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Four Plays of Aeschylus (Cookson)/The Suppliant Maidens

For other English-language translations of this work, see Suppliants (Aeschylus).

 

The Suppliant Maidens


Scene: Argos. A hill rises in the foreground, and on the summit of it stand altars and statues of many gods. Enter the fifty Danaides, with their slave girls, and Danaus.


Chorus.

Zeus, the Suppliant's God, be gracious to us,
Pitifully behold us, for fugitives are we;
Where the blown sand-dunes silt the mouths of Nilus,
There we took the highway of the blue, salt sea;
There looked our last at the land of Zeus, her borders
Lapped and lost in the Syrian marches wild,
Fleeing, not as outlaws banned for blood-guilt
Lest a people perish, but self-exiled.
No way but this to escape abhorred embraces,
Marriage rites unholy that true love shuns;
Better far lands and unfamiliar faces
Than wedded and bedded with King Ægyptus' sons.
As when hard pressed on the board a cautious player
This piece or that from a threatened square withdraws,
One move seemed best unto Danaus our father,
Counsel-in-chief and leader of our cause;
One woe to suffer—and that the noblest sorrow,
Seeing we were compassed in on every hand,—
Tarrying not, with the fleeting ocean billow
To fly till our keel touched the Argive strand,
Whence we boast ourselves sprung, from the breath of Zeus' nostrils,
And the touch of his procreant finger laid,
For a dynasty's founding, on a king's daughter,
Even the gnat-tormented heifer-maid.
What land but this would offer us a haven,
Where else the world o'er should we welcome find,
Having no arms but the suppliant's feeble weapons,
Boughs from the woodland plucked with white wool twined?
Realm, broad realm, brown land and sparkling water,
Gods of the sky and holy ones of earth,
Denizens of darkness that visit men with vengeance,
And in that Triad last named but chief in worth,
Zeus, the Protector of travel-weary pilgrims,
Keeper of the threshold never crossed by crime,
Send soft airs to greet our maiden meinie,
Winds of welcome blowing from a sweet, calm clime.
But the ungodly sons of King Ægyptus,
Bulls of the herd, ere they trample this fair ground,—
Loamy levels, tilth and fallow land and pasture,—
Far over ocean with their swift ship hound!
There let them meet with thunder-blast and lightning,
Wrath of leaping seas and spite of storm-swept rain;
There let destruction find them when rough winter
Looses the lash of the loud hurricane;
Ere they climb loth beds to make of us their minions,
Minions of their pleasure and playthings of their pride;
So kindred blood shall not serve to cool brute passion
Not by sweet exchange of hearts sanctified.

 

Youngling divine, I hail thee now,
From beyond the sea thine aid I invoke;
Son flower-fed of the Mother Cow,
Quick with Zeus' breath and his handstroke.
So of the dam with hoof and horn
And enchanted body a babe was born,
Man-child made for mortal lot,
Epaphus, the touch-begot.

The naming of thee where long ago
Our Mother roamed this pastoral earth,
And the calling to mind of a vanished woe
Shall bear witness in trials of later birth;
And more sorrow yet may come into ken,
Though we know not how and we guess not when,
Like ours of to-day and hers of old;
And these at long last shall Time unfold.


To one that watcheth the wild birds winging,
Here at ease in his native bower,
The suppliant song of an alien race
Chance-heard, shall seem as the sweet, sad singing
Of Tereus' Daulian paramour,
The nightingale hidden, the hawk in chase.

Spring and summer for sorrow she grieveth
Under the green leaves weeping her pain
And the life that was passed in homelessness:
Spring and summer the story she weaveth
Of the child .she bore by her own hand slain,
And the wrath of a mother pitiless.

I as the nightingale passioning for sorrow
To Ionian music tune my pipe,
And these soft cheeks feel the rain-worn furrow
That on Nilus' bank grew round and ripe:
For my heart hath learnt the meaning of tears,
And I fill my lap with blossoms pale
Gathered with grief in the wood of wail,
The better to hush these brooding fears
That are fain to know to what end I fare
From the land that lies dim in dust-veiled air,
If there be any who hearkens or hears.

Nay, but ye Gods of the bride-bed and begetting,
Hear me! Ye should be jealous for the Right!
Grudge lawless youth, with the hot blood fretting,
Lore that perfects passion's neophyte!
Set the brand of your scorn on lust that profanes,
And mingle love's rite with austerities sweet!
What is fiercer than war? Yet for war-weary feet
There standeth an altar, no sacrilege stains:
To what-so wight would from battle-carnage flee,
A refuge awe owns and a court of deity,
Where red-handed Havoc halts and refrains.

Saith the wise saw of old,
'The purpose Zeus doth hold
Next to his heart no hunter brings to bay.'
All Being in his sight
Flows in the main of light,
The mirrored glory of his perfect day,
Where man the babbler with vain lips
Sees but the secular dark of unrelieved eclipse.

The thing that he hath wrought
With brow-nod of calm thought
Fallen, stands fast, and, grappled, is not thrown.
His counsels tread the maze
Of labyrinthine ways
Through quicks, through glooms with umbrage overgrown;
And in that covert dark and shy
Bold riders check the rein, foiled is the keenest cry.

From towered bastions
Of Hope he plucks Time's sons
And tosses them to ruin. If one brace
The mettle weariless
Of Gods for his duress,
Pride pays with penal pangs, though throned in the holy place.

So let him mark afresh
How froward is this flesh,
How the polled trunk for lust of me doth grow
With many a stubborn shoot;
How pricks to mad pursuit
The unremitting goad, a curse, a cheat, a woe.

So to music impassioned,
Sung high, sung low,
With tears I have fashioned
Untuneable woe.
Alack! 'tis like mourner's grieving.
So sadly my quick spirit graces
With groanings of death griefs that live,
And I cry unto Apia's high places
My broken speech to forgive,
And falling down on my linen veil
I mar with rents its fabric frail,
Tissue of Sidon's weaving.

With amplest oblation
To high heaven we come,
For hope's consummation,
When death's wind is dumb;
But alack! for the woes dark-heaving,
The billow whose path none traces,
Nor what strand on its crest I shall reach!
I cry unto Apia's high places
To forgive my broken speech,
And falling oft on my linen veil
I rend and mar its fabric frail,
Tissue of Sidon's weaving.

Thus far the oar right well hath sped;
And the bark flax-sewn to fend salt seas,
With never a flaw in the following breeze
Nor winter storm to dread,
Hath constant been as my prayers and vows:
And I pray the Father that all doth scan,
Here on firm earth, that he may send
To well-begun a happy end;
So I, that seed am of his spouse
August, may flee the embrace of man
And live unlorded and unwed.

Zeus' daughter, vowed to maidenhead,
Look with a loving- eye on me,
That would keep chaste and pure as she,
Whose virgin arm the arrow sped
And slew the Hunter in his lust
Whom Opis tremblingly outran!
O maid unwon, a maiden grace
With all thy power in this sore chase,
That I, the seed of Zeus' spouse august,
May flee the violence of man
And live unlorded and unwed.

But, if these will not, then I will essay
The sun-loathed courts of Death,
Where never a sick soul is turned away
That wearies of this breath;
And, since Olympian Gods no help afford,
My corpse shall access find to Zeus, Earth's Lord,
When suppliant boughs shall be decked with the knotted cord.

Ah! Mother Io, thee wroth Gods amerce:
And of the courts celestial I know
That there dwell jealous wives who hate and curse;
For waves run high when breezes stiffly blow.

Then Right and Wrong shall be unreconciled;
And Justice shall upbraid
Zeus, that he honoured not the heifer's child,
Whom once of old he made,
If that at this late hour of time his eye
Be turnéd back when his own offspring cry:
Yet, when we call, he hears—he hears though throned on high.

Ah! Mother Io, thee wroth Gods amerce:
And of the courts celestial I know
That there dwell jealous wives who hate and curse!
For waves run high when breezes stiffly blow.

[During the preceding chorus Danaus has climbed to the top of the hill.]


Danaus.

Children, ye must be wise and circumspect:
Remember, a wise judgment holp ye hither,
With eld for pilot, safe and fatherly,
Across unruly seas. And here on land
I will take thought for you and keep you safe,
If ye set down my words in your heart's tables.
Far off I can discern a cloud of dust,
Ever the voiceless courier of hosts,
Before the noise of wheels reacheth the ear,
When axles pipe unheard. I can distinguish
An arméd mass, with shields and tossing spears,
Horses and chariots of war recurved.
'Tis likely that the Princes of this land
Have heard of us from messengers and come
To be their own intelligencers. Whether
They mean no harm, or sharp resentment speeds
This stern array, all things concur herein;
That ye, fair daughters, make this hill your seat;
Dear is it to the gods of festival,
Pastime and sport and peaceful rivalries.
More strong than castle tower an altar stands,
A buckler inexpugnably secure.
Then with all speed ascend; and with you take
In solemn ceremonial your wands
Wound with white favours that appeal to Zeus,
The God of Mercy. To these foreign lords
Answering in such wise as shall move their mercy,
With lamentations and all forms of speech
Proper to your necessity, and fit
For strangers in a strange land, plainly tell
The story of your flight, and how from blood
'Tis wholly free. Let nought of boldness wait
On your discourse: nothing of light or vain
Be seen, but downward looks, untroubled eyes:
Not forward in the telling of your tale,
Nor hanging back: 'tis easy to offend
The race that dwelleth here. Never forget
Your cue is to submit: ye come as poor
And needy suitors, aliens and exiles.
Bold speech consorts not with the weaker side.


Chorus.

Father, thy cautions find us well disposed
To prudent counsels, and thy wise precepts
I shall with all solicitude obey.
Zeus, our progenitor, watch over us.


Danaus.

Stay not: lay hold upon the means at hand.


Chorus.

I will be with you instantly. O Zeus,
Pity us, or we perish.

[They ascend the hill.]

 

Danaus.

May he look
Graciously on us: if it pleases him,
All will be well. Call now upon this child
Of Zeus.


Chorus.

I call upon the radiant Sun,
The saving source of health, to heal our woes,
And pure Apollo once exiled from heaven;
God though he is, he knows this earthly lot,
And feels perhaps for frail mortality.


Danaus.

May he in very deed commiserate
And stand a ready helper by our side.


Chorus.

Which of these Gods shall I next invoke?


Danaus.

I see
The trident of the Isthmian King.


Danaus.

He gave
Fair passage to our vessel: welcome fair
May he accord on land.


Danaus.

And here is Hermes,
After the way the Hellenes fashion him.


Chorus.

Well met indeed: I pray that he may prove
A herald of glad tidings.

 

Danaus.

Bend in awe
And adoration at the common altar
Of all these sovereignties. On holy ground
Crouch like a flock of doves that fear the hawk
For all his cousinship of wings. Even so
Fearful are ye of foes of your own blood
That would pollute your race. And if one fowl
Prey on another, how can it be pure?
And he who weds a bride against her will,
Her father not consenting, where shall he
Find purity? I trow, that when he's dead
The doer of this deed at Hades' bar
Shall stand arraigned not idly: even there,
So we believe, another Zeus holds court
Among the souls whose earthly race is run,
And passes final sentence on their crimes.
Look to yourselves, and to this lord return
Such answer, that ye fail not in your cause.


Enter King.


King.

What little band is this that I salute?
Whence come ye, not, as Hellenes are, attired,
But with barbaric bravery of robes,
And fine veils finished with the weaver's spathe?
These woman's weeds are not of Argolis
Nor any part of Hellas. Herald ye
Have none; nor minister to be your friend;
Nor guide in a strange land. And how ye dared
Adventure here, thus utterly forlorn,
Is matter for amazement. By your side
Before these Gods of Festival are laid
Branches that well accord with suppliant's law.
In Hellas that surmise confirms itself:
Fair dealing must conjecture all the rest,
Were there no living- voice to clear the doubt.


Chorus.

Touching our garb thy words are words of truth:
But how shall I address thee? Art thou one
Of the commonalty? Com'st with formal wand
Equipped for parle? Or as of this fair realm
Foremost and chief?


King.

Let not that vex thy heart:
Thou may'st with full assurance answer me.
I am the son of Palaechthon earth-born,
Pelasgus, of this soil the supreme lord.
And they who reap its fruits from me their king
Are called, with reason good, Pelasgians.
Over all ground towards the setting sun,
Wherethrough the Haliacmon flows, I reign.
Within my borders I include the land
Of the Perrhaebi, and the parts beyond
Pindus, adjoining the Chaonians,
With the high mountains of Dodona; west
I touch the salt, wet frontiers of the sea.
Thence all that stretches hitherward is mine,
The spot whereon we stand being Apia,
So called of old from one in medicine wise,
Apis, Apollo's son, prophet and healer,
Who from Naupactus crossed, beyond the gulf,
And purged this land of man-devouring beasts,
Which Earth, by bloody deeds done long ago,
Polluted and estranged, in mood most like
A step-dame, gendered, to dispute her soil
With man, his fanned and serpent brood-fellow.
For these did Apis on this Argive ground,
To its no small relief, with shredded herbs
And wholesome charms effect a perfect cure,
His fee, to be remembered in our prayers.
But, now that I have answered you, 'twere well
If one of ye declared what birth ye boast,
With brevity and clearness: this my realm
Hath little liking for long-drawn discourse.


Chorus.

Briefly and clearly then: Of Argive blood
We boast to be: the mother of our race
A cow made happy in the son she bare,
And I will fix upon this frame of truth
Its proper parts until the whole cohere.


King.

Women—strange women, ye compose a tale
Not credible. How can ye be of Argive blood,
More like to Libyans than our womankind?
Yea, such a plant might grow on Nilus' bank;
Methinks, these forms were coined in Cyprian mint
Struck to the life by your progenitors.
Stay: I have heard that nomads of your sex,
Horsed upon camels ride in cushioned selles
Along the coasts of Æthiopia:
They should resemble ye; or, on my life,
Had ye but bows I could have ta'en an oath
That ye were the unlorded Amazons
That fare on flesh. Ye must instruct me further;
I am to know more of this history
And how ye are a seed of Argive strain.


Chorus.

Runs not the story that on Argos' earth
Io once kept the keys of Hera's house?


King.

'Tis very sure she did: the fame thereof
Lives yet throughout the land.


Chorus.

And more by token;
The heart of Zeus was stung with love of her?


King.

Troth, 'twas no secret: Hera wrought amain
To foil his fancy.


Chorus.

And this royal quarrel
How doth it end in the story?


King.

The Argive goddess
Transformed the maid into a cow.


Chorus.

And Zeus
Is fain to have the comely beast fair-horned?


King.

Indeed the tale is told so: to that end
He wore the likeness of a lustful bull.

 

Chorus.

What counter-stroke to this dealt Zeus' haught Queen?


King.

Why, then she found a keeper for the cow,
Him that hath eyes which look all ways at once.


Chorus.

And what was he, this all-beholding one,
Sole neatherd of a solitary cow?


King.

Argus, earth's child, the same that Hermes slew.


Chorus.

And the device that followed? What thing else
Prepared she for the heifer heaven-accursed?


King.

She did afflict her with the gnat that stings,
A drover's goad-prick to stampeding kine.


Chorus.

They call him 'Gad-fly' on the banks of Nile.


King.

What? Did he drive her forth from her own land
As far as Nile?


Chorus.

He did so: and thy tale
Tallies in each particular with mine.


King.

And is it true then that she reached Canopus
And Memphis far inland?

 

Chorus.

Surely; and Zeus
By laying-on of hands raised up a son.


King.

Who then is he that boasts himself the calf
Zeus gendered on this cow?


Chorus.

Even Epaphus,
True title given from that divine caress.


King.

And Epaphus—had he issue?


Chorus.

He begat
Libya, the reaper of a third of earth,
Her amplest fields.


King.

What scion sprang from her?


Chorus.

My father's father, Bel, who had two sons.


King.

Tell me, I pray, thy sire's all-sapient name.


Chorus.

Danaus: he hath a brother who begot
Two score and ten sons.


King.

Prithee, indulge me further;
And let me hear by what name he is called?

 

Chorus.

Ægyptus. Now thou know'st my ancient line,
Stretch forth the hand of succour to raise up
Argives, that here have taken sanctuary.


King.

Anciently, I do verily believe,
A common tie unites ye to this land.
But how had ye the courage to forsake
The house of your fathers? What so sore mischance
Hath fallen on ye?


Chorus.

King of the Pelasgians!
Calamity is as a ruffling breeze
That glances through a thousand shifting forms;
Nor is there anywhere on earth a place
Where thou could 'st point and say, 'Here sorrow's wing
Keeps darkly constant to its native hue.'
For which of us in fancy ever dreamed
Of this unlocked for flight; or that a ship
Whereon we sailed should touch this Argive strand
Wherewith we had affinity of old;
Or that in distant Egypt wedlock scorned,
Unhappied by the hymenaeal choir,
Should be the cause of consequence so strange?


King.

What is the boon thou sayest thou dost crave
Here in the name of these Gods of festival,
Your branches fresh-plucked all with white enwound?

 

Chorus.

That I may ne'er become bondslave and thrall
Unto Ægyptus' race.


King.

And is it hate
That prompts thy plea, or reverence of law?


Chorus.

Nay, who amongst their own blood kin would buy
Their lords and masters?


King.

Yet it is a match
That makes for power.


Chorus.

And if misfortune come
Who cares if wife so wed be put away?


King.

What shall I do then that I may be found
To-you-ward a respecter of the Right?


Chorus.

Refuse to yield us up to Ægyptus' sons
When they demand us of thee.


King.

There thou broachest
Grave matters, that envisage dangerous war.


Chorus.

Yet Justice champions these that fight for her.


King.

If I had had my share in these events
From the beginning——

 

Chorus.

O! Assume it now!
And, as 'twere, this high deck and laurelled poop
Of a most stately vessel honour duly.


King.

Indeed, when I look round me and behold
This haunt of Gods all branched and shaded o'er,
I shudder.


Chorus.

Where is he who would not pause?
The wrath of Zeus the Suppliant's God is heavy.

Stop not thine ears, O son of Palaechthon,
Nor hold thy heart aloof, thou royal man,
But hearken when I cry to thee, whose throne
Is over this wide realm Pelasgian.
Behold, in me a suppliant sues for grace,
A hunted thing still forced to shift her ground,
Like to a heifer with the wolves in chase
That to the herd doth lowingly complain
Upon some rocky precipice crag-bound,
Trusting his strength and telling him her pain.


King.

Methinks I see this gathering of the Gods
Of festival, with branches freshly plucked
All shaded o'er, nodding in grave assent.
Oh, may your cause who claim to be our kin
Work us no mischief, nor on any hand
Strife grow from what we neither could foresee
Nor have provided for. That to this realm
Were an unwanted, a superfluous care.

 

Chorus.

Law that doth vindicate the suppliant's right,
Daughter of Zeus who deals the destiny,
Look to it that I bring not in my flight
Mischief and wrong that wreck felicity.
And, thou with eld's too sober wisdom wise,
From younger hearts 'tis not too late to learn,
The noblest offering, purest sacrifice
On altars of oblation ever laid,
Sweeter than sweetest essence faith can burn,
Is mercy to the weak that ask for aid.


King.

It is not at my private hearth ye sit;
And if some public mischief be afoot
Then must the commons of this realm work out
Such expiation as shall cleanse them all.
Myself might tender no effectual pledge
But with the privity of all free men.


Chorus.

Thou art both liberty and law
And commonalty; thine
An absolute prerogative
No captious rights confine;
Thou rul'st the hearth place of thy land,
The Godhead's central shrine,
By an indisputable nod.
Sole-sceptred on thy throne
All business that concerns the state
Thou dost despatch alone.
Beware lest unregarded wrong
Let in contagion.

 

King.

Contagion fall upon mine enemies.
Howbeit, to help thee and take myself
No hurt I scarce know how. Yet 'twere scant kindness
To set thy prayers at nought. Perplexity
And fears possess my heart, whether to act,
Or not to act and let fate have her way.


Chorus.

Look up unto the Watcher set on high,
The Guardian of necessitous souls who sue,
Crouched on a neighbour's hearth, for sanctuary,
Craving in vain the right which is their due.
For grace denied and suppliants' slighted pleas
Endures the wrath of Zeus no pangs of guilt appease.


King.

If by the law of the land Ægyptus' sons
Are your rightful lords, to wit, upon the plea
Of next-kin, who would choose resist their claim?
Your answer must be founded on the law
Domestic; and ye must maintain and prove
That over ye they have no power at all.


Chorus.

Into the hands of tyrant man
God grant that I fall never:
I'll know no bounds but the starry span
That bends o'er earth for ever:
Fled to that virgin liberty
I'll live from forceful marriage free.
Be thou the ally of Justice and not Law;
Judge thou as judge the Gods and stand of them in awe.

 

King.

No easy judgment: choose not me for judge.
Have I not said without the people's voice
I will not and I cannot, King though I be,
Do as thou'lt have me do? I will not hear—
If it should chance that aught untoward fall—
Reproachful commons cast it in my teeth
'To honour strangers thou didst wreck thy land!'


Chorus.

Ancestral Zeus, of both blood-kin,
Eyes suppliant and pursuer:
The ponderable stuff of sin
Is charged to the wrong doer;
Quick is the tell-tale hand to mount
And reckon to the just's account
The fair record of righteousness.
Since equal is the poise why shrink from fair redress?


King.

This asks deep thought: an eye within the mind,
Keen as a diver salving sunken freight,
To sink into the depths, yet, searching there,
Not lose itself in roving phantasies;
That all end well and mischief follow not
First for the State, which is our chief concern,
Then for ourselves; and neither war lay hold
On loot to pay your loss, nor by our act,
If from this seat of Gods that ye have made
Your seat, we yield you up, the land be crushed
By haunting visitations of the God
Whose business is destruction, Alastor,
The unforgetting instrument of wrath,
Who even in the house of Hades suffers not
The dead man to go free. And this asks not
Heart-searchings, fathom-deep, of saving thought?


Chorus.

Search deep and then rise up more strong
For justice: be the minister
That reverentially protects from wrong
The stranger and the sojourner,
Resolved never to yield while thou stand' st by
An exile driven so far in godless outlawry.

O look not on till rapine come
And from these haunts of Powers divine
Hale me for spoil: all masterdom,
All judicature here are thine.
Then in this cause let thy decree go forth:
'Man's lusts here sue for judgment,' and beware of wrath.

Submit not to the sight
Of divine Justice set at naught by might,
And the rejected suppliant led away
From statues holy, as by bands of gold
A horse is led, while rough men lay
Rude hands upon my raiment's damask fold.

Thy seed and thy household
As thou art cruel or in mercy bold,
The exact measure of thy 'yea' or 'nay'
Eternal Law shall utterly requite.
O ponder well these things, and sway
The event as Zeus commands, who judgeth right.

 

King.

Nay, I have pondered and my bark of thought
Strikes on this point of peril. There's no choice
But of two sides I must take arms 'gainst one,
And either were a war of magnitude.
Here then you have the naked shell: stark hull,
Triced on the stocks, all rivets driven home,
And all her timbers strained and drawn together,
As 'twere, with shipwright's winches. Once at sea
She's bound for loss before she comes to land.
When there is jettison of merchandize,
By the good grace of Zeus the Garnisher
More may be gotten, a full load to freight
A ship of deeper draught. And, if the tongue
Shoot wildly, for the wound that words inflict
Words will apply the remedy, a balm
For angry humours, spell and counterspell:
But, that there be no letting of the blood
Of kin, compels to earnest sacrifice,
And many victims unto many gods,
Where'er men ask of oracles, must fall,
Preservatives against calamity.
My entrance to this quarrel comes unsought
And every way 'tis to my own undoing.
I'd rather be a seer of little skill
Than deeply learned in prophesying ill:
So, though my judgment goes not with the prayer,
Out of these troubles Heaven send issue fair.


Chorus.

Hear the conclusion, then, of my much speech
That meant to move your pity.

 

King.

I have heard:
But speak: I mark thee closely.


Chorus.

I have scarves
And girdles that hold up my raiment—


King.

Why,
All women have them.


Chorus.

Out of these I'll fashion
An ornament and excellent device
To keep mine honour safe.


King.

Give thy words meaning:
What is it thou would'st say?


Chorus.

Give us a pledge,
Plant on some ground of faith these feeble feet;
If not—


King.

These gatherings, girdlings up of robes,
How shall they stead thee?


Chorus.

They shall serve to deck
These shapes with votive tablets never yet
Hanged up on hallowed images.


King.

A riddle!
The manner of this: expound.

 

Chorus.

Incontinent
We'll hang ourselves upon these holy Gods.


King.

Thy menace lays the lash across my heart.


Chorus.

I see thou understand' st me: now have I
Opened thine eyes to clearer vision.


King.

Yea,
Turn where I may, griefs ineluctable
Confront my sight: a multitude of ills
Comes on like a river: on this sea of ruin
I am embarked: the bottomless abyss
Below; around unnavigable waves;
And nowhere any harbour from distress.
If I shall fail towards you and not exact
This debt which is your right, ye threaten me
With such pollution, strain words how ye will,
Hyperbole cannot o'ershoot the mark.
And if I stand before the city wall
And try conclusions with Ægyptus' sons,
Your own blood kin, upon the field of battle,
For sake of women men must stain this earth
With blood: and were not that bitter expense
To charge myself withal? Yet there's no help
But I must hold in awe the wrath of Zeus
Who helpeth suppliants: the fear of him
Is for all flesh the highest fear. Now, therefore,
Thou venerable father of these maids,
Take in thy hands branches like these and lay them
On other altars of my country's Gods,
That of your comings all the citizens
May see a visible token: let not fall
One word of me: the commonalty loves
To cast reproach upon their rulers. But,
Looking thereon, pity may move some soul
With hatred for the wickedness of men
Banded against you; and the public heart
Be for your boughs more tender. 'Tis a trait
Common with men to entertain kind thoughts
Towards the weaker side.


Danaus.

That we have found a friend
Pitiful and God-fearing we account
Worth many favours. Wilt thou grant one more
And with me send some native to this land
For escort and as guides, that we may find
The altars of the city deities
That stand before the temples, and the shrines
Of those more warlike that defend your keep?
The form that nature gave us is not yours,
Nor are we habited as ye are. Nile
Nourisheth other folk than Inachus.
Beware lest an unheedful confidence
Hereafter breed dismay. Men have ere now
Slain those that were their friends, not knowing it.


King.

Go with this stranger, men: for he says well.
Show him the way to the town altars and
The seats of Gods. And look ye bruit it not
At cross-roads, that ye bring this seafarer
To sit upon the hearths of the Holy Ones.

[Exit Danaus with bodyguard.]


Chorus.

For him the word is spoken: let him go
Since thou commandest it. But what of me?
What shall I do, and where dost thou assign
For me a place of safety?


King.

Leave thy branches
Where thou art now as a token of distress.


Chorus.

I lay them where thy hand and tongue direct.


King.

Now thou art free to walk about this smooth
And level lawn.


Chorus.

This lawn where all may tread?
And how shall that protect me?


King.

Be content:
'Tis not our purpose to expose thee here
A prey for birds.


Chorus.

For birds? And what of foes
More dangerous than serpents?


King.

Fair and softly!
Thou see'st I speak thee fair.

 

Chorus.

It is not strange
That fear betray uneasiness.


King.

Methinks
The awe of Kings exceedeth evermore
All fears beside.


Chorus.

O cheer me with kind words!
And hearten me no less with gracious deeds.


King.

Nay, but 'tis not for long that thy good sire
Hath left thee. I too leave thee for a while,
But 'tis to call our folk together, make
The commons thy good friends; and teach thy father
How he should speak to them. Tarry meantime,
Therefore, and with thy prayers prevail upon
The gods of the land to grant thy heart's desire.
I will depart hence and make good my words.
Persuasion and fair fortune follow us.

[Exit Pelasgus. The Danaides descend on to the open lawn below the hill.]


Chorus.

King of Kings, among the Blest
In thy bliss the blessedest,
In thy power of all that are
Mighty, mightiest by far,
Happy Zeus, that prayer receive,
And the event our wish achieve.
Drive aloof the lusts of men;
With thy loathing visit them;
Plunge 'neath an empurpled sea
That embodied infamy
Pitched without and black within
With havoc and the purposed sin.
But the woman's cause espouse:
Think upon our storied house,
Tenderly the tale renewing
Of old love and eager wooing:
And our ancestress to be,
Woman, yet once dear to thee.
Ah, remember Long Ago,
Thou Comforter of Io's woe!
For we boast that we can trace
High as Zeus our ancient race:
Sojourners were we at birth;
This is home, this parent earth.
In the print flower-sweet
Of my mother's feet,
Behold, I have planted mine:
Where she stooped to feed
Knee-deep in the mead
That fattens the Argive kine:
And with her alway
To haunt and betray
The eye of the earthborn herd.
Far hence lies her road,
By the gadfly goad,
As a skiff with the oar-blade, spurred
She must know the pain
Of a maddened brain
And wander through many races,
Till 'twixt either strand
Of the sundered land
A path through the billows she traces.

To the Asian shore
She must pass o'er,
And ever her onward leap
Of her coming tells
To the Phrygian fells
And the fleecy moorland sheep.
By street and tower
That Teuthras' power
Founded for Mysian men
In olden time,
She speeds; she must climb
Through Lydian gorge and glen;
And she must o'erleap
The Cilician steep,
And the wild Pamphylian mountains
No barrier
Shall be to her;
Till fed by eternal fountains,
Broad rivers glide
And her footsteps guide
Through a pleasant land and a mighty,
With all wealth crowned,
The fair, the renowned
Wheatland of Aphrodite.

And still she flew, a hunted thing,
Of Heaven's grace unpitied;
And in, and out with darting sting
In dizzy reel and dazzling ring
The wingéd herdsman flitted.


She has reached at last Zeus' own demesne
That is to all Nature boon,
Green with the glow of the melting snow
And scorched by the Typhoon.

She has come to the tide that is deep and wide,
Untouched by the hand of disease;
Yea, to Nile's water King Inachus' daughter,
Hera's crazed Thyiad, flees.

Paled then all dwellers in that lea
With quaking fear a-cold:
Such hybrid shape they ne'er did see:
Half woman and half cow was she,
A monster to behold.

A freakish, eerie, elfin form,
Whose kind 'twere hard to tell;
If human, out of human shape
Tortured by some dread spell.

Ah, then to charm away her grief,
Who at long last relented,
And rested the far-wandered feet
Of Io, the gnat-tormented?

Even Zeus, Lord Paramount, whose reign
Expects no earthly tyrant's bloody doom;
He eased her of her pain
With sweet constraint from, all enforcement free
And breathings of his love divinely mild,
Tears as of one half-reconciled
She shed—warm tears of bitter memory;
But, with that heavenly burthen in her womb,
Became the mother of a perfect child.

A happy, long-lived man was he;
Wherefore a voice went through that fertile earth,
'Behold in verity
This is the son of Zeus: this is the seed
He sowed: who else among the Gods had stayed
The crafty plots that Hera laid?
If thou should'st say, "Here is Zeus' very deed,
This is a child of heavenly birth,"
Clean to the centre shall thine arrow speed.'

What God to thee should I prefer
And by a title holier
Ask Justice? Thou, O King,
Our Father art; and thy right hand
Hath planted us in a strange land;
We are thine own offspring.

Thou great unmatched artificer,
In thy calm heart let memory stir
The pulse of vanished days,
O Zeus that art in all things blest,
And whatso'er thou purposest
None hinders nor gainsays.

Thou art no vassal on a throne;
No power that doth transcend thine own
To thee dictates the law;
Nor is there one in higher place
To whom thou turn'st a humble face,
Holding his seat in awe.

Art thou in labour with the pang
Of deeds whereon great issues hang,
Behold, the accomplished fact!
Or if in words goes forth thy breath,
The mind that with them travaileth
Converteth speech to act.

[Enter Danaus.]


Danaus.

Take courage, children: the people of the land
With sovran voice have cast their votes right well.


Chorus.

Dear envoy! Best beloved of tiding-bearers,
All hail! But hide not one thing from us. What
Have they determined? The full master-hand
Of the assembled commons, to what deed
Points it?


Danaus.

Unwaveringly, and in such wise
As made my old heart young—for the free air,
While: all freemen made this decision law,
Rustled with multitudes of lifted hands—
The Argives have decreed that we shall hold
This soil with them, immune from all reprisals,
Havoc and harrying of the lustful male;
And of those native here or alien
No man may drive us hence; withal, if force
Be offered, what-so denizen withholds
His aid, shall suffer loss of civil rights
And, furthermore, be banished by the State.
This was the manner of the speech, whereby
The King of the Pelasgians in our cause
Wrought on his auditors: with warning voice
He spake of the hereafter, lest the realm
Feed fat the wrath of Zeus, the Suppliant's God;
We came as fugitives and foreigners,
As citizens we were received; two claims
Conjoinéd in our persons, which, denied,
Would work two-fold contagion, and raise up
Before the city-gates a monster, fed
On sorrow, yet whose craw grief cannot cram.
Then they stayed not to hear the marshal's cry
But on a show of hands would have it so.
It was the voice of the Pelasgians' King
That moved them, suppling the persuasive word,
But Zeus determined what the end should be.

[He ascends the hill.


Chorus.

Oh come! Let us render
Recompense fair!
A token and tender
Of thanks, and a prayer
That good things be showered upon Argos.
Benediction and laud and honour
In hymns to her praises sung
Shall surely be doubled upon her;
For dear is an alien tongue
To Zeus, who cares for the stranger
And governs the counsels of Kings;
To an end free from harm and danger
May he lead our thanksgivings,
With good gifts shed upon Argos.

In your heavenly habitation,
While I pour my heart's libation
With the wine of prayer o'erflowing,
Hear my voice, ye gods! Hereafter
Never roar of ruddy fire
Strike and slay Pelasgia's city,
Nor the song be heard, where laughter
Is not, nor the dance nor lyre,
Lustful Ares' joyless strain,
Who in fields not of his sowing
Reaps the harvest of the slain.
Forasmuch as they had pity;
For that love their voice inspireth,
Honouring suppliants Zeus befriendeth,
Little flock that sorrow tendeth
And whose portion none desireth.

Neither did they give their voices
For proud men, to do them pleasure:
They have dealt us noble measure
Woman's weaker cause befriending:
For their loftier vision saw
The inexorable Awe,
Angry Zeus, whose wrath requiteth,
Whose sure aim the end achieves;
And with him is no contending,
Where's the dwelling that rejoices
'Neath his heavy visitation—
Like a carrion-bird that lighteth,
Dropping down abomination,
Gorged and bloated, on man's caves?
Heavily the monster squatteth,
An unlifted, leaden burden.
But these kin have not rejected
Claim of kin: they have respected
Suppliants at Zeus' holy seat.
Therefore they shall have their guerdon,
Altars no pollution spotteth,
To the Gods of Heaven sweet.

Forth, thou bird of plume more fair;
From the mouth's dark covert break,
Emulous and eager prayer;
All prayers else do thou o'ertake.

Never pestilence nor dearth
Empty Argos of her men:
Nor civil tumult stain this earth
With blood of fallen brethren.

Youth be here an unplucked flower;
And Ares, who makes men to mourn,
Though lord of Aphrodite's bower,
That comely blossom leave unshorn.

And, where ancient men convene,
Let there not want within these walls
Bearded benchers of grave mien
Throned in old Cyclopian stalls.

So may wise laws and well-obeyed
Order all things in the land,
Long as reverence is paid
To Zeus, and chiefly Him whose hand

Is over strangers. He alone
Maintains the right 'gainst wrong and crime,
And confirms to each his own
By law and precept gray with time.

Everything that fruitful is
Spring anew from fecund earth,
And may arrowy Artemis
Bring the struggling babe to birth.

Havoc, come not to rive this land;
Nor bring no arms for Ares' hand,
Who loveth neither dance nor lyre;
Children he hath at his desire
But they are tears: nor the drawn knife
Whet for the dagger-hand of strife
And civil uproar: keep far hence,
Ye croaking flocks of pestilence;
And all young things in this fair ground
Be with thy love, Lycean, crowned.

Zeus make the earth to teem, and bless
With seasonable toll and cess
Of gathered fruit and corn in shocks:
And may the forward-feeding flocks
In her rich pastures multiply:
And all things have prosperity
By the Gods' favour flourishing:
Let minstrels round her altars sing
Sweet lauds; and while the lute leads on
Pure lips send up their orison.

A power obnoxious to no term
Be here: not novel and infirm;
Soon blown and soon decayed,
But on old honour stayed;
Prescient in counsel, and withal
Of such foreknowledge liberal;
Not jealous to exclude
The sovran multitude,
But rather guide them. And abroad
Let them! be slow to draw the sword,
Much readier to maintain
By processes humane
Their legal right, than prompt to act:
If bounden, faithful to their pact,
Their arbiter the Court,
And war their last resort.
Let them keep fasts and festivals,
Bring wreaths of bay and slaughter bulls,
As did their sires of old,
To the Lord Gods who hold
Their land. For reverence and awe
From son to sire is the third law
Justice hath writ for men
With monumental pen.


Danaus.

Dear children, I commend these temperate prayers.
Tremble not if I break to you bad news.
From this our sanctuary and my watch-tower
I see the ship. No: I am not mistaken
All too discernible is the sail—so bent—
The awnings—and the prow with painted eyes
That look before on the untravelled road—
And the quick sense, too quick for those she loves not,
To hearken to the guiding of the helm.
The men on board, their black limbs clothed in white,
Are plain to see. And now the other craft,
Store-ships and all, are in full view. The admiral
Is shortening sail, and, all oars out, rows hard
Under the lee of the land. This must be faced
With a fixed constancy: let not dismay
Divert your thoughts from these still watchful Gods.
I will return anon when I have gotten
Defence and counsel. Like enough a herald—
Or delegates that mean to force you hence—
Graspers at harsh reprisals—nay, but that
Can never be and ye've no cause to fear it.
Nevertheless, if human aid be slow,
Remember, here ye have a present help.
Be of good cheer then; where is he who scorns
The Gods and shall not in Time's great assize
Upon the day appointed, answer it?

[He descends from the hill.


Chorus.

Father, I am afraid: the ships have come
So quickly, with scant interval between.
I am possessed with dread,
Doubts and fears importune me,
Lest that my flight far-sped
No way should fortune me.
Oh, when the goal is won,
The struggle nought availeth me;
Father, I am fordone;
For fear my strength faileth me.

 

Danaus.

Child, pluck up courage. The recorded vote
Of Argos is a sovran people's voice:
Certain I am that they will fight for thee.


Chorus.

Ægyptus' sons are wild, abandoned men;
Their lust of battle hard to be appeased:
And if I say so thy heart knows 'tis true.

They have gotten them stalwart ships,
The stout oak braces:
They have gotten them shining ships
With cruel steely faces.

They set a course o'er unknown waves;
They struck an unseen quarry:
And multitudes of tawny slaves
Summoned to their foray.


Danaus.

Ay, but they'll meet their match; a multitude
Whose arms by oft exposure to the blaze
Of burning noon are firm as marble filed.


Chorus.

I pray you, leave me not alone, my father.
Left to herself a woman is but nought:
She hath no stomach for brave deeds of war.

But they are men in mind and heart deranged;
Possessed, yea, mad with godless lust and pride:
The human soul in them so much estranged
From holy thoughts, mercy and truth and awe,
They reck them less than crows, with beak and claw,
That rob the altars of things sanctified.

 

Danaus.

My children, this shall nothing profit them:
That which provokes in you resentful thoughts
Shall work the wrath of the immortal Gods.


Chorus.

Father, they fear no tridents: neither can
Arrow or thunderbolt restrain their hands.

They are too much swollen with their own conceit
For awe to sway them; and in violent pride
Have run too far to stay their reckless feet
For aught that preacheth from, these holy bounds:
But like a pack of disobedient hounds
They would not hear, though all the Gods should chide.


Danaus.

Ay, but three dogs are not a match for one
Gray wolf: nor can the byblus-fruit compare
With wheaten corn.


Chorus.

They are as savage beasts,
All fury and all lust and all uncleanness;
We must defend ourselves against their attack
As quickly as we may.


Danaus.

Nay, there is time:
Fleets neither set sail nor are brought to anchor
All in a moment: nor, when anchors hold,
Are they who shepherd ships so quick to moor
And trust their safety to a cable's stretch.
And least of all when they have come to a land
That hath no haven, and night draweth on.
For when the sun departeth, night breeds care
For a good seaman; troops cannot be landed
With safety till a ship be snugly berthed.
Then with a quiet mind be vigilant
And ever mindful of the Gods, that so
Ye make their succour certain. For the state,
They shall not need to chide your messenger
Because he's old. For with the spirit of youth
Here in my heart it needs must prompt my tongue.

[Exit.


Chorus.

Ho! Land of hills—
Protectress, held in awe
Of old—now by new bonds of treaty-law
Knit to our hearts—what ills
Must we yet suffer at the hands of men?
Where shall we find a refuge, holy one?
In all this Apian earth is there no glen,
No haunt of darkness hollowed from the sun,
Where we may hide?
I would I were black smoke; a vapour dun
Drawn upwards to the clouds of Zeus' bright day.
Or might I vanish quite away,
Soaring where none should see me; none
Follow: lost in the wide
Of heaven, like dust that needs no wing
To waft it in aerial vanishing.
No refuge left:
No shelter from the slow
Insistent on-fall of unshunnable woe.
As waters in a cleft
My heart's blood eddies turbulent and black.
And this last touch of bitterest irony
Things in themselves untoward do not lack,
That all my father's lookings forth to sea
My feet enmesh;
'Tis I for fear have well nigh ceased to be.
I would about my neck a noose were bound;
I would that there the fated shaft were found
Winged with the wished-for liberty;
Ere flesh from amorous flesh
Recoiling feel the touch abhorred,
I would that I were dead and Hades had for lord.

Oh for a throne in stainless air
Where the moist and dripping cloud
Touches and is turned to snow.
Oh for a smooth and slippery rock
Where the wild goat fears to climb
And no intruding son of Time
Points a finger. Lone and bare
And wrapped in contemplation proud
It o'erhangs the gulf below;
There lean vultures flap and flock;
And, as if indeed it were
A living spirit, its blind wall
Shall bear record of my fall
Headlong—all my sorrows ending
And heartless love which is heart's rending.

Then, I grudge not dogs their prey;
Then, this body of mine shall feast
Birds that haunt the valley grounds.
There's no anguish in such wounds:
They can never bleed afresh.
Dying is to be released
From all ills our living flesh
Would with wailing wish away.
Come with swift forestalling stride,
Death, ere darker deed be done
In the chamber of the bride.
For of all the paths that run
O'er the broad earth 'neath the sun
That which leads to the unwinding
Of my sorrow is past finding.

Cry to Heaven; prayer's full oblation
Moves the Gods and sets me free.
Father, from thy habitation
Watch the battle soon to be.

Turn away from guilt the splendour
Of those eyes whose light is law;
Strong, be thou the weak's defender,
Zeus, who hold'st the world in awe.

For the male hath sought and found me.
Fleeing-, whither shall I fly?
Egypt's sons will soon have bound me
Wildered with their battle-cry.

Thine the mighty beam suspended;
All things tremble in thy scale.
What can be begun or ended
Without thee for bliss or bale?

Oh me! I am undone!
What evil errand bringeth thee ashore,
Pirate? A rescue! Ho!
This is the entering in of woe,
But more will follow—more!
To our divine protectors run!
Pelasgus—Lord
Wring their hard hearts with pangs they cannot bear!

[The Chorus ascend the hill. Enter an Egyptian Herald with Sailors.


Herald.

Aboard! Aboard!
Get to the dhow as fast as feet can carry ye!
Else, I'll pluck out your hair,
Drive ye before me with the slaver's goad,
Hack heads off till blood spouts like rain.
Back to the ship again,
And may the red plague harry ye!


Chorus.

I would that somewhere on the weltering road
Of multitudinous ocean ye had sunk,
That of its bitter waters ye had drunk
Enough to drown your bark and quench your pride.
Then were we happy sitting side by side,
Even as now we were,
Free from trouble, free from care,
Hid in this leafy bower.
Once and for all hear my commands; lay by
Violence and wrong and mad impiety.
Hence from this holy spot,
And anger not
The Argive power.
Ah, may I never see again the flood
That fatteneth the flesh of Egypt's kine,
And breeds a procreant humour in man's blood
Even as sap clothes the bare bough with green.
Argive I am of long descended line,
Queen, and the daughter of a Queen.


Herald.

Rant—rail your fill,
But whether ye will not or ye will
Ye must aboard!


Chorus.

Alack! Why tarry they?
Make speed, or we are lost!


Herald.

If ye delay,
From where ye sit I'll drag ye with these hands.

Chorus.

O'er ocean-lawns sheeted with salt sea-spume
May ye be dragged and driven to and fro,
With helpless tossings of those cruel hands,
Where from the Syrian coast the wild winds blow
With wailing heard along the mounded sands
Beneath Sarpedon's tomb.


Herald.

Shriek, wail and howl and call upon the Gods.
'Tis not so light a thing to overleap.
A ship of Egypt. Wherefore tune thy voice
To sadder music, a more bitter curse.

 

Chorus.

The dark wave whelm thee rounding ness on ness
Where Cyprus' forests clothe her capes of wrath,
And Nile, that mighty Nile which sent thee forth,
Strike out thy name—one insolent the less.


Herald.

Aboard! Aboard! The ship has put about
Ready to go to sea. Get thee aboard,
Or I will lug thee by the forelock.

[He rushes at the Danaides, followed by his men.


Chorus.

Father, a thing in human shape and yet
A lurker in the net
That Evil spins for mortal woe,
Like an industrious spider to and fro
Weaves link by link and thread by thread
Its latticed snare.
Earth, Mother Earth, the spectre dread,
The black nightmare
Drive far away,
Mother Earth! O Father Zeus, I pray!


Herald.

I am not fearful of your Argive Gods:
They suckled not my youth nor fed my age.


Chorus.

What shall I call thee? A two-footed snake,
A viper creeping from the brake
With venomed fang to bruise
My heel. O Mother Earth,
Drive hence the beast of monstrous birth!
Hear, Mother Earth! Hearken, O Father Zeus!

 

Herald.

Get thee aboard and with a better grace;
Else shall thy gauzes, muslins and thy veils
Cry out for ruth and rending reck them not.


Chorus.

They overpower me! Chiefs, lords, princes, save!


Herald.

Anon, anon! Courage! Thou soon shalt have
Princes enow: Ægyptus' fifty sons!
Be of good cheer; thou shalt not lack for lords!


Chorus.

Lost, lost—O King—O sacrilegious slave!


Herald.

I have thee now; heave her aboard by the hair:
She's a slack one and slow of hearing.

[Enter King with armed Attendants.


King.

Hold!
Ruffian, what's this? How darest thou insult
Pelasgian soil, ay, and Pelasgia's sons?
Or dost thou think thou'rt come to a land where none
But women dwell? Barbarian to Greek
Is used to be more humble. Thou wilt find
That thy wild shooting misses the just scope
And aim of action, reckoning up thy wrong.


Herald.

I take thee at thy word and ask thee, where
I reach beyond what law and justice warrant?

 

King.

First thou'rt an alien; yet most ignorant
Of what becomes thee in that quality.


Herald.

Who? I? I found what had been lost: no more.


King.

Have not you aliens your officers?
And which of these didst thou bespeak?


Herald.

Hermes,
The Lord of trover.


King.

O! are Gods thy patrons,
And dost thou serve them with dishonour?


Herald.

I
Pay worship to the Gods of mighty Nile.


King.

And ours are nought, if I hear thee aright.


Herald.

Look you, these women are mine and in my power:
Let me see him who dares to take them from me.


King.

Lay hands upon them at thy peril.


Herald.

This
To a stranger! 'Tis not hospitable.

 

King.

Tush!
I waste no courtesy on aliens
Who violate the sanctuary of the Gods.


Herald.

Ægyptus' sons shall hear of this.


King.

I care not.


Herald.

Good: but that I may make a clear report—
As heralds should—what shall I say? By whom
Am I dismissed, sent empty-handed back,
These women—cousins, close in blood withal—
Taken from me? Not that weight of evidence
Will here determine in what sense the doom
That Ares must pronounce shall be decreed,
Nor are the damages assessed in coin
And there an end. No: long ere that can be
Many a tall fellow first must bite the dust
And lives be gasped away with writhing of limbs.


King.

Why should I tell thee who I am? In time
Thou'lt learn my name; thou and thy fellows too.
As for these women, went they willingly,
Were they content, thou might'st lead them away,
Could'st thou show cause that piety allows.
But now the sovran people of this realm
Have with one voice established their decree
Never to yield their virtue up to force.
And through and through that act the nail is driven
So that it standeth fast. Thou hast my answer;
Not writ in folded tablets, nor yet sealed
In any secret scroll: but overt, the plain speech
Of an unfettered tongue. Now—quit my sight.


Herald.

May victory and power that victory gives
Be with the men.


King.

Oh, ye will find men here,
Trust me, no bousers of thin barley-brew.

[Exit Herald and his followers.

And now with your handmaidens all of you
Walk boldly to the city. 'Tis well fenced
And locked with deep device of wards and towers.
Many fair dwellings are maintainéd there
At the public charge. With no illiberal hand
Myself am lodged. Here ye may share a house
With others, or, if it likes ye, live alone.
The best is at your service: take your choice
And let it be the fairest ye can find:
'Twill cost ye nothing. Look upon myself
And the whole body of the citizens,
Whose mandate this effects, as your protectors.
More powerful patrons ye've no need to ask.


Chorus.

Sire, may your great courtesy
Plenteously rewarded be.
Please you now to send to us
Our brave father, Danaus;
His wise forethought points our way;
Where he counsels we obey.
He will choose us our abode
In some kindly neighbourhood.
For so it is, strange speech, strange ways
Are a mark for men's dispraise.
Happier be our lot: may we
Dwell with honour in your land
Free from hatred, censure-free.

[Exit King.

Captives of the bow and spear,
Yet not uncherished, not less dear,
Each in order take your stand
By your mistresses, for you
Are our maiden retinue
That Danaus in his day of power
Gave us for a queenly dower.

[Enter Danaus with armed guard.]


Danaus.

Children, unto the Argives offer prayers,
Blood-offerings and libations, as to Gods
Olympian! for our saviours they are
Past question. When I told their magistrates
How ye were used, their friendly hearts received
My tidings in such wise as to our kin
Shall prove a draught of bitter wine. Myself
This body-guard of spearmen they assigned,
Both that I might be honourably attended,
And lest by sudden sword-stroke I should fall
Ere they could rescue me, unto their land
A burden and a curse for ever. Wherefore
Let gratitude to them hold in your hearts
The highest place and set your course. Moreover
To much already graven there add this
Paternal precept. Time assays the worth
Of things unknown; and every tongue is busy
With a new-comer's reputation, not
Oftenest for good: a word and 'tis bespattered.
Shame me not in your youth when all men's eyes
Will look your way. 'Tis difficult to guard
The tender fruit. It is desired of men
With patient watchings—for desire is human—
Of feathered fowls and beasts that walk the earth.
So with the body: when 'tis melting ripe,
Trust Cypris but the world will hear of it
If once she find the orchard-gate unlatched.
Then at the loveliness of virgin bloom
An arrow winged with dangerous charm is shot
From every roving eye, vanquished at sight
By irresistible desire. Let not
Our wills succumb to that the which to escape
We bore much toil, ploughed many perilous seas
On shipboard: neither let us work ourselves
Shame and confusion, to mine enemies
Triumph and very bliss. A double choice
Is ours. Pelasgus and the State at large
Each offer us a home; and both are free.
You see Fate throws us sixes. It remains
That ye your father's precepts strictly keep,
Counting your virtue dearer than your lives.

 

Chorus.

In all things else may the Olympian Gods
Prosper us. For my youth fear not, my father,
In this ripe season of my beauty. If
The Gods have not appointed some new thing
I mean to walk where heretofore I trod.

Set forward to the city then
And to her Gods give thanks,
Lords of their bliss within her walls
Or dwellers by the banks

Of Erasinus old. And you,
Dear maids, our music sweet
Accompany with clapping hands
And dance of rhythmic feet.

Our song is of Pelasgia's town,
And we will hymn no more
The fullness of the fluctuant Nile,
But placid streams that pour

Deep draughts for thirsty lips, and cheer
The land with childish mirth,
Turning stiff tracts of stubborn ground
To soft and fertile earth.

Chaste Artemis, watch over us,
And love come in tender guise,
Not forced by Cytherea's might;
We wish our foes that prize.

 

Semi-Chorus.

But we forget not Cypris. Let none deem
Our harmless song is meant in her dispraise.
For she with Hera sways
The heart of Zeus, and he is Lord Supreme.
The subtle Goddess hath her rites;—with young
Desire playing at his mother's side;
Nor less Persuasion to whose charming tongue
No boon that heart can give or worth approves
May be denied.
Yea, music hath her share
In Aphrodite's Empire fair,
Music with all the train of whispering Loves.


Semi-Chorus.

All is fulfilled as Destiny decrees,
And Zeus is great: it is not given to men
To thwart his purposes
Or reach beyond the bounds that he hath set.
Pray rather, then,
That once the rite be said,
This marriage that we so much dread
May bring more bliss than ever wife knew yet.


Semi-Chorus.

May the great Zeus grant that I ne'er
Wed with a son of King Ægyptus.


Semi-Chorus.

Yea,
That boon were best of all; and yet thy prayer
Would move a will that none can sway.

 

Semi-Chorus.

And thou can'st not discern futurity.


Semi-Chorus.

Can I behold the mind of Zeus? Can I
Look into that unfathomable deep?
Due measure when thou prayest thou should' st keep.


Semi-Chorus.

Where lies the mark that may not be o'ertrod?


Semi-Chorus.

Search not too far the purposes of God.


Chorus.

Zeus is King: may he decree
I be bounden to no lord
Loathed for lust and cruelty.
Mighty and most gentle, he
With remedial touch restored
Io in her misery
To calm of mind from sorrow free.

And may he this woman's war
Crown with victory. Life and Fate
Demand that we exact no more
Than that good preponderate.
It contents me then, whate'er
The judgment which the Gods approve
If there be embodied there
Justice which my prayers could move.

[Exeunt.