Iphigenia At Aulis
"O Artemis, thou child of Zeus, slayer of wild beasts, that wheelest
thy dazzling light amid the gloom, accept this sacrifice, which we,
the host of the Achaeans and king Agamemnon with us, offer to thee,
even pure blood from a beauteous maiden's neck; and grant us safe
sailing for our ships and the sack of Troy's towers by our spears."
Meantime the sons of Atreus and all the host stood looking on the
ground, while the priest, seizing his knife, offered up a prayer and
was closely scanning the maiden's throat to see where he should strike.
'Twas no slight sorrow filled my heart, as I stood by with bowed head;
when lo! a sudden miracle! Each one of us distinctly heard the sound
of a blow, but none saw the spot where the maiden vanished. Loudly
the priest cried out, and all the host took up the cry at the sight
of a marvel all unlooked for, due to some god's agency, and passing
all belief, although 'twas seen; for there upon the ground lay a hind
of size immense and passing fair to sec, gasping out her life, with
whose blood the altar of the goddess was thoroughly bedewed. Whereon
spake Calchas thus-his joy thou canst imagine-"Ye captains of this
leagued Achaean host, do ye see this victim, which the goddess has
set before her altar, a mountain roaming hind? This is more welcome
to her by far than the maid, that she may not defile her altar by
shedding noble blood. Gladly has she accepted it and is granting us
a prosperous voyage for our attack on Ilium. Wherefore take heart,
sailors, each man of you, and away to your ships, for to-day must
we leave the hollow bays of Aulis and cross the Aegean main."
Then, when the sacrifice was wholly burnt to ashes in the blazing
flame, he offered such prayers as were meet, that the army might win
return; but me Agamemnon sends to tell thee this, and say what Heaven-sent
luck is his, and how he hath secured undying fame throughout the length
of Hellas. Now I was there myself and speak as an eye-witness; without
a doubt thy child flew away to the gods. A truce then to thy sorrowing,
and cease to be wroth with thy husband; for God's ways with man are
not what we expect, and those whom he loves, he keepeth safe; yea,
for this day hath seen thy daughter dead and brought to life again.
CHORUS What joy to hear these tidings from the messenger! He tells
thee thy child is living still, among the gods.
CLYTAEMNESTRA Which of the gods, my child, hath stolen thee? How
am I to address thee? How can I be sure that this is not an idle tale
told to cheer me, to make me cease my piteous lamentation for thee?
CHORUS Lo! king Agamemnon approaches, to confirm this story for thee.
AGAMEMNON Happy may we be counted, lady, as far as concerns our daughter;
for she hath fellowship with gods in very sooth. But thou must take
this tender babe and start for home, for the host is looking now to
sail. Fare thee well! 'tis long ere I shall greet thee on my return
from Troy; may it be well with thee!
CHORUS Son of Atreus, start for Phrygia's land with joy and so return,
I pray, after taking from Troy her fairest spoils. (Exeunt OMNES.)