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The Persians   


Tidings of high import, or good or ill.
A MESSENGER enters.

MESSENGER
Wo to the towns through Asia's peopled realms!
Wo to the land of Persia, once the port
Of boundless wealth, how is thy glorious state
Vanish'd at once, and all thy spreading honours
Fall'n, lost! Ah me! unhappy is his task
That bears unhappy tidings: but constraint
Compels me to relate this tale of wo.
Persians, the whole barbaric host is fall'n.
CHORUS chanting
O horror, horror! What a baleful train
Of recent ills! Ah, Persians, as he speaks
Of ruin, let your tears stream to the earth.
MESSENGER
It is ev'n so, all ruin; and myself,
Beyond all hope returning, view this light.
CHORUS chanting
How tedious and oppressive is the weight
Of age, reserved to hear these hopeless ills!
MESSENGER
I speak not from report; but these mine eyes
Beheld the ruin which my tongue would utter.
CHORUS chanting
Wo, wo is me! Then has the iron storm,
That darken'd from the realms of Asia, pour'd
In vain its arrowy shower on sacred Greece.
MESSENGER
In heaps the unhappy dead lie on the strand
Of Salamis, and all the neighbouring shores.
CHORUS chanting
Unhappy friends, sunk, perish'd in the sea;
Their bodies, mid the wreck of shatter'd ships,
Mangled, and rolling on the encumber'd waves!
MESSENGER
Naught did their bows avail, but all the troops
In the first conflict of the ships were lost.
CHORUS chanting
Raise the funereal cry, with dismal notes
Wailing the wretched Persians. Oh, how ill
They plann'd their measures, all their army perish'd!

MESSENGER
O Salamis, how hateful is thy name!
And groans burst from me when I think of Athens.

CHORUS chanting
How dreadful to her foes! Call to remembrance
How many Persian dames, wedded in vain,
Hath Athens of their noble husbands widow'd?
ATOSSA
Astonied with these ills, my voice thus long
Hath wanted utterance: griefs like these exceed
The power of speech or question: yet ev'n such,
Inflicted by the gods, must mortal man
Constrain'd by hard necessity endure.
But tell me all, without distraction tell me,
All this calamity, though many a groan
Burst from thy labouring heart. Who is not fallen?
What leader must we wail? What sceptred chief
Dying hath left his troops without a lord?
MESSENGER

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