen, and deem her a slayer of men, as if she alone had destroyed many a Danaan life and had wrought anguish past all cure.

CHORUS
[1468] O Fiend who falls upon this house and Tantalus' two descendants,48 you who by the hands of women exert a rule matching their temper, a rule bitter to my soul! Perched over his body like a hateful raven, in hoarse notes she chants her song of triumph.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1475] Now you have corrected the judgment of your lips in that you name the thrice-gorged Fiend of this race. For by him the lust for lapping blood is fostered in the mouth; so before the ancient wound is healed, fresh blood is spilled.

CHORUS
[1481] Truly you speak of a mighty Fiend, haunting the house, and heavy in his wrath (alas, alas!)—an evil tale of catastrophic fate insatiate; woe, woe, done by will of Zeus, author of all, worker of all! For what is brought to pass for mortal men save by will of Zeus? What herein is not wrought of god?

[1489] Alas, alas, my King, my King, how shall I bewail you? How voice my heartfelt love for you? To lie in this spider's web, breathing forth your life in an impious death! Ah me, to lie on this ignoble bed, struck down in treacherous death wrought by a weapon of double edge wielded by the hand of your own wife!

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1497] Do you affirm this deed is mine? Do not imagine that I am Agamemnon's spouse. A phantom resembling that corpse's wife, the ancient bitter evil spirit of Atreus, that grim banqueter, has offered him in payment, sacrificing a full-grown victim in vengeance for those slain babes.

CHORUS
[1505] That you are innocent of this murder—who will bear you witness? How could anyone do so? And yet the evil genius of his father might well be your accomplice. By force amid streams of kindred blood black Havoc presses on to where he shall grant vengeance for the gore of children served for meat.

[1513] Alas, alas, my King, my King, how shall I bewail you? How voice my heartfelt love for you? To lie in this spider's web, breathing forth your life in impious death! Alas, to lie on this ignoble bed, struck down in treacherous death wrought by a weapon of double edge wielded by your own wife's hand!

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1521] [Neither do I think he met an ignoble death.] And did he not himself by treachery bring ruin on his house? Yet, as he has suffered—worthy prize of worthy deed—for what he did to my sweet flower, shoot sprung from him, the sore-wept Iphigenia, let him make no great boasts in the halls of Hades, since with death dealt him by the sword he has paid for what he first began.

CHORUS
[1530] Bereft of any ready expedient of thought, I am bewildered where to turn now that the house is tottering. I fear the beating storm of bloody rain that shakes the house; no longer does it descend in drops. Yet on other whetstones Destiny is sharpening justice for another evil deed.

[1536] O Earth, Earth, if only you had taken me to yourself before ever I had lived to see my lord occupying a lowly bed of a silver-sided bath! Who shall bury him? Who shall lament him? Will you harden your heart to do this—you who have slain your own husband—to lament for him and crown your unholy work with an uncharitable gift to his spirit, atoning for your monstrous deeds? And who, as with tears he utters praise over the hero's grave, shall sorrow in sincerity of heart?

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1551] To care for that duty is no concern of yours. By your hands down he fell, down to death, and down below shall we bury him—but not with wailings from his household. No! Iphigenia, his daughter, as is due, shall meet her father lovingly at the swift-flowing ford of sorrows, and shall fling her arms around him and kiss him.

CHORUS
[1560] Reproach thus meets reproach in turn—hard is the struggle to decide. The spoiler is despoiled, the slayer pays penalty. Yet, while Zeus remains on his throne, it remains true that to him who does it shall be done; for it is law. Who can cast from out the house the seed of the curse? The race is bound fast in calamity.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1567] Upon this divine deliverance have you rightly touched. As for me, however, I am willing to make a sworn compact with the Fiend of the house of Pleisthenes49 that I will be content with what is done, hard to endure though it is. Henceforth he shall leave this house and bring tribulation upon some other race by murder of kin. A small part of the wealth is fully enough for me, if I may but rid these halls of the frenzy of mutual murder.

[Enter Aegisthus with armed retainers.]

AEGISTHUS
[1577] Hail gracious light of the day of retribution! At last the hour has come when I can say that the gods who avenge mortal men look down from on high upon the crimes of earth. Now that, to my joy, I behold this man lying here in a robe spun by the Avenging Spirits and making full payment for the deeds contrived in craft by his father's hand.

[1583] For Atreus, lord of this land, this man's father, challenged in his sovereignty, drove forth, from city and from home, Thyestes, who (to speak it clearly) was my father and his own brother. And when he had come back as a suppliant to his hearth, unhappy Thyestes secured such safety for his lot as not himself to suffer death and stain with his blood his native soil. But Atreus, the godless father of this slain man, with welcome more hearty than kind, on the pretence that he was cheerfully celebrating a happy day by serving meat, served up to my father as entertainment a banquet of his own children's flesh. The toes and fingers he broke off . . . sitting apart.50 And when all unwittingly my father had quickly taken servings that he did not recognize, he ate a meal which, as you see, has proved fatal to his race. Now, discovering his unhallowed deed, he uttered a great cry, reeled back, vomiting forth the slaughtered flesh, and invoked an unbearable curse upon the line of Pelops, kicking the banquet table to aid his curse, “thus perish all the race of Pleisthenes!” This is the reason that you see this man fallen here. I am he who planned this murder and with justice. For together with my hapless father he drove me out, me his third child, as yet a baby in swaddling-clothes. But grown to manhood, justice has brought me back again. Exile though I was, I laid my hand upon my enemy, compassing every device of cunning to his ruin. So even death would be sweet to me now that I behold him in justice's net.

CHORUS
[1612] Aegisthus, excessive triumph amid distress I do not honor. You say that of your own intent you slew this man and did alone plot this pitiful murder. I tell you in the hour of justice that you yourself, be sure of that, will not escape the people's curses and death by stoning at their hand.

AEGISTHUS
[1617] You speak like that, you who sit at the lower oar when those upon the higher bench control the ship?51 Old as you are, you shall learn how bitter it is at your age to be schooled when prudence is the lesson set before you. Bonds and the pangs of hunger are far the best doctors of the spirit when it comes to instructing the old. Do you have eyes and lack understanding? Do not kick against the goads lest you strike to your own hurt.

CHORUS
[1625] Woman that you are! Skulking at home and awaiting the return of the men from war, all the while defiling a hero's bed, did you contrive this death against a warrior chief?

AEGISTHUS
[1628] These words of yours likewise shall prove a source of tears. The tongue of Orpheus is quite the opposite of yours. He led all things by the rapture of his voice; but you, who have stirred our wrath by your silly yelping, shall be led off yourself. You will appear tamer when put down by force.

CHORUS
[1633] As if you would ever truly be my master here in Argos, you who did contrive our king's death, and then had not the courage to do this deed of murder with your own hand!

AEGISTHUS
[1636] Because to ensnare him was clearly the woman's part; I was suspect as his enemy of old. However, with his gold I shall endeavor to control the people; and whoever is unruly, him I'll yoke with a heavy collar, and in truth he shall be no well-fed trace-horse!52 No! Loathsome hunger that houses with darkness shall see him gentle.

CHORUS
[1643] Why then, in the baseness of your soul, did you not kill him yourself, but leave his slaying to a woman, a plague to her country and her country's gods? Oh, does Orestes perhaps still behold the light, that, with favoring fortune, he may come home and be the slayer of this pair with victory complete?

AEGISTHUS
[1649] Oh well, since you plan to act and speak like that, you shall be taught a lesson soon. On guard, my trusty guardsmen, your work lies close to hand.

CHORUS
[1651] On guard then! Let every one make ready his sword with hand on hilt.

AEGISTHUS
[1652] My hand too is laid on my sword hilt, and I do not shrink from death.

CHORUS
[1653] “Death for yourself,” you say. We hail the omen. We welcome fortune's test.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1654] No, my dearest, let us work no further ills. Even these are many to reap, a wretched harvest. Of woe we have enough; let us have no bloodshed. Venerable elders, go back to your homes, and yield in time to destiny before you come to harm. What we did had to be done. But should this trouble prove enough, we will accept it, sorely battered as we are by the heavy hand of fate. Such is a woman's counsel, if any care to learn from it.

AEGISTHUS
[1662] But to think that these men should let their wanton tongues thus blossom into speech against me and cast about such insults, putting their fortune to the test! To reject wise counsel and insult their master!

CHORUS
[1665] It would not be like men of Argos to cringe before a man as low as you.

AEGISTHUS
[1666] Ha! I will visit you with vengeance yet in days to come.

CHORUS
[1667] Not if fate shall guide Orestes to return home.

AEGISTHUS
[1668] From my own experience I know that exiles feed on hope.

CHORUS
[1669] Keep on, grow fat, polluting justice, since you can.

AEGISTHUS
[1670] Know that you shall atone to me for your insolent folly.

CHORUS
[1671] Brag in your bravery like a cock beside his hen.

CLYTAEMESTRA
[1672] Do no care for their idle yelpings. I and you will be masters of this house and order it aright.
{Exeunt omnes.]

THE END.

25. Geryon, a monster (here called “three-bodied,” but ordinarily “three-headed”) whose oxen were driven away from Spain by Heracles.
26. By her fulsome address Clytaemestra invites, while seeming to deprecate, the envy of the gods.
27. Some take this to mean: “Nor, as if I were a barbaric chieftain, grovel to me.”
28. That is, when the summer heat is ripening the grapes.
29. The sense of the Greek passage (of which no entirely satisfactory emendation has been offered) is that so much time has passed since the fleet, under Agamemnon's command, was detained at Aulis by the wrath of Artemis, that Calchas' prophecy of evil, if true, would have been fulfilled long ago.
30. Abounding health, ignoring its limitations, is separated from disease only by a slight dividing line. The suppressed thought is that remedies, if applied at the right time, may save the body.

31. The house of Agamemnon, full of calamity, is likened to an overloaded ship, which will founder if some part of its freight is not jettisoned. By confusion of the symbol and the thing signified, domos is boldly said to “sink its hull.”
32. Aesculapius, who was blasted by the thunderbolt of Zeus for this offence.
33. The further expression of their forebodings is checked by the desperate hope that since divine forces sometimes clash, the evil destiny of Agamemnon may yet be averted by a superior fate, which they dimly apprehend will ordain his deliverance from the consequences of his shedding the blood of Iphigenia.
34. I have retained the ordinary form of the name in Greek and English.
35. Heracles, because of his murder of Iphitus, was sold as a slave to Omphale, queen of Lydia.
36. Cassandra sees an image of Apollo, the protector on journeys, close to the door leading to the street (aguia).
37. Apollôn is here derived from Apollumi, “destroy” -- nomen omen. The god had “destroyed” her the first time in making vain his gift of prophecy (1209 ff.); whereby she became the object of derision in Troy.
38. A play on the name Klutaimêstra (mêdomai).
39. Menelaus (cp. l. 674) or Orestes.
40. Literally “fit for stoning.”

41. The wailing (l. 1144) of the bird is unconscious (Schol.).
42. Thyestes' corruption of Aerope, wife of his brother Atreus.
43. Amphisbaena, a fabulous snake “moving both ways,” backwards and forwards. Tennyson's “an amphisbaena, each end a sting,” reproduces Pliny's description.
44. Auratus read chronou pleôn : “more than that of time,” “save for time.”
45. Of this corrupt passage no emendation yet made commends itself irresistibly. The translation is based on the reading echthrous phoneusin tous emous, where phoneusin is due to Bothe, the rest to J. Pearson.
46. Some editors, altering the passage to skiai tis an prepseien, “one may liken it to a shadow,” understand “shadow” either literally or as a “sketch.”
47. If Agamemnon is now to pay the price for his father's killing of Thyestes' children, and by his own death is to atone for his slaying of Iphigenia, and is thus to bring about requital consisting in yet other deaths (Clytaemestra and Aegisthus).
48. Agamemnon and Menelaus.
49. The Pleisthenidae, here apparently a synonym of Atreidae, take their name from Pleisthenes, of whom Porphyry in his Questions says that he was the son of Atreus and the real father of Agamemnon and Menelaus; and that, as he died young, without having achieved any distinction, his sons were brought up by their grandfather and hence called Atreidae.
50. The sense of the lacuna may have been: “and over them he placed the other parts. This dish my father, sitting apart, received as his share.”
51. In a bireme, the rowers on the lower tier were called thalamitai ; those on the upper tier, zeugitai.
52. The trace-horse bore no collar, and was harnessed by the side of the pair under the yoke.

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