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And still as each new victim falls,
And gorged with kingly gore,
Down on the bleeding carcass flings,
And croaks for “More, more, more!”
Ay, now, indeed, you harp on likelier strings.
Not I, nor Helen, but that terrible
Alastor of old Tantalus in Hell;
Who, one sole actor in the scene begun
By him, and carried down from sire to son,
The mask of Victim and Avenger shifts:
And, for a last catastrophe, that grim
Guest of the abominable banquet lifts
His head from Hell, and in my person cries
For one full-grown sufficient sacrifice,
Requital of the feast prepared for him
Of his own flesh and blood - And there it lies.
Chorus O Agamemnon! O my Lord !
Who, after ten years toiled;
After barbarian lance and sword
Encountered, fought, and foiled;
Returning with the just award
Of Glory, thus inglorious by
Thine own domestic Altar die,
Fast in the spider meshes coiled
Of Treason most abhorred!
And by what retribution more complete,
Than, having in the meshes of deceit
Enticed my child, and slain her like a fawn
Upon the altar; to that altar drawn
Himself, like an unconscious beast, full-fed
With Conquest, and the garland on his head,
Is slain ? and now, gone down among the Ghost,
Of taken Troy indeed may make the most,
But not one unrequited murder boast.
Oh, Agamemnon, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead!
What hand, what pious hand shall wash the wound
Through which the sacred spirit ebbed and fled !
With reverend care composed, and to the ground
Commit the mangled form of Majesty,
the due libation o’er the mound! Clytemnestra
This hand, that struck the guilty life away,
The guiltless carcass in the dust shall lay
With due solemnities : and if with no
Mock tears, or howling counterfeit of woe,
On this side earth; perhaps the innocent thing,
Whom with paternal love he sent before,
Meeting him by the melancholy shore,
Her arms about him with a kiss shall Aling,
And lead him to his shadowy throne below.
Chorus - Alas! alas! the fatal rent
Which through the house of Atreus went,
Gapes again; a purple rain
Sweats the marble floor, and falls
From the tottering roof and walls,
The Demon heaving under; gone
The master prop they rested on :
And the storm once more awake
Of Nemesis; of Nemesis
Whose fury who shall slake!
Even I; who by this last grand victim hope
The Pyramid of Vengeance so to cope,
That - and methinks I hear him in the deep
Beneath us growling toward his rest — the stern
Alastor to some other roof may turn,
Leaving us here at last in peace to keep
What of life's harvest yet remains to reap.
Chorus-Thou to talk of reaping Peace
Who sowest Murder! Woman, cease !
And, despite that iron face-
Iron as the bloody mace
Thou bearest - boasting as if Vengeance
Centered in that hand alone;
Know that, Fury pledged to Fury,
Vengeance owes himself the debts
He makes, and while he serves thee, whets
His knife upon
Against thyself, and him with thee
Colleaguing, as you boast to be,
The tools of Fate. But Fate is Zeus;
Zeus — who for a while permitting
Sin to prosper in his name,
Shall vindicate his own abuse;
And having brought his secret thought
To light, shall break and fling to shame
The baser tools with which he wrought.
All hail, thou day break of my just revenge!
In which, as waking from injurious sleep,
Methinks I recognize the Gods enthroned
In the bright conclave of eternal Justice,
Revindicate the wrongs of man to man !
For see this man so dear to me now dead-
Caught in the very meshes of the snare
By which his father Atreus netted mine.
For that same Atreus surely, was it not ?
Who, wrought by false Suspicion to fixed Hate,
From Argos out his younger brother drove,
My sire - Thyestes — drove him like a wolf,
Keeping his cubs
- to better purpose.
For when at last the home-heartbroken man
Crept humbly back again, craving no more
Of his own country than to breathe its air
In liberty, and of her fruits as much
As not to starve withal - the savage King,
With damnable alacrity of hate,
And reconciliation of revenge,
Bade him, all smiles, to supper — such a supper,
Where the prime dainty was — my brother's flesh,
So maimed and clipt of human likelihood,
That the unsuspecting Father, light of heart,
And quick of appetite, at once fell to,
-what, with savage irony
As soon as eaten, told — the wretched man
Disgorging with a shriek, down to the ground
The table with its curst utensil dashed,
And, grinding into pieces with his heel,
Cried, loud enough for Heaven and Hell to hear,
“Thus perish all the race of Pleisthenes !”
And now behold! the son of that same Atreus
By me the son of that Thyestes slain
Whom the kind brother, sparing from the cook,
Had with his victim packed to banishment;
Where Nemesis — (so sinners from some nook,
Whence least they think assailable, assailed) -
Reared me from infancy till fully grown,
To claim in full my father's bloody due.
Ay, I it was none other — far away
Who spun the thread, which gathering day by day
Mesh after mesh, inch upon inch, at last
Reached him, and wound about him, as he lay,
And in the supper of his smoking Troy
Devoured his own destruction — scarce condign
Return for that his Father forced on mine.
Ægisthus, only things of baser breed
Insult the fallen; fallen too, as you boast,
By one who planned but dared not do the deed.
This is your hour of triumph. But take heed;
The blood of Atreus is not all outrun
With this slain King, but flowing in a son,
Who saved by such an exile as your own
For such a counter retribution
You then, the nether benches of the realm,
Dare open tongue on those who rule the helm ?
Take heed yourselves; for, old and dull of wit,
And hardened as your mouth against the bit,
Be wise in time; kick not against the spurs ;
Remembering Princes are shrewd taskmasters.
Chorus — Beware thyself, bewaring me;
Remem Jering that, too sharply stirred,
The spurrer need beware the spurred;
As thou of me; whose single word
Shall rouse the City - yea, the very
Stones you walk upon, in thunder
Gathering o'er your head, to bury
Thee and thine Adultress under!
Ægisthus - Raven, that with croaking jaws
After you no City draws;
And if any vengeance, mine
Upon your withered shoulders -
Who daring not to strike the blow
Thy worse than woman craft designed,
To worse than woman
Softly, good Ægisthus, softly; let the sword that has so
And, ere ill blood come to running, each unto his home in
peace, Recognizing what is done for done indeed, as done it is, And husbanding your scanty breath to pray that nothing
more amiss. Farewell. Meanwhile, you and I, Ægisthus, shall deliberate, When the storm is blowing under, how to settle House and
THE DOWNFALL AND DEATH OF KING EDIPUS, 1
(Version of Edward Fitzgerald.)
[SOPHOCLES: A famous Greek tragic poet; born at Colonus, near Athens, probably in B.C. 405. He received a careful education, and at his first appearance as a tragic poet, when only twenty-seven years old, gained a victory over the veteran Æschylus. From that time until extreme old age he maintained his preëminence, obtaining the first prize more than twenty times. He also took part in political affairs, and during the Samian war (B.C. 440) was one of the ten generals acting jointly with Pericles. Of the one hundred and thirty dramas ascribed to him only seven are preserved complete : “ Trachiniæ," “ Ajax,' “Philoctetes," “Electra," " (Edipus Tyrannus," " (Edipus at Colonus," and
Antigone." Among the innovations which Sophocles made in the drama were the introduction of a third actor, the increase of the number of the chorus from twelve to fifteen, and the perfection of costumes and decoration.]
EDIPUS, PRIEST, and SUPPLIANTS assembled before his Palace Gate,
Children of Cadmus, and as mine to me,
When all that of the plague-struck city can
With lamentation loud, and sacrifice,
Beset the shrines and altars of the Gods
Through street and market, by the Temples twain
Of Pallas, and before the Tomb that shrouds
Ismenus his prophetic ashes - why
Be you thus gathered at my palace door,
Mute, with the Suppliant's olive branch in hand ?
Asking, or deprecating, what? which I,
Not satisfied from other lips to learn,
Myself am come to hear it from your own.
You, whose grave aspect and investiture
Announce the chosen oracle of all,
Tell me the purport: I am here, you see,
As King, and Father of his people too,
By permission of Mr. W. Aldis Wright.