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appears to be chiefly prompted by the in admirable keeping. The manlithreatened detection and interruption ness and modesty of Agamemnon, of her intrigue with Ægisthus, and and his magnanimity superior to susthe necessity of providing for their picion, are interestingly touched; and mutual safety. Her boldness rises the fierce excitement of the murderess, with the pressing nearness of the when, casting off shame, she braves danger. Her subtlety is on the the indignant expostulations of the point of betraying itself by the eager- senate, avows the deed, defends it by ness with which she presses forward exaggerating her wrongs, and boasts to the execution of her purpose, and of the protection of her lover, are by the excess of her flattery to her equally true to nature. There is great returned husband, which awakens personal dignity, as well as poetic his disgust. This breathless ferment sublimity, in the inflexible silence of mind, and hurried overacting of which Cassandra maintains towards conjugal fondness, as well as the Clytemnestra ; and her prophetic dehaughty and constrained courtesy, lirium is finely contrasted with her yielding to fits of splenetic impati- subsequent collected sorrow, her meence, with which she invites the en- lancholy resignation, and her solemn trance of Cassandra into the palace final appeal to the sun. VIDA. where her death also is prepared, are
CLYTEMNESTRA, AGAMEMNON, CASSANDRA, and SENATORS OF ARGOS.
Clytemnestra. Elders of Argos! citizens ! I need
No blushes, if I speak unto you all
The love I bear my husband. Such reserve
Must yield to time and circumstance. I ask
No help from others to describe the life
Of weariness I led when he was absent
Under Troy’s walls. Nay—'tis a fearful thing
For a lone woman thus to sit at home,
Her husband far away, and listen ever
To harrowing rumours, while another comes,
And now another, bringing still worse news:
Yea—if her husband bore as many wounds
As foolish messengers would have her think,
He might be call'd a sieve; and were he dead
As thick reports would have him, he might boast
A triple suit of armour; Geryon he
On upper earth, (no monster of the shades)
In his three bodies dying thrice a death.
”Twas from such vexing rumours many a time
Have those my menials loosen'd from my neck
The noose that I for violence had knit :
Owing to these our son, the pledge of mine
And thy own troth, Orestes, is not here
To hail thee, as were meet : stand not amazed ;
One bound to us in hospitality
Has him in kindly charge, Stropheus of Phocis:
For he forewarn’d me of ambiguous ills
And thy own danger under Ilium's walls,
Should the rouzed multitude's wild anarchy
O’erturn the council: such the brutish mind
Innate in mortals; they would trample on
Him who were falln from greatness. No deceit
Lurk'd in this warning; but the founts are dry
That gush'd with these lamentings, and no drop
Lingers within mine eyes. Yet are they dim
With weeping, and with watching for the torch,
Signal of thy return: and in my slumbers
At the slight rustlings of the twanging gnat
I started up awake, and saw more deaths
And slaughters of thee than my dreams had shown.
These have I suffer’d with deep sorrowing, spirit:
Well may I then proclaim my lord return'd
As our fold's watch, our anchor, and our stay;
Pillar of lofty roofs; as only son
To a fond father; land which beyond hope
Emerges to the mariner; fair day
Breaking behind the storm ; or hidden spring
To traveller's thirsty lips. O sweet it is
Thus to escape from our appointed suff'rings.
Then is he worthy of our great all-hail!
Take not my speech amiss, for many a pang
Of absence has been mine. O dearest life!
Come down then from thy chariot: but on earth
Set not thy foot; that foot which trampled Troy.
Why linger ye, my damsels? Ye whose task
It is to spread his path with tapestries?
On purple be his passage to the house
That hoped not for him ; this his graced return.
I will not sleep till I the rest dispose-
Heaven willing—as beseems his destiny.
Agamemnon. Daughter of Leda! guardian of my house !
What thou hast spoken does in truth befit
My tedious absence, for thy words are drawn
Somewhat at length. The praise which might become me
Is for the mouth of others, not for thine.
But more than all, seek not to trick me out
In this effeminate fashion, nor salute me
With dust-prostration and mouth-clamour thus
As I were some barbarian; nor yet pave
My way with those invidious tapestries,
For so we honour Gods: not without risk
Of grave offence—if I may speak my mind-
You bid me, a poor mortal, tread upon
Embroider'd arras : honour me as man,
Not as a God. Fame's echo needs not these
Foot-cloths or vain embroideries. To be wise
In season is the greatest gift of heaven:
And we pronounce him happy who, serene
In his prosperity, so ends his life.
If such estate be mine, 'tis all I ask.
Clytemnestra. Nay-speak not to me what thy thoughts belie.
Agamemnon. Be well assured; my mind is not debased.
Clytemnestra. Hast thou a vow, and dost thou act in this
Through terror of the Gods?
Of my own thought
I speak this thing.
But say, had Priam done
Such deeds as thine, how think'st thou would he act ?
Agamemnon. Priam, belike, would tread on pictured cloths.
Clytemnestra. The blame of men affrights thee? fear it not.
Agamemnon. The popular voice is strong.
He is not great
does not carp at. Agamemnon.
'Tis not seemly
In woman to contend in words for mastery.
Clytemnestra. In mighty ones 'tis graceful to be vanquish’d.
Agamemnon. Wellman' thou needs must have it so, let some one
Straight loose the buskins from my feet; their print
Were sorry usage for thy gorgeous footing:
I blush to soil these coverings with my tread
And fray the texture of their costliness,
The price of silver. But of this enough:
Receive this stranger kindly. She who rules
With mildness has the eye of heaven upou her
Graciously bent: none willingly would bear
The yoke of slavery. She, a chosen flower,
From an exuberant spoil was th’army's gift,
And my companion homeward. Now then come
Since I may not gainsay thee, let me enter
My house, and, if it must be so, on purple.
Clytemnestra. The sea is surely left us, (who shall dry it?)
And pays your silver with its darkling purple,
That dyes our twice-dipt vestures; and our palace
Is of such, no less than are the Gods.
To have, or I mistake me, not to need,
This is our house's attribute from yore:
And I had vow'd that he should place his foot
On heapy carpets, when I offer'à
Victims to bribe from heaven his wish'd return.
When the root flourishes, a screen of leaves
O'er-canopies the dwelling, and outspreads
Its shade against the dog-star's glare; and thou
Return'd and visiting thy hearth and home
Ev'n in the winter art a cheering warmth:
And in the season when aerial Jove
Ferments the new wine in the acrid grape,
The house is coolness, if the husband dwell there.
Jove, Jove, all-perfect!-perfect what concerneth
Me and my vows ! accomplish thy own ends !
(They enter the palace; Cassandra remains.)
Chorus of Senators.
Why does this sign and boding sense of ill,
O'er-mastering all within, controul
My too prophetic soul ?
It hovers round me still ;
The seer's presaging thought,
Unbidden and unbought,
Shapes the dim future in oracular lay,
Nor can bold faith disown
The dread and shake it from the bosom's throne,
Or bid it pass like wildering dreams away.
Long is it since the nautic host
Went up against the far-sought Ilian coast,
And did their sand-indenting, galleys
With crash of cables, passing up the shore.
I know them now return'd again!
My own eyes witness their returning sail ;
But for the lyre's triumphant strain
Some fury lifts her dirge-like wail :
The mind, self-taught, feels hope depart,
And the bland confidence of faith is flown ;
Infallible these promptings of the heart,
These whirlpool thoughts, by which th' event is known:
But oh! may falsehood lurk beneath my fear,
And far be that I deem already near!
The full-blown prime of health
Hastes to th' insatiate close of mortal things;
Disease dwells ever nigh,
And slight the parting boundary :
Fate guides the helm of man with course serene,
Then strands him
And coffer'd heaps of ancient wealth
Sloth scatters as from slings:
Yet with the weight of its calamity
Bows not the burthen's house from high
Nor maketh shipwreck utterly:
For oft the boon of Providence has blest
The furrows of the field
That yearly fruitage yield,
Destroying from the earth the hunger-pining pest.
But when once the blackening blood
Before the feet of man has pour’d its flood
Upon the darken'd ground,
And death fast cometh as it leaves the wound,
What charmer's voice, what magic strain
Can lure it back again?
Or why, if this might be, should Jove reprove
Th' all-knowing sage who raised the dead ?
Ah! had not fate represt
The secrets heaving in my breast,
My heart had leap'd before th’ events to come,
And pour'd it on my tongue in prophecies--
Now shuddering in its darkness it is dumb:
I have no hope to wind
The skein of timely enterprize,
Or blow the sparks that kindle in the mind.
Enter thou also—I address Cassandra.
Since Jove relentingly has placed thee here
In this our house, chosen from many captives
To bear the sprinkling vase and stand beside
The prospering God's high altar, leave the car,
And be not scornful: for tradition tells
Alcmena's son, sold to captivity,
Was forced to bend him to the yoke. When thus
Necessity lays the hard fortune on thee,
Such masters, whose hereditary wealth
Descends to them from old, dispense free grace:
But they who beyond hope have heap'd abundance
Are cruel to their slaves, yea, beyond measure.
Thou hast my words—the comfort custom sanctions.
Chorus. She doth refrain from speech :
When thou shalt be anon
Within the fated net
Thou wilt obey, if that thou can'st obey,
Or strive in disobedience; 'tis alike.
Clytemnestra. Unless her speech be barb'rous and unknown-
Some jargon like the swallow's—what I speak
carry to her inner mind persuasion.
Chorus to CASSANDRA.
Follow her: that she speaks
Is best in thy condition : rise
And leave the chariot-seat.
Clytemnestra. I have no leisure thus before the gates
To waste time with her: at my household altar
The sheep stand ready for the victim-slaughter
That soon shall feed the fire ; as due from those
Who gain a grace from heaven beyond all hope.
If thou wilt take a part, make no delay.
If, witless of my words, thou mark'st me not,
Speak with thy foreign gesture to my voice.
Chorus. The stranger seems to need
Some wise interpreter:
Her bearing too is wild,
As of some beast of prey
Caught in the recent snare.
Clytemnestra. She is insane, and looks distraught of mind;
Like one just made a captive, who hath left
Her native city. She is restive yet,
And champs upon the bit, which she will bear
When she has foam'd her bloody rage away.
I'll waste my breath no more in chiding her.
(Goes into the palace.) Chorus.
I cannot-for I feel
Compassion towards her-speak to her in anger:
Go, thou unhappy maid !
Go, leave the car! become
Familiar to the yoke;
Yield to the force of fate.
Cassandra. Wo, wo is me! - Apollo! oh, Apollo !
Why dost thou cry aloud
Upon Apollo ? he is not of those
Who come, when voices lift themselves in weeping.
Cassandra. Wo, wo is me! Apollo, oh, Apollo !
Again with evil omen
She doth invoke the God
Who comes not at the mourner's need.
Cassandra. Oh, guide Apollo ! fatal guide to me!
The second time my guide and my destroyer !
Chorus. She seems to prophecy her own misfortunes-
Still in her mind, although a slave,
The divine spirit rests, and lingers still. Cassandra. Apollo, oh, Apollo ! oh, my guide!
Oh! whither hast thou led me? to what house? Chorus. To the Atride's—if thou know'st it not,
Hear it from me; thou wilt not find it falsehood.
Cassandra. A house, a house detested by the Gods;
Domestic slaughters steam from these abodes;
Death-cords are swung aloft ; a victim's gore,
A husband-victim's, floats the clotted floor.
Chorus. This stranger with the blood-hound's tact
Hath traced the scent of murder hitherward. Cassandra. Conviction flashes, as these signs appear
The weeping babes, the human shambles near
The father feasting on the flesh-
Our ears, our ears have heard
Thy prophet fame;
We need no prophets now.
Cassandra. Oh heaven! oh heaven above ! what planneth she
Within this house? what new calamity
Intolerable, incurable ;—'tis done-
For she has banish'd hence the manhood of the son.
Chorus. I read not these oracular strains : the first
I knew; for with those deeds
The city rings aloud.
Cassandra. Ah wretch! what, in the bath ? he shared thy bed :
Dost thou refresh to lay him with the dead?
How name th' event ?-'tis done-she takes her stand ;
Her hand outstretch'd is grasping at his hand.
Chorus. I nothing know
: th' enigmas these Of prophecy ; I stagger in the darkness. Cassandra. Sweet heavens ! what sight is this? the net of death ?