Main Complete Works of Aeschylus
You may be interested in Powered by Rec2Me
Most frequently terms
Contents Brief Biography THE PERSIANS THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES THE SUPPLIANTS AGAMEMNON EUMENIDES THE CHOEPHORI PROMETHEUS BOUND Other Delphi Classics available on Kindle: · The Complete Works of Aeschylus · The Complete Works of Sophocles · The Complete Works of Aristophanes Dual texts · The Works of Pindar (Greek and English version) · The Works of Sappho (Greek and English version) · The Works of Alcaeus (Greek and English version) · The Works of Catullus (Latin and English version) Brief Biography Aeschylus (ca. 524BC-456BC) was the first of the three (with Sophocles and Euripides) ancient Greek tragedians and he is often termed as the father of tragedy. According to Aristotle, he increased the number of characters on stage to allow conflict. Beforehand characters would only interact with the chorus. Sadly, only seven plays by Aeschylus have survived from Antiquity, although he is believed to have written as many as ninety. There is some debate regarding the authorship of one play, Prometheus Bound, which has been included in this collection. Aeschylus was said to have been born in Eleusis, a small town northwest of Athens in western Attica. His family was wealthy and his father was a member of the ancient nobility of Attica. The geographer Pausanias told how Aeschylus worked at a vineyard in his youh, when the god Dionysus visited him in a dream, commaninding him to write tragedy. As soon as he awoke, the young Aeschylus began writing a play and the first performance was in 499 BC, when he was only 26 years old. He won his first victory at the City Dionysia in 484 BC. The Persian Wars played a large role in the playwright's life. In 490 BC, Aeschylus and his brother fought to defend Athens against the Great Persian King’s army at the Battle of Marathon. Though heavily outnumbered, the Athenians slaughtered the Persian army. ; This crucial victory ended the first Persian invasion of Greece. In 480, Aeschylus was called into service again at the Battle of Salamis. This battle holds a prominent place in his earliest surviving play, The Persians, first performed in 472 BC, winning the first prize at the Dionysia festival. Aeschylus was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cult to Demeter founded in his hometown. Members of the cult were supposed to have gained mystical knowledge and, according to Aristotle, Aeschylus had revealed the cult's secrets on stage. Some claim that an angry mob tried to kill Aeschylus, but he managed to flee the scene. When standing trial for the offense he pleaded ignorance and was acquitted, as the jury was sympathetic due to his war service. After the death of his chief rival Phrynichus in 473 BC, Aeschylus was the favorite in the Dionysia, winning first prize in nearly every competition. In 472 BC, Aeschylus staged four plays, all financed by the famous statesman Pericles. In 458 BC, he visited the city of Gela in Sicily, where he died in two years later. Some claimed he was killed by a tortoise, which fell out of the sky, dropped by an eagle. Yet many doubt the truth of such a tale. Aeschylus' work was so respected after his death that only his tragedies were allowed to be restaged in ensuing competitions. The Theatre of Dionysus, Athens The birthplace of drama where most of Aeschylus’ plays were first performed THE PERSIANS Written 472 B.C.E Translated by Robert Potter Dramatis Personae ATOSSA, widow of Darius and mother of XERXES MESSENGER GHOST OF DARIUS XERXES CHORUS OF PERSIAN ELDERS, who compose the Persian Council of State Scene Before the Council-Hall of the Persian Kings at Susa. The tomb of Darius the Great is visible. The time is 480 B.C., shortly after the battle of Salamis. The play opens with the CHORUS OF PERSIAN ELDERS singing its first choral lyric. CHORUS While o'er the fields of Greece the embattled troops Of Persia march with delegated sway, We o'er their rich and gold-abounding seats Hold faithful our firm guard; to this high charge Xerxes, our royal lord, the imperial son Of great Darius, chose our honour'd age. But for the king's return, and his arm'd host Blazing with gold, my soul presaging ill Swells in my tortured breast: for all her force Hath Asia sent, and for her youth I sigh. Nor messenger arrives, nor horseman spurs With tidings to this seat of Persia's kings. The gates of Susa and Ecbatana Pour'd forth their martial trains; and Cissia sees Her ancient towers forsaken, while her youth, Some on the bounding steed, the tall bark some Ascending, some with painful march on foot, Haste on, to arrange the deep'ning files of war. Amistres, Artaphernes, and the might Of great Astaspes, Megabazes bold, Chieftains of Persia, kings, that, to the power Of the great king obedient, march with these Leading their martial thousands; their proud steeds Prance under them; steel bows and shafts their arms, Dreadful to see, and terrible in fight, Deliberate valour breathing in their souls. Artembares, that in his fiery horse Delights; Masistress; and Imaeus bold, Bending with manly strength his stubborn bow; Pharandaces, and Sosthanes, that drives With military pomp his rapid steeds. Others the vast prolific Nile hath sent; Pegastagon, that from Aegyptus draws His high birth; Susiscanes; and the chief That reigns o'er sacred Memphis, great Arsames; And Ariomardus, that o'er ancient Thebes Bears the supreme dominion; and with these, Drawn from their watery marshes, numbers train'd To the stout oar. Next these the Lycian troops, Soft sons of luxury; and those that dwell Amid the inland forests, from the sea Far distant; these Metragathes commands, And virtuous Arceus, royal chiefs, that shine In burnish'd gold, and many a whirling car Drawn by six generous steeds from Sardis lead, A glorious and a dreadful spectacle. And from the foot of Tmolus, sacred mount, Eager to bind on Greece the servile yoke, Mardon and Tharybis the massy spear Grasp with unwearied vigour; the light lance The Mysians shake. A mingled multitude Swept from her wide dominions skill'd to draw The unerring bow, in ships Euphrates sends From golden Babylon. With falchions arm'd From all the extent of Asia move the hosts Obedient to their monarch's stern command. Thus march'd the flower of Persia, whose loved youth The world of Asia nourish'd, and with sighs Laments their absence; many an anxious look Their wives, their parents send, count the slow days, And tremble at the long-protracted time. strophe 1 Already o'er the adverse strand In arms the monarch's martial squadrons spread; The threat'ning ruin shakes the land, And each tall city bows its tower'd head. Bark bound to bark, their wondrous way They bridge across the indignant sea; The narrow Hellespont's vex'd waves disdain, His proud neck taught to wear the chain. Now has the peopled Asia's warlike lord, By land, by sea, with foot, with horse, Resistless in his rapid course, O'er all their realms his warring thousands pour'd; Now his intrepid chiefs surveys, And glitt'ring like a god his radiant state displays. antistrophe 1 Fierce as the dragon scaled in gold Through the deep files he darts his glowing eye; And pleased their order to behold, His gorgeous standard blazing to the sky, Rolls onward his Assyrian car, Directs the thunder of the war, Bids the wing'd arrows' iron storm advance Against the slow and cumbrous lance. What shall withstand the torrent of his sway When dreadful o'er the yielding shores The impetuous tide of battle roars, And sweeps the weak opposing mounds away? So Persia, with resistless might, Rolls her unnumber'd hosts of heroes to the fight. strophe 2 For when misfortune's fraudful hand Prepares to pour the vengeance of the sky, What mortal shall her force withstand? What rapid speed the impending fury fly? Gentle at first with flatt'ring smiles She spreads her soft enchanting wiles, So to her toils allures her destined prey, Whence man ne'er breaks unhurt away. For thus from ancient times the Fates ordain That Persia's sons should greatly dare, Unequall'd in the works of war; Shake with their thund'ring steeds the ensanguined plain, Dreadful the hostile walls surround, And lay their rampired towers in ruins on the ground. antistrophe 2 Taught to behold with fearless eyes The whitening billows foam beneath the gale, They bid the naval forests rise, Mount the slight bark, unfurl the flying sail, And o'er the angry ocean bear To distant realms the storm of war. For this with many a sad and gloomy thought My tortured breast is fraught: Ah me! for Persia's absent sons I sigh; For while in foreign fields they fight, Our towns exposed to wild affright An easy prey to the invader lie: Where, mighty Susa, where thy powers, To wield the warrior's arms, and guard thy regal towers? epode Crush'd beneath the assailing foe Her golden head must Cissia bend; While her pale virgins, frantic with despair, Through all her streets awake the voice of wo; And flying with their bosoms bare, Their purfled stoles in anguish rend: For all her youth in martial pride, Like bees that, clust'ring round their king, Their dark imbodied squadrons bring, Attend their sceptred monarch's side, And stretch across the watery way From shore to shore their long array. The Persian dames, with many a tender fear, In grief's sad vigils keep the midnight hour; Shed on the widow'd couch the streaming tear, And the long absence of their loves deplore. Each lonely matron feels her pensive breast Throb with desire, with aching fondness glow, Since in bright arms her daring warrior dress'd Left her to languish in her love-lorn wo. Now, ye grave Persians, that your honour'd seats Hold in this ancient house, with prudent care And deep deliberation, so the state Requires, consult we, pond'ring the event Of this great war, which our imperial lord, The mighty Xerxes from Darius sprung, The stream of whose rich blood flows in our veins, Leads against Greece; whether his arrowy shower Shot from the strong-braced bow, or the huge spear High brandish'd, in the deathful field prevails. But see, the monarch's mother: like the gods Her lustre blazes on our eyes: my queen, Prostrate I fall before her: all advance With reverence, and in duteous phrase address her, ATOSSA enters with her retinue. The Elders do their obeisance to her. LEADER OF THE CHORUS Hail, queen, of Persia's high-zoned dames supreme, Age-honour'd mother of the potent Xerxes, Imperial consort of Darius, hail! The wife, the mother of the Persians' god, If yet our former glories fade not from us. ATOSSA And therefore am I come, leaving my house That shines with gorgeous ornaments and gold, Where in past days Darius held with me His royal residence. With anxious care My heart is tortured: I will tell you, friends, My thoughts, not otherwise devoid of fear, Lest mighty wealth with haughty foot o'erturn And trample in the dust that happiness, Which, not unbless'd by Heaven, Darius raised. For this with double force unquiet thoughts Past utterance fill my soul; that neither wealth With all its golden stores, where men are wanting, Claims reverence; nor the light, that beams from power, Shines on the man whom wealth disdains to grace. The golden stores of wealth indeed are ours; But for the light (such in the house I deem The presence of its lord) there I have fears. Advise me then, you whose experienced age Supports the state of Persia: prudence guides Your councils, always kind and faithful to me. LEADER Speak, royal lady, what thy will, assured We want no second bidding, where our power In word or deed waits on our zeal: our hearts In this with honest duty shall obey thee. ATOSSA Oft, since my son hath march'd his mighty host Against the lonians, warring to subdue Their country, have my slumbers been disturb'd With dreams of dread portent; but most last night, With marks of plainest proof. I'll tell thee then: Alethought two women stood before my eyes Gorgeously vested, one in Persian robes Adorn'd, the other in the Doric garb. With more than mortal majesty they moved, Of peerless beauty; sisters too they seem'd, Though distant each from each they chanced to dwell, In Greece the one, on the barbaric coast The other. 'Twixt them soon dissension rose: My son then hasted to compose their strife, Soothed them to fair accord, beneath his car Yokes them, and reins their harness'd necks. The one, Exulting in her rich array, with pride Arching her stately neck, obey'd the reins; The other with indignant fury spurn'd The car, and dash'd it piecemeal, rent the reins, And tore the yoke asunder; down my son Fell from the seat, and instant at his side His father stands, Darius, at his fall Impress'd with pity: him when Xerxes saw, Glowing with grief and shame he rends his robes. This was the dreadful vision of the night. When I arose, in the sweet-flowing stream I bathed my hands, and on the incensed altars Presenting my oblations to the gods To avert these ills, an eagle I behold Fly to the altar of the sun; aghast I stood, my friends, and speechless; when a hawk With eager speed runs thither, furious cuffs The eagle with his wings, and with his talons Unplumes his head; meantime the imperial bird Cowers to the blows defenceless. Dreadful this To me that saw it, and to you that hear. My son, let conquest crown his arms, would shine With dazzling glory; but should Fortune frown, The state indeed presumes not to arraign His sovereignty; yet how, his honour lost, How shall he sway the sceptre of this land? LEADER We would not, royal lady, sink thy soul With fear in the excess, nor raise it high With confidence. Go then, address the gods; If thou hast seen aught ill, entreat their power To avert that ill, and perfect ev'ry good To thee, thy sons, the state, and all thy friends. Then to the earth, and to the mighty dead Behooves thee pour libations; gently cal Him that was once thy husband, whom thou saw'st In visions of the night; entreat his shade From the deep realms beneath to send to light Triumph to thee and to thy son; whate'er Bears other import, to inwrap, to hide it Close in the covering earth's profoundest gloom. This, in the presage of my thoughts that flow Benevolent to thee, have I proposed; And all, we trust, shall be successful to thee. ATOSSA Thy friendly judgment first hath placed these dreams In a fair light, confirming the event Benevolent to my son and to my house. May all the good be ratified! These rites Shall, at thy bidding, to the powers of heaven, And to the manes of our friends, be paid In order meet, when I return; meanwhile Indulge me, friends, who wish to be inform'd Where, in what clime, the towers of Athens rise. LEADER Far in the west, where sets the imperial sun. ATOSSA Yet my son will'd the conquest of this town. LEADER May Greece through all her states bend to his power! ATOSSA Send they embattled numbers to the field? LEADER A force that to the Medes hath wrought much wo. ATOSSA Have they sufficient treasures in their houses? LEADER Their rich earth yields a copious fount of silver. ATOSSA From the strong bow wing they the barbed shaft? LEADER They grasp the stout spear, and the massy shield. ATOSSA What monarch reigns, whose power commands their ranks? LEADER Slaves to no lord, they own no kingly power. ATOSSA How can they then resist the invading foe? LEADER As to spread havoc through the numerous host, That round Darius form'd their glitt'ring files. ATOSSA Thy words strike deep, and wound the parent's breast Whose sons are march'd to such a dangerous field. LEADER But, if I judge aright, thou soon shalt hear Each circumstance; for this way, mark him, speeds A Persian messenger; he bears, be sure, Tidings of high import, or good or ill. A MESSENGER enters. MESSENGER Wo to the towns through Asia's peopled realms! Wo to the land of Persia, once the port Of boundless wealth, how is thy glorious state Vanish'd at once, and all thy spreading honours Fall'n, lost! Ah me! unhappy is his task That bears unhappy tidings: but constraint Compels me to relate this tale of wo. Persians, the whole barbaric host is fall'n. CHORUS chanting O horror, horror! What a baleful train Of recent ills! Ah, Persians, as he speaks Of ruin, let your tears stream to the earth. MESSENGER It is ev'n so, all ruin; and myself, Beyond all hope returning, view this light. CHORUS chanting How tedious and oppressive is the weight Of age, reserved to hear these hopeless ills! MESSENGER I speak not from report; but these mine eyes Beheld the ruin which my tongue would utter. CHORUS chanting Wo, wo is me! Then has the iron storm, That darken'd from the realms of Asia, pour'd In vain its arrowy shower on sacred Greece. MESSENGER In heaps the unhappy dead lie on the strand Of Salamis, and all the neighbouring shores. CHORUS chanting Unhappy friends, sunk, perish'd in the sea; Their bodies, mid the wreck of shatter'd ships, Mangled, and rolling on the encumber'd waves! MESSENGER Naught did their bows avail, but all the troops In the first conflict of the ships were lost. CHORUS chanting Raise the funereal cry, with dismal notes Wailing the wretched Persians. Oh, how ill They plann'd their measures, all their army perish'd! MESSENGER O Salamis, how hateful is thy name! And groans burst from me when I think of Athens. CHORUS chanting How dreadful to her foes! Call to remembrance How many Persian dames, wedded in vain, Hath Athens of their noble husbands widow'd? ATOSSA Astonied with these ills, my voice thus long Hath wanted utterance: griefs like these exceed The power of speech or question: yet ev'n such, Inflicted by the gods, must mortal man Constrain'd by hard necessity endure. But tell me all, without distraction tell me, All this calamity, though many a groan Burst from thy labouring heart. Who is not fallen? What leader must we wail? What sceptred chief Dying hath left his troops without a lord? MESSENGER Xerxes himself lives, and beholds the light. ATOSSA That word beams comfort on my house, a ray That brightens through the melancholy gloom. MESSENGER Artembares, the potent chief that led Ten thousand horse, lies slaughtered on the rocks Of rough Sileniae. The great Dadaces, Beneath whose standard march'd a thousand horse, Pierced by a spear, fell headlong from the ship. Tenagon, bravest of the Bactrians, lies Roll'd on the wave-worn beach of Ajax' isle. Lilaeus, Arsames, Argestes, dash With violence in death against the rocks Where nest the silver doves. Arcteus, that dwelt Near to the fountains of the Egyptian Nile, Adeues, and Pheresba, and Pharnuchus Fell from one ship. Matallus, Chrysa's chief, That led his dark'ning squadrons, thrice ten thousand, On jet-black steeds, with purple gore distain'd The yellow of his thick and shaggy beard. The Magian Arabus, and Artames From Bactra, mould'ring on the dreary shore Lie low. Amistris, and Amphistreus there Grasps his war-wear spear; there prostrate lies The illustrious Ariomardus; long his los Shall Sardis weep: thy Mysian Sisames, And Tharybis, that o'er the burden'd deep Led five times fifty vessels; Lerna gave The hero birth, and manly race adorn'd His pleasing form, but low in death he lies Unhappy in his fate. Syennesis, Cilicia's warlike chief, who dared to front The foremost dangers, singly to the foes A terror, there too found a glorious death. These chieftains to my sad remembrance rise, Relating but a few of many ills. ATOSSA This is the height of ill, ah me! and shame To Persia, grief, and lamentation loud. But tell me this, afresh renew thy tale: What was the number of the Grecian fleet, That in fierce conflict their bold barks should dare Rush to encounter with the Persian hosts. MESSENGER Know then, in numbers the barbaric fleet Was far superior: in ten squadrons, each Of thirty ships, Greece plough'd the deep; of these One held a distant station. Xerxes led A thousand ships; their number well I know; Two hundred more, and seven, that swept the seas With speediest sail: this was their full amount. And in the engagement seem'd we not secure Of victory? But unequal fortune sunk Our scale in fight, discomfiting our host. ATOSSA The gods preserve the city of Minerva. MESSENGER The walls of Athens are impregnable, Their firmest bulwarks her heroic sons. ATOSSA Which navy first advanced to the attack? Who led to the onset, tell me; the bold Greeks, Or, glorying in his numerous fleet, my son? MESSENGER Our evil genius, lady, or some god Hostile to Persia, led to ev'ry ill. Forth from the troops of Athens came a Greek, And thus address'd thy son, the imperial Xerxes:- "Soon as the shades of night descend, the Grecians Shall quit their station; rushing to their oars They mean to separate, and in secret flight Seek safety." At these words, the royal chief, Little conceiving of the wiles of Greece And gods averse, to all the naval leaders Gave his high charge:-"Soon as yon sun shall cease To dart his radiant beams, and dark'ning night Ascends the temple of the sky, arrange In three divisions your well-ordered ships, And guard each pass, each outlet of the seas: Others enring around this rocky isle Of Salamis. Should Greece escape her fate, And work her way by secret flight, your heads Shall answer the neglect." This harsh command He gave, exulting in his mind, nor knew What Fate design'd. With martial discipline And prompt obedience, snatching a repast, Each mariner fix'd well his ready oar. Soon as the golden sun was set, and night Advanced, each train'd to ply the dashing oar, Assumed his seat; in arms each warrior stood, Troop cheering troop through all the ships of war. Each to the appointed station steers his course; And through the night his naval force each chief Fix'd to secure the passes. Night advanced, But not by secret flight did Greece attempt To escape. The morn, all beauteous to behold, Drawn by white steeds bounds o'er the enlighten'd earth; At once from ev'ry Greek with glad acclaim Burst forth the song of war, whose lofty notes The echo of the island rocks return'd, Spreading dismay through Persia's hosts, thus fallen From their high hopes; no flight this solemn strain Portended, but deliberate valour bent On daring battle; while the trumpet's sound Kindled the flames of war. But when their oars The paean ended, with impetuous force Dash'd the resounding surges, instant all Rush'd on in view: in orderly array The squadron on the right first led, behind Rode their whole fleet; and now distinct we heard From ev'ry part this voice of exhortation:- "Advance, ye sons of Greece, from thraldom save Your country, save your wives, your children save, The temples of your gods, the sacred tomb Where rest your honour'd ancestors; this day The common cause of all demands your valour." Meantime from Persia's hosts the deep'ning shout Answer'd their shout; no time for cold delay; But ship 'gainst ship its brazen beak impell'd. First to the charge a Grecian galley rush'd; Ill the Phoenician bore the rough attack, Its sculptured prow all shatter'd. Each advanced Daring an opposite. The deep array Of Persia at the first sustain'd the encounter; But their throng'd numbers, in the narrow seas Confined, want room for action; and, deprived Of mutual aid, beaks clash with beaks, and each Breaks all the other's oars: with skill disposed The Grecian navy circled them around With fierce assault; and rushing from its height The inverted vessel sinks: the sea no more Wears its accustomed aspect, with foul wrecks And blood disfigured; floating carcasses Roll on the rocky shores: the poor remains Of the barbaric armament to flight Ply every oar inglorious: onward rush The Greeks amid the ruins of the fleet, As through a shoal of fish caught in the net, Spreading destruction: the wide ocean o'er Wailings are heard, and loud laments, till night With darkness on her brow brought grateful truce. Should I recount each circumstance of wo, Ten times on my unfinished tale the sun Would set; for be assured that not one day Could close the ruin of so vast a host. ATOSSA Ah, what a boundless sea of wo hath burst On Persia, and the whole barbaric race! MESSENGER These are not half, not half our ills; on these Came an assemblage of calamities, That sunk us with a double weight of wo. ATOSSA What fortune can be more unfriendly to us Than this? Say on, what dread calamity Sunk Persia's host with greater weight of wo. MESSENGER Whoe'er of Persia's warriors glow'd in prime Of vig'rous youth, or felt their generous souls Expand with courage, or for noble birth Shone with distinguish'd lustre, or excell'd In firm and duteous loyalty, all these Are fall'n, ignobly, miserably fall'n. ATOSSA Alas, their ruthless fate, unhappy friends! But in what manner, tell me, did they perish? MESSENGER Full against Salamis an isle arises, Of small circumference, to the anchor'd bark Unfaithful; on the promontory's brow, That overlooks the sea, Pan loves to lead The dance: to this the monarch sends these chiefs, That when the Grecians from their shatter'd ships Should here seek shelter, these might hew them down An easy conquest, and secure the strand To their sea-wearied friends; ill judging what The event: but when the fav'ring god to Greece Gave the proud glory of this naval fight, Instant in all their glitt'ring arms they leap'd From their light ships, and all the island round Encompass'd, that our bravest stood dismay'd; While broken rocks, whirl'd with tempestuous force, And storms of arrows crush'd them; then the Greeks Rush to the attack at once, and furious spread The carnage, till each mangled Persian fell. Deep were the groans of Xerxes when he saw This havoc; for his seat, a lofty mound Commanding the wide sea, o'erlook'd his hosts. With rueful cries he rent his royal robes, And through his troops embattled on the shore Gave signal of retreat; then started wild, And fled disorder'd. To the former ills These are fresh miseries to awake thy sighs. ATOSSA Invidious Fortune, how thy baleful power Hath sunk the hopes of Persia! Bitter fruit My son hath tasted from his purposed vengeance On Athens, famed for arms; the fatal field Of Marathon, red with barbaric blood, Sufficed not; that defeat he thought to avenge, And pull'd this hideous ruin on his head. But tell me, if thou canst, where didst thou leave The ships that happily escaped the wreck? MESSENGER The poor remains of Persia's scatter'd fleet Spread ev'ry sail for flight, as the wind drives, In wild disorder; and on land no less The ruin'd army; in Boeotia some, With thirst oppress'd, at Crene's cheerful rills Were lost; forespent with breathless speed some pass The fields of Phocis, some the Doric plain, And near the gulf of Melia, the rich vale Through which Sperchius rolls his friendly stream. Achaea thence and the Thessalian state Received our famish'd train; the greater part Through thirst and hunger perish'd there, oppress'd At once by both: but we our painful steps Held onwards to Magnesia, and the land Of Macedonia, o'er the ford of Axius, And Bolbe's sedgy marshes, and the heights Of steep Pangaeos, to the realms of Thrace. That night, ere yet the season, breathing frore, Rush'd winter, and with ice incrusted o'er The flood of sacred Strymon: such as own'd No god till now, awe-struck, with many a prayer Adored the earth and sky. When now the troops Had ceased their invocations to the gods, O'er the stream's solid crystal they began Their march; and we, who took our early way, Ere the sun darted his warm beams, pass'd safe: But when this burning orb with fiery rays Unbound the middle current, down they sunk Each over other; happiest he who found The speediest death: the poor remains, that 'scaped, With pain through Thrace dragg'd on their toilsome march, A feeble few, and reach'd their native soil; That Persia sighs through all her states, and mourns Her dearest youth. This is no feigned tale: But many of the ills, that burst upon us In dreadful vengeance, I refrain to utter. The MESSENGER withdraws. LEADER OF THE CHORUS O Fortune, heavy with affliction's load, How bath thy foot crush'd all the Persian race! ATOSSA Ah me, what sorrows for our ruin'd host Oppress my soul! Ye visions of the night Haunting my dreams, how plainly did you show These ills!-You set them in too fair a light. Yet, since your bidding hath in this prevail'd, First to the gods wish I to pour my prayers, Then to the mighty dead present my off 'rings, Bringing libations from my house: too late, I know, to change the past; yet for the future, If haply better fortune may await it, Behooves you, on this sad event, to guide Your friends with faithful counsels. Should my son Return ere I have finish'd, let your voice Speak comfort to him; friendly to his house Attend him, nor let sorrow rise on sorrows. ATOSSA and her retinue go out. CHORUS singing strophe Awful sovereign of the skies, When now o'er Persia's numerous host Thou badest the storm with ruin rise, All her proud vaunts of glory lost, Ecbatana's imperial head By thee was wrapp'd in sorrow's dark'ning shade; Through Susa's palaces with loud lament, By their soft hands their veils all rent, The copious tear the virgins pour, That trickles their bare bosoms o'er. From her sweet couch up starts the widow'd bride, Her lord's loved image rushing on her soul, Throws the rich ornaments of youth aside, And gives her griefs to flow without control: Her griefs not causeless; for the mighty slain Our melting tears demand, and sorrow-soften'd strain. antistrophe Now her wailings wide despair Pours these exhausted regions o'er: Xerxes, ill-fated, led the war; Xerxes, ill-fated, leads no more; Xerxes sent forth the unwise command, The crowded ships unpeopled all the land; That land, o'er which Darius held his reign, Courting the arts of peace, in vain, O'er all his grateful realms adored, The stately Susa's gentle lord. Black o'er the waves his burden'd vessels sweep, For Greece elate the warlike squadrons fly; Now crush'd, and whelm'd beneath the indignant deep The shatter'd wrecks and lifeless heroes lie: While, from the arms of Greece escaped, with toil The unshelter'd monarch roams o'er Thracia's dreary soil. epode The first in battle slain By Cychrea's craggy shore Through sad constraint, ah me! forsaken lie, All pale and smear'd with gore:- Raise high the mournful strain, And let the voice of anguish pierce the sky:- Or roll beneath the roaring tide, By monsters rent of touch abhorr'd; While through the widow'd mansion echoing wide Sounds the deep groan, and wails its slaughter'd lord: Pale with his fears the helpless orphan there Gives the full stream of plaintive grief to flow; While age its hoary head in deep despair Bends; list'ning to the shrieks of wo. With sacred awe The Persian law No more shall Asia's realms revere; To their lord's hand At his command, No more the exacted tribute bear. Who now falls prostrate at the monarch's throne? His regal greatness is no more. Now no restraint the wanton tongue shall own, Free from the golden curb of power; For on the rocks, wash'd by the beating flood, His awe commanding nobles lie in blood. ATOSSA returns, clad in the garb of mourning; she carries offerings for the tomb of Darius. ATOSSA Whoe'er, my friends, in the rough stream of life Hath struggled with affliction, thence is taught That, when the flood begins to swell, the heart Fondly fears all things; when the fav'ring gale Of Fortune smooths the current, it expands With unsuspecting confidence, and deems That gale shall always breathe. So to my eyes All things now wear a formidable shape, And threaten from the gods: my ears are pierced With sounds far other than of song. Such ills Dismay my sick'ning soul: hence from my house Nor glitt'ring car attends me, nor the train Of wonted state, while I return, and bear Libations soothing to the father's shade In the son's cause; delicious milk, that foams White from the sacred heifer; liquid honey, Extract of flowers; and from its virgin fount The running crystal; this pure draught, that flow'd From the ancient vine, of power to bathe the spirits In joy; the yellow olive's fragrant fruit, That glories in its leaves' unfading verdure; With flowers of various hues, earth's fairest offspring Inwreathed. But you, my friends, amid these rites Raise high your solemn warblings, and invoke Your lord, divine Darius; I meanwhile Will pour these off'rings to the infernal gods. CHORUS chanting Yes, royal lady, Persia's honour'd grace, To earth's dark chambers pour thy off'rings: we With choral hymns will supplicate the powers That guide the dead, to be propitious to us. And you, that o'er the realms of night extend Your sacred sway, thee mighty earth, and the Hermes; thee chief, tremendous king, whose throne Awes with supreme dominion, I adjure: Send, from your gloomy regions, send his shade Once more to visit this ethereal light; That he alone, if aught of dread event He sees yet threat'ning Persia, may disclose To us poor mortals Fate's extreme decree. Hears the honour'd godlike king? These barbaric notes of wo, Taught in descant sad to ring, Hears he in the shades below? Thou, O Earth, and you, that lead Through your sable realms the dead, Guide him as he takes his way, And give him to the ethereal light of day! Let the illustrious shade arise Glorious in his radiant state, More than blazed before our eyes, Ere sad Susa mourn'd his fate. Dear he lived, his tomb is dear, Shrining virtues we revere: Send then, monarch of the dead, Such as Darius was, Darius' shade. He in realm-unpeopling war Wasted not his subjects' blood, Godlike in his will to spare, In his councils wise and good. Rise then, sovereign lord, to light; On this mound's sepulchral height Lift thy sock in saffron died, And rear thy rich tiara's regal pride! Great and good, Darius, rise: Lord of Persia's lord, appear: Thus involved with thrilling cries Come, our tale of sorrow hear! War her Stygian pennons spreads, Brooding darkness o'er our heads; For stretch'd along the dreary shore The flow'r of Asia lies distain'd with gore. Rise, Darius, awful power; Long for thee our tears shall flow. Why thy ruin'd empire o'er Swells this double flood of wo? Sweeping o'er the azure tide Rode thy navy's gallant pride: Navy now no more, for all Beneath the whelming wave- While the CHORUS Sings, ATOSSA performs her ritual by the tomb. As the song concludes the GHOST OF DARIUS appears from the tomb. GHOST OF DARIUS Ye faithful Persians, honour'd now in age, Once the companions of my youth, what ills Afflict the state? The firm earth groans, it opes, Disclosing its vast deeps; and near my tomb I see my wife: this shakes my troubled soul With fearful apprehensions; yet her off'rings Pleased I receive. And you around my tomb Chanting the lofty strain, whose solemn air Draws forth the dead, with grief-attemper'd notes Mournfully call me: not with ease the way Leads to this upper air; and the stern gods, Prompt to admit, yield not a passage back But with reluctance: much with them my power Availing, with no tardy step I come. Say then, with what new ill doth Persia groan? CHORUS chanting My wonted awe o'ercomes me; in thy presence I dare not raise my eyes, I dare not speak. GHOST OF DARIUS Since from the realms below, by thy sad strains Adjured, I come, speak; let thy words be brief; Say whence thy grief, tell me unawed by fear. I dread to forge a flattering tale, I dread To grieve thee with a harsh offensive truth. GHOST OF DARIUS Since fear hath chained his tongue, high-honour'd dame, Once my imperial consort, check thy tears, Thy griefs, and speak distinctly. Mortal man Must bear his lot of wo; afflictions rise Many from sea, many from land, if life Be haply measured through a lengthen'd course. ATOSSA O thou that graced with Fortune's choicest gifts Surpassing mortals, while thine eye beheld Yon sun's ethereal rays, lived'st like a god Bless'd amid thy Persians; bless'd I deem thee now In death, ere sunk in this abyss of ills, Darius, hear at once our sum of wo; Ruin through all her states hath crush'd thy Persia. GHOST OF DARIUS By pestilence, or faction's furious storms? ATOSSA Not so: near Athens perish'd all our troops. GHOST OF DARIUS Say, of my sons, which led the forces thither? ATOSSA The impetuous Xerxes, thinning all the land. GHOST OF DARIUS By sea or land dared he this rash attempt? ATOSSA By both: a double front the war presented. GHOST OF DARIUS A host so vast what march conducted o'er? ATOSSA From shore to shore he bridged the Hellespont. GHOST OF DARIUS What! could he chain the mighty Bosphorus? ATOSSA Ev'n so, some god assisting his design. GHOST OF DARIUS Some god of power to cloud his better sense. ATOSSA The event now shows what mischiefs he achieved. GHOST OF DARIUS What suffer'd they, for whom your sorrows flow? ATOSSA His navy sunk spreads ruin through the camp. GHOST OF DARIUS Fell all his host beneath the slaught'ring spear? ATOSSA Susa, through all her streets, mourns her lost sons. GHOST OF DARIUS How vain the succour, the defence of arms? ATOSSA In Bactra age and grief are only left. GHOST OF DARIUS Ah, what a train of warlike youth is lost! ATOSSA Xerxes, astonished, desolate, alone- GHOST OF DARIUS How will this end? Nay, pause not. Is he safe? ATOSSA Fled o'er the bridge, that join'd the adverse strands. GHOST OF DARIUS And reach'd this shore in safety? Is this true? ATOSSA True are thy words, and not to be gainsay'd. GHOST OF DARIUS With what a winged course the oracles Haste their completion! With the lightning's speed Jove on my son hath hurled his threaten'd vengeance: Yet I implored the gods that it might fall In time's late process: but when rashness drives Impetuous on, the scourge of Heaven upraised Lashes the Fury forward; hence these ills Pour headlong on my friends. Not weighing this, My son, with all the fiery pride of youth, Hath quickened their arrival, while he hoped To bind the sacred Hellespont, to hold The raging Bosphorus, like a slave, in chains, And dared the advent'rous passage, bridging firm With links of solid iron his wondrous way, To lead his numerous host; and swell'd with thoughts Presumptuous, deem'd, vain mortal! that his power Should rise above the gods, and Neptune's might. And was riot this the phrensy of the soul? But much I fear lest all my treasured wealth Fall to some daring hand an easy prey. ATOSSA This from too frequent converse with bad men The impetuous Xerxes learn'd; these caught his ear With thy great deeds, as winning for thy sons Vast riches with thy conquering spear, while he Tim'rous and slothful, never, save in sport, Lifted his lance, nor added to the wealth Won by his noble fathers. This reproach Oft by bad men repeated, urged his soul To attempt this war, and lead his troops to Greece. GHOST OF DARIUS Great deeds have they achieved, and memorable For ages: never hath this wasted state Suffer'd such ruin, since heaven's awful king Gave to one lord Asia's extended plains White with innumerous flocks, and to his hands Consign'd the imperial sceptre. Her brave hosts A Mede first led; the virtues of his son Fix'd firm the empire, for his temperate soul Breathed prudence. Cyrus next, by fortune graced, Adorn'd the throne, and bless'd his grateful friends With peace: he to his mighty monarchy Join'd Lydia, and the Phrygians; to his power Ionia bent reluctant; but the gods His son then wore the regal diadem. With victory his gentle virtues crown'd His son then wore the regal diadem. Next to disgrace his country, and to stain The splendid glories of this ancient throne, Rose Mardus: him, with righteous vengeance fired Artaphernes, and his confederate chiefs Crush'd in his palace: Maraphis assumed The sceptre: after him Artaphernes. Me next to this exalted eminence, Crowning my great ambition, Fortune raised. In many a glorious field my glittering spear Flamed in the van of Persia's numerous hosts; But never wrought such ruin to the state. Xerxes, my son, in all the pride of youth Listens to youthful counsels, my commands No more remember'd; hence, my hoary friends, Not the whole line of Persia's sceptred lords, You know it well, so wasted her brave sons. LEADER OF THE CHORUS Why this? To what fair end are these thy words Directed? Sovereign lord, instruct thy Persians How, mid this ruin, best to guide their state. GHOST OF DARIUS No more 'gainst Greece lead your embattled hosts; Not though your deep'ning phalanx spreads the field Outnumb'ring theirs: their very earth fights for them. LEADER What may thy words import? How fight for them? GHOST OF DARIUS With famine it destroys your cumbrous train. LEADER Choice levies, prompt for action, will we send, GHOST OF DARIUS Those, in the fields of Greece that now remain, Shall not revisit safe the Persian shore. LEADER What! shall not all the host of Persia pass Again from Europe o'er the Hellespont? GHOST OF DARIUS Of all their numbers few, if aught avails The faith of heaven-sent oracles to him That weighs the past, in their accomplishment Not partial: hence he left, in faithless hope Confiding, his selected train of heroes. These have their station where Asopus flows Wat'ring the plain, whose grateful currents roll Diffusing plenty through Boeotia's fields. There misery waits to crush them with the load Of heaviest ills, in vengeance for their proud And impious daring; for where'er they held Through Greece their march, they fear'd not to profane The statues of the gods; their hallow'd shrines Emblazed, o'erturn'd their altars, and in ruins, Rent from their firm foundations, to the ground Levell'd their temples; such their frantic deeds, Nor less their suff'rings; greater still await them; For Vengeance hath not wasted all her stores; The heap yet swells; for in Plataea's plains Beneath the Doric spear the clotted mas Of carnage shall arise, that the high mounds, Piled o'er the dead, to late posterity Shall give this silent record to men's eyes, That proud aspiring thoughts but ill beseem Weak mortals: for oppression, when it springs, Puts forth the blade of vengeance, and its fruit Yields a ripe harvest of repentant wo. Behold this vengeance, and remember Greece, Remember Athens: henceforth let not pride, Her present state disdaining, strive to grasp Another's, and her treasured happiness Shed on the ground: such insolent attempts Awake the vengeance of offended Jove. But you, whose age demands more temperate thoughts, With words of well-placed counsel teach his youth To curb that pride, which from the gods calls down Destruction on his head. To ATOSSA And thou, whose age The miseries of thy Xerxes sink with sorrow, Go to thy house, thence choose the richest robe, And meet thy son; for through the rage of grief His gorgeous vestments from his royal limbs Are foully rent. With gentlest courtesy Soothe his affliction; for is duteous ear, I know, will listen to thy voice alone. Now to the realms of darkness I descend. My ancient friends, farewell, and mid these ills Each day in pleasures battle your drooping spirits, For treasured riches naught avail the dead. The GHOST OF DARIUS vanishes into the tomb. LEADER These many present, many future ills Denounced on Persia, sink my soul with grief. ATOSSA Unhappy fortune, what a tide of ills Bursts o'er me! Chief this foul disgrace, which shows My son divested of his rich attire, His royal robes all rent, distracts my thoughts. But I will go, choose the most gorgeous vest, And liaste to meet my son. Ne'er in his woes Will I forsake whom my soul holds most dear. ATOSSA departs as the CHORUS begins its song. CHORUS strophe 1 Ye powers that rule the skies, Memory recalls our great, our happy fate, Our well-appointed state, The scenes of glory opening to our eyes, When this vast empire o'er The good Darius, with each virtue bless'd That forms a monarch's breast, Shielding his subjects with a father's care Invincible in war, Extended like a god his awful power, Then spread our arms their glory wide, Guarding to peace her golden reign: Each tower'd city saw with pride Safe from the toils of war her homeward-marching train. antistrophe 1 Nor Haly's shallow strand He pass'd, nor from his palace moved his state; He spoke; his word was Fate. What strong-based cities could his might withstand? Not those that lift their heads Where to the sea the floods of Strymon pass, Leaving the huts of Thrace; Nor those, that far the extended ocean o'er Stand girt with many a tower; Nor where the Hellespont his broad wave spreads; Nor the firm bastions' rampired might, Whose foot the deep Propontis laves; Nor those, that glorying in their height Frown o'er the Pontic sea, and shade his darken'd waves. strophe 2 Each sea-girt isle around Bow'd to this monarch: humbled Lesbos bow'd; Paros, of its marble proud; Naxos with vines, with olives Samos crown'd: Him Myconos adored; Chios, the seat of beauty; Andros steep, That stretches o'er the deep To meet the wat'ry Tenos; him each bay Bound by the Icarian sea, Him Melos, Gnidus, Rhodes confess'd their lord; O'er Cyprus stretch'd his sceptred hand: Paphos and Solos own'd his power, And Salamis, whose hostile strand, The cause of all our wo, is red with Persian gore. antistrophe 2 Ev'n the proud towns, that rear'd Sublime along the lonian coast their towers, Where wealth her treasures pours, Peopled from Greece, his prudent reign revered. With such unconquer'd might His hardy warriors shook the embattled fields, Heroes that Persia yields, And those from distant realms that took their way, And wedged in close array Beneath his glitt'ring banners claim'd the fight. But now these glories are no more: Farewell the big war's plumed pride: The gods have crush'd this trophied power; Sunk are our vanquish'd arms beneath the indignant tide. XERXES enters, with a few followers. His royal raiment is torn, The entire closing scene is sung or chanted. XERXES Ah me, how sudden have the storms of Fate, Beyond all thought, all apprehension, burst On my devoted head! O Fortune, Fortune! With what relentless fury hath thy hand Hurl'd desolation on the Persian race! Wo unsupportable! The torturing thought Of our lost youth comes rushing on my mind, And sinks me to the ground. O Jove, that Had died with those brave men that died in fight I CHORUS O thou afflicted monarch, once the lord Of marshall'd armies, of the lustre beam'd From glory's ray o'er Persia, of her sons The pride, the grace, whom ruin now hath sunk In blood! The unpeopled land laments her youth By Xerxes led to slaughter, till the realms Of death are gorged with Persians; for the flower Of all the realm, thousands, whose dreadful bows With arrowy shower annoy'd the foe, are fall'n. XERXES Your fall, heroic youths, distracts my soul. CHORUS And Asia sinking on her knee, O king, Oppress'd, with griefs oppress'd, bends to the earth. XERXES And I, O wretched fortune, I was born To crush, to desolate my ruin'd country! CHORUS I have no voice, no swelling harmony, No descant, save these notes of wo, Harsh, and responsive to the sullen sigh, Rude strains, that unmelodious flow, To welcome thy return. XERXES Then bid them flow, bid the wild measures flow Hollow, unmusical, the notes of grief; They suit my fortune, and dejected state. CHORUS Yes, at thy royal bidding shall the strain Pour the deep sorrows of my soul; The suff'rings of my bleeding country plain, And bid the mournful measures roll. Again the voice of wild despair With thrilling shrieks shall pierce the air; For high the god of war his flaming crest Raised, with the fleet of Greece surrounded, The haughty arms of Greece with conquest bless'd, And Persia's wither'd force confounded, Dash'd on the dreary beach her heroes slain, Or whelm'd them in the darken'd main. XERXES To swell thy griefs ask ev'ry circumstance. CHORUS Where are thy valiant friends, thy chieftains where? Pharnaces, Susas, and the might Of Pelagon, and Dotamas? The spear Of Agabates bold in fight? Psammis in mailed cuirass dress'd, And Susiscanes' glitt'ring crest? XERXES Dash'd from the Tyrian vessel on the rocks Of Salamis they sunk, and smear'd with gore The heroes on the dreary strand are stretch'd. CHORUS Where is Pharnuchus? Ariomardus where, With ev'ry gentle virtue graced? Lilaeus, that from chiefs renown'd in war His high-descended lineage traced? Where rears Sebalces his crown-circled head: Where Tharybis to battles bred, Artembares, Hystaechmes bold, Memphis, Masistress sheath'd in gold? XERXES Wretch that I am! These on the abhorred town Ogygian Athens, roll'd their glowing eyes Indignant; but at once in the fierce shock Of battle fell, dash'd breathless on the ground. CHORUS There does the son of Batanochus lie, Through whose rich veins the unsullied blood Of Susamus, down from the lineage high Of noble Mygabatas flow'd: Alpistus, who with faithful care Number'd the deep'ning files of war, The monarch's eye; on the ensanguined plain Low is the mighty warrior laid? Is great Aebares 'mong the heroes slain, And Partheus number'd with the dead?- Ah me! those bursting groans, deep-charged with wo, The fate of Persia's princes show. XERXES To my grieved memory thy mournful voice, Tuned to the saddest notes of wo, recalls My brave friends lost; and my rent heart returns In dreadful symphony the sorrowing strain. CHORUS Yet once more shall I ask thee, yet once more, Where is the Mardian Xanthes' might, The daring chief, that from the Pontic shore Led his strong phalanx to the fight? Anchares where, whose high-raised shield Flamed foremost in the embattled field? Where the high leaders of thy mail-clad horse, Daixis and Arsaces where? Where Cigdadatas and Lythimnas' force, Waving untired his purple spear? XERXES Entomb'd, I saw them in the earth entomb'd; Nor did the rolling car with solemn state Attend their rites: I follow'd: low they lie (Ah me, the once great leaders of my host! Low in the earth, without their honours lie.) CHORUS O wo, wo, wo! Unutterable wo The demons of revenge have spread; And Ate from her drear abode below Rises to view the horrid deed. XERXES Dismay, and rout, and ruin, ills that wait On man's afflicted fortune, sink us down. CHORUS Dismay, and rout, and ruin on us wait, And all the vengeful storms of Fate: Ill flows on ill, on sorrows sorrows rise; Misfortune leads her baleful train; Before the Ionian squadrons Persia flies, Or sinks ingulf'd beneath the main. Fall'n, fall'n is her imperial power, And conquest on her banners waits no more. XERXES At such a fall, such troops of heroes lost, How can my soul but sink in deep despair! Cease thy sad strain. CHORUS Is all thy glory lost? XERXES Seest thou these poor remains of my rent robes? CHORUS I see, I see. XERXES And this ill-furnish'd quiver? CHORUS Wherefore preserved? XERXES To store my treasured arrows. CHORUS Few, very few. XERXES And few my friendly aids. CHORUS I thought these Grecians shrunk appall'd at arms. XERXES No: they are bold and daring: these sad eyes Beheld their violent and deathful deeds. CHORUS The ruin, sayst thou, of thy shattered fleet? XERXES And in the anguish of my soul I rent My royal robes. CHORUS Wo, wo! XERXES And more than wo. CHORUS Redoubled, threefold wo! XERXES Disgrace to me, But triumph to the foe. CHORUS Are all thy powers In ruin crush'd? XERXES No satrap guards me now. CHORUS Thy faithful friends sunk in the roaring main. XERXES Weep, weep their loss, and lead me to my house; Answer my grief with grief, an ill return Of ills for ills. Yet once more raise that strain Lamenting my misfortunes; beat thy breast, Strike, heave the groan; awake the Mysian strain To notes of loudest wo; rend thy rich robes, Pluck up thy beard, tear off thy hoary locks, And battle thine eyes in tears: thus through the streets Solemn and slow with sorrow lead my steps; Lead to my house, and wail the fate of Persia. CHORUS Yes, once more at thy bidding shall the strain Pour the deep sorrows of my soul; The suff'rings of my bleeding untry plain, And bid the Mysian measures roll. Again the voice of wild despair With thrilling shrieks shall pierce the air; For high the god of war his flaming crest Raised, with the fleet of Greece surrounded, The haughty arms of Greece with conquest bless'd, And Persia's withered force confounded, Dash'd on the dreary beach her heroes slain., Or whelm'd them in the darken'd main. THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES Written 467 B.C.E Translated by E. D. A. Morshead Dramatis Personae ETEOCLES, son of Oedipus, King of Thebes A SPY CHORUS OF THEBAN WOMEN ANTIGONE ISMENE sisters of ETEOCLES A HERALD Scene Within the Citadel of Thebes. There is an altar with the statues of several gods visible. A crowd of citizens are present as ETEOCLES enters with his attendants. ETEOCLES Clansmen of Cadmus, at the signal given By time and season must the ruler speak Who sets the course and steers the ship of State With hand upon the tiller, and with eye Watchful against the treachery of sleep. For if all go aright, thank Heaven, men say, But if adversely-which may God forefend!- One name on many lips, from street to street, Would bear the bruit and rumour of the time, Down witk Eteocles!-a clamorous curse, A dirge of ruin. May averting Zeus Make good his title here, in Cadmus' hold! You it beseems now-boys unripened yet To lusty manhood, men gone past the prime And increase of the full begetting seed, And those whom youth and manhood well combined Array for action-all to rise in aid Of city, shrines, and altars of all powers Who guard our land; that ne'er, to end of time, Be blotted out the sacred service due To our sweet mother-land and to her brood. For she it was who to their guest-right called Your waxing youth, was patient of the toil, And cherished you on the land's gracious lap, Alike to plant the hearth and bear the shield In loyal service, for an hour like this. Mark now! until to-day, luck rules our scale; For we, though long beleaguered, in the main Have with our sallies struck the foemen hard. But now the seer, the feeder of the birds (Whose art unerring and prophetic skill Of ear and mind divines their utterance Without the lore of fire interpreted) Foretelleth, by the mastery of his art, That now an onset of Achaea's host Is by a council of the night designed To fall in double strength upon our walls. Up and away, then, to the battlements, The gates, the bulwarks! don your panoplies, Array you at the breast-work, take your stand On the floorings of the towers, and with good heart Stand firm for sudden sallies at the gates, Nor hold too heinous a respect for hordes Sent on you from afar: some god will guard! I too, for shrewd espial of their camp, Have sent forth scouts, and confidence is mine They will not fail nor tremble at their task, And, with their news, I fear no foeman's guile. A Spy enters. THE SPY Eteocles, high king of Cadmus' folk, I stand here with news certified and sure From Argos' camp, things by myself descried. Seven warriors yonder, doughty chiefs of might, Into the crimsoned concave of a shield Have shed a bull's blood, and, with hands immersed Into the gore of sacrifice, have sworn By Ares, lord of fight, and by thy name, Blood-lapping Terror, Let our oath be heard- Either to raze the walls, make void the hold Of Cadmus-strive his children as they may- Or, dying here, to make the foemen's land With blood impasted. Then, as memory's gift Unto their parents at the far-off home, Chaplets they hung upon Adrastus' car, With eyes tear-dropping, but no word of moan. For their steeled spirit glowed with high resolve, As lions pant, with battle in their eyes. For them, no weak alarm delays the clear Issues of death or life! I parted thence Even as they cast the lots, how each should lead, Against which gate, his serried company. Rank then thy bravest, with what speed thou may'st, Hard by the gates, to dash on them, for now, Full-armed, the onward ranks of Argos come! The dust whirls up, and from their panting steeds White foamy flakes like snow bedew the plain. Thou therefore, chieftain! like a steersman skilled, Enshield the city's bulwarks, ere the blast Of war comes darting on them! hark, the roar Of the great landstorm with its waves of men Take Fortune by the forelock! for the rest, By yonder dawn-light will I scan the field Clear and aright, and surety of my word Shall keep thee scatheless of the coming storm. ETEOCLES O Zeus and Earth and city-guarding gods, And thou, my father's Curse, of baneful might, Spare ye at least this town, nor root it up, By violence of the foemen, stock and stem! For here, from home and hearth, rings Hellas' tongue. Forbid that e'er the yoke of slavery Should bow this land of freedom, Cadmus' hold! Be ye her help! your cause I plead with mine- A city saved doth honour to her gods! ETEOCLES, his attendants and most of the crowd go out. The CHORUS OF THEBAN WOMEN enters. They appear terror-stricken. CHORUS singing I wail in the stress of my terror, and shrill is my cry of despair. The foemen roll forth from their camp as a billow, and onward they bear! Their horsemen are swift in the forefront, the dust rises up to the sky, A signal, though speechless, of doom, a herald more clear than a cry! Hoof-trampled, the land of my love bears onward the din to mine ears. As a torrent descending a mountain, it thunders and echoes and nears! The doom is unloosened and cometh! O kings and O queens of high Heaven, Prevail that it fall not upon us! the sign for their onset is given- They stream to the walls from without, white-shielded and keen for the fray. The rush of their feet? to what shrine shall I bow me in terror and pray? They rush to pray to the gods. O gods high-throned in bliss, we must crouch at the shrines in your home! Not here must we tarry and wail: shield clashes on shield as they come And now, even now is the hour for the robes and the chaplets of prayer! Mine eyes feel the flash of the sword, the clang is instinct with the spear! Is thy hand set against us, O Ares, in ruin and wrath to o'erwhelm Thine own immemorial land, O god of the golden helm? Look down upon us, we beseech thee, on the land that thou lovest of old. strophe 1 And ye, O protecting gods, in pity your people behold! Yea, save us, the maidenly troop, from the doom and despair of the slave, For the crests of the foemen come onward, their rush is the rush of a wave Rolled on by the War-god's breath! almighty one, hear us and save From the grasp of the Argives' might! to the ramparts of Cadmus they crowd, And, clenched in the teeth of the steeds, the bits clink horror aloud And seven high chieftains of war, with spear and with panoply bold, Are set, by the law of the lot, to storm the seven gates of our hold! antistrophe 1 Be near and befriend us, O Pallas, the Zeus-born maiden of might! O lord of the steed and the sea, be thy trident uplifted to smite In eager desire of the fray, Poseidon! and Ares come down, In fatherly presence revealed, to rescue Harmonia's town! Thine too, Aphrodite, we are! thou art mother and queen of our race, To thee we cry out in our need, from thee let thy children have grace! Ye too, to scare back the foe, be your cry as a wolf's howl wild, Thou, O the wolf-lord, and thou, of she-wolf Leto the child! strophe 2 Woe and alack for the sound, for the rattle of cars to the wall, And the creak of the griding axles! O Hera, to thee is our call! Artemis, maiden beloved! the air is distraught with the spears, And whither doth destiny drive us, and where is the goal of our fears? antistrophe 2 The blast of the terrible stones on the ridge of our wall is not stayed, At the gates is the brazen clash of the bucklers-Apollo to aid! Thou too, O daughter of Zeus, who guidest the wavering fray To the holy decision of fate, Athena! be with us to-day! Come down to the sevenfold gates and harry the foemen away! strophe 3 O gods and O sisters of gods, our bulwark and guard! we beseech That ye give not our war-worn hold to a rabble of alien speech! List to the call of the maidens, the hands held up for the right, antistrophe 3 Be near us, protect us, and show that the city is dear in your sight! Have heed for her sacrifice holy, and thought of her offerings take, Forget not her love and her worship, be near her and smite for her sake! ETEOCLES and his retinue re-enter. ETEOCLES addressing the CHORUS Hark to my question, things detestable! Is this aright and for the city's weal, And helpful to our army thus beset, That ye before the statues of our gods Should fling yourselves, and scream and shriek your fears? Immodest, uncontrolled! Be this my lot- Never in troublous nor in peaceful days To dwell with aught that wears a female form! Where womankind has power, no man can house, Where womankind feeds panic, ruin rules Alike in house and city! Look you now- Your flying feet, and rumour of your fears, Have spread a soulless panic on our walls, And they without do go from strength to strength, And we within make breach upon ourselves! Such fate it brings, to house with womankind. Therefore if any shall resist my rule Or man, or woman, or some sexless thing- The vote of sentence shall decide their doom, And stones of execution, past escape, Shall finish all. Let not a woman's voice Be loud in council! for the things without, A man must care; let women keep within- Even then is mischief all too probable! Hear ye? or speak I to unheeding ears? CHORUS chanting Ah, but I shudder, child of Oedipus! I heard the clash and clang! The axles rolled and rumbled; woe to us, Fire-welded bridles rang! Say-when a ship is strained and deep in brine, Did eer a seaman mend his chance, who left The helm, t' invoke the image at the prow? CHORUS chanting Ah, but I fled to the shrines, I called to our helpers on high, When the stone-shower roared at the portals! I sped to the temples aloft, and loud was my call and my cry, Look down and deliver, Immortals! ETEOCLES Ay, pray amain that stone may vanquish steel! Where not that grace of gods? ay, ay-methinks, When cities fall, the gods go forth from them! CHORUS chanting Ah, let me die, or ever I behold The gods go forth, in conflagration dire! The foemen's rush and raid, and all our hold Wrapt in the burning fire! ETEOCLES Cry not on Heaven, in impotent debate! What saith the saw?-Good saving Strength, in verity, Out of Obedience breeds the babe Prosperity. CHORUS chanting 'Tis true: yet stronger is the power divine, And oft, when man's estate is overbowed With bitter pangs, disperses from his eyne The heavy, hanging cloud! ETEOCLES Let men with sacrifice and augury Approach the gods, when comes the tug of war: Alaids must be silent and abide within. CHORUS chanting By grace of the gods we hold it, a city untamed of the spear, And the battlement wards from the wall the foe and his aspect of fear! What need of displeasure herein? ETEOCLES Ay, pay thy vows to Heaven; I grudge them not, But-so thou strike no fear into our men- Have calm at heart, nor be too much afraid. Alack, it is fresh in mine ears, the clamour and crash of the fray, And up to our holiest height I sped on my timorous way, Bewildered, beset by the din! ETEOCLES Now, if ye hear the bruit of death or wounds, Give not yourselves o'ermuch to shriek and scream, For Ares ravins upon human flesh. LEADER OF THE CHORUS Ah, but the snorting of the steeds I hear! ETEOCLES Then, if thou hearest, hear them not too well LEADER Hark, the earth rumbles, as they close us round! ETEOCLES Enough if I am here, with plans prepared. LEADER Alack, the battering at the gates is loud! ETEOCLES Peace! stay your tongue, or else the town may hear! LEADER O warders of the walls, betray them not! ETEOCLES Beshrew your cries! in silence face your fate. LEADER Gods of our city, see me not enslaved! ETEOCLES On me, on all, thy cries bring slavery. LEADER Zeus, strong to smite, turn upon foes thy blow! ETEOCLES Zeus, what a curse are women, wrought by thee! LEADER Weak wretches, even as men, when cities fall. What! clasping gods, yet voicing thy despair? LEADER In the sick heart, fear maketh prey of speech. ETEOCLES Light is the thing I ask thee-do my will! LEADER Ask swiftly: swiftly shall I know my power. ETEOCLES Silence, weak wretch! nor put thy friends in fear. LEADER I speak no more: the general fate be mine! ETEOCLES I take that word as wiser than the rest. Nay, more: these images possess thy will- Pray, in their strength, that Heaven be on our side! Then hear my prayers withal, and then ring out The female triumph-note, thy privilege- Yea, utter forth the usage Hellas knows, The cry beside the altars, sounding clear Encouragement to friends, alarm to foes. But I unto all gods that guard our walls, Lords of the plain or warders of the mart And to Ismenus' stream and Dirce's rills, I swear, if Fortune smiles and saves our town, That we will make our altars reek with blood Of sheep and kine, shed forth unto the gods, And with victorious tokens front our fanes- Corslets and casques that once our foemen wore, Spear-shattered now-to deck these holy homes! Be such thy vows to Heaven-away with sighs, Away with outcry vain and barbarous, That shall avail not, in a general doom! But I will back, and, with six chosen men Myself the seventh, to confront the foe In this great aspect of a poised war, Return and plant them at the sevenfold gates, Or e'er the prompt and clamorous battle-scouts Haste to inflame our counsel with the need. ETEOCLES and his retinue go out. CHORUS singing strophe 1 I mark his words, yet, dark and deep, My heart's alarm forbiddeth sleep! Close-clinging cares around my soul Enkindle fears beyond control, Presageful of what doom may fall From the great leaguer of the wall! So a poor dove is faint with fear For her weak nestlings, while anew Glides on the snaky ravisher! In troop and squadron, hand on hand, They climb and throng, and hemmed we stand, While on the warders of our town The flinty shower comes hurtling down! Gods born of Zeus! put forth your might For Cadmus' city, realm, and right! antistrophe 1 What nobler land shall e'er be yours, If once ye give to hostile powers The deep rich soil, and Dirce's wave, The nursing stream, Poseidon gave And Tethys' children? Up and save! Cast on the ranks that hem us round A deadly panic, make them fling Their arms in terror on the ground, And die in carnage! thence shall spring High honour for our clan and king! Come at our wailing cry, and stand As throned sentries of our land! strophe 2 For pity and sorrow it were that this immemorial town Should sink to be slave of the spear, to dust and to ashes gone down, By the gods of Achaean worship and arms of Achaean might Sacked and defiled and dishonoured, its women the prize of the fight- That, haled by the hair as a steed, their mantles dishevelled and torn, The maiden and matron alike should pass to the wedlock of scorn! I hear it arise from the city, the manifold wail of despair- Woe, woe for the doom that shall be-as in grasp of the foeman they fare! antistrophe 2 For a woe and a weeping it is, if the maiden inviolate flower Is plucked by the foe in his might, not culled in the bridal bower! Alas for the hate and the horror-how say it?-less hateful by far Is the doom to be slain by the sword, hewn down in the carnage of war! For wide, ah! wide is the woe when the foeman has mounted the wall; There is havoc and terror and flame, and the dark smoke broods over all, And wild is the war-god's breath, as in frenzy of conquest he springs, And pollutes with the blast of his lips the glory of holiest things! strophe 3 Up to the citadel rise clash and din, The war-net closes in, The spear is in the heart: with blood imbrued Young mothers wail aloud, For children at their breast who scream and die! And boys and maidens fly, Yet scape not the pursuer, in his greed To thrust and grasp and feed! Robber with robber joins, each calls his mate Unto the feast of hate- The banquet, lo! is spread-seize, rend, and tear! No need to choose or share! antistrophe 3 And all the wealth of earth to waste is poured- A sight by all abhorred! The grieving housewives eye it; heaped and blent, Earth's boons are spoiled and spent, And waste to nothingness; and O alas, Young maids, forlorn ye pass- Fresh horror at your hearts-beneath the power Of those who crop the flower! Ye own the ruffian ravisher for lord, And night brings rites abhorred! Woe, woe for you! upon your grief and pain There comes a fouler stain. On one side the SPY enters; on the other, ETEOCLES and the SIX CHAMPIONS. LEADER OF THE FIRST SEMI-CHORUS Look, friends! methinks the scout, who parted hence To spy upon the foemen, comes with news, His feet as swift as wafting chariot-wheels. LEADER OF THE SECOND SEMI-CHORUS Ay, and our king, the son of Oedipus, Comes prompt to time, to learn the spy's report- His heart is fainer than his foot is fast! THE SPY Well have I scanned the foe, and well can say Unto which chief, by lot, each gate is given. Tydeus already with his onset-cry Storms at the gate called Proetides; but him The seer Amphiaraus holds at halt, Nor wills that he should cross Ismenus' ford, Until the sacrifices promise fair. But Tydeus, mad with lust of blood and broil, Like to a cockatrice at noontide hour, Hisses out wrath and smites with scourge of tongue The prophet-son of Oecleus-Wise thou art, Faint against war, and holding back from death! With such revilings loud upon his lips He waves the triple plumes that o'er his helm Float overshadowing, as a courser's mane; And at his shield's rim, terror in their tone, Clang and reverberate the brazen bells. And this proud sign, wrought on his shield, he bears,- The vault of heaven, inlaid with blazing stars; And, for the boss, the bright moon glows at full, The eye of night, the first and lordliest star. Thus with high-vaunted armour, madly bold, He clamours by the stream-bank, wild for war, As a steed panting grimly on his bit, Held in and chafing for the trumpet's bray! Whom wilt thou set against him? when the gates Of Proetus yield, who can his rush repel? ETEOCLES To me, no blazon on a foeman's shield Shall e'er present a fear! such pointed threats Are powerless to wound; his plumes and bells, Without a spear, are snakes without a sting. Nay, more-that pageant of which thou tellest- The nightly sky displayed, ablaze with stars, Upon his shield, palters with double sense One headstrong fool will find its truth anon! For, if night fall upon his eyes in death, Yon vaunting blazon will its own truth prove, And he is prophet of his folly's fall. Mine shall it be, to pit against his power The loyal son of Astacus, as guard To hold the gateways-a right valiant soul, Who has in heed the throne of Modesty And loathes the speech of Pride, and evermore Shrinks from the base, but knows no other fear. He springs by stock from those whom Ares spared, The men called Sown, a right son of the soil, And Melanippus styled. Now, what his arm To-day shall do, rests with the dice of war, And Ares shall ordain it; but his cause Hath the true badge of Right, to urge him on To guard, as son, his motherland from wrong. MELANIPPUS goes out. CHORUS chanting Then may the gods give fortune fair Unto our chief, sent forth to dare War's terrible arbitrament! But ah! when champions wend away, I shudder, lest, from out the fray, Only their blood-stained wrecks be sent! THE SPY Nay, let him pass, and the gods' help be his! Next, Capaneus comes on, by lot to lead The onset at the gates Electran styled: A giant be, more huge than Tydeus' self, And more than human in his arrogance- May fate forefend his threat against our walls! God willing, or unwilling-such his vaunt- I will lay waste this city; Pallas' self, Zeus's warrior maid, although she swoop to earth And plant her in my path, shall stay me not. And, for the flashes of the levin-bolt, He holds them harmless as the noontide rays. Mark, too, the symbol on his shield-a man Scornfully weaponless but torch in hand, And the flame glows witbin his grasp, prepared For ravin: lo, the legend, wrought in words, Fire for the city bring I, flares in gold! Against such wight, send forth-yet whom? what man Will front that vaunting figure and not fear? ETEOCLES Aha, this profits also, gain on gain! In sooth, for mortals, the tongue's utterance Bewrays unerringly a foolish pride! Hither stalks Capaneus, with vaunt and threat Defying god-like powers, equipt to act, And, mortal though he be, he strains his tongue In folly's ecstasy, and casts aloft High swelling words against the ears of Zeus. Right well I trust-if justice grants the word- That, by the might of Zeus, a bolt of flame In more than semblance shall descend on him. Against his vaunts, though reckless, I have set, To make assurance sure, a warrior stern- Strong Polyphontes, fervid for the fray;- A sturdy bulwark, he, by grace of Heaven And favour of his champion Artemis! Say on, who holdeth the next gate in ward? POLYPHONTES goes out. CHORUS chanting Perish the wretch whose vaunt affronts our home! On him the red bolt come, Ere to the maiden bowers his way he cleave, To ravage and bereave! THE SPY I will say on. Eteoclus is third- To him it fell, what time the third lot sprang O'er the inverted helmet's brazen rim, To dash his stormers on Neistae gate. He wheels his mares, who at their frontlets chafe And yearn to charge upon the gates amain. They snort the breath of pride, and, filled therewith, Their nozzles whistle with barbaric sound. High too and haughty is his shield's device- An armed man who climbs, from rung to rung, A scaling ladder, up a hostile wall, Afire to sack and slay; and he too cries (By letters, full of sound, upon the shield) Not Ares' self shall cast me from the wall. Look to it, send, against this man, a man Strong to debar the slave's yoke from our town. ETEOCLES pointing to MEGAREUS Send will I-even this man, with luck to aid- MEGAREUS departs as soon as he has been marked out. By his worth sent already, not by pride And vain pretence, is he. 'Tis Megareus, The child of Creon, of the Earth-sprung born! He will not shrink from guarding of the gates, Nor fear the maddened charger's frenzied neigh, But, if he dies, will nobly quit the score For nurture to the land that gave him birth, Or from the shield-side hew two warriors down- Eteoclus and the figure that he lifts- Ay, and the city pictured, all in one, And deck with spoils the temple of his sire! Announce the next pair, stint not of thy tongue! CHORUS chanting O thou, the warder of my home, Grant, unto us, Fate's favouring tide, Send on the foemen doom! They fling forth taunts of frenzied pride, On them may Zeus with glare of vengeance come THE SPY Lo, next him stands a fourth and shouts amain, By Pallas Onca's portal, and displays A different challenge; 'tis Hippomedon! Huge the device that starts up from his targe In high relief; and, I deny it not, I shuddered, seeing how, upon the rim, It made a mighty circle round the shield- No sorry craftsman he, who wrought that work And clamped it all around the buckler's edge! The form was Typhon: from his glowing throat Rolled lurid smoke, spark-litten, kin of fire! The flattened edge-work, circling round the whole, Made strong support for coiling snakes that grew Erect above the concave of the shield: Loud rang the warrior's voice; inspired for war, He raves to slay, as doth a Bacchanal, His very glance a terror! of such wight Beware the onset! closing on the gates, He peals his vaunting and appalling cry! ETEOCLES Yet first our Pallas Onca-wardress she, Planting her foot hard by her gate-shall stand, The Maid against the ruffian, and repel His force, as from her brood the mother-bird Beats back the wintered serpent's venom'd fang. And next, by her, is Oenops' gallant son, Hyperbius, chosen to confront this foe, Ready to seek his fate at Fortune's shrine! In form, in valour, and in skill of arms, None shall gainsay him. See how wisely well Hermes hath set the brave against the strong! Confronted shall they stand, the shield of each Bearing the image of opposing gods: One holds aloft his Typhon breathing fire, But, on the other's shield, in symbol sits Zeus, calm and strong, and fans his bolt to flame- Zeus, seen of all, yet seen of none to fail! Howbeit, weak is trust reposed in Heaven- Yet are we upon Zeus' victorious side, The foe, with those he worsted-if in sooth Zeus against Typhon held the upper hand, And if Hyperbius (as well may hap When two such foes such diverse emblems bear) Have Zeus upon his shield, a saving sign. HYPERBIUS goes out. CHORUS chanting High faith is mine that he whose shield Bears, against Zeus, the thing of hate. The giant Typhon, thus revealed, A monster loathed of gods eterne And mortal men-this doom shall earn A shattered skull, before the gate! THE SPY Heaven send it so! A fifth assailant now Is set against our fifth, the northern, gate, Fronting the death-mound where Amphion lies The child of Zeus. This foeman vows his faith, Upon a mystic spear-head which he deems More holy than a godhead and more sure To find its mark than any glance of eye, That, will they, nill they, he will storm and sack The hold of the Cadmeans. Such his oath- His, the bold warrior, yet of childish years, A bud of beauty's foremost flower, the son Of Zeus and of the mountain maid. I mark How the soft down is waxing on his cheek, Thick and close-growing in its tender prime- In name, not mood, is he a maiden's child- Parthenopaeus; large and bright his eyes But fierce the wrath wherewith he fronts the gate: Yet not unheralded he takes his stand Before the portal; on his brazen shield, The rounded screen and shelter of his form, I saw him show the ravening Sphinx, the fiend That shamed our city-how it glared and moved, Clamped on the buckler, wrought in high relief! And in its claws did a Cadmean bear- Nor heretofore, for any single prey, Sped she aloft, through such a storm of darts As now awaits her. So our foe is here- Like, as I deem, to ply no stinted trade In blood and broil, but traffick as is meet In fierce exchange for his long wayfaring! ETEOCLES Ah, may they meet the doom they think to bring- They and their impious vaunts-from those on high! So should they sink, hurled down to deepest death! This foe, at least, by thee Arcadian styled, Is faced by one who bears no braggart sign, But his hand sees to smite, where blows avail- Actor, own brother to Hyperbius! He will not let a boast without a blow Stream through our gates and nourish our despair, Nor give him way who on his hostile shield Bears the brute image of the loathly Sphinx! Blocked at the gate, she will rebuke the man Who strives to thrust her forward, when she feels Thick crash of blows, up to the city wall. With Heaven's goodwill, my forecast shall be true. ACTOR goes out. CHORUS chanting Home to my heart the vaunting goes, And, quick with terror, on my head Rises my hair, at sound of those Who wildly, impiously rave! If gods there be, to them I plead- Give them to darkness and the grave. THE SPY Fronting the sixth gate stands another foe, Wisest of warriors, bravest among seers- Such must I name Amphiaraus: he, Set steadfast at the Homoloid gate, Berates strong Tydeus with reviling words- The man of blood, the bane of state and home To Argos, arch-allurer to all ill, Evoker of the Fury-fiend of hell, Death's minister, and counsellor of wrong Unto Adrastus in this fatal field. Ay, and with eyes upturned and mien of scorn He chides thy brother Polyneices to At his desert, and once and yet again Dwells hard and meaningly upon his name Where it saith glory yet importeth feud. Yea, such thou art in act, and such thy grace In sight of Heaven, and such in aftertime Thy fame, for lips and ears of mortal men! "He strove to sack the city of his sires And temples of her gods, and brought on her An alien armament of foreign foes. The fountain of maternal blood outpoured What power can staunck? even so, thy fatherland Once by thine ardent malice stormed and ta'en, Shall ne'er join force with thee." For me, I know It doth remain to let my blood enrich The border of this land that loves me not- Blood of a prophet, in a foreign grave! Now, for the battle! I foreknow my doom, Yet it shall be with honour. So he spake, The prophet, holding up his targe of bronze Wrought without blazon, to the ears of men Who stood around and heeded not his word. For on no bruit and rumour of great deeds, But on their doing, is his spirit set, And in his heart he reaps a furrow rich, Wherefrom the foison of good counsel springs. Against him, send brave heart and hand of might; For the god-lover is man's fiercest foe. ETEOCLES Out on the chance that couples mortal men, Linking the just and impious in one! In every issue, the one curse is this- Companionship with men of evil heart! A baneful harvest, let none gather it! The field of sin is rank, and brings forth death At whiles a righteous man who goes aboard With reckless mates, a horde of villainy, Dies by one death with that detested crew; At whiles the just man, joined with citizens Ruthless to strangers, recking nought of Heaven, Trapped, against nature, in one net with them, Dies by God's thrust and all-including blow. So will this prophet die, even Oecleus' child, Sage, just, and brave, and loyal towards Heaven, Potent in prophecy, but mated here With men of sin, too boastful to be wise! Long is their road, and they return no more, And, at their taking-off, by hard of Zeus, The prophet too shall take the downward way. He will not-so I deem-assail the gate- Not as through cowardice or feeble will, But as one knowing to what end shall be Their struggle in the battle, if indeed Fruit of fulfilment lie in Loxias' word. He speaketh not, unless to speak avails! Yet, for more surety, we will post a man, Strong Lasthenes, as warder of the gate, Stern to the foeman; he hath age's skill, Mated with youthful vigour, and an eye Forward, alert; swift too his hand, to catch The fenceless interval 'twixt shield and spear! Yet man's good fortune lies in hand of Heaven. LASTHENES goes out. CHORUS chanting Unto our loyal cry, ye gods, give ear! Save, save the city! turn away the spear, Send on the foemen fear! Outside the rampart fall they, rent and riven Beneath the bolt of heaven! THE SPY Last, let me name yon seventh antagonist, Thy brother's self, at the seventh portal set- Hear with what wrath he imprecates our doom, Vowing to mount the wall, though banished hence, And peal aloud the wild exulting cry- The town is ta'en-then clash his sword with thine, Giving and taking death in close embrace, Or, if thou 'scapest, flinging upon thee, As robber of his honour and his home, The doom of exile such as he has borne. So clamours he and so invokes the gods Who guard his race and home, to hear and heed The curse that sounds in Polyneices' name! He bears a round shield, fresh from forge and fire, And wrought upon it is a twofold sign- For lo, a woman leads decorously The figure of a warrior wrought in gold; And thus the legend runs-I Justice am, And I will bring the hero home again, To hold once more his place within this town, Once more to pace his sire's ancestral hall. Such are the symbols, by our foemen shown- Now make thine own decision, whom to send Against this last opponent! I have said- Nor canst thou in my tidings find a flaw- Thine is it, now, to steer the course aright. ETEOCLES Ah me, the madman, and the curse of Heaven And woe for us, the lamentable line Of Oedipus, and woe that in this house Our father's curse must find accomplishment! But now, a truce to tears and loud lament, Lest they should breed a still more rueful wail! As for this Polyneices, named too well, Soon shall we know how this device shall end- Whether the gold-wrought symbols on his shield, In their mad vaunting and bewildered pride, Shall guide him as a victor to his home! For had but justice, maiden-child of Zeus, Stood by his act and thought, it might have been! Yet never, from the day he reached the light Out of the darkness of his mother's womb, Never in childhood, nor in youthful prime, Nor when his chin was gathering its beard, Hath justice hailed or claimed him as her own. Therefore I deem not that she standeth now To aid him in this outrage on his home! Misnamed, in truth, were justice, utterly, If to impiety she lent her hand. Sure in this faith, I will myself go forth And match me with him; who hath fairer claim? Ruler, against one fain to snatch the rule, Brother with brother matched, and foe with foe, Will I confront the issue. To the wall! LEADER OF THE CHORUS O thou true heart, O child of Oedipus, Be not, in wrath, too like the man whose name Murmurs an evil omen! 'Tis enough That Cadmus' clan should strive with Arges' host, For blood there is that can atone that stain! But-brother upon brother dealing death- Not time itself can expiate the sin! ETEOCLES If man find hurt, yet clasp his honour still, 'Tis well; the dead have honour, nought beside. Hurt, with dishonour, wins no word of praise! CHORUS chanting Ah, what is thy desire? Let not the lust and ravin of the sword Bear thee adown the tide accursed, abhorred! Fling off thy passion's rage, thy spirit's prompting dire! ETEOCLES Nay-since the god is urgent for our doom, Let Laius' house, by Phoebus loathed and scorned, Follow the gale of destiny, and win Its great inheritance, the gulf of hell! CHORUS chanting Ruthless thy craving is- Craving for kindred and forbidden blood To be outpoured-a sacrifice imbrued With sin, a bitter fruit of murderous enmities! ETEOCLES Yea, my own father's fateful Curse proclaims- A ghastly presence, and her eyes are dry- Strike! honour is the prize, not life prolonged! CHORUS chanting Ah, be not urged of her! for none shall dare To call thee coward, in thy throned estate! Will not the Fury in her sable pal Pass outward from these halls, what time the gods Welcome a votive offering from our hands? ETEOCLES The gods! long since they hold us in contempt, Scornful of gifts thus offered by the lost! Why should we fawn and flinch away from doom? CHORUS chanting Now, when it stands beside thee! for its power May, with a changing gust of milder mood, Temper the blast that bloweth wild and rude And frenzied, in this hour! ETEOCLES Ay, kindled by the curse of Oedipus- All too prophetic, out of dreamland came The vision, meting out our sire's estate! LEADER OF THE CHORUS Heed women's voices, though thou love them not! ETEOCLES Say aught that may avail, but stint thy words. LEADER Go not thou forth to guard the seventh gate! ETEOCLES Words shall not blunt the edge of my resolve. LEADER Yet the god loves to let the weak prevail. ETEOCLES That to a swordsman, is no welcome word! LEADER Shall thine own brother's blood be victory's palm? ETEOCLES Ill which the gods have sent thou canst no-shun! ETEOCLES goes out. CHORUS singing strophe 1 I shudder in dread of the power, abhorred by the gods of high heaven, The ruinous curse of the home till roof-tree and rafter be riven! Too true are the visions of ill, too true the fulfilment they bring To the curse that was spoken of old by the frenzy and wrath of the king! Her will is the doom of the children, and Discord is kindled amain, antistrophe 1 And strange is the Lord of Division, who cleaveth the birthright in twain,- The edged thing, born of the north, the steel that is ruthless and keen, Dividing in bitter division the lot of the children of teen! Not the wide lowland around, the realm of their sire, shall they have, Yet enough for the dead to inherit, the pitiful space of a grave! strophe 2 Ah, but when kin meets kin, when sire and child, Unknowing, are defiled By shedding common blood, and when the pit Of death devoureth it, Drinking the clotted stain, the gory dye- Who, who can purify? Who cleanse pollution, where the ancient bane Rises and reeks again? antistrophe 2 Whilome in olden days the sin was wrought, And swift requital brought- Yea on the children of the child came still New heritage of ill! For thrice Apollo spoke this word divine, From Delphi's central shrine, To Laius-Die thou childless! thus alone Can the land's weal be won! strophe 3 But vainly with his wife's desire he strove, And gave himself to love, Begetting Oedipus, by whom he died, The fateful parricide! The sacred seed-plot, his own mother's womb, He sowed, his house's doom, A root of blood! by frenzy lured, they came Unto their wedded shame. antistrophe 3 And now the waxing surge, the wave of fate, Rolls on them, triply great- One billow sinks, the next towers, high and dark, Above our city's bark- Only the narrow barrier of the wal Totters, as soon to fall; And, if our chieftains in the storm go down, What chance can save the town? strophe 4 Curses, inherited from long ago, Bring heavy freight of woe: Rich stores of merchandise o'erload the deck, Near, nearer comes the wreck- And all is lost, cast out upon the wave, Floating, with none to save! antistrophe 4 Whom did the gods, whom did the chief of men, Whom did each citizen In crowded concourse, in such honour hold, As Oedipus of old, When the grim fiend, that fed on human prey, He took from us away? strophe 5 But when, in the fulness of days, he knew of his bridal unblest, A twofold horror he wrought, in the frenzied despair of his breast- Debarred from the grace of the banquet, the service of goblets of gold He flung on his children a curse for the splendour they dared to withhold. antistrophe 5 A curse prophetic and bitter-The glory of wealth and of pride, With iron, not gold, in your hands, ye shall come, at the last, to divide! Behold, how a shudder runs through me, lest now, in the fulness of time, The house-fiend awake and return, to mete out the measure of crime! THE SPY enters. THE SPY Take heart, ye daughters whom your mothers' milk Made milky-hearted! lo, our city stands, Saved from the yoke of servitude: the vaunts Of overweening men are silent now, And the State sails beneath a sky serene, Nor in the manifold and battering waves Hath shipped a single surge, and solid stands The rampart, and the gates are made secure, Each with a single champion's trusty guard. So in the main and at six gates we hold A victory assured; but, at the seventh, The god that on the seventh day was born, Royal Apollo, hath ta'en up his rest To wreak upon the sons of Oedipus Their grandsire's wilfulness of long ago. LEADER OF THE CHORUS What further woefulness besets our home? THE SPY The home stands safe-but ah, the princes twain- LEADER Who? what of them? I am distraught with fear. THE SPY Hear now, and mark! the sons of Oedipus- LEADER Ah, my prophetic soul! I feel their doom. THE SPY Have done with questions!-with I-with their lives crushed out- LEADER Lie they out yonder? the full horror speak! Did hands meet hands more close than brotherly? Came fate on each. and in the selfsame hour? THE SPY Yea, blotting out the lineage ill-starred! Now mix your exultation and your tears, Over a city saved, the while its lords, Twin leaders of the fight, have parcelled out With forged arbitrament of Scythian steel The full division of their fatherland, And, as their father's imprecation bade, Shall have their due of land, a twofold grave. So is the city saved; the earth has drunk Blood of twin princes, by each other slain. CHORUS chanting O mighty Zeus and guardian powers, The strength and stay of Cadmus' towers! Shall I send forth a joyous cry, Hail to the lord of weal renewed? Or weep the misbegotten twain, Born to a fatal destiny Each numbered now among the slain, Each dying in ill fortitude, Each truly named, each child of feud? O dark and all-prevailing ill, That broods o'er Oedipus and all his line, Numbing my heart with mortal chill! Ah me, this song of mine, Which, Thyad-like, I woke, now falleth still, Or only tells of doom, And echoes round a tomb! Dead are they, dead! in their own blood they lie Ill-omened the concent that hails our victory! The curse a father on his children spake Hath faltered not, nor failed! Nought, Laius! thy stubborn choice availed- First to beget, then, in the after day And for the city's sake, The child to slay! For nought can blunt nor mar The speech oracular! Children of teen! by disbelief ye erred- Yet in wild weeping came fulfilment of the word! ANTIGONE and ISMENE approach, with a train of mourners. bearing the bodies of ETEOCLES and POLYNEICES. Look up, look forth! the doom is plain, Nor spake the messenger in vain! A twofold sorrow, twofold strife- Each brave against a brother's life! In double doom hath sorrow come How shall I speak it?-on the home! Alas, my sisters! be your sighs the gale, The smiting of your brows the plash of oars, Wafting the boat, to Acheron's dim shores That passeth ever, with its darkened sail, On its uncharted voyage and sunless way, Far from thy beams, Apollo, god of day- The melancholy bark Bound for the common bourn, the harbour of the dark! Look up, look yonder! from the home Antigone, Ismene come, On the last, saddest errand bound, To chant a dirge of doleful sound, With agony of equal pain Above their brethren slain! Their sister-bosoms surely swell, Heart with rent heart according well In grief for those who fought and fell! Yet-ere they utter forth their woe We must awake the rueful strain To vengeful powers, in realms below, And mourn hell's triumph o'er the slain! Alas! of all, the breast who bind,- Yea, all the race of womankind- O maidens, ye are most bereaved! For you, for you the tear-drops start- Deem that in truth, and undeceived, Ye hear the sorrows of my heart! To the dead Children of bitterness, and sternly brave- One, proud of heart against persuasion's voice, One, against exile proof! ye win your choice- Each in your fatherland, a separate grave! Alack, on house and heritage They brought a baneful doom, and death for wage! One strove through tottering walls to force his way, One claimed, in bitter arrogance, the sway, And both alike, even now and here, Have closed their suit, with steel for arbiter! And lo, the Fury-fiend of Oedipus, their sire, Hath brought his curse to consummation dire Each in the left side smitten, see them laid- The children of one womb, Slain by a mutual doom! Alas, their fate! the combat murderous, The horror of the house, The curse of ancient bloodshed, now repaid! Yea, deep and to the heart the deathblow fell, Edged by their feud ineffable- By the grim curse, their sire did imprecate Discord and deadly hate! Hark, how the city and its towers make moan- How the land mourns that held them for its own! Fierce greed and fell division did they blend, Till death made end! They strove to part the heritage in twain, Giving to each a gain- Yet that which struck the balance in the strife, The arbitrating sword, By those who loved the twain is held abhorred- Loathed is the god of death, who sundered each from life! Here, by the stroke of steel, behold! they lie- And rightly may we cry Beside their fathers, let them here be laid- Iron gave their doom, witk iron their graves be made- A lack, the slaying sword, alack, th' entombing spade! Alas, a piercing shriek, a rending groan, A cry unfeigned of sorrow felt at heart! With shuddering of grief, with tears that start, With wailful escort, let them hither come- For one or other make divided moan! No light lament of pity mixed with gladness, But with true tears, poured from the soul of sadness, Over the princes dead and their bereaved home Say we, above these brethren dead, On citizen, on foreign foe, Brave was their rush, and stern their blow- Now, lowly are they laid! Beyond all women upon earth Woe, woe for her who gave them birth! Unknowingly, her son she wed- The children of that marriage-bed, Each in the self-same womb, were bred- Each by a brother's hand lies dead! Yea, from one seed they sprang, and by one fate Their heritage is desolate, The heart's division sundered claim from claim, And, from their feud, death came! Now is their hate allayed, Now is their life-stream shed, Ensanguining the earth with crimson dye- Lo, from one blood they sprang, and in one blood they lie! A grievous arbiter was given the twain- The stranger from the northern main, The sharp, dividing sword, Fresh from the forge and fire The War-god treacherous gave ill award And brought their father's curse to a fulfilment dire! They have their portion-each his lot and doom, Given from the gods on high! Yea, the piled wealth of fatherland, for tomb, Shall underneath them lie! Alas, alas! with flowers of fame and pride Your home ye glorified; But, in the end, the Furies gathered round With chants of boding sound, Shrieking, In wild defeat and disarray, Behold, ye pass away! The sign of Ruin standeth at the gate, There, where they strove with Fate- And the ill power beheld the brothers' fall, And triumphed over all! ANTIGONE, ISMENE, and the CHORUS all take part in the following responsive dirge. Thou wert smitten, in smiting, Thou didst slay, and wert slain- By the spear of each other Ye lie on the plain, And ruthless the deed that ye wrought was, and ruthless the death of the twain! Take voice, O my sorrow! Flow tear upon tear- Lay the slain by the slayer, Made one on the bier! Our soul in distraction is lost, and we mourn o'er the prey of the spear!