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has returned to Mycenæ as the guide and companion
of Orestes and Pylades, and as their supporter in
the terrible deeds they must soon perform. While
he has been deceiving Clytemnestra with feigned
events, the youths have crowned with offerings the
tomb of Agamemnon. They now approach the palace,
bearing in their hands an urn of bronze. The first
words are addressed by Orestes to the Chorus of
maidens, and, though he does not recognize her as
his sister, to Electra.
Or. Say, dames and damsels, have we heard aright,
And speed we to the goal of our desire?
Ch. And what desire or quest hath brought thee hither?
Or. I seek Ægisthus' dwelling all this while.
Ch. Welcome. The tongue that told thee hath no blame.
Or. Which of you all will signify within
Our joint arrival,—not unwelcome here?
Ch. This maiden, if the nearest should report.
Or. Mistress, wilt thou go yonder and make known, That certain Phocians on Ægisthus wait?
El. Oh! can it be that you are come to bring Clear proofs of the sad rumor we have heard?
Or. I know not what ye have heard. Old Strophius Charged me with tidings of Orestes' fate.
El. What, stranger? How this terror steals on me!
Or. Bearing scant remnants of his body dead In this small vase thou seest, we bring him home.
El. O sorrow! thou art here: I see full well That burden of my heart in present view.
Or. If thou have tears for `aught Orestes suffered, Know that he lies within this vessel's room.
El. Ah, sir! by all in Heaven, if yonder urn Hide him, ah! give it once into my hand,
That o'er that dust I may lament and mourn
Myself and mine own house and all our woe!
Or. Bring it and give her, whosoe'er she be.
For not an enemy--this petition shows it
But of his friends or kindred, is this maid.
[The urn is given into Electra's hands,
El. O monument of him whom o'er all else
I loved! sole relic of Orestes' life,
How cold in this thy welcome is the hope
Wherein I decked thee as I sent thee forth!
Then bright was thy departure, whom I now
Bear lightly, a mere nothing, in my hands.
Would I had gone from life, ere I dispatched
Thee from my arms that saved thee to a land
Of strangers, stealing thee from death! For then
Thou hadst been quiet on that far-off day,
And had thy portion in our father's tomb.
Now thou hast perished in the stranger land
Far from thy sister, lorn and comfortless.
And I, O wretchedness! neither have bathed
And laid thee forth, nor from the blazing fire
Collected the sad burden, as was meet:
But thou, when foreign hands have tended thee,
Com'st a small handful in a narrow shell.
Woe for the constant care I spent on thee
Of old all vainly, with sweet toil! For never
Wast thou thy mother's darling, nay, but mine,
And I of all the household most thy nurse,
While “sister, sister,” was thy voice to me.
But now all this is vanished in one day,
Dying in thy death. Thou hast carried all away
As with a whirlwind, and art gone. No more
My father lives: thyself art lost in death:
I am dead, who lived in thee. Our enemies
Laugh loudly, and she maddens in her joy,
Our mother most unmotherly, of whom
Thy secret missives ofttimes told me, thou
Wouldst be the punisher. But that fair hope
The hapless Genius of thy lot and mine
Hath reft away, and gives thee thus to me,–
For thy loved form thy dust and fruitless shade.
O bitterness! O piteous sight! Woe! Woe!
Oh! sent on thy dire journey, dearest one,
How thou hast ruined me! Thou hast indeed,
Dear brother! Then receive me to thyself,
Hide me in this thy covering, there to dwell,
Me who am nothing, with thy nothingness,
For ever! Yea, when thou wert here above,
I ever shared with thee in all, and now
I would not have thee shut me from thy tomb.
Oh! let me die and follow thee! the dead,
My mind assures me now, have no more pain.
Ch. Electra, think! Thou hadst a mortal sire,
And mcrtal was thy brother. Grieve not far.
Or. O me! What shall I speak, or which way turn The desperate word? I cannot hold my tongue. El. What pain o'ercomes thee? Wherefore speak'st thou
so? Or. Can this be famed Electra I behold? El. No other. In sad case, as you may see. Or. Ah! deep indeed was this calamity! El. Is't possible that thou shouldst grieve for me? Or. O ruined form! abandoned to disgrace! El. 'Tis me you mean, stranger, I feel it now. Or. Woe's me! Untrimmed for bridal, hapless maid! El. Why this fixed gaze, O stranger! that deep groan?
Or. How all unknowing was I of mine ill!
El. What thing hath passed to make it known to thee?
Or. The sight of thee attired with boundless woe.
El. And yet thine eye sees little of my pain.
Or. Can aught be still more hateful to be seen?
El. I have my dwelling with the murderers-
Or. Of whom? What evil would thy words disclose?
El. Of him who gave me birth. I am their slave.
Or. Whose power compels thee to this sufferance?
El. One called my mother, most unmotherly,
Or. How? by main force, or by degrading shames?
El. By force and shames, and every kind of evil.
Or. And is there none to succor or prevent?
El. None. Him I had, you give me here in dust.
Or. How mine eye pities thee this while, poor maid!
El. Know now, none ever pitied me but you.
Or. None ever came whose heart like sorrow wrung.
El. Is’t possible we have some kinsman here?
Or. I will tell it, if these women here be friendly.
El. They are. They may be trusted. Only speak.
Let go yon vase, that thou may’st learn the whole.
El. Nay, by the Gods! be not so cruel, sir!
Or. Obey me and thou shalt not come to harm.
El. Ah, never rob me of what most I love!
Or. You must not hold it.
O me miserable For thee, Orestes, if I lose thy tomb!
Or. Speak no rash word. Thou hast no right to mourn,
El. No right to mourn my brother who is gone?
Such utterance belongs not to thy tongue.
El. Oh, am I thus dishonored of the dead?
Or. Far from dishonor. But this ne'er was thine.
El. Is't not Orestes' body that I bear?
Or. Nay, but the idle dressing of a tale.
El. And where is his poor body's resting-place!
Or. Nowhere. Seek not the living with the dead.
El. My son, what saidst thou?
Nought but what is true.
El. Doth he yet live?
If I have life in me.
El. Art thou Orestes?
Let my signet here,
That was our father's, tell thine eyes, I am.
El. O day of days!
Time hath no happier hour.
El. Is it thy voice?
Hearken not otherwhere.
El. Have my arms caught thee?
Hold me so for aye!
El. O dearest women, Argives of my home!
Ye see Orestes, dead in craft, but now
By that same craft delivered and preserved.
Ch. We see, dear daughter, and the gladsome tear Steals from our eye to greet the bright event.
49 MEDEA MEDITATES THE MURDER OF
'HE Colchian princess Medea, by her magic
the Golden Fleece, and sails with him to Hellas.