Whoe’er, my friends, in the rough stream of life
Hath struggled with affliction, thence is taught
That, when the flood begins to swell, the heart
Fondly fears all things; when the fav’ring gale
Of Fortune smooths the current, it expands
With unsuspecting confidence, and deems
That gale shall always breathe. So to my eyes
All things now wear a formidable shape,
And threaten from the gods: my ears are pierced
With sounds far other than of song. Such ills
Dismay my sick’ning soul: hence from my house
Nor glitt’ring car attends me, nor the train
Of wonted state, while I return, and bear
Libations soothing to the father’s shade
In the son’s cause; delicious milk, that foams
White from the sacred heifer; liquid honey,
Extract of flowers; and from its virgin fount
The running crystal; this pure draught, that flow’d
From the ancient vine, of power to bathe the spirits
In joy; the yellow olive’s fragrant fruit,
That glories in its leaves’ unfading verdure;
With flowers of various hues, earth’s fairest offspring
Inwreathed. But you, my friends, amid these rites
Raise high your solemn warblings, and invoke
Your lord, divine Darius; I meanwhile
Will pour these off’rings to the infernal gods.
Yes, royal lady, Persia’s honour’d grace,
To earth’s dark chambers pour thy off’rings: we
With choral hymns will supplicate the powers
That guide the dead, to be propitious to us.
And you, that o’er the realms of night extend
Your sacred sway, thee mighty earth, and the
Hermes; thee chief, tremendous king, whose throne
Awes with supreme dominion, I adjure:
Send, from your gloomy regions, send his shade
Once more to visit this ethereal light;
That he alone, if aught of dread event
He sees yet threat’ning Persia, may disclose
To us poor mortals Fate’s extreme decree.
Hears the honour’d godlike king?
These barbaric notes of wo,
Taught in descant sad to ring,
Hears he in the shades below?
Thou, O Earth, and you, that lead
Through your sable realms the dead,
Guide him as he takes his way,
And give him to the ethereal light of day!
Let the illustrious shade arise
Glorious in his radiant state,
More than blazed before our eyes,
Ere sad Susa mourn’d his fate.
Dear he lived, his tomb is dear,
Shrining virtues we revere:
Send then, monarch of the dead,
Such as Darius was, Darius’ shade.
He in realm-unpeopling war
Wasted not his subjects’ blood,
Godlike in his will to spare,
In his councils wise and good.
Rise then, sovereign lord, to light;
On this mound’s sepulchral height
Lift thy sock in saffron died,
And rear thy rich tiara’s regal pride!
Great and good, Darius, rise:
Thus involved with thrilling cries
Come, our tale of sorrow hear!
War her Stygian pennons spreads,
Brooding darkness o’er our heads;
For stretch’d along the dreary shore
The flow’r of Asia lies distain’d with gore.
Rise, Darius, awful power;
Long for thee our tears shall flow.
Why thy ruin’d empire o’er
Swells this double flood of wo?
Sweeping o’er the azure tide
Rode thy navy’s gallant pride:
Navy now no more, for all
Beneath the whelming wave-
Ye faithful Persians, honour’d now in age,
Once the companions of my youth, what ills
Afflict the state? The firm earth groans, it opes,
Disclosing its vast deeps; and near my tomb
I see my wife: this shakes my troubled soul
With fearful apprehensions; yet her off’rings
Pleased I receive. And you around my tomb
Chanting the lofty strain, whose solemn air
Draws forth the dead, with grief-attemper’d notes
Mournfully call me: not with ease the way
Leads to this upper air; and the stern gods,
Prompt to admit, yield not a passage back
But with reluctance: much with them my power
Availing, with no tardy step I come.
Say then, with what new ill doth Persia groan?
Since from the realms below, by thy sad strains
Adjured, I come, speak; let thy words be brief;
Say whence thy grief, tell me unawed by fear.
I dread to forge a flattering tale, I dread
To grieve thee with a harsh offensive truth.
Since fear hath chained his tongue, high-honour’d dame,
Once my imperial consort, check thy tears,
Thy griefs, and speak distinctly. Mortal man
Must bear his lot of wo; afflictions rise
Many from sea, many from land, if life
Be haply measured through a lengthen’d course.
O thou that graced with Fortune’s choicest gifts
Surpassing mortals, while thine eye beheld
Yon sun’s ethereal rays, lived’st like a god
Bless’d amid thy Persians; bless’d I deem thee now
In death, ere sunk in this abyss of ills,
Darius, hear at once our sum of wo;
Ruin through all her states hath crush’d thy Persia.
By pestilence, or faction’s furious storms?
Not so: near Athens perish’d all our troops.
Say, of my sons, which led the forces thither?
The impetuous Xerxes, thinning all the land.
By sea or land dared he this rash attempt?
By both: a double front the war presented.
A host so vast what march conducted o’er?
From shore to shore he bridged the Hellespont.
What! could he chain the mighty Bosphorus?
Ev’n so, some god assisting his design.
Some god of power to cloud his better sense.
The event now shows what mischiefs he achieved.
What suffer’d they, for whom your sorrows flow?
His navy sunk spreads ruin through the camp.
Fell all his host beneath the slaught’ring spear?
Susa, through all her streets, mourns her lost sons.
How vain the succour, the defence of arms?
In Bactra age and grief are only left.
Ah, what a train of warlike youth is lost!
Xerxes, astonished, desolate, alone-
How will this end? Nay, pause not. Is he safe?
Fled o’er the bridge, that join’d the adverse strands.
And reach’d this shore in safety? Is this true?
True are thy words, and not to be gainsay’d.
With what a winged course the oracles
Haste their completion! With the lightning’s speed
Jove on my son hath hurled his threaten’d vengeance:
Yet I implored the gods that it might fall
In time’s late process: but when rashness drives
Impetuous on, the scourge of Heaven upraised
Lashes the Fury forward; hence these ills
Pour headlong on my friends. Not weighing this,
My son, with all the fiery pride of youth,
Hath quickened their arrival, while he hoped
To bind the sacred Hellespont, to hold
The raging Bosphorus, like a slave, in chains,
And dared the advent’rous passage, bridging firm
With links of solid iron his wondrous way,
To lead his numerous host; and swell’d with thoughts
Presumptuous, deem’d, vain mortal! that his power
Should rise above the gods, and Neptune’s might.
And was riot this the phrensy of the soul?
But much I fear lest all my treasured wealth
Fall to some daring hand an easy prey.
The Persians By Aeschylus