Iphigenia At Aulis
as they had been travelling long and far, they are now refreshing
their tender feet at the waters of a fair spring, they and their horses,
for we turned these loose in the grassy meadow to browse their fill;
but I am come as their forerunner to prepare thee for their reception;
for the army knows already of thy daughter's arrival, so quickly did
the rumour spread; and all the folk are running together to the sight,
that they may see thy child; for Fortune's favourites enjoy a worldwide
fame and have all eyes fixed on them. "Is it a wedding?" some ask,
"or what is happening? or has king Agamemnon from fond yearning summoned
his daughter hither?" From others thou wouldst have heard: "They are
presenting the maiden to Artemis, queen of Aulis, previous to marriage;
who can the bridegroom be, that is to lead her home?"
Come, then, begin the rites-that is the next step-by getting the baskets
ready; crown your heads; prepare the wedding-hymn, thou and prince
Menelaus with thee; let flutes resound throughout the tents with noise
of dancer's feet; for this is a happy day, that is come for the maid.
AGAMEMNON Thou hast my thanks; now go within; for the rest it will
be well, as Fate proceeds. (Exit MESSENGER.) Ah, woe is me! unhappy
wretch, what can I say? where shall I begin? Into what cruel straits
have I been plunged! Fortune has outwitted me, proving far cleverer
than any cunning of mine. What an advantage humble birth possesses!
for it is easy for her sons to weep and tell out all their sorrows;
while to the high-born man come these same sorrows, but we have dignity
throned o'er our life and are the people's slaves. I, for instance,
am ashamed to weep, nor less, poor wretch, to check my tears at the
awful pass to which I am brought. Oh! what am I to tell my wife? how
shall I welcome her? with what face meet her? for she too has undone
me by coming uninvited in this my hour of sorrow; yet it was but natural
she should come with her daughter to prepare the bride and perform
the fondest duties, where she will discover my villainy. And for this
poor maid-why maid? Death, methinks, will soon make her his bride-how
I pity her! Thus will she plead to me, I trow: "My father will thou
slay me? Be such the wedding thou thyself mayst find, and whosoever
is a friend to thee!" while Orestes, from his station near us, will
cry in childish accents, inarticulate, yet fraught with meaning. Alas!
to what utter ruin Paris, the son of Priam, the cause of these troubles,
has brought me by his union with Helen!
CHORUS I pity her myself, in such wise as a woman, and she a stranger,
may bemoan the misfortunes of royalty.
MENELAUS (Offering his hand) Thy hand, brother! let me grasp it.
AGAMEMNON I give it; thine is the victory, mine the sorrow.
MENELAUS By Pelops our reputed grandsire and Atreus our father I
swear to tell thee the truth from my heart, without any covert purpose,
but only what I think. The sight of thee in tears made me pity thee,
and in return I shed a tear for thee myself; I withdraw from my former
proposals, ceasing to be a cause of fear to thee; yea, and I will
put myself in thy present position; and I counsel thee, slay not thy
child nor prefer my interests to thine; for it is not just that thou
shouldst grieve, while I am glad, or that thy children should die,
while mine still see the light of day. What is it, after all, I seek?
If I am set on marriage, could I not find a bride as choice elsewhere?
Was I to lose a brother-the last I should have lost-to win a Helen,
getting bad for good? I was mad, impetuous as a youth, till I perceived,
on closer view, what slaying children really meant. Moreover I am
filled with compassion for the hapless maiden, doomed to bleed that
I may wed, when I reflect that we are kin. What has thy daughter to
do with Helen? Let the army be disbanded and leave Aulis; dry those
streaming eyes, brother, and provoke me not to tears. Whatever concern
thou hast in oracles that affect thy child, let it be none of mine;
into thy hands I resign my share therein. A sudden change, thou'lt
say, from my fell proposals! A natural course for me; affection for
my brother caused the change. These are the ways of a man not void
of virtue, to pursue on each occasion what is best.
CHORUS A generous speech, worthy of Tantalus, the son of Zeus! Thou