OLD MAN Aye, that will I; but wnat is thy scheme for slaying thy
ELECTRA Go, old man, and tell Clytemnestra from me that I have given
birth to a son.
OLD MAN Suppose it done; but how doth this help towards slaying thy
ELECTRA Why then it were a little thing to turn her steps into the
road to Hades’ halls.
OLD MAN Aye, that I will, so that she shall think the very words
ELECTRA (to ORESTES) Thy work begins at once; thou hast drawn the
first lot in the tragedy.
ORESTES O Zeus, god of my fathers, vanquisher of my foes, have pity
on us, for a piteous lot has ours been.
ORESTES O Hera, mistress of Mycenae’s altars, grant us the victory,
if we are asking what is right.
ORESTES Thou too, my father, sent to the land of shades by wicked
hands, and Earth, the queen of all, to whom I spread my suppliant
palms, up and champion thy dear children. Come with all the dead to
aid, all they who helped thee break the Phrygians’ power, and all
who hate ungodly crime. Dost hear me, father, victim of my mother’s
ELECTRA Sure am I he heareth all; but ’tis time to part. For this
cause too I bid thee strike Aegisthus down, because, if thou fall
in the struggle and perish, I also die; no longer number me amongst
the living; for I will stab myself with a two-edged sword. And now
will I go indoors and make all ready there, for, if there come good
news from thee, my house shall ring with women’s cries of joy; but,
if thou art slain, a different scene must then ensue. These are my
instructions to thee.
ORESTES I know my lesson well. (ORESTES, PYLADES, the OLD MAN, and
ELECTRA Then show thyself a man. And you, my friends, signal to me
by cries the certain issue of this fray. Myself will keep the sword
ready in my grasp, for I will never accept defeat, and yield my body
to my enemies to insult. (ELECTRA goes into the hut.)
Still the story finds a place in time-honoured legends, how on day
Pan, the steward of husbandry, came breathing dulcet music on his
jointed pipe, and brought with him from its tender dam on Argive hills,
a beauteous lamb with fleece of gold; then stood a herald high upon
the rock and cried aloud, “Away to the place of assembly, ye folk
of Mycenae! to behold the strange and awful sight vouchsafed to our
blest rulers.” Anon the dancers did obeisance to the family of Atreus;
The altar-steps of beaten gold were draped; and through that Argive
town the altars blazed with fire; sweetly rose the lute’s clear note,
the handmaid of the Muse’s song; and ballads fair were written on
the golden lamb, saying that Thyestes had the luck; for he won the
guilty love of the wife of Atreus, and carried off to his house the
strange creature, and then coming before the assembled folk he declared
to them that he had in his house that horned beast with fleece of
In the self-same hour it was that Zeus changed the radiant courses
of the stars, the light of the sun, and the joyous face of dawn, and
drave his car athwart the western sky with fervent heat from heaven’s
fires, while northward fled the rain-clouds, and Ammon’s strand grew
parched and faint and void of dew, when it was robbed of heaven’s
‘Tis said, though I can scarce believe it, the sun turned round his
glowing throne of gold, to vex the sons of men by this change because
of the quarrel amongst them. Still, tales of horror have their use
in making men regard the gods; of whom thou hadst no thought, when
thou slewest thy husband, thou mother of this noble pair.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Hark! my friends, did ye hear that noise, like
to the rumbling of an earthquake, or am I the dupe of idle fancy?
Hark! hark! once more that wind-borne sound swells loudly on mine
ear. Electra! mistress mine! come forth from the house!
ELECTRA (rushing out) What is it, good friends? how goes the day
LEADER They will come in time; to slay a king is no light task.
(A MESSENGER enters in haste.)