ORESTES Oh! take and hide our mother’s corpse beneath a pall, and
close her gaping wound. (Turning to the corpse) Ah! thy murderers
were thine own children.
ELECTRA (covering the corpse) There! thou corpse both loved and
loathed; still o’er thee I cast robe, to end the grievous troubles
of our house.
CHORUS See! where o’er the roof-top spirits are appearing, or gods
maybe from heaven, for this is not a road that mortals tread. Why
come they thus where mortal eyes can see them clearly? (THE DIOSCURI
appear from above.)
DIOSCURI Hearken, son of Agamemnon. We, the twin sons of Zeus, thy
mother’s sisters, call thee, even Castor and his brother Polydeuces.
‘Tis but now we have reached Argos after stilling the fury of the
sea for mariners, having seen the slaying of our sister, thy mother.
She hath received her just reward, but thine is no righteous act,
and Phoebus-but no! he is my king, my lips are sealed-is Phoebus still,
albeit the oracle he gave thee was no great proof of his wsdom. But
we must acquiesce herein. Henceforth must thou follow what Zeus and
destiny ordain for thee. On Pylades bestow Electra for his wife to
take unto his home; do thou leave Argos, for after thy mother’s murder
thou mayst not set foot in the city. And those grim goddesses of doom,
that glare like savage hounds, will drive thee mad and chase thee
to and fro; but go thou to Athens and make thy prayer to the holy
image of Pallas, for she will close their fierce serpents’ mouths,
so that they touch thee not, holding o’er thy head her aegis with
the Gorgon’s head. A hill there is, to Ares sacred, where first the
gods in conclave sat to decide the law of blood, in the day that savage
Ares slew Halirrothius, son of the ocean-king, in anger for the violence
he offered to his daughter’s honour; from that time all decisions
given there are most holy and have heaven’s sanction. There must thou
have this murder tried; and if equal votes are given, they shall save
thee from death in the decision, for Loxias will take the blame upon
himself, since it was his oracle that advised thy mother’s murder.
And this shall be the law for all posterity; in every trial the accused
shall win his case if the votes are equal. Then shall those dread
goddesses, stricken with grief at this, vanish into a cleft of the
earth close to the hill, revered by men henceforth as a place for
holy oracles; whilst thou must settle in a city of Arcadia on the
banks of the river Alpheus near the shrine of Lycaean Apollo, and
the city shall be called after thy name. To thee I say this. As for
the corpse of Aegisthus, the citizens of Argos must give it burial;
but Menelaus, who has just arrived at Nauplia from the sack of Troy,
shall bury the, mother, Helen helping him; for she hath come from
her sojourn in Egypt in the halls of Proteus, and hath never been
to Troy; but Zeus, to stir up strife and bloodshed in the world, sent
forth a phantom of Helen to Ilium. Now let Pylades take his maiden
wife and bear her to his home in Achaea; also he must conduct thy
so-called kinsman to the land of Phocis, and there reward him well.
But go thyself along the narrow Isthmus, and seek Cecropia’s happy
home. For once thou hast fulfilled the doom appointed for this murder,
thou shalt be blest and free from all thy troubles. (The remaining
lines of the play are chanted.)
CHORUS How was it that ye, the brothers of the murdered woman, gods
too, did not ward the doom-goddesses from her roof?
DIOSCURI ‘Twas fate that brought resistless doom to her, and that
thoughtless oracle that Phoebus gave.
ELECTRA But why did the god, and wherefore did his oracles make me
my mother’s murderer?
DIOSCURI A share in the deed, a share in its doom; one ancestral
curse hath ruined both of you.
ORESTES Ah, sister mine! at last I see thee again only to be robbed
in moment of thy dear love; I must leave thee, and by thee be left.
DIOSCURI Hers are a husband and a home; her only suffering this,
that she is quitting Argos.
ORESTES Yet what could call forth deeper grief than exile from one’s
fatherland? I must leave my father’s house, and at a stranger’s bar
he sentenced for my mother’s blood.
DIOSCURI Be of good cheer; go to the holy town of Pallas; keep a
stout heart only.
ELECTRA O my brother, best and dearest! clasp me to thy breast; for
now is the curse of our mother’s blood cutting us off from the home
of our fathers.
ORESTES Throw thy arms in close embrace about me. Oh! weep as o’er
my grave when I am dead.
DIOSCURI Ah me, that bitter cry makes even gods shudder to hear.
Yea, for in my breast and in every heavenly being’s dwells pity for
the sorrows of mankind.
ELECTRA Farewell, farewell, my city! and ye my fellow-countrywomen,
long farewell to you!
DIOSCURI Their only thoughts will be their marriage; but haste thee
to Athens, seeking to escape these hounds of hell, for they are on
thy track in fearful wise, swart monsters, with snakes for hands,
who reap a harvest of man’s agony. But we twain must haste away o’er
the Sicilian main to save the seaman’s ship. Yet as we fly through
heaven’s expanse we help not the wicked; but whoso in his life loves
piety and justice, all such we free from troublous toils and save.
Wherefore let no man be minded to act unjustly, or with men foresworn
set sail; such the warning I, a god, to mortals give. (THE DIOSCURI
CHORUS Farewell! truly that mortal’s is a happy lot, who can thus
fare, unafflicted by any woe.