sacrifice her? To please the Argives, thou wilt say? Nay, they had
no right to slay my daughter. Or if, forsooth, it was to screen his
brother Menelaus that he slew my child, was he not to pay me the
penalty for that? Had not Menelaus two children, who should in
fairness have been taken before my daughter, as sprung from the sire
and mother who had caused that voyage? Or had Hades some strange
desire to feast on my offspring, rather than on hers? Or had that
accursed father lost all tenderness for the children of my womb, while
he was tender to the children of Menelaus? Was not that the part of
a callous and perverse parent? I think so, though differ from thy
judgment; and so would say the dead, if she could speak. For myself,
then, I view the past without dismay; but if thou deemest me perverse,
see that thine own judgment is just, before thou blame thy neighbour.
This time thou canst not say that I have done anything to
provoke such words from thee. But, if thou wilt give me leave, I
fain would declare the truth, in the cause alike of my dead sire and
of my sister.
Indeed, thou hast my leave; and didst thou always address me in
such a tone, thou wouldst be heard without pain.
Then I will speak. Thou sayest that thou hast slain my father.
What word could bring thee deeper shame than that, whether the deed
was just or not? But I must tell thee that thy deed was not just;
no, thou wert drawn on to it by the wooing of the base man who is
now thy spouse.
Ask the huntress Artemis what sin she punished when she stayed the
frequent winds at Aulis; or I will tell thee; for we may not learn
from her. My father- so I have heard- was once disporting himself in
the grove of the goddess, when his footfall startled a dappled and
antlered stag; he shot it, and chanced to utter a certain boast
concerning its slaughter. Wroth thereat, the daughter of Leto detained
the Greeks, that, in quittance for the wild creature's life, my father
should yield up the life of his own child. Thus it befell that she was
sacrificed; since the fleet had no other release, homeward or to Troy;
and for that cause, under sore constraint and with sore reluctance, at
last he slew her- not for the sake of Menelaus.
But grant- for I will take thine own plea- grant that the motive
of his deed was to benefit his brother;- was that a reason for his
dying by thy hand? Under what law? See that, in making such a law
for men, thou make not trouble and remorse for thyself; for, if we are
to take blood for blood, thou wouldst be the first to die, didst
thou meet with thy desert.
But look if thy pretext is not false. For tell me, if thou wilt,
wherefore thou art now doing the most shameless deeds of all,-
dwelling as wife with that blood-guilty one, who first helped thee
to slay my sire, and bearing children to him, while thou hast cast out
the earlier-born, the stainless offspring of a stainless marriage. How
can I praise these things? Or wilt thou say that this, too, is thy
vengeance for thy daughter? Nay, shameful plea, if so thou plead; 'tis
not well to wed an enemy for a daughter's sake.
But indeed I may not even counsel thee,- who shriekest that I
revile my mother; and truly I think that to me thou art less a
mother than mistress; so wretched is the life that I live, ever
beset with miseries by thee and by thy partner. And that other, who
scarce escaped thy hand, the hapless Orestes, is wearing out his
ill-starred days in exile. Often hast thou charged me with rearing him
to punish thy crime; and I would have done so, if I could, thou
mayst be sure:-for that matter, denounce me to all, as disloyal, if
thou wilt, or petulant, or impudent; for if I am accomplished in
such ways, methinks I am no unworthy child of thee.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
I see that she breathes forth anger; but whether justice be with