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Athena, of this land Queen paramount,
To come my helper; so shall she obtain,
And without war, as firm allies for ever,
Myself, my country, and the Argive race.
Whether in Libya by her natal stream
The stream of Triton-combating on foot,
Or in the battle car, she aids her friends,
Or else, like a field-marshal, she surveys
The old Phlegræan plain—though far away,
By virtue of her godship, she doth hear-
Oh! may she come to free me from these plagues !
Leader of the Chorus. Neither Apollo nor Athena's might
Shall set thee free-they must abandon thee
To perish, knowing not one thought of joy,
Our food till thou hast no blood left-a shade.
Thou dost not answer, but dost scorn our words,
Thou victim reared and set apart for me!
While living thou shalt feed me, nor be slain
On any altar. Hear this binding hymn :-
Come, let us join, and hand in hand
Now chant the weird and mournful song!
Recounting how our awful band
Reforms what doth to us belong
In our just dealings with mankind
Judges whom none can bend or bind.
No wrath to him whose hands are clean
From us proceeds — without a ban
He goes Through life ; but who has been
A great offender, like this man,
Yet strives his bloody hands to hide,
Shall find us clinging to his side,
True witnesses unto the dead,
And for the blood that he hath shed
Exactors, to the slayer's cost,
Of vengeance to the uttermost.
Night! mother Night! from whom I had my being,
Pain to the dead and those the daylight sceing,
Hear me! Latona's imp hath ta'en away,
With foul despite, from me my cowering prey,
The victim vowed, who with his own
Should for his mother's blood atone.
O'er the victim chant the strain,
Distraction, frenzy's feverous fire
Hymn that ne'er is sung in vain,
And never sung to dainty lyre-
With power to shrivel and to bind
The spirit of the blasted mind.
For Fate, the all-pervading, spun of old
This very lot for us to have and hold,
That whosoever shall his hands imbrue
In kindred blood, we must the wretch pursue
Till he go down-dead though he be,
He shall not find himself too free.
O'er the victim chant the strain,
Distraction, frenzy's feverous fire-
Hymn that ne'er is sung in vain,
And never sung to dainty lyre
He falls unconscious, from infatuation,
Such mist flits over himabomination !
And through the house, with many groans,
A sad and misty Rumour moans.
For we are skilful to devise,
And can effect whate'er we plan;
Of ill deeds awful Memories,
And hard to be appeased by man;
Our office, heaped with scorn and slight,
From gods apart, by sunless light
We minister; and rough we be
Alike to those who have their sight
And unto those who cannot see.
Is there a man that hears from me
This ordinance, by fate assigned
And by the gods, immutably,
That doth not in his inmost mind
My office and commission fear ?
To me my ancient lot is dear,
And certain honours mine I call,
Though in a sunless horror drear,
And under ground, my station fall.
[Athena appears in a chariot, and alights. Ath. Thy invocation I have heard from far, E'en from Scamander, where I was engaged
Taking possession of the promised land,
(And so forestalled usurping foreigners),-
A choice part of the spoil which the prime men
Of the Achæans did assign to me,
A fief for ever for the sons of Theseus.
Whence, with unwearied speed, and without wings,
Making my agis rustle, I have come,
This chariot having yoked to vigorous steeds.
But seeing in this place these visitants,
I fear not, but I wonder at the sight.
Who in the world are ye? I speak to all,
And to the stranger who has placed himself
Here at my statue ; you I now address,
Wild forms! resembling no begotten kind,
Nor goddesses as they are seen by gods,
Nor mortal shapes. But causelessly to find
Fault with one's neighbours, is from justice far-
The spirit of Themis doth revolt from it.
Chor. Daughter of Zeus! all shalt thou hear in brief:
We are the daughters of the gloomy Night,
Call'd Are, in our underground abodes.
Ath. I know your race, and name-shown attributes.
Chor. Thou soon shalt hear my office and its dues.
Ath. I'd learn, if one would give a plain account.
Chor. We from their homes hunt forth the murderers.
Ath. Where is the limit of their banishment ?
Chor. Where joy is altogether thing unknown.
Ath. In such wise dost thou set thy hounds on him ?
Chor. Yes! he thought right to shed his mother's blood.
Ath. Fearing no power that urged the deed on him ?
Chor. Where is there such a goad to such a deed ?
Ath. Two parties here I've heard but one as yet.
Chor. He will not name, nor let us name, an oath.
Ath. Ye would be called just, not be truly so.
Chor. How, pray? Instruct us-wise thou surely art.
Ath. Injustice should not win by oaths, I say.
Chor. Then question him, and judge at once between us.
Ath. To my decision will ye leave the case ?
Chor. Why not? we worship what is worshipful.
Ath. What wilt thou say in answer for thyself?
Speak, stranger ; country, lineage, fortunes tell ;
And then rebate this charge, if confident
In thy own cause as just, thou here dost sit,
Watching this statue, near my sacred hearth,
Ixion-like, a suppliant purified :
Answer distinctly to these several points,
Ores. First, Queen Athena, to the last I speak,
And all concern on that point will remove.
The blood-stain is no longer on my hands,
Nor is thy statue by their touch defiled-
Of this I'll give to thee sufficient proof:
Those under ban of their blood-guiltiness,
The law says must not speak 'till, sprinkled with
The blood of cleansing, they are purified.
Long since, near other temples, was I washed
In blood of victims, and in running streams.
This point is answered. With regard to kin,
I am an Argive, son-thou knowest my sire-
Of Agamemnon, glorious emperor
Of the great host, with whom thou didst expunge,
Destroying Troy, the city of Ilion.
Returning from the war, in his own house
He perished foully: in a fraudful net
My dark-souled mother snared, and murdered him ;
The bathing-room was witness to the deed.
And I, returning home from banishment,
An exile all the intermediate time,
Slew her who bore me--I deny it not
Exacting blood for blood, her's for my sire's.
And Loxias was the mover of my act,
Fore-warning me of woes, heart-piercing stings,
Should I sit still, and leave the guilty free.
The deed was done ; judge whether well or ill ;
To thy decision I submit myself.
Ath. The matter is too great, if any man
Thinks to adjudge it ; nor can I decide ;
Themis forbids me in a case of blood.
But I receive thee, both as one to whom
I would, on other grounds, my favour show,
And more especially, because thou hast
Duly performed all expiatory rites,
And art a blameless suppliant, cleansed from stain,
And on my city bringing no reproach.
These also may not lightly be dismissed;
And should they not obtain the victory,
The venom dropping from them will become
A plague intolerable to the land.
Such ills may follow if they stay ;
And to dismiss them is impossible:
And thus my will is puzzled either way.
But since this matter here has forced itself,
Sworn judges will I choose to sit and try
Cases of blood, and institute the Court
An ordinance for all hereafter time.
Summon your witnesses, collect your proofs,
The means of coming to a just conclusion.
But I will choose my worthiest citizens,
And come with them, who shall decide this cause
Truly on oath, whose awful sanctity
They will not violate in thought or word.
[Athena departs the opposite way to that she entered by.
Now for the overthrow of ancient laws,
Should victory attend the scathe and cause
Of this unhallowed matricide :
By the facility with which 'tis done,
This bloody deed shall spirit on the son-
Ye, hapless parents! must abide
Hereafter many a bitter woe,
And from your children feel the fatal blow.
For from the Mænad Watchers there shall be
No wrath for such outbreakings. I will free,
And let loose death of ev ery kind :
Then shall be bruited round the savage woes,
Whose heap from day to day prodigious grows,
Wave upon wave; and none shall find
A remedy for pang or pain,
But know the hope he fondly fostered vain.
Let none that reels to fortune's adverse stroke,
With many a broken wail our power in yoke :
“ Oh Justice! oh throned Furies! where are ye?"
Some mother thus, in her new agony,
Or father will, perchance, be calling ;
They may—the house of Justice now is falling,
A watcher of the thought--an awful fear
(ant. B'.) Will sometimes check it in its foul career: 'Tis good when wisdom comes from sorrow's dart. But who that feeds the fatness of his heart, Checked by no fear from ill begun, Or state, or man, will worship justice ? None! The life that owns no wholesome check,
(str. y. Or that which to a master's beck Looks evermore, thou shalt not praise. By God's decree the mean is best. And different things in different ways He still inspects: to truth confest My word agrees—for Insolence Is own child to Irreverence; And from the sound mind springs no less All-loved, all-wished-for happiness. By all means, furthermore I say,
(ant. .) Due reverence to justice pay ; Nor trample with a godless foot Her altar, with an eye to gain; For punishment shall come to boot The appointed end doth still remain. Therefore let every man respect The awe of parents, nor neglect The sacred claims that draw their birth From intercourse at friendly hearth. The man without compulsion just,
(str. 8.) Who by these rules preserves his trust, Unprosperous shall never be, At least ne'er ruined utterly. But the bold trafficker, that only cares To stow his contraband promiscuous wares, Shall lose himself and cargo, when the gales, Fraught with his doom, shall overtake his sails. But in the whirlpool, in his need,
(ant. 8'.) He calls on those who do not heed : For God laughs at the insolent, Who thought not such predicament Awaited him_fate's doomed and harnessed slave, Unable to surmount the seething wave : Dashed on the rock of Justice, he goes down With all his full-blown pride, unwept, unknown.
[ATHENA makes her appearance at the head of the twelve
Areopagites, who take their seats in the orchestra.
Ath. Make proclamation, herald ; keep in bounds
The people ; let the Tyrrhene trumpet speak,
Filled with man's breath, its air-pervading tones,
A blast to hush the assembled multitude :
For, while this solemn consistory sits,
Silence is needful, that the folk at large
May learn my Institution, and the cause
Be with attention tried, and rightly judged.
[Apollo appears on the stage.