The Agamemnon of Æschylus
Category: Verse
Level 9.24 1:31 h
Robert Browning was an English poet and playwright whose dramatic monologues put him high among the Victorian poets. He was noted for irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings and challenging vocabulary and syntax. The Agamemnon of Aeschylus is an 1877 dramatic poem.

The Agamemnon of Æschylus

Robert Browning

The Agamemnon of Æschylus


May I be permitted to chat a little, by way of recreation, at the end of a somewhat toilsome and perhaps fruitless adventure?

If, because of the immense fame of the following Tragedy, I wished to acquaint myself with it, and could only do so by the help of a translator, I should require him to be literal at every cost save that of absolute violence to our language. The use of certain allowable constructions which, happening to be out of daily favor, are all the more appropriate to archaic workmanship, is no violence: but I would be tolerant for once — in the case of so immensely famous an original — of even a clumsy attempt to furnish me with the very turn of each phrase in as Greek a fashion as English will bear: while, with respect to amplifications and embellishments, — anything rather than, with the good farmer, experience that most signal of mortifications, “to gape for Æschylus and get Theognis.” I should especially decline — what may appear to brighten up a passage — the employment of a new word for some old one, — πόνος, or μέγας, or τέλοσ, with its congeners, recurring four times in three lines: for though such substitution may be in itself perfectly justifiable, yet this exercise of ingenuity ought to be within the competence of the unaided English reader if he likes to show himself ingenious. Learning Greek teaches Greek, and nothing else: certainly not common sense, if that have failed to precede the teaching. Further, — if I obtained a mere strict bald version of thing by thing, or at least word pregnant with thing, I should hardly look for an impossible transmission of the reputed magniloquence and sonority of the Greek; and this with the less regret, inasmuch as there is abundant musicality elsewhere, but nowhere else than in his poem the ideas of the poet. And lastly, when presented with these ideas, I should expect the result to prove very hard reading indeed if it were meant to resemble Æschylus, ξυμβαλεῖν οὐ ῥᾴδιος, “not easy to understand,” in the opinion of his stoutest advocate among the ancients; while, I suppose, even modern scholarship sympathizes with that early declaration of the redoubtable Salmasius, when, looking about for an example of the truly obscure for the benefit of those who found obscurity in the sacred books, he protested that this particular play leaves them all behind in this respect, with their “Hebraisms, Syriasms, Hellenisms, and the whole of such bag and baggage. “For, over and above the proposed ambiguity of the Chorus, the text is sadly corrupt, probably interpolated, and certainly mutilated; and no unlearned person enjoys the scholar’s privilege of trying his fancy upon each obstacle whenever he comes to a stoppage, and effectually clearing the way by suppressing what seems to lie in it.

All I can say for the present performance is, that I have done as I would be done by, if need were. Should anybody, without need, honor my translation by a comparison with the original, I beg him to observe that, following no editor exclusively, I keep to the earlier readings so long as sense can be made out of them, but disregard, I hope, little of importance in recent criticism so far as I have fallen in with it. Fortunately, the poorest translation, provided only it be faithful, — though it reproduce all the artistic confusion of tenses, moods, and persons, with which the original teems, — will not only suffice to display what an eloquent friend maintains to be the all-in-all of poetry — “the action of the piece” — but may help to illustrate his assurance that “the Greeks are the highest models of expression, the unapproached masters of the grand style: their expression is so excellent because it is so admirably kept in its right degree of prominence, because it is so simple and so well subordinated, because it draws its force directly from the pregnancy of the matter which it conveys … not a word wasted, not a sentiment capriciously thrown in, stroke on stroke” So may all happen!

Just a word more on the subject of my spelling — in a transcript from the Greek and there exclusively — Greek names and places precisely as does the Greek author. I began this practice, with great innocency of intention, some six-and-thirty years ago. Leigh Hunt, I remember, was accustomed to speak of his gratitude, when ignorant of Greek, to those writers (like Goldsmith) who had obliged him by using English characters, so that he might relish, for instance, the smooth quality of such a phrase as “hapalunetai galené;” he said also that Shelley was indignant at “Firenze” having displaced the Dantesque “Fiorenza,” and would contemptuously English the intruder “Firence.” I supposed I was doing a simple thing enough: but there has been till lately much astonishment at os and us, ai and oi, representing the same letters in Greek. Of a sudden, however, whether in translation or out of it, everybody seems committing the offence, although the adoption of u for υ still presents such difficulty that it is a wonder how we have hitherto escaped “Eyripides.” But there existed a sturdy Briton who, Ben Jonson informs us, wrote “The Life of the Emperor Anthony Pie” — whom we now acquiesce in as Antoninus Pius: for “with time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes satin.” Yet there is on all sides much profession of respect for what Keats called “vowelled Greek” — “consonanted,” one would expect; and, in a criticism upon a late admirable translation of something of my own, it was deplored that, in a certain verse corresponding in measure to the fourteenth of the sixth Pythian Ode, “neither Professor Jebb in his Greek, nor Mr. Browning in his English, could emulate that matchlessly musical γόνον ἰδὼν κάλλιστον ἀνδρῶν.” Now, undoubtedly, “Seeing her son the fairest of men” has more sense than sound to boast of: but then, would not an Italian roll us out “Rimirando il figliuolo bellissimo degli uomini?” whereat Pindar, no less than Professor Jebb and Mr. Browning, τριακτῆρος οἴχεται τυχών.

It is recorded in the Annals of Art that there was once upon a time, practising so far north as Stockholm, a painter and picture-cleaner — sire of a less unhappy son — Old Muytens: and the annalist, Baron de Tessé, has not concealed his profound dissatisfaction at Old Muytens’ conceit “to have himself had something to do with the work of whatever master of eminence might pass through his hands.” Whence it was — the Baron goes on to deplore — that much detriment was done to that excellent piece “The Recognition of Achilles,” by Rubens, through the perversity of Old Muytens, “who must needs take on him to beautify every nymph of the twenty by the bestowment of a widened eye and an enlarged mouth.” I, at least, have left eyes and mouths everywhere as I found them, and this conservatism is all that claims praise for — what is, after all ἀκέλευστος ἄμισθος ἀοιδά. No, neither “uncommanded” nor “unrewarded:” since it was commanded of me by my venerated friend Thomas Carlyle, and rewarded will it indeed become, if I am permitted to dignify it by the prefatory insertion of his dear and noble name.

R. B.

London, October 1, 1877.



Choros of Old Men.
Talthubios, Herald.

Warder. The gods I ask deliverance from these labors,
Watch of a year’s length whereby, slumbering through it
On the Atreidai’s roofs on elbow, — dog-like —
I know of nightly star-groups the assemblage,
And those that bring to men winter and summer,
Bright dynasts, as they pride them in the æther
— Stars, when they wither, and the uprisings of them.
And now on ward I wait the torch’s token,
The glow of fire, shall bring from Troia message
And word of capture: so prevails audacious
The man’s-way-planning hoping heart of woman.
But when I, driven from night-rest, dew-drenched, hold to
This couch of mine — not looked upon by visions,
Since fear instead of sleep still stands beside me,
So as that fast I fix in sleep no eyelids —
And when to sing or chirp a tune I fancy,
For slumber such song-remedy infusing,
I wail then, for this House’s fortune groaning,
Not, as of old, after the best ways governed.
Now, lucky be deliverance from these labors,
At good news — the appearing dusky fire!
O hail, thou lamp of night, a day-long lightness
Revealing, and of dances the ordainment!
Halloo, halloo!
To Agamemnon’s wife I show, by shouting,
That, from bed starting up at once, i’ the household
Joyous acclaim, good-omened to this torch-blaze,
She send aloft if haply Ilion’s city
Be taken, as the beacon boasts announcing.
Ay, and, for me, myself will dance a prelude,
For, that my masters’ dice drop right, I’ll reckon:
Since thrice-six has it thrown to me, this signal.
Well, may it hap that, as he comes, the love hand
O’ the household’s lord I may sustain with this hand!
As for the rest, I’m mute: on tongue a big ox
Has trodden. Yet this House, if voice it take should,
Most plain would speak. So, willing I myself speak
To those who know: to who know not — I’m blankness.

Choros. The tenth year this, since Priamos’ great match,
King Menelaos, Agamemnon King,
— The strenuous yoke-pair of the Atreidai’s honor
Two-throned, two-sceptred, whereof Zeus was donor —
Did from this land the aid, the armament dispatch,
The thousand-sailored force of Argives clamoring
“Ares” from out the indignant breast, as fling
Passion forth vultures which, because of grief
Away, — as are their young ones, — with the thief,
Lofty above their brood-nests wheel in ring,
Row round and round with oar of either wing,
Lament the bedded chicks, lost labor that was love:
Which hearing, one above
— Whether Apollon, Pan or Zeus — that wail,
Sharp-piercing bird-shriek of the guests who fare
Housemates with gods in air —
Such-an-one sends, against who these assail,
What, late-sent, shall not fail
Of punishing — Erinus. Here as there,
The Guardian of the Guest Zeus, the excelling one,
Sends against Alexandros either son
Of Atreus: for that wife, the many-husbanded,
Appointing many a tug that tries the limb,
While the knee plays the prop in dust, while, shred
To morsels, lies the spear-shaft; in those grim
Marriage-prolusions when their Fury wed
Danaoi and Troes, both alike. All’s said:
Things are where things are, and, as fate has willed,
So shall they be fulfilled.
Not gently-grieving, not just doling out
The drops of expiation — no, nor tears distilled —
Shall he we know of bring the hard about
To soft — that intense ire
At those mock rites unsanctified by fire.
But we pay naught here: through our flesh, age-weighed,
Left out from who gave aid
In that day, — we remain,
Staying on staves a strength
The equal of a child’s at length.
For when young marrow in the breast doth reign,
That’s the old man’s match, — Ares out of place
In either: but in oldest age’s case,
Foliage a-fading, why, he wends his way
On three feet, and, no stronger than a child,
Wanders about gone wild,
A dream in day.
But thou, Tundareus’ daughter, Klutaimnestra queen,
What need? What new? What having heard or seen,
By what announcement’s tidings, everywhere
Settest thou, round about, the sacrifice aflare?
For, of all gods the city-swaying,
Those supernal, those infernal,
Those of the fields’, those of the mart’s obeying, —
The altars blaze with gifts;
And here and there, heaven-high the torch uplifts
Flame — medicated with persuasions mild,
With foul admixture unbeguiled —
Of holy unguent, from the clotted chrism
Brought from the palace, safe in its abysm.
Of these things, speaking what may be indeed
Both possible and lawful to concede,
Healer do thou become! — of this solicitude
Which, now, stands plainly forth of evil mood,
And, then … but from oblations, hope, to-day
Gracious appearing, wards away
From soul the insatiate care,
The sorrow at my breast, devouring there!

Empowered am I to sing
The omens, what their force which, journeying,
Rejoiced the potentates:
(For still, from God, inflates
My breast, song-suasion: age,
Born to the business, still such war can wage)
— How the fierce bird against the Teukris land
Dispatched, with spear and executing hand,
The Achaian’s two-throned empery — o’er Hellas’ youth
Two rulers with one mind:
The birds’ king to these kings of ships, on high,
— The black sort, and the sort that’s white behind, —
Appearing by the palace, on the spear-throw side,
In right sky-regions, visible far and wide, —
Devouring a hare-creature, great with young,
Balked of more racings they, as she from whom they sprung!
Ah, Linos, say — ah, Linos, song of wail!
But may the good prevail!

The prudent army-prophet seeing two
The Atreidai, two their tempers, knew
Those feasting on the hare
The armament-conductors were;
And thus he spoke, explaining signs in view.
“In time, this outset takes the town of Priamos:
But all before its towers, — the people’s wealth that was,
Of flocks and herds, — as sure, shall booty-sharing thence
Drain to the dregs away, by battle violence.
Only, have care lest grudge of any god disturb
With cloud the unsullied shine of that great force, the curb
Of Troia, struck with damp
Beforehand in the camp!
For envyingly is
The virgin Artemis
Toward — her father’s flying hounds — this House —
The sacrificers of the piteous
And cowering beast,
Brood and all, ere the birth: she hates the eagles’ feast.
Ah, Linos, say — ah, Linos, song of wail!
But may the good prevail!

“Thus ready is the beauteous one with help
To those small dewdrop things fierce lions whelp,
And udder-loving litter of each brute
That roams the mead; and therefore makes she suit,
The fair one, for fulfilment to the end
Of things these signs portend —
Which partly smile, indeed, but partly scowl —
The phantasms of the fowl.
I call Ieïos Paian to avert
She work the Danaoi hurt
By any thwarting waftures, long and fast
Holdings from sail of ships:
And sacrifice, another than the last,
She for herself precipitate —
Something unlawful, feast for no man’s lips,
Builder of quarrels, with the House cognate —
Having in awe no husband: for remains
A frightful, backward-darting in the path,
Wily house-keeping chronicler of wrath,
That has to punish that old children’s fate!”
Such things did Kalchas, — with abundant gains
As well, — vociferate,
Predictions from the birds, in journeying,
Above the abode of either king.
With these, symphonious, sing —
Ah, Linos, say — ah, Linos, song of wail!
But may the good prevail!

Zeus, whosoe’er he be, — if that express
Aught dear to him on whom I call —
So do I him address.
I cannot liken out, by all
Admeasurement of powers,
Any but Zeus for refuge at such hours,
If veritably needs I must
From off my soul its vague care-burden thrust.

Not — whosoever was the great of yore,
Bursting to bloom with bravery all round —
Is in our mouths: he was, but is no more.
And who it was that after came to be,
Met the thrice-throwing wrestler, — he
Is also gone to ground.
But “Zeus” — if any, heart and soul, that name —
Shouting the triumph-praise — proclaim,
Complete in judgment shall that man be found.
Zeus, who leads onward mortals to be wise,
Appoints that suffering masterfully teach,
in sleep, before the heart of each,
A woe-remembering travail sheds in dew
Discretion, — ay, and melts the unwilling too
By what, perchance, may be a graciousness
Of gods, enforced no less, —
As they, commanders of the crew,
Assume the awful seat.

And then the old leader of the Achaian fleet,
Disparaging no seer —
With bated breath to suit misfortune’s inrush here
— (What time it labored, that Achaian host,
By stay from sailing, — every pulse at length
Emptied of vital strength, —
Hard over Kalchis shore-bound, current-crost
In Aulis station, — while the winds which post
From Strumon, ill-delayers, famine-fraught,
Tempters of man to sail where harborage is naught,
Spendthrifts of ships and cables, turning time
To twice the length, — these carded, by delay,
To less and less away
The Argeians’ flowery prime:
And when a remedy more grave and grand
Than aught before — yea, for the storm and dearth —
The prophet to the foremost in command
Shrieked forth, as cause of this
Adducing Artemis,
So that the Atreidai striking staves on earth
Could not withhold the tear) —
Then did the king, the elder, speak this clear.

“Heavy the fate, indeed — to disobey!
Yet heavy if my child I slay,
The adornment of my household: with the tide
Of virgin-slaughter, at the altar-side,
A father’s hands defiling: which the way
Without its evils, say?
How shall I turn fleet-fugitive,
Failing of duty to allies?
Since for a wind-abating sacrifice
And virgin blood, — ‘t is right they strive,
Nay, madden with desire.
Well may it work them — this that they require!”

But when he underwent necessity’s
Yoke-trace, — from soul blowing unhallowed change
Unclean, abominable, — thence — another man —
The audacious mind of him began
Its wildest range.
For this it is gives mortals hardihood —
Some vice-devising miserable mood
Of madness, and first woe of all the brood.
The sacrificer of his daughter — strange! —
He dared become, to expedite
Woman-avenging warfare, — anchors weighed
With such prelusive rite!

Prayings and callings “Father” — naught they made
Of these, and of the virgin-age, —
Captains heart-set on war to wage!
His ministrants, vows done, the father bade —
Kid-like, above the altar, swathed in pall,
Take her — lift high, and have no fear at all,
Head-downward, and the fair mouth’s guard
And frontage hold, — press hard
From utterance a curse against the House
By dint of bit — violence bridling speech.
And as to ground her saffron-vest she shed,
She smote the sacrificers all and each
With arrow sweet and piteous,
From the eye only sped, —
Significant of will to use a word,
Just as in pictures: since, full many a time,
In her sire’s guest-hall, by the well-heaped board
Had she made music, — lovingly with chime
Of her chaste voice, that unpolluted thing,
Honored the third libation, — paian that should bring
Good fortune to the sire she loved so well.

What followed — those things I nor saw nor tell.
But Kalchas’ arts — whate’er they indicate —
Miss of fulfilment never: it is fate.
True, justice makes, in sufferers, a desire
To know the future woe preponderate.
But — hear before is need!
To that, farewell and welcome! ‘t is the same, indeed,
As grief beforehand: clearly, part for part,
Conformably to Kalchas’ art,
Shall come the event.
But be they as they may, things subsequent, —
What is to do, prosperity betide
E’en as we wish it! — we, the next allied,
Sole guarding barrier of the Apian land.

I am come, reverencing power in thee,
O Klutaimnestra! For ‘t is just we bow
To the ruler’s wife, — the male-seat man-bereaved.
But if thou, having heard good news, — or none, —
For good news’ hope dost sacrifice thus wide,
I would hear gladly: art thou mute, — no grudge!

Klutaimnestra. Good-news-announcer, may — as is the by-word —
Morn become, truly, — news from Night his mother!
But thou shalt learn joy past all hope of hearing.
Priamos’ city have the Argeioi taken.

Cho. How sayest? The word, from want of faith, escaped me.

Klu. Troia the Achaioi hold: do I speak plainly?

Cho. Joy overcreeps me, calling forth the tear-drop.

Klu. Right! for, that glad thou art, thine eye convicts thee.

Cho. For — what to thee, of all this, trusty token?

Klu. What’s here! how else? unless the god have cheated.

Cho. Haply thou flattering shows of dreams respectest?

Klu. No fancy would I take of soul sleep-burdened.

Cho. But has there puffed thee up some un-winged omen?

Klu. As a young maid’s my mind thou mockest grossly.

Cho. Well, at what time was — even sacked, the city?

Klu. Of this same mother Night — the dawn, I tell thee.

Cho. And who of messengers could reach this swiftness?

Klu. Hephaistos — sending a bright blaze from Idé.

Beacon did beacon send, from fire the poster,
Hitherward: Idé to the rock Hermaian
Of Lemnos: and a third great torch o’ the island
Zeus’ seat received in turn, the Athoan summit.
And, — so upsoaring as to stride sea over,
The strong lamp-voyager, and all for joyance —
Did the gold-glorious splendor, any sun like,
Pass on — the pine-tree — to Makistos’ watch-place;
Who did not, — tardy, — caught, no wits about him,
By sleep, — decline his portion of the missive.
And far the beacon’s light, on stream Euripos
Arriving, made aware Messapios’ warders.
And up they lit in turn, played herald onwards,
Kindling with flame a heap of gray old heather.
And, strengthening still, the lamp, decaying nowise,
Springing o’er Plain Asopos, — fullmoon-fashion
Effulgent, — toward the crag of Mount Kithairon,
Roused a new rendering-up of fire the escort —
And light, far escort, lacked no recognition
O’ the guard — as burning more than burnings told you.
And over Lake Gorgopis light went leaping,
And, at Mount Aigiplanktos safe arriving,
Enforced the law — “to never stint the fire-stuff.”
And they send, lighting up with ungrudged vigor,
Of flame a huge beard, ay, the very foreland
So as to strike above, in burning onward,
The look-out which commands the Strait Saronic,
Then did it dart until it reached the outpost
Mount Arachnaios here, the city’s neighbor;
And then darts to this roof of the Atreidai
This light of Idé’s fire not unforefathered!
Such are the rules prescribed the flambeau-bearers:
He beats that’s first and also last in running.
Such is the proof and token I declare thee,
My husband having sent me news from Troia.

Cho. The gods, indeed, anon will I pray, woman!
But now, these words to hear, and sate my wonder
Thoroughly, I am fain — if twice thou tell them.

Klu. Troia do the Achaioi hold, this same day.
I think a noise — no mixture — reigns i’ the city.
Sour wine and unguent pour thou in one vessel —
Standers-apart, not lovers, would’st thou style them:
And so, of captives and of conquerors, partwise
The voices are to hear, of fortune diverse.
For those, indeed, upon the bodies prostrate
Of husbands, brothers, children upon parents
— The old men, from a throat that’s free no longer,
Shriekingly wail the death-doom of their dearest:
While these — the after-battle hungry labor,
Which prompts night-faring, marshals them to breakfast
On the town’s store, according to no billet
Of sharing, but as each drew lot of fortune.
In the spear-captured Troic habitations
House they already: from the frosts upæthral
And dews delivered, will they, luckless creatures,
Without a watch to keep, slumber all night through.
And if they fear the gods, the city-guarders,
And if the gods’ structures of the conquered country,
They may not — capturers — soon in turn be captive.
But see no prior lust befall the army
To sack things sacred — by gain-cravings vanquished!
For there needs homeward the return’s salvation,
To round the new limb back o’ the double race-course.
And guilty to the gods if came the army,
Awakened up the sorrow of those slaughtered
Might be — should no outbursting evils happen.
But may good beat — no turn to see i’ the balance!
For, many benefits I want the gain of.

Cho. Woman, like prudent man thou kindly speakest.
And I, thus having heard thy trusty tokens,
The gods to rightly hail forthwith prepare me;
For, grace that must be paid has crowned our labors.

O Zeus the king, and friendly Night
Of these brave boons bestower —
Thou who didst fling on Troia’s every tower
The o’er-roofing snare, that neither great thing might,
Nor any of the young ones, overpass
Captivity’s great sweep-net — one and all
Of Até held in thrall!
Ay, Zeus I fear — the guest’s friend great — who was
The doer of this, and long since bent
The bow on Alexandros with intent
That neither wide o’ the white
Nor o’er the stars the foolish dart should light.
The stroke of Zeus — they have it, as men say!
This, at least, from the source track forth we may!
As he ordained, so has he done.
“No” — said some one —
“The gods think fit to care
Nowise for mortals, such
As those by whom the good and fair
Of things denied their touch
Is trampled!” but he was profane.
That they do care, has been made plain
To offspring of the over-bold,
Outbreathing “Ares” greater than is just —
Houses that spill with more than they can hold.
More than is best for man. Be man’s what must
Keep harm off, so that in himself he find
Sufficiency — the well-endowed of mind!
For there’s no bulwark in man’s wealth to him
Who, through a surfeit, kicks — into the dim
And disappearing — Right’s great altar.

Yes —
It urges him, the sad persuasiveness,
Até’s insufferable child that schemes
Treason beforehand: and all cure is vain.
It is not hidden: out it glares again,
A light dread-lamping-mischief, just as gleams
The badness of the bronze;
Through rubbing, puttings to the touch,
Black-clotted is he, judged at once.
He seeks — the boy — a flying bird to clutch,
The insufferable brand
Setting upon the city of his land
Whereof not any god hears prayer;
While him who brought about such evils there,
That unjust man, the god in grapple throws.
Such an one, Paris goes
Within the Atreidai’s house —
Shamed the guest’s board by robbery of the spouse.

And, leaving to her townsmen throngs a-spread
With shields, and spear-thrusts of sea-armament,
And bringing Ilion, in a dowry’s stead,
Destruction — swiftly through the gates she went,
Daring the undareable. But many a groan outbroke
From prophets of the House as thus they spoke.
“Woe, woe the House, the House and Rulers, — woe
The marriage-bed and dints
A husband’s love imprints!
There she stands silent! meets no honor — no
Shame — sweetest still to see of things gone long ago!
And, through desire of one across the main,
A ghost will seem within the house to reign:
And hateful to the husband is the grace
Of well-shaped statues: from — in place of eyes,
Those blanks — all Aphrodité dies.

“But dream-appearing mournful fantasies —
There they stand, bringing grace that’s vain.
For vain ‘t is, when brave things one seems to view:
The fantasy has floated off, hands through;
Gone, that appearance, — nowise left to creep, —
On wings, the servants in the paths of sleep!”
Woes, then, in household and on hearth, are such
As these — and woes surpassing these by much.
But not these only: everywhere —
For those who from the land
Of Hellas issued in a band,
Sorrow, the heart must bear,
Sits in the home of each, conspicuous there.
Many a circumstance, at least,
Touches the very breast.
For those
Whom any sent away, — he knows:
And in the live man’s stead,
Armor and ashes reach
The house of each.

For Ares, gold-exchanger for the dead,
And balance-holder in the fight o’ the spear,
Due-weight from Ilion sends —
What moves the tear on tear —
A charred scrap to the friends:
Filling with well-packed ashes every urn,
For man — that was — the sole return.
And they groan — praising much, the while,
Now this man as experienced in the strife,
Now that, fallen nobly on a slaughtered pile,
Because of — not his own — another’s wife.
But things there be, one barks,
When no man harks:
A surreptitious grief that’s grudge
Against the Atreidai who first sought the judge.
But some there, round the rampart, have
In Ilian earth, each one his grave:
All fair-formed as at birth,
It hid them — what they have and hold — the hostile earth.

And big with anger goes the city’s word,
And pays a debt by public curse incurred.
And ever with me — as about to hear
A something night-involved — remains my fear:
Since of the many-slayers — not
Unwatching are the gods.
The black Erinues, at due periods —
Whoever gains the lot
Of fortune with no right —
Him, by life’s strain and stress
Back-again-beaten from success,
They strike blind: and among the out-of-sight
For who has got to be, avails no might.
The being praised outrageously
Is grave, for at the eyes of such an one
Is launched, from Zeus, the thunder-stone.
Therefore do I decide
For so much and no more prosperity
Than of his envy passes unespied.
Neither a city-sacker would I be,
Nor life, myself by others captive, see.

A swift report has gone our city through,
From fire, the good-news messenger: if true,
Who knows? Or is it not a god-sent lie?
Who is so childish and deprived of sense
That, having, at announcements of the flame
Thus novel, felt his own heart fired thereby,
He then shall, at a change of evidence,
Be worsted just the same?
It is conspicuous in a woman’s nature,
Before its view to take a grace for granted:
Too trustful, — on her boundary, usurpature
Is swiftly made;
But swiftly, too, decayed,
The glory perishes by woman vaunted.

Klu. Soon shall we know — of these light-bearing torches,
And beacons and exchanges, fire with fire —
If they are true, indeed, or if, dream-fashion,
This gladsome light came and deceived our judgment.
Yon herald from the shore I see, o’ershadowed
With boughs of olive: dust, mud’s thirsty brother,
Close neighbors on his garb, thus testify me
That neither voiceless, nor yet kindling for thee
Mountain-wood-flame, shall he explain by fire-smoke:
But either tell out more the joyance, speaking …
Word contrary to which, I ought but love it!
For may good be — to good that’s known — appendage!

Cho. Whoever prays for aught else to this city
— May he himself reap fruit of his mind’s error!

Herald. Ha, my forefathers’ soil of earth Argeian!
Thee, in this year’s tenth light, am I returned to —
Of many broken hopes, on one hope chancing;
For never prayed I, in this earth Argeian
Dying, to share my part in tomb the dearest.
Now, hail thou earth, and hail thou also, sunlight,
And Zeus, the country’s lord, and king the Puthian
From bow no longer urging at us arrows!
Enough, beside Skamandros, cam’st thou adverse:
Now, contrary, be saviour thou and healer,
O king Apollon! And gods conquest-granting,
All — I invoke too, and my tutelary
Hermes, dear herald, heralds’ veneration, —
And Heroes our forthsenders, — friendly, once more
The army to receive, the war-spear’s leavings!
Ha, mansions of my monarchs, roofs beloved,
And awful seats, and deities sun-fronting —
Receive with pomp your monarch, long time absent!
For he comes bringing light in night-time to you,
In common with all these — king Agamemnon.
But kindly greet him — for clear shows your duty —
Who has dug under Troia with the mattock
Of Zeus the Avenger, whereby plains are out-ploughed,
Altars unrecognizable, and god’s shrines,
And the whole land’s seed thoroughly has perished.
And such a yoke-strap having cast round Troia,
The elder king Atreides, happy man — he
Comes to be honored, worthiest of what mortals
Now are. Nor Paris nor the accomplice-city
Outvaunts their deed as more than they are done-by:
For, in a suit for rape and theft found guilty,
He missed of plunder and, in one destruction,
Fatherland, house and home has mowed to atoms:
Debts the Priamidai have paid twice over.

Cho. Hail, herald from the army of Achaians!

Her. I hail: — to die, will gainsay gods no longer!

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