PHRYGIAN By my life I swear,-an oath likely to be true in my case.
ORESTES Did every Phrygian in Troy show the same terror of steel
as thou dost?
PHRYGIAN Oh, take thy sword away! held so near it throws a horrid
gleam of blood.
ORESTES Art thou afraid of being turned to a stone, as if it were
a Gorgon thou seest?
PHRYGIAN To a stone, no! but to a corpse; that Gorgon's head is not
within my ken.
ORESTES A slave, and so fearful of death, which will release thee
PHRYGIAN Bond or free, every one is glad to gaze upon the light.
ORESTES Well said! thy shrewdness saves thee; go within.
PHRYGIAN Thou wilt not kill me after all?
ORESTES Thou art spared!
PHRYGIAN O gracious words!
ORESTES Come, I shall change my mind-
PHRYGIAN Ill-omened utterance!
ORESTES Thou fool dost think I could endure to plunge my sword in
throat of thine, thou that neither art woman nor amongst men hast
any place? The reason I left the palace was to gag thy noisy tongue;
for Argos is quickly roused, once it hears a cry to the rescue. As
for Menelaus, we are not afraid of measuring swords with him; no!
he may go upon his way proud of the golden ringlets on his shoulders;
for if, to avenge the slaying of Helen, he gathers the Argives and
leads them against the palace, refusing to attempt the rescue of me,
my sister, and Pylades my fellow-conspirator, he shall have two corpses
to behold, his daughter's as well as his wife's. (The PHRYGIAN departs
as ORESTES re-enters the palace.)
CHORUS (singing) Ah! fortune, fortune! again and yet again the house
is entering on a fearful contest for the race of Atreus.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (chanting) What are we to do? carry tidings to
the town, or hold our peace?
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (chanting) It is safer to keep silence, friends.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (chanting) Look, look at that sudden rush of smoke
to the sky in front of the palace, telling its tale in advance!
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (chanting) They are kindling torches to fire
the halls of Tantalus; they do not shrink even from murder.
CHORUS (singing) God holds the issue in his hand, to give to mortal
men what end he will. Some mighty power is his; it was through a vengeful
fiend that this family started on its career of murder, by hurling
Myrtilus from the chariot.
But lo! I see Menelaus approaching the palace in hot haste; no doubt
he has heard what is happening here. What ho! within, descendants
of Atreus, make haste and secure the doors with bars. A man in luck
is a dangerous adversary for luckless wretches like thyself, Orestes.
(ORESTES and PYLADES appear on the roof, holding HERMIONE. MENELAUS
and his attendants enter.)
MENELAUS Strange news of violent deeds done by a pair of savages,-men
I do not call them,-has brought me hither. What I heard was that my
wife was not killed after all, but had vanished out of sight,-an idle
rumour doubtless, brought to me by some dupe of his own terror; a
ruse perhaps of the matricide to turn the laugh against me.
Throw wide the palace doors! My orders to my servants are that they
force the doors, that I may rescue my child at any rate from the hands
of the murderers and recover my poor wife's corpse, that dear partner
whose slayers must die with her by my arm.
ORESTES (from the roof) Ho, fellow! Keep thy fingers off those bolts,
thou Menelaus, who vauntest thyself so high; else will I tear off
the ancient parapet, the work of masons, and shatter thy skull with
this coping-stone. The doors are bolted and barred, which will prevent
thy entrance to the palace and thy eagerness to bring aid.
MENELAUS Ha! what now? I see a blaze of torches and men standing
at bay on the house-top yonder, with a sword held at my daughter's