Iphigenia At Aulis
pace from left to right about the altar; for I come to bestow on Hellas
safety crowned with victory. Lead me hence, me the destroyer of Ilium's
town and the Phrygians; give me wreaths to cast about me; bring them
hither; here are my tresses to crown; bring lustral water too. Dance
to Artemis, queen Artemis the blest, around her fane and altar; for
by the blood of my sacrifice I will blot out the oracle, if it needs
O mother, lady revered! for thee shall my tears be shed, and now;
for at the holy rites I may not weep.
Sing with me, maidens, sing the praises of Artemis, whose temple faces
Chalcis, where angry spearmen madly chafe, here in the narrow havens
of Aulis, because of me.
O Pelasgia, land of my birth, and Mycenae, my home!
CHORUS Is it on Perseus' citadel thou callest, that town Cyclopean
IPHIGENIA To be a light to Hellas didst thou rear me, and so I say
not No to death.
CHORUS Thou art right; no fear that fame will e'er desert thee!
IPHIGENIA Hail to thee, bright lamp of day and light of Zeus! A different
life, different lot is henceforth mine. Farewell I bid thee, light
beloved! (Exit IPHIGENIA.)
CHORUS Behold the maiden on her way, the destroyer of Ilium's town
and its Phrygians, with garlands twined about her head, and drops
of lustral water on her, soon to besprinkle with her gushing blood
the altar of a murderous goddess, what time her shapely neck is severed.
For thee fair streams of a father's pouring and lustral waters are
in store, for thee Achaea's host is waiting, eager to reach the citadel
of Ilium. But let us celebrate Artemis, the daughter of Zeus, queen
among the gods, as if upon some happy chance.
O lady revered, delighting in human sacrifice, send on its way to
Phrygia's land the host of the Hellenes, to Troy's abodes of guile,
and grant that Agamemnon may wreathe his head with deathless fame,
a crown of fairest glory for the spearmen of Hellas. (Enter MESSENGER.)
MESSENGER Come forth, O Clytaemnestra, daughter of Tyndareus, from
the tent, to hear my news. (Enter CLYTAEMNESTRA.)
CLYTAEMNESTRA I heard thy voice and am come in sad dismay and fearful
dread, not sure but what thou hast arrived with tidings of some fresh
trouble for me besides the present woe.
MESSENGER Nay, rather would I unfold to thee a story strange and
marvellous about thy child.
CLYTAEMNESTRA Delay not, then, but speak at once.
MESSENGER Dear mistress, thou shalt learn all clearly; from the outset
will I tell it, unless my memory fail me somewhat and confuse my tongue
in its account. As soon as we reached the grove of Artemis, the child
of Zeus, and the meadows gay with flowers, where the Achaean troops
were gathered, bringing thy daughter with us, forthwith the Argive
host began assembling; but when king Agamemnon saw the maiden on her
way to the grove to be sacrificed, he gave one groan, and, turning
away his face, let the tears burst from his eyes, as he held his robe
before them. But the maid, standing close by him that begot her, spake
on this wise, "O my father, here am I to do thy bidding; freely I
offer this body of mine for my country and all Hellas, that ye may
lead me to the altar of the goddess and sacrifice me, since this is
Heaven's ordinance. Good luck be yours for any help that I afford!
and may ye obtain the victor's gift and come again to the land of
your fathers. So then let none of the Argives lay hands on me, for
I will bravely yield my neck without a word."
She spake; and each man marvelled, as he heard the maiden's brave,
unflinching speech. But in the midst up stood Talthybius-for his this
duty was-and bade the host refrain from word or deed; and Calchas,
the seer, drawing a sharp sword from out its scabbard laid it in a
basket of beaten gold, crowning the maiden's head the while. Then
the son of Peleus, taking the basket and with it lustral water in
his hand, ran round the altar of the goddess uttering these words,