PEASANT If such thy pleasure, go thy way; for, after all, the spring
is no great distance from my house. And at break of day I will drive
my steers to my glebe and sow my crop. For no idler, though he has
the gods' names ever on his lips, can gather a livelihood without
hard work. (ELECTRA and the PEASANT go out. A moment later ORESTES
and PYLADES enter.)
ORESTES Ah Pylades, I put thee first 'mongst men for thy love, thy
loyalty and friendliness to me; for thou alone of all my friends wouldst
still honour poor Orestes, in spite of the grievous plight whereto
I am reduced by Aegisthus, who with my accursed mother's aid slew
my sire. I am come from Apollo's mystic shrine to the soil of Argos,
without the knowledge of any, to avenge my father's death upon his
murderers. Last night went unto his tomb and wept thereon, cutting
off my hair as an offering and pouring o'er the grave the blood of
a sheep for sacrifice, unmarked by those who lord it o'er this land.
And now though I enter not the walled town, yet by coming to the borders
of the land I combine two objects; I can escape to another country
if any spy me out and recognize me, and at the same time seek my sister,
for I am told she is a maid no longer but is married and living here,
that I may meet her, and, after enlisting her aid in the deed of blood,
learn for certain what is happening in the town. Let us now, since
dawn is uplifting her radiant eye, step aside from this path. For
maybe some labouring man or serving maid will come in sight, of whom
we may inquire whether it is here that my sister hath her home. Lo!
yonder I see a servant bearing a full pitcher of water on her shaven
head; let us sit down and make inquiry of this bond-maid, if haply
we may glean some tidings of the matter which brought us hither, Pylades.
(They retire a little, as ELECTRA returns from the spring.)
ELECTRA (chanting, strophe 1)
Bestir thy lagging feet, 'tis high time; on, on o'er thy path of
tears! ah misery! I am Agamemnon's daughter, she whom Clytemnestra,
hateful child of Tyndareus, bare; hapless Electra is the name my countrymen
call me. Ah me! for my cruel lot, my hateful existence! O my father
Agamemnon! in Hades art thou laid, butchered by thy wife and Aegisthus.
Come, raise with me that dirge once more; uplift the woful strain
that brings relief.
On, on o'er thy path of tears! ah misery! And thou, poor brother,
in what city and house art thou a slave, leaving thy suffering sister
behind in the halls of our fathers to drain the cup of bitterness?
Oh! come, great Zeus, to set me free from this life of sorrow, and
to avenge my sire in the blood of his foes, bringing the wanderer
home to Argos.
Take this pitcher from my head, put it down, that I may wake betimes,
while it is yet night, my lamentation for my sire, my doleful chant,
my dirge of death, for thee, my father in thy grave, which day by
day I do rehearse, rending my skin with my nails, and smiting on my
shaven head in mourning for thy death. Woe, woe! rend the cheek; like
a swan with clear loud note beside the brimming river calling to its
parent dear that lies a-dying in the meshes of the crafty net, so
I bewail thee, my hapless sire,
After that last fatal bath of thine laid out most piteously in death.
Oh I the horror of that axe which hacked thee so cruelly, my sire
I oh! the bitter thought that prompted thy return from Troy! With
no garlands or victor's crowns did thy wife welcome thee, but with
his two-edged sword she made thee the sad sport of Aegisthus and kept
her treacherous paramour. (The CHORUS OF ARGIVE COUNTRY-WOMEN enter.
The following lines between ELECTRA and the CHORUS are sung responsively.)
O Electra, daughter of Agamemnon, to thy rustic cot I come, for a
messenger hath arrived, a highlander from Mycenae, one who lives on
milk, announcing that the Argives are proclaiming a sacrifice for