from the Trojan spoils, a gift for Clytemnestra at her tomb.
Then to the Spartan maid Orestes spake, "Daughter of Zeus, quit thy
chair and cross the floor to a seat at the old altar of Pelops, our
ancestor, to hear something I have to say." Therewith he led the way
and she followed, little guessing his designs. Meantime his accomplice,
the Phocian miscreant, was off on other business. "Out of my way!
Well, Phrygians always were cowards." So he shut them up in different
parts of the house, some in the stables, others in private chambers,
one here, one there, disposing of them severally at a distance from
CHORUS What happened next?
PHRYGIAN Mother of Ida, mighty parent! Oh! the murderous scenes and
lawless wickedness that I witnessed in the royal palace! They drew
forth swords from under their purple cloaks, each darting his eye
all round him in either direction to see that none was near, and then,
like boars that range the hills, they stood at bay before her, crying,
"Thou must die; it is thy craven husband that will slay thee, because
he betrayed his brother's son to death in Argos." But she with piercing
screams brought down her snow-white arm upon her bosom and loudly
smote on her poor head; then turned her steps in flight, shod in her
golden shoon; but Orestes, outstripping her slippered feet, clutched
his fingers in her hair and bending back her neck on to her left shoulder
was on the point of driving the grim steel into her throat.
CHORUS Where were those Phrygians in the house to help her then?
PHRYGIAN With a loud cry we battered down the doors and doorposts
of the rooms we had been penned in, by means of bars, and ran to her
assistance from every direction, one arming himself with stones, another
with javelins, a third having a drawn sword; but Pylades came to meet
us, all undaunted, like Hector of Troy or Ajax triple-plumed, as I
saw him on the threshold of Priam's palace; and we met point to point.
But then it became most manifest how inferior we Phrygians were to
the warriors of Hellas in martial prowess. There was one man flying,
another slain, a third wounded, yet another craving mercy to stave
off death; but we escaped under cover of the darkness: while some
were falling, others staggering, and some laid low in death. And just
as her unhappy mother sunk to the ground to die, came luckless Hermione
to the palace; whereon those twain, like Bacchanals when they drop
their wands and seize a mountain-cub, rushed and seized her; then
turned again to the daughter of Zeus to slay her; but lo! she had
vanished from the room, passing right through the house by magic spells
or wizards'arts or heavenly fraud; O Zeus and earth, O day and night!
What happened afterwards I know not, for I stole out of the palace
and ran away. So Menelaus went through all his toil and trouble to
recover his wife Helen from Troy to no purpose. (ORESTES comes out
of the palace.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Behold another strange sight succeeding its
predecessors; I see Orestes sword in hand before the palace, advancing
with excited steps.
ORESTES Where is he who fled from the palace to escape my sword?
PHRYGIAN (falling at the feet Of ORESTES) Before thee I prostrate
myself, O prince, and do obeisance in my foreign way.
ORESTES 'Tis not Ilium that is now the scene, but the land of Argos.
PHRYGIAN No matter where, the wise love life more than death.
ORESTES I suppose that shouting of thine was not for Menelaus to
come to the rescue?
PHRYGIAN Oh no! it was to help thee I called out, for thou art more
ORESTES Was it a just fate that overtook the daughter of Tyndareus?
PHRYGIAN Most just, though she had had throats to die with.
ORESTES Thy cowardice makes thee glib; these are not thy real sentiments.
PHRYGIAN Why, surely she deserved it for the havoc she made of Hellas
as well as Troy?
ORESTES Swear thou art not saying this to humour me, or I will slay