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CREUSA, daughter of Erechtheus
XUTHUS, husband of CREUSA
PRIESTESS OF APOLLO
CHORUS OF HANDMAIDENS OF CREUSA
Before the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The sun is about to rise. MERCURY enters.
MERCURYAtlas, that on his brazen shoulders rollsMERCURY vanishes. ION and the attendants of the temple enter.
Yon heaven, the ancient mansion of the gods,
Was by a goddess sire to Maia; she
To supreme Jove bore me, and call'd me Hermes;
Attendant on the king, his high behests
I execute. To Delphi am I come,
This land where Phoebus from his central throne
Utters to mortals his high strain, declaring
The present and the future; this is the cause;
Greece hath a city of distinguish'd glory,
Which from the goddess of the golden lance
Received its name; Erechtheus was its king;
His daughter, call'd Creusa, to the embrace
Of nuptial love Apollo strain'd perforce,
Where northward points the rock beneath the heights
Crown'd with the Athenian citadel of Pallas,
Call'd Macrai by the lords of Attica.
Her growing burden, to her sire unknown
(Such was the pleasure of the god,) she bore,
Till in her secret chamber to a son
The rolling months gave birth: to the same cave,
Where by the enamour'd god she was compress'd,
Creusa bore the infant: there for death
Exposed him in a well-compacted ark
Of circular form, observant of the customs
Drawn from her great progenitors, and chief
From Erichthonius, who from the Attic earth
Deriv'd his origin: to him as guards
Minerva gave two dragons, and in charge
Consign'd him to the daughters of Aglauros:
This rite to the Erechthidae hence remains,
Mid serpents wreathed in ductile gold to nurse
Their children. What of ornament she had
She hung around her son, and left him thus
To perish. But to me his earnest prayer
Phoebus applied, "To the high-lineaged sons
Of glorious Athens go, my brother; well
Thou know'st the city of Pallas; from the cave
Deep in the hollow rock a new-born babe,
Laid as he is, and all his vestments with him;
Bring to thy brother to my shrine, and place
At the entrance of my temple; of the rest
(For, know, the child is mine) I will take care."
To gratify my brother thence I bore
The osier-woven ark, and placed the boy
Here at the temple's base, the wreathed lid
Uncovering, that the infant might be seen.
It chanced, as the orient sun the steep of heav'n
Ascended, to the god's oracular seat
The priestess entering, on the infant cast
Her eye, and marvelled, deeming that some nymph
Of Delphi at the fane had dared to lay
The secret burden of her womb: this thought
Prompts her to move it from the shrine: but soon
To pity she resign'd the harsh intent;
The impulse of the god secretly acting
In favour of the child, that in his temple
It might abide; her gentle hand then took it,
And gave it nurture; yet conceived she not
That Phoebus was the sire, nor who the mother
Knew aught, nor of his parents could the child
Give information. All his youthful years
Sportive he wandered round the shrine, and there
Was fed: but when his firmer age advanced
To manhood, o'er the treasures of the god
The Delphians placed him, to his faithful care
Consigning all; and in this royal dome
His hallow'd life he to this hour hath pass'd.
Meantime Creusa, mother of the child,
To Xuthus was espoused, the occasion this:-
On Athens from Euboean Chalcis roll'd
The waves of war; be join'd their martial toil,
And with his spear repell'd the foe; for this
To the proud honour of Creusa's bed
Advanc'd; no native, in Achaea sprung
From Aeolus, the son of Jove. Long time
Unbless'd with children, to the oracular shrine
Of Phoebus are they come, through fond desire
Of progeny: to this the god hath brought
The fortune of his son, nor, as was deem'd,
Forgets him; but to Xuthus, when he stands
This sacred seat consulting, will he give
That son, declared his offspring; that the child,
When to Creusa's house brought back, by her
May be agnized; the bridal rites of Phoebus
Kept secret, that the youth may claim the state
Due to his birth, through all the states of Greece
Named Ion, founder of the colonies
On the Asiatic coast. The laurell'd cave
Now will I visit, there to learn what fortune
Is to the boy appointed, for I see
This son of Phoebus issuing forth to adorn
The gates before the shrine with laurel boughs.
First of the gods I hail him by the name
Of Ion, which his fortune soon will give him.
ION chantingNow flames this radiant chariot of the sunThe attendants leave. ION busies himself before the temple as he continues to sing.
High o'er the earth, at whose ethereal fire
The stars into the sacred night retreat:
O'er the Parnassian cliffs the ascending wheels
To mortals roll the beams of day; the wreaths
Of incense-breathing myrrh mount to the roof
Of Phoebus' fane; the Delphic priestess now
Assumes her seat, and from the hallow'd tripod
Pronounces to the Greeks the oracular strains
Which the god dictates. Haste, ye Delphic train,
Haste to Castalia's silver-streaming fount;
Bathed in its chaste dews to the temple go;
There from your guarded mouths no sound be heard
But of good omen, that to those who crave
Admission to the oracle, your voice
May with auspicious words expound the answers.
My task, which from my early infancy
Hath been my charge, shall be with laurel boughs
And sacred wreaths to cleanse the vestibule
Of Phoebus, on the pavement moistening dews
To rain, and with my bow to chase the birds
Which would defile the hallow'd ornaments.
A mother's fondness, and a father's care
I never knew: the temple of the god
Claims then my service, for it nurtured me.The CHORUS enters. The following lines between ION and the CHORUS are chanted responsively as they gaze admiringly at the decorations on the temple.
Haste, thou verdant new-sprung bough,
Haste, thy early office know;
Branch of beauteous laurel come,
Sweep Apollo's sacred dome,
Cropp'd this temple's base beneath,
Where the immortal gardens breathe,
And eternal dews that round
Water the delicious ground,
Bathe the myrtle's tresses fair.
Lightly thus, with constant care,
The pavement of the god I sweep,
When over the Parnassian steep
Flames the bright sun's mounting ray;
This my task each rising day.
Son of Latona, Paean, Paean, hail!
Never, O never may thy honours fail!
Grateful is my task, who wait
Serving, Phoebus, at thy gate;
Honouring thus thy hallow'd shrine,
Honour for the task is mine.
Labouring with unwilling hands,
Me no mortal man commands:
But, immortal gods, to you
All my pleasing toil is due.
Phoebus is to me a sire;
Grateful thoughts my soul inspire;
Nurtured by thy bounty here,
Thee, Apollo, I revere;
As a father's I repeat.
Son of Latona, Paean, Paean, hail!
Never, O never may thy honours fail!
Now from this labour with the laurel bough
I cease; and sprinkling from the golden vase
The chaste drops which Castalia's fountain rolls,
Bedew the pavement. Never may I quit
This office to the god; or, if I quit it,
Be it, good Fortune, at thy favouring call!
But see, the early birds have left their nests,
And this way from Parnassus wing their flight.
Come not, I charge you, near the battlements,
Nor near the golden dome. Herald of Jove,
Strong though thy beak beyond the feather'd kind,
My bow shall reach thee. Towards the altar, see,
A swan comes sailing: elsewhere wilt thou move
Thy scarlet-tinctured foot? or from my bow
The lyre of Phoebus to thy notes attuned
Will not protect thee; farther stretch thy wings;
Go, wanton, skim along the Delian lake,
Or wilt thou steep thy melody in blood.
Look, what strange bird comes onwards; wouldst thou fix
Beneath the battlements thy straw-built nest?
My singing bow shall drive thee hence; begone,
Or to the banks of Alpheus, gulfy stream,
Or to the Isthmian grove; there hatch thy young;
Mar not these pendent ornaments, nor soil
The temple of the god: I would not kill you:
'Twere pity, for to mortal man you bear
The message of the gods; yet my due task
Must be perform'd, and never will I cease
My service to the god who nurtured me.
CHORUSThe stately column, and the gorgeous dome
Raised to the gods, are not the boast alone
Of our magnificent Athens; nor the statues
That grace her streets; this temple of the god,
Son of Latona, beauteous to behold,
Beams the resplendent light of both her children.
IONTurn thine eyes this way; look, the son of Jove
Lops with his golden scimitar the heads
Of the Lernean Hydra: view it well.
CHORUSI see him.
IONAnd this other standing nigh,
Who snatches from the fire the blazing brand.
CHORUSWhat is his name? the subject, on the web
Design'd, these hands have wrought in ductile gold.
IONThe shield-supporting Iolaus, who bears
The toils in common with the son of Jove.
View now this hero; on his winged steed
The triple-bodied monster's dreadful force
He conquers through the flames his jaws emit.
CHORUSI view it all attentively.
The battle of the giants, on the walls
Sculptured in stone.
CHORUSLet us note this, my friends.
IONSee where against Enceladus she shakes
Her gorgon shield.
CHORUSI see my goddess, Pallas.
IONMark the tempestuous thunder's flaming bolt
Launch'd by the hand of Jove.
CHORUSThe furious Mimas
Here blazes in the volley'd fires: and there
Another earth-born monster falls beneath
The wand of Bacchus wreathed with ivy round,
No martial spear. But, as 'tis thine to tend
This temple, let me ask thee, is it lawful,
Leaving our sandals, its interior parts
IONStrangers, this is not permitted.
CHORUSYet may we make inquiries of thee?
What wouldst thou know?
CHORUSWhether this temple's site
Be the earth's centre?
IONAy, with garlands hung,
And gorgons all around.
CHORUSSo fame reports.
IONIf at the gate the honey'd cake be offer'd,
Would you consult the oracle, advance
To the altar: till the hallow'd lamb has bled
In sacrifice, approach not the recess.
CHORUSI am instructed: what the god appoints
As laws, we wish not to transgress: without
Enough of ornament delights our eyes.
IONTake a full view of all; that is allow'd.
CHORUSTo view the inmost shrine was our lord's order.
IONWho are you call'd? Attendants on what house?
CHORUSOur lords inhabit the magnific domesCREUSA and attendants enter.
Of Pallas.-But she comes, of whom thou askest.
IONLady, whoe'er thou art, that liberal air
Speaks an exalted mind: there is a grace,
A dignity in those of noble birth,
That marks their high rank. Yet I marvel much
That from thy closed lids the trickling tear
Water'd thy beauteous cheeks, soon as thine eye
Beheld this chaste oracular seat of Phoebus.
What brings this sorrow, lady? All besides,
Viewing the temple of the god, are struck
With joy; thy melting eye o'erflows with tears.
CREUSANot without reason, stranger, art thou seized
With wonder at my tears: this sacred dome
Awakes the sad remembrance of things past.
I had my mind at home, though present here.
How wretched is our sex! And, O ye gods,
What deeds are yours! Where may we hope for right,
If by the injustice of your power undone?
IONWhy, lady, this inexplicable grief?
CREUSAIt matters not; my mind resumes its firmless:
I say no more; cease thy concern for me.
IONBut say, who art thou? whence? what country boasts
Thy birth? and by what name may we address thee?
CREUSACreusa is my name, drawn from Erechtheus
My high-born lineage; Athens gave me birth.
Illustrious is thy state; thy ancestry
So noble that I look with reverence on thee.
CREUSAHappy indeed is this, in nothing farther.
IONBut tell me, is it true what fame has blazon'd?
CREUSAWhat wouldst thou ask? Stranger, I wish to know.
IONSprung the first author of thy line from the earth?
CREUSAAy, Erichthonius; but my race avails not.
IONAnd did Minerva raise him from the earth?
CREUSAHeld in her virgin hands: she bore him not.
IONAnd gave him as the picture represents?
CREUSADaughters of Cecrops these, charged not to see him.
IONThe virgins ope'd the interdicted chest?
CREUSAAnd died, distaining with their blood the rock.
IONBut tell me, is this truth, or a vain rumour?
CREUSAWhat wouldst thou ask? I am not scant of time.
IONThy sisters did Erechtheus sacrifice?
CREUSAHe slew the virgins, victims for their country.
IONAnd thou of all thy sisters saved alone?
CREUSAI was an infant in my mother's arms.
IONAnd did the yawning earth swallow thy father?
CREUSABy Neptune's trident smote; and so he perish'd.
IONAnd Macrai call you not the fatal place?
CREUSAWhy dost thou ask? What thoughts hast thou recall'd?,
IONDoes Phoebus, do his lightnings honour it?
CREUSAHonour! Why this? Would I had never seen it!
IONWhy? Dost thou hate the place dear to the god?
CREUSANo: but for some base deed done in the cave.
IONBut what Athenian, lady, wedded thee?
CREUSAOf Athens none, but one of foreign birth.
IONWhat is his name? Noble he needs must be.
CREUSAXuthus, by Aeolus derived from Jove.
IONHow weds a stranger an Athenian born?
CREUSAEuboea is a state neighbouring on Athens.
IONA narrow sea flows, I have heard, between.
CREUSAJoining the Athenian arms, that state he wasted.
IONConfederate in the war, thence wedded thee?
CREUSAThe dowral meed of war, earn'd by his spear.
IONComest thou with him to Delphi, or alone?
CREUSAWith him, gone now to the Trophonian shrine.
IONTo view it, or consult the oracle?
CREUSABoth that and this, anxious for one response.
IONFor the earth's fruits consult you, or for children?
CREUSAThough wedded long, yet childless is our bed.
IONHast thou ne'er borne a child, that thou hast none?
CREUSAMy state devoid of children Phoebus knows.
IONBless'd in all else, luckless in this alone.
CREUSABut who art thou? Bless'd I pronounce thy mother.
IONCall'd as I am the servant of the god.
CREUSAPresented by some state, or sold to this?
IONI know not aught save this, I am the god's.
CREUSAAnd in my turn, stranger, I pity thee.
IONAs knowing not my mother, or my lineage.
CREUSAHast thou thy dwelling here, or in some house?
IONThe temple is my house, ev'n when I sleep.
CREUSAA child brought hither, or in riper years?
IONAn infant, as they say, who seem to know.
CREUSAWhat Delphian dame sustain'd thee at her breast?
IONI never knew a breast. She nourish'd me.
CREUSAWho, hapless youth? Diseased, I find disease.
IONThe priestess: as a mother I esteem her.
CREUSAWho to these manly years gave thee support?
IONThe altars, and the still-succeeding strangers.
CREUSAWretched, whoe'er she be, is she that bore thee.
IONI to some woman am perchance a shame.
CREUSAAre riches thine? Thou art well habited.
IONGraced with these vestments by the god I serve.
CREUSAHast thou made no attempt to trace thy birth?
IONI have no token, lady, for a proof.
CREUSAAh, like thy mother doth another suffer.
IONWho? tell me: shouldst thou help me, what a joy
CREUSAOne for whose sake I come before my husband.
IONSay for what end, that I may serve thee, lady.
CREUSATo ask a secret answer of the god.
IONSpeak it: my service shall procure the rest.
CREUSAHear then the tale: but Modesty restrains me.
IONAh, let her not; her power avails not here.
CREUSAMy friend then says that to the embrace of Phoebus-
IONA woman and a god! Say not so, stranger.
CREUSAShe bore a son: her father knew it not.
IONNot so: a mortal's baseness he disdains.
CREUSAThis she affirms; and this, poor wretch, she suffer'd.
IONWhat follow'd, if she knew the god's embrace?
CREUSAThe child, which hence had birth, she straight exposed.
IONThis exposed child, where is he? doth he live?
CREUSAThis no one knows; this wish I to inquire.
IONIf not alive, how probably destroyed?
CREUSATorn, she conjectures, by some beast of prey.
IONWhat ground hath she on which to build that thought?
CREUSAReturning to the place she found him not.
IONObserved she drops of blood distain the path?
CREUSANone, though with anxious heed she search'd around.
IONWhat time hath pass'd since thus the child was lost?
CREUSAWere he alive, his youth were such as thine.
IONThe god hath done him wrong: the unhappy mother-
CREUSAHath not to any child been mother since.
IONWhat if in secret Phoebus nurtures him!
CREUSAUnjust to enjoy alone a common right.
IONAh me! this cruel fate accords with mine.
CREUSAFor thee too thy unhappy mother mourns.
IONAh, melt me not to griefs I would forget!
CREUSAI will be silent: but impart thy aid.
IONSeest thou what most the inquiry will suppress?
CREUSAAnd to my wretched friend what is not ill?
IONHow shall the god what he would hide reveal?
CREUSAAs placed on the oracular seat of Greece.
IONThe deed must cause him shame: convict him not.
CREUSATo the poor sufferer 'tis the cause of grief.
IONIt cannot be; for who shall dare to give
The oracle? With justice would the god,
In his own dome affronted, pour on him
Severest vengeance, who should answer thee.
Desist then, lady: it becomes us ill,
In opposition to the god, to make
Inquiries at his shrine; by sacrifice
Before their altars, or the flight of birds,
Should we attempt to force the unwilling gods
To utter what they wish not, 'twere the excess
Of rudeness; what with violence we urge
'Gainst their consent would to no good avail us:
What their spontaneous grace confers on us,
That, lady, as a blessing we esteem.
LEADER OF THE CHORUSHow numberless the ills to mortal man,
And various in their form! One single blessing
By any one through life is scarcely found.
CREUSANor here, nor there, O Phoebus, art thou justXUTHUS and his retinue enter.
To her; though absent, yet her words are present.
Nor didst thou save thy son, whom it became thee
To save; nor, though a prophet, wilt thou speak
To the sad mother who inquires of thee;
That, if he is no more, to him a tomb
May rise; but, if he lives, that he may bless
His mother's eyes. But even thus behooves us
To omit these things, if by the god denied
To know what most I wish.-But, for I see
The noble Xuthus this way bend, return'd
From the Trophonian cave; before my husband
Resume not, generous stranger, this discourse,
Lest it might cause me shame that thus I act
In secret, and perchance lead on to questions
I would not have explain'd. Our hapless sex
Oft feel our husbands' rigour: with the bad
The virtuous they confound, and treat us harshly.
XUTHUSWith reverence to the god my first address
I pay: Hail, Phoebus! Lady, next to thee:
Absent so long, have I not caused thee fear?
CREUSANot much: as anxious thoughts 'gan rise, thou'rt come.
But, tell me, from Trophonius what reply
Bearest thou; what means whence offspring may arise?
XUTHUSUnmeet he held it to anticipate
The answer of the god: one thing he told me.
That childless I should not return, nor thou,
Home from the oracle.
Mother of Phoebus, be our coming hither
In lucky hour; and our connubial bed
Be by thy son made happier than before!
XUTHUSIt shall be so. But who is president here?
IONWithout, that charge is mine; within, devolved
On others, stranger, seated near the tripod;
The chiefs of Delphi these, chosen by lot.
XUTHUS'Tis well: all that I want is then complete.XUTHUS, after giving the laurel boughs to CREUSA, enters the temple.
Let me now enter: for the oracle
Is given, I hear, in common to all strangers
Before the shrine; on such a day, that falls
Propitious thus, the answer of the god
Would I receive: meanwhile, these laurel boughs
Bear round the altars; lady, breathe thy prayers
To every god, that from Apollo's shrine
I may bring back the promise of a son.
CREUSAIt shall, it shall be so. Should Phoebus nowCREUSA departs to the shrines in the outer precinct of the temple.
At least be willing to redress the fault
Of former times, he would not through the whole
Be friendly to us: yet will I accept
What he vouchsafes us, for he is a god.
IONWhy does this stranger always thus revileION goes out.
With obscure speech the god? Is it through love
Of her, for whom she asks? or to conceal
Some secret of importance? But to me
What is the daughter of Erechtheus? Naught
Concerns it me. Then let me to my task,
And sprinkle from the golden vase the dew.
Yet must I blame the god, if thus perforce
He mounts the bed of virgins, and by stealth
Becomes a father, leaving then his children
To die, regardless of them. Do not thou
Act thus; but, as thy power is great, respect
The virtues; for whoe'er, of mortal men,
Dares impious deeds, him the gods punish: how
Is it then just that you, who gave the laws
To mortals, should yourselves transgress those laws?,
If (though it is not thus, yet will I urge
The subject,)-if to mortals you shall pay
The penalty of forced embraces, thou,
Neptune, and Jove, that reigns supreme in heaven,
Will leave your temples treasureless by paying
The mulcts of your injustice: for unjust
You are, your pleasures to grave temperance
Preferring: and to men these deeds no more
Can it be just to charge as crimes, these deeds
If from the gods they imitate: on those
Who gave the ill examples falls the charge.
CHORUS singingstropheION re-enters.
Thee prompt to yield thy lenient aid,
And sooth a mother's pain:
And thee, my Pallas, martial maid,
I call: O, hear the strain!
Thou, whom the Titan from the head of Jove,
Prometheus, drew, bright Victory, come,
Descending from thy golden throne above;
Haste, goddess, to the Pythian dome,
Where Phoebus, from his central shrine,
Gives the oracle divine,
By the raving maid repeated,
On the hallow'd tripod seated:
O haste thee, goddess, and with thee
The daughter of Latona bring;
A virgin thou, a virgin she,
Sisters to the Delphian king;
Him, virgins, let your vows implore,
That now his pure oracular power
Will to Erechtheus' ancient line declare
The blessing of a long-expected heir!
To mortal man this promised grace
Sublimest pleasure brings,
When round the father's hearth a race
In blooming lustre springs.
The wealth, the honours, from their high-drawn line
From sire to son transmitted down,
Shall with fresh glory through their offspring shine,
And brighten with increased renown:
A guard, when ills begin to lower,
Dear in fortune's happier hour;
For their country's safety waking,
Firm in fight the strong spear shaking;
More than proud wealth's exhaustless store,
More than a monarch's bride to reign,
The dear delight, to virtue's lore
Careful the infant mind to train.
Doth any praise the childless state?
The joyless, loveless life I hate;
No; my desires to moderate wealth I bound,
But let me see my children smile around.
Ye rustic seats, Pan's dear delight;
Ye caves of Macrai's rocky height,
Where oft the social virgins meet,
And weave the dance with nimble feet;
Descendants from Aglauros they
In the third line, with festive play,
Minerva's hallow'd fane before
The verdant plain light-tripping o'er,
When thy pipe's quick-varying sound
Rings, O Pan, these caves around;
Where, by Apollo's love betray'd,
Her child some hapless mother laid,
Exposed to each night-prowling beast,
Or to the ravenous birds a feast;
For never have I heard it told,
Nor wrought it in historic gold,
That happiness attends the race,
When gods with mortals mix the embrace.
IONYe female train, that place yourselves around
This incense-breathing temple's base, your lord
Awaiting, hath he left the sacred tripod
And oracle, or stays he in the shrine,
Making inquiries of his childless state?
LEADER OF THE CHORUSYet in the temple, stranger, he remains.
IONBut he comes forth; the sounding doors announceXUTHUS enters from the temple. He rushes to greet ION.
His near approach; behold, our lord is here.
XUTHUSHealth to my son! This first address is proper.
IONI have my health: be in thy senses thou,
And both are well.
XUTHUSO let me kiss thy hand,
And throw mine arms around thee.
IONArt thou, stranger,
Well in thy wits? or hath the god's displeasure
Bereft thee of thy reason?
That which is dearest being found, to wish
A fond embrace.
IONOff, touch me not; thy hands
Will mar the garlands of the god.
Asserts no pledge: my own, and that most dear,
IONWilt thou not keep thee distant, ere
Thou hast my arrow in thy heart?
XUTHUSWhy fly me,
When thou shouldst own what is most fond of thee?
IONI am not fond of curing wayward strangers,
XUTHUSKill me, raise my funeral pyre;
But, if thou kill me, thou wilt kill thy father.
IONMy father thou! how so? it makes me laugh
To hear thee.
XUTHUSThis my words may soon explain.
IONWhat wilt thou say to me?
XUTHUSI am thy father,
And thou my son.
IONWho declares this?
That nurtured thee, though mine.
IONThou to thyself
XUTHUSBy the oracle inform'd.
IONMisled by some dark answer.
XUTHUSWell I heard it.
IONWhat were the words of Phoebus?
XUTHUSThat who first
Should meet me-
XUTHUSAs I pass'd.
Forth from the temple.
IONWhat the event to him?
XUTHUSHe is my son.
IONBorn so, or by some other
XUTHUSThough a present, born my son.
IONAnd didst thou first meet me?
XUTHUSNone else, my son.
IONThis fortune whence?
XUTHUSAt that we marvel both.
IONWho is my mother?
XUTHUSThat I cannot say.
IONDid not the god inform thee?
XUTHUSThrough my joy,
For this I ask'd not.
IONHaply from the earth
I sprung, my mother.
XUTHUSNo, the earth no sons
IONHow then am I thine?
XUTHUSI know not.
To Phoebus I appeal.
IONBe this discourse
Chang'd to some other.
XUTHUSThis delights me most.
IONHast thou e'er mounted an unlawful bed?
XUTHUSIn foolishness of youth.
IONWas that before
Thy marriage with the daughter of Erechtheus?
IONOwe I then my birth to that?
XUTHUSThe time agrees.
IONHow came I hither then?
XUTHUSI can form no conjecture.
IONWas I brought
From some far distant part?
XUTHUSThat fills my mind
With doubtful musing.
IONDidst thou e'er before
Visit the Pythian rock?
XUTHUSOnce, at the feast
IONBy some public host received?
XUTHUSWho with the Delphian damsels-
IONTo the orgies
Led thee, or how?
XUTHUSAnd with the Maenades
IONIn the temperate hour, or warm
XUTHUSAmid the revels of the god.
IONFrom thence I date my birth.
XUTHUSAnd fate, my son,
Hath found thee.
IONHow then came I to the temple?
IONThe state of servitude
Have I escaped.
XUTHUSThy father now, my son,
IONIndecent were it in the god
Not to confide.
XUTHUSThy thoughts are just.
XUTHUSThou seest what thou oughtst to see.
IONAm I the son then of the son of Jove?
XUTHUSSuch is thy fortune.
IONThose that gave me birth
Do I embrace?
XUTHUSObedient to the god.
IONMy father, hail!
XUTHUSThat dear name I accept
IONThis present day-
XUTHUSHath made me happy.
IONO my dear mother, when shall I behold
Thy face? Whoe'er thou art, more wish I now
To see thee than before; but thou perchance
Art dead, and nothing our desires avail.
LEADERWe in the blessing of our house rejoice.
Yet wish we that our mistress too were happy
In children, and the lineage of Erechtheus.
XUTHUSWell hath the god accomplish'd this, my son,
Discovering thee, well hath he joined thee to me;
And thou hast found the most endearing ties,
To which, before this hour, thou wast a stranger.
And the warm wish, which thou hast well conceived,
Is likewise mine, that thou mayst find thy mother;
I from what woman thou derivest thy birth.
This, left to time, may haply be discover'd.
Now quit this hallow'd earth, the god no more
Attending, and to mine accord thy mind,
To visit Athens, where thy father's sceptre,
No mean one, waits thee, and abundant wealth:
Nor, though thou grieve one parent yet unknown,
Shalt thou be censured as ignobly born,
Or poor: no, thou art noble, and thy state
Adorn'd with rich possessions. Thou art silent.
Why is thine eye thus fixed upon the ground?
Why on thy brow that cloud? The smile of joy
Vanish'd, thou strikest thy father's heart with fear.
IONFar other things appear when nigh, than seen
At distance. I indeed embrace my fortune,
In thee my father found. But hear what now
Wakes sad reflections. Proud of their high race
Are your Athenians, natives of the land,
Not drawn from foreign lineage: I to them
Shall come unwelcome, in two points defective,
My father not a native, and myself
Of spurious birth: loaded with this reproach,
If destitute of power, I shall be held
Abject and worthless: should I rush among
The highest order of the state, and wish
To appear important, inferior ranks
Will hate me; aught above them gives disgust.
The good, the wise, men form'd to serve the state,
Are silent, nor at public honours aim
Too hastily: by such, were I not quiet
In such a bustling state, I should be deem'd
Ridiculous, and proverb'd for a fool.
Should I attain the dignity of those,
Whose approved worth hath raised them to the height
Of public honours, by such suffrage more
Should I be watch'd; for they that hold in states
Rule and pre-eminence, bear hostile minds
To all that vie with them. And should I come
To a strange house a stranger, to a woman
Childless herself, who that misfortune shared
Before with thee, now sees it her sole lot,
And feels it bitterly, would she not hate me,
And that with justice? When I stand before them.
With what an eye would she, who hath no child,
Look on thy child? In tenderness to her,
Thy wife, thou must forsake me, or embroil
Thy house in discord, if thou favour me.
What murderous means, what poisonous drugs for men
Have women with inventive rage prepared!
Besides, I have much pity for thy wife,
Now growing old without a child, that grief
Unmerited, the last of her high race,
The exterior face indeed of royalty,
So causelessly commended, bath its brightness;
Within, all gloom: for what sweet peace of mind,
What happiness is his, whose years are pass'd
In comfortless suspicion, and the dread
Of violence? Be mine the humble blessings
Of private life, rather than be a king,
From the flagitious forced to choose my friends,
And hate the virtuous through the fear of death.
Gold, thou mayst tell me, hath o'er things like these
A sovereign power, and riches give delight:
I have no pleasure in this noisy pomp,
Nor, while I guard my riches, in the toil:
Be mine a modest mean that knows not care.
And now, my father, hear the happy state
I here enjoy'd; and first, to mortal man
That dearest blessing, leisure, and no bustle
To cause disturbance: me no ruffian force
Shoved from the way: it is not to be borne,
When every insolent and worthless wretch
Makes you give place. The worship of the god
Employ'd my life, or (no unpleasing task)
Service to men well pleased: the parting guest
I bade farewell-welcomed the new-arrived.
Thus something always new made every hour
Glide sweetly on; and to the human mind
That dearest wish, though some regard it not,
To be, what duty and my nature made me,
Just to the god: revolving this, my father,
I wish not for thy Athens to exchange
This state; permit me to myself to live;
Dear to the mind pleasures that arise
From humble life, as those which greatness brings.
LEADERWell hast thou said, if those whom my soul holds
Most dear shall in thy words find happiness.
XUTHUSNo more of this discourse; learn to be happy.
It is my will that thou begin it here,
Where first I found thee, son: a general feast
Will I provide, and make a sacrifice,
Which at thy birth I made not: at my table
Will I receive thee as a welcome guest,
And cheer thee with the banquet, then conduct the
To Athens with me as a visitant,
Not as my son: for, mid my happiness,
I would not grieve my wife, who hath no child.
IONBut I will watch the occasions time may bring,
And so present thee, and obtain her leave
That thou mayst hold the sceptre which I bear.
Ion I name thee, as befits thy fortune,
As first thou met'st me from the hallow'd shrine
As I came forth; assemble then thy friends,
Invite them all to share the joyful feast,
Since thou art soon to leave the Delphic state.
And you, ye females, keep, I charge you, keep
This secret; she that tells my wife shall die.
IONLet us then go; yet one thing to my fortuneXUTHUS and ION go out.
Is wanting: if I find not her that bore me,
Life hath no joy. Might I indulge a wish,
It were to find her an Athenian dame,
That from my mother I might dare to assume
Some confidence; for he whose fortune leads him
To a free state proud of their unmix'd race,
Though call'd a citizen, must close his lips
With servile awe, for freedom is not his.
CHORUS singingstropheCREUSA and her aged TUTOR enter.
Yes, sisters, yes, the streaming eye,
The swelling heart I see, the bursting sigh,
When thus rejoicing in his son
Our queen her royal lord shall find,
And give to grief her anguish'd mind,
Afflicted, childless, and alone.
What means this voice divine,
Son of Latona, fate-declaring power?
Whence is this youth, so fondly graced,
That to ripe manhood, from his infant hour,
Hath in thy hallow'd courts been plac'd
And nurtured at thy shrine?
Thy dark reply delights not me;
Lurking beneath close fraud I see:
Where will this end? I fear, I fear-
'Tis strange, and strange events must hence ensue:
But grateful sounds it to his ear,
The youth, that in another's state
(Who sees not that my words are true?)
Enjoys the fraud, and triumphs in his fate.
Say, sisters, say, with duteous zeal
Shall we this secret to our queen reveal?
She, to her royal lord resign'd,
With equal hope, with equal care,
Form'd her his joys, his griefs to share,
And gave him an her willing mind.
But joys are his alone;
While she, poor mourner, with a weight of woes,
To hoary age advancing, bends;
He the bright smile of prosperous fortune knows.
Ev'n thus, unhonour'd by his friends,
Plac'd on another's throne,
Mischance and ruin on him wait,
Who fails to guard its happy state.
Him may mischance and ruin seize,
Who round my lov'd queen spreads his wily trains.
No god may his oblation please,
No favouring flame to him ascend!
To her my faith, my zeal remains,
Known to her ancient royal house a friend.
Now the father and the new-found son
The festive table haste to spread,
Where to the skies Parnassus lifts his head,
And deep beneath the hanging stone
Forms in its rudely-rifted side
A cavern wild and wide;
Where Bacchus, shaking high his midnight flames,
In many a light fantastic round
Dances o'er the craggy ground,
And revels with his frantic dames.
Ne'er to my city let him come,
This youth: no, rather let him die,
And sink into an early tomb!
With an indignant eye
Athens would view the stranger's pride
Within her gates triumphant ride:
Enough for her the honour'd race that springs
From old Erechtheus and her line of kings.
CREUSAThou venerable man, whose guiding voice
My father, while he lived, revered, advance
Up to the oracular seat thy aged steps;
That, if the royal Phoebus should pronounce
Promise of offspring, thou with me mayst share
The joy; for pleasing is it when with friends
Good fortune we receive; if aught of ill
(Avert it, Heaven!) befalls, a friend's kind eye
Beams comfort; thee, as once thou didst revere
My father, though thy queen, I now revere.
TUTORIn thee, my child, the nobleness of manners
Which graced thy royal ancestors yet lives;
Thou never wilt disgrace thy high-born lineage.
Lead me, then, lead me to the shrine, support me:
High is the oracular seat, and steep the ascent;
Be thou assistant to the foot of age.
CREUSAFollow; be heedful where thou set thy steps.
TUTORI am: my foot is slow, my heart hath wings.
CREUSAFix thy staff firm on this loose-rolling ground.
TUTORThat hath no eyes; and dim indeed my sight.
CREUSAWell hast thou said; on cheerful then, and faint not.
TUTORI have the will, but o'er constraint no power.
CREUSAYe females, on my richly-broider'd works
Faithful attendants, say, respecting children,
For which we came, what fortune hath my lord
Borne hence? if good, declare it: you shall find
That to no thankless masters you give joy.
LEADER OF THE CHORUSO fortune!
CREUSATo thy speech this is a proem
Not tuned to happiness.
But why distress me for the oracle
Given to our lords? Be that as fate requires
In things which threaten death, what shall we do?
CREUSAWhat means this strain of woe? Whence are these fears?
LEADERWhat! shall we speak, or bury this in silence?
CREUSASpeak, though thy words bring wretchedness to me.
LEADERIt shall be spoken, were I twice to die.
To thee, my queen, it is not given to clasp
In thy fond arms a child, or at thy breast
To hold it.
TUTORO my child, would I were dead!
CREUSAYes, this is wretchedness indeed, a grief
That makes life joyless.
TUTORThis is ruin to us.
CREUSAUnhappy me! this is a piercing grief,
That rends my heart with anguish.
TUTORGroan not yet.
CREUSAYet is the affliction present.
TUTORTill we learn-
CREUSATo me what tidings?
TUTORIf a common fate
Await our lord, partaker of thy griefs,
Or thou alone art thus unfortunate.
LEADERTo him, old man, the god hath given a son,
And happiness is his unknown to her.
CREUSATo ill this adds the deepest ill, a grief
For me to mourn.
TUTORBorn of some other woman
Is this child yet to come, or did the god
Declare one now in being?
To manhood's prime he gave him: I was present.
CREUSAWhat hast thou said? Thy words denounce to me
Sorrows past speech, past utterance.
TUTORAnd to me.
CREUSAHow was this oracle accomplish'd? Tell me
With clearest circumstance: who is this youth?
LEADERHim as a son Apollo gave, whom first,
Departing from the god, thy lord should meet.
CREUSAO my unhappy fate! I then am left
Childless to pass my life, childless, alone,
Amid my lonely house! Who was declared?
Whom did the husband of this wretch first meet?
How meet him? Where behold him? Tell me all.
LEADERDost thou, my honoured mistress, call to mind
The youth that swept the temple? This is he.
CREUSAO, through the liquid air that I could fly,
Far from the land of Greece, ev'n to the stars
Fix'd in the western sky! Ah me, what grief,
What piercing grief is mine I
TUTORSay, by what name
Did he address his son, if thou hast heard it?
Or does it rest in silence, yet unknown?
LEADERIon, for that he first advanced to meet him.
TUTORAnd of what mother?
LEADERThat I could not learn:
Abrupt was his departure (to inform thee
Of all I know, old man) to sacrifice,
With hospitable rites, a birthday feast;
And in the hallow'd cave, from her apart,
With his new son to share the common banquet.
TUTORLady, we by thy husband are betrayed,
For I with thee am grieved, with contrived fraud
Insulted, from thy father's house cast forth.
I speak not this in hatred to thy lord,
But that I love thee more: a stranger he
Came to the city and thy royal house,
And wedded thee, all thy inheritance
Receiving, by some other woman now
Discover'd to have children privately:
How privately I'll tell thee: when he saw
Thou hadst no child, it pleased him not to bear
A fate like thine; but by some favourite slave,
His paramour by stealth, he hath a son.
Him to some Delphian gave he, distant far,
To educate; who to this sacred house
Consign'd, as secret here, received his nurture.
He knowing this, and that his son advanced
To manhood, urged thee to attend him hither,
Pleading thy childless state. Nor hath the god
Deceived thee: he deceived thee, and long since
Contrived this wily plan to rear his son,
That, if convicted, he might charge the god,
Himself excusing: should the fraud succeed,
He would observe the times when he might safely
Consign to him the empire of thy land.
And this new name was at his leisure form'd,
Ion, for that he came by chance to meet him.
I hate those ill-designing men, that form
Plans of injustice, and then gild them over
With artificial ornament: to me
Far dearer is the honest simple friend,
Than one whose quicker wit is train'd to ill.
And to complete this fraud, thou shalt be urged
To take into thy house, to lord it there,
This low-born youth, this offspring of a slave.
Though ill, it had been open, had he pleaded
Thy want of children, and, thy leave obtain'd,
Brought to thy house a son that could have boasted
His mother noble; or, if that displeased thee,
He might have sought a wife from Aeolus.
Behooves thee then to act a woman's part,
Or grasp the sword, or drug the poison'd bowl,
Or plan some deep design to kill thy husband,
And this his son, before thou find thy death
From them: if thou delay, thy life is lost:
For when beneath one roof two foes are met,
The one must perish. I with ready zeal
Will aid thee in this work, and kill the youth,
Entering the grot where he prepares the feast;
Indifferent in my choice, so that I pay
What to my lords I owe, to live or die.
If there is aught that causes slaves to blush,
It is the name; in all else than the free
The slave is nothing worse, if he be virtuous.
I too, my honour'd queen, with cheerful mind
Will share thy fate, or die, or live with honour.
CREUSA chantingHow, o my soul, shall I be silent, how
Disclose this secret? Can I bid farewell
To modesty? What else restrains my tongue?
To how severe a trial am I brought!
Hath not my husband wrong'd me? Of my house
I am deprived, deprived of children; hope
Is vanish'd, which my heart could not resign,
With many an honest wish this furtive bed
Concealing, this lamented bed concealing.
But by the star-bespangled throne of Jove,
And by the goddess high above my rocks
Enshrined, by the moist banks that bend around
The hallow'd lake by Triton form'd, no longer
Will I conceal this bed, but ease my breast,
The oppressive load discharged. Mine eyes drop tears,
My soul is rent, to wretchedness ensnared
By men, by gods, whom I will now disclose,
Unkind betrayers of the beds they forced.
O thou, that wakest on thy seven-string'd lyre
Sweet notes, that from the rustic lifeless horn
Enchant the ear with heavenly melody,
Son of Latona, thee before this light
Will I reprove. Thou camest to me, with gold
Thy locks all glittering, as the vermeil flowers
I gather'd in my vest to deck my bosom
With the spring's glowing hues; in my white hand
Thy hand enlocking, to the cavern'd rock
Thou led'st me; naught avail'd my cries, that call'd
My mother; on thou led'st me, wanton god,
Immodestly, to Venus paying homage.
A son I bare thee, O my wretched fate!
Him (for I fear'd my mother) in thy cave
I placed, where I unhappy was undone
By thy unhappy love. Woe, woe is me!
And now my son and thine, ill-fated babe,
Is rent by ravenous vultures; thou, meanwhile,
Art to thy lyre attuning strains of joy.
Set of Latona, thee I call aloud
Who from thy golden seat, thy central throne,
Utterest thine oracle: my voice shall reach
Thine ear: ungrateful lover, to my husband,
No grace requiting, thou hast given a son
To bless his house; my son and thine, unown'd,
Perish'd a prey to birds; the robes that wrapp'd
The infant's limbs, his mother's work, lost with him.
Delos abhors thee, and the laurel boughs
With the soft foliage of the palm o'erhung,
Grasping whose round trunk with her hands divine,
Latona thee, her hallow'd offspring, bore.
LEADERAh, what a mighty treasury of ills
Is open'd here, a copious source of tears!
TUTORNever, my daughter, can I sate my eyes
With looking on thy face: astonishment
Bears me beyond my senses. I had stemm'd
One tide of evils, when another flood
High-surging overwhelm'd me from the words
Which thou hast utter'd, from the present ills
To an ill train of other woes transferr'd.
What say'st thou? Of what charge dost thou implead
The god? What son hast thou brought forth? Where placed him
A feast for vultures? Tell me all again.
CREUSAThough I must blush, old man, yet I will speak.
TUTORI mourn with generous grief at a friend's woes.
CREUSAHear then: the northward-pointing cave thou knowest,
And the Cecropian rocks, which we call Macrai.
TUTORWhere stands a shrine to Pan, and altars nigh.
CREUSAThere in a dreadful conflict I engaged.
TUTORWhat! my tears rise ready to meet thy words.
CREUSABy Phoebus drawn reluctant to his bed.
TUTORWas this, my daughter, such as I suppose?
CREUSAI know not: but if truth, I will confess it.
TUTORDidst thou in silence mourn this secret ill?
CREUSAThis was the grief I now disclose to thee.
TUTORThis love of Phoebus how didst thou conceal?
CREUSAI bore a son. Hear me, old man, with patience.
TUTORWhere? who assisted? or wast thou alone?
CREUSAAlone, in the same cave where compress'd.
TUTORWhere is thy son, that childless now no more
CREUSADead, good old man, to beasts of prey exposed.
TUTORDead! and the ungrateful Phoebus gives no aid?
CREUSANone: in the house of Pluto a young guest.
TUTORWhose hands exposed him? Surely not thine own.
CREUSAMine, in the shades of night, wrapp'd in his vests.
TUTORHadst thou none with thee conscious to this deed?
CREUSAMy misery, and the secret place alone.
TUTORHow durst thou in a cavern leave thy son?
CREUSAHow? uttering many sad and plaintive words.
TUTORAh, cruel was thy deed, the god more cruel.
CREUSAHadst thou but seen him stretch his little hands!
TUTORSeeking the breast, or reaching to thine arms?
CREUSATo this, deprived of which he suffer'd wrong.
TUTORAnd what induced thee to expose thy child?
CREUSAHope that the god's kind care would save his son.
TUTORHow are the glories of thy house destroy'd!
CREUSAWhy, thine head cover'd, dost thou pour these tears?
TUTORTo see thee and thy father thus unhappy.
CREUSAThis is the state of man: nothing stands firm.
TUTORNo longer then, my child, let grief oppress us.
CREUSAWhat should I do? In misery all is doubt.
TUTORFirst on the god that wrong'd thee be avenged.
CREUSAHow shall a mortal 'gainst a god prevail?
TUTORSet this revered oracular shrine on fire.
CREUSAI fear: ev'n now I have enough of ills.
TUTORAttempt what may be done then; kill thy husband.
CREUSAThe nuptial bed I reverence, and his goodness.
TUTORThis son then, which is now brought forth against thee.
CREUSAHow? Could that be, how warmly should I wish it.
TUTORThy train hath swords: instruct them to the deed.
CREUSAI go with speed: but where shall it be done?
TUTORIn the hallow'd tent, where now he feasts his friends.
CREUSAAn open murder, and with coward slaves!
TUTORIf mine displease, propose thou some design.
CREUSAI have it, close and easy to achieve.
TUTORIn both my faithful services are thine.
CREUSAHear then: not strange to thee the giants' war.
TUTORWhen they in Phlegra fought against the gods.
CREUSAThere the earth brought forth the Gorgon, horrid monster.
TUTORIn succour of her sons to annoy the gods?
CREUSAEv'n so: her Pallas slew, daughter of Jove.
TUTORWhat fierce and dreadful form did she then wear?
CREUSAHer breastplate arm'd with vipers wreathed around.
TUTORA well-known story; often have I heard it.
CREUSAHer spoils before her breast Minerva wore.
TUTORThe aegis; so they call the vest of Pallas.
CREUSASo named, when in the war she join'd the gods.
TUTORBut how can this, my child, annoy thy foes?
CREUSAThou canst not but remember Erichthonius.
TUTORWhom first of thy high race the earth brought forth.
CREUSATo him while yet an infant Pallas gave-
TUTORWhat? Thy slow preface raises expectation.
CREUSATwo drops of blood that from the Gorgon fell.
TUTORAnd on the human frame what power have these?
CREUSAThe one works death, the other heals disease.
TUTORIn what around the infant's body hung?
CREUSAEnclosed in gold: he gave them to my father.
TUTORAt his decease then they devolved to thee?
CREUSAAy, and I wear it as a bracelet; look.
TUTORTheir double qualities how temper'd, say.
CREUSAThis drop, which from her hollow vein distill'd,-
TUTORTo what effect applied? What is its power?
CREUSAMedicinal, of sovereign use to life.
TUTORThe other drop, what faculties hath that?
CREUSAIt kills, the poison of the Gorgon dragons.
TUTORAnd dost thou bear this gore blended in one?
CREUSANo, separate; for with ill good mixes not.
TUTORO my dear child, thou hast whate'er we want.
CREUSAWith this the boy shall die, and thou shalt kill him.
TUTORWhere? How? 'Tis thine to speak, to dare be mine.
CREUSAAt Athens, when he comes beneath my roof.
TUTORI like not this; what I proposed displeased.
CREUSADost thou surmise what enters now my thoughts?
TUTORSuspicion waits thee, though thou kill him not.
CREUSAThou hast judged well: a stepdame's hate is proverb'd.
TUTORThen kill him here; thou mayst disown the deed.
CREUSAMy mind ev'n now anticipates the pleasure.
TUTORThus shalt thou meet thy husband's wiles with wiles
CREUSAThis shalt thou do: this little golden casketShe gives him the casket.
Take from my hand, Minerva's gift of old;
To where my husband secretly prepares
The sacrifice, bear this beneath thy vest.
That supper ended, when they are to pour
Libations to the gods, thou mayst infuse
In the youth's goblet this: but take good heed,
Let none observe thee; drug his cup alone
Who thinks to lord it in my house: if once
It pass his lips, his foot shall never reach
Illustrious Athens: death awaits him here.
TUTORGo thou then to the hospitable houseThey both go out.
Prepared for thy reception: be it mine,
Obedient to thy word to do this deed.
Come then, my aged foot, be once more young
In act, though not in years, for past recall
That time is fled: kill him, and bear him forth.
Well may the prosperous harbour virtuous thought;
But when thou wouldst avenge thee on thy foes,
There is no law of weight to hinder thee.