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Iphigenia At Aulis   


CLYTAEMNESTRA They will slay my child; they have tricked her with
thy marriage.
ACHILLES Like thee I blame thy lord, nor do I view it with mere indifference.
CLYTAEMNESTRA No longer will I let shame prevent my kneeling to thee,
a mortal to one goddess-born; why do I affect reserve? whose interests
should I consult before my child's? (Throwing herself before ACHILLES)
Oh! help me, goddess-born, in my sore distress, and her that was
called thy bride-in vain, 'tis true, yet called she was. For thee
it was I wreathed her head and led her forth as if to marriage, but
now it is to slaughter I am bringing her. On thee will come reproach
because thou didst not help her; for though not wedded to her, yet
wert thou the loving husband of my hapless maid in name at any rate.
By thy beard, right hand, and mother too I do implore thee; for thy
name it was that worked my ruin, and thou art bound to stand by that.
Except thy knees I have no altar whereunto to fly; and not a friend
stands at my side. Thou hast heard the cruel abandoned scheme of Agamemnon;
and I, a woman, am come, as thou seest, to a camp of lawless sailor-folk,
bold in evil's cause, though useful when they list; wherefore if thou
boldly stretch forth thine arm in my behalf, our safety is assured;
but if thou withhold it, we are lost.
CHORUS A wondrous thing is motherhood, carrying with it a potent
spell, wherein all share, so that for their children's sake they will
endure affliction.
ACHILLES My proud spirit is stirred to range aloft, but it has learnt
to grieve in misfortune and rejoice in high prosperity with equal
moderation. For these are the men who can count on ordering all their
life aright by wisdom's rules. True, there are cases where 'tis pleasant
not to be too wise, but there are others, where some store of wisdom
helps. Brought up in godly Chiron's halls myself, I learnt to keep
a single heart; and provided the Atridae lead aright, I will obey
them; but when they cease therefrom, no more will I obey. Nay, but
here and in Troy I will show the freedom of my nature, and, as far
as in me lies, do honour to Ares with my spear. Thee, lady, who hast
suffered so cruelly from thy nearest and dearest, will I, by every
effort in a young man's power, set right, investing thee with that
amount of pity, and never shall thy daughter, after being once called
my bride, die by her father's hand; for I will not lend myself to
thy husband's subtle tricks; no! for it will be my name that kills
thy child, although it wieldeth not the steel. Thy own husband is
the actual cause, but I shall no longer be guiltless, if, because
of me and my marriage, this maiden perishes, she that hath suffered
past endurance and been the victim of affronts most strangely undeserved.
So am I made the poorest wretch in Argos; I a thing of naught, and
Menelaus counting for a man! No son of Peleus I, but the issue of
a vengeful fiend, if my name shall serve thy husband for the murder.
Nay! by Nereus, who begat my mother Thetis, in his home amid the flowing
waves, never shall king Agamemnon touch thy daughter, no! not even
to the laying of a finger-tip upon her robe; else will Sipylus, that
frontier town of barbarism, the cradle of those chieftains' line,
be henceforth a city indeed, while Phthia's name will nowhere find
mention. Calchas, the seer, shall rue beginning the sacrifice with
his barley-meal and lustral water. Why, what is a seer? A man who
with luck tells the truth sometimes, with frequent falsehoods, but
when his luck deserts him, collapses then and there. It is not to
secure a bride that I have spoken thus-there be maids unnumbered eager
to have my love-no! but king Agamemnon has put an insult on me; he
should have asked my leave to use my name as a means to catch the
child, for it was I chiefly who induced Clytaemnestra to betroth her
daughter to me; verily I had yielded this to Hellas, if that was where
our going to Ilium broke down; I would never have refused to further
my fellow soldiers' common interest. But, as it is, I am as naught
in the eyes of those chieftains, and little they reck of treating
me well or ill. My sword shall soon know if any one is to snatch thy
daughter from me, for then will I make it reek with the bloody stains

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