Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ELECTRA: A BURIAL-URN, by SOPHOCLES

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ELECTRA: A BURIAL-URN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O sad memorial of the life I prized
Last Line: I see, only the dead can feel no pain.
Subject(s): Funerals; Burials

O SAD memorial of the life I priz'd
Beyond all other lives, my lov'd Orestes,
How much this welcome home belies the hope
With which I sent you forth, so young, so bright --
O child! and now this nothing, which I hold
So lightly in my hand. Would I had died
Before I sent you out, stolen from death,
Retriev'd from murder, sav'd, to dwell far off
With strangers. Better had you died that day
And shared your father's grave than perish'd so,
Miserably in helpless homeless banishment,
Far from my care. Alas! these hands of mine
Which should have dress'd and bathed you lovingly,
Then from the hungry flames have gather'd in
Grief's precious load for burial -- not so!
Some stranger did my office -- all I have
Is this -- a little dust, a paltry urn.
Alas for all my care, my loving care,
Prov'd useless now! The labour was so sweet,
Because it was for you, but all in vain.
Your mother never loved you as I loved you;
And you would call me, 'Sister', always, 'Sister'.
One day you died, and in that one day all
Has vanish'd, all. You gather'd up my life
And, like a whirlwind left me. Everything
Vanish'd. Our father's dead, and it is death
To me that you are gone. Our enemies
Laugh, and our mother, most unmotherly
Runs mad for joy. How often you would send
Your secret messages. You would come, you said,
And punish her yourself. The luckless chance
That haunts us both has stolen hope away,
And sent me for the bright form that I lov'd
These ashes and a shade that cannot help.
Ah me, alas!
O pitiful and strange!
Ah me, alas, alas!
O dearest, by what strange and terrible ways
You travell'd, to destroy me utterly,
Yes, brother, to destroy! Come, welcome me
To this same narrow room, which houses you,
My nothing to your nothing. Let me dwell
With you below for ever. Here in life
We shared and shared alike. Now I would share
Your grave, and never part from you again.
I see, only the dead can feel no pain.

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