I have heard in other days how dread a doom befell our Phrygian guest, the daughter of Tantalus, on the Sipylian heights; I how, like clingingivy, the growth of stone subdued her; and the rains fail not, as men tell, from her wasting form, nor fails the snow, while beneath her weeping lids the tears bedew her bosom; and most like to hers is the fate that brings me to my rest.
Yet she was a goddess, thou knowest, and born of gods; we are mortals, and of mortal race. But ’tis great renown for a woman who hath perishedthat she should have shared the doom of the godlike, in her life, and afterward in death.
Ah, I am mocked! In the name of our fathers’ gods, can ye not wait till I am gone,-must ye taunt me to my face, O my city, and ye, her wealthysons? Ah, fount of Dirce, and thou holy ground of Thebe whose chariots are many; ye, at least, will bear me witness, in what sort, unwept of friends, and by what laws I pass to the rock-closed prison of my strange tomb, ah me unhappy! who have no home on the earth or in the shades, no home with the living or with the dead.
Thou hast rushed forward to the utmost verge of daring; and against that throne where justice sits on high thou hast fallen, my daughter, with agrievous fall. But in this ordeal thou art paying, haply, for thy father’s sin.
Thou hast touched on my bitterest thought,-awaking the ever-new lament for my sire and for all the doom given to us, the famed house of Labdacus. Alas for the horrors of the mother’s bed! alas for the wretched mother’s slumber at the side of her own son,-and my sire! From what manner of parents did I take my miserable being! And to them I go thus, accursed, unwed, to share their home. Alas, my brother, ill-starred in thy marriage, in thy death thou hast undone my life!
Unwept, unfriended, without marriage-song, I am led forth in my sorrow on this journey that can be delayed no more. No longer, hapless one, may I behold yon day-star’s sacred eye; but for my fate no tear is shed, no friend makes moan.
Know ye not that songs and wailings before death would never cease, if it profited to utter them? Away with her-away! And when ye haveenclosed her, according to my word, in her vaulted grave, leave her alone, forlorn-whether she wishes to die, or to live a buried life in such a home. Our hands are clean as touching this maiden. But this is certain-she shall be deprived of her sojourn in the light.
Tomb, bridal-chamber, eternal prison in the caverned rock, whither go to find mine own, those many who have perished, and whom Persephonehath received among the dead! Last of all shall I pass thither, and far most miserably of all, before the term of my life is spent. But I cherish good hope that my coming will be welcome to my father, and pleasant to thee, my mother, and welcome, brother, to thee; for, when ye died, withmine own hands I washed and dressed you, and poured drink-offerings at your graves; and now, Polyneices, ’tis for tending thy corpse that I winsuch recompense as this.
And yet I honoured thee, as the wise will deem, rightly. Never, had been a mother of children, or if a husband had been mouldering in death,would I have taken this task upon me in the city’s despite. What law, ye ask, is my warrant for that word? The husband lost, another might havebeen found, and child from another, to replace the first-born: but, father and mother hidden with Hades, no brother’s life could ever bloom for meagain. Such was the law whereby I held thee first in honour; but Creon deemed me guilty of error therein, and of outrage, ah brother mine! Andnow he leads me thus, a captive in his hands; no bridal bed, no bridal song hath been mine, no joy of marriage, no portion in the nurture of children; but thus, forlorn of friends, unhappy one, I go living to the vaults of death.
And what law of heaven have I transgressed? Why, hapless one, should I look to the gods any more,-what ally should I invoke,-when by piety Ihave earned the name of impious? Nay, then, if these things are pleasing to the gods, when I have suffered my doom, I shall come to know my sin; but if the sin is with my judges, I could wish them no fuller measure of evil than they, on their part, mete wrongfully to me.
Then for this shall her guards have cause to rue their slowness.
Ah me! that word hath come very near to death.
O city of my fathers in the land of Thebe! O ye gods, eldest of our race!-they lead me henc–now, now-they tarry not! Behold me, princes of Thebes, the last daughter of the house of your kings,-see what I suffer, and from whom, because I feared to cast away the fear of Heaven!
Even thus endured Danae in her beauty to change the light of day for brass-bound walls; and in that chamber, secret as the grave, she was held close prisoner; yet was she of a proud lineage, O my daughter, and charged with the keeping of the seed of Zeus, that fell in the golden rain.
And bonds tamed the son of Dryas, swift to wrath, that king of the Edonians; so paid he for his frenzied taunts, when, by the will of Dionysus, he was pent in a rocky prison. There the fierce exuberance of his madness slowly passed away. That man learned to know the god, whom in his frenzy he had provoked with mockeries; for he had sought to quell the god-possessed women, and the Bacchanalian fire; and he angered the Muses that love the flute.
And by the waters of the Dark Rocks, the waters of the twofold sea, are the shores of Bosporus, and Thracian Salmydessus; where Ares, neighbour to the city, saw the accurst, blinding wound dealt to the two sons of Phineus by his fierce wife,-the wound that brought darkness to those vengeance-craving orbs, smitten with her bloody hands, smitten with her shuttle for a dagger.
Pining in their misery, they bewailed their cruel doom, those sons of a mother hapless in her marriage; but she traced her descent from the ancient line of the Erechtheidae; and in far-distant caves she was nursed amid her father’s storms, that child of Boreas, swift as a steed over the steep hills, a daughter of gods; yet upon her also the gray Fates bore hard, my daughter.