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A PEASANT OF MYCENAE, husband of ELECTRA
ELECTRA, daughter of Agamemnon
ORESTES, son of Agamemnon
PYLADES, friend Of ORESTES
CHORUS OF ARGIVE COUNTRY-WOMEN
CLYTEMNESTRA, widow of Agamemnon
OLD MAN, formerly servant of Agamemnon
Before the hut of the PEASANT, in the country on the borders of Argolis. It is just before sunrise. The PEASANT is discovered alone.
PEASANTO Argos, ancient land, and streams of Inachus, whence on a day king Agamemnon sailed to the realm of Troy, carrying his warriors aboard a thousand ships; and after he had slain Priam who was reigning in Ilium and captured the famous city of Dardanus, he came hither to Argos and has set up high on the temple-walls many a trophy, spoil of the barbarians. Though all went well with him in Troy, yet was he slain in his own palace by the guile of his wife Clytemnestra and the hand of Aegisthus, son of Thyestes. So he died and left behind him the ancient sceptre of Tantalus, and Aegisthus reigns in his stead, with the daughter of Tyndareus, Agamemnon's queen, to wife. Now as for those whom he left in his halls, when he sailed to Troy, his son Orestes and his tender daughter Electra,-the boy Orestes, as he was like to be slain by Aegisthus, his sire's old foster-father secretly removed to the land of Phocis and gave to Strophius to bring up, but the maid Electra abode in her father's house, and soon as she had budded into maidenhood, came all the princes of Hellas asking her hand in marriage. But Aegisthus kept her at home for fear she might bear a son to some chieftain who would avenge Agamemnon, nor would he betroth her unto any. But when e'en thus there seemed some room for fear that she might bear some noble lord a child by stealth and Aegisthus was minded to slay her, her mother, though she had a cruel heart, yet rescued the maiden from his hand. For she could find excuses for having slain her husband, but she feared the hatred she would incur for her children's murder. Wherefore Aegisthus devised this scheme; on Agamemnon's son who had escaped his realm by flight he set a price to be paid to any who should slay him, while he gave Electra to me in marriage, whose ancestors were citizens of Mycenae. It is not that I blame myself for; my family was noble enough, though certainly impoverished, and so my good birth suffers. By making for her this weak alliance he thought he would have little to fear. For if some man of high position had married her, he might have revived the vengeance for Agamemnon's murder, which now is sleeping; in which case Aegisthus would have paid the penalty. But Cypris is my witness that I have ever respected her maidenhood; she is still as though unwed. Unworthy as I am, honour forbids that I should so affront the daughter of a better man. Yea, and I am sorry for Orestes, hapless youth, who is called my kinsman, to think that he should ever return to Argos and behold his sister's wretched marriage. And whoso counts me but a fool for leaving a tender maid untouched when I have her in my house, to him I say, he measures purity by the vicious standard of his own soul, a standard like himself.ELECTRA enters from the hut, carrying a water pitcher on her head. She is meanly clad.
ELECTRAO sable night, nurse of the golden stars! beneath thy pall I go to fetch water from the brook with my pitcher poised upon my head, not indeed because I am forced to this necessity, but that to the gods I may display the affronts Aegisthus puts upon me, and to the wide firmament pour out my lamentation for my sire. For my own mother, the baleful daughter of Tyndareus, hath cast me forth from her house to gratify her lord; for since she hath borne other children to Aegisthus she puts me and Orestes on one side at home.
PEASANTOh! why, poor maiden, dost thou toil so hard on my behalf, thou that aforetime wert reared so daintily? why canst thou not forego thy labour, as I bid thee?
ELECTRAAs a god's I count thy kindness to me, for in my distress thou hast never made a mock at me. 'Tis rare fortune when mortals find such healing balm for their cruel wounds as 'tis my lot to find in thee. Wherefore I ought, though thou forbid me, to lighten thy labours, as far as my strength allows, and share all burdens with thee to ease thy load. Thou hast enough to do abroad; 'tis only right that I should keep thy house in order. For when the toiler cometh to his home from the field, it is pleasant to find all comfortable in the house.
PEASANTIf such thy pleasure, go thy way; for, after all, the spring is no great distance from my house. And at break of day I will drive my steers to my glebe and sow my crop. For no idler, though he has the gods' names ever on his lips, can gather a livelihood without hard work.ELECTRA and the PEASANT go out. A moment later ORESTES and PYLADES enter.
ORESTESAh Pylades, I put thee first 'mongst men for thy love, thy loyalty and friendliness to me; for thou alone of all my friends wouldst still honour poor Orestes, in spite of the grievous plight whereto I am reduced by Aegisthus, who with my accursed mother's aid slew my sire. I am come from Apollo's mystic shrine to the soil of Argos, without the knowledge of any, to avenge my father's death upon his murderers. Last night went unto his tomb and wept thereon, cutting off my hair as an offering and pouring o'er the grave the blood of a sheep for sacrifice, unmarked by those who lord it o'er this land. And now though I enter not the walled town, yet by coming to the borders of the land I combine two objects; I can escape to another country if any spy me out and recognize me, and at the same time seek my sister, for I am told she is a maid no longer but is married and living here, that I may meet her, and, after enlisting her aid in the deed of blood, learn for certain what is happening in the town. Let us now, since dawn is uplifting her radiant eye, step aside from this path. For maybe some labouring man or serving maid will come in sight, of whom we may inquire whether it is here that my sister hath her home. Lo! yonder I see a servant bearing a full pitcher of water on her shaven head; let us sit down and make inquiry of this bond-maid, if haply we may glean some tidings of the matter which brought us hither, Pylades.They retire a little, as ELECTRA returns from the spring.
ELECTRA chantingstrophe 1The CHORUS OF ARGIVE COUNTRY-WOMEN enter. The following lines between ELECTRA and the CHORUS are sung responsively.
Bestir thy lagging feet, 'tis high time; on, on o'er thy path of tears! ah misery! I am Agamemnon's daughter, she whom Clytemnestra, hateful child of Tyndareus, bare; hapless Electra is the name my countrymen call me. Ah me! for my cruel lot, my hateful existence! O my father Agamemnon! in Hades art thou laid, butchered by thy wife and Aegisthus. Come, raise with me that dirge once more; uplift the woful strain that brings relief.
On, on o'er thy path of tears! ah misery! And thou, poor brother, in what city and house art thou a slave, leaving thy suffering sister behind in the halls of our fathers to drain the cup of bitterness? Oh! come, great Zeus, to set me free from this life of sorrow, and to avenge my sire in the blood of his foes, bringing the wanderer home to Argos.
Take this pitcher from my head, put it down, that I may wake betimes, while it is yet night, my lamentation for my sire, my doleful chant, my dirge of death, for thee, my father in thy grave, which day by day I do rehearse, rending my skin with my nails, and smiting on my shaven head in mourning for thy death. Woe, woe! rend the cheek; like a swan with clear loud note beside the brimming river calling to its parent dear that lies a-dying in the meshes of the crafty net, so I bewail thee, my hapless sire,
After that last fatal bath of thine laid out most piteously in death. Oh I the horror of that axe which hacked thee so cruelly, my sire I oh! the bitter thought that prompted thy return from Troy! With no garlands or victor's crowns did thy wife welcome thee, but with his two-edged sword she made thee the sad sport of Aegisthus and kept her treacherous paramour.
O Electra, daughter of Agamemnon, to thy rustic cot I come, for a messenger hath arrived, a highlander from Mycenae, one who lives on milk, announcing that the Argives are proclaiming a sacrifice for the third day from now, and all our maidens are to go to Hera's temple.
ELECTRAKind friends, my heart is not set on festivity, nor do necklaces of gold cause any flutter in my sorrowing bosom, nor will I stand up with the maidens of Argos to beat my foot in the mazy dance. Tears have been my meat day and night; ah misery! See my unkempt hair, my tattered dress; are they fit for a princess, a daughter of Agamemnon, or for Troy which once thought of my father as its captor?
Mighty is the goddess; so come, and borrow of me broidered robes for apparel and jewels of gold that add a further grace to beauty's charms. Dost think to triumph o'er thy foes by tears, if thou honour not the gods? 'Tis not by lamentation but by pious prayers to heaved that thou, my daughter, wilt make fortune smile on thee.
ELECTRANo god hearkens to the voice of lost Electra, or heeds the sacrifices offered by my father long ago. Ah woe for the dead! woe for the living wanderer, who dwelleth in some foreign land, an outcast and vagabond at a menial board, sprung though he is of a famous sire! Myself, too, in a poor man's hut do dwell, wasting my soul with grief, an exile from my father's halls, here by the scarred hill-side; while my mother is wedded to a new husband in a marriage stained by blood.
LEADER OF THE CHORUSMany a woe to Hellas and thy house did Helen, thy mother's sister, cause.
ELECTRA catching sight of ORESTES AND PYLADESHa! Friends, I break off my lament; yonder are strangers just leaving the place of ambush where they were couching, and making for the house. We must seek to escape the villains by flying, thou along the path and I into my cottage.
ORESTESStay, poor maid; fear no violence from me.
ELECTRAO Phoebus Apollo I beseech thee spare my life.
ORESTESGive me the lives of others more my foes than thou!
ELECTRABegone! touch me not! thou hast no right to.
ORESTESThere is none I have a better right to touch.
ELECTRAHow is it then thou waylayest me, sword in hand, near my house?
ORESTESWait and hear, and thou wilt soon agree with me
ELECTRAHere I stand; I am in thy power in any case, since thou art the stronger.
ORESTESI am come to thee with news of thy brother.
ELECTRAO best of friends! is he alive or dead?
ORESTESAlive; I would fain give thee my good news first.
ELECTRAGod bless thee! in return for thy welcome tidings.
ORESTESI am prepared to share that blessing between us.
ELECTRAIn what land is my poor brother spending his dreary exile?
ORESTESHis ruined life does not conform to the customs of any one city.
ELECTRASurely he does not want for daily bread?
ORESTESBread he has, but an exile is a helpless man at best.
ELECTRAWhat is this message thou hast brought from him?
ORESTESHe asks, "Art thou alive? and if so, How art thou faring?"
ELECTRAWell, first thou seest how haggard I am grown.
ORESTESSo wasted with sorrow that I weep for thee.
ELECTRANext mark my head, shorn and shaven like a Scythian's.
ORESTESThy brother's fate and father's death no doubt disturb thee.
ELECTRAYes, alas! for what have I more dear than these?
ORESTESAh! and what dost thou suppose is dearer to thy brother?
ELECTRAHe is far away, not here to show his love to me.
ORESTESWherefore art thou living here far from the city?
ELECTRAI am wedded, sir; a fatal match!
ORESTESAlas! for thy brother; I pity him. Is thy husband of Mycenae?
ELECTRAHe is not the man to whom my father ever thought of betrothing me.
ORESTESTell me all, that I may report it to thy brother.
ELECTRAI live apart from my husband in this house.
ORESTESThe only fit inmate would be a hind or herd.
ELECTRAPoor he is, yet he displays a generous consideration for me.
ORESTESWhy, what is this consideration that attaches to thy husband?
ELECTRAHe has never presumed to claim from me a husband's rights.
ORESTESIs he under a vow of chastity? or does he disdain thee?
ELECTRAHe thought he had no right to flout my ancestry.
ORESTESHow was it he was not overjoyed at winning such a bride?
ELECTRAHe does not recognize the right of him who disposed of my hand.
ORESTESI understand; he was afraid of the vengeance of Orestes hereafter.
ELECTRAThere was that fear, but he was a virtuous man as well.
ORESTESAh! a noble nature this! He deserves kind treatment.
ELECTRAYes, if ever the wanderer return.
ORESTESBut did thy own mother give in to this?
ELECTRA'Tis her husband, not her children that a woman loves, sir stranger.
ORESTESWherefore did Aegisthus put this affront on thee?
ELECTRAHis design in giving me to such a husband was to weaken my offspring
ORESTESTo prevent thee bearing sons, I suppose, who should punish him?
ELECTRAThat was his plan; God grant I may avenge me on him for it!
ORESTESDoes thy mother's husband know that thou art yet a maid?
ELECTRAHe does not; our silence robs him of that knowledge.
ORESTESAre these women friends of thine, who overhear our talk?
ELECTRAThey are, and they will keep our conversation perfectly secret.
ORESTESWhat could Orestes do in this matter, if he did return?
ELECTRACanst thou ask? Shame on thee for that! Is not this the time for action?
ORESTESBut suppose he comes, how could he slay his father's murderers?
ELECTRABy boldly meting out the same fate that his father had meted out to him by his foes.
ORESTESWouldst thou be brave enough to help him slay his mother?
ELECTRAAye, with the self-same axe that drank my father's blood.
ORESTESAm I to tell him this, and that thy purpose firmly holds?
ELECTRAOnce I have shed my mother's blood o'er his, then welcome death!
ORESTESAh! would Orestes were standing near to hear that!
ELECTRAI should not know him, sir, if I saw him.
ORESTESNo wonder; you were both children when you parted.
ELECTRAThere is only one of my friends would recognize him.
ORESTESThe man maybe who is said to have snatched him away from being murdered?
ELECTRAYes, the old servant who tended my father's childhood long ago.
ORESTESDid thy father's corpse obtain burial?
ELECTRASuch burial as it was, after his body had been flung forth from the palace.
ORESTESO God! how awful is thy story! Yes, there is a feeling, arising even from another's distress, that wrings the human heart. Say on, that when know the loveless tale, which yet I needs must hear, I may carry it to thy brother. For pity, though it has no place in ignorant natures, is inborn in the wise; still it may cause trouble to find excessive cleverness amongst the wise.
LEADERI too am stirred by the same desire as the stranger. For dwelling so far from the city I know nothing of its ills, and I should like to hear about them now myself.
ELECTRAI will tell you, if I may; and surely I may tell a friend about my own and my father's grievous misfortunes. Now since thou movest me to speak, I entreat thee, sir, tell Orestes of our sorrows; first, describe the dress I wear, the load of squalor that oppresses me, the hovel I inhabit after my royal home; tell him how hard I have to work at weaving clothes myself or else go barely clad and do without; how I carry home on my head water from the brook; no part have I in holy festival, no place amid the dance; a maiden still I turn from married dames and from Castor too, to whom they betrothed me before he joined the heavenly host, for I was his kinswoman. Meantime my mother, 'mid the spoils of Troy, is seated on her throne, and at her foot-stool slaves from Asia stand and wait, captives of my father's spear, whose Trojan robes are fastened with brooches of gold. And there on the wall my father's blood still leaves a deep dark stain, while his murderer mounts the dead man's car and fareth forth, proudly grasping in his blood-stained hands the sceptre with which Agamemnon would marshal the sons of Hellas. Dishonoured lies his grave; naught as yet hath it received of drink outpoured or myrtle-spray, but bare of ornament his tomb is left. Yea, and 'tis said that noble hero who is wedded to my mother, in his drunken fits, doth leap upon the grave, and pelt with stones my father's monument, boldly gibing at us on this wise, "Where is thy son Orestes? Is he ever coming in his glory to defend thy tomb?" Thus is Orestes flouted behind his back. Oh! tell him this, kind sir, I pray thee. And there be many calling him to come,-I am but their mouthpiece,-these suppliant hands, this tongue, my broken heart, my shaven head, and his own father too. For 'tis shameful that the sire should have destroyed Troy's race and the son yet prove too weak to pit himself against one foe unto the death, albeit he has youth and better blood as well.
LEADERLo! here is thy husband hurrying homeward, his labour done.
PEASANT entering and catching sight of strangers talking to ELECTRAHa! who are these strangers I see at my door? And why are they come hither to my rustic gate? can they want my help? for 'tis unseemly for a woman to stand talking with young men.
ELECTRADear husband, be not suspicious of me. For thou shalt hear the truth; these strangers have come to bring me news of Orestes. Good sirs, pardon him those words.
PEASANTWhat say they? is that hero yet alive and in the light of day?
ELECTRAHe is; at least they say so, and I believe them.
PEASANTSurely then he hath some memory of his father and thy wrongs?
ELECTRAThese are things to hope for; a man in exile is helpless.
PEASANTWhat message have they brought from Orestes?
ELECTRAHe sent them to spy out my evil case.
PEASANTWell, they only see a part of it, though maybe thou art telling them the rest.
ELECTRAThey know all; there is nothing further they need ask.
PEASANTLong ere this then shouldst thou have thrown open our doors to them. Enter, sirs; for in return for your good tidings, shall ye find such cheer as my house affords. Ho! servants, take their baggage within; make no excuses, for ye are friends sent by one I love; and poor though I am, yet will I never show meanness in my habits.
ORESTES'Fore heaven! is this the man who is helping thee to frustrate thy marriage, because he will not shame Orestes?
ELECTRAThis is he whom they call my husband, woe is me!
ORESTESAh! there is no sure mark to recognize a man's worth; for human nature hath in it an element of confusion. For I have seen ere now the son of noble sire prove himself a worthless knave, and virtuous children sprung from evil parents; likewise dearth in a rich man's spirit, and in a poor man's frame a mighty soul. By what standard then shall we rightly judge these things? By wealth? An evil test to use. By poverty then? Nay, poverty suffers from this, that it teaches a man to play the villain from necessity. To martial prowess must I turn? But who could pronounce who is the valiant man merely from the look of his spear? Better is it to leave these matters to themselves without troubling. For here is a man of no account in Argos, with no family reputation to boast, one of the common herd, proved a very hero. A truce to your folly! ye self-deceivers, swollen with idle fancies; learn to judge men by their converse, and by their habits decide who are noble. Such are they who rule aright both states and families; while those forms of flesh, devoid of intellect, are but figure-heads in the market-place. The strong arm, again, no more than the weak awaits the battle-shock, for this depends on natural courage. Well! absent or present, Agamemnon's son, whose business brings us here, deserves this of us, so let us accept a lodging in this house.Calling to his servantsHo! sirrahs, go within. A humble host, who does his best, in preference to a wealthy man for me! And so I thankfully accept this peasant's proffered welcome, though I could have preferred that thy brother were conducting me to share his fortune in his halls. Maybe he yet will come; for the oracies of Loxias are sure, but to man's divining "Farewell" say I.ORESTES, PYLADES and their attendants go into the hut.
LEADERElectra, I feel a warmer glow of joy suffuse my heart than ever heretofore; perchance our fortune, moving on at last, will find a happy resting-place.
ELECTRAO reckless man, why didst thou welcome strangers like these, so far beyond thy station, knowing the poverty of thy house?
PEASANTWhy? if they are really as noble as they seem, surely they will be equally content with rich or humble fare.
ELECTRAWell. since thou hast made this error, poor man as thou art, go to my father's kind old foster-sire; on the bank of the river Tanaus, the boundary 'twixt Argos and the land of Sparta, he tends his flocks, an outcast from the city; bid him come hither to our house and some provision for the strangers' entertainment. Glad will he be, and will offer thanks to heaven to hear that the child, whom once he saved, is yet alive. I shall get nothing from my mother from my ancestral halls; for we should rue our message, were she to learn, unnatural wretch! that Orestes liveth.
PEASANTI will take this message to the old man, if it seem good to thee; but get thee in at once and there make ready. A woman, when she chooses, can find dainties in plenty to garnish a feast. Besides, there is quite enough in the house to satisfy them with food for one day at least. 'Tis in such cases, when I come to muse thereon, that I discern the mighty power of wealth, whether to give to strangers, or to expend in curing the body when it falls sick; but our daily food is a small matter; for all of us, rich as well as poor, are in like case, as soon as we are satisfied.The PEASANT departs as ELECTRA enters the hut.
CHORUS singingstrophe 1The OLD MAN, the former servant of Agamemnon, enters. ELECTRA presently appears at the door of the hut.
Ye famous ships, that on a day were brought to land at Troy by those countless oars, what time ye led the Nereids' dance, where the dolphin music-loving rolled and gambolled round your dusky prows, escorting Achilles, nimble son of Thetis, when he went with Agamemnon to the banks of Trojan Simois;
When Nereids left Euboea's strand, bringing from Hephaestus' golden forge the harness he had fashioned for that warrior's use; him long they sought o'er Pelion and Ossa's spurs, ranging the sacred glens and the peaks of Nymphaea, where his knightly sire was training up a light for Hellas, even the sea-born son of Thetis, a warrior swift to help the sons of Atreus.
One that came from Ilium, and set foot in the haven of Nauplia, told me that on the circle of thy far-famed targe, O son of Thetis, was wrought this blazon, a terror to the Phrygians; on the rim of the buckler Perseus with winged sandals, was bearing in his hand across the main the Gorgon's head, just severed by the aid of Hermes, the messenger of Zeus, that rural god whom Maia bore;
While in the centre of the shield the sun's bright orb flashed light on the backs of his winged coursers; there too was the heavenly choir of stars, Pleiades and Hyades, to dazzle Hector's eyes and make him flee; and upon his gold-forged helm were sphinxes, bearing in their talons the prey of which the minstrels sing; on his breast-plate was lioness breathing flame, her eye upon Peirene's steed, in eagerness to rend it.
There too in murderous fray four-footed steeds were prancing, while oer their backs uprose dark clouds of dust. But he who led these warriors stout, was slain by wedding thee, malignant child of Tyndareus! Wherefore shall the gods of heaven one day send thee to thy doom, and I shall yet live to see the sword at thy throat, drinking its crimson tide.
OLD MANWhere is the young princess, my mistress, Agamemnon's daughter, whom I nursed in days gone by? Oh! how steep is the approach to this house, a hard climb for these old wasted feet of mine! Still, to reach such friends as these, I must drag my bent old back and tottering knees up it. Ah, daughter!-for I see thee now at thy door,-lo! I have brought the this tender lamb from my own flock, having taken it from its dam, with garlands too and cheese straight from the press, and this flask of choice old wine with fragrant bouquet; 'tis small perhaps, but pour a cup thereof into some weaker drink, and it is a luscious draught. Let some one carry these gifts into the house for the guests; for I would fain wipe from my eyes the rising tears on this tattered cloak.
ELECTRAWhy stands the tear-drop in thine eye, old friend? Is it that my sorrows have been recalled to thee after an interval? or art thou bewailing the sad exile of Orestes, and my father's fate, whom thou didst once fondle in thy arms, in vain, alas! for thee and for thy friends?
OLD MANAh yes! in vain; but still I could not bear to leave him thus; and so I added this to my journey that I sought his grave, and, falling thereupon, wept o'er its desolation; then did I open the wine-skin, my gift to thy guests, and poured a libation, and set myrtle-sprigs round the tomb. And lo! upon the grave itself I saw a black ram had been offered, and there was blood, not long poured forth, and severed locks of auburn hair. Much I wondered, my daughter, who had dared approach the tomb; certainly 'twas no Argive. Nay, thy brother may perchance have come by stealth, and going thither have done honour to his father's wretched grave. Look at the hair, compare it with thy own, to see if the colour of these cut locks is the same; for children in whose veins runs the same father's blood have a close resemblance in many features.
ELECTRAOld sir, thy words are unworthy of a wise man, if thou thinkest my own brave brother would have come to this land by stealth for fear of Aegisthus. In the next place, how should our hair correspond? His is the hair of a gallant youth trained up in manly sports, mine a woman's curled and combed; nay, that is a hopeless clue. Besides, thou couldst find many, whose hair is of the same colour, albeit not sprung from the same blood. No, maybe 'twas some stranger cut off his hair in pity at his tomb, or one that came to spy this land privily.
OLD MANPut thy foot in the print of his shoe and mark whether it correspond with thine, my child.
ELECTRAHow should the foot make any impression on stony ground? and if it did, the foot of brother and sister would not be the same in size, for man's is the larger.
OLD MANHast thou no mark, in case thy brother should come, whereby to recognize the weaving of thy loom, the robe wherein I snatched him from death that day?
ELECTRADost thou forget I was still a babe when Orestes left the country? and even if I had woven him a robe, how should he, a mere child then, be wearing the same now, unless our clothes and bodies grow together?
OLD MANWhere are these guests? I fain would question them face to face about thy brother.As he speaks, ORESTES and PYLADES come out of the hut.
ELECTRAThere they are, in haste to leave the house.
OLD MANWell born, it seems, but that may be a sham; for there be plenty such prove knaves. Still I give them greeting.
ORESTESAll hail, father! To which of thy friends, Electra, does this old relic of mortality belong?
ELECTRAThis is he who nursed my sire, sir stranger.
ORESTESWhat! do I behold him who removed thy brother out of harm's way?
ELECTRABehold the man who saved his life; if, that is, he liveth still.
ORESTESHa! why does he look so hard at me, as if he were examining the bright device on silver coin? Is he finding in me a likeness to some other?
ELECTRAMaybe he is glad to see in thee a companion of Orestes.
ORESTESA man I love full well. But why is he walking round me?
ELECTRAI, too, am watching his movements with amaze, sir stranger.
OLD MANMy honoured mistress, my daughter Electra, return thanks to heaven,-
ELECTRAFor past or present favours? which?
OLD MANThat thou hast found a treasured prize, which God is now revealing.
ELECTRAHear me invoke the gods. But what dost thou mean, old man?
OLD MANBehold before thee, my child, thy nearest and dearest.
ELECTRAI have long feared thou wert not in thy sound senses
OLD MANNot in my sound senses, because I see thy brother?
ELECTRAWhat mean'st thou, aged friend, by these astounding words?
OLD MANThat I see Orestes, Agamemnon's son, before me.
ELECTRAWhat mark dost see that I can trust?
OLD MANA scar along his brow, where he fell and cut himself one day in his father's home when chasing a fawn with thee.
ELECTRAIs it possible? True; I see the mark of the fall.
OLD MANDost hesitate then to embrace thy own dear brother?
ELECTRANo! not any longer, old friend; for my soul is convinced by the tokens thou showest. O my brother, thou art come at last, and I embrace thee, little as I ever thought to.
ORESTESAnd thee to my bosom at last I press.
ELECTRAI never thought that it would happen.
ORESTESAll hope in me was also dead.
ELECTRAArt thou really he?
ORESTESAye, thy one and only champion, if I can but safely draw to shore the cast I mean to throw; and I feel sure I shall; else must we cease to believe in gods, if wrong is to triumph o'er right.
CHORUS singingAt last, at last appears thy radiant dawn, O happy day! and as beacon to the city hast thou revealed the wanderer, who, long ago, poor boy! was exiled from his father's halls. Now, lady, comes our turn for victory, ushered in by some god. Raise hand and voice in prayer, beseech the gods that good fortune may attend thy brother's entry to the city.
ORESTESEnough! sweet though the rapture of this greeting be, I must wait and return it hereafter. Do thou, old friend so timely met, tell me how I am to avenge me on my father's murderer, and on my mother, the partner in his guilty marriage. Have I still in Argos any band of kindly friends? or am I, like my fortunes, bankrupt altogether? With whom am I to league myself? by night or day shall I advance? point out a road for me to take against these foes of mine.
OLD MANMy son, thou hast no friend now in thy hour of adversity. No! that is a piece of rare good luck, to find another share thy fortunes alike for better and for worse. Thou art of every friend completely reft, all hope is gone from thee; be sure of what I tell thee; on thy own arm and fortune art thou wholly thrown to win thy father's home and thy city.
ORESTESWhat must I do to compass this result?
OLD MANSlay Thyestes' son and thy mother.
ORESTESI came to win that victor's crown, but how can I attain it?
OLD MANThou wouldst never achieve it if thou didst enter the walls.
ORESTESAre they manned with guards and armed sentinels?
OLD MANAye truly; for he is afraid of thee, and cannot sleep secure.
ORESTESWell then, do thou next propose a scheme, old friend.
OLD MANHear me a moment; an idea has just occurred to me.
ORESTESMay thy counsel prove good, and my perception keen!
OLD MANI saw Aegisthus, as I was slowly pacing hither-
ORESTESI welcome thy words. Where was he?
OLD MANNot far from these fields, at his stables.
ORESTESWhat was he doing? I see a gleam of hope after our helplessness.
OLD MANI thought he was preparing a feast for the Nymphs.
ORESTESIn return for the bringing up of children or in anticipation of a birth?
OLD MANAll I know is this, he was preparing to sacrifice oxen.
ORESTESHow many were with him? or was he alone with his servants?
OLD MANThere was no Argive there; only a band of his own followers.
ORESTESIs it possible that any of them will recognize me, old man?
OLD MANThey are only servants, and they have never even seen thee.
ORESTESWill they support me, if I prevail?
OLD MANYes, that is the way of slaves, luckily for thee.
ORESTESOn what pretext can I approach him?
OLD MANGo to some place where he will see thee as he sacrifices.
ORESTESHis estate is close to the road then, I suppose.
OLD MANYes, and when he sees thee there, he will invite thee to the feast.
ORESTESSo help me God! He shall rue his invitation.
OLD MANAfter that, form thy own plan according to circumstances.
ORESTESGood advice! But my mother, where is she?
OLD MANAt Argos; but she will yet join her husband for the feast.
ORESTESWhy did she not come forth with him?
OLD MANFrom fear of the citizens' reproach she stayed behind.
ORESTESI understand; she knows that the city suspects her.
OLD MANJust so; her wickedness makes her hated.
ORESTESHow shall I slay her and him together?
ELECTRAMine be the preparation of my mother's slaying!
ORESTESWell, as for the other, fortune will favour us.
ELECTRAOur old friend here must help us both.
OLD MANAye, that will I; but wnat is thy scheme for slaying thy mother?
ELECTRAGo, old man, and tell Clytemnestra from me that I have given birth to a son.
OLD MANSome time ago, or quite recently?
ELECTRATen days ago, which are the days of my purification.
OLD MANSuppose it done; but how doth this help towards slaying thy mother?
ELECTRAShe will come, when she hears of my confinement.
OLD MANWhat! dost think she cares aught for thee, my child?
ELECTRAOh yes! she will weep no doubt over my child's low rank.
OLD MANPerhaps she may; but go back again to the point.
ELECTRAHer death is certain, if she comes.
OLD MANIn that case, let her come right up to the door of the house.
ELECTRAWhy then it were a little thing to turn her steps into the road to Hades' halls.
OLD MANOh! to see this one day, then die!
ELECTRAFirst of all, old friend, act as my brother's guide.
OLD MANTo the place where Aegisthus is now sacrificing to the gods?
ELECTRAThen go, find my mother and give her my message.
OLD MANAye, that I will, so that she shall think the very words are thine.
ELECTRA to ORESTESThy work begins at once; thou hast drawn the first lot in the tragedy.
ORESTESI will go, if some one will show me the way.
OLD MANI will myself conduct thee nothing loth.
ORESTESO Zeus, god of my fathers, vanquisher of my foes, have pity on us, for a piteous lot has ours been.
ELECTRAOh! have pity on thy own descendants.
ORESTESO Hera, mistress of Mycenae's altars, grant us the victory, if we are asking what is right.
ELECTRAYes, grant us vengeance on them for our father's death.
ORESTESThou too, my father, sent to the land of shades by wicked hands, and Earth, the queen of all, to whom I spread my suppliant palms, up and champion thy dear children. Come with all the dead to aid, all they who helped thee break the Phrygians' power, and all who hate ungodly crime. Dost hear me, father, victim of my mother's rage?
ELECTRASure am I he heareth all; but 'tis time to part. For this cause too I bid thee strike Aegisthus down, because, if thou fall in the struggle and perish, I also die; no longer number me amongst the living; for I will stab myself with a two-edged sword. And now will I go indoors and make all ready there, for, if there come good news from thee, my house shall ring with women's cries of joy; but, if thou art slain, a different scene must then ensue. These are my instructions to thee.
ORESTESI know my lesson well.ORESTES, PYLADES, the OLD MAN, and attendants, depart.
ELECTRAThen show thyself a man. And you, my friends, signal to me by cries the certain issue of this fray. Myself will keep the sword ready in my grasp, for I will never accept defeat, and yield my body to my enemies to insult.ELECTRA goes into the hut.
CHORUS singingstrophe 1
Still the story finds a place in time-honoured legends, how on day Pan, the steward of husbandry, came breathing dulcet music on his jointed pipe, and brought with him from its tender dam on Argive hills, a beauteous lamb with fleece of gold; then stood a herald high upon the rock and cried aloud, "Away to the place of assembly, ye folk of Mycenae! to behold the strange and awful sight vouchsafed to our blest rulers." Anon the dancers did obeisance to the family of Atreus;
The altar-steps of beaten gold were draped; and through that Argive town the altars blazed with fire; sweetly rose the lute's clear note, the handmaid of the Muse's song; and ballads fair were written on the golden lamb, saying that Thyestes had the luck; for he won the guilty love of the wife of Atreus, and carried off to his house the strange creature, and then coming before the assembled folk he declared to them that he had in his house that horned beast with fleece of gold.
In the self-same hour it was that Zeus changed the radiant courses of the stars, the light of the sun, and the joyous face of dawn, and drave his car athwart the western sky with fervent heat from heaven's fires, while northward fled the rain-clouds, and Ammon's strand grew parched and faint and void of dew, when it was robbed of heaven's genial showers.
'Tis said, though I can scarce believe it, the sun turned round his glowing throne of gold, to vex the sons of men by this change because of the quarrel amongst them. Still, tales of horror have their use in making men regard the gods; of whom thou hadst no thought, when thou slewest thy husband, thou mother of this noble pair.
LEADER OF THE CHORUSHark! my friends, did ye hear that noise, like to the rumbling of an earthquake, or am I the dupe of idle fancy? Hark! hark! once more that wind-borne sound swells loudly on mine ear. Electra! mistress mine! come forth from the house!
ELECTRA rushing outWhat is it, good friends? how goes the day with us?
LEADERI hear the cries of dying men; no more I know.
ELECTRAI heard them too, far off, but still distinct.
LEADERYes, the sound came stealing from afar, but yet 'twas clear.
ELECTRAWas it the groan of an Argive, or of my friends?
LEADERI know not; for the cries are all confused.
ELECTRAThat word of thine is my death-warrant; why do I delay?
LEADERStay, till thou learn thy fate for certain.
ELECTRANo, no; we are vanquished; where are our messengers?
LEADERThey will come in time; to slay a king is no light task.A MESSENGER enters in haste.
MESSENGERAll hail! ye victors, maidens of Mycenae, to all Orestes' friends his triumph I announce; Aegisthus, the murderer of Agamemnon, lies weltering where he fell; return thanks to heaven.
ELECTRAWho art thou? What proof dost thou give of this?
MESSENGERLook at me, dost thou not recognize thy brother's servant?
ELECTRAO best of friends! 'twas fear that prevented me from recognizing thee; now I know thee well. What sayst thou? Is my father's hateful murderer slain?
MESSENGERHe is; I repeat it since it is thy wish.
LEADERYe gods, and justice, whose eye is on all, at last art thou come.
ELECTRAI fain would learn the way and means my brother took to slay Thyestes' son.
MESSENGERAfter we had set out from this house, we struck into the broad highroad, and came to the place where was the far-famed King of Mycenae. Now he was walking in a garden well-watered, culling a wreath of tender myrtle-sprays for his head, and when he saw us, he called out, "All hail! strangers; who are ye? whence come ye? from what country?" To him Orestes answered, "We are from Thessaly, on our way to Alpheus' banks to sacrifice to Olympian Zeus." When Aegisthus heard that, he said, "Ye must be my guests to-day, and share the feast, for I am even now sacrificing to the Nymphs; and by rising with tomorrow's light ye will be just as far upon your journey; now let us go within." Therewith he caught us by the hand and led us by the way; refuse we could not; and when we were come to the house, he gave command: "Bring water for my guests to wash forthwith, that they may stand around the altar near the laver." But Orestes answered, "'Twas but now we purified ourselves and washed us clean in water from the river. So if we strangers are to join your citizens in sacrifice, we are ready, King Aegisthus, and will not refuse." So ended they their private conference. Meantime the servants, that composed their master's bodyguard, laid aside their weapons, and one and all were busied at their tasks. Some brought the bowl to catch the blood, others took up baskets, while others kindled fire and set cauldrons round about the altars, and the whole house rang. Then did thy mother's husband take the barley for sprinkling, and began casting it upon the hearth with these words, "Ye Nymphs, who dwell among the rocks, grant that I may often sacrifice with my wife, the daughter of Tyndareus, within my halls, as happily as now, and ruin seize my foes!"whereby he meant Orestes and thyself. But my master, lowering his voice, offered a different prayer, that he might regain his father's house. Next Aegisthus took from basket a long straight knife, and cutting off some of the calf's hair, laid it with his right hand on the sacred fire, and then cut its throat when the servants had lifted it upon their shoulders, and thus addressed thy brother; "Men declare that amongst the Thessalians this is counted honourable, to cut up a bull neatly and to manage steeds. So take the knife, sir stranger, and show us if rumour speaks true about the Thessalians." Thereon Orestes seized the Dorian knife of tempered steel and cast from his shoulders his graceful buckled robe; then choosing Pylades to help him in his task, he made the servants withdraw, and catching the calf by the hoof, proceeded to lay bare its white flesh, with arm outstretched, and he flayed the hide quicker than a runner ever finishes the two laps of the horses' race-course; next he laid the belly open, and Aegisthus took the entrails in his hands and carefully examined them. Now the liver had no lobe, while the portal vein leading to the gall-bladder portended dangerous attack on him who was observing it. Dark grows Aegisthus' brow, but my master asks, "Why so despondent, good sir?" Said he, "I fear treachery from a stranger. Agamemnon's son of all men most I hate, and he hates my house." But Orestes cried, "What! fear treachery from an exile! thou the ruler of the city? Ho! take this Dorian knife away and bring me a Thessalian cleaver, that we by sacrificial feast may learn the will of heaven; let me cleave the breast-bone." And he took the axe and cut it through. Now Aegisthus was examining the entrails, separating them in his hands, and as he was bending down, thy brother rose on tiptoe and smote him on the spine, severing the bones of his back; and his body gave one convulsive shudder from head to foot and writhed in the death-agony. No sooner did his servants see it, than they rushed to arms, a host to fight with two; yet did Pylades and Orestes of their valiancy meet them with brandished spears. Then cried Orestes, "I am no foe that come against this city and my own servants, but I have avenged me on the murderer of my sire, I, ill-starred Orestes. Slay me not, my father's former thralls!" They, when they heard him speak, restrained their spears, and an old man, who had been in the family many a long year, recognized him. Forthwith they crown thy brother with a wreath, and utter shouts of joy. And lo! he is coming to show thee the head, not the Gorgon's, but the head of thy hated foe Aegisthus; his death today has paid in blood a bitter debt of blood.
CHORUS singingDear mistress, now with step as light as fawn join in the dance; lift high the nimble foot and be glad. Victory crowns thy brother; he hath won a fairer wreath than ever victor gained beside the streams of Alpheus; so raise a fair hymn to victory, the while I dance.
ELECTRAO light of day! O bright careering sun! O earth! and night erewhile my only day; now may I open my eyes in freedom, for Aegisthus is dead, my father's murderer. Come friends, let me bring out whate'er my house contains to deck his head and wreath with crowns my conquering brother's brow.
CHORUS singingBring forth thy garlands for his head, and we will lead the dance the Muses love. Now shall the royal line, dear to us in days gone by, resume its sway o'er the realm, having laid low the usurper as he deserves. So let the shout go up, whose notes are those of joy.ORESTES and PYLADES enter, followed by attendants who are bearing the body of Aegisthus.
ELECTRAHail! glorious victor, Orestes, son of a sire who won the day 'neath Ilium's walls, accept this wreath to bind about the tresses of thy hair. Not in vain hast thou run thy course unto the goal and reached thy home again; no! but thou hast slain thy foe, Aegisthus, the murderer of our father. Thou too, O Pylades, trusty squire, whose training shows thy father's sterling worth, receive a garland from my hand, for thou no less than he hast a share in this emprise; and so I pray, good luck be thine for ever!
ORESTESFirst recognize the gods, Electra, as being the authors of our fortune, and then praise me their minister and fate's. Yea, I come from having slain Aegisthus in very deed, no mere pretence; and to make thee the more certain of this, I am bringing thee his corpse, which, if thou wilt, expose for beasts to rend, or set it upon a stake for birds, the children of the air, to prey upon; for now is he thy slave, once called thy lord and master.
ELECTRAI am ashamed to utter my wishes.
ORESTESWhat is it? speak out, for thou art through the gates of fear.
ELECTRAI am ashamed to flout the dead, for fear some spite assail me.
ORESTESNo one would blame thee for this.
ELECTRAOur folk are hard to please, and love to blame.
ORESTESSpeak all thy mind, sister; for we entered on this feud with him on terms admitting not of truce.
ELECTRAEnough!Turning to the corpse of AegisthusWith which of thy iniquities shall I begin my recital? With which shall I end it? To which allot a middle place? And yet I never ceased, as each day dawned, to rehearse the story I would tell thee to thy face, if ever I were freed from my old terrors; and now I am; so I will pay thee back with the abuse I fain had uttered to thee when alive. Thou wert my ruin, making me and my brother orphans, though we had never injured thee, and thou didst make a shameful marriage with my mother, having slain her lord who led the host of Hellas, though thyself didst never go to Troy. Such was thy folly, thou didst never dream that my mother would prove thy curse when thou didst marry her, though thou wert wronging my father's honour. Know this; whoso defiles his neighbour's wife, and afterward is forced to take her to himself, is a wretched wight, if he supposes she will be chaste as his wife, though she sinned against her former lord. Thine was a life most miserable, though thou didst pretend 'twas otherwise; well thou knewest how guilty thy marriage was, and my mother knew she had a villain for husband. Sinners both ye took each other's lot, she thy fortune, thou her curse. While everywhere in Argos thou-wouldst hear such phrases as, "that woman's husband," never "that man's wife." Yet 'tis shameful for the wife and not the man to rule the house; wherefore I loathe those children, who are called in the city not the sons of the man, their father, but of their mother. For if a man makes a great match above his rank, there is no talk of the husband but only of the wife. Herein lay thy grievous error, due to ignorance; thou thoughtest thyself some one, relying on thy wealth, but this is naught save to stay with us a space. 'Tis nature that stands fast, not wealth. For it, if it abide unchanged, exalts man's horn; but riches dishonestly acquired and in the hands of fools, soon take their flight, their blossom quickly shed. As for thy sins with women, I pass them by, 'tis not for maiden's lips to mention them, but I will shrewdly hint thereat. And then thy arrogance! because forsooth thou hadst a palace and some looks to boast. May I never have a husband with a girl's face, but one that bears him like a man! For the children of these latter cling to a life of arms, while those, who are so fair to see, do only serve to grace the dance. Away from me!Spurning the corpse with her footTime has shown thy villainy, little as thou reckest of the forfeit thou hast paid for it. Let none suppose, though he have run the first stage of his course with joy, that he will get the better of justice, till he have reached the goal and ended his career.
LEADER OF THE CHORUSTerrible alike his crime and your revenge; for mighty is the power of justice.
ORESTES'Tis well. Carry his body within the house and hide it, sirrahs, that when my mother comes, she may not see his corpse before she is smitten herself.PYLADES and the attendants take the body into the hut.
ELECTRAHold! let us strike out another scheme.
ORESTESHow now? Are those allies from Mycenae whom I see?
ELECTRANo, 'tis my mother, that bare me.
ORESTESFull into the net she is rushing, oh, bravely!
ELECTRASee how proudly she rides in her chariot and fine robes!
ORESTESWhat must we do to our mother? Slay her?
ELECTRAWhat! has pity seized thee at sight of her?
ORESTESO God! how can I slay her that bare and suckled me?
ELECTRASlay her as she slew thy father and mine.
ORESTESO Phoebus, how foolish was thy oracle-
ELECTRAWhere Apollo errs, who shall be wise?
ORESTESIn bidding me commit this crime-my mother's murder!
ELECTRAHow canst thou be hurt by avenging thy father?
ORESTESThough pure before, I now shall carry into exile the stain of a mother's blood.
ELECTRAStill, if thou avenge not thy father, thou wilt fail in thy duty.
ORESTESAnd if I slay my mother, I must pay the penalty to her.
ELECTRAAnd so must thou to him, if thou resign the avenging of our father.
ORESTESSurely it was a fiend in the likeness of the god that ordered this!
ELECTRASeated on the holy tripod? I think not so.
ORESTESI cannot believe this oracle was meant.
ELECTRATurn not coward! Cast not thy manliness away!
ORESTESAm I to devise the same crafty scheme for her?
ELECTRAThe self-same death thou didst mete out to her lord Aegisthus.
ORESTESI will go in; 'tis an awful task I undertake; an awful deed I have to do; still if it is Heaven's will, be it so; I loathe and yet I love the enterprise.As ORESTES withdraws into the hut, CLYTEMNESTRA enters in a chariot. Her attendants are hand-maidens attired in gorgeous apparel.
CHORUS singingHail! Queen of Argos, daughter of Tyndareus, sister of those two noble sons of Zeus, who dwell in the flame-lit firmament amid the stars, whose guerdon high it is to save the sailor tossing on the sea. All hail! because of thy wealth and high prosperity, I do thee homage as I do the blessed gods. Now is the time, great queen, for us to pay our court unto thy fortunes.
CLYTEMNESTRAAlight from the car, ye Trojan maids, and take my hand that I may step down from the chariot. With Trojan spoils the temples of the gods are decked, but I have obtained these maidens as a special gift from Troy, in return for my lost daughter, a trifling boon no doubt, but still an ornament to my house.
ELECTRAAnd may not I, mother, take that highly-favoured hand of thine? I am a slave like them, an exile from my father's halls in this miserable abode.
CLYTEMNESTRASee, my servants are here; trouble not on my account.
ELECTRAWhy, thou didst make me thy prisoner by robbing me of my home; like these I became a captive when my home was taken, an orphan all forlorn.
CLYTEMNESTRATrue; but thy father plotted so wickedly against those of his own kin whom least of all he should have treated so. Speak I must; albeit, when woman gets an evil reputation, there is a feeling of bitterness against all she says; unfairly indeed in my case, for it were only fair to hate after learning the circumstances, and seeing if the object deserves it; otherwise, why hate at all? Now Tyndareus bestowed me on thy father not that I or any children I might bear should be slain. Yet he went and took my daughter from our house to the fleet at Aulis, persuading me that Achilles was to wed her; and there he held her o'er the pyre, and cut Iphigenia's snowy throat. Had he slain her to save his city from capture, or to benefit his house, or to preserve his other children, a sacrifice of one for many, could have pardoned him. But, as it was, his reasons for murdering my child were these: the wantonness of Helen and her husband's folly in not punishing the traitress. Still, wronged as I was, my rage had not burst forth for this, nor would I have slain my lord, had he not returned to me with that frenzied maiden and made her his mistress, keeping at once two brides beneath the same roof. Women maybe are given to folly, I do not deny it; this granted, when a husband goes astray and sets aside his own true wife, she fain will follow his example and find another love; and then in our case hot abuse is heard, while the men, who are to blame for this, escape without a word. Again, suppose Menelaus had been secretly snatched from his home, should I have had to kill Orestes to save Menelaus, my sister's husband? How would thy father have endured this? Was he then to escape death for slaying what was mine, while I was to suffer at his hands? I slew him, turning, as my only course, to his enemies. For which of all thy father's friends would have joined me in his murder? Speak all that is in thy heart, and prove against me with all free speech, that thy father's death was not deserved.
ELECTRAJustly urged! but thy justice is not free from shame; for in all things should every woman of sense yield to her husband. Whoso thinketh otherwise comes not within the scope of what I say. Remember, mother, those last words of thine, allowing me free utterance before thee.
CLYTEMNESTRADaughter, far from refusing it, I grant it again.
ELECTRAThou wilt not, when thou hearest, wreak thy vengeance on me?
CLYTEMNESTRANo, indeed; I shall welcome thy opinion.
ELECTRAThen will I speak, and this shall be the prelude of my speech: Ah, mother mine! would thou hadst had a better heart; for though thy beauty and Helen's win you praises well deserved, yet are ye akin in nature, pair of wantons, unworthy of Castor. She was carried off, 'tis true, but her fall was voluntary: and thou hast slain the bravest soul in Hellas, excusing thyself on the ground that thou didst kill a husband to avenge a daughter; the world does not know thee so well as I do, thou who before ever thy daughter's death was decided, yea, soon as thy lord had started from his home, wert combing thy golden tresses at thy mirror. That wife who, when her lord is gone from home, sets to beautifying herself, strike off from virtue's list; for she has no need to carry her beauty abroad, save she is seeking some mischief. Of all the wives in Hellas thou wert the only one I know who wert overjoyed when Troy's star was in the ascendant, while, if it set, thy brow was clouded, since thou hadst no wish that Agamemnon should return from Troy. And yet thou couldst have played a virtuous part to thy own glory. The husband thou hadst was no whit inferior to Aegisthus, for he it was whom Hellas chose to be her captain. And when thy sister Helen wrought that deed of shame, thou couldst have won thyself great glory, for vice is a warning and calls attention to virtue. If, as thou allegest, my father slew thy daughter, what is the wrong I and my brother have done thee? How was it thou didst not bestow on us our father's halls after thy husband's death, instead of bartering them to buy a paramour? Again, thy husband is not exiled for thy son's sake, nor is he slain to avenge my death, although by him this life is quenched twice as much as e'er my sister's was; so if murder is to succeed murder in requital, I and thy son Orestes must slay thee to avenge our father; if that was just, why so is this. Whoso fixes his gaze on wealth or noble birth and weds a wicked woman, is a fool; better is a humble partner in his home, if she be virtuous, than a proud one.
LEADER OF THE CHORUSChance rules the marriages of women; some I see turn out well, others ill amongst mankind.
CLYTEMNESTRADaughter, 'twas ever thy nature to love thy father. This too one finds; some sons cling to their father, others have a deeper affection for their mother. I will forgive thee, for myself am not so exceeding glad at the deed that I have done, my child. But thou,-why thus unwashed and clad in foul attire, now that the days of thy lying-in are accomplished? Ah me, for my sorry schemes! I have goaded my husband into anger more than e'er I should have done.
ELECTRAThy sorrow comes too late; the hour of remedy has gone from thee; my father is dead. Yet why not recall that exile, thy own wandering son?
CLYTEMNESTRAI am afraid; 'tis my interest, not his that I regard. For they say he is wroth for his father's murder.
ELECTRAWhy, then, dost thou encourage thy husband's bitterness against us?
CLYTEMNESTRA'Tis his way; thou too hast a stubborn nature.
ELECTRABecause I am grieved; yet will I check my spirit.
CLYTEMNESTRAI promise then he shall no longer oppress thee.
ELECTRAFrom living in my home he grows too proud.
CLYTEMNESTRANow there! 'tis thou that art fanning the quarrel into new life.
ELECTRAI say no more; my dread of him is even what it is.
CLYTEMNESTRAPeace! Enough of this. Why didst thou summon me, my child?
ELECTRAThou hast heard, I suppose, of my confinement; for this I pray thee, since I know not how, offer the customary sacrifice on the tenth day after birth, for I am a novice herein, never having had a child before.
CLYTEMNESTRAThis is work for another, even for her who delivered thee.
ELECTRAI was all alone in my travail and at the babe's birth.
CLYTEMNESTRADost live so far from neighbours?
ELECTRANo one cares to make the poor his friends.
CLYTEMNESTRAWell, I will go to offer to the gods a sacrifice for the child's completion of the days; and when I have done thee this service, I will seek the field where my husband is sacrificing to the Nymphs. Take this chariot hence, my servants, and tie the horses to the stalls; and when ye think that I have finished my offering to the gods, attend me, for I must likewise pleasure my lord.She goes into the hut.
ELECTRAEnter our humble cottage; but, prithee, take care that my smoke grimed walls soil not thy robes; now wilt thou offer to the gods a fitting sacrifice. There stands the basket ready, and the knife is sharpened, the same that slew the bull, by whose side thou soon wilt lie a corpse; and thou shalt be his bride in Hades' halls whose wife thou wast on earth. This is the boon I will grant thee, while thou shalt pay me for my father's blood.ELECTRA follows her into the hut.
Misery is changing sides; the breeze veers round, and now blows fair upon my house. The day is past when my chief fell murdered in his bath, and the roof and the very stones of the walls rang with this his cry: "O cruel wife, why art thou murdering me on my return to my dear country after ten long years?"
The tide is turning, and justice that pursues the faithless wife is drawing within its grasp the murderess, who slew her hapless lord, when he came home at last to these towering Cyclopean walls,-aye, with her own hand she smote him with the sharpened steel, herself the axe uplifting. Unhappy husband! whate'er the curse that possessed that wretched woman. Like a lioness of the hills that rangeth through the woodland for her prey, she wrought the deed.
CLYTEMNESTRA withinO my children, by Heaven I pray ye spare your mother.
CHORUS chantingDost hear her cries within the house?
CLYTEMNESTRAO God! ah me!
CHORUS chantingI too bewail thee, dying by thy children's hands. God deals out His justice in His good time. A cruel fate is thine, unhappy one; yet didst thou sin in murdering thy lord.ORESTES and ELECTRA come out of the hut, followed by attendants who are carrying the two corpses. The following lines between ELECTRA, ORESTES and the CHORUS are chanted.But lo! from the house they come, dabbled in their mother's fresh-spilt gore, their triumph proving the piteous butchery. There is not nor ev