Suppliant Maidens and Other Plays by Aeschylus

Produced by Ted Garvin, Robert Prince, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team FOUR PLAYS OF AESCHYLUS THE SUPPLIANT MAIDENS THE PERSIANS THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES THE PROMETHEUS BOUND TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH VERSE BY E.D.A. MORSHEAD, MA. INTRODUCTION The surviving dramas of Aeschylus are seven in number, though he is believed to have written
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Produced by Ted Garvin, Robert Prince, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team

FOUR PLAYS OF AESCHYLUS

THE SUPPLIANT MAIDENS
THE PERSIANS
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES
THE PROMETHEUS BOUND

TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH VERSE BY E.D.A. MORSHEAD, MA.

INTRODUCTION

The surviving dramas of Aeschylus are seven in number, though he is believed to have written nearly a hundred during his life of sixty-nine years, from 525 B.C. to 456 B.C. That he fought at Marathon in 490, and at Salamis in 480 B.C. is a strongly accredited tradition, rendered almost certain by the vivid references to both battles in his play of _The Persians_, which was produced in 472. But his earliest extant play was, probably, not _The Persians_ but _The Suppliant Maidens_–a mythical drama, the fame of which has been largely eclipsed by the historic interest of _The Persians_, and is undoubtedly the least known and least regarded of the seven. Its topic–the flight of the daughters of Danaus from Egypt to Argos, in order to escape from a forced bridal with their first-cousins, the sons of Aegyptus–is legendary, and the lyric element predominates in the play as a whole. We must keep ourselves reminded that the ancient Athenian custom of presenting dramas in _Trilogies_- –that is, in three consecutive plays dealing with different stages of one legend–was probably not uniform: it survives, for us, in one instance only, viz. the Orestean Trilogy, comprising the _Agamemnon_, the _Libation-Bearers_, and the _Eumenides_, or _Furies_. This Trilogy is the masterpiece of the Aeschylean Drama: the four remaining plays of the poet, which are translated in this volume, are all fragments of lost Trilogies–that is to say, the plays are complete as _poems_, but in regard to the poet’s larger design they are fragments; they once had predecessors, or sequels, of which only a few words, or lines, or short paragraphs, survive. It is not certain, but seems probable, that the earliest of these single completed plays is _The Suppliant Maidens_, and on that supposition it has been placed first in the present volume. The maidens, accompanied by their father Danaes, have fled from Egypt and arrived at Argos, to take sanctuary there and to avoid capture by their pursuing kinsmen and suitors. In the course of the play, the pursuers’ ship arrives to reclaim the maidens for a forced wedlock in Egypt. The action of the drama turns on the attitude of the king and people of Argos, in view of this intended abduction. The king puts the question to the popular vote, and the demand of the suitors is unanimously rejected: the play closes with thanks and gratitude on the part of the fugitives, who, in lyrical strains of quiet beauty, seem to refer the whole question of their marriage to the subsequent decision of the gods, and, in particular, of Aphrodite.

Of the second portion of the Trilogy we can only speak conjecturally. There is a passage in the _Prometheus Bound_ (ll. 860-69), in which we learn that the maidens were somehow reclaimed by the suitors, and that all, except one, slew their bridegrooms on the wedding night. There is a faint trace, among the Fragments of Aeschylus, of a play called _Thalamopoioi_,–i.e. _The Preparers of the Chamber_,–which may well have referred to this tragic scene. Its grim title will recall to all classical readers the magnificent, though terrible, version of the legend, in the final stanzas of the eleventh poem in the third book of Horace’s _Odes_. The final play was probably called _The Danaides_, and described the acquittal of the brides through some intervention of Aphrodite: a fragment of it survives, in which the goddess appears to be pleading her special prerogative. The legends which commit the daughters of Danaus to an eternal penalty in Hades are, apparently, of later origin. Homer is silent on any such penalty; and Pindar, Aeschylus’ contemporary, actually describes the once suppliant maidens as honourably enthroned (_Pyth_. ix. 112: _Nem_. x. ll. 1-10). The Tartarean part of the story is, in fact, post-Aeschylean.

_The Suppliant Maidens_ is full of charm, though the text of the part which describes the arrival of the pursuers at Argos is full of uncertainties. It remains a fine, though archaic, poem, with this special claim on our interest, that it is, probably, the earliest extant poetic drama. We see in it the _tendency_ to grandiose language, not yet fully developed as in the _Prometheus_: the inclination of youth to simplicity, and even platitude, in religious and general speculation: and yet we recognize, as in the germ, the profound theology of the _Agamemnon_, and a touch of the political vein which appears more fully in the _Furies_. If the precedence in time here ascribed to it is correct, the play is perhaps worth more recognition than it has received from the countrymen of Shakespeare.

_The Persians_ has been placed second in this volume, as the oldest play whose date is certainly known. It was brought out in 472 B.C., eight years after the sea-fight of Salamis which it commemorates, and five years before the _Seven against Thebes_ (467 B.C.). It is thought to be the second play of a Trilogy, standing between the _Phineus_ and the _Glaucus_. Phineus was a legendary seer, of the Argonautic era–“Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old”–and the play named after him may have contained a prophecy of the great conflict which is actually described in _The Persae_: the plot of the _Glaucus_ is unknown. In any case, _The Persians_ was produced before the eyes of a generation which had seen the struggles, West against East, at Marathon and Thermopylae, Salamis and Plataea. It is as though Shakespeare had commemorated, through the lips of a Spanish survivor, in the ears of old councillors of Philip the Second, the dispersal of the Armada.

Against the piteous want of manliness on the part of the returning Xerxes, we may well set the grave and dignified patriotism of Atossa, the Queen-mother of the Persian kingdom; the loyalty, in spite of their bewilderment, of the aged men who form the Chorus; and, above all, the royal phantom of Darius, evoked from the shadowland by the libations of Atossa and by the appealing cries of the Chorus. The latter, indeed, hardly dare to address the kingly ghost: but Atossa bravely narrates to him the catastrophe, of which, in the lower world, Darius has known nothing, though he realizes that disaster, soon or late, is the lot of mortal power. As the tale is unrolled, a spirit of prophecy possesses him, and he foretells the coming slaughter of Plataea; then, with a last royal admonition that the defeated Xerxes shall, on his return, be received with all ceremony and observance, and with a characteristic warning to the aged men, that they must take such pleasures as they may, in their waning years, he returns to the shades. The play ends with the undignified reappearance of Xerxes, and a melancholy procession into the palace of Susa. It was, perhaps, inevitable that this close of the great drama should verge on the farcical, and that the poltroonery of Xerxes should, in a measure, obscure Aeschylus’ generous portraiture of Atossa and Darius. But his magnificent picture of the battle of Salamis is unequalled in the poetic annals of naval war. No account of the flight of the Armada, no record of Lepanto or Trafalgar, can be justly set beside it. The Messenger might well, like Prospero, announce a tragedy by one line–

Sit still, and hear the last of our sea-sorrow.

Five years after _The Persians_, in 467 B. C., the play which we call the _Seven against Thebes_ was presented at Athens. It bears now a title which Aeschylus can hardly have given to it for, though the scene of the drama overlooks the region where the city of Thebes afterwards came into being, yet, in the play itself, Thebes is _never_ mentioned. The scene of action is the Cadmea, or Citadel of Cadmus, and we know that, in Aeschylus’ lifetime, that citadel was no longer a mere fastness, but had so grown outwards and enlarged itself that a new name, Thebes, was applied to the collective city. (All this has been made abundantly clear by Dr. Verrall in his Introduction to the _Seven against Thebes_, to which every reader of the play itself will naturally and most profitably refer.) In the time of Aeschylus, Thebes was, of course, a notable city, his great contemporary Pindar was a citizen of it. But the Thebes of Aeschylus’ date is one thing, the fortress represented in Aeschylus’ play is quite another, and is never, by him, called Thebes. That the play received, and retains, the name, _The Seven against Thebes_, is believed to be due to two lines of Aristophanes in his _Frogs_ (406 B.C.), where he describes Aeschylus’ play as “the Seven against Thebes, a drama instinct with War, which any one who beheld must have yearned to be a warrior.” This is rather an excellent _description_ of the play than the title of it, and could not be its Aeschylean name, for the very sufficient reason that Thebes is not mentioned in the play at all. Aeschylus, in fact, was poetizing an earlier legend of the fortress of Cadmus. This being premised, we may adopt, under protest as it were, the Aristophanic name which has accrued to the play. It is the third part of a Trilogy which might have been called, collectively, _The House of Laius_. Sophocles and Euripides give us _their_ versions of the legend, which we may epitomize, without, however, affirming that they followed exactly the lines of Aeschylus Trilogy–they, for instance, speak freely of _Thebes_. Laius, King of Thebes, married Iokaste; he was warned by Apollo that if he had any children ruin would befall his house. But a child was born, and, to avoid the threatened catastrophe, without actually killing the child he exposed it on Mount Cithaeron, that it should die. Some herdsmen saved it and gave it over to the care of a neighbouring king and queen, who reared it. Later on, learning that there was a doubt of his parentage, this child, grown now to maturity, left his foster parents and went to Delphi to consult the oracle, and received a mysterious and terrible warning, that he was fated to slay his father and wed his mother. To avoid this horror, he resolved never to approach the home of his supposed parents. Meantime his real father, Laius, on _his_ way to consult the god at Delphi, met his unknown son returning from that shrine–a quarrel fell out, and the younger man slew the elder. Followed by his evil destiny, he wandered on, and found the now kingless Thebes in the grasp of the Sphinx monster, over whom he triumphed, and was rewarded by the hand of Iokaste, his own mother! Not till four children–two sons and two daughters–had been born to them, was the secret of the lineage revealed. Iokaste slew herself in horror, and the wretched king tore out his eyes, that he might never again see the children of his awful union. The two sons quarrelled over the succession, then agreed on a compromise; then fell at variance again, and finally slew each other in single combat. These two sons, according to one tradition, were twins: but the more usual view is that the elder was called Eteocles, the younger, Polynices.

To the point at which the internecine enmity between Eteocles and Polynices arose, we have had to follow Sophocles and Euripides, the first two parts of Aeschylus’ Trilogy being lost. But the third part, as we have said, survives under the name given to it by Aristophanes, the _Seven against Thebes_: it opens with an exhortation by Eteocles to his Cadmeans that they should “quit them like men” against the onslaught of Polynices and his Argive allies: the Chorus is a bevy of scared Cadmean maidens, to whom the very sound of war and tramp of horsemen are new and terrific. It ends with the news of the death of the two princes, and the lamentations of their two sisters, Antigone and Ismene. The onslaught from without has been repulsed, but the male line of the house of Laius is extinct. The Cadmeans resolve that Eteocles shall be buried in honour, and Polynices flung to the dogs and birds. Against the latter sentence Antigone protests, and defies the decree: the Chorus, as is natural, are divided in their sentiments.

It is interesting to note that, in combination with the _Laius_ and the _Oedipus_, this play won the dramatic crown in 467 B.C. On the other hand, so excellent a judge as Mr. Gilbert Murray thinks that it is “perhaps among Aeschylus’ plays the one that bears least the stamp of commanding genius.” Perhaps the daring, practically atheistic, character of Eteocles; the battle-fever that burns and thrills through the play; the pathetic terror of the Chorus–may have given it favour, in Athenian eyes, as the work of a poet who– though recently (468 B.C.) defeated in the dramatic contest by the young Sophocles–was yet present to tell, not by mere report, the tale of Marathon and Salamis. Or the preceding plays, the _Laius_ and the _Oedipus_, may have been of such high merit as to make up for defects observable in the one that still survives. In any case, we can hardly err in accepting Dr. Verral’s judgment that “the story of Aeschylus may be, and in the outlines probably is, the genuine epic legend of the Cadmean war.”

There remains one Aeschylean play, the most famous–unless we except the _Agamemnon_–in extant Greek literature, the _Prometheus Bound_. That it was the first of a Trilogy, and that the second and third parts were called the _Prometheus Freed_, and _Prometheus the Fire-Bearer_, respectively, is accepted: but the date of its performance is unknown.

The _Prometheus Bound_ is conspicuous for its gigantic and strictly superhuman plot. The _Agamemnon_ is human, though legendary the _Prometheus_ presents to us the gods of Olympus in the days when mankind crept like emmets upon the earth or dwelt in caves, scorned by Zeus and the other powers of heaven, and–still aided by Prometheus the Titan–wholly without art or science, letters or handicrafts. For his benevolence towards oppressed mankind, Prometheus is condemned by Zeus to uncounted ages of pain and torment, shackled and impaled in a lonely cleft of a Scythian precipice. The play opens with this act of divine resentment enforced by the will of Zeus and by the handicraft of Hephaestus, who is aided by two demons, impersonating Strength and Violence. These agents if the ire of Zeus disappear after the first scene, the rest of the play represents Prometheus in the mighty solitude, but visited after a while by a Chorus of sea nymphs who, from the distant depths of ocean, have heard the clang of the demons’ hammers, and arrive, in a winged car, from the submarine palace of their father Oceanus. To them Prometheus relates his penalty and its cause: viz., his over tenderness to the luckless race of mankind. Oceanus himself follows on a hippogriff, and counsels Prometheus to submit to Zeus. But the Titan who has handled the sea nymphs with all gentleness, receives the advice with scorn and contempt, and Oceanus retires. But the courage which he lacks his daughters possess to the full; they remain by Prometheus to the end, and share his fate, literally in the crack of doom. But before the end, the strange half human figure of Io, victim of the lust of Zeus and the jealousy of Hera, comes wandering by, and tells Prometheus of her wrongs. He, by his divine power, recounts to her not only the past but also the future of her wanderings. Then, in a fresh access of frenzy, she drifts away into the unknown world. Then Prometheus partly reveals to the sea maidens his secret, and the mysterious cause of Zeus’ hatred against him–a cause which would avail to hurl the tyrant from his power. So deadly is this secret, that Zeus will, in the lapse of ages, be forced to reconcile himself with Prometheus, to escape dethronement. Finally, Hermes, the messenger of Zeus, appears with fresh threats, that he may extort the mystery from the Titan. But Prometheus is firm, defying both the tyrant and his envoy, though already the lightning is flashing, the thunder rolling, and sky and sea are mingling their fury. Hermes can say no more; the sea nymphs resolutely refuse to retire, and wait their doom. In this crash of the world, Prometheus flings his final defiance against Zeus, and amid the lightnings and shattered rocks that are overwhelming him and his companions, speaks his last word, “_It is unjust_!”

Any spectacular representation of this finale must, it is clear, have roused intense sympathy with the Titan and the nymphs alike. If, however, the sequel-plays had survived to us, we might conceivably have found and realized another and less intolerable solution. The name _Zeus_, in Greek, like that of _God_, in English, comprises very diverse views of divine personality. The Zeus in the _Prometheus_ has little but the name in common with the Zeus in the first chorus of the _Agamemnon_, or in _The Suppliant Maidens_ (ll. 86-103): and parallel reflections will give us much food for thought. But, in any case, let us realize that the _Prometheus_ is not a human play: with the possible exception of Io, every character in it is an immortal being. It is not as a vaunt, but as a fact, that Prometheus declares, as against Zeus (l. 1053), that “Me at least He shall never give to death.”

A stupendous theological drama of which two-thirds has been lost has left an aching void, which now can never be filled, in our minds. No reader of poetry needs to be reminded of the glorious attempt of Shelley to work out a possible and worthy sequel to the _Prometheus_. Who will not echo the words of Mr. Gilbert Murray, when he says that “no piece of lost literature has been more ardently longed for than the _Prometheus Freed_”?

But, at the end of a rather prolonged attempt to understand and translate the surviving tragedies of Aeschylus, one feels inclined to repeat the words used by a powerful critic about one of the greatest of modern poets–“For man, it is a weary way to God, but a wearier far to any demigod.” We shall not discover the full sequel of Aeschylus’ mighty dramatic conception: we “know in part, and we prophesy in part.” The Introduction (pp. xvi.-xviii.) prefixed by Mr. A. O. Prickard to his edition of the _Prometheus_ is full of persuasive grace, on this topic: to him, and to Dr. Verrall of Cambridge–_lucida sidera_ of help and encouragement in the study of Aeschylus–the translator’s thanks are due, and are gratefully and affectionately rendered.

E. D. A. M.

CONTENTS

THE SUPPLIANT MAIDENS
THE PERSIANS
THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES
PROMETHEUS BOUND

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 scorned 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 Aphrodite’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, accursed, 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 cursed–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 despoiled 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 fenced 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–