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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,
This way 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 child call'd liers.
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 ever, and may 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 'T
Wholly my father's, on the fath
I wholly am, and do most heart
Prefer the male, save that I mai
Nor of the woman will I take th
Who slew her husband, overseer of home.
Should he have equal votes, it follows then,
Orestes is absolved. What wait we for?
Tellers, to whom this task has been assigned,
Turn out at once the ballots from the urns.
Ores. Phæbus Apollo! What is the result ?
Chor. Oh Night! dark mother! dost thou see these doings ?
Ores. Now ! now! for me to perish by the noose,
Or else to look upon the blessed light!
Chor. Now! now! for me to suffer worst eclipse, Or henceforth hold my office unabridged.
[The ballots are turned out and counted, Apollo. Correctly, strangers, number out the votes, And with impartial justice ; for great harm Doth often from the loss of one accrue; One doth o'erthrow, or raise a family. Ath. He is acquitted-for the votes are equal.
[She gives her ballot in favour of ORESTES, Ores. Oh Pallas ! thou that hast preserved my house, And me, sad outcast from my father-land, Hast to my home restored. Some Greek will say, He is again an Argive, and he dwells Secure in his hereditary state, By means of Pallas and of Loxias, And the third Saviour, who doth sway all things He that respects the father's privilege, And doth preserve me now, beholding these, Appellants fell! my mother's advocates. But to this country and thy citizens I bind myself and my posterity, By solemn oath, for all hereafter time, That never chief, with well-appointed troops Shall, from my land, with hostile aim, come here, For I, myself, then being in the tomb, Will bring repentance for their bootless toils On those that violate my present oath, Discouraging their inauspicious paths With misadventures, and with omens dire Their passage over streams. But if they act With righteousness, and honour evermore The city of Pallas, and are allies true, I will regard them more benignantly. Farewell, thou and thy prople; may they bruise Their foes with an inevitable fall, And for themselves obtain deliverance, And wished-for, honourable victory!
[Erit ORESTES. Chorus Ye younger gods have trampled down Old laws, and wrested them from me; Amerced of office and renown, I will, for this indignity, Drop from my heart's wrath-bleeding wound A blight-a plague-drop on the ground. A lichen, fatal to the trees, To children, shall invade the soil, (Hear, Justice!) and inflict disease On men—the blotch and deadly boil. Ah! shall I groan? what shall I do? What will become of me? These citizens have made me rue The worst indignity.
Daughters of Night! deep-injured, deep-resenting,
And for your degradation, deep-lamenting.
Ath. Let me prevail on you-take not this grief
Too much to heart; ye suffered not defeat.
The votes were equal, and the judgment fair,
Nor was to thy dishonour. E'en from Zeus
A clear convincing testimony came;
Who gave the oracle was witness too_
That this Orestes should incur no scathe
For what he did. Hurl not your bolts of wrath
Against this land, nor cause unfruitfulness,
By letting fall the drops of deities,
To blast the seed, a blight of rottenness.
For I do promise you most faithfully,
That ye at altars, having splendid seats,
Shall sit, and own in perpetuity
The secret places of this goodly land,
And be much honoured by these citizens.
Ye younger gods have trampled down
Old laws, and wrested them from me;
Amerced of office and renown,
I will, for this indignity,
Drop from my heart's wrath-bleeding wound
A blight-a plague-drop on the ground.
A lichen, fatal to the trees,
To children, shall invade the soil,
(Hear, Justice !) and inflict disease
On men--the blotch and deadly boil.
Ah, shall I groan? what shall I do?
What will become of me?
These citizens have made me rue
The worst indignity.
Daughters of night! deep-injured, deep-resenting,
And, for your degradation, deep-lamenting.
Ath. Ye are not dishonour'd; with excess of wrath Mar not man's earth with wounds-incurable. I too rely on Zeus, and of the GodsWhat need to say it? none but only I Have knowledge of the keys of that dread vault, Wherein sealed up he keeps his thunderboltBut there's no need of it. Be well advised, Nor cast forth on the ground the rash tongue's fruit, That, where it falls, is mildew of all good. Lull the sharp gust of thy tempestuous wrath, And be my honoured fellow resident; Having the first-fruits of this spacious land, And offerings for hopes of progeny, And consummation of the marriage rites. Thou shalt for ever praise this good advice.
That I should suffer this ! in age
Dishonoured, unavenged! oh rage-
I breathe it forth.
Oh earth! oh earth!
What pain is this that pricks my side?
Hear my sharp passion, mother Night!
From me, with many a guileful sleight,
These gods, who rob me and deride,