antistrophe 3

Be near us, protect us, and show that the city is dear in your sight! 
Have heed for her sacrifice holy, and thought of her offerings take, 
Forget not her love and her worship, be near her and smite for her sake!

ETEOCLES and his retinue re-enter.
ETEOCLES addressing the CHORUS

Hark to my question, things detestable! 
Is this aright and for the city’s weal, 
And helpful to our army thus beset, 
That ye before the statues of our gods 
Should fling yourselves, and scream and shriek your fears? 
Immodest, uncontrolled! Be this my lot- 
Never in troublous nor in peaceful days 
To dwell with aught that wears a female form! 
Where womankind has power, no man can house, 
Where womankind feeds panic, ruin rules 
Alike in house and city! Look you now- 
Your flying feet, and rumour of your fears, 
Have spread a soulless panic on our walls, 
And they without do go from strength to strength, 
And we within make breach upon ourselves! 
Such fate it brings, to house with womankind. 
Therefore if any shall resist my rule 
Or man, or woman, or some sexless thing- 
The vote of sentence shall decide their doom, 
And stones of execution, past escape, 
Shall finish all. Let not a woman’s voice 
Be loud in council! for the things without, 
A man must care; let women keep within- 
Even then is mischief all too probable! 
Hear ye? or speak I to unheeding ears?

CHORUS chanting

Ah, but I shudder, child of Oedipus! 
I heard the clash and clang! 
The axles rolled and rumbled; woe to us, 
Fire-welded bridles rang! 
Say-when a ship is strained and deep in brine, 
Did eer a seaman mend his chance, who left 
The helm, t’ invoke the image at the prow?

CHORUS chanting

Ah, but I fled to the shrines, I called to our helpers on high, 
When the stone-shower roared at the portals! 
I sped to the temples aloft, and loud was my call and my cry, 
Look down and deliver, Immortals!

ETEOCLES

Ay, pray amain that stone may vanquish steel! 
Where not that grace of gods? ay, ay-methinks, 
When cities fall, the gods go forth from them!

CHORUS chanting

Ah, let me die, or ever I behold 
The gods go forth, in conflagration dire! 
The foemen’s rush and raid, and all our hold 
Wrapt in the burning fire!

ETEOCLES

Cry not on Heaven, in impotent debate! 
What saith the saw?-Good saving Strength, in verity, 
Out of Obedience breeds the babe Prosperity.

CHORUS chanting

‘Tis true: yet stronger is the power divine, 
And oft, when man’s estate is overbowed 
With bitter pangs, disperses from his eyne 
The heavy, hanging cloud!

ETEOCLES

Let men with sacrifice and augury 
Approach the gods, when comes the tug of war: 
Alaids must be silent and abide within.

CHORUS chanting

By grace of the gods we hold it, a city untamed of the spear, 
And the battlement wards from the wall the foe and his aspect of fear! 
What need of displeasure herein?

ETEOCLES

Ay, pay thy vows to Heaven; I grudge them not, 
But-so thou strike no fear into our men- 
Have calm at heart, nor be too much afraid. 
Alack, it is fresh in mine ears, the clamour and crash of the fray, 
And up to our holiest height I sped on my timorous way, 
Bewildered, beset by the din!

ETEOCLES

Now, if ye hear the bruit of death or wounds, 
Give not yourselves o’ermuch to shriek and scream, 
For Ares ravins upon human flesh.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

Ah, but the snorting of the steeds I hear!

ETEOCLES

Then, if thou hearest, hear them not too well

LEADER

Hark, the earth rumbles, as they close us round!

ETEOCLES

Enough if I am here, with plans prepared.

LEADER

Alack, the battering at the gates is loud!

ETEOCLES

Peace! stay your tongue, or else the town may hear!

LEADER

O warders of the walls, betray them not!

ETEOCLES

Beshrew your cries! in silence face your fate.

LEADER

Gods of our city, see me not enslaved!

ETEOCLES

On me, on all, thy cries bring slavery.

LEADER

Zeus, strong to smite, turn upon foes thy blow!

ETEOCLES

Zeus, what a curse are women, wrought by thee!

LEADER

Weak wretches, even as men, when cities fall. 
What! clasping gods, yet voicing thy despair?

LEADER

In the sick heart, fear maketh prey of speech.

ETEOCLES

Light is the thing I ask thee-do my will!

LEADER

Ask swiftly: swiftly shall I know my power.

ETEOCLES

Silence, weak wretch! nor put thy friends in fear.

LEADER

I speak no more: the general fate be mine!

ETEOCLES

I take that word as wiser than the rest. 
Nay, more: these images possess thy will- 
Pray, in their strength, that Heaven be on our side! 
Then hear my prayers withal, and then ring out 
The female triumph-note, thy privilege- 
Yea, utter forth the usage Hellas knows, 
The cry beside the altars, sounding clear 
Encouragement to friends, alarm to foes. 
But I unto all gods that guard our walls, 
Lords of the plain or warders of the mart 
And to Ismenus’ stream and Dirce’s rills, 
I swear, if Fortune smiles and saves our town, 
That we will make our altars reek with blood 
Of sheep and kine, shed forth unto the gods, 
And with victorious tokens front our fanes- 
Corslets and casques that once our foemen wore, 
Spear-shattered now-to deck these holy homes! 
Be such thy vows to Heaven-away with sighs, 
Away with outcry vain and barbarous, 
That shall avail not, in a general doom! 
But I will back, and, with six chosen men 
Myself the seventh, to confront the foe 
In this great aspect of a poised war, 
Return and plant them at the sevenfold gates, 
Or e’er the prompt and clamorous battle-scouts 
Haste to inflame our counsel with the need.

ETEOCLES and his retinue go out.
CHORUS singing

strophe 1

I mark his words, yet, dark and deep, 
My heart’s alarm forbiddeth sleep! 
Close-clinging cares around my soul 
Enkindle fears beyond control, 
Presageful of what doom may fall 
From the great leaguer of the wall! 
So a poor dove is faint with fear 
For her weak nestlings, while anew 
Glides on the snaky ravisher! 
In troop and squadron, hand on hand, 
They climb and throng, and hemmed we stand, 
While on the warders of our town 
The flinty shower comes hurtling down! 
Gods born of Zeus! put forth your might 
For Cadmus’ city, realm, and right!

antistrophe 1

What nobler land shall e’er be yours, 
If once ye give to hostile powers 
The deep rich soil, and Dirce’s wave, 
The nursing stream, Poseidon gave 
And Tethys’ children? Up and save! 
Cast on the ranks that hem us round 
A deadly panic, make them fling 
Their arms in terror on the ground, 
And die in carnage! thence shall spring 
High honour for our clan and king! 
Come at our wailing cry, and stand 
As throned sentries of our land!

strophe 2

For pity and sorrow it were that this immemorial town 
Should sink to be slave of the spear, to dust and to ashes gone down, 
By the gods of Achaean worship and arms of Achaean might 
Sacked and defiled and dishonoured, its women the prize of the fight- 
That, haled by the hair as a steed, their mantles dishevelled and torn, 
The maiden and matron alike should pass to the wedlock of scorn! 
I hear it arise from the city, the manifold wail of despair- 
Woe, woe for the doom that shall be-as in grasp of the foeman they fare!

antistrophe 2

For a woe and a weeping it is, if the maiden inviolate flower 
Is plucked by the foe in his might, not culled in the bridal bower! 
Alas for the hate and the horror-how say it?-less hateful by far 
Is the doom to be slain by the sword, hewn down in the carnage of war! 
For wide, ah! wide is the woe when the foeman has mounted the wall; 
There is havoc and terror and flame, and the dark smoke broods over all, 
And wild is the war-god’s breath, as in frenzy of conquest he springs, 
And pollutes with the blast of his lips the glory of holiest things! 

strophe 3

Up to the citadel rise clash and din, 
The war-net closes in, 
The spear is in the heart: with blood imbrued 
Young mothers wail aloud, 
For children at their breast who scream and die! 
And boys and maidens fly, 
Yet scape not the pursuer, in his greed 
To thrust and grasp and feed! 
Robber with robber joins, each calls his mate 
Unto the feast of hate- 
The banquet, lo! is spread-seize, rend, and tear! 
No need to choose or share!
The Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus