Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IPHIGENIA AT AULIS, by EURIPIDES

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IPHIGENIA AT AULIS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Had I the voice of orpheus, o my sire
Last Line: Life is more precious than the noblest death!
Subject(s): Euripides (484-406 B.c.); Fathers & Sons; Murder

Had I the voice of Orpheus, O my Sire,
And could I charm the stones to follow me,
Beguiling hearers sweetly to my will,
Words I would use—but now my only spell
Lies in my tears, for tears are all I have!
I hold no suppliant bough, but touch thy knees
With this frail body which she bore for thee:
I pray thee, slay me not before my time,
For sweet it is to look upon the light,
But thou wouldst thrust me down to nether gloom.
I was the first to call thee Father: thou
Didst call me first thy child, and I did cling
First to thy knees and shower upon thy lips
Sweet, loving kisses which thy lips returned.
And thou wouldst say, "My darling, shall I live
To see thee blooming in some chieftain's halls
A joyous bride, an honour to thy sire?"
And I would answer, toying with thy beard,
Which now my hand doth fondly still caress:—
"My Father, shall it be, when thou art old
That I shall cherish thee within my home,
Repaying thus the nurture of my youth?"
I do remember me of all these words,
But thou forgetting them, dost seek my death.
Spare me I pray, by Pelops, by thy sire,
And by my mother too, who at my birth
Felt pangs less keen than those my death will cause.
What part or lot have I in Helen's loves,
Or why should Paris ruin also me?
Look on me, Father! grant one look, one kiss,
That if I fail to move thee by my words,
I may in death, at least remember these.
My brother! weak I fear me, is thine aid—
Still, weep with me, with me beseech our sire
To spare thy sister—there may be a sense
Of sorrow even in an infant's mind.
Behold, how silently he prays to thee,
My Father. Pity me and spare my life.
Two beings dear to thee are at thy feet,
He, still a nursling—I, a maiden grown.
One last brief plea I urge—'tis very sweet
To live and look upon the light; but death
Is darkness—they are mad who pray to die.
Life is more precious than the noblest death!

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