Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A FRAGMENT FROM THE AGAMEMNON OF AESCHYLOS, by AESCHYLUS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

A FRAGMENT FROM THE AGAMEMNON OF AESCHYLOS, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Thy prophecies are but a lying tale
Last Line: Is close at hand. I will not shirk the blow.
Subject(s): Prophecy & Prophets


Thy prophecies are but a lying tale,
For cruel gods have brought thee to this state,
And of thyself, and thine own wretched fate,
Sing you this song, and these unhallow'd lays,
Like the brown bird of grief insatiate
Crying for sorrow of its dreary days;
Crying for Itys, Itys, in the vale --
The nightingale! the nightingale!


Yet I would that to me they had given
The fate of that singer so clear,
Fleet wings to fly up into heaven,
Away from all mourning and fear;
For ruin and slaughter await me -- the cleaving with
sword and with spear.


Whence come these crowding fancies on thy brain,
Sent by some god it may be, yet for nought?
Why dost thou sing with evil-tongued refrain, --
Moulding thy terrors to this hideous strain
With shrill sad cries, as if by death distraught?
Why dost thou tread that path of prophecy,
Where, upon either hand,
Landmarks for ever stand,
With horrid legend for all men to see?


O bitter bridegroom, who did'st bear
Ruin to those that loved thee true!
O holy stream Skamander, where
With gentle nurturement I grew
In the first days, when life and love were new.

And now -- and now -- it seems that I must lie
In the dark land that never sees the sun;
Sing my sad songs of fruitless prophecy,
By the black stream Kokutos, that doth run
Through long low hills of dreary Acheron.


Ah, but thy word is clear!
Even a child among men,
Even a child, might see
What is lying hidden here.
Ah! I am smitten deep
To the heart with a deadly blow!
At the evil fate of the maid,
At the cry of her song of woe;
Sorrows for her to bear!
Wonders for me to hear!


O my poor land, laid waste with flame and fire!
O ruin'd city, overthrown by fate!
Ah, what avail'd the offerings of my Sire
To keep the foreign foemen from the gate!
Ah, what avail'd the herds of pasturing kine
To save my country from the wrath divine!

Ah, neither prayer or priest availed aught,
Nor the strong captains that so stoutly fought,
For the tall town lies desolate and low.
And I, the singer of this song of woe,
Know by the fire burning in my brain,
That Death, the healer of all earthly pain,
Is close at hand. I will not shirk the blow.

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