Iphigenia in Tauris
LEADER Sure thou art mad! what with the strangers' flight
Have we to do? But wilt thou not, with all
The speed thou mayst, go to the monarch's house?
MESSENGER Not till I first am well inform'd, if here
Within the temple be the king, or not. (Shouting) Unbar the gates
(to you within I speak);
And tell your lord that at the portal here
I stand, and bring him tidings of fresh ills. (THOAS and his attendants
enter from the temple.)
THOAS Who at the temple of the goddess dares
This clamour raise, and, thundering at the gates,
Strikes terror through the ample space within?
MESSENGER With falsehoods would these women drive me hence,
Without to seek thee: thou wast in the shrine.
THOAS With what intent? or what advantage sought?
MESSENGER Of these hereafter; what more urgent now
Imports thee, hear: the virgin, in this place
Presiding at the altars, from this land
Is with the strangers fled, and bears with her
The sacred image of the goddess; all
Of her ablutions but a false pretence.
THOAS How say'st thou? What is her accursed design?
MESSENGER To save Orestes: this too will amaze thee.
THOAS Whom? What Orestes? Clytemnestra's son?
MESSENGER Him at the altar hallow'd now to bleed.
THOAS Portentous! for what less can it be call'd?
MESSENGER Think not on that, but hear me; with deep thought
Reflect: weigh well what thou shalt hear; devise
By what pursuit to reach and seize the strangers.
THOAS Speak: thou advisest well: the sea though nigh,
They fly not so as to escape my spear.
MESSENGER When to the shore we came, where station'd rode
The galley of Orestes, by the rocks
Conceal'd to us, whom thou hadst sent with her
To hold the strangers' chains, the royal maid
Made signs that we retire, and stand aloof,
As if with secret rites she would perform
The purposed expiation: on she went,
In her own hands holding the strangers' chains
Behind them: not without suspicion-this,
Yet by thy servants, king, allow'd. At length,
That we might deem her in some purpose high
Employ'd, she raised her voice, and chanted loud
Barbaric strains, as if with mystic rites
She cleansed the stain of blood. When we had sat
A tedious while, it came into our thought,
That from their chains unloosed, the stranger youths
Might kill her, and escape by flight: yet fear
Of seeing what we ought not, kept us still
In silence; but at length we all resolved
To go, though not permitted, where they were.
There we behold the Grecian bark with oars
Well furnish'd, wing'd for flight; and at their seats,
Grasping their oars, were fifty rowers; free
From chains beside the stern the two youths stood
Some from the prow relieved the keel with poles;
Some weigh'd the anchors up; the climbing ropes
Some hasten'd, through their hands the cables drew,
Launch'd the light bark, and gave her to the main.
But when we saw their treacherous wiles, we rush'd
Heedless of danger, seized the priestess, seized
The halsers, hung upon the helm, and strove
To rend the rudder-bands away. Debate
Now rose:-"What mean you, sailing o'er the seas,