And call on Powers, that heed him nought, to save, And vainly wrestle with the whirling wave. Hot was his heart with pride- I shall not fall, he cried. But him with watching scorn The god beholds, forlorn, Tangled in toils of Fate beyond escape, Hopeless of haven safe beyond the cape- Till all his wealth and bliss of bygone day Upon the reef of Rightful Doom is hurled, And he is rapt away Unwept, for ever, to the dead forgotten world.
O herald, make proclaim, bid all men come. Then let the shrill blast of the Tyrrhene trump, Fulfilled with mortal breath, thro’ the wide air Peal a loud summons, bidding all men heed. For, till my judges fill this judgment-seat, Silence behoves,-that this whole city learn, What for all time mine ordinance commands, And these men, that the cause be judged aright.
First, as a witness come I, for this man Is suppliant of mine by sacred right, Guest of my holy hearth and cleansed by me Of blood-guilt: then, to set me at his side And in his cause bear part, as part I bore Erst in his deed, whereby his mother fell. Let whoso knoweth now announce the cause.
Though we be many, brief shall be our tale.
I slew her. I deny no word hereof.
Three falls decide the wrestle-this is one.
Thou vauntest thee-but o’er no final fall.
Yet must thou tell the manner of thy deed.
Drawn sword in hand, I gashed her neck. ‘Tis told.
But by whose word, whose craft, wert thou impelled?
By oracles of him who here attests me.
The prophet-god bade thee thy mother slay?
Yea, and thro’ him less ill I fared, till now.
If the vote grip thee, thou shalt change that word.
Strong is my hope; my buried sire shall aid.
Go to now, trust the dead, a matricide!
Yea, for in her combined two stains of sin.
How? speak this clearly to the judges’ mind.
Slaying her husband, she did slay my sire.
Therefore thou livest; death assoils her deed.
Then while she lived why didst thou hunt her not?
She was not kin by blood to him she slew.
And I, am I by blood my mother’s kin?
It is thine hour, Apollo-speak the law, Averring if this deed were justly done; For done it is, and clear and undenied. But if to thee this murder’s cause seem right Or wrongful, speak-that I to these may tell.
To you, Athena’s mighty council-court, Justly for justice will I plead, even I, The prophet-god, nor cheat you by one word. For never spake I from my prophet-seat One word, of man, of woman, or of state, Save what the Father of Olympian gods Commanded unto me. I rede you then, Bethink you of my plea, how strong it stands, And follow the decree of Zeus our sire,- For oaths prevail not over Zeus’ command.
Yea, for it stands not with a common death, That he should die, a chieftain and a king Decked with the sceptre which high heaven confers- Die, and by female hands, not smitten down By a far-shooting bow, held stalwartly By some strong Amazon. Another doom Was his: O Pallas, hear, and ye who sit In judgment, to discern this thing aright!- She with a specious voice of welcome true Hailed him, returning from the mighty mart Where war for life gives fame, triumphant home; Then o’er the laver, as he bathed himself, She spread from head to foot a covering net, And in the endless mesh of cunning robes Enwound and trapped her lord, and smote him down. Lo, ye have heard what doom this chieftain met, The majesty of Greece, the fleet’s high lord: Such as I tell it, let it gall your ears, Who stand as judges to decide this cause.
Zeus, as thou sayest, holds a father’s death As first of crimes,-yet he of his own act Cast into chains his father, Cronus old: How suits that deed with that which now ye tell? O ye who judge, I bid ye mark my words!
O monsters loathed of all, O scorn of gods, He that hath bound may loose: a cure there is. Yea, many a plan that can unbind the chain. But when the thirsty dust sucks up man’s blood Once shed in death, he shall arise no more. No chant nor charm for this my Sire hath wrought. All else there is, he moulds and shifts at will, Not scant of strength nor breath, whate’er he do.
Think yet, for what acquittal thou dost plead: He who hath shed a mother’s kindred blood, Shall he in Argos dwell, where dwelt his sire? How shall he stand before the city’s shrines, How share the clansmen’s holy lustral bowl?
This too I answer; mark a soothfast word Not the true parent is the woman’s womb That bears the child; she doth but nurse the seed New-sown: the male is parent; she for him, As stranger for a stranger, hoards the germ Of life, unless the god its promise blight. And proof hereof before you will I set. Birth may from fathers, without mothers, be: See at your side a witness of the same, Athena, daughter of Olympian Zeus, Never within the darkness of the womb Fostered nor fashioned, but a bud more bright Than any goddess in her breast might bear. And I, O Pallas, howsoe’er I may, Henceforth will glorify thy town, thy clan, And for this end have sent my suppliant here Unto thy shrine; that he from this time forth Be loyal unto thee for evermore, O goddess-queen, and thou unto thy side Mayst win and hold him faithful, and his line, And that for aye this pledge and troth remain To children’s children of AtheniaD seed.
Eumenides By Aeschylus