Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CHOEPHOROI: ORESTES GOES MAD, by AESCHYLUS



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CHOEPHOROI: ORESTES GOES MAD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Behold the tyrants that oppressed your land
Last Line: Upon me! Hunt me forth! Away! Away!


ORESTES. CHORUS

OR.

Behold the tyrants that oppressed your land,
Slayers of fathers, plunderers of kings' houses.
But now they kept great state, seated on thrones;
Yea, and, methinks, they yet lie lovingly
In death, true honourers of their oath and bond.
They sware that they would kill my father, sware
To die together, and were not forsworn.
Behold, ye judges of their heinous crimes,
The thing they wrought, the links that bound my father,
Gyves for his wrists and fetters for his feet.
Shake it abroad, stand round me in a ring,
Hang out these trappings, that a father's eye,
Not mine, but he that watcheth all the world,
Helios, may view my mother's handiwork;
Ay, and hereafter testify for me
That justly I pursued even to the death
My mother: I reck not AEgisthus' end;
For by the law the adulterer shall die.
But she that hatched this horror for her lord,
By whom she went with child, carried the load
Of sometime love, -- but this tells you 'twas hate --!
What? Had she conger's teeth or adder's fangs,
She had corrupted where her tooth not bit,
So absolute was she in inquity.
How shall I name this right and use fair words?
Trap for a beast? Clout for a dead man's feet?
A towel is't? Fore God, a trapper's toil;
A noose; a gown that trips the wearer up;
Some rascal publican might get one like it,
That robs his guests for a living; ay, with this,
Put scores away and feel no cold fit after.
I pray God one like her may never house
With me, -- I'd liefer go childless to my grave.

CH.

Aiai! the woeful work! This hideous death
Ends thee; thy pride and all thy passions cold;
For him that yet must draw this lethal breath
The flower of suffering begins to unfold.

OR.

Was this her work or not? This proves it, this
Robe, sullied with AEgisthus' dagger-plunge.
The tinct of murder, not the touch of Time
Alone, hath -- here and here -- spoiled its rich brede.
I'll praise and mourn him now, I was not by
To mourn and praise with his death-robe before me.
Sad act, sad end, thrice-wretched race, triumph
No man need envy, soilure of my soul.

CH.

Time grants not our so perishable clay
Bliss that endures or glory that shall last;
Heaviness wears the instant hour away,
Or it will come before the next be passed.

OR.

Mark this; for I know not where it will end,
Dragged like a driver of hot, headlong horses
Quite from the track; beaten and borne afar
By break-neck thoughts; fear at my heart, at stretch
To strike up the grim tune, whereto 'twill dance.
While I am in my senses, I protest
I slew not, friends, my mother save with cause,
My father's blood upon her and Heaven's hate.
I lay it on the charm that made me bold;
On Pytho's prophet, Loxias, that charged
Me do the deed, and sware to hold me guiltless
If done; if not, -- I sink the consequence:
No bolt ere shot can hit the height of suffering.
And now behold and see how I am furnished
With branch and wreath, and, thus apparelled, go
To earth's great nombril-precincts, Loxias' ground,
And that famed fount of indestructible fire,
Kin-murder's outlaw; at no hearth but His
Did Loxias bid me look for sanctuary.
Hereafter let all Argives bear me out
Not without strong compunction did I deal
So ruefully with her that gave me life.
I am a wanderer now, I have no friends,
But, live or die, this shall be told of me.

CH.

Thou hast done well; let words of evil note
Be far from thy lips: give not ill fancies speech.
Thou hast delivered all the land of Argos;
Sawn off with one sword-sweep two dragon-heads.

OR.

Ha! Ha!
Women, they come about me, -- Gorgon shapes,
Sheeted in gray, -- clasped round with scaly folds
Of intertwisted snakes, -- away! away!

CH.

True son to thy father, what fantastic thoughts
Are these? Stand fast! thou hast triumphed; fear for nought,

OR.

These fearful torments are no phantasies;
These are the leashed sleuth-hounds my mother slips!

CH.

Because the blood is fresh upon thy hands,
Therefore this sudden frenzy rocks thy soul.

OR.

Apollo! Prince! Look, look! -- They come in crowds, --
And from their eyeballs blood drips horribly!

CH.

Haste thee where cleansing is! To Loxias!
Hold fast to him and find deliverance!

OR.

Ye see them not, but I see them; they turn
Upon me! Hunt me forth! Away! Away!





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