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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 inyoke :
“ 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. 7. 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,
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,
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,
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.
Chor. Deal, King Apollo, with thy own affairs ;
Pray tell me what hast thou to do with this?
Apol. To give my testimony for my guest
And suppliant have I come ; for when he fled
An outcast, I washed out his stain of blood :
And I myself will be his advocate,
Since it was I that urged him to the deed.
But introduce the suit as president,
Athena, with the sanction of thy voice.
Ath. I introduce the suit : begin ye first:
The plaintiff, speaking first, shall put the court
Correctly in possession of the facts.
Chor. Though we are many, we will speak in brief :
Now answer in thy turn, and word for word:
Didst thou not take away thy mother's life?
Ores. I did—I mean not to deny the fact.
Chor. Of the three falls here is already one.
Ores. Thou boastest over one not yet hurled down.
Chor. But thou must tell the manner of the deed.
Ores. I drew my sword, and pierced her in the neck.
Chor. By whom persuaded ? who suggested it ?
Ores. My witness here, this god, by oracles.
Chor. What! did the prophet bid thee slay thy mother?
Ores. Yes! nor have I repented of the deed.
Chor. If thou art cast, thou soon wilt change thy tone.
Ores. I have no fear, for my dead father aids me.
Chor. Ay! from the dead hope succour, matricide!
Ores. She was polluted with a double stain.
Chor. How, pray ? inform the judges how this was.
Ores. Slaying her husband she my father slew.
Chor. Thou livest: she atoned for blood by blood.
Ores. Why didst not hunt her, while she lived, from home?
Chor. The man she slew was of no kin to her.
Ores. Am I, then, of her blood, akin to her?
Chor. How else within her girdle fed she thee?
Assassin! dost renounce that dearest blood ?
Ores. Apollo! be my witness, and explain
If what I did was justly done or not-
For I confess the fact—and give me reasons,
Which I may plead to justify myself.
Apollo. Athena's council, I will speak to you,
And being a prophet, truly : at no time,
Whether of man or woman, or a state,
Have I e'er uttered any oracle,
Which Zeus, the Olympian Sire, did not command.
Consider first his justice, and then bow
To the prerogative of Sovran Power :
An oath can ne'er transcend his influence.
Chor. Zeus, as tbou sayest, gave this oracle,
To bid Orestes for his father's blood
Exact full vengeance, and in doing so
To disallow his mother's claims on him?
Apollo. 'Tis not the same thing for a princely man,
One honoured with the staff of royalty,
Conferred by Zeus, to have his life cut short,
To die, and that too by a woman's hand ;
Not by a shaft from bow of Amazon,
But in the way that I shall tell you now.
When from his expedition he return'd,
With greater gains of honour and of spoil
Than his most loyal friends had ever hoped,
She welcomed him, and in the bathing-room
Attended him, and over him she threw,
As from the bath he stept, a broidered robe,
A tent that had no doorway of escape,
Wherein she fettered, smote, and murdered him.
So fell the famous leader of the fteet ;
Of her I so have spoken_such she was-
To stir the indignation of the Court.
Chor. Zeus, as thy speech implies, the father's fate
Doth make account of; yet he put in bonds
His own old father. Mark, ye judges, this;
Are not thy words at variance with his act?
Apollo. Abominable monsters ! hate of gods !
Bonds may be loosed—there is a remedy,
And many a way of curing such a grief.
But when the dust has once drunk up man's blood,
There is not for the dead a second life.
My father has devised no counter-charm
For this necessity ; but all things else
Disposes of, and turns them up and down,
and that, unwearied in his might.
Chor. How thou dost stretch the point for his acquittal!
Shall he, when he has spilled his mother's blood,
In Argos, in his father's palace dwell ?
What public altars shall he worship at ?
The lustral water of what guild approach?
Apollo. Mark how correctly I will speak to this.
A mother is not generating cause,
But the receiver of the cbild call'd hers.
She, as a stranger, for a stranger keeps
The germ as a deposit, and in time,
When no blight falls on it, she brings it forth.
In proof of this, a father there may be
Without a mother; we've a witness here:
Athena, daughter of Olympian Zeus,
Though such a shoot as never goddess bore,
Nor shall hereafter bear, was never shut
Nor nurtured in the darkness of the womb.
Thy people, Pallas, in all other things
I will make great, according as I can;
And I this suppliant to thy temple sent,
That he and his posterity may be
Faithful allies for
hold This contract with thy people, thro' all time, Religiously and no less lovingly.
Ath. According to your conscience give your votes, Ye judges—for enough has now been said.
Chor. My shafts have all been shot: but I remain To hear what is the judgment in this case.
Ath. What can I do, what disposition make, So as to be without blame at your hands ?
Chor. Ye've heard what ye have heard; but truly fear Your oath, ye strangers, and so give your votes.
Ath. People of Athens, and ye judges sworn
In the first cause of blood that has been tried,
Hear what I say about this ordinance.
This solemn council for all after time
Unto the sons of Ægeus shall remain,
And ever hold their sessions on Mars' hill,
The station once of the bold Amazons,
When they from enmity to Theseus came
In dread array of war, and pitched their tents,
And built a tower against his citadel,
And sacrificed to Mars, from whence this hill
Is called Mars' hill. A due respect, henceforth,
For this my institution, and a fear
Allied to reverence, shall ever keep
My citizens from wrong, if they abstain
From making innovations on their laws,
If one pollutes clear water with the filth
Of mud, or any influx of foul stream,
He shall not find therein what he can drink.
Nor rule of despot, nor wild anarchy
I recommend, but a sound government
At a just distance from these bad extremes,
And not to cast away a wholesome fear.
What man, who nothing fears, is ever just ?
And if ye will but hold in fitting awe
The majesty of Justice here enthroned,
Ye shall possess a safeguard of the state,
A bulwark of the country—such the realm
Of Pelops owns not, nor the Scythian race,
Nor any tribe of men. This Court august,
Quick to just wrath and incorruptible,
I institute a guardian of the land,
To keep watch in behalf of those that sleep,
Touching the future I've advised you all;
But rise, ye judges, and decide the cause,
Fearing the oath ye sware by. I have done.
[The first Areopagite rises, takes a ballot from the altar, and
drops it into the urn: similarly the rest in succession, After the twelfth has dropthis ballot into the urn, ATHENA
takes one from the altar, and holds it in her hand.
Chor. And I advise you by no means to slight
These visitants, lest they be bitter ones.
Apollo. I bid you to respect my oracles,
Which are from Zeus, and not to make them vain.
Chor. Cases of blood belong not to thy lot ;
Here staying, thou wilt be no prophet pure.
Apollo. Erred Zeus, when he his suppliant purified, Ixion, from first stain of kindred blood ?
Chor. Thou sayest : should I fail of justice here, I'll haunt this land in very bitterness.
Apollo. Unhonoured thou among the younger Gods, And elder : but I surely shall prevail.
Chor. Thus in the house of Pheres didst thou gull The Fates, and yet mere mortals made immortal.
Apollo. Is it not just to aid a worshipper, And most when in his need he prays for aid ?
Chor. But thou didst trick those ancient goddesses, Deceive with wine, then laugh at them in scorn.
Apollo. Thou shalt, non-suited, presently pour forth
Thy venom, uninjurious to thy foes.
Chor. Since thou, a youngling, dost insult me so,
Me that am old, I wait to hear the sentence,
As one in doubt, till that is fully known,
If I shall pour my fury on the city.
Ath. It falls on me the judgment to pronounce :
In favour of Orestes I reserve
My vote_for from no mother had I birth.
Wholly my father's, on the father's side
I wholly am, and do most heartily
Prefer the male, save that I marry not.
Nor of the woman will I take the part,