Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AGAMEMNON: THE BEACONS, by AESCHYLUS

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

AGAMEMNON: THE BEACONS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: What courier could arrive thus rapidly?
Last Line: Was he ran first, though last in all this run.



What courier could arrive thus rapidly?


Hephaestus; his bright flame from Ida sprang,
And fast in fiery post the beacons flew,
As one dispatched another: Ida first
To Hermes' hill in Lemnos; third the mount
Of Zeus in Athos caught the mighty brand
From the island thrown in turn. Then towering high
To clear the broad sea's back, the travelling torch
Shot up to the very sky the courier flame,
In golden glory, like another sun,
Fame to the far Makistos messaging:
Whose fiery office no defaulting sleep
Or tarrying sloth let fail; his ensign flying
Over the Sound Euripos made aware
Messapion's watchmen of his advent; they
With answering countersign, a kindled stack
Of old gray heather, passed the word along:
Which vigorous lamp with unabated force
Did shining as the bright Moon overleap
Asopos even to Cithaeron's ridge,
There to wake new dispatch; nor being aroused
That watch denied the far-sent missioner;
They burned above their bidding, and their light
Went sailing far beyond Gorgopis' lake
To the heights of AEgiplanctus, urging still
No dallying in the breathless ordinance.
Whereat with liberal heart aloft they sent
Flame in a great beard streaming, that his flight
Should clean beyond the foreland pass, that looks
O'er the Saronic gulf; nor ever stooped
His pinion ere he gained our neighbouring height,
Arachnae's vigilant peak: alighting thence
Upon the Atridae's roof a gleam there came,
That Ida's fire his ancestor may claim.
This was the ordering of my torchmen's race,
One from another in succession still
Supplied and plenished; and he that won
Was he ran first, though last in all this run.

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