Iphigenia in Tauris
In ruins to the ground: of all the house,
My father's house, one pillar, as I thought,
Alone was left, which from its cornice waved
A length of auburn locks, and human voice
Assumed: the bloody office, which is mine
To strangers here, respecting, I to death,
Sprinkling the lustral drops, devoted it
With many tears. My dream I thus expound:-
Orestes, whom I hallow'd by my rites,
Is dead: for sons are pillars of the house;
They, whom my lustral lavers sprinkle, die.
I cannot to my friends apply my dream,
For Strophius, when I perish'd, had no son.
Now, to my brother, absent though he be,
Libations will I offer: this, at least,
With the attendants given me by the king,
Virgins of Greece, I can: but what the cause
They yet attend me not within the house,
The temple of the goddess, where I dwell? (She goes into the temple.
ORESTES and PYLADES enter cautiously.)
ORESTES Keep careful watch, lest some one come this way.
PYLADES I watch, and turn mine eye to every part.
ORESTES And dost thou, Pylades, imagine this
The temple of the goddess, which we seek,
Our sails from Argos sweeping o'er the main?
PYLADES Orestes, such my thought, and must be thine.
ORESTES And this the altar wet with Grecian blood?
PYLADES Crimson'd with gore behold its sculptured wreaths.
ORESTES See, from the battlements what trophies hang!
PYLADES The spoils of strangers that have here been slain.
ORESTES Behooves us then to watch with careful eye.
O Phoebus, by thy oracles again
Why hast thou led me to these toils? E'er since,
In vengeance for my father's blood, I slew
My mother, ceaseless by the Furies driven,
Vagrant, an outcast, many a bending course
My feet have trod: to thee I came, of the
Inquired this whirling frenzy by what means,
And by what means my labours I might end.
Thy voice commanded me to speed my course
To this wild coast of Tauris, where a shrine
Thy sister hath, Diana; thence to take
The statue of the goddess, which from heaven
(So say the natives) to this temple fell:
This image, or by fraud or fortune won,
The dangerous toil achieved, to place the prize
In the Athenian land: no more was said;
But that, performing this, I should obtain
Rest from my toils. Obedient to thy words,
On this unknown, inhospitable coast
Am I arrived. Now, Pylades (for thou
Art my associate in this dangerous task,)
Of thee I ask, What shall we do? for high
The walls, thou seest, which fence the temple round.
Shall we ascend their height? But how escape
Observing eyes? Or burst the brazen bars?
Of these we nothing know: in the attempt
To force the gates, or meditating means
To enter, if detected, we shall die.
Shall we then, ere we die, by flight regain
The ship in which we hither plough'd the sea?
PYLADES Of flight we brook no thought, nor such hath been
Our wont; nor may the god's commanding voice
Be disobey'd; but from the temple now