married dames and from Castor too, to whom they betrothed me before
he joined the heavenly host, for I was his kinswoman. Meantime my
mother, 'mid the spoils of Troy, is seated on her throne, and at her
foot-stool slaves from Asia stand and wait, captives of my father's
spear, whose Trojan robes are fastened with brooches of gold. And
there on the wall my father's blood still leaves a deep dark stain,
while his murderer mounts the dead man's car and fareth forth, proudly
grasping in his blood-stained hands the sceptre with which Agamemnon
would marshal the sons of Hellas. Dishonoured lies his grave; naught
as yet hath it received of drink outpoured or myrtle-spray, but bare
of ornament his tomb is left. Yea, and 'tis said that noble hero who
is wedded to my mother, in his drunken fits, doth leap upon the grave,
and pelt with stones my father's monument, boldly gibing at us on
this wise, "Where is thy son Orestes? Is he ever coming in his glory
to defend thy tomb?" Thus is Orestes flouted behind his back. Oh!
tell him this, kind sir, I pray thee. And there be many calling him
to come,-I am but their mouthpiece,-these suppliant hands, this tongue,
my broken heart, my shaven head, and his own father too. For 'tis
shameful that the sire should have destroyed Troy's race and the son
yet prove too weak to pit himself against one foe unto the death,
albeit he has youth and better blood as well.
LEADER Lo! here is thy husband hurrying homeward, his labour done.
PEASANT (entering and catching sight of strangers talking to ELECTRA)
Ha! who are these strangers I see at my door? And why are they come
hither to my rustic gate? can they want my help? for 'tis unseemly
for a woman to stand talking with young men.
ELECTRA Dear husband, be not suspicious of me. For thou shalt hear
the truth; these strangers have come to bring me news of Orestes.
Good sirs, pardon him those words.
PEASANT What say they? is that hero yet alive and in the light of
ELECTRA He is; at least they say so, and I believe them.
PEASANT Surely then he hath some memory of his father and thy wrongs?
ELECTRA These are things to hope for; a man in exile is helpless.
PEASANT What message have they brought from Orestes?
ELECTRA He sent them to spy out my evil case.
PEASANT Well, they only see a part of it, though maybe thou art telling
them the rest.
ELECTRA They know all; there is nothing further they need ask.
PEASANT Long ere this then shouldst thou have thrown open our doors
to them. Enter, sirs; for in return for your good tidings, shall ye
find such cheer as my house affords. Ho! servants, take their baggage
within; make no excuses, for ye are friends sent by one I love; and
poor though I am, yet will I never show meanness in my habits.
ORESTES 'Fore heaven! is this the man who is helping thee to frustrate
thy marriage, because he will not shame Orestes?
ELECTRA This is he whom they call my husband, woe is me!
ORESTES Ah! there is no sure mark to recognize a man's worth; for
human nature hath in it an element of confusion. For I have seen ere
now the son of noble sire prove himself a worthless knave, and virtuous
children sprung from evil parents; likewise dearth in a rich man's
spirit, and in a poor man's frame a mighty soul. By what standard
then shall we rightly judge these things? By wealth? An evil test
to use. By poverty then? Nay, poverty suffers from this, that it teaches
a man to play the villain from necessity. To martial prowess must
I turn? But who could pronounce who is the valiant man merely from
the look of his spear? Better is it to leave these matters to themselves
without troubling. For here is a man of no account in Argos, with
no family reputation to boast, one of the common herd, proved a very
hero. A truce to your folly! ye self-deceivers, swollen with idle
fancies; learn to judge men by their converse, and by their habits
decide who are noble. Such are they who rule aright both states and
families; while those forms of flesh, devoid of intellect, are but
figure-heads in the market-place. The strong arm, again, no more than