Take this pitcher from my head, put it down, that I may wake betimes,
while it is yet night, my lamentation for my sire, my doleful chant,
my dirge of death, for thee, my father in thy grave, which day by
day I do rehearse, rending my skin with my nails, and smiting on my
shaven head in mourning for thy death. Woe, woe! rend the cheek; like
a swan with clear loud note beside the brimming river calling to its
parent dear that lies a-dying in the meshes of the crafty net, so
I bewail thee, my hapless sire,
After that last fatal bath of thine laid out most piteously in death.
Oh I the horror of that axe which hacked thee so cruelly, my sire
I oh! the bitter thought that prompted thy return from Troy! With
no garlands or victor’s crowns did thy wife welcome thee, but with
his two-edged sword she made thee the sad sport of Aegisthus and kept
her treacherous paramour. (The CHORUS OF ARGIVE COUNTRY-WOMEN enter.
The following lines between ELECTRA and the CHORUS are sung responsively.)
O Electra, daughter of Agamemnon, to thy rustic cot I come, for a
messenger hath arrived, a highlander from Mycenae, one who lives on
milk, announcing that the Argives are proclaiming a sacrifice for
the third day from now, and all our maidens are to go to Hera’s temple.
ELECTRA Kind friends, my heart is not set on festivity, nor do necklaces
of gold cause any flutter in my sorrowing bosom, nor will I stand
up with the maidens of Argos to beat my foot in the mazy dance. Tears
have been my meat day and night; ah misery! See my unkempt hair, my
tattered dress; are they fit for a princess, a daughter of Agamemnon,
or for Troy which once thought of my father as its captor?
Mighty is the goddess; so come, and borrow of me broidered robes
for apparel and jewels of gold that add a further grace to beauty’s
charms. Dost think to triumph o’er thy foes by tears, if thou honour
not the gods? ‘Tis not by lamentation but by pious prayers to heaved
that thou, my daughter, wilt make fortune smile on thee.
ELECTRA No god hearkens to the voice of lost Electra, or heeds the
sacrifices offered by my father long ago. Ah woe for the dead! woe
for the living wanderer, who dwelleth in some foreign land, an outcast
and vagabond at a menial board, sprung though he is of a famous sire!
Myself, too, in a poor man’s hut do dwell, wasting my soul with grief,
an exile from my father’s halls, here by the scarred hill-side; while
my mother is wedded to a new husband in a marriage stained by blood.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Many a woe to Hellas and thy house did Helen,
thy mother’s sister, cause.
ELECTRA (catching sight of ORESTES AND PYLADES) Ha! Friends, I break
off my lament; yonder are strangers just leaving the place of ambush
where they were couching, and making for the house. We must seek to
escape the villains by flying, thou along the path and I into my cottage.
ELECTRA How is it then thou waylayest me, sword in hand, near my
ELECTRA Here I stand; I am in thy power in any case, since thou art
ORESTES His ruined life does not conform to the customs of any one
ELECTRA He is not the man to whom my father ever thought of betrothing
ELECTRA Poor he is, yet he displays a generous consideration for
ELECTRA He does not recognize the right of him who disposed of my