Agamemnon by Aeschylus (the Full Text)

With tears, but never the wrath shall move Of the Altar cold that rejects his fire. We saw the Avengers go that day, And they left us here; for our flesh is old And Servest not; and these staves uphold A strength like the strength of a child at play. For the sap that springs in the young man’s hand And the valor of age, they have left the land. And the passing old, while the dead leaf blows And the old staff gropers his three-foot way, Weak as babe and alone he goes, A dream left wandering in the day, [Coming near the Central Altar they see CLYTEMNESTRA, who is still rapt in p rarer. But thou, O daughter of Tenderness,

Queen Clytemnestra, what need? What news? What tale or tiding hath stirred thy mood To send forth word upon all our ways For incensed worship? Of every god That guards the city, the deep, the high, Gods of the mart, gods of the sky, The altars blaze. One here, one there, TO the Skye night the firebrands flare, Drunk vita the soft and guileless spell Of balm Of kings from the inmost cell. Tell. O Queen, and reject us not, All that can or that may be told, And healer be to this aching thought, Which one time hoverer, evil. Cold, And then from the fires thou kindliest Will Hope be kindled, and hungry Care

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Fall back for a little while, nor tear The heart that beaten below my breast. [CLYTEMNESTRA rises silently, as though unconscious of their presence, and goes into the House. The CHORUS take position and begin their first Stamina, or Standings, CHORUS. (The sign seen on the way; Eagles tearing a hare with young. ) It is ours to tell of the Sign of the War-way given, To men more strong, a life that is kin unto ours yet breathes from heaven A spell, a Strength of Song:) How the twin-dethroned Might of Acacia, one Crown divided Above all Greeks that are, With avenging hand and spear upon Troy was guided

By the Bird of War. Twats a King among birds to each Of the Kings Of the Sea, One Eagle black, one black but of fire-white tail, By the House, on the Spear-hand, in station that all might see; And they tore a hare, and the life in her womb that grew, Mea, the life unlived and the races inurn they slew. Sorrow, sing sorrow: but good prevail, prevail! (How Clash read the sign; his Vision of the Future. ) And the War-seer wise, as he looked on the Tried Yoke Twain-tempered, knew Those fierce hare-renders the lords of his host; and spoke, Reading the omen true. “At the last, the last, this Hunt hunted Lion down,

Year and before the wall Violent division the fullness of land and town Shall waste withal; If only God’s eye gloom not against our gates, And the great War-curb of Troy, fore-smitten, fail. Poor Pity lives, and those wing©d Hounds she hates, Which tore in the Trembler’s body the unborn beast. And Artemisia abhorrent the eagles’ feast. ” (He prays to Artemisia to grant the fulfillment of the Sign, but, as his vision increases, he is afraid and calls on Pain, the Healer, to hold her back. ) “Thou beautiful One, thou tender lover Of the dewy breath of the Lion’s child; Thou the delight, through den and cover,

Of the young life at the breast of the wild, Yet, Oh, fulfill, fulfill The sign of the Eagles’ Kill! Be the vision accepted, albeit horrible…. But I. ©! Stay her, O Pain, stay! For 10, upon other evil her heart she sestets, Long wastes of wind, held ship and unvested sea, On, on, till another Shedding of Blood he wrought: They kill but feast not; they pray not; the law is broken; Strife in the flesh, and the bride she obeyed not, And beyond, beyond, there abide in wrath reawaken? It plotted, it haunted the house, yea, it never forgotten? So Clash, reading the wayside eagles’ sign,

Speak to the Kings, blessings and words of bale; And like his song be thing, Wrath for a child to (Such religion belongs to old and barbarous gods, and brings no peace. I turn to Zeus, who has shown man how to Learn by Suffering. ) Zeus! Zeus, whatever He be, If this name He love to hear This He shall be called Of me. Searching earth and sea and air Refuge nowhere can find Save Him only. If my mind Will cast off before it die The burden of this vanity. One there was who reigned of old, Big with wrath to brave and blast, Lo, his name is no more told! And who followed met at last His Third-thrower, and is gone.

Only they whose hearts have known Zeus, the Conqueror and the Friend, They shall win their vision’s end; Zeus the Guide, who made man turn Thought-ward, Zeus, who did ordain Man by Suffering shall Learn. So the heart of him, again Aching with remembered pain, Bleeds and sleepless not, until Wisdom comes against his will. Its the gift of One by strife Lifted to the throne of life. (AGAMEMNON accepted the sign. Then came long delay, and storm While the fleet lay at Allis. ) so that day the Elder Lord, Marshal of the Achaean ships, Strove not With the prophet’s word, Bowed him to his fate’s eclipse, When with empty jars and lips

Parched and seas impassable Fate on that Greek army fell, Fronting Challis as it lay, By Allis in the swirling bay. (Till at last Clash answered that Artemisia was wroth and demanded the death of AGAMEMNON daughter. The King’s doubt and grief. ) And winds, winds blew from Astronomy River, Unhardened, starving, winds of waste endeavourer, Man-blinding, pitiless to cord and bulwark, And the waste of days was made long, more long, Till the flower of Argos was aghast and withered; Then through the storm rose the War-seer’s song And told of medicine that should tame the tempest, But bow the Princes to a direr overlong.

Then “Artemisia” he whispered, he named the name; And the brother Kings they shook in the hearts of them, And smote on the earth their staves, and the tears came. But the King, the elder, hath found voice and spoken: “A heavy doom, sure, if God’s Will were broken; But to slay mine own child, who my house delighted, Is that not heavy’? That her blood should flow On her father’s hand, hard beside an altar? My path is sorrow wherefore’s I go. Shall Agamemnon fail his ships and people, And the hosts of Hellos melt as melts the snow? They cry, they thirst, for a death that shall break the spell, For a Virgin’s blood: its rite to old, men tell.

And they burn with longing. ?O God may the end be well! ” (But ambition drove him, till he consented to the sin to slaying his daughter, Phasing, as a sacrifice. ) To the yoke of Must-Be he bowed him slowly, And a strange wind within his bosom tossed, A wind of dark thought, unclean, unholy: And he rose up, daring to the uttermost. For men are blended by a Blindness, straying Toward base desire, which brings grief hereafter, Yea, and itself is grief: So this man hardened to his own child’s slaying, As help to avenge him for a woman’s laughter And bring his ships relief!

Her “Father, Father,” her sad cry that lingered, Her virgin heart’s breath they held all as naught, Those bronze-clad witnesses and battle-hungered; And there they prayed, and when the prayer was wrought He charged the young men to uplift and bind her, As ye lift a wild kid, high above the altar, Fierce-huddling forward, fallen, clinging sore To the robe that wrap her; yea, he bids them hinder The sweet mouth’s utterance, the cries that falter, ?His curse for evermore! ? With violence and a curbs voiceless wrath. Her stole to saffron then to the ground she threw, And her eye with an arrow of pity found its path

To each man’s heart that slew: A face in a picture, striving amazedly; The little maid who danced at her fathers board, The innocent voice man’s love came never nigh, Who joined to his her little paean-cry When the third cup was poured. What came thereafter saw not neither tell. But the craft of Clash failed not. ?it’s written, He Who Sufferers Shall Learn; the law holder well. And that Which is to be, Ye will know at last; why weep before the hour? For come it shall, as out Of darkness dawn. Only may good from all this evil flower; So prays this Heart of Argos, this frail tower Guarding the land alone.

As they cease, CLYTEMNESTRA comes from the Palace with Attendants. She has finished her prayer and sacrifice, and is now wrought up to face the meeting with her husband. The Leader approaches her. LEADER. Before thy state, O Queen, I bow mine eyes. ‘Its Mitten, when the man’s throne unwept lies, The woman shall be honored. ?Hast thou heard Some tiding sure? Or is it Hope, hath stirred To fire these altars? Dearly though we seek To learn, ‘its thing to speak or not to speak, CLYTEMNESTRA. Glad-voiced, the old saw athlete, comes this morn, The Star-child of a dancing midnight born, And breath to thing ear a word of joy

Beyond all hope: the Greek hath taken Troy. How? Thy word flies past me, being incredible. Lion is ours. NO riddling tale I tell. Such joy comes knocking at the gate Of tears. Aye, ‘its a faithful heart that eye declares. What warrant hast thou? Is there proof of this? There is; unless a God hath lied there is. Some dream-shape came to thee in speaking guise? Who theme me a dupe of drowsing eyes? Some word within that hoverer without wings? CLYTEMNESTRA, Am I a child to hearken to such things? Troy how long? When fell she, say? The very night that mothered this new day. And who of heralds with such fury came?

A Fire-god, from Mount Ida scattering flame. Whence starting, beacon after beacon burst In flaming message whitehead. Ida first Told Hermes’ Lineman Rock, whose answering sign Was caught by towering Oaths, the divine, With pines immense?yea, fishes of the night Swam skyward, drunken with that leaping light, Which swelled like some strange sun, till dim and tar Mastitis’ watchmen marked a glimmering star; They, nowise loath nor idly slumber-won, Spring up to hurl the fiery message on, And a tar light beyond the Euripides tells That word hath reached Meaning’s sentinels. They beaconed back, then onward with a high

Heap of dead heather flaming to the sky. And onward still, not failing nor swoon, Across the As¶pus like a beaming moon The great word leapt, and on Satiation’s height Espoused a new relay of racing light His watchers knew the wandering flame, nor hid Their welcome, burning higher than was bid. Out over Lake Gorge¶pips then it floats, TO Copulations, waking the Wild goats, Crying for “Fire, more Fire! ” And fire was reared, Stainless and high, a stormy streaming beard, That waved in flame beyond the promontory Rock-ridged, that watches the Sardinian sea, Kindling the night: then one short swoop to catch

The Spider’s Crag, our city’s tower of watch; Whence hither to the Treadle’s roof it came, A light true-fathered of Deana flame. Torch-bearer after torch-bearer, behold The tale thereof in stations manifold, Each one by each made perfect ere it passed, And Victory in the first as in the last. These be my proofs and tokens that my lord From Troy hath spoke to me a burning word. Woman, speak on. Hereafter shall my prayer Be raised to God; now let me only hear, Again and full, the marvel and the joy. Now, even now, the Achaean holder Troy! Methinks there is a crying in her streets That makes no concord.

When sweet unguent meets With vinegar in one phial, I warrant none Shall lay those wranglers lovingly at one. So conquerors and conquered shall thou hear, Two sundered tones, two lives of joy or fear. Here women in the dust about their slain, Husbands or brethren, and by dead old men Pale children who shall never more be free, For all they loved on earth cry desolately. And hard beside them war-stained Greeks, whom stark Battle and then long searching through the dark Hath gathered, ravenous, in the dawn, to feast At last on all the plenty Troy possessed, No portion in that feast nor ordinance,

But each man clutching at the prize of chance. Aye, there at last under good roofs they lie Of men spear-quelled, no frosts beneath the sky, No watches more, no bitter moony dew.. How blessed they will sleep the whole night through! Oh, if these days they keep them free from sin Toward Lion’s conquered shrines and Them vitamin Who watch unconquered, maybe not again The smites shall be smith, the taker eaten. May God but grant there fall not on that host The greed Of gold that maddened and the lust To spoil inviolate things! But half the race Is run Which Windiest back to home and peace. Yea, though of God they pass unchallenged,

Methinks the wound of all those desolate dead Might waken, groping for its will. Ye hear A woman’s word, beelike a woman’s fear. May good but conquer in the last incline Of the balance! Of all prayers that prayer is mine, O Woman, like a man faithful and wise Thou speakers. Accept thy testimonies And turn to God with praising, for a gain Is won this day that pays for all our pain. [CLC[MAESTRO returns to the palace. The CHORUS take up their position for the Second Stamina. AN ELDER. O Zeus, All-ruler, and Night the Aid, Gainer of glories, and hast thou thrown Over the towers of Lion Thy net close-laid,


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