Tragedies of Euripides (Way)/Iphigeneia in Taurica
IPHIGENEIA IN TAURICA.
When Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon, lay on the altar of sacrifice at Aulis, Artemis snatched her away, and bare her to the Tauric land, which lieth in Thrace to north of the Black Sea. Here she was made priestess of the Goddess's temple, and in this office was constrained to consecrate men for death upon the altar; for what Greeks soever came to that coast were seized and sacrificed to Artemis.
And herein is told how her own brother Orestes came thither, and by what means they were made known to each other, and of the plot that they framed for their escape.
Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon, and priestess of Artemis.
Orestes, brother of Iphigeneia.
Pylades, friend of Orestes.
Herdman, a Thracian.
Thoas, king of Thrace.
Messenger, servant of Thoas.
Scene:—In front of the temple of Artemis in Taurica.
IPHIGENEIA IN TAURICA.
Enter from temple Iphigeneia.
Pelops, the son of Tantalus, with fleet steeds
To Pisa came, and won Oenomaus' child:
Atreus she bare; of him Menelaus sprang
And Agamemnon, born of whom was I,
Iphigeneia, Tyndareus' daughter's babe.5
Me, by the eddies that with ceaseless gusts
Euripus shifteth, rolling his dark surge,
My sire slew—as he thinks—for Helen's sake
To Artemis, in Aulis' clefts renowned.
For king Agamemnon drew together there10
The Hellenic armament, a thousand ships,
Fain that Achaia should from Ilium win
Fair victory's crown, and Helen's outraged bed
Avenge—all this for Menelaus' sake.
But, in that dead calm and despair of winds,15
To altar-flames he turned, and Kalchas spake:
"Thou captain of this battle-host of Greece,
Agamemnon, thou shalt sail not from the land
Ere Artemis receive thy daughter slain,
Iphigeneia: for, of one year's fruit,20
Thou vowedst the fairest to the Queen of Light.
Lo, thy wife Klytemnestra in thine halls
Bare thee a child"—so naming me most fair,—
"Whom thou must offer." By Odysseus' wiles
From her they drew me, as to wed Achilles.25
I came to Aulis: o'er the pyre,—ah me!—
High raised was I, the sword in act to slay,—
When Artemis stole me, for the Achaians set
There in my place a hind, and through clear air
Wafted me, in this Taurian land to dwell,30
Where a barbarian rules barbarians,
Thoas, who, since his feet be swift as wings
Of birds, hath of his fleetness won his name.
And in this fane her priestess made she me:
Wherefore the Goddess Artemis hath joy35
In festal rites, whose name alone is fair;
The rest—for dread of her I hold my peace.
I sacrifice—'twas this land's ancient wont—
What Greek soever cometh to this shore.
Mine are the first rites; in the Goddess' shrines40
The unspeakable slaughter is for others' hands.
Now the strange visions that the night hath brought
To heaven I tell—if aught of cure be there.
In sleep methought I had escaped this land,
And dwelt in Argos. Midst my maiden train45
I slept: then with an earthquake shook the ground.
I fled, I stood without, the cornice saw
Of the roof falling,—then, all crashing down,
Turret and basement, hurled was the house to earth.
One only column, as meseemed, was left45
Of my sires' halls; this from its capital
Streamed golden hair, and spake with human voice.
Then I, my wonted stranger-slaughtering rite
Observing, sprinkled it, as doomed to death,
Weeping. Now thus I read this dream of mine:45
Dead is Orestes—him I sacrificed;
Seeing the pillars of a house be sons,
And they die upon whom my sprinklings fall.
None other friend can I match with my dream;
For on my death-day Strophius had no son.60
Now then will I, here, pour drink-offerings
Unto my brother there,—'tis all I can,—
I with mine handmaids, given me of the king,
Greek damsels. But for some cause are they here
Not yet: within the portals will I pass65
Of this, the Goddess' shrine, wherein I dwell.
Enter Orestes and Pylades.
Look thou—take heed that none be in the path.
I look, I watch, all ways I turn mine eyes.
Pylades, deem'st thou this the Goddess' fane
Whither from Argos we steered oversea?70
I deem it is, Orestes, as must thou.
And the altar, overdripped with Hellene blood?
Blood-russet are its rims in any wise.
And 'neath them seest thou hung the spoils arow?
Yea, trophies of the strangers who have died.75
But needs must we glance round with heedful eyes.
Phœbus, why is thy word again my snare,
When I have slain my mother, and avenged
My sire? From tired Fiends Fiends take up the chase,
And exiled drive me, outcast from my land,80
In many a wild race doubling to and fro.
To thee I came and asked how might I win
My whirling madness' goal, my troubles' end,
Wherein I travailed, roving Hellas through.
Thou bad'st me go unto the Taurian coasts85
Where Artemis thy sister hath her altars,
And take the Goddess' image, which, men say,
Here fell into this temple out of heaven,
And, winning it by craft or happy chance,
All danger braved, to the Athenians' land90
To give it—nought beyond was bidden me;—
This done, should I have respite from my toils.
I come, thy words obeying, hitherward
To a strange land and cheerless. Thee I ask,
Pylades, thee mine helper in this toil, —95
What shall we do? Thou seest the engirdling walls,
How high they be. Up yonder temple-steps
Shall we ascend? How then could we learn more,
Except our levers force the brazen bolts
Whereof we know nought? If we be surprised100
Opening gates, and plotting entrance here,
Die shall we. Nay, ere dying, let us flee
Back to the ship wherein we hither sailed.
Flee?—'twere intolerable!—'twas ne'er our wont:
Nor cravens may we be to the oracle.105
Withdraw we from the temple; let us hide
In caves by the dark sea-wash oversprayed,
Far from our ship, lest some one spy her hull,
And tell the chiefs, and we be seized by force.
But when the eye of murky night is come,110
That carven image must we dare to take
Out of the shrine with all the craft we may.
Mark thou betwixt the triglyphs a void space
Whereby to climb down. Brave men on all toils
Adventure; nought are cowards anywhere.115
Have we come with the oar a weary way,
And from the goal shall we turn back again?
Good: I must heed thee. Best withdraw ourselves
Unto a place where we shall lurk unseen.
For, if his oracle fall unto the ground,120
The God's fault shall it not be. We must dare,
Since for young men toil knoweth no excuse.
Enter Chorus and Iphigeneia.
Keep reverent silence, ye
Beside the Euxine Sea
Who dwell, anigh the clashing rock-towers twain.
Maid of the mountain-wild,
Dictynna, Leto's child,
Unto thy court, thy lovely-pillared fane,
Whose roofs with red gold burn,
Pure maiden feet I turn,130
Who serve the hallowed Bearer of the Key,
Banished from Hellas' towers,
From trees and meadow-flowers
That fringe Eurotas by mine home o'ersea.
I come. Thy tidings?—what
Thy care? Why hast thou brought
Me to the shrines, O child of him who led
That fleet, the thousand-keeled,
That host of myriad shield140
That Troyward with the glorious Atreïds sped?
Ah maidens, sunken deep
In mourning's dole I weep:
My wails no measure keep
With aught glad-ringing
From harps: nor Song-queens' strain
Breathes o'er the sad refrain
Of my bereavement's pain,
The curse upon mine head
Is come—a brother dead!150
Ah vision-dream that fled
To Night's hand clinging!
Undone am I—undone!
My race—its course is run:
My sire's house—there is none:
Woe, Argos' nation!
Ah, cruel Fate, that tore
From me my love, and bore
To Hades! Dear, I pour
Thy death-libation —160
Fountains of mountain-kine,
The brown bees' toil, the wine,
Shed on earth's breast, are thine,
Give me the urn, whose gold
The Death-god's draught shall hold:—
Thee, whom earth's arms enfold,
These things I give thee now;
Dear dead, accept them thou.
Bright tresses from my brow
Shall never lie on
Thy grave, nor tears. Our land—
Thine—mine—to me is banned.
Far off the altars stand
Men saw me die on.
Lo, I will peal on high
To echo thine, O queen,180
My dirge, the Asian hymn, and that weird cry,
The wild barbaric keen,
The litany of death,
Song-tribute that we bring
To perished ones, where moaneth Hades' breath,
Where no glad pæans ring.
Woe for the kingly sway
From Atreus' house that falls!
Passed is their sceptre's glory, passed away—
Woe for my fathers' halls!
Where are the heaven-blest kings190
Throned erstwhile in their might
O'er Argos? Trouble out of trouble springs
In ceaseless arrowy flight.
O day when from his place
The Sun his winged steeds wheeled,
Turning the splendour of his holy face
From horrors there revealed!
That golden lamb hath brought
Woe added unto woe,
Pang upon pang, murder on murder wrought:
All these thy line must know.
Vengeance thine house must feel
For sons thereof long dead:200
Their sins Fate, zealous with an evil zeal,
Visiteth on thine head.
From the beginning was to me accurst
My mother's spousal-fate:
The Queens of Birth with hardship from the first
Crushed down my childhood-state.
I, the first blossom of the bridal-bower
Of Leda's hapless daughter210
By princes wooed, was nursed for that dark hour
Of sacrificial slaughter,
For vows that stained with sin my father's hands
When I was chariot-borne
Unto the Nereid's son on Aulis' sands—
Ah me, a bride forlorn!
Lone by a stern sea's desert shores I live
Loveless, no children clinging
To me—the homeless, friendless, cannot give220
To Hera praise of singing
In Argos; nor to music of my loom
Shall Pallas' image grow
Splendid in strife Titanic:—in my doom
Blood-streams mid groanings flow,
The ghastly music made of strangers laid
On altars, piteous-weeping!
Yet from these horrors now my thoughts have strayed,
Afar to Argos leaping230
To wail Orestes dead—a kingdom's heir!
Ah, hands of my lost mother
At my departing clasped, her bosom bare
The babe-face of my brother!
Lo, yonder from the sea-shore one hath come,
A herdman bearing tidings unto thee.
Agamemnon's daughter, Klytemnestra's child,
Hear the strange story that I bring to thee!
What cause is in thy tale for this amaze?240
Unto the land, through those blue Clashing Rocks
Sped by the oar-blades, two young men be come,
A welcome offering and sacrifice
To Artemis. Prepare thee with all speed
The lustral streams, the consecrating rites.245
Whence come?—what land's name do the strangers bear?
Hellenes: this one thing know I; nought beside.
Nor heardest thou their name, to tell it me?
Pylades one was of his fellow named.
And of the stranger's comrade what the name?250
This no man knoweth, for we heard it not.
Where saw ye—came upon them—captured them?
Upon the breakers' verge of yon drear sea.
Now what have herdmen with the sea to do?
We went to wash our cattle in sea-brine.255
To this return—where laid ye hold on them,
And in what manner? This I fain would learn.
For late they come: the Goddess' altar long
Hath been with streams of Hellene blood undyed.
Even as we drave our woodland-pasturing kine260
Down to the sea that parts the Clashing Rocks,—
There was a cliff-chine, by the ceaseless dash
Of waves grooved out, a purple-fishers' haunt;—
Even there a herdman of our company
Beheld two youths, and backward turned again,265
With tiptoe stealth his footsteps piloting,
And spake, "Do ye not see them?—yonder sit
Gods!" One of us, a god-revering man,
Lifted his hands, and looked on them, and prayed:
"Guardian of ships, Sea-queen Leukothea's son,270
O Lord Palaimon, gracious be to us,—
Whether the Great Twin Brethren yonder sit,
Or Nereus' darlings, born of him of whom
That company of fifty Nereids sprang."
But one, a scorner, bold in lawlessness,275
Mocked at his prayers: for shipwrecked mariners
Dreading our law, said he, sat in the cleft,
Who had heard how strangers here be sacrificed.
And now the more part said, "He speaketh well:
Let us then hunt the Goddess' victims due."280
One of the strangers left meantime the cave,
Stood forth, and up and down he swayed his head,
And groaned and groaned again with quivering hands,
Frenzy-distraught, and shouted hunter-like:
"Pylades, seest thou her?—dost mark not her,285
Yon Hades-dragon, lusting for my death,
Her hideous vipers gaping upon me?
And yon third, breathing fire and slaughter forth,
Flaps wings—my mother in her arms she holds—
Ha, now to a rock-mass changed!—to hurl her down!290
Ah! she will slay me! Whither can I fly?"
We could not see these shapes: his fancy changed
Lowing of kine and barking of the dogs
To howlings which the Fiends sent forth, he said.
We, cowering low, as men that looked to die,295
Sat hushed. With sudden hand he drew his sword,
And like a lion rushed amidst the kine,
Smote with the steel their flanks, pierced through their ribs,—
Deeming that thus he beat the Erinnyes back,—
So that the sea-brine blossomed with blood-foam.300
Thereat each man, soon as he marked the herds
Harried and falling slain, 'gan arm himself,
Blowing on conchs and gathering dwellers-round;
For we accounted herdmen all too weak
To fight with strangers young and lusty-grown.305
So in short time were many mustered there.
Now ceased the stranger's madness-fit: he falls,
Foam spraying o'er his beard. We, marking him
So timely fallen, wrought each man his part,
Hurling with battering stones. His fellow still310
Wiped off the foam, and tended still his frame,
And screened it with his cloak's fair-woven folds,
Watching against the ever-hailing blows,
With loving service ministering to his friend.
He came to himself—he leapt from where he lay—315
He marked the surge of foes that rolled on him,
And marked the ruin imminent on them,
And groaned: but we ceased not from hurling stones,
Hard pressing them from this side and from that.
Thereat we heard this terrible onset-shout:320
"Pylades, we shall die: see to it we die
With honour! Draw thy sword, and follow me."
But when we saw our two foes' brandished blades,
In flight we filled the copses of the cliffs.
Yet, if these fled, would those press on again,325
And cast at them; and if they drave those back,
They that first yielded hurled again the stones.
Yet past belief it was—of all those hands,
To smite the Goddess' victims none prevailed.
At last we overbore them,—not by courage,330
But, compassing them, smote the swords unwares
Out of their hands with stones. To earth they bowed
Their toil-spent knees. We brought them to the king:
He looked on them, and sent them with all speed
To thee, for sprinkling waters and blood-bowls. 335
Pray, maiden, that such strangers aye be given
For victims. If thou still destroy such men,
Hellas shall make atonement for thy death,
Yea, shall requite thy blood in Aulis spilt.
Strange tale thou tellest of the man new come,340
Whoe'er from Hellas yon drear sea hath reached.
Enough: go thou, the strangers hither bring:
I will take thought for all that needeth here.
O hardened heart, to strangers in time past
Gentle wast thou and ever pitiful,345
To kinship meting out its due of tears,
When Greeks soever fell into thine hands.
But now, from dreams whereby mine heart is steeled,—
Who deem Orestes seëth light no more,—
Stern shall ye find me, who ye be soe'er.350
Ah, friends, true saw was this, I prove it now:—
The hapless, which, have known fair fortune once,
Are bitter-thoughted unto happier folk.
Ah, never yet a breeze from Zeus hath come,
Nor ship, that through the Clashing Rocks hath brought355
Hitherward Helen, her which ruined me,
And Menelaus, that I might requite
An Aulis here on them for that afar,
Where, like a calf, the sons of Danaus seized
And would have slain me—mine own sire the priest!360
Ah me! that hour's woe cannot I forget—
How oft unto my father's beard I strained
Mine hands, and clung unto my father's knees,
Crying, "O father, in a shameful bridal
I am joined of thee! My mother, in this hour365
When thou art slaying me, with Argive dames
Chanteth my marriage-hymn: through all the house
Flutes ring!—and I am dying by thine hand!
Hades the Achilles was, no Peleus' son,
Thou profferedst me for spouse: thou broughtest me370
By guile with chariot-pomp to bloody spousals."
But I—the fine-spun veil fell o'er mine eyes,
That I took not my brother in mine arms,
Who now is dead, nor kissed my sister's lips
For shame, as unto halls of Peleus bound.375
Yea, many a loving greeting I deferred,
As who should come to Argos yet again.
Hapless Orestes!—from what goodly lot
By death thou art banished, what high heritage!
Out on this Goddess's false subtleties,380
Who, if one stain his hands with blood of men,
Or touch a wife new-travailed, or a corpse,
Bars him her altars, holding him defiled,
Yet joys herself in human sacrifice!
It cannot be that Zeus' bride Leto bare385
Such folly. Nay, I hold unworthy credence
The banquet given of Tantalus to the Gods,—
As though the Gods could savour a child's flesh!
Even so, this folk, themselves man-murderers,
Charge on their Goddess their own sin, I ween;390
For I believe that none of Gods is vile.
Dark cliffs, dark cliffs of the Twin Seas' meeting,
Where the gadfly of Io, from Argos fleeting,
Passed o'er the heave of the havenless surge
From the Asian land unto Europe's verge,
Who are these, that from waters lovely-gleaming
By Eurotas' reeds, or from fountains streaming400
Of Dirkê the hallowed have come, have come,
To the shore where the stranger may find no home,
Where with crimson from human veins that raineth
The Daughter of Zeus her altars staineth
And her pillared dome?
Or with pine-oars rightward and leftward flinging
The surf, and the breeze in the tackle singing
Of the sea-wain, over the surge did they sweep,410
Sore-coveted wealth in their halls to heap?—
For winsome is hope unto men's undoing,
And unsatisfied ever they be with pursuing
The treasure up-piled for the which they roam
Unto alien cities o'er ridges of foam,
By a day-dream beguiled:—and one ne'er taketh
Fortune at flood, while her full tide breaketh
Unsought over some.420
How 'twixt the Death-crags' swing,
And by Phineus' beaches that ring
With voices of seas unsleeping,
Won they, by breakers leaping
O'er the Sea-queen's strand, as they passed
Through the crash of the surge flying fast,
And saw where in dance-rings sweeping
The fifty Nereids sing,—
When strained in the breeze the sail,430
When hissed, as the keel ran free,
The rudder astern, and before the gale
Of the south did the good ship flee,
Or by breath of the west was fanned
Past that bird-haunted strand,
The long white reach of Achilles' Beach,
Where his ghost-feet skim the sand
By the cheerless sea?
But O had Helen but strayed
Hither from Troy, as prayed440
My lady,—that Leda's daughter,
Her darling, with spray of the water
Of death on her head as a wreath,
Were but laid with her throat beneath
The hand of my mistress for slaughter!
Fit penalty so should be paid.
How gladly the word would I hail,
If there came from the Hellene shore,
One hitherward wafted by wing of the sail,
Who should bid that my bondage be o'er,450
My bondage of travail and pain!
O but in dreams yet again
Mid the homes to stand of my fatherland,
In the bliss of a rapturous strain
My soul to outpour!
Enter attendants with Orestes and Pylades.
Lo, hither with pinioned arms come twain,
Victims fresh for the Goddess's fane:—
Friends, hold ye your peace.
No lying message the herdman spoke:460
To the temple be coming the pride of the folk
Of the land of Greece!
Dread Goddess, if well-pleasing unto thee
Are this land's deeds, accept the sacrifice
Her laws give openly, although it be
Accurst in Hellene eyes.
First, that the Goddess' rites be duly done
Must I take heed. Unbind the strangers' hands,
That, being hallowed, they be chained no more;
Then, pass within the temple, and prepare470
What needs for present use, what custom bids.
Who was your mother, she which gave you birth?—
Your sire?—your sister who?—if such there be,
Of what fair brethren shall she be bereaved,
Brotherless now! . . . . Who knoweth upon whom475
Such fates shall fall? Heaven's dealings follow ways
Past finding out, and none foreseeth ill.
Fate draws us ever on to the unknown! . . . .
Whence, O whence come ye, strangers evil-starred?
O'er what long paths to this land have ye sailed?480
Long, long from home shall ye in Hades be.
Why make this moan, and with the ills to come
Afflict us, woman, whosoe'er thou art?
Not wise I count him, who, when doomed to death,
By lamentation would its terrors quell,485
Nor him who wails for Hades looming nigh,
Hopeless of help. Fie maketh evils twain
Of one: he stands of foolishness convict,
And dies no less. E'en let fate take her course.
For us make thou no moan: the altar-rites490
Which this land useth have we learnt, and know.
Whether of you twain here was called by name
Pylades?—this thing first I fain would learn.
He—if to learn this pleasure thee at all.
And of what Hellene state born citizen?495
How should the knowledge, lady, advantage thee?
Say, of one mother be ye brethren twain?
In love we are brethren, lady, not in birth.
And what name gave thy father unto thee?
Rightly might I be called "Unfortunate."500
Not this I ask: lay this to fortune's door.
If I die nameless, I shall not be mocked.
Now wherefore grudge me this? So proud art thou?
My body shalt thou slaughter, not my name.
Not even thy city wilt thou name to me?505
Thou seekest to no profit: I must die.
Yet, as a grace to me, why grant not this?
Argos the glorious boast I for my land.
'Fore Heaven, stranger, art indeed her son?
Yea—of Mycenæ, prosperous in time past.510
Exiled didst quit thy land, or by what hap?
In a sort exiled—willing, and yet loth.
Yet long-desired from Argos hast thou come.
Of me, not: if of thee, see thou to that.
Now wouldst thou tell a thing I fain would know?515
Ay—a straw added to my trouble's weight.
Troy haply know'st thou, famed the wide world through?
Would I did not,—not even seen in dreams!
They say she is no more, by spears o'erthrown.
So is it: things not unfulfilled ye heard.520
Came Helen back to Menelaus' home?
She came—for evil unto kin of mine.
Where is she? Evil debt she oweth me.
In Sparta dwelling with her sometime lord.
Thing loathed of Hellenes, not of me alone!525
I too have tasted of her bridal's fruit.
And came the Achaians home, as rumour saith?
Thou in one question comprehendest all.
Ah, ere thou die, this boon I fain would win.
Ask on, since this thou cravest. I will speak.530
Kalchas, a prophet—came he back from Troy?
Dead—as the rumour in Mycenæ ran.
Iphigeneia (turning to Artemis' temple).
O Queen, how justly! And Laertes' son?
He hath won not home, but liveth, rumour tells.
Now ruin seize him! Never win he home!535
No need to curse. His lot is misery all.
Liveth the son of Nereid Thetis yet?
Lives not. In Aulis vain his bridal was.
A treacherous bridal!—they which suffered know.
Who art thou—thou apt questioner touching Greece?540
Thence am I, in my childhood lost to her.
Well mayst thou, lady, long for word of her.
What of her war-chief, named the prosperous?
Who? Of the prosperous is not he I know.
One King Agamemnon, Atreus' scion named.545
I know not. Lady, let his story be.
Nay, tell, by Heaven, that I be gladdened, friend.
Dead, hapless king!—and perished not alone.
Dead is he? By what fate?—ah, woe is me!
Why dost thou sigh thus? Is he kin to thee?550
His happiness of old days I bemoan.
Yea, and his awful death—slain by his wife!
O all-bewailed, the murderess and the dead!
Refrain thee even now, and ask no more.
This only—lives the hapless hero's wife?555
Lives not. Her son—ay, whom herself bare—slew her.
O house distraught! Slew her!—with what intent?
To avenge on her his murdered father's blood.
Alas!—ill justice, wrought how righteously!
Not blest of Heaven is he, how just soe'er.560
Left the king other issue in his halls?
One maiden child, Electra, hath he left.
How, is nought said of her they sacrificed?
Nought—save, being dead, she seeth not the light.
Ah, hapless she, and hapless sire that slew!565
Slain for an evil woman—graceless grace!
And lives the dead king's son in Argos yet?
He lives, unhappy, nowhere, everywhere.
False dreams, avaunt! So then ye were but nought.
Ay, and not even Gods, whom men call wise,570
Are less deceitful than be fleeting dreams.
Utter confusion is in things divine,
As in things human. This worst grief remains,
When, not of folly, but through words of seers,
Comes ruin—how deep, they that prove it know.575
Alas, alas! Of me—my parents—what?
Live they, or live they not? Ah, who can tell?
Hearken, for I have found us a device,
Strangers, shall do you service, and withal
To me; and thus is fair speed best attained,580
If the same end be pleasing unto all.
Wouldst thou, if I would save thee, take for me
To Argos tidings to my kindred there,
And bear a letter, which a captive wrote
Of pity for me, counting not mine hand585
His murderer, but that he died by law
Of this land, since the Goddess holds it just?
For I had none from Argos come, to go
Back, saved alive, to Argos, and to bear
My letter to a certain friend of mine.590
But thou, if thou art nobly-born, as seems,
And know'st Mycenæ, and the folk I mean,
Receive thy life: accept no base reward,
Deliverance, for a little letter's sake.
But this man, since the state constraineth so,595
Torn from thee, be the Goddess' sacrifice.
Well say'st thou, save for one thing, stranger maid:—
That he be slain were heavy on my soul.
I was his pilot to calamity,
He sails with me for mine affliction's sake.600
Unjust it were that I, in pleasuring thee,
Should seal his doom, and 'scape myself from ills.
Nay, be it thus,—the letter give to him
To bear to Argos; so art thou content:
But me let who will slay. Most base it is605
That one should in misfortune whelm his friends,
Himself escaping. This man is my friend,
Whose life I tender even as mine own.
O noble spirit! from what princely stock
Hast thou sprung, thou so loyal to thy friends!610
Even such be he that of my father's house
Is left alive! For, stranger, brotherless
I too am not, save that I see him not.
Since thou wilt have it so, him will I send
Bearing the letter: thou wilt die. Ah, deep615
This thy strange yearning unto death must be!
Whose shall be that dread deed, my sacrifice?
Mine; for this office hold I of the Goddess.
A task, O maid, unenviable, unblest.
Bowed 'neath necessity, I must submit. 620
A woman, with the priest's knife slay'st thou men?
Nay, on thine hair I shed but lustral spray.
The slayer, who?—if I may ask thee this.
Within the fane be men whose part is this.
And what tomb shall receive me, being dead?625
A wide rock-rift within, and holy fire.
Would that a sister's hand might lay me out!
Vain prayer, unhappy, whosoe'er thou be,
Thou prayest. Far she dwells from this wild land.
Yet, forasmuch as thou an Argive art,630
Of all I can, no service will I spare.
Much ornament will I lay on thy grave:
With golden oil thine ashes will I quench;
The tawny hill-bee's amber-lucent dews,
That well from flowers, I'll shed upon thy pyre.635
I go, the letter from the Goddess' shrine
To bring. Ah, think not bitterly of me!
Ward them, ye guards, but with no manacles.
Perchance to a friend in Argos shall I send
Tidings unhoped—the friend whom most I love:—640
The letter, telling that she lives whom dead
He deems, shall seal the happy tidings' faith.
To Orestes. (Str.)
I wail for thee, for whom there wait
The drops barbaric, on thy brow
To fall, to doom thee to be slain.
This asks not pity. Stranger maids, farewell.
To Pylades. (Ant.)
Thee count I blessed for thy fate,
Thine happy fate, fair youth, that thou
Shalt tread thy native shore again.
Small cause to envy friends, when die their friends.650
Ah, cruel journeying for thee!
Woe! thou art ruined utterly!
Alas! woe worth the day!
Whether of you is deeper whelmed in woe?
For yet my soul in doubt sways to and fro—
Thee shall I chiefly wail, or thee? How shall I say?
'Fore heaven, Pylades, is thy thought mine?—
I know not: this thy question baffles me.
Who is the maiden? With how Greek a heart660
She asked us of the toils in Ilium,
The host's home-coming, Kalchas the wise seer
Of birds, Achilles' name! How pitied she
Agamemnon's wretched fate, and questioned me
Touching his wife, his children! Sure, her birth665
Is thence, of Argos; else she ne'er would send
A letter thither, nor would question thus,
As one whose welfare hung on Argos' weal.
Mine own thought but a little thou forestallest,
Save this—that the calamities of kings670
All know, who have had converse with the world.
But my mind runneth on another theme.
What? Share it, and thou better shalt conclude.
'Twere base that I live on, when thou art dead:
With thee I voyaged, and with thee should die.675
A coward's and a knave's name shall I earn
In Argos and in Phocis' thousand glens.
Most men will think—seeing most men be knaves—
That I forsook thee, escaping home alone,—
Yea, slew thee, mid the afflictions of thine house680
Devising, for thy throne's sake, doom for thee,
As being to thine heiress sister wed.
For these things, then, I take both shame and fear:
It cannot be but I must die with thee,
With thee be slaughtered and with thee be burned,685
Seeing I am thy friend, and dread reproach.
Ah, speak not so! My burden must I bear;
Nor, when but one grief needs, will I bear twain.
For that reproach and grief which thou dost name
Is mine, if thee, the sharer of my toil,690
I slay. For my lot is not evil all,—
Being thus tormented by the Gods,—to die.
But thou art prosperous: taintless are thine halls,
Unstricken; mine accurst and fortune-crost.
If thou be saved, and get thee sons of her,695
My sister, whom I gave thee to thy wife,
Then should my name live, nor my father's house
Ever, for lack of heirs, be blotted out.
Pass hence, and live: dwell in my father's halls.
And when to Greece and Argos' war-steed land700
Thou com'st,—by this right hand do I charge thee—
Heap me a tomb: memorials lay of me
There; tears and shorn hair let my sister give.
And tell how by an Argive woman's hand
I died, by altar death-dews consecrate.705
Never forsake my sister, though thou see
Thy marriage-kin, my sire's house, desolate.
Farewell. Of friends I have found thee kindliest,
O fellow-hunter, foster-brother mine,
Bearer of many a burden of mine ills!710
Me Phœbus, prophet though he be, deceived,
And by a cunning shift from Argos drave
Afar, for shame of those his prophecies.
I gave up all to him, obeyed his words,
My mother slew—and perish now myself!715
Thine shall a tomb be: ne'er will I betray
Thy sister's bed, O hapless: I shall still
Hold thee a dearer friend in death than life.
Yet thee hath the God's oracle not yet
Destroyed, albeit thou standest hard by death.720
Nay, misery's blackest night may chance, may chance,
By fortune's turn, to unfold a sudden dawn.
Peace! Phœbus' words avail me nothing now;
For yonder forth the temple comes the maid.
Iphigeneia (to guards).
Depart ye, and within make ready all725
For them whose office is the sacrifice.[Exeunt guards].
Strangers, my letter's many-leavèd folds
Are here: but that which therebeside I wish
Hear:—in affliction is no man the same
As when he hath passed from fear to confidence.730
I dread lest, having gotten from this land,
He who to Argos should my tablet bear
Shall set my letter utterly at nought.
What wouldst thou then? Why thus disquieted?
Let him make oath to bear to Argos this735
To them to whom I fain would send my script.
Wilt thou in turn give him the selfsame pledge?
To do what thing, or leave undone? Say on.
To send him forth this barbarous land unslain?
A fair claim thine! How should he bear it else?740
But will the king withal consent hereto?
I will persuade him, yea, embark thy friend.
Orestes (to Pylades).
Swear thou:—and thou a sacred oath dictate.
Say thou wilt give this tablet to my friends.
I to thy friends will render up this script.745
And through the Dark Rocks will I send thee safe.
What Gods dost take to witness this thine oath?
Artemis, in whose fane I hold mine office.
And I by Heaven's King, reverèd Zeus.
What if thou fail thine oath, and do me wrong?750
May I return not. If thou save me not?—
Alive in Argos may I ne'er set foot.
Hear now a matter overlooked of us.
Not yet is this too late, so it be fair.
This clearance grant me—if the ship be wrecked,755
And in the sea-surge with the lading sink
The letter, and my life alone I save,
That then of this mine oath shall I be clear.
"For many a chance have many a shift"— hear mine:—
All that is written in the letter's folds760
My tongue shall say, that thou mayst tell my friends.
So is all safe: if thou lose not the script,
Itself shall voiceless tell its written tale:
But if this writing in the sea be lost,
Then thy life saved shall save my words for me. 765
Well hast thou said, both for thy need, and me.
Now say to whom this letter I must bear
To Argos, and from thee what message speak.
Say to Orestes, Agamemnon's son—
"This Iphigeneia, slain in Aulis, sends, 770
Who liveth, yet for those at home lives not—"
Where is she? Hath she risen from the dead?
She whom thou seest—confuse me not with speech:—
"Bear me to Argos, brother, ere I die:
From this wild land, these sacrifices, save, 775
Wherein mine office is to slay the stranger; "—
What shall I say?—Now dream we, Pylades?
"Else to thine house will I become a curse,
Orestes "—so, twice heard, hold fast the name.
Why in mine affairs invoke the Gods ? 780
'Tis nought: say on: my thoughts had wandered far.
(Aside) This marvel may I yet by question fathom.
Say—"Artemis in my place laid a hind,
And saved me,—this my father sacrificed,
Deeming he plunged the keen blade into me,— 785
And made me dwell here." This the letter is,
And in the tablets this is what is writ.
O thou who hast bound me by an easy oath—
Hast fairly sworn!—I will not tarry long
To ratify the oath that I have sworn. 790
This tablet, lo, to thee I bear, and give,
Orestes, from thy sister, yonder maid.
This I receive:—I let its folds abide—
First will I seize a rapture not in words:—
Dear sister mine, albeit wonder-struck, 795
With scarce-believing arm I fold thee round,
And taste delight, who hear things marvellous!
Stranger, thou sinn'st, polluting Artemis' priestess,
Casting about her sacred robes thine arm!
O sister mine, thou of one father sprung, 800
Agamemnon, turn not thou away from me,
Who hast thy brother, past expectancy!
I?—thee?—my brother?—wilt not hold thy peace?
Argos and Nauplia know his presence now.
Not there, unhappy one, thy brother is. 805
Did Tyndareus' Spartan daughter bear thee then?
To Pelops' son's son, of whose loins I sprang.
What say'st thou?—hast thou proof hereof for me?
I have. Ask somewhat of our father's home.
Now nay; 'tis thou must speak, 'tis I must learn. 810
First will I name this—from Electra heard:—
Know'st thou of Atreus' and Thyestes' feud?
I heard, how of a golden lamb it came.
This broidered in thy web rememberest thou?—
Dearest, thy course wheels very nigh my heart! 815
And, pictured in thy loom, the sun turned back?
This too I wrought with fine-spun broidery-threads.
Bath-water sent to Aulis of thy mother?—
I know—that bridal's bliss stole not remembrance.
Again—thine hair unto thy mother sent? 820
Yea, a grave-token in my body's stead.
What myself saw, these will I name for proofs:
In our sire's halls was Pelops' ancient spear,
Swayed in his hands when Pisa's maid he won,
Hippodameia, and slew Oenomaus: 825
Hidden it was within thy maiden bower.
Dearest!—nought else, for thou art passing dear!—
Orestes, best-beloved, I clasp thee now,
Far from thy fatherland, from Argos, here,
O love, art thou! 830
And thee I clasp—the dead, as all men thought!
Tears—that are no tears,—ecstasy blent with moan,
Make happy mist in thine eyes as in mine.
That day in the arms of thy nurse did I leave thee a babe, did I leave thee,
A little one—ah, such a little one then in our palace wast thou!
O, a fortune too blissful for words doth receive thee, my soul, doth receive thee!
What can I say?—for, transcending all marvels, of speech they bereave me,
The things that have come on us now! 840
Hereafter side by side may we be blest!
O friends, I am thrilled with a strange delight:
Yet I fear lest out of mine arms to the height
Of the heaven he may wing his flight.
O hearths Cyclopian, O my fatherland
Mycenæ the dear,
For the gift of his life thanks, thanks for thy fostering hand,
For that erst thou didst rear
My brother, a light of defence in our halls to stand.
Touching our birth blest are we, but our life, 850
My sister, in its fortunes was unblest.
I know it, alas! who remember the blade
To my throat by my wretched father laid—
Woe's me! though far, I seem to see thee there!
When by guile I was thitherward trained, the bride,
As they feigned, whom Achilles should wed!
But the marriage-chant rang not the altar beside,
But tears streamed, voices of wailing cried; 860
Woe, woe for the lustral-drops there shed!
I wail, I too, the deed my father dared.
An unfatherly father by doom was allotted to me;
Yet ills out of ills rise ceaselessly
By a God's decree!
Ah, hadst thou slain thy brother, hapless one!
Woe for my crime! I took in hand a deed
Of horror, brother! Scant escape was thine 870
From god-accursed destruction, even to bleed
By mine hand, mine!
Yea, now what end to all this doth remain?
What shrouded fate shall yet encounter me?
By what device from this land home again
Shall I speed thee
From slaughter, and to Argos bid depart,
Or ever with thy blood incarnadined 880
The sword be? 'Tis thy task, O wretched heart,
The means to find.
What, without ship, far over land wouldst fly
With feet swift-winged with terror and despair,
Through wild tribes, pathless ways, aye drawing nigh
Death ambushed there?
Nay, through the Dark-blue Rocks, the strait sea-portal,
Bearing thee must a bark her long course run. 890
O hapless, hapless I! What God or mortal,
O hapless one,
Or what strange help transcending expectation
Shall to us twain, of Atreus' seed the last,
Bring fair deliverance, bring from ills salvation,—
From ills o'erpast!
Marvel of marvels, passing fabled lore, 900
Myself have seen, none telleth me the tale.
Orestes, well may friends which meet the gaze
Of friends, enfold them in the clasp of love.
Yet must we cease from moan, and look to this,
In what wise winning glorious safety's name 905
Forth from the land barbaric we may fare.
For wise men take occasion by the hand,
And let not fortune slip for pleasure's lure.
Well say'st thou: yet will fortune work, I trow,
Herein with us. But toil of strenuous hands 910
Still doubles the Gods' power to render aid.
Thou shalt not stay me, neither turn aside
From asking of Electra first—her lot
In life: all touching her is dear to me.
Wedded to this man (pointing to Pyl.) happy life she hath. 915
And he—what land is his?—his father, who?
Strophius the Phocian is his father's name.
Ha! Atreus' daughter's son, of kin to me?
Thy cousin is he, and my one true friend.
He was unborn when my sire sought my death. 920
Unborn; for long time childless Strophius was.
O husband of my sister, hail to thee!
Yea, and my saviour, not my kin alone.
How couldst thou dare that dread deed on our mother?
Speak we not of it!—to avenge my sire. 925
And what the cause for which she slew her lord?
Let be my mother: 'twould pollute thine ears.
I am silent. Looketh Argos now to thee?
Menelaus rules: I am exiled from the land.
Our uncle—he insult our stricken house! 930
Nay, but the Erinnyes' terror drives me forth.
Thence told they of thy frenzy on yon shore.
Not now first was my misery made a show.
Yea, for thy mother's sake fiends haunted thee—
To thrust a bloody bridle in my mouth. 935
Wherefore to this land didst thou steer thy foot?
Bidden of Phœbus' oracle I came.
With what intent? May this be told or no?
Nay, I will tell it, source of many a woe.
When to mine hands' avenging fell the sin 940
I name not, of my mother, chasing fiends
Drave me to exile, until Loxias
Guided my feet to Athens at the last,
To make atonement to the Nameless Ones.
For there is a tribunal, erst ordained 945
Of Zeus, to cleanse the War-god's blood-stained hands.
Thither I came: but no bond-friend at first
Would welcome me, as one abhorred of heaven.
They which took shame, at a several table gave
The guest-fare, tarrying 'neath the selfsame roof; 950
Yet from all converse by their silence banned me,
So from their meat and drink to hold me apart;
And, filling for each man a several pitcher,
All equal, had their pleasure of the wine.
I took not on me to arraign mine hosts; 955
But, as who marked it not, in silence grieved;
With bitter sighs the mother-slayer grieved.
Now are my woes to Athens made, I hear,
A festival, and yet the custom lives
That Pallas' people keep the Pitcher-feast. 960
And when to Ares' mount I came to face
My trial, I upon this platform stood,
And the Erinnyes' eldest upon that.
Then, of my mother's blood arraigned, I spake;
And Phœbus' witness saved me. Pallas told 965
The votes: her arm swept half apart for me.
So was I victor in the murder-trial.
They which consented to the judgment, chose
Nigh the tribunal for themselves a shrine.
But of the Erinnyes some consented not, 970
And hounded me with homeless chasings aye,
Until, to Phœbus' hallowed soil returned,
Fasting before his shrine I cast me down,
And swore to snap my life-thread, dying there,
Except Apollo saved me, who destroyed. 975
Then from the golden tripod Phœbus' voice
Pealed, hither sending me to take the image
Heaven-fall'n, and set it up in Attica.
Now to this safety thus ordained of him
Help thou: for, so the image be but won, 980
My madness shall have end: thee will I speed
Back to Mycenæ in a swift-oared ship.
O well-belovèd one, O sister mine,
Save thou our father's house, deliver me.
For Pelops' line and I are all undone 985
Except I win that image fall'n from heaven.
Dread wrath of Gods hath burst upon the seed
Of Tantalus, and on through travail drives.
Earnest my longing, ere thou earnest, was
To be in Argos, brother, and see thee. 990
Thy will is mine, to set thee free from woes,
And to restore my father's stricken house,
Nursing no wrath against my murderer.
So of thy slaughter shall mine hands be clean,
And I shall save our house. Yet how elude 995
The Goddess?—how the king, when he shall find
Void of its statue that stone pedestal?
How shall I not die? What should be my plea?
But if both ends in one may be achieved—
If, with the statue, on thy fair-prowed ship 1000
Thou bear me hence, the peril well is braved.
If I attain not liberty, I die;
Yet still mayst thou speed well, and win safe home.
O then I flinch not, though my doom be death,
So I save thee! A man that from a house 1005
Dies, leaves a void: a woman matters not.
My mother's slayer and thine I will not be!
Suffice her blood. With heart at one with thine
Fain would I live, and dying share thy death.
Thee will I lead, except I perish here, 1010
Homeward, or dying here abide with thee.
Hear mine opinion—if this thing displease
Artemis, how had Loxias bidden me
To bear her statue unto Pallas' burg,
And see thy face? So, setting side by side 1015
All these, I hope to win safe home-return.
How may we both escape death, and withal
Bear off that prize? Imperilled most herein
Our home-return is:—this must we debate.
Haply might we prevail to slay the king? 1020
Foul deed were this, that strangers slay their host.
Yet must we venture—for thy life and mine.
I could not. Yet thine eager heart I praise.
How if thou privily hide me in yon fane?
By favour of the dark to steal it thence? 1025
Yea, night is leagued with theft: the light for truth.
Within the fane be guards: no baffling them.
Alas! we are undone. How can we 'scape?
Methinks I have a yet untried device.
Ha, what? Impart thy thought, that I may know. 1030
Thy misery will I turn to cunning use.
Women be shrewd to seek inventions out!
A matricide from Argos will I name thee,—
Use my misfortunes, if it serve thine end.
Unmeet for sacrifice to Artemis,— 1035
Pleading what cause?—for somewhat I surmise.
As one unclean. The pure alone I slay.
Yet how the more hereby is the image won?
I'll say that I would cleanse thee in sea-springs;—
Still bides the statue there, for which we sailed. 1040
That this too must I wash, as touched of thee.
Where?—in yon creek where rains the blown sea-spray?
Nay, where thy ship rides moored with hempen reins.
Will thine hands, or another's, bear the image?
Mine. Sinlessly none toucheth it save me. 1045
And in this blood-guilt what is Pylades' part?
Stained even as thine his hands are, will I say.
Hid from the king shall be thy deed, or known?
I must persuade whom I could not elude.
Ready in any wise the oared ship is. 1050
'Tis thine to see that all beside go well.
One thing we lack, that yon maids hide all this.
Beseech them thou, and find persuasive words;
A woman's tongue hath pity-stirring might:—
Then may all else perchance have happy end. 1055
Damsels beloved, I raise mine eyes to you.
Mine all is in your hands—for happiness,
Or ruin, and for loss of fatherland,
Of a dear brother, and a sister loved.
Of mine appeal be this the starting-point— 1060
Women are we, each other's staunchest friends,
In keeping common counsel wholly loyal.
Keep silence; help us to achieve our flight.
A loyal tongue is its possessor's crown.
Ye see three friends upon one hazard cast, 1065
Or to win back to fatherland or die.
If I escape,—that thou mayst share my fortune,—
Thee will I bring home. Oh, by thy right hand
Thee I implore—and thee!—by thy sweet face
Thee,—by thy knees—by all thou lov'st at home! 1070
What say ye? Who consents?—Who sayeth nay—
Oh speak!—to this?—for if ye hearken not,
I and mine hapless brother are undone.
Fear not, dear lady: do but save thyself. 1075
I will keep silence touching all the things
Whereof thou chargest me: great Zeus be witness.
Heaven bless you for the word! Happy be ye!
(To Or. and Pyl.) 'Tis thy part now, and thine, to pass within;
For this land's king shall in short space be here 1080
To ask if yet this sacrifice be done.
O Goddess-queen, who erst by Aulis' clefts
Didst save me from my sire's dread murderous hand,
Save me now too with these; else Loxias' words
Through thee shall be no more believed of men. 1085
But graciously come forth this barbarous land
To Athens. It beseems thee not to dwell
Here, when so blest a city may be thine.
Iphigeneia, Orestes, and Pylades enter the temple.
Thou bird, who by scaurs o'er the sea-breakers leaning
Ever chantest thy song, 1090
O Halcyon, thy burden of sorrow, whose meaning
To the wise doth belong,
Who discern that for aye on thy mate thou art crying,
I lift up a dirge to thy dirges replying—
Ah, thy pinions I have not!—for Hellas sighing,
For the blithe city-throng;
For that happier Artemis sighing, who dwelleth
By the Cynthian Hill,
By the feathery palm, by the shoot that swelleth
When the bay-buds fill, 1100
By the pale-green sacred olive that aided
Leto, whose travail the dear boughs shaded,
By the lake with the circling ripples braided,
Where from throats of the swans to the Muses upwelleth
O tears on my cheeks that as fountains plashing
Were rained that day,
When I sailed, from our towers that in ruin were crashing,
In our galleys, the prey
Of the oars of the foe, of the spears that had caught me, 1110
And for gold in the balances weighed men bought me,
And unto a barbarous home they brought me,
To the handmaid-array
Of Atreides' daughter, who sacrificeth
To the Huntress-queen
On the altars whence reek of the slain Greeks riseth!
Ah, the man that hath seen
Bliss never, full gladly his lot would I borrow!
For he faints not 'neath ills, who was cradled in sorrow;
On his night of affliction may dawn bright morrow:
But whom ruin, in happiness ambushed, surpriseth,
Ah, their stroke smiteth keen!
And the fifty oars shall dip of the Argive gallant ship
That shall waft thee to the homeland shore;
And the waxèd pipe shall ring of the mountain Shepherd-king
To enkindle them that tug the strenuous oar;
And the Seer shall wing their fleetness, even Phœbus, by the sweetness
Of the seven-stringed lyre in his hand;
And his chanting voice shall lead you as in triumph-march, and speed you 1130
Unto Athens, to the sunny-gleaming land.
And I shall be left here lone, but thou
Shalt be racing with plash of the pine,
While the broad sail swells o'er the plunging prow
Outcurving the forestay-line,
While the halliards shiver, the mainsheets quiver,
As the cutwater leaps thro' the brine.
And it's O that I could soar down the splendour-litten floor
Where the sun drives the chariot-steeds of light,
And it's O that I were come o'er the chambers of my home, 1140
And were folding the swift pinions of my flight;
And that, where at royal wedding the bridemaidens' feet are treading
Through the measure, I were gliding in the dance,
Through its maze of circles sweeping with mine olden playmates, keeping
Truest time with waving arms and feet that glance!
And it's O for the loving rivalry,
For the sweet forms costly-arrayed,
For the raiment of cunningest broidery,
For the challenge of maid to maid,
For the veil light-tossing, the loose curl crossing 1150
My cheek with its flicker of shade!
Enter Thoas with attendants.
Where is this temple's warder, Hellas' daughter?
Hath she begun yon strangers' sacrifice?
Are they ablaze with fire in the holy shrine? 1155
Here is she, king, to tell thee clearly all.
Artemis in her arms.
Why bear'st thou in thine arms, Agamemnon's child,
From its inviolate base the Goddess' statue?
King, stay thy foot there in the portico!
What marvel hath befallen in the fane? 1160
Avaunt, pollution, in religion's name!
What strange thing dost thou preface? Plainly tell.
Unclean I found thy captured victims, king.
What proof hast thou?—or speak'st thou but thy thought?
Back from its place the Goddess' statue turned. 1165
Self-moved?—or did an earthquake wrench it round?
Self-moved. Yea, also did it close its eyes.
The cause?—pollution by the strangers brought?
This, and nought else; for foul deeds have they done.
Ha! slaughter of my people on the shore? 1170
Nay, stained with guilt of murdered kin they came.
What kin? I am filled with longing this to learn.
Their mother with confederate swords they slew.
Apollo! Of barbarians none had dared it!
Out of all Hellas hunted were they driven. 1175
And for their cause bear'st thou the image forth?
'Neath holy sky to banish that blood-taint.
The strangers' guilt—how knewest thou thereof?
I questioned them, when back the Goddess turned.
Wise child of Hellas, well didst thou discern. 1180
Even now they cast a bait to entice mine heart.
Tidings from Argos—made they this their lure?
Yea, of mine only brother Orestes' weal.
That thou might'st spare them for their welcome news?
My father liveth and is well, say they. 1185
Thou to the Goddess' part in thee didst cleave?
Yea, for I hate all Greece, which gave me death.
What shall we do then with the strangers, say?
We must needs reverence the ordinance.
Why do not lustral drops and knife their part? 1190
With holy cleansings would I wash them first.
In fountain-waters, or in sea-spray showers?
The sea doth wash away all ills of men.
Thus holier should the Goddess' victims be.
And better so should all my purpose speed. 1195
Full on the fane doth not the sea-surge break?
There needeth solitude: more is to do.
Where thou wilt. Into mystic rites I pry not.
The image must I purify withal.
Yea, if the matricide hath tainted it. 1200
Else from its pedestal had I moved it not.
Righteous thy piety and forethought are.
Know'st thou now what still I lack?
'Tis thine to tell what yet must be.
Bind with chains the strangers.
Whither from thy warding could they flee?
Faithless utterly is Hellas. 1205
Henchmen mine, to bind them go.
Let them now bring forth the strangers hither ward,—
It shall be so.
Veiling first their heads with mantles.
Lest the sun pollution see.
Send thou also of thy servants with me.
These shall go with thee.
And throughout the city send thou one to warn—
'Gainst what mischance?
That within all folk abide;— 1210
Lest any eye meet murder's glance.
For the look shall bring pollution.
Thoas (to attendant).
Go thou, warn the folk of this.
Yea, and chiefly of my friends—
Hereby thou meanest me, I wis.
None must to the sight draw near.
Our city hath thine heedful care.
Rightly through the city art thou reverenced everywhere.
Thou abide before Her shrine: 1215
What service shall I do her there?
Cleanse her house with flame.
That it be pure for thy return thereto.
And when forth the temple come the strangers—
What behoves to do?
Draw thy mantle o'er thine eyes.
Lest I be tainted of their sin?
If o'erlong I seem to tarry,—
What the limit set herein?
Marvel not. 1220
In thine own season render thou the dues divine.
Fair befall this purifying as I would!
Thy prayer is mine.
Lo, and even now I see the strangers pacing forth the fane,
With the adorning of the Goddess, with the lambs,—that by blood-stain
Blood-stain I may cleanse,—with flash of torches, and with what beside,
As I bade, the strangers and the Goddess shall be purified. 1225
Now I warn the city-folk to shrink from this pollution far:—
Ye that, with pure hands for heaven's service, temple-warders are,
Whoso purposeth espousals, whoso laboureth with child,
Flee ye; hence away, that none with this pollution be defiled.
Queen, O child of Zeus and Leto, so the guilt from these I lave, 1230
So I sacrifice what meet is, stainless temple shalt thou have;
Blest withal shall we be—more I say not, yet to Gods who know
All, and, Goddess, unto thee, mine heart's desire I plainly show.
[Thoas enters temple. Exeunt Iphigeneia,
Orestes, Pylades, and attendants.
A glorious babe in the days of old
Leto in Delos bare,
Mid its valleys of fruitage manifold,
The babe of the golden hair,—
Lord of the harp sweet-ringing, king of the bow sure-winging
The shaft that he loveth well,—and she fled from the rock by the swell
Of the sea encompassed, bringing 1240
From the place where her travail befell
Her babe to the height whence rolled the gushing rills untold,
Where the Wine-god's revels stormy-souled
O'er the crests of Parnassus fare;
Where, gleaming with coils iridescent, half-hiding
The glint of his mail 'neath the dense-shadowed bay,
Was the earth-spawned monster, the dragon, gliding
Round the chasm wherein earth's oracle lay.
But thou, who wast yet but a babe, yet leaping
Babe-like in thy mother's loving embrace, 1250
Thou, Phœbus, didst slay him, didst take for thine
The oracle's lordship, the right divine,
And still on the tripod of gold art keeping
Thy session, dispensing to us, to the race
Of men, revelation of heaven's design,
From thy throne of truth, from the secret shrine,
By the streams through Castaly's cleft up-sweeping,
Where the Heart of the World is thy dwelling-place.
But the Child of Earth did his coming make
Of her birthright dispossessed, 1260
For the oracle-sceptre of Themis he brake:
Wherefore the Earth from her breast,
To make of his pride a derision, sent forth dream-vision on vision,
Whereby to the sons of men the things that had been ere then,
And the things for the Gods' decision
Yet waiting beyond our ken,
Through the darkness of slumber she spake, and from Phœbus—in fierce heart-ache
Of jealous wrath for her daughter's sake—
His honour so did she wrest.
Swift hasted our King to Olympus' palace, 1270
And with child-arms clinging to Zeus' throne prayed
That the night-visions born of the Earth-mother's malice
Might be banished the fane in the Pythian glade.
Smiled Zeus, that his son, for the costly oblations
Of his worshippers jealous, so swiftly had come:
And he shook his locks for the great oath-plight,
And he made an end of the voices of night;
For he took from mortals the visitations
Of the night-dreams born of the Earth's dark womb;
And he sealed by an everlasting right 1280
Loxias' honours, that all men might
Trust wholly his word, when the thronging nations
Bowed at the throne where he sang fate's doom.
O temple-warders, altar-ministers,
Whither hath Thoas gone, this country's king? 1285
Fling wide the closely-bolted doors, and call
Forth of these halls the ruler of the land.
What is it?—if unbidden I may speak.
Gone are the two youths, vanished clean from sight,
Gone, by the plots of Agamemnon's child, 1290
Fleeing from this land, taking with them hence
The holy statue in a Greek ship's hold.
Thy tale is past belief!—but the land's king,
Whom thou wouldst see, hath hurried forth the fane.
Whither?—for what is done he needs must know. 1295
We know not: go thou, hasten after him,
And, where thou findest him, make thy report.
Lo now, how treacherous is womankind!
Ye also are partakers in this deed.
Art mad? What is to us the strangers' flight? 1300
Away with all speed to thy master's gates.
Nay, not till I be certified of this,
Whether the land's lord be within or no.
What ho!—within there!—shoot the door-bolts back,
And to your master tell that at the gates 1305
Am I, who bear a burden of ill-news.
Enter Thoas from the temple.
Who makes this outcry at the Goddess' fane,
Smiting the doors, and hurling noise within?
Falsely these said—would so have driven me hence—
That thou wast forth, while yet wast thou within. 1310
What profit sought they?—hunted for what gain?
Their deeds hereafter will I tell. Hear thou
The trouble at the doors. The maid that here
Served at the altars, Iphigeneia, is fled
With yonder strangers, and the holy image 1315
Hath taken. Nought but guile that cleansing was.
How say'st? What wind of fortune hath she found?
To save Orestes. Marvel thou at this!
Orestes?—him whom Tyndareus' daughter bare?
Him whom the Goddess hallowed for her altars. 1320
O marvel! What name stronger fitteth thee?
Take thou not thought for that, but list to me:
Mark clearly all, and as thou hear'st devise
By what pursuit to hunt the strangers down.
Say on: thou speakest well. By no near course 1325
They needs must flee, that they should 'scape my spear.
Soon as unto the sea-beach we had come,
Where hidden was Orestes' galley moored,
Us, whom with those bound strangers thou didst send,
Agamemnon's child waved back, to stand aloof, 1330
As one at point to light the inviolate fire
And do the cleansing for the which she came.
Herself took in her hands the strangers' bonds,
And paced behind. Somewhat mine heart misgave,
Yet were thy servants satisfied, O King. 1335
Time passed: she chanted loud in alien hymns
Of wizardry,—with semblance of weird rites
To cozen us,—as one that cleansed blood-guilt.
But when we had been long time sitting thus,
It came into our minds that, breaking loose, 1340
The strangers might have slain her, and have fled.
Yet, dreading to behold forfended things,
Silent we sat, till all agreed at last
To go to where they were, albeit forbid.
And there we see a Hellene galley's hull 1345
With ranks of oar-blades fringed, sea-plashing wings,
And fifty seamen at the tholes thereof
Grasping their oars: and from their bonds set free
Beside the galley's stern the young men stood.
The prow with poles some steadied, some hung up 1350
The anchor at the catheads, some in haste,
The while they haled the hawsers through their hands,
Dropped ladders for the strangers to the sea.
But we spared not, so soon as we beheld
Their cunning wiles: we grasped the stranger-maid, 1355
The hawser-bands, and strove to wrench the helms
Out through the stern-ports of the stately ship.
And rang our shouts:—"By what right do ye steal
Images from our land and priestesses?
Who and whose son art thou, to kidnap her?" 1360
But he, "Orestes I, her brother, son
Of Agamemnon, know thou. She I bear
Hence is my sister whom I lost from home."
Yet no less clung we to the stranger-maid,
And would have forced to follow us to thee, 1365
Whence came these fearful buffets on my cheeks.
For in their hands steel weapons had they none,
Nor we; but there were clenched fists hailing blows,
And those young champions twain dashed spurning feet,
As javelins swift, on belly and rib of us. 1370
Scarce had we grappled, ere our limbs waxed faint;
And marked with ghastly scars of strife we fled
Unto the cliffs, some bearing gory weals
Upon their heads, and others on their eyes.
Yet, rallying on the heights, more warily 1375
We fought, and fell to hurling stones on them.
But archers, planted on her stern, with shafts
Back beat us, that we needs must draw aloof.
Meanwhile a great surge shoreward swung the ship;
And, for the maiden feared to wade the surf, 1380
On his left shoulder Orestes lifted her,
Strode through the sea, upon the ladder leapt,
And in the good ship set his sister down,
With that heaven-fallen image of Zeus' child.
Then from the galley's midst rang loud and clear 1385
A shout—"Ye seamen of this Hellene ship,
Grip oars, and churn the swirling breakers white;
For we have won the prize for which we sailed
The cheerless sea within the Clashing Rocks."
Then, with glad gasp loud-bursting from each breast, 1390
Smote they the brine. The ship made way, while yet
Within the bay; but, as she cleared its mouth,
By fierce surge met, she laboured heavily;
For suddenly swooped a wild gust on the ship,
Stern-foremost thrusting her. With might and main 1395
They strove with fate, but towards the land again
The back-sweep drave the ship: then stood and prayed
Agamemnon's daughter, "Leto's Child, O Maid,
Save me, thy priestess! Bring me unto Greece
From alien land; forgive my theft of thee! 1400
Thy brother, Goddess, dost thou also love:
O then believe that I too love my kin!"
The mariners' pæan to the maiden's prayer
Answered, the while with shoulders bare they strained
The oar-blade deftly to the timing-cry. 1405
Nearer the rocks—yet nearer—came the bark.
Then of us some rushed wading through the sea,
And some held nooses ready for the cast.
And straightway hitherward I sped to thee,
To tell to thee, O King, what there befell. 1410
On then! Take with thee chain and cord in hand.
For, if the sea-swell sink not into calm,
Hope of deliverance have the strangers none.
The sea's Lord, dread Poseidon, graciously
Looketh on Ilium, wroth with Pelops' line, 1415
And now shall give up Agamemnon's son
To thine hands and thy people's, as is meet,
With her who, traitress to the Goddess proved,
That sacrifice in Aulis hath forgot.
Woe is thee, Iphigeneia! With thy brother 1420
Caught in the tyrant's grasp shalt thou be slain!
What ho! ye citizens of this my land,
Up, bridle ye your steeds!—along the shore
Gallop! The stranding of the Hellene ship
Await ye there, and, with the Goddess' help, 1425
Make speed to hunt yon impious caitiffs down.
And ye, go hale my swift keels to the wave,
That, both by sea and coursing steeds on land,
These we may take, and down the rugged crag
May hurl them, or on stakes impale alive. 1430
You women, who were privy to this plot,
Hereafter, when my leisure serveth me,
Will I yet punish. Having now in hand
The instant need, I will not idly wait.
Athena appears in mid-air above the stage.
Whither, now whither, speed'st thou this pursuit, 1435
King Thoas? Hear my words—Athena's words.
Cease from this chase, from pouring forth thine host;
For, foreordained by Loxias' oracles,
Orestes came, to escape the Erinnyes' wrath,
And lead his sister unto Argos home, 1440
And bear the sacred image to my land,
So to win respite from his present woes.
This is my word to thee: Orestes, whom
Thou think'st to take in mid-sea surge, and slay—
Even now for my sake doth Poseidon lull
To calm the breakers, speeding on his bark. 1445
And thou, Orestes, to mine hests give heed—
For, though afar, thou hear'st the voice divine:—
Taking the image and thy sister, go;
And when thou com'st to Athens' god-built towers,
A place there is upon the utmost bounds 1450
Of Attica, hard by Karystus' ridge,
A holy place, named Halae of my folk.
Build there a shrine, and set that image up,
Named from the Taurian land and from thy toils,
The travail of thy wandering through Greece, 1455
Erinnys-goaded. Men through days to come
Shall chant her—Artemis the Taurian Queen.
This law ordain: when folk keep festival,
In quittance for thy slaughter one must hold
To a man's throat the sword, and spill the blood 1460
For hallowing and the Goddess' honour's sake.
Thou, Iphigeneia, by the holy stairs
Of Brauron must this Goddess' warden be.
There shalt thou die, and be entombed, and webs
Of all fair vesture shall they offer thee 1465
Which wives who perish in their travail-tide
Leave in their homes. I charge thee, King, to send
Homeward these maids of Hellas from thy land
For their true hearts' sake. I delivered thee
Erstwhile, Orestes, balancing the votes 1470
On Ares' mount; and this shall be a law—
The equal tale of votes acquits the accused.
Now from this land thy sister bear o'ersea,
Agamemnon's son: Thoas, be wroth no more.
Athena, Queen, who hears the words of Gods, 1475
And disobeyeth them, is sense-bereft.
Lo, I against Orestes and his sister
Chafe not, that he hath borne the image hence.
What boots it to defy the mighty Gods?
Let them with Artemis' statue to thy land 1480
Depart, and with fair fortune set it up.
I unto happy Greece will send withal
These maids, according as thine hest enjoins;
Will stay the spear against the strangers raised,
And the ships, Goddess, since it is thy will. 1485
'Tis well: for thee, for Gods, is Fate too strong.
Forth, breezes! Waft ye Agamemnon's son
To Athens: even I will voyage with him,
Keeping my sister's holy image safe.
Speed with fair fortune, in bliss speed on1490
For the doom reversed, for the life re-won.
Pallas Athena, Queen adored
Of mortals on earth, of Immortals in heaven,
We will do according to this thy word:
For above all height to which hope hath soared
Is the glad, glad sound to our ears that is given.
Hail, reverèd Victory:
Rest upon my life; and me
Crown, and crown eternally.
- The modern Crimea.
- Or, reading πνευμάτων τε, "But, wearying mid dead calm and fitful gust," or, "But when, for adverse blasts, no ship might sail." (England).
- So MSS. Al. τέχναι "And Odysseus' wiles From her side drew me."
- So MSS. Nauck reads Ἀχαιοὺς, "from the Achaians' hands, Set in my place, etc."
- The name, "Tauropolia," would not lead strangers to suspect that it differed from the festivals of Artemis with which they were familiar in Greece.
- She sprinkled the victim with holy water, then cut a lock of hair from his forehead and cast it on the fire.
- Referring to the custom of averting the evil of bad dreams by telling them to the morning sun, which was regarded as dispelling the dark influences of night.
- A much-disputed passage, both as to text and interpretation. The above follows Paley. England's reading gives,
Shall we ascend? But how then let us down,
Or force with levers the brass-welded bolts,
And enter so? But if, etc."
- MS. reading, λάθοιμεν, "How then be unperceived."
- See note to Electra, l. 699.
- See Hecuba, ll. 466—474, and note.
- Others interpret, "Now what is this that on our counsel breaks?"
- Or, if we read σχῆμα, "Whence?—of what land bear they the outward show?"
- Both text and sense of 288—294 are much disputed. The following rendering is based on other readings and interpretations:
"And this, whose robes waft fire and slaughter forth,
Flaps towards yon craggy height her wings:—she holds
My mother in her arms, to hurl her down!
Ah! she will slay me!—whither can I fly?"
Yet ever his fancy changed, for now he feigned
Lowing of kine and barking as of dogs—
Such howlings as the Fiends send forth, men say.
- Or, reading κούρᾳ,
"Where raineth the crimson of human slaughter
On the altars of Zeus's Virgin Daughter."
- i.e. What I would know is the name for which your father, not fortune, is responsible.
- The bitterest drop in the death-cup to a Greek was the derision of foes (cf. Medea 1362, Herakles 286). If these did not even know his name, half the sting was taken away: it was like killing a man in a mask. They reached the body only, not the man.
- Argos is here the district (Argolis): the town was about six miles from Orestes' native Mycenæ.
- Or, reading τοῦδ᾽ ἔρα, "joy thou in that."
- The Greek οὗτος conveys the same covert hint of the identity of the speaker with the person spoken of, which is conveyed to an English ear by the identity in sound of ay and I : Hence we may have here an instance of that "Tragic Irony" so much appreciated by Athenian audiences.
- Or, "Yet doth Heaven's blessing match not his deserts."
- Or, "Ah, hold not this ill deed for mine!" (Jerram.)
- Or, reading λέγουσ᾽ ἀπίστους, "Shall bear glad tidings past belief."
- Or, "rejoice." (Jerram).
- Reading μέλεος μᾶλλον ὤν.
- Or (διῆλθε), "But of another matter, too, she spake."
- A proverbial expression, like "'Tis well to have two strings to your bow."
- Reading τῶν τε σῶν, for MS. τῶν θεῶν "for the Gods."
- England, reading ἀφίξεται, gives this line to Iphigeneia:—
"If haply he shall doubt and question thee."
- England interprets, "Not least is he in Nauplia now and Argos."
- As the chariot in the race wheels close round the post.
- Sent because ritual required the bride to bathe on her wedding-morning in water from the sacred spring of her native town.
- So of Odysseus' men when Circe has reversed the spell—
"And a passion of tender sadness stole through the heart of their gladness;
Weird echoes of joy and grief round the walls of the palace were flung."
Odyssey, x, 318—9.
See also Helen, 654.
- Following arrangement of lines adopted by England and Jerram.
- Or, "I'll tell it: here begins a tale of woes."
- See Electra, 1258–63.
- Or, "felt compassion." Divided between their shrinking from the murderer, and their fear of violating the laws of hospitality, they adopted the expedient of having a separate table for every guest, (thus making no invidious distinction), and, instead of the usual great mixing-bowl, from which wine-and-water was ladled into all the cups, a separate pitcher for each. The festival, of which this was the mythical origin, was held at Athens in Anthesterion (February).
"But silent grieved, as on whose conscience lay,
For all my sighs, no stain of mother's blood."
- i.e. Those of the Erinnyes.
- There is probably a gap between this line and the next, the sense of which has been conjecturally supplied thus:—
"And is not this an earnest that the Gods
Are with us, that to this land I have won."
- Reading βούλευσις for MS. βούλησις, "our will lacketh not."
- Thoas was Iphigeneia's host: she means that she would be an accomplice in his murder.
- ἔξω θεῖμεν. Others, ἐκσωθεῖμεν, "By favour of the darkness to escape."
- An inlet of the sea came up close to the temple (see 1196): this, suitable as it might appear to others, would, of course, not serve their purpose.
- (MS. reading), i.e. in this story of pollution by matricide. Others, reading χόρου, render, "And in this play what part hath Pylades?"
- Line 1071, "By mother, father, babes—if any hath babes," is omitted by most editors, as inconsistent with line 130 of this play.
- Reading ὀλβίαν instead of the stock epithet λοχίαν, "For Travail-queen Artemis." The beauty that surrounds the temple (in Delos) of the beneficent Goddess worshipped in Greece is contrasted with the cheerless home of the sanguinary deity of the Taurians.
- Retaining reading of MSS.
- Or, "Thou, true to Artemis, didst reject the bait?"
- Apollo's oracle was now proved right, and Iphigeneia's dream (ll. 42—62) wrong; hence an ode is appropriately introduced celebrating the institution of the God's oracle, and the abolition of the ancient dream-oracles.
- Another reading, "To the earth-couched sleeper."
- One MS. has φόβον, "alarm."
- Some prefer to interpret, "my fleet."
- Or (Jerram), "Might slay her and flee away."
- Broad-bladed steering-oars, one on each side of the stern.
- κέντρα (Nauck and Jerram), for κῦμα, " they fought the waves."
- To lasso the ship or those on board. Paley understands, "Some of them, etc.," understanding it of the crew's attempts to "secure the ship to some object on shore, and prevent it being dashed against the rocks."