thy look from remaining so long uncleansed!
ORESTES Lay me once more upon the couch; when my fit leaves me, I
am all unnerved, unstrung.
ELECTRA (as she lays him down) Welcome to the sick man is his couch,
for painful though it be to take thereto, yet is it necessary.
ORESTES Set me upright once again, turn me round; it is their helplessness
makes the sick so hard to please.
ELECTRA Wilt put thy feet upon the ground and take a step at last?
Change is always pleasant.
ORESTES That will I; for that has a semblance of health; and that
seeming, though it be far from the reality, is preferable to this.
ELECTRA Hear me then, O brother mine, while yet the avenging fiends
permit thee to use thy senses.
ORESTES Hast news to tell? so it be good, thou dost me a kindness;
but if it tend to my hurt, lo! I have sorrow enough.
ELECTRA Menelaus, thy father's brother, is arrived; in Nauplia his
fleet lies at anchor.
ORESTES Ha! is he come to cast a ray of light upon our gloom, a man
of our own kin who owes our sire a debt of gratitude?
ELECTRA Yes, he is come, and is bringing Helen with him from the
walls of Troy; accept this as a sure proof of what I say.
ORESTES Had he returned alone in safety, he were more to be envied;
for if he is bringing his wife with him, he is bringing a load of
ELECTRA Tyndareus begat a race of daughters notorious for the shame
they earned, infamous throughout Hellas.
ORESTES Be thou then different from that evil brood, for well thou
mayest, and that not only in profession, but also in heart.
ELECTRA Ah! brother, thine eye is growing wild, and in a moment art
thou passing from thy recent saneness back to frenzy.
ORESTES (starting up wildly) Mother, I implore thee! let not loose
on me those maidens with their bloodshot eyes and snaky hair. Ha!
see, see where they approach to leap upon me!
ELECTRA Lie still, poor sufferer, on thy couch; thine eye sees none
of the things which thy fancy paints so clear.
ORESTES O Phoebus! they will kill me, yon hounds of hell, death's
priestesses with glaring eyes, terrific goddesses.
ELECTRA I will not let thee go; but with arms twined round thee will
prevent thy piteous tossing to and fro.
ORESTES Loose me! thou art one of those fiends that plague me, and
art gripping me by the waist to hurl my body into Tartarus.
ELECTRA Woe is me! what succour can I find, seeing that we have Heaven's
forces set against us?
ORESTES Give me my horn-tipped bow, Apollo's gift, wherewith that
god declared that I should defend myself against these goddesses,
if ever they sought to scare me with wild transports of madness.
A mortal hand will wound one of these goddesses, unless she vanish
from my sight. Do ye not heed me, or mark the feathered shaft of my
far-shooting bow ready to wing its flight? What! do ye linger still?
Spread your pinions, skim the sky, and blame those oracles of Phoebus.
Ah! why am I raving, panting, gasping? Whither, oh! whither have leapt
from off my couch? Once more the storm is past; I see a calm.
Sister, why weepest thou, thy head wrapped in thy robe? I am ashamed
that I should make thee a partner in my sufferings and distress a
maid like thee through sickness of mine. Cease to fret for my troubles;
for though thou didst consent to it, yet 'twas I that spilt our mother's
blood. 'Tis Loxias I blame, for urging me on to do a deed most damned,
encouraging me with words but no real help; for I am sure that, had
I asked my father to his face whether I was to slay my mother, he
would have implored me oft and earnestly by this beard never to plunge
a murderer's sword into my mother's breast, since he would not thereby
regain his life, whilst I, poor wretch, should be doomed to drain
this cup of sorrow.
E'en as it is, dear sister, unveil thy face and cease to weep, despite