Iphigenia At Aulis
dulcet strains the praise of Thetis and the son of Aeacus, o'er the
Centaurs' hill, down through the woods of Pelion.
There was the Dardanian boy, Phrygian Ganymede, whom Zeus delights
to honour, drawing off the wine he mixed in the depths of golden bowls;
while, along the gleaming sand, the fifty daughters of Nereus graced
the marriage with their dancing, circling in a mazy ring.
Came too the revel-rout of Centaurs, mounted on horses, to the feast
of the gods and the mixing-bowl of Bacchus, leaning on fir-trees,
with wreaths of green foliage round their heads; and loudly cried
the prophet Chiron, skilled in arts inspired by Phoebus; "Daughter
of Nereus, thou shalt bear a son"-whose name he gave-"a dazzling light
to Thessaly; for he shall come with an army of spearmen to the far-famed
land of Priam, to set it in a blaze, his body cased in a suit of golden
mail forged by Hephaestus, a gift from his goddess-mother, even from
Thetis who bore him."
Then shed the gods a blessing on the marriage of the high-born bride,
who was first of Nereus' daughters, and on the wedding of Peleus.
But thee, will Argives crown, wreathing the lovely tresses of thy
hair, like a dappled mountain hind brought from some rocky cave or
a heifer undefiled, and staining with blood thy human throat; though
thou wert never reared like these amid the piping and whistling of
herdsmen, but at thy mother's side, to be decked one day by her as
the bride of a son of Inachus. Where now does the face of modesty
or virtue avail aught? seeing that godlessness holds sway, and virtue
is neglected by men and thrust behind them, lawlessness o'er law prevailing,
and mortals no longer making common cause to keep the jealousy of
gods from reaching them.
CLYTAEMNESTRA (Reappearing from the tent) I have come from the tent
to look out for my husband, who went away and left its shelter long
ago; while that poor child, my daughter, hearing of the death her
father designs for her, is in tears, uttering in many keys her piteous
lamentation. (Catching sight of AGAMEMNON) It Seems I was speaking
of one not far away; for there is Agamemnon, who will soon be detected
in the commission of a crime against his own child. (Enter AGAMEMNON.)
AGAMEMNON Daughter of Leda, 'tis lucky I have found thee outside
the tent, to discuss with thee in our daughter's absence subjects
not suited for the ears of maidens on the eve of marriage.
CLYTAEMNESTRA What, pray, is dependent on the present crisis?
AGAMEMNON Send the maiden out to join her father, for the lustral
water stands there ready, and barley-meal to scatter with the hand
on the cleansing flame, and heifers to be slain in honour of the goddess
Artemis, to usher in the marriage, their black blood spouting from
CLYTAEMNESTRA Though fair the words thou usest, I know not how I
am to name thy deeds in terms of praise.
Come forth, my daughter; full well thou knowest what is in thy father's
mind; take the child Orestes, thy brother, and bring him with thee
in the folds of thy robe. (Enter IPHIGENIA.) Behold chold she comes,
in obedience to thy summons. Myself will speak the rest alike for
her and me.
AGAMEMNON My child, why weepest thou and no longer lookest cheerfully?
why art thou fixing thine eyes upon the ground and holding thy robe
CLYTAEMNESTRA Alas! with which of my woes shall I begin? for I may
treat them all as first, or put them last or midway anywhere.
AGAMEMNON How now? I find you all alike, confusion and alarm in every
CLYTAEMNESTRA My husband, answer frankly the questions I ask thee.
AGAMEMNON There is no necessity to order me; I am willing to be questioned.
CLYTAEMNESTRA Dost thou mean to slay thy child and mine?
AGAMEMNON (Starting) Ha! these are heartless words, unwarranted
CLYTAEMNESTRA Peace! answer me that question first.
AGAMEMNON Put a fair question and thou shalt have a fair answer.