APOLLO enters from the inner shrine.

APOLLO

Out! I command you. Out from this my home-  Haste, tarry not! Out from the mystic shrine,  Lest thy lot be to take into thy breast  The winged bright dart that from my golden string  Speeds hissing as a snake,-lest, pierced and thrilled  With agony, thou shouldst spew forth again  Black frothy heart’s-blood, drawn from mortal men,  Belching the gory clots sucked forth from wounds.  These be no halls where such as you can prowl-  Go where men lay on men the doom of blood,  Heads lopped from necks, eyes from their spheres plucked out,  Hacked flesh, the flower of youthful seed crushed out,  Feet hewn away, and hands, and death beneath  The smiting stone, low moans and piteous  Of men impaled-Hark, hear ye for what feast  Ye hanker ever, and the loathing gods  Do spit upon your craving? Lo, your shape  Is all too fitted to your greed; the cave  Where lurks some lion, lapping gore, were home  More meet for you. Avaunt from sacred shrines,  Nor bring pollution by your touch on all  That nears yuu. Hence! and roam unshepherded-  No god there is to tend such herd as you.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

O king Apollo, in our turn hear us.  Thou hast not only part in these ill things,  But art chief cause and doer of the same.

APOLLO

How? stretch thy speech to tell this, and have done.

LEADER

Thine oracle bade this man slay his mother.

APOLLO

I bade him quit his sire’s death,-wherefore not?

LEADER

Then didst thou aid and guard red-handed crime.

APOLLO

Yea, and I bade him to this temple flee.

LEADER

And yet forsooth dost chide us following him!,

APOLLO

Ay-not for you it is, to near this fane.

LEADER

Yet is such office ours, imposed by fate.

APOLLO

What office? vaunt the thing ye deem so fair.

LEADER

From home to home we chase the matricide.

APOLLO

What? to avenge a wife who slays her lord?

LEADER

That is not blood outpoured by kindred hands.

APOLLO

How darkly ye dishonour and annul  The troth to which the high accomplishers,  Hera and Zeus, do honour. Yea, and thus  Is Aphrodite to dishonour cast,  The queen of rapture unto mortal men.  Know, that above the marriage-bed ordained  For man and woman staddeth Right as guard,  Enhancing sanctity of trothplight sworn;  Therefore, if thou art placable to those  Who have their consort slain, nor will’st to turn  On them the eye of wrath, unjust art thou  In hounding to his doom the man who slew  His mother. Lo, I know thee full of wrath  Against one deed, but all too placable  Unto the other, minishing the crime.  But in this cause shall Pallas guard the right.

LEADER

Deem not my quest shall ever quit that man.

APOLLO

Follow then, make thee, double toil in vain

LEADER

Think not by speech mine office to curtail.

APOLLO

None hast thou, that I would accept of thee!

LEADER

Yea, high thine honour by the throne of Zeus:  But I, drawn on by scent of mother’s blood,  Seek vengeance on this man and hound him down.

The CHORUS goes in pursuit of ORESTES.

APOLLO

But I will stand beside him; ’tis for me  To guard my suppliant: gods and men alike  Do dread the curse of such an one betrayed,  And in me Fear and Will say Leave him not.

He goes into the temple.The scene changes to Athens. In the foreground is the Temple of ATHENA on the Acropolis; her statue stands in the centre; ORESTES is seen clinging to it.

ORESTES

Look on me, queen Athena; lo, I come  By Loxias’ behest; thou of thy grace  Receive me, driven of avenging powers-  Not now a red-hand slayer unannealed,  But with guilt fading, half-effaced, outworn  On many homes and paths of mortal men.  For to the limit of each land, each sea,  I roamed, obedient to Apollo’s best,  And come at last, O Goddess, to thy fane,  And clinging to thine image, bide my doom.

The CHORUS OF FURIES enters, questing like hounds.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

Ho! clear is here the trace of him we seek:  Follow the track of blood, the silent sign!  Like to some hound that hunts a wounded fawn,  We snuff along the scent of dripping gore,  And inwardly we pant, for many a day  Toiling in chase that shall fordo the man;  For o’er and o’er the wide land have I ranged,  And o’er the wide sea, flying without wings,  Swift as a sail I pressed upon his track,  Who now hard by is crouching, well I wot,  For scent of mortal blood allures me here.

CHORUS chanting

Follow, seek him-round and round  Scent and snuff and scan the ground,  Lest unharmed he slip away,  He who did his mother slay!  Hist-he is there! See him his arms entwine  Around the image of the maid divine-  Thus aided, for the deed he wrought  Unto the judgment wills he to be brought.  It may not be! a mother’s blood, poured forth  Upon the stained earth,  None gathers up: it lies-bear witness, Hell!-  For aye indelible  And thou who sheddest it shalt give thine own  That shedding to atone!  Yea, from thy living limbs I suck it out,  Red, clotted, gout by gout,-  A draught abhorred of men and gods; but  Will drain it, suck thee dry;  Yea, I will waste thee living, nerve and vein;  Yea, for thy mother slain,  Will drag thee downward, there where thou shalt dree  The weird of agony!  And thou and whosoe’er of men hath sinned-  Hath wronged or God, or friend,  Or parent,-learn ye how to all and each  The arm of doom can reach!  Sternly requiteth, in the world beneath,  The judgment-seat of Death;  Yea, Death, beholding every man’s endeavour,  Recordeth it for ever.

ORESTES

I, schooled in many miseries, have learnt  How many refuges of cleansing shrines  And when imposeth silence. Lo, I stand  Fixed now to speak, for he whose word is wise  Commands the same. Look, how the stain of blood  Is dull upon mine hand and wastes away,  And laved and lost therewith is the deep curse  Of matricide; for while the guilt was new,  ‘Twas banished from me at Apollo’s hearth,  Atoned and purified by death of swine.  Long were my word if I should sum the tale,  How oft since then among my fellow-men  I stood and brought no curse. Time cleanses all-  Time, the coeval of all things that are.  Now from pure lips, in words of omen fair,  I call Athena, lady of this land,  To come, my champion: so, in aftertime,  She shall not fail of love and service leal,  Not won by war, from me and from my land  And all the folk of Argos, vowed to her.  Now, be she far away in Libyan land  Where flows from Triton’s lake her natal wave,-  Stand she with planted feet, or in some hour  Of rest conceal them, champion of her friends  Where’er she be,-Or whether o’er the plain  Phlegraean she look forth, as warrior bold-  I cry to her to come, where’er she be,  (And she, as goddess, from afar can hear)  And aid and free me, set among my foes.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

Thee not Apollo nor Athena’s strength  Can save from perishing, a castaway  Amid the Lost, where no delight shall meet  Thy soul-a bloodless prey of nether powers,  A shadow among shadows. Answerest thou  Nothing? dost cast away my words with scorn,  Thou, prey prepared and dedicate to me?  Not as a victim slain upon the shrine,  But living shalt thou see thy flesh my food.  Hear now the binding chant that makes thee mine.

CHORUS chanting

Weave the weird dance,-behold the hour  To utter forth the chant of hell,  Our sway among mankind to tell,  The guidance of our power.  Of justice are we ministers,  And whosoe’er of men may stand  Lifting a pure unsullied hand,  That man no doom of ours incurs,  And walks thro’ all his mortal path  Untouched by woe, unharmed by wrath.  But if, as yonder man, he hath  Blood on the hands he strives to hide,  We stand avengers at his side,  Decreeing, Thou hast wronged the dead:  We are doom’s witnesses to thee.  The price of blood, his hands have shed,  We wring from him; in life, in death,  Hard at his side are we!

strophe 1

Night, Mother Night, who brought me forth, a torment  To living men and dead,  Hear me, O hear! by Leto’s stripling son  I am dishonoured:  He hath ta’en from me him who cowers in refuge,  To me made consecrates-  A rightful victim, him who slew his mother,  Given o’er to me and fate.

refrain 1

Hear the hymn of hell,  O’er the victim sounding,-  Chant of frenzy, chant of ill,  Sense and will confounding!  Round the soul entwining  Without lute or lyre-  Soul in madness pining,  Wasting as with fire!

antistrophe 1

Fate, all-pervading Fate, this service spun, commanding  That I should bide therein:  Whosoe’er of mortals, made perverse and lawless,  Is stained with blood of kin,  By his side are we, and hunt him ever onward,  Till to the Silent Land,  The realm of death, he cometh; neither yonder  In freedom shall he stand.

refrain 1

Hear the hymn of hell,  O’er the victim sounding,-  Chant of frenzy, chant of ill,  Sense and will confounding!  Round the soul entwining  Without lute or lyre-  Soul in madness pining,  Wasting as with fire!
Eumenides By Aeschylus