Prometheus Bound and Seven Against Thebes
by Aeschylus
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Copyright, 1897, by DAVID MCKAY.


AEschylus, the first of the great Grecian writers of tragedy, was born at Eleusis, in 525 B.C. He was the son of Euphorion, who was probably a wealthy owner of rich vineyards. The poet's early employment was to watch the grapes and protect them from the ravages of men and other animals, and it is said that this occupation led to the development of his dramatic genius. It is more easy to believe that it was responsible for the development of certain other less admirable qualities of the poet.

His first appearance as a tragic writer was in 499 B.C., and in 484 B.C. he won a prize in the tragic contests. He took part in the battle of Marathon, in 490 B.C., and also fought in the battle of Salamis, in 480 B.C. He visited Sicily twice, and probably spent some time in that country, as the use of many Sicilian words in his later plays would indicate.

There is a curious story related as to his death, which took place at Gela in 456 B.C. It is said that an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a stone, dropped a tortoise upon it in order to break its shell, and that the blow quite killed AEschylus. Too much reliance should not be placed upon this story.

It is not known how many plays the poet wrote, but only seven have been preserved to us. That these tragedies contain much that is undramatic is undoubtedly true, but it must be remembered that at the time he wrote, AEschylus found the drama in a very primitive state. The persons represented consisted of but a single actor, who related some narrative of mythological or legendary interest, and a chorus, who relieved the monotony of such a performance by the interspersing of a few songs and dances. To AEschylus belongs the credit of creating the dialogue in the Greek drama by the introduction of a second actor.

In the following pages will be found a translation of two of the poet's greatest compositions, viz., the "Prometheus Chained" and the "Seven Against Thebes." The first of these dramas has been designated "The sublimest poem and simplest tragedy of antiquity," and the second, while probably an earlier work and containing much that is undramatic, presents such a splendid spectacle of true Grecian chivalry that it has been regarded as the equal of anything which the author ever attempted.

The characters represented in the "Prometheus" are Strength, Force, Vulcan, Prometheus, Io, daughter of Inachus, Ocean and Mercury. The play opens with the appearance of Prometheus in company with Strength, Force and Vulcan, who have been bidden to bind Prometheus with adamantine fetters to the lofty cragged rocks of an untrodden Scythian desert, because he has offended Jupiter by stealing fire from heaven and bestowing it upon mortals.

Vulcan is loth to obey the mandates of Jove, but urged on by Strength and Force and the fear of the consequences which disobedience will entail, with mighty force drives the wedges into the adamantine rocks and rivets the captive with galling shackles to the ruthless crags.

Prometheus, being bound and left alone, bemoans his fate and relates to the chorus of nymphs the base ingratitude of Jove, who through his counsels having overwhelmed the aged Saturn beneath the murky abyss of Tartarus, now rewards his ally with indignities because he had compassion upon mortals.

Ocean then comes to Prometheus, offering sympathy and counsel, urging him not to utter words thus harsh and whetted, lest Jupiter seated far aloft may hear them and inflict upon him added woes to which his present sufferings will seem but child's play.

Ocean having taken his departure, Prometheus again complains to the chorus and enumerates the boons which he has bestowed upon mankind, with the comment that though he has discovered such inventions for mortals, he has no device whereby he may escape from his present misfortune.

Io, daughter of Inachus, beloved by Jove, but forced, through the jealous hatred of Juno, to make many wanderings, then appears, and beseeches Prometheus to discover to her what time shall be the limit of her sufferings. Prometheus accedes to her request and relates how she shall wander over many lands and seas until she reaches the city of Canopus, at the mouth of the Nile, where she shall bring forth a Jove-begotten child, from whose seed shall finally spring a dauntless warrior renowned in archery, who will liberate Prometheus from his captivity and accomplish the downfall of Jove.

Io then resumes her wanderings, and Mercury, sent by Jove, comes to question Prometheus as to the nuptials which he has boasted will accomplish the overthrow of the ruler of the Gods. Him Prometheus reviles with opprobrious epithets, calling him a lackey of the Gods, and refuses to disclose anything concerning the matter on which he questions him. The winged God, replying, threatens him with dire calamities. A tempest will come upon him and overwhelm him with thunderbolts, and a bloodthirsting eagle shall feed upon his liver. Thus saying, he departs, and immediately the earth commences to heave, the noise of thunder is heard, vivid streaks of lightning blaze throughout the sky and a hurricane—the onslaught of Jove—sweeps Prometheus away in its blast.

The "Seven against Thebes" includes in its cast of characters Eteocles, King of Thebes, Antigone and Ismene, Sisters of the King, a Messenger and a Herald. The play opens with the siege of Thebes. Eteocles appears upon the Acropolis in the early morning, and exhorts the citizens to be brave and be not over-dismayed at the rabble of alien besiegers. A messenger arrives and announces the rapid approach of the Argives. Eteocles goes to see that the battlements and the gates are properly manned, and during his absence the chorus of Theban maidens set up a great wail of distress and burst forth with violent lamentations. Eteocles, returning, upbraids them severely for their weakness and bids them begone and raise the sacred auspicious shout of the paean as an encouragement to the Theban warriors. He then departs to prepare himself and six others to meet in combat the seven chieftains who have come against the city.

He soon re-enters, and at the same time comes the messenger from another part of the city with fresh tidings of the foe and the arrangement of the invaders around the walls of the city. By the gate of Proetus stands the raging Tydeus with his helm of hairy crests and his buckler tricked out with a full moon and a gleaming sky full of stars, against whom Eteocles will marshal the wary son of Astacus, a noble and a modest youth, who detests vain boastings and yet is not a coward.

By the Electron gate is stationed the giant Campaneus, who bears about him the device of a naked man with a gleaming torch in his hands, crying out "I will burn the city." Against him will be pitted the doughty Polyphontes, favored by Diana and other gods.

Against the gate of Neis the mighty Eteoclus is wheeling his foaming steeds, bearing a buckler blazoned with a man in armor treading the steps of a ladder to his foeman's tower. Megareus, the offspring of Creon, is the valiant warrior who will either pay the debt of his nurture to his land or will decorate his father's house with the spoils of the conquered Eteoclus.

The fiery Hippomedon is raging at the gate of Onca Minerva, bearing upon his buckler a Typhon darting forth smoke through his fire-breathing mouth, eager to meet the brave Hyperbius, son of OEnops, who has been selected to check his impetuous onslaught.

At the gate of Boreas the youthful Parthenopaeus takes his stand, a fair-faced stripling, upon whose face the youthful down is just making its appearance. Opposed to him stands Actor, a man who is no braggart, but who will not submit to boastful tauntings or permit the rash intruder to batter his way into the city.

The mighty Amphiarus is waiting at the gate of Homoloeis, and in the meantime reproaches his ally, Tydeus, calling him a homicide, and Polynices he rebukes with having brought a mighty armament into his native city. Lasthenes, he of the aged mind but youthful form, is the Thebian who has been chosen to marshal his forces against this invader.

At the seventh gate stands Polynices, brother of Eteocles, bearing a well-wrought shield with a device constructed upon it of a woman leading on a mailed warrior, bringing havoc to his paternal city and desirous of becoming a fratricide. Against him Eteocles will go and face him in person, and leader against leader, brother against brother and foeman against foeman, take his stand.

Eteocles then departs to engage in battle, and soon after the messenger enters to announce that six of the Theban warriors have been successful, but that Polynices and Eteocles have both fallen, slain by each other's hand.

Antigone and Ismene then enter, each bewailing the death of their brothers. A herald interrupts them in the midst of their lamentations to announce to them the decree of the senate, which is that Eteocles, on account of his attachment to his country, though a fratricide, shall be honored with fitting funeral rites, but that Polynices, the would-be overturner of his native city, shall be cast out unburied, a prey to the dogs.

Against this decree Antigone rebels, and with her final words announces her unalterable intention of burying her brother in spite of the fate which awaits her disobedience to the will of the senate.


Prometheus having, by his attention to the wants of men, provoked the anger of Jove, is bound down in a cleft of a rock in a distant desert of Scythia. Here he not only relates the wanderings, but foretells the future lot of Io, and likewise alludes to the fall of Jove's dynasty. Disdaining to explain his meaning to Mercury, he is swept into the abyss amid terrific hurricane and earthquake.




STRENGTH. [1]We are come to a plain, the distant boundary of the earth, to the Scythian track, to an untrodden[2] desert. Vulcan, it behooves thee that the mandates, which thy Sire imposed, be thy concern—to bind this daring wretch[3] to the lofty-cragged rocks, in fetters of adamantine chains that can not be broken; for he stole and gave to mortals thy honor, the brilliancy of fire [that aids] all arts.[4] Hence for such a trespass he must needs give retribution to the gods, that he may be taught to submit to the sovereignty of Jupiter, and to cease from his philanthropic disposition.

VULCAN. Strength and Force, as far as you are concerned, the mandate of Jupiter has now[5] its consummation, and there is no farther obstacle. But I have not the courage to bind perforce a kindred god to this weather-beaten ravine. Yet in every way it is necessary for me to take courage for this task; for a dreadful thing it is to disregard[6] the directions of the Sire.[7] Lofty-scheming son of right-counseling Themis, unwilling shall I rivet thee unwilling in indissoluble shackles to this solitary rock, where nor voice nor form of any one of mortals shalt thou see;[8] but slowly scorched by the bright blaze of the sun thou shalt lose the bloom of thy complexion; and to thee joyous shall night in spangled robe[9] veil the light; and the sun again disperse the hoar-frost of the morn; and evermore shall the pain of the present evil waste thee; for no one yet born shall release thee. Such fruits hast thou reaped from thy friendly disposition to mankind. For thou, a god, not crouching beneath the wrath of the gods, hast imparted to mortals honors beyond what was right. In requital whereof thou shalt keep sentinel on this cheerless rock, standing erect, sleepless, not bending a knee:[10] and many laments and unavailing groans shalt thou utter; for the heart of Jupiter is hard to be entreated; and every one that has newly-acquired power is stern.

ST. Well, well! Why art thou delaying and vainly commiserating? Why loathest thou not the god that is most hateful to the gods, who has betrayed thy prerogative to mortals?

VUL. Relationship and intimacy are of great power.

ST. I grant it—but how is it possible to disobey the Sire's word? Dreadest thou not this the rather?

VUL. Ay truly thou art ever pitiless and full of boldness.

ST. For to deplore this wretch is no cure [for him]. But concern not thou thyself vainly with matters that are of no advantage.

VUL. O much detested handicraft!

ST. Wherefore loathest thou it! for with the ills now present thy craft in good truth is not at all chargeable.

VUL. For all that, I would that some other had obtained this.

ST. Every thing has been achieved except for the gods to rule; for no one is free save Jupiter.[11]

VUL. I know it—and I have nothing to say against it.[12]

ST. Wilt thou not then bestir thyself to cast fetters about this wretch, that the Sire may not espy thee loitering?

VUL. Ay, and in truth you may see the manacles ready.

ST. Take them, and with mighty force clench them with the mallet about his hands: rivet him close to the crags.

VUL. This work of ours is speeding to its consummation and loiters not.

ST. Smite harder, tighten, slacken at no point, for he hath cunning to find outlets even from impracticable difficulties.

VUL. This arm at all events is fastened inextricably.

ST. And now clasp this securely, that he may perceive himself to be a duller contriver than Jupiter.

VUL. Save this [sufferer], no one could with reason find fault with me.

ST. Now by main force rivet the ruthless fang of an adamantine wedge right through his breast.[13]

VUL. Alas! alas! Prometheus, I sigh over thy sufferings.

ST. Again thou art hanging back, and sighest thou over the enemies of Jupiter? Look to it, that thou hast not at some time to mourn for thyself.

VUL. Thou beholdest a spectacle ill-sighted to the eye.

ST. I behold this wretch receiving his deserts. But fling thou these girths round his sides.

VUL. I must needs do this; urge me not very much.

ST. Ay, but I will urge thee, and set thee on too. Move downward, and strongly link his legs.

VUL. And in truth the task is done with no long toil.

ST. With main force now smite the galling fetters, since stern indeed is the inspector of this work.

VUL. Thy tongue sounds in accordance with thy form.

ST. Yield thou to softness, but taunt not me with ruthlessness and harshness of temper.

VUL. Let us go; since he hath the shackles about his limbs.

ST. There now be insolent; and after pillaging the prerogatives of the gods, confer them on creatures of a day. In what will mortals be able to alleviate these agonies of thine? By no true title do the divinities call thee Prometheus; for thou thyself hast need of a Prometheus, by means of which you will slip out of this fate.[14]


PROMETHEUS. O divine aether, and ye swift-winged breezes, and ye fountains of rivers, and countless dimpling[15] of the waves of the deep, and thou earth, mother of all—and to the all-seeing orb of the Sun I appeal; look upon me, what treatment I, a god, am enduring at the hand of the gods! Behold with what indignities mangled I shall have to wrestle through time of years innumerable. Such an ignominious bondage hath the new ruler of the immortals devised against me. Alas! alas! I sigh over the present suffering, and that which is coming on. How, where must a termination of these toils arise? And yet what is it I am saying? I know beforehand all futurity exactly, and no suffering will come upon me unlooked-for. But I needs must bear my doom as easily as may be, knowing as I do, that the might of Necessity can not be resisted.

But yet it is not possible for me either to hold my peace, or not to hold my peace touching these my fortunes. For having bestowed boons upon mortals, I am enthralled unhappy in these hardships. And I am he that searched out the source of fire, by stealth borne-off inclosed in a fennel-rod,[16] which has shown itself a teacher of every art to mortals, and a great resource. Such then as this is the vengeance that I endure for my trespasses, being riveted in fetters beneath the naked sky.

Hah! what sound, what ineffable odor[17] hath been wafted to me, emanating from a god, or from mortal, or of some intermediate nature? Has there come anyone to the remote rock as a spectator of my sufferings, or with what intent![18] Behold me an ill-fated god in durance, the foe of Jupiter, him that hath incurred the detestation of all the gods who frequent the court of Jupiter, by reason of my excessive friendliness to mortals. Alas! alas! what can this hasty motion of birds be which I again hear hard by me? The air too is whistling faintly with the whirrings of pinions. Every thing that approaches is to me an object of dread.

CHORUS. Dread thou nothing; for this is a friendly band that has come with the fleet rivalry of their pinions to this rock, after prevailing with difficulty on the mind of our father. And the swiftly-wafting breezes escorted me; for the echo of the clang of steel pierced to the recess of our grots, and banished my demure-looking reserve; and I sped without my sandals in my winged chariot.

PR. Alas! alas! ye offspring of prolific Thetys, and daughters of Ocean your sire, who rolls around the whole earth in his unslumbering stream; look upon me, see clasped in what bonds I shall keep an unenviable watch on the topmost crags of this ravine.

CH. I see, Prometheus: and a fearful mist full of tears darts over mine eyes, as I looked on thy frame withering on the rocks[19] in these galling adamantine fetters: for new pilots are the masters of Olympus; and Jove, contrary to right, lords it with new laws, and things aforetime had in reverence he is obliterating.

PR. Oh would that he had sent me beneath the earth, and below into the boundless Tartarus of Hades that receives the dead, after savagely securing me in indissoluble bonds, so that no god at any time, nor any other being, had exulted in this my doom. Whereas now, hapless one, I, the sport of the winds, suffer pangs that gladden my foes.

CH. Who of the gods is so hard-hearted as that these things should be grateful to him? Who is there that sympathizes not with thy sufferings, Jove excepted? He, indeed, in his wrath, assuming an inflexible temper, is evermore oppressing the celestial race! nor will he cease before that either he shall have sated his heart, or some one by some stratagem shall have seized upon his sovereignity that will be no easy prize.

PR. In truth hereafter the president of the immortals[20] shall have need of me, albeit that I am ignominiously suffering in stubborn shackles, to discover to him the new plot by which he is to be despoiled of his sceptre and his honors. But neither shall he win me by the honey-tongued charms of persuasion; nor will I at any time, crouching beneath his stern threats, divulge this matter, before he shall have released me from my cruel bonds, and shall be willing to yield me retribution for this outrage.

CH. Thou indeed both art bold, and yieldest nought to thy bitter calamities, but art over free in thy language. But piercing terror is worrying my soul; for I fear for thy fortunes. How, when will it be thy destiny to make the haven and see the end of these thy sufferings? for the son of Saturn has manners that supplication cannot reach, and an inexorable heart.

PR. I know that Jupiter is harsh, and keeps justice to himself; but for all that he shall hereafter be softened in purpose, when he shall be crushed in this way; and, after calming his unyielding temper with eagerness will he hereafter come into league and friendship with me that will eagerly [welcome him].

CH. Unfold and speak out to us the whole story, from what accusation has Jupiter seized thee, and is thus disgracefully and bitterly tormenting thee. Inform us, if thou be in no respect hurt by the recital.

PR. Painful indeed are these things for me to tell, and painful too for me to hold my peace, and in every way grievous. As soon as the divinities began discord, and a feud was stirred up among them with one another—one party[21] wishing to eject Saturn from his throne, in order forsooth that Jupiter might be king, and others expediting the reverse, that Jupiter might at no time rule over the gods: then I, when I gave the best advice, was not able to prevail upon the Titans, children of Uranus and Terra; but they, contemning in their stout spirits wily schemes, fancied that without any trouble, and by dint of main force, they were to win the sovereignty. But it was not once only that my mother Themis, and Terra, a single person with many titles, had forewarned me of the way in which the future would be accomplished; how it was destined, that, not by main force, nor by the strong hand, but by craft the victors should prevail. When, however, I explained such points in discourse, they deigned not to pay me any regard at all. Of the plans which then presented themselves to me, the best appeared that I should take my mother and promptly side with Jupiter, who was right willing [to receive us]. And 'tis by means of my counsels that the murky abyss of Tartarus overwhelms the antique Saturn, allies and all. After thus being assisted by me, the tyrant of the gods hath recompensed me with this foul recompense. For somehow this malady attaches to tyranny, not to put confidence in its friends. But for your inquiries upon what charge is it that he outrages me, this I will make clear. As soon as he has established himself on his father's throne, he assigns forthwith to the different divinities each his honors, and he was marshaling in order his empire; but of woe-begone mortals he made no account, but wished, after having annihilated the entire race, to plant another new one. And these schemes no one opposed except myself: But I dared: I ransomed mortals from being utterly destroyed, and going down to Hades. 'Tis for this, in truth, that I am bent by sufferings such as these, agonizing to endure, and piteous to look upon. I that had compassion for mortals, have myself been deemed unworthy to obtain this, but mercilessly am thus coerced to order, a spectacle inglorious to Jupiter.

CH. Iron-hearted and formed of rock too, Prometheus, is he, who condoles not with thy toils: for I could have wished never to have beheld them, and now, when I behold them, I am pained in my heart.

PR. Ay, in very deed I am a piteous object for friends to behold.

CH. And didst thou chance to advance even beyond this?

PR. Yes! I prevented mortals from foreseeing their doom.

CH. By finding what remedy for this malady?

PR. I caused blind hopes to dwell within them.

CH. In this thou gavest a mighty benefit to mortals.

PR. Over and above these boons, however, I imparted fire to them.

CH. And do the creatures of a day now possess bright fire?

PR. Yes—from which they will moreover learn thoroughly many arts.

CH. Is it indeed on charges such as these that Jupiter is both visiting thee with indignities, and in no wise grants thee a respite from thy pains? And is no period to thy toils set before thee?

PR. None other assuredly, but when it may please him.

CH. And how shall it be his good pleasure? What hope is there? Seest thou not that thou didst err? but how thou didst err, I can not relate with pleasure, and it would be a pain to you. But let us leave these points, and search thou for some escape from thine agony.

PR. 'Tis easy, for any one that hath his foot unentangled by sufferings, both to exhort and to admonish him that is in evil plight. But I knew all these things willingly, willingly I erred, I will not gainsay it; and in doing service to mortals I brought upon myself sufferings. Yet not at all did I imagine, that, in such a punishment as this, I was to wither away upon lofty rocks, meeting with this desolate solitary crag. And yet wail ye not over my present sorrows, but after alighting on the ground, list ye to the fortune that is coming on, that ye may learn the whole throughout. Yield to me, yield ye, take ye a share in the woes of him that is now suffering. Hence in the same way doth calamity, roaming to and fro, settle down on different individuals.

CH. Upon those who are nothing loth hast thou urged this, Prometheus: and now having with light step quitted my rapidly-wafted chariot-seat, and the pure aether, highway of the feathered race, I will draw near to this rugged ground: and I long to hear the whole tale of thy sufferings.

Enter OCEAN.

I am arrived at the end of a long journey,[22] having passed over [it] to thee, Prometheus, guiding this winged steed of mine, swift of pinion, by my will, without a bit; and, rest assured, I sorrow with thy misfortunes. For both the tie of kindred thus constrains me, and, relationship apart, there is no one on whom I would bestow a larger share [of my regard] than to thyself. And thou shalt know that these words are sincere, and that it is not in me vainly to do lip-service; for come, signify to me in what it is necessary for me to assist thee; for at no time shalt thou say that thou hast a stancher friend than Oceanus.

PR. Hah! what means this? and hast thou too come to be a witness of my pangs? How hast thou ventured, after quitting both the stream that bears thy name, and the rock-roofed self-wrought[23] grots, to come into the iron teeming land? Is it that you may contemplate my misfortunes, and as sympathizing with my woes that thou hast come? Behold a spectacle, me here the friend of Jupiter, that helped to establish his sovereignty, with what pains I am bent by him.

OC. I see, Prometheus, and to thee, subtle as thou art, I wish to give the best counsel. Know thyself, and assume to thyself new manners; for among the gods too there is a new monarch. But if thou wilt utter words thus harsh and whetted, Jupiter mayhap, though seated far aloft, will hear thee, so that the present bitterness of sufferings will seem to thee to be child's play. But, O hapless one! dismiss the passion which thou feelest, and search for a deliverance from these sufferings of thine. Old-fashioned maxims these, it may be, I appear to thee to utter; yet such becomes the wages of the tongue that talks too proudly. But not even yet art thou humble, nor submittest to ills; and in addition to those that already beset thee, thou art willing to bring others upon thee. Yet not, if at least thou takest me for thy instructor, wilt thou stretch out thy leg against the pricks; as thou seest that a harsh monarch, and one that is not subject to control, is lording it. And now I for my part will go, and will essay, if I be able, to disinthrall thee from these thy pangs. But be thou still, nor be over impetuous in thy language. What! knowest thou not exactly, extremely intelligent as thou art, that punishment is inflicted on a froward tongue?

PR. I give thee joy, because that thou hast escaped censure, after taking part in and venturing along with me in all things. And now leave him alone, and let it not concern thee. For in no wise wilt thou persuade him; for he is not open to persuasion. And look thou well to it that thou take not harm thyself by the journey.

OC. Thou art far better calculated by nature to instruct thy neighbors than thyself: I draw my conclusion from fact, and not from word. But think not for a moment to divert me from the attempt. For I am confident, yea, I am confident, that Jupiter will grant me this boon, so as to release thee from these pangs of thine.

PR. In part I commend thee, and will by no means at any time cease to do so. For in zeal to serve me thou lackest nothing. But trouble thyself not; for in vain, without being of any service to me,[24] wilt thou labor, if in any respect thou art willing to labor. But hold thou thy peace, and keep thyself out of harm's way; for I, though I be in misfortune, would not on this account be willing that sufferings should befall as many as possible. No, indeed, since also the disasters of my brother Atlas gall my heart, who is stationed in the western regions, sustaining on his shoulders the pillar of heaven and of earth, a burden not of easy grasp. I commiserated too when I beheld the earth-born inmate of the Cilician caverns, a tremendous prodigy, the hundred-headed impetuous Typhon, overpowered by force, who withstood all the gods, hissing slaughter from his hungry jaws; and from his eyes there flashed a hideous glare, as though he would perforce overthrow the sovereignty of Jove. But the sleepless shaft of Jupiter came upon him, the descending thunderbolt breathing forth flame, which scared him out of his presumptuous bravadoes; for having been smitten to his very soul he was crumbled to a cinder, and thunder-blasted in his prowess. And now, a helpless and paralyzed form is he lying hard by a narrow frith, pressed down beneath the roots of AEtna.[25] And, seated on the topmost peaks, Vulcan forges the molten masses, whence there shall one day burst forth floods devouring with fell jaws the level fields of fruitful Sicily: with rage such as this shall Typhon boil over in hot artillery of a never-glutted fire-breathing storm; albeit he hath been reduced to ashes by the thunder-bolt of Jupiter. But thou art no novice, nor needest thou me for thine instructor. Save thyself as best thou knowest how; but I will exhaust my present fate until such time as the spirit of Jupiter shall abate its wrath.

OC. Knowest thou not this then, Prometheus, that words are the physicians of a distempered feeling?[26]

PR. True, if one seasonably soften down the heart, and do not with rude violence reduce a swelling spirit.

OC. Ay, but in foresight along with boldness[27] what mischief is there that thou seest to be inherent? inform me.

PR. Superfluous trouble and trifling folly.

OC. Suffer me to sicken in this said sickness, since 'tis of the highest advantage for one that is wise not to seem to be wise.

PR. (Not so, for) this trespass will seem to be mine.

OC. Thy language is plainly sending me back to my home.

PR. Lest thy lamentation over me bring thee into ill-will.

OC. What with him who hath lately seated himself on the throne that ruleth over all?

PR. Beware of him lest at any time his heart be moved to wrath.

OC. Thy disaster, Prometheus, is my monitor.

PR. Away! withdraw thee, keep thy present determination.

OC. On me, hastening to start, hast thou urged this injunction; for my winged quadruped flaps with his pinions the smooth track of aether; and blithely would he recline his limbs in his stalls at home.

[Exit OC.

CH. I bewail thee for thy lost fate, Prometheus. A flood of trickling tears from my yielding eyes has bedewed my cheek with its humid gushings; for Jupiter commanding this thine unenviable doom by laws of his own, displays his spear appearing superior o'er the gods of old.[28] And now the whole land echoes with wailing—they wail thy stately and time-graced honors, and those of thy brethren; and all they of mortal race that occupy a dwelling neighboring on hallowed Asia[29] mourn with thy deeply-deplorable sufferings: the virgins that dwell in the land of Colchis too, fearless of the fight, and the Scythian horde who possess the most remote regions of earth around lake Maeotis; and the war-like flower of Arabia,[30] who occupy a fortress on the craggy heights in the neighborhood of Caucasus, a warrior-host, clamoring amid sharply-barbed spears.

One other god only, indeed, have I heretofore beheld in miseries, the Titan Atlas, subdued by the galling of adamantine[31] bonds, who evermore in his back is groaning beneath[32] the excessive mighty mass of the pole of heaven. And the billow of the deep roars as it falls in cadence, the depth moans, and the murky vault of Hades rumbles beneath the earth, and the fountains of the pure streaming rivers wail for his piteous pains.

PR. Do not, I pray you, suppose that I am holding my peace from pride or self-will; but by reflection am I gnawed to the heart, seeing myself thus ignominiously entreated.[33] And yet who but myself defined completely the prerogative for these same new gods? But on these matters I say nothing, for I should speak to you already acquainted with these things. But for the misfortunes that existed among mortals, hear how I made them, that aforetime lived as infants, rational and possessed of intellect.[34] And I will tell you, having no complaint against mankind, as detailing the kindness of the boons which I bestowed upon them: they who at first seeing saw in vain, hearing they heard not. But, like to the forms of dreams, for a long time they used to huddle together all things at random, and naught knew they about brick-built[35] and sun-ward houses, nor carpentry; but they dwelt in the excavated earth like tiny emmets in the sunless depths of caverns. And they had no sure sign either of winter, or of flowery spring, or of fruitful summer; but they used to do every thing without judgment, until indeed I showed to them the risings of the stars and their settings,[36] hard to be discerned.

And verily I discover for them Numbers, the surpassing all inventions,[37] the combinations too of letters, and Memory, effective mother-nurse of all arts. I also first bound with yokes beasts submissive to the collars; and in order that with their bodies they might become to mortals substitutes for their severest toils, I brought steeds under cars obedient to the rein,[38] a glory to pompous luxury. And none other than I invented the canvas-winged chariots of mariners that roam over the ocean. After discovering for mortals such inventions, wretch that I am, I myself have no device whereby I may escape from my present misery.

CH. Thou hast suffered unseemly ills, baulked in thy discretion thou art erring; and like a bad physician, having fallen into a distemper thou art faint-hearted, and, in reference to thyself, thou canst not discover by what manner of medicines thou mayest be cured.

PR. When thou hearest the rest of my tale, thou wilt wonder still more what arts and resources I contrived. For the greatest—if that any one fell into a distemper, there was no remedy, neither in the way of diet, nor of liniment, nor of potion, but for lack of medicines they used to pine away to skeletons, before that I pointed out to them the composition[39] of mild remedies, wherewith they ward off all their maladies. Many modes too of the divining art did I classify, and was the first that discriminated among dreams those which are destined to be a true vision; obscure vocal omens[40] too I made known to them; tokens also incidental on the road, and the flight of birds of crooked talons I clearly defined, both those that are in their nature auspicious, and the ill-omened, and what the kind of life that each leads, and what are their feuds and endearments[41] and intercourse one with another: the smoothness too of the entrails, and what hue they must have to be acceptable to the gods, the various happy formations of the gall and liver, and the limbs enveloped in fat: and having roasted the long chine I pointed out to mortals the way into an abstruse art; and I brought to light the fiery symbols[42] that were aforetime wrapt in darkness. Such indeed were these boons; and the gains to mankind that were hidden under ground, brass, iron, silver, and gold—who could assert that he had discovered before me? No one, I well know, who does not mean to idly babble. And in one brief sentence learn the whole at once—All arts among the human race are from Prometheus.

CH. Do not now serve the human race beyond what is profitable, nor disregard thyself in thy distress: since I have good hopes that thou shalt yet be liberated from these shackles, and be not one whit less powerful than Jove.

PR. Not at all in this way is Fate, that brings events to their consummation ordained to accomplish these things: but after having been bent by countless sufferings and calamities, thus am I to escape from my shackles. And art is far less powerful than necessity.

CH. Who then is the pilot of necessity?

PR. The triform Fates and the remembering Furies.

CH. Is Jupiter then less powerful than these?

PR. Most certainly he can not at any rate escape his doom.[43]

CH. Why, what is doomed for Jupiter but to reign for evermore?

PR. This thou mayest not yet learn, and do not press it.

CH. 'Tis surely some solemn mystery that thou veilest.

PR. Make mention of some other matter; it is by no means seasonable to proclaim this; but it must be shrouded in deepest concealment; for it is by keeping this secret that I am to escape from my ignominious shackles and miseries.

CH. Never may Jupiter, who directs all things, set his might in opposition to my purpose: nor may I be backward in attending upon the gods at their hallowed banquets, at which oxen are sacrificed, beside the restless stream of my sire Ocean; and may I not trespass in my words; but may this feeling abide by me and never melt away. Sweet it is to pass through a long life in confident hopes, making the spirits swell with bright merriment; but I shudder as I behold thee harrowed by agonies incalculable.... For not standing in awe of Jupiter, thou, Prometheus, in thy self-will honorest mortals to excess. Come, my friend, own how boonless was the boon; say where is any aid? What relief can come from the creatures of a day? Sawest thou not the powerless weakness, nought better than a dream, in which the blind race of men is entangled? Never shall at any time the schemes of mortals evade the harmonious system of Jupiter. This I learned by witnessing thy destructive fate, Prometheus. And far different is this strain that now flits toward me from the hymenaeal chant which I raised around the baths and thy couch with the consent[44] of nuptials, when, after having won Hesione with thy love-tokens, thou didst conduct her our sister to be thy bride, the sharer of thy bed.

Enter IO.[45]

What land is this? what race? whom shall I say I here behold storm-tossed in rocky fetters? Of what trespass is the retribution destroying thee? Declare to me into what part of earth I forlorn have roamed. Ah me! alas! alas! again the hornet[46] stings me miserable: O earth avert[47] the goblin of earth-born Argus:[48] I am terrified at the sight of the neatherd of thousand eyes, for he is journeying on, keeping a cunning glance, whom not even after death does earth conceal; but issuing forth from among the departed he chases me miserable, and he makes me to wander famished along the shingled strand, while the sounding wax-compacted pipe drones on a sleepy strain. Oh! oh! ye powers! Oh! powers! whither do my far-roaming wanderings convey me? In what, in what, O son of Saturn, hast thou, having found me transgressing, shackled me in these pangs? Ah! ah! and art thus wearing out a timorous wretch frenzied with sting-driven fear. Burn me with fire, or bury me in earth, or give me for food to the monsters of the deep, and grudge me not these prayers, O king! Amply have my much-traversed wanderings harassed me; nor can I discover how I may avoid pain. Hearest thou the address of the ox-horned maiden?

PR. How can I fail to hear the damsel that is frenzy-driven by the hornet, the daughter of Inachus, who warms the heart of Jupiter with love, and now, abhorred of Juno, is driven perforce courses of exceeding length?

IO. From whence utterest thou the name of my father? Tell me, the woe-begone, who thou art, who, I say, O hapless one, that hast thus correctly accosted me miserable, and hast named the heaven-inflicted disorder which wastes me, fretting with its maddening stings? Ah! ah! violently driven by the famishing tortures of my boundings have I come a victim to the wrathful counsels of Juno. And of the ill-fated who are there, ah me! that endure woes such as mine? But do thou clearly define to me what remains for me to suffer, what salve:[49] what remedy there is for my malady, discover to me, if at all thou knowest: speak, tell it to the wretched roaming damsel.

PR. I will tell thee clearly every thing which thou desirest to learn, not interweaving riddles, but in plain language, as it is right to open the mouth to friends. Thou seest him that bestowed fire on mortals, Prometheus.

IO. O thou that didst dawn a common benefit upon mortals, wretched Prometheus, as penance for what offense art thou thus suffering?

PR. I have just ceased lamenting my own pangs.

IO. Wilt thou not then accord to me this boon?

PR. Say what it is that thou art asking, for thou mightest learn everything from me.

IO. Say who it was that bound thee fast in this cleft?

PR. The decree of Jupiter, but the hand of Vulcan.

IO. And for what offenses art thou paying the penalty?

PR. Thus much alone is all that I can clearly explain to thee.

IO. At least, in addition to this, discover what time shall be to me woe-worn the limit of my wanderings.

PR. Not to learn this is better for thee than to learn it.

IO. Yet conceal not from me what I am to endure.

PR. Nay, I grudge thee not this gift.

IO. Why then delayest thou to utter the whole?

PR. 'Tis not reluctance, but I am loth to shock thy feelings.

IO. Do not be more anxious on my account than is agreeable to me.[50]

PR. Since thou art eager, I must needs tell thee: attend thou.

CH. Not yet, however; but grant me also a share of the pleasure. Let us first learn the malady of this maiden, from her own tale of her destructive[51] fortunes; but, for the sequel of her afflictions let her be informed by thee.

PR. It is thy part, Io, to minister to the gratification of these now before thee, both for all other reasons, and that they are the sisters of thy father. Since to weep and lament over misfortunes, when one is sure to win a tear from the listeners, is well worth the while.

IO. I know not how I should disobey you; and in a plain tale ye shall learn everything that ye desire; and yet I am pained even to speak of the tempest that hath been sent upon me from heaven, and the utter marring of my person, whence it suddenly came upon me, a wretched creature! For nightly visions thronging to my maiden chamber, would entice me with smooth words: "O damsel, greatly fortunate, why dost thou live long time in maidenhood, when it is in thy power to achieve a match the very noblest? for Jupiter is fired by thy charms with the shaft of passion, and longs with thee to share in love. But do not, my child, spurn away from thee the couch of Jupiter; but go forth to Lerna's fertile mead, to the folds and ox-stalls of thy father, that the eye of Jove may have respite from its longing." By dreams such as these was I unhappy beset every night, until at length I made bold to tell my sire of the dreams that haunted me by night. And he dispatched both to Pytho and Dodona[52] many a messenger to consult the oracles, that he might learn what it behooved him to do or say, so as to perform what was well-pleasing to the divinities. And they came bringing a report back of oracles ambiguously worded, indistinct, and obscurely delivered. But at last a clear response came to Inachus, plainly charging and directing him to thrust me forth both from my home and my country, to stray an outcast to earth's remotest limits; and that, if he would not, a fiery-visaged thunder-bolt would come from Jupiter, and utterly blot out his whole race. Overcome by oracles of Loxias such as these, unwilling did me expel and exclude me unwilling from his dwelling: but the bit of Jupiter[53] perforce constrained him to do this. And straightway my person and my mind were distorted, and horned, as ye see, stung by the keenly-biting fly, I rushed with maniac boundings to the sweet stream of Cerchneia, and the fountain[54] of Lerna; and the earth-born neatherd Argus of untempered fierceness, kept dogging me, peering after my footsteps with thick-set eyes. Him, however, an unlooked-for sudden fate bereaved of life; but I hornet-stricken am driven by the scourge divine from land to land. Thou hearest what has taken place, and if thou art able to say what pangs there remain for me, declare them; and do not, compassionating me, warm me with false tales, for I pronounce fabricated statements to be a most foul malady.

CH. Ah! ah! forbear! Alas! Never, never did I expect that a tale [so] strange would come to my ears, or that sufferings thus horrible to witness and horrible to endure, outrages, terrors with their two-edged goad, would chill my spirit. Alas! alas! O Fate! Fate! I shudder as I behold the condition of Io.

PR. Prematurely, however, are thou sighing, and art full of terror. Hold, until thou shalt also have heard the residue.

CH. Say on; inform me fully: to the sick indeed it is sweet to get a clear knowledge beforehand of the sequel of their sorrows.

PR. Your former desire at any rate ye gained from me easily; for first of all ye desired to be informed by her recital of the affliction[55] that attaches to herself. Now give ear to the rest, what sort of sufferings it is the fate of this young damsel before you to undergo at the hand of Juno: thou too, seed of Inachus, lay to heart my words, that thou mayest be fully informed of the termination of thy journey. In the first place, after turning thyself from this spot toward the rising of the sun, traverse unplowed fields; and thou wilt reach the wandering Scythians, who, raised from off the around, inhabit wicker dwellings on well-wheeled cars, equipped with distant-shooting bows; to whom thou must not draw near, but pass on out of their land, bringing thy feet to approach the rugged roaring shores. And on thy left hand dwell the Chalybes, workers of iron, of whom thou must needs beware, for they are barbarous, and not accessible to strangers. And thou wilt come to the river Hybristes,[56] not falsely so called, which do not thou cross, for it is not easy to ford, until thou shalt have come to Caucasus itself, loftiest of mountains, where from its very brow the river spouts forth its might. And surmounting its peaks that neighbor on the stars, thou must go into a southward track, where thou wilt come to the man-detesting host of Amazons, who hereafter shall make a settlement, Themiscyra, on the banks of Thermodon, where lies the rugged Salmydessian sea-gorge, a host by mariners hated, a step-dame to ships; and they will conduct thee on thy way, and that right willingly. Thou shalt come too to the Cimmerian isthmus, hard by the very portals of a lake, with narrow passage, which thou undauntedly must leave, and cross the Maeotic frith; and there shall exist for evermore among mortals a famous legend concerning thy passage, and after thy name it shall be called the Bosphorus; and after having quitted European ground, thou shalt come to the Asiatic continent. Does not then the sovereign of the gods seem to you to be violent alike toward all things? for he a god lusting to enjoy the charms of this mortal fair one, hath cast upon her these wanderings. And a bitter wooer, maiden, hast thou found for thy hand; for think that the words which thou hast now heard are not even for a prelude.

IO. Woe is me! ah! ah!

PR. Thou too in thy turn[57] art crying out and moaning: what wilt thou do then, when thou learnest the residue of thy ills?

CH. What! hast thou aught of suffering left to tell to her?

PR. Ay, a tempestuous sea of baleful calamities.

IO. What gain then is it for me to live? but why did I not quickly fling myself from this rough precipice, that dashing on the plain I had rid myself of all my pangs? for better is it once to die, than all one's days to suffer ill.

PR. Verily thou wouldst hardly bear the agonies of me to whom it is not doomed to die. For this would be an escape from sufferings. But now there is no limit set to my hardships, until Jove shall have been deposed from his tyranny.

IO. What! is it possible that Jupiter should ever fall from his power?

PR. Glad wouldst thou be, I ween, to witness this event.

IO. And how not so, I, who through Jupiter am suffering ill?

PR. Well, then, thou mayest assure thyself of these things that they are so.

IO. By whom is he to be despoiled of his sceptre of tyranny.

PR. Himself, by his own senseless counsels.

IO. In what manner? Specify it, if there be no harm.

PR. He will make such a match as he shall one day rue.[58]

IO. Celestial or mortal? If it may be spoken, tell me.

PR. But why ask its nature? for it is not a matter that I can communicate to you.

IO. Is it by a consort that he is to be ejected from his throne?

PR. Yes, surely, one that shall give birth to a son mightier than the father.[59]

IO. And has he no refuge from this misfortune?

PR. Not he, indeed, before at any rate I after being liberated from my shackles—

IO. Who, then, is he that shall liberate thee in despite of Jupiter?

PR. It is ordained that it shall be one of thine own descendants.

IO. How sayest thou? Shall child of mine release thee from thy ills?

PR. Yes, the third of thy lineage in addition to ten other generations.[60]

IO. This prophecy of thine is no longer easy for me to form a guess upon.

PR. Nor seek thou to know over well thine own pangs.

IO. Do not, after proffering me a benefit, withhold it from me.

PR. I will freely grant thee one of two disclosures.

IO. Explain to me first of what sort they are, and allow me my choice.

PR. I allow it thee; for choose whether I shall clearly tell to thee the residue of thy troubles, or who it is that is to be my deliverer.

CH. Of these twain do thou vouchsafe to bestow the one boon on this damsel, and the other on me, and disdain thou not my request. To her tell the rest of her wanderings, and to me him that is to deliver thee; for this I long [to hear].

PR. Seeing that ye are eagerly bent upon it, I will not oppose your wishes, so as not to utter every thing as much as ye desire. To thee in the first place, Io, will I describe thy mazy wanderings, which do thou engrave on the recording tablets of thy mind.

When thou shalt have crossed the stream that is the boundary of the Continents, to the ruddy realms of morn where walks the sun[61] ... having passed over the roaring swell of the sea, until thou shalt reach the Gorgonian plains of Cisthene, where dwell the Phorcides, three swan-like aged damsels, that possess one eye in common, that have but a single tooth, on whom ne'er doth the sun glance with his rays, nor the nightly moon. And hard by are three winged sisters of these, the snake-tressed Gorgons, abhorred of mortals, whom none of human race can look upon and retain the breath of life.[62] Such is this caution[63] which I mention to thee. Now lend an ear to another hideous spectacle; for be on thy guard against the keen-fanged hounds of Jupiter that never bark, the gryphons, and the cavalry host of one-eyed Arimaspians, who dwell on the banks of the gold-gushing fount, the stream of Pluto: go not thou nigh to these. And thou wilt reach a far-distant land, a dark tribe, who dwell close upon the fountains of the sun, where is the river AEthiops. Along the banks of this wend thy way, until thou shalt have reached the cataract where from the Bybline mountains the Nile pours forth his hallowed, grateful stream. This will guide thee to the triangular land of the Nile; where at length, Io, it is ordained for thee and thy children after thee to found the distant colony. And if aught of this is obscurely uttered, and hard to be understood, question me anew, and learn it thoroughly and clearly: as for leisure, I have more than I desire.

CH. If indeed thou hast aught to tell of her baleful wanderings, that still remains or hath been omitted, say on; but if thou hast told the whole, give to us in our turn the favor which we ask, and you, perchance, remember.

PR. She hath heard the full term of her journeying. And that she may know that she hath not been listening to me in vain, I will relate what hardships she endured before she came hither, giving her this as a sure proof of my statements. The very great multitude indeed of words I shall omit, and I will proceed to the termination itself of thine aberrations. For after that thou hadst come to the Molossian plains, and about the lofty ridge of Dodona, where is the oracular seat of Thesprotian Jove, and a portent passing belief, the speaking oaks, by which thou wast clearly and without any ambiguity saluted illustrious spouse of Jove that art to be; if aught of this hath any charms for thee.[64] Thence madly rushing along the seaside track, thou didst dart away to the vast bay of Rhea, from which thou art tempest-driven in retrograde courses: and in time to come, know well that the gulf of the deep shall be called IO-nian, a memorial of thy passage to all mortals. These hast thou as tokens of my intelligence, how that it perceives somewhat beyond what appears.

The rest I shall tell both to you and to her in common, after reaching the very identical track of my former narrative. There is on the land's utmost verge a city Canopus, hard by the Nile's very mouth and alluvial dike; on this spot Jupiter at length makes thee sane by merely soothing and touching thee with his unalarming hand. And named after the progeniture of Jupiter[65] thou shalt give birth to swarthy Epaphus, who shall reap the harvest of all the land which the wide-streaming Nile waters. But fifth in descent from him a generation of fifty virgins shall again come to Argos, not of their own accord, fleeing from incestuous wedlock with their cousins; and these with fluttering hearts, like falcons left not far behind by doves, shall come pursuing marriage such as should not be pursued, but heaven shall be jealous over their persons;[66] and Pelasgia shall receive them after being crushed by a deed of night-fenced daring, wrought by woman's hand; for each bride shall bereave her respective husband of life, having dyed in their throats[67] a sword of twin sharp edge. Would that in guise like this Venus might visit my foes! But tenderness shall soften one[68] of the maidens, so that she shall not slay the partner of her couch, but shall be blunt in her resolve; and of the two alternatives she shall choose the former, to be called a coward rather than a murderess. She in Argos shall give birth to a race of kings. There needs a long discourse to detail these things distinctly; but from this seed be sure shall spring a dauntless warrior renowned in archery, who shall set me free from these toils. Such predictions did my aged mother the Titaness Themis rehearse to me; but how and when—to tell this requires a long detail, and thou in knowing it all wouldst be in nought a gainer.

IO. Eleleu! Eleleu! Once more the spasm[69] and maddening frenzies inflame me—and the sting of the hornet, wrought by no fire,[70] envenoms me; and with panic my heart throbs violently against my breast. My eyes, too, are rolling in a mazy whirl, and I am carried out of my course by the raging blast of madness, having no control of tongue, but my troubled words dash idly against the surges of loathsome calamity.

[Exit IO.

CH. Wise was the man, ay, wise indeed, who first weighed well this maxim, and with his tongue published it abroad, that to match in one's own degree is best by far;[71] and that one who lives by labor should woo the hand neither of any that have waxed wanton in opulence, nor of such as pride themselves on nobility of birth. Never, O Destines,[72] never ... may ye behold me approaching as a partner the couch of Jupiter: nor may I be[73] brought to the arms of any bridegroom from among the sons of heaven: for I am in dread when I behold the maiden Io, contented with no mortal lover, greatly marred by wearisome wanderings at the hand of Juno. For myself, indeed—inasmuch as wedlock on one's own level is free from apprehension—I feel no alarm.[74] And oh! never may the love of the mightier gods cast on me a glance that none can elude. This at least is a war without a conflict, accomplishing things impossible:[75] nor know I what might become of me, for I see not how I could evade the counsel of Jove.

PR. Yet truly shall Jove, albeit he is self-willed in his temper, be lowly, in such[76] wedlock is he prepared to wed, as shall hurl him out of his sovereignty and off his throne a forgotten thing; and the curse of his father Saturn shall then at length find entire consummation, which he imprecated when he was deposed from his ancient throne. From disasters such as these there is no one of the gods besides myself that can clearly disclose to him a way of escape. I know this, and by what means. Wherefore let him rest on in his presumption, putting confidence in his thunders aloft, brandishing in his hand a fire-breathing bolt. For not one jot shall these suffice to save him from falling dishonored in a downfall beyond endurance; such an antagonist is he now with his own hands preparing against himself, a portent that shall baffle all resistance; who shall invent a flame more potent than the lightning, and a mighty din that shall surpass the thunder; and shall shiver the ocean trident, that earth-convulsing pest, the spear of Neptune. And when he hath stumbled upon this mischief, he shall be taught how great is the difference between sovereignty and slavery.

CH. Thou forsooth art boding against Jupiter the things thou wishest.

PR. Things that shall come to pass, and that I desire to boot.

CH. And are we to expect that any one will get the mastery of Jove?

PR. Ay, and pangs too yet harder to bear than these [of mine] shall he sustain.

CH. And how is it that thou art not dismayed blurting out words such as these?

PR. Why at what should I be terrified to whom it is not destined to die?

CH. Yet perchance he will provide for thee affliction more grievous than even this.

PR. Let him do it then, all is foreseen by me.

CH. They that do homage to Adrasteia are wise.

PR. Do homage, make thy prayer, cringe to each ruler of the day. I care for Jove less than nothing; let him do, let him lord it for this brief span, e'en as he list, for not long shall he rule over the gods. But no more, for I descry Jove's courier close at hand, the menial of the new monarch: beyond all [doubt] he has come to announce to us some news.


Thee, the contriver, thee full of gall and bitterness, who sinned against the gods by bestowing their honors on creatures of a day, the thief of fire, I address. The Sire commands thee to divulge of what nuptials it is that thou art vaunting, by means of which he is to be put down from his power. And these things, moreover, without any kind of mystery, but each exactly as it is, do thou tell out; and entail not upon me, Prometheus, a double journey; and thou perceivest that by such conduct Jove is not softened.

PR. High sounding, i'faith, and full of haughtiness is thy speech, as beseems a lackey of the gods. Young in years, ye are young in power;[77] and ye fancy forsooth that ye dwell in a citadel impregnable against sorrow. Have I not known two monarchs[78] dethroned from it? And the third that now is ruler I shall also see expelled most foully and most quickly. Seem I to thee in aught to be dismayed at, and to crouch beneath the new gods? Widely, ay altogether, do I come short [of such feelings]. But do thou hie thee back the way by which thou camest: for not one tittle shalt thou learn of the matter on which thou questionest me.

MER. Yet truly 'twas by such self-will even before now that thou didst bring thyself to such a calamitous mooring.

PR. Be well assured that I would not barter my wretched plight for thy drudgery; for better do I deem it to be a lackey to this rock, than to be born the confidential courier of father Jove. Thus is it meet to repay insult in kind.

MER. Thou seemest to revel in thy present state.

PR. Revel! Would that I might see my foes thus reveling, and among these I reckon thee.

MER. What dost thou impute to me also any blame for thy mischances?

PR. In plain truth, I detest all the gods, as many of them as, after having received benefits at my hands, are iniquitously visiting me with evils.

MER. I hear thee raving with no slight disorder.

PR. Disordered I would be, if disorder it be to loathe one's foes.

MER. Thou wouldst be beyond endurance, wert thou in prosperity.

PR. Woe's me!

MER. This word of thine Jove knows not.

PR. Ay, but Time as he grows old teaches all things.

MER. And yet verily thou knowest not yet how to be discreet.

PR. No i'faith, or I should not have held parley with thee, menial as thou art.

MER. Thou seemest disposed to tell nought of the things which the Sire desires.

PR. In sooth, being under obligation as I am to him, I am bound to return his favor.

MER. Thou floutest me, forsooth, as if I were a boy.

PR. Why, art thou not a boy, and yet sillier than one, if thou lookest to obtain any information from me? There is no outrage nor artifice by which Jupiter shall bring me to utter this, before my torturing shackles shall have been loosened. Wherefore let his glowing lightning be hurled, and with the white feathered shower of snow, and thunderings beneath the earth let him confound and embroil the universe; for nought of these things shall bend me so much as even to say by whom it is doomed that he shall be put down from his sovereignty.

MER. Consider now whether this determination seems availing.

PR. Long since has this been considered and resolved.

MER. Resolve, O vain one, resolve at length in consideration of thy present sufferings to come to thy right senses.

PR. Thou troublest me with thine admonitions as vainly as [thou mightest] a billow.[79] Never let it enter your thoughts that I, affrighted by the purpose of Jupiter, shall become womanish, and shall importune the object whom I greatly loathe, with effeminate upliftings of my hands, to release me from these shackles: I want much of that.

MER. With all that I have said I seem to be speaking to no purpose; for not one whit art thou melted or softened in thy heart by entreaties, but art champing the bit like a colt fresh yoked, and struggling against the reins. But on the strength of an impotent scheme art thou thus violent; for obstinacy in one not soundly wise, itself by itself availeth less than nothing. And mark, if thou art not persuaded by my words, what a tempest and three-fold surge of ills, from which there is no escape, will come upon thee. For in the first place the Sire will shiver this craggy cleft with thunder and the blaze of his bolt, and will overwhelm thy body, and a clasping arm of rock shall bear thee up. And after thou shalt have passed through to its close, a long space of time, thou shalt come back into the light; and a winged hound of Jupiter, a blood-thirsting eagle, shall ravenously mangle thy huge lacerated frame, stealing upon thee an unbidden guest, and [tarrying] all the live-long day, and shall banquet his fill on the black viands[80] of thy liver. To such labors look thou for no termination, until some god shall appear as a substitute in thy pangs, and shall be willing to go both to gloomy Hades, and to the murky depths around Tartarus. Wherefore advise thee, since this is no fictitious vaunt, but uttered in great earnestness; for the divine mouth knows not how to utter falsehood, but will bring every word to pass. But do thou look around and reflect, and never for a moment deem pertinacity better than discretion.

CH. To us, indeed, Mercury seems to propose no unseasonable counsel; for he bids thee to abandon thy recklessness, and seek out wise consideration. Be persuaded; for to a wise man 'tis disgraceful to err.

PR. To me already well aware of it hath this fellow urged his message; but for a foe to suffer horribly at the hands of foes is no indignity. Wherefore let the doubly-pointed wreath of his fire be hurled at me, and ether be torn piecemeal by thunder, and spasm of savage blasts; and let the wind rock earth from her base, roots and all, and with stormy surge mingle in rough tide the billow of the deep and the paths of the stars; and fling my body into black Tartarus, with a whirl, in the stern eddies of necessity. Yet by no possible means shall he visit me with death.

MER. Resolutions and expressions, in truth, such as these of thine, one may hear from maniacs. For in what point doth his fate fall short of insanity?[81] What doth it abate from ravings? But do ye then at any rate, that sympathize with him in his sufferings, withdraw hence speedily some-whither from this spot, lest the harsh bellowing of the thunder smite you with idiotcy.

CH. Utter and advise me to something else, in which too thou mayest prevail upon me; for in this, be sure, thou hast intruded a proposal not to be borne. How is it that thou urgest me to practice baseness? Along with him here I am willing to endure what is destined, for I have learned to abhor traitors; and there is no evil which I hold in greater abomination.

MER. Well, then, bear in mind the things of which I forewarn you: and do not, when ye have been caught in the snares of Ate, throw the blame on fortune, nor ever at any time say that Jove cast you into unforeseen calamity: no indeed, but ye your ownselves: for well aware, and not on a sudden, nor in ignorance, will ye be entangled by your senselessness in an impervious net of Ate.


PR. And verily in deed and no longer in word doth the earth heave, and the roaring echo of thunder rolls bellowing by us; and deep blazing wreaths of lightning are glaring, and hurricanes whirl the dust; and blasts of all the winds are leaping forth, showing one against the other a strife of conflict gusts; and the firmament is embroiled with the deep.[82] Such is this onslaught that is clearly coming upon me from Jove, a cause for terror. O dread majesty of my mother Earth, O ether that diffusest thy common light, thou beholdest the wrongs I suffer.


The siege of the city of Thebes, and the description of the seven champions of the Theban and Argive armies, The deaths of the brothers Polynices and Eteocles, the mournings over them, by their sisters Antigone and Ismene, and the public refusal of burial to the ashes of Polynices, against which Antigone boldly protests, conclude the play.



SCENE. The Acropolis of Thebes.—Compare v. 227, ed. Blomf.

TIME. Early in the morning; the length of the action can scarcely be fixed with absolute certainty. It certainly did not exceed twelve hours.

The expedition of "the Seven" against Thebes is fixed by Sir I. Newton, B.C. 928. Cf. of his Chronology, p. 27. Blair carries it as far back as B.C. 1225.—OLD TRANSLATOR.

ETEOCLES. Citizens of Cadmus! it is fitting that he should speak things seasonable who has the care of affairs on the poop of a state, managing the helm, not lulling his eyelids in slumber. For if we succeed, the gods are the cause; but if, on the other hand (which heaven forbid), mischance should befall, Eteocles alone would be much bruited through the city by the townsmen in strains clamorous and in wailings, of which may Jove prove rightly called the Averter to the city of the Cadmaeans.[83] And now it behooves you—both him who still falls short of youth in its prime, and him who in point of age has passed his youth, nurturing the ample vigor of his frame and each that is in his prime,[84] as is best fitting—to succor the city, and the altars of your country's gods, so that their honors may never be obliterated; your children too, and your motherland, most beloved nurse; for she, taking fully on herself the whole trouble of your rearing, nurtured you when infants crawling on her kindly soil, for her trusty shield-bearing citizens, that ye might be [trusty[85]] for this service. And, for the present indeed, up to this day, the deity inclines in our favor; since to us now all this time beleaguered the war for the most part, by divine allotment, turns out well. But now, as saith the seer, the feeder[86] of birds, revolving in ear and thoughts, without the use of fire, the oracular birds with unerring art—he, lord of such divining powers, declares that the main Achaean assault is this night proclaimed,[87] and [that the Achaeans] attempt the city.

But haste ye all, both to the battlements and the gates of the tower works; On! in full panoply throng the breastworks, and take your stations on the platforms of the towers, and, making stand at the outlets of the gates, be of good heart, nor be over-dismayed at the rabble of the aliens; God will give a happy issue. Moreover, I have also dispatched scouts and observers of the army, who will not, I feel assured, loiter on their way; and when I have had intelligence from these, I shall, in no point, be surprised by stratagem.

MESSENGER.—Most gallant Eteocles! sovereign of the Cadmaeans, I have come bearing a clear account of the matters yonder, from the army; and I myself am eye-witness of the facts. For seven chieftains, impetuous leaders of battalions, cutting a bull's throat,[88] over an iron-rimmed shield,[89] and touching with their hands the gore of the bull, by oath have called to witness[90] Mars, Enyo, and Terror, that delights in bloodshed, that either having wrought the demolition of our city they will make havoc of the town of the Cadmaeans, or having fallen will steep this land of ours in gore. Memorials too of themselves, to their parents at home, were they with their hands hanging in festoons[91] at the car of Adrastus, dropping a tear, but no sound of complaint passed their lips.[92] For their iron-hearted spirit glowing with valor was panting, as of lions that glare battle. And the report of these my tidings is not retarded by sluggishness. But I left them in the very act of casting lots, that so each of them, obtaining his post by lot, might lead on his battalion to our gates. Wherefore do thou with all speed marshal at the outlets of the gates the bravest men, the chosen of our city; for already the host of Argives hard at hand armed cap-a-pie is in motion, is speeding onward, and white foam is staining the plain with its drippings from the lungs of their chargers. Do thou then, like the clever helmsman of a vessel, fence[93] our city before the breath of Mars burst like a hurricane upon it, for the main-land billow of their host is roaring. And for these measures do thou seize the very earliest opportunity; for the sequel I will keep my eye a faithful watch by day, and thou, knowing from the clearness of my detail the movements of those without, shalt be unscathed.


ET. O Jupiter! and earth! and ye tutelary deities! and thou Curse, the mighty Erinnys of my sire! do not, I pray, uproot with utter destruction from its very base, a prey to foemen, our city, which utters the language of Greece, and our native dwellings.[94] Grant that they may never hold the free land and city of Cadmus in a yoke of slavery; but be ye our strength—nay, I trust that I am urging our common interests, for a state that is in prosperity honors the divinities.[95]


CHORUS.[96] I wail over our fearful, mighty woes! the army is let loose, having quitted its camp, a mighty mounted host is streaming hitherward in advance;[97] the dust appearing high in the air convinces me, a voiceless, clear, true messenger; the noise of the clatter of their hoofs upon the plain,[98] reaching even to our couches, approaches my ears, is wafted on, and is rumbling like a resistless torrent lashing the mountain-side. Alas! alas! oh gods and goddesses, avert the rising horror; the white-bucklered[99] well-appointed host is rushing on with a shout on the other side our walls, speeding its way to the city. Who then will rescue us, who then of gods and goddesses will aid us? Shall I then prostrate myself before the statues of the divinities? Oh ye blessed beings, seated on your glorious thrones, 'tis high time for us to cling to your statues—why do we deeply sighing delay? Hear ye, or hear ye not, the clash of bucklers? When, if not now, shall we set about the orison of the peplus[100] and chaplets? I perceive a din, a crash of no single spear. What wilt thou do? wilt thou, O Mars, ancient guardian of our soil, abandon thine own land? God of the golden helm, look upon, look upon the city which once thou didst hold well-beloved. Tutelary gods of our country, behold,[101] behold this train of virgins suppliant to escape from slavery,[102] for around our city a surge of men with waving crests is rippling, stirred by the blasts of Mars. But, O Jove, sire all-perfect! avert thoroughly from us capture by the foemen; for Argives are encircling the fortress of Cadmus; and I feel a dread of martial arms, and the bits which are fastened through the jaws of their horses are knelling slaughter. And seven leaders of the host, conspicuous in their spear-proof harness, are taking their stand at our seventh gate,[103] assigned their posts by lot. Do thou too, O Jove-born power that delightest in battle, Pallas, become a savior to our city; and thou, equestrian monarch, sovereign of the main, with thy fish-smiting trident, O Neptune, grant a deliverance, a deliverance from our terrors. Do thou too, O Mars, alas! alas! guard the city which is named after Cadmus, and manifestly show thy care—and thou, Venus, the original mother of our race, avert [these ills]—for from thy blood are we sprung; calling on thee with heavenward orisons do we approach thee. And thou, Lycaean king, be thou fierce as a wolf[104] to the hostile army, [moved] by the voice of our sighs.[105] Thou too, virgin-daughter of Latona, deftly adorn thyself with thy bow, O beloved Diana. Ah! ah! ah! I hear the rumbling of cars around the city, O revered Juno, the naves of the heavy-laden axles creak, the air is maddened with the whizzing of javelins—what is our city undergoing? What will become of it? To what point is the deity conducting the issue?[106] ah! ah! A shower of stones too from their slingers is coming over our battlements. O beloved Apollo! there is the clash of brass-rimmed shields at the gates, and the just issue in battle must be decided by arms according to the disposal of Jove.[107] And thou Onca,[108] immortal queen, that dwellest in front of our city, rescue thy seven-gated seat. O gods, all-potent to save, O ye gods and goddesses, perfect guardians of the towers of this land, abandon not our war-wasted city to an army of aliens. Listen to these virgins, listen to our all-just prayers, as is most right, to the orisons of virgins which are offered with out-stretched hands. O beloved divinities, hovering around our city as its deliverers, show how ye love it; give heed to our public rituals, and when ye give heed to them succor us, and be ye truly mindful, I beseech ye, of the rites of our city which abound in sacrifices.

Re-enter ETEOCLES.

Intolerable creatures! is this, I ask you, best and salutary for our city, and an encouragement to this beleagured force, for you to fall before the statues of our tutelary gods, to shriek, to yell—O ye abominations of the wise. Neither in woes nor in welcome prosperity may I be associated with womankind; for when woman prevails, her audacity is more than one can live with; and when she is affrighted, she is a still greater mischief to her home and city. Even now, having brought upon your countrymen this pell-mell flight, ye have, by your outcries, spread dastard cowardice, and ye are serving, as best ye may, the interests of those without, but we within our walls are suffering capture at our own hands; such blessings will you have if you live along with women. Wherefore if any one give not ear to my authority, be it man or woman, or other between [these names[109]], the fatal pebble shall decide against him, and by no means shall he escape the doom of stoning at the hand of the populace. For what passeth without is a man's concern, let not woman offer advice—but remaining within do thou occasion no mischief. Heard'st thou, or heard'st thou not, or am I speaking to a deaf woman?

CH. O dear son of OEdipus, I felt terror when I heard the din from the clatter of the cars, when the wheel-whirling naves rattled, and [the din] of the fire-wrought bits, the rudders[110] of the horses, passing through their mouths that know no rest.

ET. What then? does the mariner who flees from the stern to the prow[111] find means of escape, when his bark is laboring against the billow of the ocean?

CH. No; but I came in haste to the ancient statues of the divinities, trusting in the gods, when there was a pattering at our gates of destructive sleet showering down, even then I was carried away by terror to offer my supplications to the Immortals, that they would extend their protection over the city.

ET. Pray that our fortification may resist the hostile spear.

CH. Shall not this, then, be at the disposal of the gods?

ET. Ay, but 'tis said that the gods of the captured city abandon it.

CH. At no time during my life may this conclave of gods abandon us: never may I behold our city overrun, and an army firing it with hostile flame.

ET. Do not thou, invoking the gods, take ill counsel; for subordination, woman, is the mother of saving success; so the adage runs.

CH. But the gods have a power superior still, and oft in adversity does this raise the helpless out of severe calamity, when clouds are overhanging his brow.

ET. It is the business of men, to present victims and offerings of worship to the gods, when foemen are making an attempt: 'tis thine on the other hand to hold thy peace and abide within doors.

CH. 'Tis by the blessing of the gods that we inhabit a city unconquered, and that our fortification is proof against the multitude of our enemies. What Nemesis can feel offended at this?

ET. I am not offended that ye should honor the race of the gods; but that thou mayest not render the citizens faint-hearted, keep quiet and yield not to excessive terrors.

CH. When I heard the sudden din, I came, on the very instant, in distracting panic to this Acropolis, a hallowed seat.

ET. Do not now, if ye hear of the dying or the wounded, eagerly receive them with shrieks; for with this slaughter of mortals is Mars fed.

CH. And I do in truth hear the snortings of the horses.

ET. Do not now, when thou hearest them, hear too distinctly.

CH. Our city groans from the ground, as though the foes were hemming her in.

ET. Is it not then enough that I take measures for this?

CH. I fear! for the battering at the gates increases.

ET. Wilt thou not be silent? Say nought of this kind in the city.

CH. O associate band [of gods], abandon not our towers.

ET. Can not ye endure it in silence, and confusion to ye?

CH. Gods of my city! let me not meet with slavery.

ET. Thou thyself art making a slave both of me, of thyself, and of the city.

CH. O all-potent Jove! turn the shaft against our foes.

ET. O Jove! what a race hast thou made women!

CH. Just as wretched as men when their city is taken.

ET. Again thou art yelping as thou claspest the statues!

CH. Yes, for in my panic terror hurries away my tongue.

ET. Would to heaven that you would grant me a trifling favor on my requesting it.

CH. Tell me as quickly as you can, and I shall know at once.

ET. Hold thy peace, wretched woman, alarm not thy friends.

CH. I hold my peace—with others I will suffer what is destined.

ET. I prefer this expression of thine rather than thy former words; and moreover, coming forth from the statues, pray thou for the best—that the gods may be our allies. And after thou hast listened to my prayers, then do thou raise the sacred auspicious shout of the Paean, the Grecian rite of sacrificial acclamation, an encouragement to thy friends that removes the fear of the foe. And I, to the tutelary gods of our land, both those who haunt the plains, and those who watch over the forum, and to the fountains of Dirce, and I speak not without those of the Ismenus,[112] if things turn out well and our city is preserved, do thus make my vows that we, dyeing the altars of the gods with the blood of sheep, offering bulls to the gods, will deposit trophies, and vestments of our enemies, spear-won spoils of the foe, in their hallowed abodes. Offer thou prayers like these to the gods, not with a number of sighs, nor with foolish and wild sobbings; for not one whit the more wilt thou escape Destiny. But I too, forsooth,[113] will go and marshal at the seven outlets of our walls, six men, with myself for a seventh, antagonists to our foes in gallant plight, before both urgent messengers and quickly-bruited tidings arrive, and inflame us by the crisis.


CH. I attend, but through terror my heart sleeps not, and cares that press close upon my heart keep my dread alive, because of the host that hems our walls[114] around; like as a dove, an all-attentive nurse, fears, on behalf of her brood, serpents, evil intruders into her nest. For some are advancing against the towers in all their numbers, in all their array; (what will become of me?) and others are launching the vast rugged stone at the citizens, who are assailed on all sides. By every means, O ye Jove-descended gods! rescue the city and the army that spring from Cadmus. What better plain of land will ye take in exchange to yourselves than this, after ye have abandoned to our enemies the fertile land, and Dirce's water best fed of all the streams that earth-encircling Neptune sends forth, and the daughters of Tethys? Wherefore, O tutelary gods of the city! having hurled on those without the towers the calamity that slaughters men, and casts away shields, achieve glory for these citizens, and be your statues placed on noble sites, as deliverers of our city,[115] through our entreaties fraught with shrill groanings. For sad it is to send prematurely to destruction an ancient city, a prey of slavery to the spear, ingloriously overthrown in crumbling ashes by an Achaean according to the will of heaven; and for its women to be dragged away captives, alas! alas! both the young and the aged, like horses by their hair, while their vestments are rent about their persons. And the emptied city cries aloud, while its booty is wasted amid confused clamors; verily I fearfully forbode heavy calamities. And a mournful thing it is for [maidens] just marriageable,[116] before the celebration of rites for culling the fresh flower of their virginity, to have to traverse a hateful journey from their homes. What? I pronounce that the dead fares better than these; for full many are the calamities, alas! alas! which a city undergoes when it has been reduced. One drags another,[117] slaughters, and to parts he sets fire—the whole city is defiled with smoke, and raving Mars that tramples down the nations, violating piety, inspires them. Throughout the town are uproars, against the city rises the turreted circumvallation,[118] and man is slain by man with the spear. And the cries of children at the breast all bloody resound, and there is rapine sister of pell-mell confusion. Pillager meets pillager, and the empty-handed shouts to the empty-handed, wishing to have a partner, greedy for a portion that shall be neither less nor equal. What of these things can speech picture? Fruits of every possible kind strewn[119] upon the ground occasion sorrow, and dismal is the face of the stewards. And full many a gift of earth is swept along in the worthless streams, in undistinguished medley. And young female slaves have new sorrows, a foe being superior[120] and fortunate as to their wretched captive couch, so that they hope for life's gloomy close to come, a guardian against their all-mournful sorrows.

SEMI-CH. The scout, methinks, my friends, is bringing us some fresh tidings from the army, urging in haste the forwarding axles[121] of his feet.

SEMI-CH. Ay, and in very truth, here comes our prince, son of OEdipus, very opportunely for learning the messenger's report—and haste does not allow him to make equal footsteps.[122]

[Re-enter MESSENGER and ETEOCLES from different sides.

MES. I would fain tell, for I know them well, the arrangements of our adversaries, and how each has obtained his lot at our gate. Tydeus now for some time has been raging hard by the gates of Proetus; but the seer allows him not to cross the stream of Ismenus, for the sacrifices are not auspicious. So Tydeus, raving and greedy for the fight, roars like a serpent in its hissings beneath the noontide heat, and he smites the sage seer, son of Oicleus, with a taunt, [saying] that he is crouching to both Death and Battle out of cowardice. Shouting out such words as these, he shakes there shadowy crests, the hairy honors of his helm, while beneath his buckler bells cast in brass are shrilly pealing terror: on his buckler too he has this arrogant device—a gleaming sky tricked out with stars, and in the centre of the shield a brilliant full moon is conspicuous, most august of the heavenly bodies, the eye of night. Chafing thus in his vaunting harness, he roars beside the bank of the river, enamored of conflict, like a steed champing his bit with rage, that rushes forth when he hears the voice of the trumpet.[123] Whom wilt thou marshal against this [foe]? Who, when the fastenings give way, is fit to be intrusted with the defense of the gate of Proetus?

ET. At no possible array of a man should I tremble; and blazonry has no power of inflicting wounds, and crests and bell bite not[124] without the spear. And for this night which thou tellest me is sparkling on his buckler with the stars of heaven, it may perchance be a prophet in conceit;[125] for if night shall settle on his eyes as he is dying, verily this vaunting device would correctly and justly answer to its name, and he himself will have the insolence ominous against himself. But against Tydeus will I marshal this wary son of Astacus, as defender of the portals, full nobly born, and one that reverences the throne of Modesty, and detests too haughty language, for he is wont to be slow at base acts, but no dastard. And from the sown heroes whom Mars spared is Melanippus sprung a scion, and he is thoroughly a native. But the event Mars with his dice will decide. And justice, his near kinswoman, makes him her champion,[126] that he may ward off the foeman's spear from the mother that bare him.

CH. Now may the gods grant unto our champion to be successful, since with justice[127] does he speed forth in defense of the city; but I shudder to behold the sanguinary fate of those who perish in behalf of their friends.

MES. To him may the gods so grant success. But Capaneus has by lot obtained his station against the Electran gate. This is a giant, greater than the other aforementioned, and his vaunt savors not of humanity; but he threatens horrors against our towers, which may fortune not bring to pass! for he declares, that whether the god is willing or unwilling, he will make havoc of our city, and that not the Wrath[128] of Jove, dashing down upon the plain, should stop him. And he is wont to compare both the lightnings and the thunder-bolts to the heat of noontide. He has a bearing too, a naked man bearing fire, and there gleams a torch with which his hands are armed;[129] and, in letters of gold, he is uttering, I WILL BURN THE CITY. Against a man such as this do thou send[130]——. Who will engage with him? Who will abide his vaunting and not tremble?

ET. And in this case[131] also one advantage is gained upon another. Of the vain conceits of man in sooth the tongue of truth becomes accuser. But Capaneus is menacing, prepared for action, dishonoring the gods, and practicing his tongue in vain exultation; mortal as he is, he is sending loud-swelling words into heaven to the ears of Jove. But I trust that, as he well deserves, the fire-bearing thunder-bolt will with justice come upon him, in no wise likened to the noontide warmth of the sun. Yet against him, albeit he is a very violent blusterer, is a hero marshaled, fiery in his spirit, stout Polyphontes, a trusty guard by the favor of Diana our protectress, and of the other gods. Mention another who hath had his station fixed at another of our gates.

CH. May he perish[132] who proudly vaunts against our city, and may the thunder-bolt check him before that he bursts into my abode, or ever, with his insolent spear force us away from our maiden dwellings.

MES. And verily I will mention him that hath next had his post allotted against our gates: for to Eteoclus, third in order, hath the third lot leapt from the inverted helm of glittering brass, for him to advance his battalion against the gates of Neis; and he is wheeling his steeds fuming in their trappings, eager to dash forward against the gates. And their snaffles ring, in barbarian fashion, filled with the breath of their snorting nostrils. His buckler, too, hath been blazoned in no paltry style, but a man in armor is treading the steps of a ladder to his foemen's tower, seeking to storm it. And this man, in a combination of letters, is shouting, how that not even Mars should force him from the bulwarks. Do thou send also to this man a worthy champion to ward off from this city the servile yoke.

ET. I will send this man forthwith, and may it be with good fortune; and verily he is sent, bearing his boast in deed,[133] Megareus, the offspring of Creon, of the race of the sown;[134] who will go forth from the gates not a whit terrified at the noise of the mad snortings of the horses; but, either by his fall will fully pay the debt of his nurture to the land, or, having taken two men[135] and the city on the shield, will garnish with the spoils the house of his father. Vaunt thee of another, and spare me not the recital.

CH. I pray that this side may succeed, O champion of my dwellings! and that with them it may go ill; and as they, with frenzied mind, utter exceedingly proud vaunts against our city, so may Jove the avenger regard them in his wrath.

MES. Another, the fourth, who occupies the adjoining gates of Onca Minerva, stands hard by with a shout, the shape and mighty mould of Hippomedon; and I shuddered at him as he whirled the immense orb, I mean the circumference of his buckler—I will not deny it. And assuredly it was not any mean artificer in heraldry who produced this work upon his buckler, a Typhon, darting forth through his fire-breathing mouth dark smoke, the quivering sister of fire, and the circular cavity of the hollow-bellied shield hath been made farther solid with coils of serpents. He himself, too, hath raised the war-cry; and, possessed by Mars, raves for the onslaught, like a Thyiad,[136] glaring terror. Well must we guard against the attack of such a man as this, for Terror is already vaunting himself hard by our gates.

ET. In the first place, this Onca Pallas, who dwells in our suburbs, living near the gates, detesting the insolence of the man, will drive him off, as a noxious serpent from her young. And Hyperbius, worthy son of OEnops, hath been chosen to oppose him, man to man, willing to essay his destiny in the crisis of fortune; he is open to censure neither in form, nor in spirit, nor in array of arm: but Mercury hath matched them fairly; for hostile is the man to the man with whom he will have to combat, and on their bucklers will they bring into conflict hostile gods; for the one hath fire-breathing Typhon, and on the buckler of Hyperbius father Jove is seated firm, flashing, with his bolt in his hand; and never yet did any one know of Jove being by any chance vanquished.[137] Such in good sooth is the friendship of the divinities: we are on the side of the victors, but they on that of the conquered, if at least Jove be mightier in battle than Typhon. Wherefore 'tis probable that the combatants will fare accordingly; and to Hyperbius, in accordance with its blazonry, may Jove that is on his shield become a savior.

CH. I feel confident that he who hath upon his shield the adversary of Jove, the hateful form of the subterranean fiend, a semblance hateful both to mortals and the everliving gods, will have to leave his head before our gates.

MES. May such be the issue! But, farthermore, I mention the fifth, marshaled at the fifth gate, that of Boreas, by the very tomb of Jove-born Amphion. And he makes oath by the spear[138] which he grasps, daring to revere it more than a god, and more dearly than his eyes,[139] that verily he will make havoc of the city of the Cadmaeans in spite of Jove: thus says the fair-faced scion of a mountain-dwelling mother, a stripling hero, and the down is just making its way through his cheeks, in the spring of his prime, thick sprouting hair. And he takes his post, having a ruthless spirit, not answering to his maidenly name,[140] and a savage aspect. Yet not without his vaunt does he take stand against our gates, for on his brazen-forged shield the rounded bulwark of his body, he was wielding the reproach of our city, the Sphinx of ruthless maw affixed by means of studs, a gleaming embossed form; and under her she holds a man, one of the Cadmaeans, so that against this man[141] most shafts are hurled. And he, a youth, Parthenopaeus an Arcadian, seems to have come to fight in no short measure,[142] and not to disgrace the length of way that he has traversed; for this man, such as he is, is a sojourner, and, by way of fully repaying Argos for the goodly nurture she has given him, he utters against these towers menaces, which may the deity not fulfill.

ET. O may they receive from the gods the things which they are purposing in those very unhallowed vaunts! Assuredly they would perish most miserably in utter destruction. But there is [provided] for this man also, the Arcadian of whom you speak, a man that is no braggart, but his hand discerns what should be done, Actor, brother of the one aforementioned, who will not allow either a tongue, without deeds, streaming within our gates, to aggravate mischiefs, nor him to make his way within who bears upon his hostile buckler the image of the wild beast, most odious monster, which from the outside shall find fault with him who bears it within, when it meets with a thick battering under the city. So, please the gods, may I be speaking the truth.

CH. The tale pierces my bosom, the locks of my hair stand erect, when I hear of the big words of these proudly vaunting impious men. Oh! would that the gods would destroy them in the land.

MES. I will tell of the sixth, a man most prudent, and in valor the best, the seer, the mighty Amphiaraus; for he, having been marshaled against the gate of Homoloeis, reviles mighty Tydeus full oft with reproaches, as the homicide, the troubler of the state, chief teacher of the mischiefs of Argos, the summoner of Erinnys, minister of slaughter, and adviser of these mischiefs to Adrastus. Then again going up[143] to thy brother, the mighty Polynices, he casts his eye aloft, and, at last, reproachfully dividing his name [into syllables,[144]] he calls to him: and through his mouth he gives utterance to this speech—"Verily such a deed is well-pleasing to the gods, and glorious to hear of and to tell in after times, that you are making havoc of your paternal city, and its native gods, having brought into it a foreign armament. And what Justice shall staunch the fountain of thy mother's tears?

"And how can thy father-land, after having been taken by the spear through thy means, ever be an ally to thee? I, for my part, in very truth shall fatten this soil, seer as I am, buried beneath a hostile earth. Let us to the battle, I look not for a dishonorable fall." Thus spake the seer, wielding a fair-orbed shield, all of brass; but no device was on its circle—for he wishes not to seem but to be righteous, reaping fruit from a deep furrow in his mind, from which sprout forth his goodly counsels. Against this champion I advise that thou send antagonists, both wise and good. A dread adversary is he that reveres the gods.

ET. Alas! for the omen[145] that associates a righteous man with the impious! Indeed in every matter, nothing is worse than evil fellowship—the field of infatuation has death for its fruits.[146] For whether it be that a pious man hath embarked in a vessel along with violent sailors, and some villany, he perishes with the race of men abhorred of heaven; or, being righteous, and having rightly fallen into the same toils with his countrymen, violators of hospitality, and unmindful of the gods, he is beaten down, smitten with the scourge of the deity, which falls alike on all. Now this seer, I mean the son of Oicleus, a moderate, just, good, and pious man, a mighty prophet, associated with unholy bold-mouthed men, in spite of his [better] judgment, when they made their long march, by the favor of Jove, shall be drawn along with them to go to the distant city.[147] I fancy, indeed, that he will not make an attack on our gates, not as wanting spirit, nor from cowardice of disposition, but he knows that it is his doom to fall in battle, if there is to be any fruit in the oracles of Apollo: 'tis his wont too to hold his peace, or to speak what is seasonable. Nevertheless against him we will marshal a man, mighty Lasthenes, a porter surly to strangers, and who bears an aged mind, but a youthful form; quick is his eye, and he is not slow of hand to snatch his spear made naked from his left hand.[148] But for mortals to succeed is a boon of the deity.

CH. O ye gods, give ear to our righteous supplications, and graciously bring it to pass that our city may be successful, while ye turn the horrors wrought by the spear upon the invaders of our country; and may Jove, having flung them [to a distance] from our towers, slay them with his thunder-bolt.

MES. Now will I mention this the seventh, against the seventh gate, thine own brother—what calamities too he imprecates and prays for against our city; that, he having scaled the towers, and been proclaimed[149] to the land, after having shouted out the paean of triumph at the capture, may engage with thee; and, having slain thee, may die beside thee, or avenge himself on thee alive, that dishonored, that banished him,[150] by exile after the very same manner. This does mighty Polynices clamor, and he summons the gods of his race and fatherland to regard his supplications. He has, moreover, a newly-constructed shield, well suited [to his arm] and a double device wrought upon it. For a woman is leading on a mailed warrior, forged out of brass, conducting him decorously; and so she professes to be Justice, as the inscription tells: I WILL BRING BACK THIS MAN, AND HE SHALL HAVE THE CITY OF HIS FATHERS, AND A DWELLING IN THE PALACE. Such are their devices; and do thou thyself now determine whom it is that thou thinkest proper to send: since never at any time shalt thou censure me for my tidings; but do thou thyself determine the management of the vessel of the state.

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