ATOSSA

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.

CHORUS chanting

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:

Lord of Persia’s lord, appear:

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-

While the CHORUS Sings, ATOSSA performs her ritual by the tomb. As the song concludes the GHOST OF DARIUS appears from the tomb.
GHOST OF DARIUS

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?

CHORUS chanting

My wonted awe o’ercomes me; in thy presence 
I dare not raise my eyes, I dare not speak.

GHOST OF DARIUS

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.

GHOST OF DARIUS

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.

ATOSSA

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.

GHOST OF DARIUS

By pestilence, or faction’s furious storms?

ATOSSA

Not so: near Athens perish’d all our troops.

GHOST OF DARIUS

Say, of my sons, which led the forces thither?

ATOSSA

The impetuous Xerxes, thinning all the land.

GHOST OF DARIUS

By sea or land dared he this rash attempt?

ATOSSA

By both: a double front the war presented.

GHOST OF DARIUS

A host so vast what march conducted o’er?

ATOSSA

From shore to shore he bridged the Hellespont.

GHOST OF DARIUS

What! could he chain the mighty Bosphorus?

ATOSSA

Ev’n so, some god assisting his design.

GHOST OF DARIUS

Some god of power to cloud his better sense.

ATOSSA

The event now shows what mischiefs he achieved.

GHOST OF DARIUS

What suffer’d they, for whom your sorrows flow?

ATOSSA

His navy sunk spreads ruin through the camp.

GHOST OF DARIUS

Fell all his host beneath the slaught’ring spear?

ATOSSA

Susa, through all her streets, mourns her lost sons.

GHOST OF DARIUS

How vain the succour, the defence of arms?

ATOSSA

In Bactra age and grief are only left.

GHOST OF DARIUS

Ah, what a train of warlike youth is lost!

ATOSSA

Xerxes, astonished, desolate, alone-

GHOST OF DARIUS

How will this end? Nay, pause not. Is he safe?

ATOSSA

Fled o’er the bridge, that join’d the adverse strands.

GHOST OF DARIUS

And reach’d this shore in safety? Is this true?

ATOSSA

True are thy words, and not to be gainsay’d.

GHOST OF DARIUS

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