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Specimens of Greek Tragedy - Aeschylus and Sophocles
by Goldwin Smith
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HAEMON.

Wouldst thou have all the talking to thyself?

CREON.

Indeed! By heaven above, thou shalt repent! Thus censuring first and then reviling me. Bring out that hateful thing that she may die Forthwith, and here before her lover's eyes.

HAEMON.

Never before my eyes, believe it not; A witness of her death I will not be, Nor shalt thou look upon my face again. Rave at the friends who will thy raving brook.

(Exit HAEMON.)

CHORUS.

O Prince, the youth has rushed away in wrath, And at his years anguish is violent.

CREON.

Let him go vent his overweening pride; These maidens twain shall not escape from death.

CHORUS.

What? Is it thy resolve that both shall die?

CREON.

Not she that took no part. Thou hast well said.

CHORUS.

What is to be the manner of her death?

CREON.

I will convey her to a lonely place, And shut her in a rock-hewn prison-house, With food sufficient, for religion's sake, Whereby we from pollution save the State. There unto Hades, her sole deity, Pattering her prayers, she will drive death away, Or at the last be taught how vain it is To spend devotion on the shades below.

* * * * *

THE POWER OF LOVE.

LINES 781-800.

CHORUS.

Unconquered love, against whose might Wealth's golden mansion hath no ward, That in the maiden's dimpled cheek by night Keepest thy guard; The ocean wave to bear thy tread is taught; The rural homestead, gods, and men are brought Alike thy power to own; who feels it is distraught. 'Tis thou that upright hearts and pure dost lead From virtue's ways to ways of sin. 'Tis thou whose influence in our Thebes does breed Strife among kin. O'er all prevails the charm of beauty's eyes, Charm that with Law Supreme in empire vies, For Aphrodite's power all rebel force defies.

* * * * *

ANTIGONE IS SENT TO HER DEATH.

LINES 882-928.

CREON.

Be sure, of wails and dirges before death, If leave were given, we ne'er should have an end. Lead her away and in the rocky vault Forthwith immure her, as my order was. There leave her by herself, either to die, Or linger on in that sepulchral cell. We of this maiden's blood are clear, and yet She will no longer dwell with those above.

ANTIGONE.

O tomb, my bridal bower, O rock-hewn cell, My home that art to be, whither I go To meet my kin, of whom Persephone In her dark mansion holds a multitude. Last of the train and most unfortunate, I now must die before my destined hour. And yet my hope is sure that by my sire, By thee, beloved mother, and by thee, Dearest of brothers, welcomed I shall be. This hand washed every corpse and decked it out For sepulture; this hand upon each grave Libations poured; and, Polynices, now In tending thy remains I meet this doom. Yet wisdom will approve my honouring thee: Had I a mother been and lost a child, Had I been wed and had my husband died, I would not thus have braved the public ire. What is my principle, perchance you ask? My husband lost, I might have wed again, I might in time have borne a second child; But, with both sire and mother in the grave, Hope of a second brother there is none. Upon this principle I honoured thee, Dearest of brothers; but to Creon seemed A sinner and the worst of criminals. And now he hales me to the place of death. From marriage and of bridal hymn cut off, Cut off from joys of love and motherhood, And reft of friends, poor maiden as I am, I must go down into a living grave. And yet what law divine have I transgressed? How could I look for succour to the gods? Whither for comfort go, when piety Is thus requited with the pains of sin? If this is righteous in the eye of heaven, I'll own the justice of my chastisement; But if the sin be on the other side, May they but bear that which they lay on me.

* * * * *

THE CATASTROPHE.

Creon, having been brought to repentance by the denunciations of the prophet Tiresias, sets out to bury the corpse of Polynices, and release Antigone from the cave of death. The issue is recounted by a messenger to the Queen Eurydice.

LINES 1155-1243.

MESSENGER.

Ye, that by Cadmus and Amphion's shrine Do dwell, no mortal's life before its end Will be by me pronounced blessed or unblessed. Fortune is ever casting down the high, Fortune is ever lifting up the low; And none can prophesy what change may come. Creon I deemed an enviable man: He from our enemy had saved our state, And, vested with a monarch's power supreme, Ruled happy in the promise of his heir. Now all is gone, for when a man has lost The things that make life sweet, he lives in truth No more, but is an animated corpse. Have in your house what store of wealth you will, Dwell in the state of sumptuous royalty, Where joy is absent, I account the rest Less than a shadow of a wreath of smoke.

CHORUS.

What evil has befallen our royal house?

MESSENGER.

Dead are some, others guilty of their death.

CHORUS.

Who is the murdered, who the murderer, say.

MESSENGER.

Haemon is dead, unnaturally slain.

CHORUS.

Slain by whose hand, his father's or his own?

MESSENGER.

His own, stung by his sire's cruel deed.

CHORUS.

O seer, thy prophesy has come too true.

MESSENGER.

So stands the case, whereon deliberate.

(Enter EURYDICE.)

CHORUS.

Yonder is the ill-starred Eurydice, The Queen of Creon; from the house she comes By chance, or brought by tidings of her son.

EURYDICE.

Citizens all, I overheard your words, As from our portal I was setting forth To pay my vows to Pallas at her fane. Just as I drew the bolts that hold the door, Sounds of disaster to our family Smote on my ear. Affrighted, I fell back In my attendants' arms and swooned away. Repeat what then ye said; I am well schooled In misery, and can bear to hear the worst.

MESSENGER.

Good lady, I was witness of the scene, And nothing will suppress in my report. Why tell a flattering tale, when soon the lie Must be exposed? Plain truth is ever best. I went as an attendant with the King To yon high level where, a prey to dogs, The uncared-for corpse of Polynices lay. The corpse, with prayers put up to Hecate And Pluto to look kindly on the dead, We reverently washed, wrapped the remains In fresh-plucked boughs, and burned them on a pyre. Then on the dead we heaped his native earth. Next to the maiden's bridal bower of death, Within the hollowed rock, we took our way. One of us hears afar a wailing shrill Come from the spot where lay the unhallowed cell. And running, tells to Creon what he heard. To Creon's ear, as he drew nigh, was borne A sound confused of weeping, and he cried In bitterness, "Unhappy that I am, Will my heart prove a prophet? Have I come The most disastrous journey of my life? Sure it is my son's voice that greets my ear. Attendants, hasten to the cave of death, Tear up the stones, creep to the chamber's mouth, Tell me if Haemon's voice indeed I hear, Or is it some illusion of my sense?" We as our master in his anguish bade, Looked in, and in the inmost cell we saw The maiden hanging from the roof and dead, A noose of shredded linen round her neck; The youth, his arms folded around her waist, Bewailing his lost bride, his marriage hour Turned to despair, his father's cruelty. Seeing him, Creon, with a bitter cry, Moved towards him, and in anguish shrieked to him, "My son, what hast thou done? what frantic thought Possessed thy mind, how wast thou thus distraught? Come forth, I do entreat thee, son, come forth." Haemon, for answer, with eyes flashing rage, Looked mute abhorrence, drew his two-edged sword, And would have struck his father; but the King Fled and escaped. Then on himself he turned His wrath, and without more, into his breast Drove to the hilt his sword, and conscious still, Clung round the maiden with his failing arms, While, swiftly welling from his wound, the blood Spread over her pale cheek its crimson shower. There lies he dead, with arms around the dead, His marriage feast held in the world below, Teaching by sad example that the worst Of human evils is a mind distraught.



AJAX

Ajax and Ulysses were competitors for the arms of Achilles. The prize was awarded to Ulysses. Ajax, deeming himself wronged, sallies forth from his tent one night to take vengeance on those who had wronged him, especially Ulysses and the two sons of Atreus. Athene, ever watchful for her favourite Hellenes, smites Ajax with mental blindness, so that instead of falling on his enemies, he falls on the flocks and herds of the camp. Restored to his right mind, and finding how he has dishonoured himself, he falls upon his sword.

* * * * *

THE HERO'S MADNESS.

Tecmessa, a captive with whom Ajax lives as his wife, tells the Chorus of Salaminian mariners what has befallen their chieftain.

LINES 284-330.

TECMESSA.

Thou shalt hear all as one that shares our lot. It was the dead of night, and now no more The camp fires shone, when Ajax took his sword, Uncalled, and was in act to leave the tent, And I reproved him. "Ajax," I exclaimed, "What errand is it upon which you go Unbidden, summoned by no messenger, No trumpet call; the host is all asleep?" Brief was his answer in a well-known strain: "Peace, woman; silence best beseems thy sex." I said no more. He sallied forth alone. What may have there befallen I cannot say. Back to the tent he came, leading along As captives bulls and herdsmen's dogs and sheep, Of which a part he strangled, others felled And cleft in twain; others again he lashed, Treating those beasts like human prisoners. Then rushing out, he with some phantom talked, Launching against the sons of Atreus now, Now 'gainst Ulysses, ravings void of sense, Boasting how he had paid their insults home. Then once more rushing back into the tent, By slow degrees to his right mind he came. But when he saw the tent with carnage heaped, Crying aloud, he smote his head, and then Flung himself down amid the gory wreck, And with clenched fingers grasped and tore his hair. So a long time he sat and spoke no word. At last, with imprecations terrible If I refused, he bade me tell him all, What had befallen and how it came about. And I, my friends, o'erwhelmed with terror, told All that I knew of that which he had done. Thereat he uttered piercing cries of grief, Such as had never come from him before, For in loud lamentations to indulge He ever held a craven weakling's part, And, stifling outcries, moaned not loud but deep, Like the deep roaring of a wounded bull. But in this plight, prostrate and desperate, Refusing food and drink, my hero lies Amidst the mangled bodies, motionless. That he is brooding on some fell design, His wails and exclamations plainly show. But, O kind friends, 'twas to this end I came, Enter the tent and aid me if ye can; The words of friends are desperate sorrow's cure.

* * * * *

REMORSE.

Ajax bewails his own fall. Tecmessa tries to comfort him, and turn him from violent courses.

LINES 430-595.

CHORUS.

I know not how, in case so desperate, To bid thee speak, or bid thee to refrain.

AJAX.

Alas! who would have thought my name would prove [Footnote: There is a play upon the name [Greek: Aias], the first syllable of which is an ejaculation of sorrow unreproduceable in English.] So correspondent to the bearer's state? Once and again that syllable of woe, Being with woe o'erwhelmed, I may repeat. My father once, from this Idaean land, Crowned with the prize of valour by the host, And full of glory, to his home returned; While I, his son, coming to this same land Of Troy with prowess no whit less than his, After achievements not less glorious, Meet from the Argives scorn and contumely. And yet of this much am I well assured, That had Achilles living been the judge To whom his arm and valours prize should go, Mine, and mine only, would those arms have been. But now the Atridae to a cunning knave, My exploits misprized, have surrendered them. And had not strong delusion warped my sense, And clouded o'er my vision, never more Would they have an unrighteous sentence given. But that stern-eyed, resistless child of Zeus, Just as I put forth my avenging hand, Brought madness on me, made me miss my aim, And dye my sword with blood of slaughtered kine. They have escaped, and they will mock at me, Through no default of mine. When deity Blasts the strong arm, weakness may strength defy. What now am I to do, since of the gods I am abhorred, of the Hellenic host Hated, to Troy and all this land a foe? Shall I to their own quarrel leave the Kings, Unmoor, and homeward cross the Aegean wave? How can I face my father Telamon? How can he bear to look upon the son Who comes to him disgraced, without the prize, When glory's wreath has circled his own brow? That may not be. Then shall I fling myself Alone upon the Trojan battlements, And having done some deed of valour, fall? That might to the two Kings some joy afford. That, too, is naught. On something I must think Whereby I to my aged sire may prove That from his loins sprung no unworthy son; For vile it is to crave for longer life, When longer life brings no release from ill. How can addition to the sum of days, When all is but a respite, joy bestow? I would not give a doit for any man Who lets his heart be fired with idle hopes. To live with honour, or with honour die, Alone becomes the noble. I have done.

CHORUS.

None, Ajax, will pretend that these thy words Are not thy own, or come not from thy heart; But now control thyself. Discard these thoughts, And let the counsels of thy friends prevail.

TECMESSA.

Ajax, my lord and master, man knows not Aught sadder than a bondsman's helplessness. I, that a freeman for my father had, First of the Phrygian race in wealth and power, Am now a slave. So have the gods decreed, And thy strong arm determined. Of thy bed Thus made the partner, I am true to thee, And do implore thee by our household Zeus, And by the couch which we together press, Be not so cruel as to leave thy mate In thraldom, and a prey to slanderous tongues. Know, when thou diest, thy protection gone, The Argives will that self-same day drag off Me and thy helpless child to slavery. Then will some slave-master speak bitter words, Voiding his bile on us: 'Behold the mate Of Ajax, once the hero of our host, Fallen from her pride of place to menial toil.' So will they say. For me, where fate may drive I drift; but shame will be on thee and thine. Think of thy father, in his drear old age Bereft of thee; think of thy mother, too, With her grey head, who puts up many a prayer That she may welcome home her son alive. Have pity on thy child, who will be left In infancy, uncherished, and the ward Of unkind guardians; lay to heart the woes Which loss of thee would bring on him and me. For I have nothing left to which to look But thee; thy spear has laid my city low, While, by another doom, my parents both Have gone to dwell in the abodes of death. What country can Tecmessa have but thee? What staff of life? thou art my all in all. Be mindful of thy mate; to taste love's joy Is to owe something to the claim of love. Affection still should be affection's meed; When kindness leaves no trace upon the soul, That soul is void of true nobility.

CHORUS.

Ajax, I would thy heart could beat with mine, For if it could, her words would win thy praise.

AJAX.

Praise in full measure shall she have from me, If she has sense to do what I command.

TECMESSA.

Whatever thou commandest, I will do.

AJAX.

Bring me my boy that I may look on him.

TECMESSA.

The truth to tell, I sent him hence in fear.

AJAX.

In fear of what? Of all this wretchedness?

TECMESSA.

Fear that if thou shouldst meet him, he might die.

AJAX.

That would have well beseemed my destiny.

TECMESSA.

My care prevented that calamity.

AJAX.

I do commend thy foresight heartily.

TECMESSA.

What can I do herein to serve thee more?

AJAX.

Let me behold the boy and speak to him.

TECMESSA.

He is at hand in the attendant's care.

AJAX.

Let him come hither, then, without delay.

TECMESSA.

My child, thy father calls. Whoe'er thou art His infant steps that guidest, bring him here.

AJAX.

Is the child out of hearing or at hand?

TECMESSA.

Behold, the servant leading him is near.

(Enter Attendant with EURYSACES.)

AJAX.

Give me the boy; he will not be afraid To look upon this bloody slaughter-house, If verily he is his father's son. At once we must in his sire's rugged ways Train the young colt and mould him like to me. Boy, mayst thou be more lucky than thy sire, Else his true son, and thou'lt be not amiss. Already have I cause to envy thee, In that thou knowest nothing of these woes; For blessed are the days of ignorance, When joy and grief are both untasted still. But when the time is come, see that thou show My enemies what blood is in thy veins. Till then, sweet airs breathe on thine infancy. Be happy, boy, and cheer thy mother's heart. I ween the Achaean lives not that on thee Will dare to trample, e'en when I am gone, So good a warden shall I leave for thee In Teucer, who shall tend thee well, though now He is far off, upon the foeman's trail. And now, my warriors, that have sailed with me, I crave one service at your loving hands, And pray ye will of Teucer crave the same: Bear to my home the boy, that Telamon And Eriboea may their grandson see, And he may be the prop of their old age. My arms, no judges, nor my honour's foe Shall ere set up as prizes for the host. My shield, Eurysaces, my son, take thou, [Footnote: Signifying "him of the broad shield."] Thy namesake, by its well-knit handles wield The impenetrable orb of seven-fold hide. My other arms shall share their master's grave. And now, Tecmessa, take the boy again; Shut up the tent, and let us have no wails Here at the door; women are made of tears. Shut up the tent, I say; never wise leech Did patter spells when steel was the sole cure.

CHORUS.

I tremble as I hear thy heated words, The sharpness of thy speech disquiets me.

TECMESSA.

Ajax, my lord, what dost thou meditate?

AJAX.

Question me not. 'Tis good to be discreet.

TECMESSA.

Fear overwhelms my soul. Oh, by the gods, And by thy child, I pray desert us not.

AJAX.

Thou art importunate. Dost thou not know That I no more am debtor to the gods?

TECMESSA.

Hush! Be not impious.

AJAX.

Speak not to the deaf.

TECMESSA.

Wilt thou not yield?

AJAX.

Thou pratest overmuch.

TECMESSA.

My lord, I quake.

AJAX.

Shut up the tent at once.

TECMESSA. I do conjure thee.

AJAX.

Small must be thy sense, If thou dost think to put this heart to school.

* * * * *

THE RESOLVE.

Ajax pretends to be softened, and to be going forth only for the harmless purpose of purification in a running stream, though he is really going to his death.

LINES 646-692.

AJAX.

Time in its long, immeasurable course, Turns ever dark to light, and light to dark, And nothing is past hope; the solemn oath Is broken, and the stubborn heart gives way. I, that was hard as tempered steel erewhile, Am softened now by yonder woman's plaint. I cannot bear to leave her desolate, Or my boy fatherless among his foes. I'll go to the fresh baths which lie beside Yon cliff, that, having washed pollution off, I may the goddess' heavy wrath avert. I'll seek me out a solitary spot, And there I'll hide this sword, this hateful sword, Burying it where it shall be seen no more; Let night and Hades be its armoury, For ever since I took it as a gift From Hector, our most mortal enemy, Our Argive hearts have ne'er been kind to me. True is the word, the gifts of enemies Are no gifts, and they bring more loss than gain. So for the future we shall learn to bow To heaven's good will, and reverence the Kings; Theirs is the power, submission is our part. Whatever is most dread and masterful Yields to authority: the winter's snow In time makes way for summer crowned with fruits; In time the weary round of night gives place To the white steeds that bring returning day; In time the blustering tempest leaves at rest The roaring sea; in time profoundest sleep Loosens its bond, and lets the sleeper wake; Why should not time bring wisdom to us too? By all means shall it. I have lately learned That we should hate our enemy as one Who yet may be a friend, and so far serve Our friend as one that may to-morrow be A friend no more, since, to the general, Friendship is but a doubtful anchorage. But for these matters all is ordered well. Go in, Tecmessa, duly offer up Thy prayers that my desire may be fulfilled. And you, my comrades, honour equally My wishes, and bid Teucer, when he comes, Be a good friend to you and think of me. Now go I forth upon my destined way. Do ye my bidding, and ye soon may hear That I have shuffled off this coil of ills.

* * * * *

THE LAST SPEECH OF AJAX.

LINES 815-865.

AJAX.

The sword is set where it may best strike home, If leisure were to dally with such thoughts, The sword that Hector gave, the bitterest foe And worst that I did ever treat withal; And it is planted in the soil of Troy, That hostile soil, fresh whetted for its work. Carefully have I fixed it where it stands, That quickly I may die, and painlessly. So far all's well; in what comes now, O Zeus, On thee for aid, and with good right, I call. 'Tis no great favour that I crave of thee: Let some one bear to Teucer the ill news, That he may be the first to lift my corpse From off the sword, fresh streaming with my blood. Let me not, by some foeman first espied, Be cast a prey to carrion fowl and dogs. This, Zeus, I ask of thee, and I invoke Hermes, who leads the dead, that at one bound Pierced through, and with no lingering agony I may be laid in my eternal sleep. Last on the dread Erinnyes I call, That ever-virgin sisterhood, who see All that is done among mankind, to mark How the Atridae have my ruin wrought. Come, ye swift powers of retribution, come, And flesh you on the whole Achaean host. Thou sun, whose chariot traverses the sky, When on my native land thou lookest down, Draw for a while thy glittering rein, and tell The story of my madness and my doom To my grey-headed father, and to her That bare me, and that when she hears this news Will make the city echo with her wail. But to no purpose are these weak laments; The thing must now be done, and done with speed. O death, O death, come and thy office do; Long, where I go, our fellowship will be. O thou glad daylight, which I now behold, O sun, that ridest in the firmament, I greet you, and shall greet you never more. O light, O sacred soil of my own land, O my ancestral home, my Salamis, Famed Athens and my old Athenian mates, Rivers and springs and plains of Troy, farewell; Farewell all things in which I lived my life; 'Tis the last word of Ajax to you all, When next I speak 'twill be to those below.



ELECTRA.

The subject of the "Electra" of Sophocles is the same as that of the "Choephoroe" (the Libation-bearers) of Aeschylus. It is the return of Orestes from exile to take vengeance on Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, for their murder of his father, Agamemnon. Electra plays the same part which she plays in the "Choephoroe," while her sister, Chrysothemis, plays that of gentleness and comparative weakness. Orestes, in this play, returns with a fictitious story of his death which throws Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra off their guard.

* * * * *

THE SNARE.

The Paedagogos (tutor or governor) of Orestes, to circumvent Clytaemnestra, tells her a fictitious story of her son's death by a fall in a chariot-race. Electra is on the scene.

LINES 660-822.

PAEDAGOGOS.

Good ladies, tell a stranger in your land, Does King Aegisthus in this mansion dwell?

CHORUS.

He does, my friend; thou hast conjectured right.

PAEDAGOGOS.

Shall I conjecture right if I take this To be his Queen? She has a queenly look.

CHORUS.

Thou'rt right again; the Queen indeed she is.

PAEDAGOGOS.

Hail, royal lady. From a friend I bring News good for thee and for Aegisthus too.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Thy words are pleasing to mine ear; but first I must inquire of thee, who sent thee here?

PAEDAGOGOS.

The Phocian Phanoteus, on errand grave.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Say what it is; for as the name is dear Of him that sent thee, glad will be thy news.

PAEDAGOGOS.

Orestes is no more: that is the sum.

ELECTRA.

Alas! alas! I am undone this day.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

What? what? repeat it; listen not to her.

PAEDAGOGOS.

Again, I say, Orestes is no more.

ELECTRA.

It is my death-blow; I am lost, am lost.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Look to thyself, girl. Stranger, tell me true, In what way was it that he met his doom?

PAEDAGOGOS.

To this end was I sent; thou shalt hear all. To those great games, the pride of Hellas, came Orestes, fain to win the Delphic prize. There, when he heard the herald with loud voice Proclaim the race, which is the first event, He entered, dazzling, and admired of all; And shooting swift from starting-post to goal, Bore off the prize of glorious victory. Briefly to speak, exploits so marvellous, Such proofs of prowess, never did I see. Know that in every foot-race that as wont The presidents proclaimed, he, midst the cheers Of gratulating crowds, bore off the prize; While heralds loud proclaimed the victor's name, Argive Orestes, Agamemnon's son, Heir to the glory of that conqueror. So far he prospered; but when heaven decrees That man shall fall, man's might is vain to save. Another day, when in the early morn, The chariot race was held upon the course, Orestes came with many a charioteer. One an Achaean, one a Spartan, was; Two with their cars from distant Lybia came; Orestes with his steeds of Thessaly The fifth, the sixth was an Aetolian, With bright bay steeds; then a Magnesian, Then with white steeds an Aeneanian came; Athens, the god-built city, sent the ninth; In the tenth chariot a Boeotian rode. Taking their stand, each where his lot was drawn, And as the masters of the games ordained, At trumpet's sound they started, and at once, All shouting to their steeds, they shook the reins To urge them onwards, while the course was filled With din of rattling chariots; rose the dust In clouds, the racers, mingled in a throng, Plied, each of them, the goad unsparingly, To clear the press of cars and snorting steeds, So close, they felt the horses' breath behind, And all the whirling wheels were flecked with foam. Orestes showed his skill once and again, Grazing the pillar at the course's end, The near horse well in hand, his mate let go. So far had all the chariots safely run; But now the hard-mouthed Aeneanian steeds O'erpowered their driver, and in wheeling round, Just as, the sixth stretch past, the seventh began, Dashed front to front on the Barcaean car. Disaster on disaster came: now one And now another car was overturned And shattered; Crisa's plain was filled with wreck. The skilful charioteer whom Athens sent Then drew aside, slackened his pace and gave The surge of wild confusion room to pass. Last of the train Orestes drove, his steeds Holding in hand, and trusting to the end; But seeing only the Athenian left, With piercing shouts, urging his team to speed, He made for him, and side by side the pair Drove onward, yoke even with yoke, now one And now the other leading by a head. Through all the courses but the last that youth Ill-starred stood safely in an upright car. But at the last, slackening his left-hand rein, As his horse turned the goal, he unawares The pillar struck and broke his axle-tree. Out of the car he rolled, still in the reins Entangled, while his horses, as he fell, Rushed wildly through the middle of the course. The whole assembly, when they saw him fall, Raised a loud cry of horror at the fate Of him that was the hero of the games, Seeing him dragged along the ground, his feet Anon flung skyward; till some charioteers, With much ado, stopping the headlong steeds, Released him, but so mangled that no friend The gory and disfigured corpse would know. They laid him on the funeral pyre, and now Have Phocian envoys in a narrow urn Brought the poor ashes of that mighty frame For sepulture in his ancestral tomb. Such is my story. Sad enough for those Who hear; for those who saw most piteous Of all the sights that e'er these eyes beheld.

CHORUS.

Alas, alas! it seems the noble stock Of our old Kings is wholly rooted out.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

What shall I call this, Zeus? Is it good luck, Or gain with sorrow blended? Sad it is That I should owe my safety to my dole.

PAEDAGOGOS.

Why art thou downcast, lady, at my words?

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Strong is a mother's love; no injury Can make her hate the offspring of her womb.

PAEDAGOGOS.

My errand then is bootless, as it seems.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Bootless it is not, and it could not be, If thou hast brought me certain evidence That he is dead, who, owing life to me, Rebelled against the breast that suckled him; Who, when self-banished, he had left the land Looked on my face no more; who, charging me With his sire's murder, threatened vengeance dire, So that sweet sleep neither by night nor day Could fold my weary sense, but every hour Passed in the shadow of impending death. Now—since this day doth end my fears from him, And from this maid, whose presence in my home, Draining the very life-blood of my heart, Was to me yet more baneful—now at last Rid of their menaces, we dwell in peace.

ELECTRA.

Alas, alas! well may we wail for thee, Orestes, when thy mother can exult Over her child's poor ashes. Is this well?

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Not well for thee, with him 'tis well enough.

ELECTRA.

Hear, Nemesis, the prayer of him that's gone.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

The right prayer she had heard and ratified.

ELECTRA.

Thy tongue is free, fortune is on thy side.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Thou and Orestes soon will put us down.

ELECTRA.

We put thee down? We are put down ourselves.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Stranger, thy mission would be blessed indeed If thou could silence yonder termagant.

PAEDAGOGOS.

If I am no more needed, let me go.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Nay, it would shame my hospitality And his that sent thee, thus to let thee go. Come in with me, and leave this damsel here, To mourn her friend's disasters and her own.

(Exeunt PAEDAGOGOS and CLYTAEMNESTRA.)

ELECTRA.

How say ye? Does yon wretched woman seem Deeply to mourn and bitterly bewail The son that has so miserably died? She goes off mocking us. Woe worth the day! Dearest Orestes, I have died in thee. For thou hast carried with thee to the grave The only hope that in my heart yet lived, The hope that thou wouldst some day come to venge Thy sire and me. Now whither can I turn? I am left desolate, deprived of thee, As of my father. Once more I become The slave of those whom I do hate like death, My father's murderers. What a lot is mine! But with those murderers I will dwell no more Under one roof; an outcast at this gate I'll fling me down, and pine away my life. Let those within, then, if my grief offends, Kill me at once. Welcome would be the blow; Life is a burden, death would be a boon.

* * * * *

THE SISTERS.

Electra's sister, Chrysothemis, having found the offering of Orestes on his father's tomb, brings what she deems glad tidings to Electra, who meets her with the announcement that the Pedagogos has just brought certain news of their brother's death. Electra, now reduced to despair, proposes to Chrysothemis that they should themselves attempt to slay Aegisthus.

LINES 871-1057.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Joy, dearest sister, has impelled my steps To haste with no regard for dignity, [Footnote: Composure in gait and manner was the rule for Hellenic women.] I bring to thee glad tidings and relief From all the miseries thou hast undergone.

ELECTRA.

Whence canst thou any aid or comfort draw For my misfortunes which are past all cure?

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Orestes has come home. Doubt not my word. As sure as now thou seest me, he is here.

ELECTRA.

Hast thou gone mad, unhappy one, that thus Thou mockest at my miseries and thy own?

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

By our ancestral hearth I swear to thee I say not this in mockery; he is here.

ELECTRA.

O misery, from what mortal hast thou heard This story that has gained thy fond belief?

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

It is no hearsay: mine own eyes have seen The certain proofs of that which I believe.

ELECTRA.

What is the token? What has met thy gaze To fire thy silly heart with fevered hope?

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Only give ear to what I have to tell, Then call me mad, or not mad, as thou wilt.

ELECTRA.

Speak on, if thou hast pleasure in the tale.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

All that I saw, I will recount to thee. When to our old ancestral tomb I came, I saw a stream of milk fresh running down, From the mound's summit, and our father's grave Crowned with a wreath of all the flowers that grow. The sight amazed me and I looked around, Fearing lest some intruder might be near. But when I saw that all around was still, I drew near to the tomb, and on its edge I found a lock of hair, freshly cut off. When I beheld that lock, into my soul Rushed a familiar image, and meseemed Orestes must have laid that token there. I took it up, I opened not my lips, But in my eyes the tears of joy o'erflowed. That from one hand alone this gift could come Is now, as then it was, my sure belief. Who else could lay it there save you or me? That 'twas not I, is certain, and no less That 'twas not you, when scarcely you have leave To go forth to the temples of the gods; While, for our mother, she has little mind To do such things, nor could she go unseen. It is Orestes that his homage pays. Be of good cheer, my sister; destiny Unkind to-day, to-morrow may be kind. So far it has been adverse, but this hour, Perchance, may prove the dawn of happiness.

ELECTRA.

I pity as I hear thy foolish talk.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Why? Is not what I say sweet to thine ear?

ELECTRA.

Thou know'st not what thou dost or where thou art.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Not know the thing which my own eyes beheld?

ELECTRA.

He's dead, poor foolish heart. These proofs of thine Are good for nothing. Look for him no more.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Unhappy me; who was it told thee this?

ELECTRA.

One that was present when he met his end.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Amazement fills my soul! Where is this man?

ELECTRA.

Within there, and our mother's welcome guest.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Thy words o'erwhelm me. Who, then, could have laid Affection's offerings on our father's grave?

ELECTRA.

That some one brought them as memorials Of dead Orestes, likeliest seems to me.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Unhappy that I am! And full of joy I hastened with these tidings, ignorant Of our dark fate. I left the cup of grief Full, and I come to see it overflow.

ELECTRA.

So stands it now, but do what I advise, And thou mayest lighten yet this load of woe.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

How? Can I bring the dead to life again?

ELECTRA.

I meant not that, nor was so void of sense.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

What wouldst thou have, that is within my power?

ELECTRA.

I'd have thee bravely do what I enjoin.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

So it be helpful, I will not refuse.

ELECTRA.

Look, without effort nothing will go well.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

'Tis true, and I will aid with all my might.

ELECTRA.

Hear now my resolution. Thou dost know That we are friendless now; the friend we had Hades has ta'en and left us desolate. While I still heard that our Orestes lived, And all was well with him, the hope remained That he would come, and venge our murdered sire. But now that he is gone I look to thee To lend thy sister aid in taking off Aegisthus; frankly such is my intent. Where will thy sufferance end? what hope is left For thee to look to? woe on woe is thine. Of thy sire's wealth thou'rt disinherited, And to this hour hast been condemned to pine In cold companionless virginity. Nor deem that thou shalt ever be a bride; Aegisthus is not so devoid of sense As to permit a shoot from thee or me To spring which to his certain bane would grow. But if thy soul can rise to my resolve, First to thy sire and brother there below Thou wilt discharge the debt of piety; Next a free woman thou wilt be once more, As thou wast born, and find a worthy mate, For lover's eyes look to the good and brave. Then seest thou not what glory thou wilt win For both of us, embracing my design? What citizen or foreigner will fail Whene'er we pass, to pay his meed of praise? "Look at yon pair of sisters; these are they That from its fall redeemed their father's house, That setting their own lives upon the die, Their enemies, in power uplifted, slew. To these we all should loving homage pay, These ever honour at our festivals And our assemblies for their bravery." Such things the public voice will say of us, In life or death our fame will never end. Consent, dear sister; for thy father strike, Strike for thy brother, rescue me from woe, Redeem thyself. Those who are nobly born Honour forbids to live the butt of scorn.

CHORUS.

Foresight in matters such as these is good, For those who give and those who take advice.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Before she spoke, ladies, had not her mind Been quite perverted, she would have held fast The caution which she utterly lets go. What puts it in thy heart, this desperate deed Thyself to dare, and call on me to aid? Dost thou not know that thou a woman art? And that our enemies are mightier far? While their good fortune waxes day by day, Ours wanes as fast and leaves us destitute. Who then that strikes at one so powerful Can fail to pluck down ruin on himself? Beware, lest to our ills we add more ill, If these thy resolutions get abroad. Little would all that glory profit us, If we should die an ignominious death. And death is not the worst that may befall; It is worse still to long for death in vain. I do conjure thee, ere thou ruin us Beyond redemption, and cut off our race, To moderate thy wrath; what thou hast said I will regard as unsaid, null and void. Do thou at last get thee some sober sense, And yield to power as thou art powerless.

CHORUS.

Take her advice; there is not among men A better thing than foresight and good sense.

ELECTRA.

All thou hast said I did anticipate; What I proposed I knew thou wouldst reject. Alone, with my own hand, I'll do the deed; My resolution shall not come to naught.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

What now thou art, would thou hadst been the day Thy father died: thou wouldst have ruled the hour.

ELECTRA.

In heart I was the same, but not in sense.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Strive still to keep the sense that then thou hadst.

ELECTRA.

Thy preaching shows I shall not have thy aid,

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

No, for the enterprise is desperate.

ELECTRA.

Thy sense I envy, but thy spirit scorn.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Thy blame or praise to me is all the same.

ELECTRA.

Praise from these lips thou needest never fear.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

That will be seen hereafter: time is long.

ELECTRA.

Get thee away, in thee there is no help.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Help is in me, knowledge in thee is not.

ELECTRA.

Go, if thou wilt, and tell our mother all.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Hate if I must, not so far goes my hate.

ELECTRA.

It goes so far as to dishonour me.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Not to dishonour but to care for thee.

ELECTRA.

And is my justice to be led by thine?

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Learn to be wise, and thou shalt lead us both.

ELECTRA.

'Tis pity when good talkers go astray.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Thou hast exactly hit thy own disease.

ELECTRA.

What! have I not, then, justice on my side?

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Justice itself may sometimes lead us wrong.

ELECTRA.

Let me not live where justice may be wrong.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Do it and thou wilt see that I was right.

ELECTRA.

Do it I will, and reckless of thy frown.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

Thou wilt: and is no room for counsel left?

ELECTRA.

Base counsel is a thing my soul abhors.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

It seems that we shall never be agreed.

ELECTRA.

Of that I was convinced a while ago.

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

I will begone: thy spirit will not brook My counsel, nor can I thy ways approve.

ELECTRA.

Go then, but never shall I follow thee, Entreat me as thou mayst, of that be sure: Fools only look for that which none can find. [Footnote: As no help or sympathy can be found in Chrysothemis.]

CHRYSOTHEMIS.

If thou dost seem unto thyself so wise Hug thine own wisdom, soon in danger's hour Thou wilt confess that I have counselled right.

(Exit CHRYSOTHEMIS.)

* * * * *

THE RECOGNITION.

Orestes enters with the urn which, it is pretended, contains his ashes. His recognition ensues.

LINES 1097-1231.

ORESTES.

Say, ladies, have we been informed aright, And has our journey led us to our mark?

CHORUS.

What is thy journey's mark? Whom dost thou seek?

ORESTES.

I fain would learn where King Aegisthus dwells.

CHORUS.

Thou hast not been misled, this is the place. ORESTES.

Would one of you announce to those within. In courteous wise that strangers twain are here?

CHORUS.

That will this maid if kinship gives a claim.

ORESTES.

Go, lady, then, and tell them in the house That Phocian envoys for Aegisthus look.

ELECTRA.

Alas! ye bear I ween the certain proofs Of that which has already reached our ears.

ORESTES.

I know not what that is; old Strophius Has charged me of Orestes news to bring.

ELECTRA.

Stranger, what is it? fear comes over me.

ORESTES.

He is no more, and here behold we bear His poor remains, gathered in this small urn.

ELECTRA.

Alas! for me all doubt is over now; Here is the sorrow present to my touch.

ORESTES.

If for Orestes thou hast cause to mourn Know that whate'er is left of him is here.

ELECTRA.

Friend, if that urn indeed Orestes holds, Give it, I do conjure thee, to my hands, That I may weep my own calamities, And those of our whole race, with this dear dust.

ORESTES.

Whoever she may be, give her the urn; Her wish approves her not an enemy But a good friend, perchance one near in blood.

ELECTRA.

Dearest of all memorials to my heart, Relic of my Orestes, what a change From those fond hopes with which I sent thee forth! Full of bright promise wast thou then, and now I see thee here reduced to nothingness. Would I myself had died before the hour When from the murderous hands that sought thy life I snatched and sent thee to a foreign shore, So hadst thou met thy end at once and slept In thy forefather's tomb. Instead whereof Thou hast died miserably far from home, An exile, with no sister at thy side. I was not there with loving hand to wash Thy corpse, to lay thee out, or gather up, As nature bade, the relics of the pyre. Strange hands those rites performed; and thou art here, A little dust clipt in a narrow urn. Unhappy me! how bootless were the pains Which many a day I spent in nursing thee, A labour that I loved, for thou wert not Thy mother's darling more than thou wert mine. No menial hands tended thy infancy, But I thy sister, joying in that name. Now all has vanished in a single day, And thou art gone, and like a storm hast swept All off with thee. My father is no more, Thy sister dies in thee, thyself art dust. Our enemies exult, and, mad with joy, Is that unnatural mother, whom to smite With thine own hand thou oft didst promise me, By secret messages which destiny, Unkind to both of us, now brings to naught, Sending me here, instead of that loved form, Cold ashes and an ineffectual shade.

Ah me! ah me! Poor form. Alas! alas! Sent to the saddest bourne. Ah me! ah me! Dearest of brothers, thou hast ruined me, Ruined thy sister, brother of my love.

Receive me now in that abode of thine, That, dust to dust, I may abide with thee Forever there below. When thou wast here, All things were common to us; now I crave To be thy mate in death and share thy tomb, For there I see they do not sorrow more.

CHORUS.

Electra, think; a mortal was thy sire. Orestes was a mortal; calm thy grief For loss is common to mortality.

ORESTES.

What can I say? words to my bursting heart Are wanting. I can check my tongue no more.

ELECTRA.

What is it troubles thee? What means thy speech?

ORESTES.

Can what I see be fair Electra's face?

ELECTRA.

Her face it is, and in most piteous plight.

ORESTES. My heart is wrung by looking on such woe.

ELECTRA.

Can one unknown to thee thy pity move?

ORESTES.

O beauteous wreck, by heaven and man disowned!

ELECTRA.

The picture limned in those sad words is mine.

ORESTES.

Woe for thy cheerless and unwedded life.

ELECTRA.

Why dost thou gaze on me thus mournfully?

ORESTES.

It seems that of my woes I knew but half.

ELECTRA.

What have I said to breathe this thought in thee?

ORESTES.

'Tis bred by sight of sorrow's effigy. ELECTRA.

What thou dost see is of my griefs the least.

ORESTES.

What can be worse than what I now behold?

ELECTRA.

What can be worse? Life with the murderers.

ORESTES.

Murderers of whom? Thy tale of crime unfold.

ELECTRA.

My father's murderers, and their slave am I.

ORESTES.

What tyrant has imposed on thee this yoke?

ELECTRA.

My mother, little worthy of that name.

ORESTES.

And how? By persecution or by force?

ELECTRA.

By persecution, force, and all that's vile.

ORESTES.

And hast thou none to save thee from her hands?

ELECTRA.

One such I had, and thou hast brought his dust.

ORESTES.

Unhappy maid, my soul does pity thee.

ELECTRA.

Only in thee have I such pity found.

ORESTES.

I also am a partner of thy woe.

ELECTRA.

Art thou some kinsman come I know not whence?

ORESTES.

That thou shalt hear, provided these are friends.

ELECTRA.

And friends they are, thou mayest confide in them.

ORESTES.

Give back that urn, and I will tell thee all.

ELECTRA.

Nay, I conjure thee; let me keep it still.

ORESTES.

Do as I say and thou wilt not repent.

ELECTRA.

O grant my prayer, and rob not this poor heart.

ORESTES.

I must not leave it with thee.

ELECTRA.

Woe is me, Orestes, if I may not tend thy dust.

ORESTES.

Peace, maiden, peace! thou hast no cause to mourn.

ELECTRA.

No cause to mourn, who have a brother lost?

ORESTES.

To speak of brothers lost is not for thee.

ELECTRA. Have I not then the mourner's privilege?

ORESTES.

Naught hast thou lost, and hast no part in this.

ELECTRA.

I have, if this contains my brother's dust.

ORESTES.

It does not, save in name and in pretence.

ELECTRA.

Where, then, does my ill-starred Orestes lie?

ORESTES.

Nowhere; for he who lives can have no grave.

ELECTRA.

What dost thou say, young man?

ORESTES.

I tell thee truth.

ELECTRA.

How! does he live?

ORESTES.

Sure as I live he lives.

ELECTRA.

And art thou he?

ORESTES.

Look on this signet ring, Our father's once, and tell me if I lie.

ELECTRA.

Light of my life, most dear.

ORESTES.

Most dear indeed.

ELECTRA.

Is it that voice I hear?

ORESTES.

It is that voice.

ELECTRA.

And do these arms enfold thee?

ORESTES.

Ay, forever.

ELECTRA.

(To the CHORUS.)

My countrywomen and companions dear, Behold Orestes that erewhile was dead. Dead by device now by device alive.

CHORUS.

Maiden, we do behold him; at the sight, The tears of joy are gathering in our eyes.



THE TRACHINIAE.

Deianira, the wife of Hercules, fears that she has lost her husband's love, and that it has been transferred to the beautiful captive Iole, whom he has brought back with him on his return in triumph from the storming of Oechalia. She bethinks her of a love-charm which she has long had among her treasures. It is the blood of Nessus, the Centaur, who, having offered her violence, and received his death-wound from Hercules in her defence, had perfidiously persuaded her that his blood would win back her husband's love. The blood, being infected with the poison of the Lernsean Hydra, in which the arrows of Hercules were dipped, proves the deadly instrument of the Centaur's posthumous vengeance. Deianira sends a robe sprinkled with it as a gift to Hercules, who, having put on the robe to offer his triumphal sacrifice, expires in fiery torments.

The play is called from the Trachinian women who form the Chorus.

* * * * *

THE LOVE-CHARM.

Deianira imparts the secret of her device to the Chorus, and puts the fatal robe into the hands of Lichas, the Herald who has brought Iole to the house, that he may carry it to Hercules.

LINES 531-632.

DEIANIRA.

Good friends, while yonder stranger, ere he part, Is talking to the captive maids within, I come forth secretly to speak to you. What I devise I would to you confide, And for my trouble I crave your sympathy. That maid, a maid no more I guess, but wed, I have received on board my barque, a bale Of mockery and of outrage for my heart; And now we twain beneath one quilt must lie, And share the same embrace. Thus Heracles, That excellent and faithful spouse of mine, Repays the long-tried guardian of his home. To play the angry wife I know not how, So oft has he been sick of this disease. But with this wench to dwell in partnership As second wife, what woman could endure? My youthful beauty now is on the wane, While hers is growing, and the lover's eye Turns from the withering to the blooming flower. Heracles will, I fear, be mine in name, In deed, the husband of a younger wife. But, as I said, no wife not void of sense Will show her wrath. The talisman, my friends, That is to work the cure ye now shall hear. I hold safe treasured in a brazen urn The keepsake which a Centaur gave of old. From shaggy Nessus when I was a maid I had it, 'twas his dying legacy. He over deep Evenus stream was wont In his own arms to carry passengers, Not using oars nor sails to ferry them. And when, from my paternal home sent forth, A bride I journeyed with my Heracles, Bearing me on his back, in the midstream He laid rash hands on me. I shrieked aloud. The son of Zeus turned him and quick let fly A shaft that, hurtling through the Centaur's chest, Transfixed him. Feeling that his end was come, The monster said to me, "Old Oeneus' child, As thou art my last fare, hearken to me: Thou shall have cause to thank thy ferryman. If thou wilt bear away this clotted blood That marks the spot whereon the arrow steeped In the Lernaean Hydra's venom fell; In it thou'lt ever find a spell to bind The heart of Heracles, and to prevent His loving any woman in thy stead." Of this love-charm, my friends, bethinking me, As, kept with care, it in my closet lay, I steeped a robe in it, adding whate'er The Centaur bade, and now my work is done. Black arts I know not nor desire to know, And all who practise such abominate; But if so be, we can with this love-charm Win from yon maid the heart of Heracles, The means are found, unless my plan to thee Seems ill-advised; if so, I give it o'er.

CHORUS.

Nay, if in any plan we could confide, Thine, in our judgment, is not ill-advised.

DEIANIRA.

So far I can confide as judgment serves, For no trial of the charm has yet been made.

CHORUS.

Then make one; knowledge that thou seemst to have Thou hast not, till experience set its seal.

DEIANIRA.

All doubts will soon be cleared; here Lichas comes Forth from the house, and soon he will be here. Only, my friends, keep ye my counsel well; Sin in the dark and thou shalt not be sham'd.

LICHAS.

Daughter of Oeneus, what are thy commands? Too long already have we been delayed.

DEIANIRA.

To speed thy going I was taking thought, While thou wert talking to the stranger maid. Bear this well-woven garment to my lord, An offering from his Deianira's hand. Enjoin him straightly that before himself No man be suffered to put on this robe, And that it be exposed to no sun's ray, No sacred altar's fire, no blazing hearth, Until himself before the gods shall stand Dight in it on the day of sacrifice. I registered a vow that when I saw Or heard of his home-coming, in this robe I would attire him, that before the gods Freshly in fresh array he might appear. For token bear with thee this signet ring, Which, when he sees it, he will recognise. Set forth; first keep the law of messengers, Which bids them not beyond their mission go. Then what is now my husband's single debt, If thou canst, double by my gratitude.

LICHAS.

Fear not, if I am Hermes' liegeman true, That I shall fail thy bidding to perform, To place this casket in thy husband's hands, And therewith thy assurances repeat.

DEIANIRA.

Proceed then on thy road; thou canst report To my good lord that all is well at home.

LICHAS.

I know and shall report that all is well.

DEIANIRA.

Thyself didst witness in how gentle wise We did receive and welcome yonder maid.

LICHAS.

The sight astonished and delighted me.

DEIANIRA.

Then all thou hast to say is said. I fear That thou wilt tell of my fond love for him Ere thou canst tell of his fond love for me.

* * * * *

THE CENTAUR'S REVENGE.

Deianira recounts to the Chorus an alarming and portentous incident. Then Hyllus, the son of Hercules, comes and announces the catastrophe.

LINES 663-820.

DEIANIRA.

Maidens, I greatly fear that I have gone, In what I did, beyond the line of right.

CHORUS.

Daughter of Oeneus, say whence comes thy fear?

DEIANIRA.

I know not; but I tremble lest my act, Done with fair hope, should end with foul mischance.

CHORUS.

Thou dost not mean thy gift to Heracles?

DEIANIRA.

Tis so, and I would counsel every one Not to go fast, unless their way is sure.

CHORUS.

Tell, if thou may'st, what causes thy alarm.

DEIANIRA.

A thing has happened, maidens, which when told Will fill your minds with awe and wonderment. The tuft of wool, fresh shorn and bright, wherewith I spread the ointment on that robe of state, By no one of my household train destroyed, But self-consumed, has vanished out of sight. And on the pavement melted quite away. That thou may'st know the whole, let me proceed. Of all the Centaur in his agony, Pierced by the deadly arrow, bade me do, I naught forgot, but treasured every word, As if inscribed on brass indelibly; What he prescribed and I performed was this, That I should keep this unguent closely shut Beyond the reach of sun-heat or of fire, Until the time had come for using it. And so I did; but now, the occasion ripe, I in my secret chamber laid it on, With wool shorn from a sheep of our own flock; And letting not the sunlight touch my gift, Folded it in a casket, as ye know. Entering the house again, I saw a sight Passing the wit of man to understand: The tuft of wool with which I had laid on The unguent, I by chance had thrown aside Into the sunshine, where, as it grew warm, It crumbled all away, and on the ground Lay scattered, as when wood is being sawn We see the dust fall from the biting saw. So did it look; and after, from the earth Where it had lain, a clotted foam broke forth, As when in mellow Autumn the rich juice Of Bacchic vine is spilled upon the ground. My mind distraught knows not which way to turn, But something dreadful have I surely done. How should the Centaur, in his agony, Have sought to serve her that had caused his death? He could not. To avenge him on the hand That sped the shaft he cozened me, and I See his fell purpose when it is too late. I, if my boding soul deceive me not, Alone shall be my hero's murderess. That by which Nessus died was Chiron's bane, Immortal though he was, all animals Struck by it die; and shall not the dark blood, That, poisoned by it, flowed from Nessus' wound, Be fatal to my lord? Surely it will. But if my lord miscarry, my resolve Is fixed to keep him company in death. A life of infamy she cannot bear That would be true to her nobility.

CHORUS.

Shudder we must where is much cause for fear, Yet let us hope till the event decides.

DEIANIRA.

Hope, where the act is guilty, there is none, Or none that can bring comfort to the breast.

CHORUS.

But against those that sin unwittingly, Anger is mild, and will be mild to thee.

DEIANIRA.

Ay, so say those that of the guilt are clear, And have no heavy burden on their hearts.

CHORUS.

What more thou art in act to say withhold, Unless thou wouldst unbosom to thy son. He went to seek his sire and now is here.

(Enter HYLLUS.)

HYLLUS.

Mother! I would that of three wishes one Could be fulfilled: I would that thou wert not, Or that another were thy son than I, Or that my mother had a better mind.

DEIANIRA.

What in thy mother thus thy horror moves?

HYLLUS.

Know that thy husband, rather should I say My father, dies this day murdered by thee.

DEIANIRA.

Alas! my son, what word has passed thy lips?

HYLLUS.

A word too sure of its accomplishment. The event once born can never be annulled.

DEIANIRA.

What dost thou say, my son? whence didst thou learn That I had done a deed so horrible?

HYLLUS.

Learn it I did not from another's lips: These eyes beheld my father's piteous fate.

DEIANIRA.

Where didst thou into his loved presence come?

HYLLUS.

Hear and I'll tell thee all. As having stormed The famous town of Eurytus, he marched, With spoils and trophies of his victory. At the Cenaean headland he arrived, Euboea's point, and there set out for Zeus Altars ancestral and a precinct green. Here met I him whom I had longed to see. As he stood ready for the sacrifice Comes his own herald Lichas from his home, And brings thy gift, that robe imbrued with death, Which he, fulfilling thy behest, put on, And therein clad, was offering sacrifice, Twelve steers unblemished, while of beasts in all He to the altars led a hecatomb. At first, unhappy one, with jocund heart He prayed, rejoicing in his brave attire; But when from the good oak logs and the flesh Of victims slain, the bloody flame leaped forth. A sweat broke out on him, and to his sides The garment clave, enfolding every joint As by a workman fitted, while his bones Were racked with shooting pains, and as it seemed A deadly serpent's venom fed on him. Then did he loud on hapless Lichas call, Him who was nowise party to thy crime, And bade him say what wretch had set him on To bring the robe. The herald knowing naught, Said as thou badst him, that it was thy gift. Whereupon Heracles, his heartstrings grasped By agonising pains that pierced him through, Seized Lichas by the ankle, hurled him down From the cliff's edge upon a wave-washed rock That jutted from the sea, shattered his skull, So that his brains streamed mingled with his blood. At the two sights, of frenzy and of death, A universal cry of horror rose, Nor was there one who dared approach my sire; He in convulsions now sprang up, now fell With yells which made the neighbouring cliffs, the crags Of Locris and Euboea's headland ring. Oft did he cast himself upon the ground, Long did he utter lamentations loud, Cursing his marriage, swearing that his tie To Oeneus had brought ruin on his life. When he gave o'er, with eye upturned with pain, Glancing from out the smoke, me, in the crowd, Weeping he saw, and called me to his side. "My son," he murmured, "shrink not from thy sire, Not though it be thy doom to die with him. Bear me away and lay me, if thou may'st, Where none may look upon my agony. If that would pain thee from this hated coast Ship me at least, and let me not die here." Obedient to his wish, with much ado We laid him in the hold and hither brought Convulsed and bellowing. Ye will see him soon, Lingering upon life's verge or newly dead. Mother, of these dark crimes thou stand'st convict, For which may heaven's high justice deal with thee And the Erinnyes, if that prayer is meet For a son's lips; and thou hast made it meet By murdering, of all dwellers upon earth, The noblest man, whose peer thou ne'er shalt see.

CHORUS.

(To DEIANIRA who leaves the scene.)

Canst thou depart in silence and not see That silence pleads on the accuser's side?

HYLLUS.

Let her go where she will. Fair be the wind That bears out of my sight that hated barque. A mother's name is but a hollow sound When all her doings are unmotherly. May joy go with her, and such happiness Be hers, as she has made my sire to feel.



PHILOCTETES.

Philoctetes is the possessor of the bow and arrows of Hercules, without which Troy, which has now been besieged for ten years, cannot be taken. Suffering from an ulcer caused by the bite of the Hydra, and becoming intolerable by his yells of anguish to the Hellenic camp, he has been put ashore by Ulysses on the lonely island of Lemnos, and there left for the ten years, whence he has conceived a deadly hatred of Ulysses and the Hellenic host. His bow and arrows being indispensable, the crafty Ulysses undertakes the task of inveigling him, and goes to Lemnos for that purpose, taking with him Neoptolemus, the young and generous son of Achilles, as a decoy. Neoptolemus, at the instance of Ulysses, filches from Philoctetes the bow and arrows, but being overcome by his nobler nature restores them. Here is now a crisis worthy of the intervention of a god. Hercules descends upon the scene, bids Philoctetes go to Troy with his bow, and promises to send Aesculapius to heal him of his sickness.

* * * * *

THE DECOY.

Ulysses explains the plan of action to Neoptolemus, and labours to bend him to his purpose.

LINES 1-134.

ULYSSES.

This is the shore of Lemnos' lonely isle, By man untrodden, where, O worthy son Of great Achilles, by our Hellas deemed Her mightiest chief, Neoptolemus, erewhile The Melian son of Poeas I cast forth, The Princes having so commanded me, Since in his foot he had a wasting sore, And would not let us sacrifice or pour Libations undisturbed, but filled the camp With lamentations wild and blasphemous, Yelling in agony. Yet why dilate, On what has happened? We will stint our words; He may espy my presence, and my plan Of capturing him be ruined utterly. Now must thy part be done; look round and see Where is a rocky cave with double mouth, So formed that in the winter twice the sun Falls on the sitter, and in summer time The breeze wafts slumber through two apertures. A little way below, on the left hand, Thou'lt find a spring, if it is running still. Approach, and signal to me silently Whether he is near by or is gone forth, That I may then impart the rest to thee, And we may jointly execute my plan.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

My work, Ulysses, has been quickly done. Methinks I see the cave of which you speak.

ULYSSES.

Is it above us, tell me, or below?

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Above us here, and sound of step is none.

ULYSSES.

See that he is not sleeping in his lair.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

I look, and none in the retreat appears.

ULYSSES.

And is there naught to show that man dwells there?

NEOPTOLEMUS.

A bed of leaves, as though one couched thereon.

ULYSSES.

Is all else bare? Is there no garniture?

NEOPTOLEMUS.

There is a wooden cup, the handiwork Of some rough workman, and these kindling-sticks.

ULYSSES.

Thy inventory shows that he is here.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Faugh! here are rags left in the sun to dry, Full of the running of some putrid sore.

ULYSSES.

'Tis plain enough that here his dwelling is. Himself, too, must be near; for how could one, Lame with an ancient ulcer, travel far? He has gone forth either for provender, Or to bring home some herb which soothes his pain. Send thy attendant to explore the coast, Lest unawares I should fall in with him: All Hellas were not such a prize as I.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

The attendant is despatched; watch will be kept. Go on and tell me what thou dost desire.

ULYSSES.

Son of Achilles, what thou cam'st to do. Thou must do bravely, not with hand alone, But with thy heart, and if I ask aught new Blench not; it is to aid me thou art here.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

What wouldst thou have me do?

ULYSSES.

Beguile the mind Of Philoctetes by thy wily words. When he asks who thou art, and whence, reply Achilles' son; no lie is needed here. But say thou'rt sailing homeward, having left The Achaean host in mortal enmity, Since, when their prayers had drawn thee from thy home, They having no hope else of taking Troy, They did refuse the arms Achilles bore To the right heir, when he demanded them, And gave them to Ulysses, heaping all The foul reproaches that thou wilt on me, For they'll not hurt me. If thou dost this not, Thou wilt bring woe on the whole Argive host, For if we fail yon archer's bow to win, Thou ne'er shalt conquer the Dardanian land. That thou canst safely and with confidence Approach him, while I cannot, this will prove: Thou didst not sail constrained by any oath, Nor by compulsion, nor in the first fleet; But I can nothing of all this deny. Me if, still master of his arms, he sees, I am undone, and shall undo thee too. Thy task, then, is out of his hands to steal By subtlety, the unconquerable bow. Well do I know thy nature is not formed For falsehood, nor for treacherous device, But still success is sweet; stretch but a point, To-morrow we'll return to righteousness. For a small part of one brief day consent To play the knave, then to the end of life Be virtue's paragon and cynosure.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Son of Laertes, what my ears abhor To hear, my hand abhors to execute. So was it, as they tell me, with my sire. To take the man by force and not by guile I am prepared: he is alone and lame, While we are many: he would strive in vain. Commissioned as I am to second thee, I must be loyal, but would rather lose With honour, than dishonourably win.

ULYSSES.

Son of a glorious sire, myself in youth Was ready with my hand, and slow of tongue. Experience has taught me that the tongue Is a man's leading member, not his hand.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

What is it thou dost bid me do but lie?

ULYSSES.

I bid thee Philoctetes circumvent.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Will not persuasion work as well as guile?

ULYSSES.

He will not yield, and force him thou canst not.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Has he such might as to defy us all?

ULYSSES.

He has the unerring arrows winged with death.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Is it not safe e'en to encounter him?

ULYSSES.

Only if thou canst snare him as I say.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Seems it not shameful to thee thus to lie?

ULYSSES.

No, if the lie alone can do our work.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

How look him in the face and say such things?

ULYSSES.

With gain in view our scruples must give way.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Suppose him brought to Troy, what gain to me?

ULYSSES.

Troy can be taken only by his bow.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

I, then, am not to be her conqueror.

ULYSSES.

Not by thyself, nor without thee the bow.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

If so it be, the bow must be secured.

ULYSSES.

Secure it and a double meed is thine.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Prove this to me, and I will do thy will.

ULYSSES.

Thou wilt be hailed at once as wise and brave.

NEOPTOLEMUS.

Well, I will do it; all my qualms are gone.

ULYSSES.

Canst thou remember what erewhile I taught?

NEOPTOLEMUS.

That can I, since my word has once been passed.

ULYSSES.

Then bide thou here, and wait for his approach: I will withdraw, lest I should meet his eye. Our sentinels shall to the ship return, And if ye seem to me to tarry long, I will despatch the same man back again, Having disguised him as a shipmaster, That unsuspect he may my bidding do. My son, in riddles he will speak to thee, And see that thou dost read his riddle right. I'll to the ship and leave the rest to thee. May Hermes, god of cunning, help his own, And may Athene, Queen of victory And cities, save her votary once more.

* * * * *

THE HERO BETRAYED.

Neoptolemus, having filched the bow of Philoctetes, Philoctetes prays him to restore it.

LINES 927-962.

PHILOCTETES

O pest, O bane, O of all villainy Vile masterpiece, what hast thou done to me? How am I duped? Wretch, hast thou no regard For the unfortunate, the suppliant? Thou tak'st my life when thou dost take my bow. Give it me back, good youth, I do entreat. O by thy gods, rob me not of my life. Alas! he answers not, but as resolved Upon denial, turns away his face. O havens, headlands, lairs of mountain beasts, That my companions here have been, O cliffs Steep-faced, since other audience have I none, In your familiar presence I complain Of the wrong done me by Achilles' son. Home he did swear to take me, not to Troy. Against his plighted faith the sacred bow Of Heracles, the son of Zeus, he steals, And means to show it to the Argive host. He fancies that he over strength prevails, Not seeing that I am a corpse, a shade, A ghost. Were I myself, he had not gained The day, nor would now save by treachery. I am entrapped. Ah me! what can I do? Yet be thyself and give me back my bow. Say that thou wilt. He speaks not; I am lost. O rock, with twofold doorway, I return To thee disarmed, bereft of sustenance. Deserted, I shall wither in that cell, No longer slaying bird or sylvan beast With yonder bow. Myself shall with my flesh Now feed the creatures upon which I fed, And be by my own quarry hunted down. Thus shall I sadly render blood for blood, And all through one that seemed to know no wrong. Curse thee I will not till all hope is fled Of thy repentance; then accursed die.

THE END

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