Out! I command you. Out from this my home- Haste, tarry not! Out from the mystic shrine, Lest thy lot be to take into thy breast The winged bright dart that from my golden string Speeds hissing as a snake,-lest, pierced and thrilled With agony, thou shouldst spew forth again Black frothy heart’s-blood, drawn from mortal men, Belching the gory clots sucked forth from wounds. These be no halls where such as you can prowl- Go where men lay on men the doom of blood, Heads lopped from necks, eyes from their spheres plucked out, Hacked flesh, the flower of youthful seed crushed out, Feet hewn away, and hands, and death beneath The smiting stone, low moans and piteous Of men impaled-Hark, hear ye for what feast Ye hanker ever, and the loathing gods Do spit upon your craving? Lo, your shape Is all too fitted to your greed; the cave Where lurks some lion, lapping gore, were home More meet for you. Avaunt from sacred shrines, Nor bring pollution by your touch on all That nears yuu. Hence! and roam unshepherded- No god there is to tend such herd as you.
How? stretch thy speech to tell this, and have done.
Thine oracle bade this man slay his mother.
I bade him quit his sire’s death,-wherefore not?
Then didst thou aid and guard red-handed crime.
Yea, and I bade him to this temple flee.
And yet forsooth dost chide us following him!,
Ay-not for you it is, to near this fane.
Yet is such office ours, imposed by fate.
What office? vaunt the thing ye deem so fair.
From home to home we chase the matricide.
What? to avenge a wife who slays her lord?
That is not blood outpoured by kindred hands.
How darkly ye dishonour and annul The troth to which the high accomplishers, Hera and Zeus, do honour. Yea, and thus Is Aphrodite to dishonour cast, The queen of rapture unto mortal men. Know, that above the marriage-bed ordained For man and woman staddeth Right as guard, Enhancing sanctity of trothplight sworn; Therefore, if thou art placable to those Who have their consort slain, nor will’st to turn On them the eye of wrath, unjust art thou In hounding to his doom the man who slew His mother. Lo, I know thee full of wrath Against one deed, but all too placable Unto the other, minishing the crime. But in this cause shall Pallas guard the right.
Deem not my quest shall ever quit that man.
Follow then, make thee, double toil in vain
Think not by speech mine office to curtail.
None hast thou, that I would accept of thee!
Look on me, queen Athena; lo, I come By Loxias’ behest; thou of thy grace Receive me, driven of avenging powers- Not now a red-hand slayer unannealed, But with guilt fading, half-effaced, outworn On many homes and paths of mortal men. For to the limit of each land, each sea, I roamed, obedient to Apollo’s best, And come at last, O Goddess, to thy fane, And clinging to thine image, bide my doom.
Ho! clear is here the trace of him we seek: Follow the track of blood, the silent sign! Like to some hound that hunts a wounded fawn, We snuff along the scent of dripping gore, And inwardly we pant, for many a day Toiling in chase that shall fordo the man; For o’er and o’er the wide land have I ranged, And o’er the wide sea, flying without wings, Swift as a sail I pressed upon his track, Who now hard by is crouching, well I wot, For scent of mortal blood allures me here.
Follow, seek him-round and round Scent and snuff and scan the ground, Lest unharmed he slip away, He who did his mother slay! Hist-he is there! See him his arms entwine Around the image of the maid divine- Thus aided, for the deed he wrought Unto the judgment wills he to be brought. It may not be! a mother’s blood, poured forth Upon the stained earth, None gathers up: it lies-bear witness, Hell!- For aye indelible And thou who sheddest it shalt give thine own That shedding to atone! Yea, from thy living limbs I suck it out, Red, clotted, gout by gout,- A draught abhorred of men and gods; but Will drain it, suck thee dry; Yea, I will waste thee living, nerve and vein; Yea, for thy mother slain, Will drag thee downward, there where thou shalt dree The weird of agony! And thou and whosoe’er of men hath sinned- Hath wronged or God, or friend, Or parent,-learn ye how to all and each The arm of doom can reach! Sternly requiteth, in the world beneath, The judgment-seat of Death; Yea, Death, beholding every man’s endeavour, Recordeth it for ever.
I, schooled in many miseries, have learnt How many refuges of cleansing shrines And when imposeth silence. Lo, I stand Fixed now to speak, for he whose word is wise Commands the same. Look, how the stain of blood Is dull upon mine hand and wastes away, And laved and lost therewith is the deep curse Of matricide; for while the guilt was new, ‘Twas banished from me at Apollo’s hearth, Atoned and purified by death of swine. Long were my word if I should sum the tale, How oft since then among my fellow-men I stood and brought no curse. Time cleanses all- Time, the coeval of all things that are. Now from pure lips, in words of omen fair, I call Athena, lady of this land, To come, my champion: so, in aftertime, She shall not fail of love and service leal, Not won by war, from me and from my land And all the folk of Argos, vowed to her. Now, be she far away in Libyan land Where flows from Triton’s lake her natal wave,- Stand she with planted feet, or in some hour Of rest conceal them, champion of her friends Where’er she be,-Or whether o’er the plain Phlegraean she look forth, as warrior bold- I cry to her to come, where’er she be, (And she, as goddess, from afar can hear) And aid and free me, set among my foes.
Thee not Apollo nor Athena’s strength Can save from perishing, a castaway Amid the Lost, where no delight shall meet Thy soul-a bloodless prey of nether powers, A shadow among shadows. Answerest thou Nothing? dost cast away my words with scorn, Thou, prey prepared and dedicate to me? Not as a victim slain upon the shrine, But living shalt thou see thy flesh my food. Hear now the binding chant that makes thee mine.
Weave the weird dance,-behold the hour To utter forth the chant of hell, Our sway among mankind to tell, The guidance of our power. Of justice are we ministers, And whosoe’er of men may stand Lifting a pure unsullied hand, That man no doom of ours incurs, And walks thro’ all his mortal path Untouched by woe, unharmed by wrath. But if, as yonder man, he hath Blood on the hands he strives to hide, We stand avengers at his side, Decreeing, Thou hast wronged the dead: We are doom’s witnesses to thee. The price of blood, his hands have shed, We wring from him; in life, in death, Hard at his side are we!Night, Mother Night, who brought me forth, a torment To living men and dead, Hear me, O hear! by Leto’s stripling son I am dishonoured: He hath ta’en from me him who cowers in refuge, To me made consecrates- A rightful victim, him who slew his mother, Given o’er to me and fate.Hear the hymn of hell, O’er the victim sounding,- Chant of frenzy, chant of ill, Sense and will confounding! Round the soul entwining Without lute or lyre- Soul in madness pining, Wasting as with fire!Fate, all-pervading Fate, this service spun, commanding That I should bide therein: Whosoe’er of mortals, made perverse and lawless, Is stained with blood of kin, By his side are we, and hunt him ever onward, Till to the Silent Land, The realm of death, he cometh; neither yonder In freedom shall he stand.
Hear the hymn of hell, O’er the victim sounding,- Chant of frenzy, chant of ill, Sense and will confounding! Round the soul entwining Without lute or lyre- Soul in madness pining, Wasting as with fire!
Eumenides By Aeschylus