she herself hath paid the debt of blood by death, and from her children's
hands received her doom. The god's own bidding from his oracle was
levelled against her, in the day that Agamemnon's son set forth from
Argos and visited his shrine; so he slew her, aye, spilt his own mother's
blood. O Phoebus, O thou power divine, how can I believe the story?
Anon wherever Hellenes gather, was heard the voice of lamentation,
mothers weeping o'er their children's fate, as they left their homes
to mate with strangers. Ah! thou art not the only one, nor thy dear
ones either, on whom the cloud of grief hath fallen. Hellas had to
bear the visitation, and thence the scourge crossed to Phrygia's fruitful
fields, raining the bloody drops the death-god loves. (PELEUS enters
PELEUS Ye dames of Phthia, answer my questions. I heard a vague rumour
that the daughter of Menelaus had left these halls and fled; so now
I am come in hot haste to learn if this be true; for it is the duty
of those who are at home to labour in the interests of their absent
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Thou hast heard aright, O Peleus; ill would
it become me to hide the evil case in which I now find myself; our
queen has fled and left these halls.
PELEUS What did she fear? explain that to me.
LEADER She was afraid her lord would cast her out.
PELEUS In return for plotting his child's death? surely not?
LEADER Yea, and she was afraid of yon captive.
PELEUS With whom did she leave the house? with her father?
LEADER The son of Agamemnon came and took her hence.
PELEUS What view hath he to further thereby? Will he marry her?
LEADER Yes, and he is plotting thy grandson's death.
PELEUS From an ambuscade, or meeting him fairly face to face?
LEADER In the holy place of Loxias, leagued with Delphians.
PELEUS God help us. This is a present danger. Hasten one of you with
all speed to the Pythian altar and tell our friends there what has
happened here, ere Achilles' son be slain by his enemies. (A MESSENGER
MESSENGER Woe worth the day! what evil tidings have I brought for
thee, old sire, and for all who love my master! woe is me!
PELEUS Alas! my prophetic soul hath a presentiment.
MESSENGER Aged Peleus, hearken! Thy grandson is no more; so grievously
is he smitten by the men of Delphi and the stranger from Mycenae.
LEADER Ah! what wilt thou do, old man? Fall not; uplift thyself.
PELEUS I am a thing of naught; death is come upon me. My voice is
choked, my limbs droop beneath me.
MESSENGER Hearken; if thou art eager also to avenge thy friends,
lift up thyself and hear what happened.
PELEUS Ah, destiny! how tightly hast thou caught me in thy toils,
a poor old man at life's extremest verge! But tell me how he was taken
from me, my one son's only child; unwelcome as such news is, I fain
would hear it.
MESSENGER As soon as we reached the famous soil of Phoebus, for three
whole days were we feasting our eyes with the sight. And this, it
seems, caused suspicion; for the folk, who dwell near the god's shrine,
began to collect in groups, while Agamemnon's son, going to and fro
through the town, would whisper in each man's ear malignant hints:
"Do ye see yon fellow, going in and out of the god's treasure-chambers,
which are full of the gold stored there by all mankind? He is come
hither a second time on the same mission as before, eager to sack
the temple of Phoebus." Thereon there ran an angry murmur through
the city, and the magistrates flocked to their council-chamber, while
those, who have charge of the god's treasures, had a guard privately
placed amongst the colonnades. But we, knowing naught as yet of this,
took sheep fed in the pastures of Parnassus, and went our way and
stationed ourselves at the altars with vouchers and Pythian seers.
And one said: "What prayer, young warrior, wouldst thou have us offer