youth and age, this double term of life would let us then correct
each previous slip. For I, seeing others blest with children, longed
to have them too, and found my ruin in that wish. Whereas if I had
had present experience, and by a father's light had learnt how cruel
a thing it is to be bereft of children, never should have fallen on
such evil days as these,-I who did beget a brave young son, proud
parent that I was, and after all am now bereft of him. Enough of this.
What remains for such a hapless wretch as me? Shall I to my home,
there to see its utter desolation and the blank within my life? or
shall to the halls of that dead Capaneus?-halls I smiled to see in
days gone by, when yet my daughter was alive. But she is lost and
gone, she that would ever draw down my cheek to her lips, and take
my head between her hands; for naught is there more sweet unto an
aged sire than a daughter's love; our sons are made of sterner stuff,
but less winning are their caresses. Oh! take me to my house at once,
in darkness hide me there, to waste and fret this aged frame with
fasting! What shall it avail me to touch my daughter's bones? Old
age, resistless foe, how do I loathe thy presence! Them too I hate,
whoso desire to lengthen out the span of life, seeking to turn the
tide of death aside by philtres, drugs, and magic spells,-folk that
death should take away to leave the young their place, when they no
more can benefit the world. (IPHIS departs. A procession enters from
the direction of the pyre, led by the CHILDREN of the slain chieftains,
who carry the ashes of their fathers in funeral urns. The following
lines between the CHORUS and the CHILDREN are chanted responsively.)
CHORUS Woe, woe! Behold your dead sons' bones are brought hither;
take them, servants of your weak old mistress, for in me is no strength
left by reason of my mourning for my sons; time's comrade long have
I been, and many a tear for many a sorrow have I shed. For what sharper
pang wilt thou ever find for mortals than the sight of children dead?
CHILDREN Poor mother mine, behold I bring my father's bones gathered
from the fire, a burden grief has rendered heavy, though this tiny
urn contains my all.
CHORUS Ah me! ah me! Why bear thy tearful load to the fond mother
of the dead, a handful of ashes in the stead of those who erst were
men of mark in Mycenae?
CHILDREN Woe worth the hour! woe worth the day! Reft of my hapless
sire, a wretched orphan shall I inherit a desolate house, torn from
my father's arms.
CHORUS Woe is thee! Where is now the toil I spent upon my sons? what
thank have I for nightly watch? Where the mother's nursing care? the
sleepless vigils mine eyes have kept? the loving kiss upon my children's
CHILDREN Thy sons are dead and gone. Poor mother! dead and gone;
the boundless air now wraps them round.
CHORUS Turned to ashes by the flame, they have winged their flight
CHILDREN Father, thou hearest thy children's lamentation; say, shall
I e'er, as warrior dight, avenge thy slaughter?
CHORUS God grant it, O my child
CHILDREN Some day, if god so will, shall the avenging of my father
be my task; not yet this sorrow sleeps.
CHORUS Alas! Fortune's sorrows are enough for me, I have enough of
CHILDREN Shall Asopus' laughing tide ever reflect my brazen arms
as I lead on my Argive troops?
CHORUS To avenge thy fallen sire.
CHILDREN Methinks I see thee still before my eye, my father-
CHORUS Printing a loving kiss upon thy cheek.
CHILDREN But thy words of exhortation are borne on the winds away.
CHORUS Two mourners hath he left behind, thy mother and thee, bequeathing
to thee an endless legacy of grief for thy father.
CHILDREN The weight of grief I have to bear hath crushed me utterly.
CHORUS Come, let me clasp the ashes of my son to my bosom.