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THE SUPPLIANT MAIDENS

DEDICATION

  Take thou this gift from out the grave of Time.
  The urns of Greece lie shattered, and the cup
  That for Athenian lips the Muses filled,
  And flowery crowns that on Athenian hair
  Hid the cicala, freedom's golden sign,
  Dust in the dust have fallen. Calmly sad,
  The marble dead upon Athenian tombs
  Speak from their eyes "Farewell": and well have fared
  They and the saddened friends, whose clasping hands
  Win from the solemn stone eternity.
  Yea, well they fared unto the evening god,
  Passing beyond the limit of the world,
  Where face to face the son his mother saw,
  A living man a shadow, while she spake
  Words that Odysseus and that Homer heard,—
  I too, O child, I reached the common doom,
  The grave, the goal of fate, and passed away
.
  —Such, Anticleia, as thy voice to him,
  Across the dim gray gulf of death and time
  Is that of Greece, a mother's to a child,—
  Mother of each whose dreams are grave and fair—
  Who sees the Naiad where the streams are bright
  And in the sunny ripple of the sea
  Cymodoce with floating golden hair:
  And in the whisper of the waving oak
  Hears still the Dryad's plaint, and, in the wind
  That sighs through moonlit woodlands, knows the horn
  Of Artemis, and silver shafts and bow.
  Therefore if still around this broken vase,
  Borne by rough hands, unworthy of their load,
  Far from Cephisus and the wandering rills,
  There cling a fragrance as of things once sweet,
  Of honey from Hymettus' desert hill,
  Take thou the gift and hold it close and dear;
  For gifts that die have living memories—
  Voices of unreturning days, that breathe
  The spirit of a day that never dies.

ARGUMENT

Io, the daughter of Inachus, King of Argos, was beloved of Zeus. But Hera was jealous of that love, and by her ill will was Io given over to frenzy, and her body took the semblance of a heifer: and Argus, a many-eyed herdsman, was set by Hera to watch Io whithersoever she strayed. Yet, in despite of Argus, did Zeus draw nigh unto her in the shape of a bull. And by the will of Zeus and the craft of Hermes was Argus slain. Then Io was driven over far lands and seas by her madness, and came at length to the land of Egypt. There was she restored to herself by a touch of the hand of Zeus, and bare a child called Epaphus. And from Epaphus sprang Libya, and from Libya, Belus; and from Belus, Aegyptus and Danaus. And the sons of Aegyptus willed to take the daughters of Danaus in marriage. But the maidens held such wedlock in horror, and fled with their father over the sea to Argos; and the king and citizens of Argos gave them shelter and protection from their pursuers.

THE SUPPLIANT MAIDENS

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

  DANAUS, THE KING OF ARGOS, HERALD OF AEGYPTUS.
  Chorus of the Daughters of Danaus. Attendants.

Scene. —A sacred precinct near the gates of Argos: statue and shrines of Zeus and other deities stand around.

CHORUS

  ZEUS! Lord and guard of suppliant hands!
    Look down benign on us who crave
    Thine aid—whom winds and waters drave
  From where, through drifting shifting sands,
    Pours Nilus to the wave.
  From where the green land, god-possest,
  Closes and fronts the Syrian waste,
  We flee as exiles, yet unbanned
  By murder's sentence from our land;
  But—since Aegyptus had decreed
  His sons should wed his brother's seed,—
  Ourselves we tore from bonds abhorred,
  From wedlock not of heart but hand,
  Nor brooked to call a kinsman lord!
  And Danaus, our sire and guide,
  The king of counsel, pond'ring well
  The dice of fortune as they fell,
  Out of two griefs the kindlier chose,
  And bade us fly, with him beside,
  Heedless what winds or waves arose,
  And o'er the wide sea waters haste,
  Until to Argos' shore at last
    Our wandering pinnace came—
  Argos, the immemorial home
  Of her from whom we boast to come—
  Io, the ox-horned maiden, whom,
  After long wandering, woe, and scathe,
  Zeus with a touch, a mystic breath,
    Made mother of our name.
  Therefore, of all the lands of earth,
  On this most gladly step we forth,
  And in our hands aloft we bear—
  Sole weapon for a suppliant's wear—
  The olive-shoot, with wool enwound!
    City, and land, and waters wan
  Of Inachus, and gods most high,
  And ye who, deep beneath the ground,
  Bring vengeance weird on mortal man,
  Powers of the grave, on you we cry!
  And unto Zeus the Saviour, guard
  Of mortals' holy purity!
  Receive ye us—keep watch and ward
  Above the suppliant maiden band!
  Chaste be the heart of this your land
  Towards the weak! but, ere the throng,
  The wanton swarm, from Egypt sprung,
  Leap forth upon the silted shore,
  Thrust back their swift-rowed bark again,
  Repel them, urge them to the main!
  And there, 'mid storm and lightning's shine,
  And scudding drift and thunder's roar,
  Deep death be theirs, in stormy brine!
  Before they foully grasp and win
  Us, maiden-children of their kin,
  And climb the couch by law denied,
  And wrong each weak reluctant bride.
    And now on her I call,

  Mine ancestress, who far on Egypt's shore
      A young cow's semblance wore,—
  A maiden once, by Hera's malice changed!
      And then on him withal,
  Who, as amid the flowers the grazing creature
      ranged,
  Was in her by a breath of Zeus conceived;
      And, as the hour of birth drew nigh,
  By fate fulfilled, unto the light he came;
      And Epaphus for name,
  Born from the touch of Zeus, the child received.
      On him, on him I cry,
      And him for patron hold—
    While in this grassy vale I stand,
      Where lo roamed of old!
  And here, recounting all her toil and pain,
  Signs will I show to those who rule the land
 That I am child of hers; and all shall understand,
 Hearing the doubtful tale of the dim past made plain.
        And, ere the end shall be,
  Each man the truth of what I tell shall see.
        And if there dwell hard by
  One skilled to read from bird-notes augury,
 That man, when through his ears shall thrill our
      tearful wail,
  Shall deem he hears the voice, the plaintive tale
 Of her, the piteous spouse of Tereus, lord of guile—
 Whom the hawk harries yet, the mourning nightingale.
 She, from her happy home and fair streams scared
      away,
    Wails wild and sad for haunts beloved erewhile.
    Yea, and for Itylus—ah, well-a-day!
      Slain by her own, his mother's hand,
 Maddened by lustful wrong, the deed by Tereus
      planned.
 Like her I wail and wail, in soft Ionian tones,
      And as she wastes, even so
  Wastes my soft cheek, once ripe with Nilus' suns
  And all my heart dissolves in utter woe
      Sad flowers of grief I cull,

  Fleeing from kinsmen's love unmerciful—
 Yea, from the clutching hands, the wanton crowd,
 I sped across the waves, from Egypt's land of cloud[1]

[Footnote: 1: AeRas apogas This epithet may appear strange to modern readers accustomed to think of Egypt as a land of cloudless skies and pellucid atmosphere. Nevertheless both Pindar (Pyth iv 93) and Apollonius Rhodius (iv 267) speak of it in the same way as Aeschylus. It has been conjectured that they allude to the fog banks that often obscure the low coasts—a phenomenon likely to impress the early navigators and to be reported by them.]

  Gods of the ancient cradle of my race,
  Hear me, just gods! With righteous grace
      On me, on me look down!
 Grant not to youth its heart's unchaste desire,
 But, swiftly spurning lust's unholy fire,
  Bless only love and willing wedlock's crown
  The war-worn fliers from the battle's wrack
  Find refuge at the hallowed altar-side,
      The sanctuary divine,—
  Ye gods! such refuge unto me provide—
      Such sanctuary be mine!
  Though the deep will of Zeus be hard to track,
      Yet doth it flame and glance,
  A beacon in the dark, 'mid clouds of chance
        That wrap mankind
 Yea, though the counsel fall, undone it shall not be,
 Whate'er be shaped and fixed within Zeus' ruling mind—
 Dark as a solemn grove, with sombre leafage shaded,
    His paths of purpose wind,
    A marvel to man's eye

 Smitten by him, from towering hopes degraded,
    Mortals lie low and still
 Tireless and effortless, works forth its will
      The arm divine!
 God from His holy seat, in calm of unarmed power,
 Brings forth the deed, at its appointed hour!
    Let Him look down on mortal wantonness!
  Lo! how the youthful stock of Belus' line
      Craves for me, uncontrolled—
      With greed and madness bold—
    Urged on by passion's sunless stress—
 And, cheated, learns too late the prey has 'scaped
      their hold!
  Ah, listen, listen to my grievous tale,
  My sorrow's words, my shrill and tearful cries!
        Ah woe, ah woe!
    Loud with lament the accents use,
 And from my living lips my own sad dirges flow!
       O Apian land of hill and dale,
 Thou kennest yet, O land, this faltered foreign wail—
       Have mercy, hear my prayer!
  Lo, how again, again, I rend and tear
  My woven raiment, and from off my hair
       Cast the Sidonian veil!

 Ah, but if fortune smile, if death be driven away,
 Vowed rites, with eager haste, we to the gods will pay!
      Alas, alas again!
 O wither drift the waves? and who shall loose the pain?

          O Apian land of hill and dale,
 Thou kennest yet, O land, this faltered foreign wail!
          Have mercy, hear my prayer!
  Lo, how again, again, I rend and tear
  My woven raiment, and from off my hair
          Cast the Sidonian veil!

  The wafting oar, the bark with woven sail,
          From which the sea foamed back,
  Sped me, unharmed of storms, along the breeze's track—
          Be it unblamed of me!
  But ah, the end, the end of my emprise!
  May He, the Father, with all-seeing eyes,
          Grant me that end to see!
  Grant that henceforth unstained as heretofore
    I may escape the forced embrace
    Of those proud children of the race
          That sacred Io bore.

  And thou, O maiden-goddess chaste and pure—
          Queen of the inner fane,—
  Look of thy grace on me, O Artemis,
    Thy willing suppliant—thine, thine it is,
  Who from the lustful onslaught fled secure,
    To grant that I too without stain
  The shelter of thy purity may gain!

  Grant that henceforth unstained as heretofore
    I may escape the forced embrace
    Of those proud children of the race
           That sacred Io bore!

           Yet if this may not be,
    We, the dark race sun-smitten, we
    Will speed with suppliant wands
  To Zeus who rules below, with hospitable hands
  Who welcomes all the dead from all the lands:
 Yea by our own hands strangled, we will go,
 Spurned by Olympian gods, unto the gods below!

    Zeus, hear and save!
 The searching, poisonous hate, that Io vexed and drave,
  Was of a goddess: well I know
  The bitter ire, the wrathful woe
    Of Hera, queen of heaven—-
 A storm, a storm her breath, whereby we yet are driven!
    Bethink thee, what dispraise
  Of Zeus himself mankind will raise,
 If now he turn his face averted from our cries!
 If now, dishonoured and alone,
 The ox-horned maiden's race shall be undone,
 Children of Epaphus, his own begotten son—-
 Zeus, listen from on high!—to thee our prayers arise.

    Zeus, hear and save!
 The searching poisonous hate, that Io vexed and drave,
  Was of a goddess: well I know
  The bitter ire, the wrathful woe
    Of Hera, queen of heaven—
 A storm, a storm her breath, whereby we yet are driven!

DANAUS

  Children, be wary—wary he with whom
  Ye come, your trusty sire and steersman old:
  And that same caution hold I here on land,
  And bid you hoard my words, inscribing them
  On memory's tablets. Lo, I see afar
  Dust, voiceless herald of a host, arise;
  And hark, within their grinding sockets ring
  Axles of hurrying wheels! I see approach,
  Borne in curved cars, by speeding horses drawn,
  A speared and shielded band. The chiefs, perchance,
  Of this their land are hitherward intent
  To look on us, of whom they yet have heard
  By messengers alone. But come who may,
  And come he peaceful or in ravening wrath
  Spurred on his path, 'twere best, in any case,
  Damsels, to cling unto this altar-mound
  Made sacred to their gods of festival,—
  A shrine is stronger than a tower to save,
  A shield that none may cleave. Step swift thereto,
  And in your left hands hold with reverence
  The white-crowned wands of suppliance, the sign
  Beloved of Zeus, compassion's lord, and speak
  To those that question you, words meek and low
  And piteous, as beseems your stranger state,
  Clearly avowing of this flight of yours
  The bloodless cause; and on your utterance
  See to it well that modesty attend;
  From downcast eyes, from brows of pure control,
  Let chastity look forth; nor, when ye speak,
  Be voluble nor eager—they that dwell
  Within this land are sternly swift to chide.
  And be your words submissive: heed this well;
  For weak ye are, outcasts on stranger lands,
  And froward talk beseems not strengthless hands.

CHORUS

  O father, warily to us aware
  Thy words are spoken, and thy wisdom's best
  My mind shall hoard, with Zeus our sire to aid.

DANAUS

Even so—with gracious aspect let him aid.

CHORUS

Fain were I now to seat me by thy side.

DANAUS

Now dally not, but put our thought in act.

CHORUS

Zeus, pity our distress, or e'er we die.

DANAUS

If so he will, your toils to joy will turn.

CHORUS

Lo, on this shrine, the semblance of a bird.[2]

DANAUS

Zeus' bird of dawn it is; invoke the sign.

CHORUS

Thus I invoke the saving rays of morn.

[Footnote: 2: The whole of this dialogue in alternate verses is disarranged in the MSS. The re-arrangement which has approved itself to Paley has been here followed. It involves, however, a hiatus, instead of the line to which this note is appended. The substance of the lost line being easily deducible from the context, it has been supplied in the translation.]

DANAUS

Next, bright Apollo, exiled once from heaven.

CHORUS

The exiled god will pity our exile.

DANAUS

Yea, may he pity, giving grace and aid.

CHORUS

Whom next invoke I, of these other gods?

DANAUS

Lo, here a trident, symbol of a god.

CHORUS

  Who [3] gave sea-safety; may he bless on land!
      [Footnote: 3: Poseidon] DANAUS

This next is Hermes, carved in Grecian wise.

CHORUS

Then let him herald help to freedom won.

DANAUS

  Lastly, adore this altar consecrate
  To many lesser gods in one; then crouch
  On holy ground, a flock of doves that flee,
  Scared by no alien hawks, a kin not kind,
  Hateful, and fain of love more hateful still.
  Foul is the bird that rends another bird,
  And foul the men who hale unwilling maids,
  From sire unwilling, to the bridal bed.
  Never on earth, nor in the lower world,
  Shall lewdness such as theirs escape the ban:
  There too, if men say right, a God there is
  Who upon dead men turns their sin to doom,
  To final doom. Take heed, draw hitherward,
  That from this hap your safety ye may win.
                                      [Enter the KING OF ARGOS.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Speak—of what land are ye? No Grecian band
  Is this to whom I speak, with Eastern robes
  And wrappings richly dight: no Argive maid,
  No woman in all Greece such garb doth wear.
  This too gives marvel, how unto this land,
  Unheralded, unfriended, without guide,
  And without fear, ye came? yet wands I see,
  True sign of suppliance, by you laid down
  On shrines of these our gods of festival.
  No land but Greece can read such signs aright.
  Much else there is, conjecture well might guess,
  But let words teach the man who stands to hear.

CHORUS

  True is the word thou spakest of my garb;
  But speak I unto thee as citizen,
  Or Hermes' wandbearer, or chieftain king?

THE KING OF ARGOS

  For that, take heart and answer without fear.
  I am Pelasgus, ruler of this land,
  Child of Palaichthon, whom the earth brought forth;
  And, rightly named from me, the race who reap
  This country's harvests are Pelasgian called.
  And o'er the wide and westward-stretching land,
  Through which the lucent wave of Strymon flows
  I rule; Perrhaebia's land my boundary is
  Northward, and Pindus' further slopes, that watch
  Paeonia, and Dodona's mountain ridge.
  West, east, the limit of the washing seas
  Restrains my rule—the interspace is mine.
  But this whereon we stand is Apian land,
  Styled so of old from the great healer's name;
  For Apis, coming from Naupactus' shore
  Beyond the strait, child of Apollo's self
  And like him seer and healer, cleansed this land
  From man-devouring monsters, whom the earth,
  Stained with pollution of old bloodshedding,
  Brought forth in malice, beasts of ravening jaws,
  A grisly throng of serpents manifold.
  And healings of their hurt, by knife and charm,
  Apis devised, unblamed of Argive men,
  And in their prayers found honour, for reward.
  —Lo, thou hast heard the tokens that I give:
  Speak now thy race, and tell a forthright tale;
  In sooth, this people loves not many words.

CHORUS

  Short is my word and clear. Of Argive race
  We come, from her, the ox-horned maiden who
  Erst bare the sacred child. My word shall give
  Whate'er can 'stablish this my soothfast tale.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  O stranger maids, I may not trust this word,
  That ye have share in this our Argive race.
  No likeness of our country do ye bear,
  But semblance as of Libyan womankind.
  Even such a stock by Nilus' banks might grow;
  Yea and the Cyprian stamp, in female forms,
  Shows to the life, what males impressed the same.
  And, furthermore, of roving Indian maids
  Whose camping-grounds by Aethiopia lie,
  And camels burdened even as mules, and bearing
  Riders, as horses bear, mine ears have heard;
  And tales of flesh-devouring mateless maids
  Called Amazons: to these, if bows ye bare,
  I most had deemed you like. Speak further yet,
  That of your Argive birth the truth I learn.

CHORUS

  Here in this Argive land—so runs the tale—
  Io was priestess once of Hera's fane.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Yea, truth it is, and far this word prevails:
  Is't said that Zeus with mortal mingled love?

CHORUS

Ay, and that Hera that embrace surmised.

THE KING OF ARGOS

How issued then this strife of those on high?

CHORUS

By Hera's will, a heifer she became.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Held Zeus aloof then from the horned beast?

CHORUS

'Tis said, he loved, in semblance of a bull.

THE KING OF ARGOS

And his stern consort, did she aught thereon?

CHORUS

One myriad-eyed she set, the heifer's guard.

THE KING OF ARGOS

How namest thou this herdsman many-eyed?

CHORUS

Argus, the child of Earth, whom Hermes slew.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Still did the goddess vex the beast ill-starred?

CHORUS

She wrought a gadfly with a goading sting.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Thus drave she Io hence, to roam afar?

CHORUS

Yea—this thy word coheres exact with mine.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Then to Canopus and to Memphis came she?

CHORUS

And by Zeus' hand was touched, and bare a child.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Who vaunts him the Zeus-mated creature's son?

CHORUS

Epaphus, named rightly from the saving touch.

THE KING OF ARGOS

And whom in turn did Epaphus beget?[4]

[Footnote: 4: Here one verse at least has been lost. The conjecture of Bothe seems to be verified, as far as substance is concerned, by the next line, and has consequently been adopted.]

CHORUS

Libya, with name of a wide land endowed.

THE KING OF ARGOS

And who from her was born unto the race?

CHORUS

Belus: from him two sons, my father one.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Speak now to me his name, this greybeard wise.

CHORUS

Revere the gods thus crowned, who steer the State.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Awe thrills me, seeing these shrines with leafage crowned.

CHORUS

  Yea, stern the wrath of Zeus, the suppliants' lord.
    Child of Palaichthon, royal chief
      Of thy Pelasgians, hear!
    Bow down thine heart to my relief—
      A fugitive, a suppliant, swift with fear,
    A creature whom the wild wolves chase
    O'er toppling crags; in piteous case
      Aloud, afar she lows,
  Calling the herdsman's trusty arm to save her from her foes!

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Lo, with bowed heads beside our city shrines
  Ye sit 'neath shade of new-plucked olive-boughs.
  Our distant kin's resentment Heaven forefend!
  Let not this hap, unhoped and unforeseen,
  Bring war on us: for strife we covet not.

CHORUS

  Justice, the daughter of right-dealing Zeus,
  Justice, the queen of suppliants, look down,
    That this our plight no ill may loose
      Upon your town!
    This word, even from the young, let age and wisdom learn:
    If thou to suppliants show grace,
    Thou shalt not lack Heaven's grace in turn,
  So long as virtue's gifts on heavenly shrines have place.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Not at my private hearth ye sit and sue;
  And if the city bear a common stain,
  Be it the common toil to cleanse the same:
  Therefore no pledge, no promise will I give,
  Ere counsel with the commonwealth be held.

CHORUS

  Nay, but the source of sway, the city's self, art thou,
    A power unjudged! thine, only thine,
    To rule the right of hearth and shrine!
  Before thy throne and sceptre all men bow!
  Thou, in all causes lord, beware the curse divine!

THE KING OF ARGOS

  May that curse fall upon mine enemies!
  I cannot aid you without risk of scathe,
  Nor scorn your prayers—unmerciful it were.
  Perplexed, distraught I stand, and fear alike
  The twofold chance, to do or not to do.

CHORUS

  Have heed of him who looketh from on high,
    The guard of woeful mortals, whosoe'er
      Unto their fellows cry,
    And find no pity, find no justice there.
  Abiding in his wrath, the suppliants' lord
  Doth smite, unmoved by cries, unbent by prayerful word.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  But if Aegyptus' children grasp you here,
  Claiming, their country's right, to hold you theirs
  As next of kin, who dares to counter this?
  Plead ye your country's laws, if plead ye may,
  That upon you they lay no lawful hand.

CHORUS

  Let me not fall, O nevermore,
    A prey into the young men's hand;
  Rather than wed whom I abhor,
    By pilot-stars I flee this land;
  O king, take justice to thy side,
  And with the righteous powers decide!

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Hard is the cause—make me not judge thereof.
  Already I have vowed it, to do nought
  Save after counsel with my people ta'en,
  King though I be; that ne'er in after time,
  If ill fate chance, my people then may say—
  In aid of strangers thou the state hast slain.

CHORUS

  Zeus, lord of kinship, rules at will
    The swaying balance, and surveys
  Evil and good; to men of ill
    Gives evil, and to good men praise.
  And thou—since true those scales do sway—
  Shall thou from justice shrink away?

THE KING OF ARGOS

  A deep, a saving counsel here there needs—
  An eye that like a diver to the depth
  Of dark perplexity can pass and see,
  Undizzied, unconfused. First must we care
  That to the State and to ourselves this thing
  Shall bring no ruin; next, that wrangling hands
  Shall grasp you not as prey, nor we ourselves
  Betray you thus embracing sacred shrines,
  Nor make the avenging all-destroying god,
  Who not in hell itself sets dead men free,
  A grievous inmate, an abiding bane.—
  Spake I not right, of saving counsel's need?

CHORUS

  Yea, counsel take and stand to aid
    At Justice' side and mine.
  Betray not me, the timorous maid
    Whom far beyond the brine
  A godless violence cast forth forlorn.
    O King, wilt thou behold—
  Lord of this land, wilt thou behold me torn
    From altars manifold?
  Bethink thee of the young men's wrath and lust,
    Hold off their evil pride;
  Steel not thyself to see the suppliant thrust
    From hallowed statues' side,
  Haled by the frontlet on my forehead bound,
    As steeds are led, and drawn
  By hands that drag from shrine and altar-mound
    My vesture's fringed lawn.
  Know thou that whether for Aegyptus' race
    Thou dost their wish fulfil,
  Or for the gods and for each holy place—
    Be thy choice good or ill,
  Blow is with blow requited, grace with grace
    Such is Zeus' righteous will.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Yea, I have pondered: from the sea of doubt
  Here drives at length the bark of thought ashore;
  Landward with screw and windlass haled, and firm,
  Clamped to her props, she lies. The need is stern;
  With men or gods a mighty strife we strive
  Perforce, and either hap in grief concludes.
  For, if a house be sacked, new wealth for old
  Not hard it is to win—if Zeus the lord
  Of treasure favour—more than quits the loss,
  Enough to pile the store of wealth full high;
  Or if a tongue shoot forth untimely speech,
  Bitter and strong to goad a man to wrath,
  Soft words there be to soothe that wrath away:
  But what device shall make the war of kin
  Bloodless? that woe, the blood of many beasts,
  And victims manifold to many gods,
  Alone can cure. Right glad I were to shun
  This strife, and am more fain of ignorance
  Than of the wisdom of a woe endured.
  The gods send better than my soul foretells!

CHORUS

Of many cries for mercy, hear the end.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Say on, then, for it shall not 'scape mine ear.

CHORUS

Girdles we have, and bands that bind our robes.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Even so; such things beseem a woman's wear.

CHORUS

Know, then, with these a fair device there is—

THE KING OF ARGOS

Speak, then: what utterance doth this foretell?

CHORUS

Unless to us thou givest pledge secure—

THE KING OF ARGOS

What can thy girdles' craft achieve for thee?

CHORUS

Strange votive tablets shall these statues deck.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Mysterious thy resolve—avow it clear.

CHORUS

Swiftly to hang me on these sculptured gods!

THE KING OF ARGOS

Thy word is as a lash to urge my heart.

CHORUS

Thou seest truth, for I have cleared thine eye

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Yea, and woes manifold, invincible,
  A crowd of ills, sweep on me torrent-like.
  My bark goes forth upon a sea of troubles
  Unfathomed, ill to traverse, harbourless.
  For if my deed shall match not your demand,
  Dire, beyond shot of speech, shall be the bane
  Your death's pollution leaves unto this land.
  Yet if against your kin, Aegyptus' race,
  Before our gates I front the doom of war,
  Will not the city's loss be sore? Shall men
  For women's sake incarnadine the ground?
  But yet the wrath of Zeus, the suppliants' lord
  I needs must fear: most awful unto man
  The terror of his anger. Thou, old man,
  The father of these maidens, gather up
  Within your arms these wands of suppliance,
  And lay them at the altars manifold
  Of all our country's gods, that all the town
  Know, by this sign, that ye come here to sue.
  Nor, in thy haste, do thou say aught of me.
  Swift is this folk to censure those who rule;
  But, if they see these signs of suppliance,
  It well may chance that each will pity you,
  And loathe the young men's violent pursuit;
  And thus a fairer favour you may find:
  For, to the helpless, each man's heart is kind.

DANAUS

  To us, beyond gifts manifold it is
  To find a champion thus compassionate;
  Yet send with me attendants, of thy folk,
  Rightly to guide me, that I duly find
  Each altar of your city's gods that stands
  Before the fane, each dedicated shrine;
  And that in safety through the city's ways
  I may pass onwards: all unlike to yours
  The outward semblance that I wear—the race
  that Nilus rears is all dissimilar
   That of Inachus. Keep watch and ward
   Lest heedlessness bring death: full oft, I ween,
   Friend hath slain friend, not knowing whom he slew.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Go at his side, attendants,—he saith well.
  On to the city's consecrated shrines!
  Nor be of many words to those ye meet,
  The while this suppliant voyager ye lead.
                          [Exit DANAUS with attendants.

CHORUS

  Let him go forward, thy command obeying.
  But me how biddest, how assurest thou?

THE KING OF ARGOS

Leave there the new-plucked boughs, thy sorrow's sign.

CHORUS

Thus beckoned forth, at thy behest I leave them.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Now to this level precinct turn thyself.

CHORUS

Unconsecrate it is, and cannot shield me.

THE KING OF ARGOS

We will not yield thee to those falcons' greed.

CHORUS

What help? more fierce they are than serpents fell

THE KING OF ARGOS

We spake thee fair—speak thou them fair in turn.

CHORUS

What marvel that we loathe them, scared in soul?

THE KING OF ARGOS

Awe towards a king should other fears transcend.

CHORUS

Thus speak, thus act, and reassure my mind.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Not long thy sire shall leave thee desolate.
  But I will call the country's indwellers,
  And with soft words th' assembly will persuade,
  And warn your sire what pleadings will avail.
  Therefore abide ye, and with prayer entreat
  The country's gods to compass your desire;
  The while I go, this matter to provide,
  Persuasion and fair fortune at my side.
                                      [Exit the KING OF ARGOS.

CHORUS

    O King of Kings, among the blest
    Thou highest and thou happiest,
        Listen and grant our prayer,
    And, deeply loathing, thrust
    Away from us the young men's lust,
          And deeply drown
  In azure waters, down and ever down,
    Benches and rowers dark,
    The fatal and perfidious bark!
  Unto the maidens turn thy gracious care;
  Think yet again upon the tale of fame,
  How from the maiden loved of thee there sprung
  Mine ancient line, long since in many a legend sung!
    Remember, O remember, thou whose hand
  Did Io by a touch to human shape reclaim.
 For from this Argos erst our mother came
        Driven hence to Egypt's land,
 Yet sprung of Zeus we were, and hence our birth we claim.
        And now have I roamed back
        Unto the ancient track
  Where Io roamed and pastured among flowers,
        Watched o'er by Argus' eyes,
  Through the lush grasses and the meadow bowers.
    Thence, by the gadfly maddened, forth she flies
    Unto far lands and alien peoples driven
    And, following fate, through paths of foam and surge,
    Sees, as she goes, the cleaving strait divide
        Greece, from the Eastland riven.
  And swift through Asian borders doth she urge
  Her course, o'er Phrygian mountains' sheep-clipt side;
  Thence, where the Mysian realm of Teuthras lies
    Towards Lydian lowlands hies,
  And o'er Cilician and Pamphylian hills
    And ever-flowing rills,
  And thence to Aphrodite's fertile shore, [5]
          [Footnote: 5: Cyprus.]
  The land of garnered wheat and wealthy store
  And thence, deep-stung by wild unrest,
  By the winged fly that goaded her and drave,
  Unto the fertile land, the god-possest,
      (Where, fed from far-off snows,
      Life-giving Nilus flows,
  Urged on by Typho's strength, a fertilizing wave)
  She roves, in harassed and dishonoured flight
  Scathed by the blasting pangs of Hera's dread despite.
      And they within the land
      With terror shook and wanned,
  So strange the sight they saw, and were afraid—
  A wild twy-natured thing, half heifer and half maid.
  Whose hand was laid at last on Io, thus forlorn,
    With many roamings worn?
  Who bade the harassed maiden's peace return?
    Zeus, lord of time eterne.
  Yea, by his breath divine, by his unscathing strength,
      She lays aside her bane,
  And softened back to womanhood at length
      Sheds human tears again.
  Then, quickened with Zeus' veritable seed,
      A progeny she bare,
  A stainless babe, a child of heavenly breed.
      Of life and fortune fair.
  His is the life of life—so all men say,—
    His is the seed of Zeus.
  Who else had power stern Hera's craft to stay,
    Her vengeful curse to loose
?

   Yea, all from Zeus befell!
   And rightly wouldst thou tell
 That we from Epaphus, his child, were born:
      Justly his deed was done;
      Unto what other one,
 Of all the gods, should I for justice turn?
      From him our race did spring;
      Creator he and King,
 Ancient of days and wisdom he, and might.
      As bark before the wind,
      So, wafted by his mind,
 Moves every counsel, each device aright.
      Beneath no stronger hand
      Holds he a weak command,
 No throne doth he abase him to adore;
      Swift as a word, his deed
      Acts out what stands decreed
 In counsels of his heart, for evermore.
                                             [Re-enter DANAUS.

DANAUS

  Take heart, my children: the land's heart is kind,
  And to full issue has their voting come.

CHORUS

  All hail, my sire; thy word brings utmost joy.
  Say, to what issue is the vote made sure,
  And how prevailed the people's crowding hands?

DANAUS

  With one assent the Argives spake their will,
  And, hearing, my old heart took youthful cheer,
  The very sky was thrilled when high in air
  The concourse raised right hands and swore their oath:—
  Free shall the maidens sojourn in this land.
  Unharried, undespoiled by mortal wight:
  No native hand, no hand of foreigner
  Shall drag them hence; if any man use force—
  Whoe'er of all our countrymen shall fail
  To come unto their aid, let him go forth,
  Beneath the people's curse, to banishment
.
  So did the king of this Pelasgian folk
  Plead on behalf of us, and bade them heed
  That never, in the after-time, this realm
  Should feed to fulness the great enmity
  Of Zeus, the suppliants' guard, against itself!
  A twofold curse, for wronging stranger-guests
  Who are akin withal, confrontingly
  Should rise before this city and be shown
  A ruthless monster, fed on human doom.
  Such things the Argive people heard, and straight,
  Without proclaim of herald, gave assent:
  Yea, in full conclave, the Pelasgian folk
  Heard suasive pleas, and Zeus through them resolved.

CHORUS

  Arouse we now to chant our prayer
  For fair return of service fair
    And Argos' kindly will.
  Zeus, lord of guestright, look upon
  The grace our stranger lips have won.
  In right and truth, as they begun,
  Guide them, with favouring hand, until
  Thou dost their blameless wish fulfil!

    Now may the Zeus-born gods on high
      Hear us pour forth
    A votive prayer for Argos' clan!—
    Never may this Pelasgian earth,
  Amid the fire-wrack, shrill the dismal cry
    On Ares, ravening lord of fight,
  Who in an alien harvest mows down man!
    For lo, this land had pity on our plight,
  And unto us were merciful and leal,
  To us, the piteous flock, who at Zeus' altar kneel!
  They scornèd not the pleas of maidenhood,
  Nor with the young men's will hath their will stood.
      They knew right well.

  Th' unearthly watching fiend invincible,
  The foul avenger—let him not draw near!
  For he, on roofs ill-starred,
  Defiling and polluting, keeps a ghastly ward!
  They knew his vengeance, and took holy heed
  To us, the sister suppliants, who cry
    To Zeus, the lord of purity:
  Therefore with altars pure they shall the gods revere.

  Thus, through the boughs that shade our lips, fly forth in air,
      Fly forth, O eager prayer!
    May never pestilence efface
      This city's race,
    Nor be the land with corpses strewed,
      Nor stained with civic blood!
    The stem of youth, unpluckt, to manhood come,
    Nor Ares rise from Aphrodité's bower,
  The lord of death and bane, to waste our youthful flower.
        Long may the old
    Crowd to the altars kindled to consume
        Gifts rich and manifold—
    Offered to win from powers divine
    A benison on city and on shrine:
      Let all the sacred might adore
        Of Zeus most high, the lord
      Of guestright and the hospitable board,
  Whose immemorial law doth rule Fate's scales aright:
        The garners of earth's store
        Be full for evermore,
  And grace of Artemis make women's travail light;
    No devastating curse of fell disease
        This city seize;
    No clamour of the State arouse to war
        Ares, from whom afar
    Shrinketh the lute, by whom the dances fail—
        Ares, the lord of wail.
    Swarm far aloof from Argos' citizens
        All plague and pestilence,
    And may the Archer-God our children spare!
    May Zeus with foison and with fruitfulness
        The land's each season bless,
    And, quickened with Heaven's bounty manifold,
        Teem grazing flock and fold.
    Beside the altars of Heaven's hallowing
        Loud let the minstrels sing,
  And from pure lips float forth the harp-led strain in air!
    And let the people's voice, the power
    That sways the State, in danger's hour
      Be wary, wise for all;
    Nor honour in dishonour hold,
    But—ere the voice of war be bold—
    Let them to stranger peoples grant
    Fair and unbloody covenant—
      Justice and peace withal;
    And to the Argive powers divine
    The sacrifice of laurelled kine,
      By rite ancestral, pay.
    Among three words of power and awe,
    Stands this, the third, the mighty law—
    Your gods, your fathers deified,
    Ye shall adore
. Let this abide
      For ever and for aye.

DANAUS

  Dear children, well and wisely have ye prayed;
  I bid you now not shudder, though ye hear
  New and alarming tidings from your sire.
  From this high place beside the suppliants' shrine
  The bark of our pursuers I behold,
  By divers tokens recognized too well.
  Lo, the spread canvas and the hides that screen
  The gunwale; lo, the prow, with painted eyes
  That seem her onward pathway to descry,
  Heeding too well the rudder at the stern
  That rules her, coming for no friendly end.
  And look, the seamen—all too plain their race—
  Their dark limbs gleam from out their snow-white garb;
  Plain too the other barks, a fleet that comes
  All swift to aid the purpose of the first,
  That now, with furled sail and with pulse of oars
  Which smite the wave together, comes aland.
  But ye, be calm, and, schooled not scared by fear,
  Confront this chance, be mindful of your trust
  In these protecting gods. And I will hence,
  And champions who shall plead your cause aright
  Will bring unto your side. There come perchance
  Heralds or envoys, eager to lay hand
  And drag you captive hence; yet fear them not;
  Foiled shall they be. Yet well it were for you
  (If, ere with aid I come, I tarry long),
  Not by one step this sanctuary to leave.
  Farewell, fear nought: soon shall the hour be born
  When he that scorns the gods shall rue his scorn

CHORUS

  Ah but I shudder, father!—ah, even now,
  Even as I speak, the swift-winged ships draw nigh!

  I shudder, I shiver, I perish with fear:
      Overseas though I fled,
  Yet nought it avails; my pursuers are near!

DANAUS

  Children, take heart; they who decreed to aid
  Thy cause will arm for battle, well I ween.

CHORUS

  But desperate is Aegyptus' ravening race,
  With fight unsated; thou too know'st it well.

  In their wrath they o'ertake us; the prow is deep-dark
      In the which they have sped,
  And dark is the bench and the crew of the bark!

DANAUS

  Yea but a crew as stout they here shall find,
  And arms well steeled beneath a noon-day sun.

CHORUS

  Ah yet, O father, leave us not forlorn!
  Alone, a maid is nought, a strengthless arm.
  With guile they Pursue me, with counsel malign,
      And unholy their soul;
  And as ravens they seize me, unheeding the shrine!

DANAUS

  Fair will befall us, children, in this chance,
  If thus in wrath they wrong the gods and you.

CHORUS

  Alas, nor tridents nor the sanctity
  Of shrines will drive them, O my sire, from us!

  Unholy and daring and cursed is their ire,
      Nor own they control
  Of the gods, but like jackals they glut their desire!

DANAUS

  Ay, but Come wolf, flee jackal, saith the saw;
  Nor can the flax-plant overbear the corn.

CHORUS

  Lustful, accursèd, monstrous is their will
  As of beasts ravening—'ware we of their power!

DANAUS

  Look you, not swiftly puts a fleet to sea,
  Nor swiftly to its moorings; long it is
  Or e'er the saving cables to the shore
  Are borne, and long or e'er the steersmen cry,
  The good ship swings at anchor—all is well.
  Longest of all, the task to come aland
  Where haven there is none, when sunset fades
  In night. To pilot wise, the adage saith,
  Night is a day of wakefulness and pain.
  Therefore no force of weaponed men, as yet
  Scatheless can come ashore, before the bank
  Lie at her anchorage securely moored.
  Bethink thee therefore, nor in panic leave
  The shrine of gods whose succour thou hast won
  I go for aid—men shall not blame me long,
  Old, but with youth at heart and on my tongue
                                             [Exit DANAUS.

CHORUS

  O land of hill and dale, O holy land,
  What shall befall us? whither shall we flee,
  From Apian land to some dark lair of earth?

  O would that in vapour of smoke I might rise to the
      clouds of the sky,
  That as dust which flits up without wings I might pass
      and evanish and die!
  I dare not, I dare not abide: my heart yearns, eager
      to fly;
  And dark is the cast of my thought; I shudder and
      tremble for fear.
  My father looked forth and beheld: I die of the sight
      that draws near.
  And for me be the strangling cord, the halter made
      ready by Fate,
  Before to my body draws nigh the man of my horror
      and hate.
  Nay, ere I will own him as lord, as handmaid to
      Hades I go!
  And oh, that aloft in the sky, where the dark clouds
      are frozen to snow,
  A refuge for me might be found, or a mountain-top
      smooth and too high

  For the foot of the goat, where the vulture sits lonely,
     and none may descry
  The pinnacle veiled in the cloud,
      the highest and sheerest of all,
  Ere to wedlock that rendeth my heart,
      and love that is loveless, I fall!
  Yea, a prey to the dogs and the birds of the mount
       will I give me to be,—
  From wailing and curse and pollution it is death,
      only death, sets me free:
  Let death come upon me before
      to the ravisher's bed I am thrust;
  What champion, what saviour but death can I find,
      or what refuge from lust?
  I will utter my shriek of entreaty,
      a prayer that shrills up to the sky,
  That calleth the gods to compassion,
      a tuneful, a pitiful cry,
  That is loud to invoke the releaser.
      O father, look down on the fight;
  Look down in thy wrath on the wronger,
      with eyes that are eager for right.
  Zeus, thou that art lord of the world,
      whose kingdom is strong over all,
  Have mercy on us! At thine altar for refuge
      and safety we call.
  For the race of Aegyptus is fierce,
      with greed and with malice afire;
  They cry as the questing hounds,
      they sweep with the speed of desire.
  But thine is the balance of fate,
      thou rulest the wavering scale,
  And without thee no mortal emprise
      shall have strength to achieve or prevail.

    Alack, alack! the ravisher—
  He leaps from boat to beach, he draweth near!
    Away, thou plunderer accurst!
      Death seize thee first,
  Or e'er thou touch me—off! God, hear our cry,
      Our maiden agony!
  Ah, ah, the touch, the prelude of my shame.
      Alas, my maiden fame!
    O sister, sister, to the altar cling,
      For he that seizeth me,
  Grim is his wrath and stern, by land as on the sea.
      Guard us, O king!
                              [Enter the HERALD OF AEGYPTUS]

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

Hence to my barge—step swiftly, tarry not.

CHORUS

  Alack, he rends—he rends my hair! O wound on
      wound!
  Help! my lopped head will fall, my blood gush o'er
      the ground!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

Aboard, ye cursèd—with a new curse, go!

CHORUS

    Would God that on the wand'ring brine
    Thou and this braggart tongue of thine
      Had sunk beneath the main—
    Thy mast and planks, made fast in vain!
    Thee would I drive aboard once more,
  A slayer and a dastard, from the shore!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

    Be still, thou vain demented soul;
    My force thy craving shall control.
  Away, aboard! What, clingest to the shrine?
  Away! this city's gods I hold not for divine.

CHORUS

      Aid me, ye gods, that never, never
        I may again behold
      The mighty, the life-giving river,
    Nilus, the quickener of field and fold!
    Alack, O sire, unto the shrine I cling—
  Shrine of this land from which mine ancient line did spring!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Shrines, shrines, forsooth!—the ship, the ship be shrine!
  Aboard, perforce and will-ye nill-ye, go!
      Or e'er from hands of mine
  Ye suffer torments worse and blow on blow.

CHORUS

      Alack, God grant those hands may strive in vain
        With the salt-streaming wave,
      When 'gainst the wide-blown blasts thy bark shall strain
  To round Sarpedon's cape, the sandbank's treach'rous grave.

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Shrill ye and shriek unto what gods ye may,
  Ye shall not leap from out Aegyptus' bark,
  How bitterly soe'er ye wail your woe.

CHORUS

  Alack, alack my wrong!
  Stern is thy voice, thy vaunting loud and strong.
  Thy sire, the mighty Nilus, drive thee hence
  Turning to death and doom thy greedy violence!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Swift to the vessel of the double prow,
  Go quickly! let none linger, else this hand
  Ruthless will hale you by your tresses hence.

CHORUS

  Alack, O father! from the shrine
  Not aid but agony is mine.
  As a spider he creeps and he clutches his prey,
  And he hales me away.
  A spectre of darkness, of darkness. Alas and alas! well-a-day!
  O Earth, O my mother! O Zeus, thou king of the earth, and her child!
  Turn back, we pray thee, from us his clamour and threatenings wild!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Peace! I fear not this country's deities.
  They fostered not my childhood nor mine age.

CHORUS

  Like a snake that is human he comes,
      he shudders and crawls to my side;
  As an adder that biteth the foot,
      his clutch on my flesh doth abide.
  O Earth, O my mother! O Zeus, thou king of the earth,
      and her child!
  Turn back, we pray thee, from us his clamour
      and threatenings wild!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Swift each unto the ship; repine no more,
  Or my hand shall not spare to rend your robe.

CHORUS

O chiefs, O leaders, aid me, or I yield!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Peace! if ye have not ears to hear my words,
  Lo, by these tresses must I hale you hence.

CHORUS

Undone we are, O king! all hope is gone.

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Ay, kings enow ye shall behold anon,
  Aegyptus' sons—Ye shall not want for kings.
                                   [Enter the KING OF ARGOS.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Sirrah, what dost thou? in what arrogance
  Darest thou thus insult Pelasgia's realm?
  Deemest thou this a woman-hearted town?
  Thou art too full of thy barbarian scorn
  For us of Grecian blood, and, erring thus,
  Thou dost bewray thyself a fool in all!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

Say thou wherein my deeds transgress my right.

THE KING OF ARGOS

First, that thou play'st a stranger's part amiss.

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

Wherein? I do but search and claim mine own.

THE KING OF ARGOS

To whom of our guest-champions hast appealed?

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

To Hermes, herald's champion, lord of search.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Yea, to a god—yet dost thou wrong the gods!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

The gods that rule by Nilus I revere.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Hear I aright? our Argive gods are nought?

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

The prey is mine, unless force rend it from me.

THE KING OF ARGOS

At thine own peril touch them—'ware, and soon!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

I hear thy speech, no hospitable word.

THE KING OF ARGOS

I am no host for sacrilegious hands.

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

I will go tell this to Aegyptus' sons.

THE KING OF ARGOS

Tell it! my pride will ponder not thy word.

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Yet, that I have my message clear to say
  (For it behooves that heralds' words be clear,
  Be they or ill or good), how art thou named?
  By whom despoilèd of this sister-band
  Of maidens pass I homeward?—speak and say!
  For lo, henceforth in Ares' court we stand,
  Who judges not by witness but by war:
  No pledge of silver now can bring the cause
  To issue: ere this thing end, there must be
  Corpse piled on corpse and many lives gasped forth.

THE KING OF ARGOS

  What skills it that I tell my name to thee?
  Thou and thy mates shall learn it ere the end.
  Know that if words unstained by violence
  Can change these maidens' choice, then mayest thou,
  With full consent of theirs, conduct them hence.
  But thus the city with one voice ordained—

No force shall bear away the maiden band.

  Firmly this word upon the temple wall
  Is by a rivet clenched, and shall abide:
  Not upon wax inscribed and delible,
  Nor upon parchment sealed and stored away.—
  Lo, thou hast heard our free mouths speak their will:
  Out from our presence—tarry not, but go!

HERALD OF AEGYPTUS

  Methinks we stand on some new edge of war:
  Be strength and triumph on the young men's side!

THE KING OF ARGOS

  Nay but here also shall ye find young men,
  Unsodden with the juices oozed from grain.[6]
                                      [Exit HERALD OF AEGYPTUS
  But ye, O maids, with your attendants true,
  Pass hence with trust into the fencèd town,
  Ringed with a wide confine of guarding towers.
  Therein are many dwellings for such guests
  As the State honours; there myself am housed
  Within a palace neither scant nor strait.
  There dwell ye, if ye will to lodge at ease
  In halls well-thronged: yet, if your soul prefer,
  Tarry secluded in a separate home.
  Choose ye and cull, from these our proffered gifts,
  Whiche'er is best and sweetest to your will:
  And I and all these citizens whose vote
  Stands thus decreed, will your protectors be.
  Look not to find elsewhere more loyal guard.

[Footnote: 6: For this curious taunt, strongly illustrative of what Browning calls "nationality in drinks," see Herodotus, ii. 77. A similar feeling may perhaps be traced in Tacitus' description of the national beverage of the Germans: "Potui humor ex hordeo aut frumento, in quandam similitudinem vini corruptus" (Germania, chap, xxiii).]

CHORUS

  O godlike chief, God grant my prayer:
  Fair blessings on thy proffers fair,
  Lord of Pelasgia's race
!
  Yet, of thy grace, unto our side
  Send thou the man of courage tried,
  Of counsel deep and prudent thought,—
  Be Danaus to his children brought;
  For his it is to guide us well
  And warn where it behoves to dwell—
  What place shall guard and shelter us
  From malice and tongues slanderous:
  Swift always are the lips of blame
  A stranger-maiden to defame—
  But Fortune give us grace!

THE KING OF ARGOS

  A stainless fame, a welcome kind
  From all this people shall ye find:
  Dwell therefore, damsels, loved of us,
  Within our walls, as Danaus
  Allots to each, in order due,
  Her dower of attendants true.
                                           [Re-enter DANAUS. DANAUS

  High thanks, my children, unto Argos con,
  And to this folk, as to Olympian gods,
  Give offerings meet of sacrifice and wine;
  For saviours are they in good sooth to you.
  From me they heard, and bitter was their wrath,
  How those your kinsmen strove to work you wrong,
  And how of us were thwarted: then to me
  This company of spearmen did they grant,
  That honoured I might walk, nor unaware
  Die by some secret thrust and on this land
  Bring down the curse of death, that dieth not.
  Such boons they gave me: it behoves me pay
  A deeper reverence from a soul sincere.
  Ye, to the many words of wariness
  Spoken by me your father, add this word,
  That, tried by time, our unknown company
  Be held for honest: over-swift are tongues
  To slander strangers, over-light is speech
  To bring pollution on a stranger's name.
  Therefore I rede you, bring no shame on me
  Now when man's eye beholds your maiden prime.
  Lovely is beauty's ripening harvest-field,
  But ill to guard; and men and beasts, I wot,
  And birds and creeping things make prey of it.
  And when the fruit is ripe for love, the voice
  Of Aphrodite bruiteth it abroad,
  The while she guards the yet unripened growth.
  On the fair richness of a maiden's bloom
  Each passer looks, o'ercome with strong desire,
  With eyes that waft the wistful dart of love.
  Then be not such our hap, whose livelong toil
  Did make our pinnace plough the mighty main:
  Nor bring we shame upon ourselves, and joy
  Unto my foes. Behold, a twofold home—
  One of the king's and one the people's gift—
  Unbought, 'tis yours to hold,—a gracious boon.
  Go—but remember ye your sire's behest,
  And hold your life less dear than chastity.

CHORUS

  The gods above grant that all else be well.
  But fear not thou, O sire, lest aught befall
  Of ill unto our ripened maidenhood.
  So long as Heaven have no new ill devised,
  From its chaste path my spirit shall not swerve.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Pass and adore ye the Blessed, the gods of the city
      who dwell
  Around Erasinus, the gush of the swift immemorial
      tide.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Chant ye, O maidens; aloud let the praise of
      Pelasgia swell;
  Hymn we no longer the shores where Nilus to ocean
      doth glide.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Sing we the bounteous streams that ripple and gush
      through the city;
  Quickening flow they and fertile, the soft new life of
      the plain.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Artemis, maiden most pure, look on us with grace
      and with pity—
  Save us from forced embraces: such love hath no
      crown but a pain.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Yet not in scorn we chant, but in honour of
      Aphrodite;
  She truly and Hera alone have power with Zeus and
      control.
  Holy the deeds of her rite, her craft is secret and
      mighty,
  And high is her honour on earth, and subtle her
      sway of the soul.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Yea, and her child is Desire: in the train of his
      mother he goeth—
  Yea and Persuasion soft-lipped, whom none can deny
      or repel:
  Cometh Harmonia too, on whom Aphrodite bestoweth
  The whispering parley, the paths of the rapture that
      lovers love well.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Ah, but I tremble and quake lest again they should
      sail to reclaim!
  Alas for the sorrow to come, the blood and the
      carnage of war.
  Ah, by whose will was it done that o'er the wide
      ocean they came,
  Guided by favouring winds, and wafted by sail and
      by oar?

SEMI-CHORUS

  Peace! for what Fate hath ordained will surely not
      tarry but come;
  Wide is the counsel of Zeus, by no man escaped or
      withstood:
  Only I Pray that whate'er, in the end, of this wedlock
      he doom,
  We as many a maiden of old, may win from the ill
    to the good.[7]

[Footnote: 7: The ambiguity of these two lines is reproduced from the original. The Semi-Chorus appear to pray, in one aspiration, that the threatened wedlock may never take place, and, if it does take place, may be for weal, not woe.]

SEMI-CHORUS

  Great Zeus, this wedlock turn from me—
  Me from the kinsman bridegroom guard!

SEMI-CHORUS

Come what come may, 'tis Fate's decree.

SEMI-CHORUS

Soft is thy word—the doom is hard.

SEMI-CHORUS

Thou know'st not what the Fates provide.

SEMI-CHORUS

  How should I scan Zeus' mighty will,
  The depth of counsel undescried?

SEMI-CHORUS

Pray thou no word of omen ill.

SEMI-CHORUS

What timely warning wouldst thou teach?

SEMI-CHORUS

Beware, nor slight the gods in speech.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Zeus, hold from my body the wedlock detested, the
      bridegroom abhorred!
    It was thou, it was thou didst release
  Mine ancestress Io from sorrow: thine healing it
      was that restored,
    The touch of thine hand gave her peace.

SEMI-CHORUS

  Be thy will for the cause of the maidens! of two ills,
      the lesser I pray—
    The exile that leaveth me pure.
  May thy justice have heed to my cause, my prayers
      to thy mercy find way!
    For the hands of thy saving are sure.
                                             

    


				

				

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Greece

Hellenica World

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