And now have I roamed back
Unto the ancient track
Where Io roamed and pastured among flowers,
Watched o’er by Argus’ eyes,
Through the lush grasses and the meadow bowers.
Thence, by the gadfly maddened, forth she flies
Unto far lands and alien peoples driven
And, following fate, through paths of foam and surge,
Sees, as she goes, the cleaving strait divide
Greece, from the Eastland riven.
And swift through Asian borders doth she urge
Her course, o’er Phrygian mountains’ sheep-clipt side;
Thence, where the Mysian realm of Teuthras lies,
Towards Lydian lowlands hies,
And o’er Cilician and Pamphylian hills
And ever-flowing rills,
And thence to Aphrodite’s fertile shore,
The land of garnered wheat and wealthy store.
And thence, deep-stung by wild unrest,
By the winged fly that goaded her and drave,
Unto the fertile land, the god-possest
(Where, fed from far-off snows,
Life-giving Nilus flows,
Urged on by Typho’s strength, a fertilizing wave),
She roves, in harassed and dishonoured flight,
Scathed by the blasting pangs of Hera’s dread despite.
Zeus, lord of time eterne.
Yea, by his breath divine, by his unscathing strength,
She lays aside her bane,
And softened back to womanhood at length
Sheds human tears again.
Then, quickened with Zeus’ veritable seed,
A progeny she bare,
A stainless babe, a child of heavenly breed.
Unto what other one,
Of all the gods, should I for justice turn?
From him our race did spring;
Creator he and King,
Ancient of days and wisdom he, and might.
As bark before the wind,
So, wafted by his mind,
Moves every counsel, each device aright.
With one assent the Argives spake their will,
And, hearing, my old heart took youthful cheer.
The very sky was thrilled when high in air
The concourse raised right hands and swore their oath:-
Free shall the maidens sojourn in this land.
Unharried, undespoiled by mortal wight:
No native hand, no hand of foreigner
Shall drag them hence; if any man use force-
Whoe’er of all our countrymen shall fail
To come unto their aid, let him go forth,
Beneath the people’s curse, to banishment.
So did the king of this Pelasgian folk
Plead on behalf of us, and bade them heed
That never, in the after-time, this realm
Should feed to fulness the great enmity
Of Zeus, the suppliants’ guard, against itself!
A twofold curse, for wronging stranger-guests
Who are akin withal, confrontingly
Should rise before this city and be shown
A ruthless monster, fed on human doom.
Such things the Argive people heard, and straight,
Without proclaim of herald, gave assent:
Yea, in full conclave, the Pelasgian folk
Heard suasive pleas, and Zeus through them resolved.
Arouse we now to chant our prayer
For fair return of service fair
And Argos’ kindly will.
Zeus, lord of guestright, look upon
The grace our stranger lips have won.
In right and truth, as they begun,
Guide them, with favouring hand, until
Thou dost their blameless wish fulfil!
Now may the Zeus-born gods on high
Hear us pour forth
A votive prayer for Argos’ clan!-
Never may this Pelasgian earth,
Amid the fire-wrack, shrill the dismal cry
On Ares, ravening lord of fight,
Who in an alien harvest mows down man!
For lo, this land had pity on our plight,
And unto us were merciful and leal,
To us, the piteous flock, who at Zeus’ altar kneel!
They scorned not the pleas of maidenhood,
Nor with the young men’s will hath their will stood.
They knew right well
Th’ unearthly watching fiend invincible,
The foul avenger-let him not draw near!
For he, on roofs ill-starred,
Defiling and polluting, keeps a ghastly ward!
They knew his vengeance, and took holy heed
To us, the sister suppliants, who cry
To Zeus, the lord of purity:
Therefore with altars pure they shall the gods revere.
Thus, through the boughs that shade our lips, fly forth in air,
Fly forth, O eager prayer!
May never pestilence efface
This city’s race,
Nor be the land with corpses strewed,
Nor stained with civic blood!
The stem of youth, unpluckt, to manhood come,
Nor Ares rise from Aphrodite’s bower,
The lord of death and bane, to waste our youthful flower.
Long may the old
Crowd to the altars kindled to consume
Gifts rich and manifold-
Offered to win from powers divine
A benison on city and on shrine:
Let all the sacred might adore
Of Zeus most high, the lord
Of guestright and the hospitable board,
Whose immemorial law doth rule Fate’s scales aright:
The garners of earth’s store
Be full for evermore,
And grace of Artemis make women’s travail light;
No devastating curse of fell disease
This city seize;
No clamour of the State arouse to war
Ares, from whom afar
Shrinketh the lute, by whom the dances fail-
Ares, the lord of wail.
Swarm far aloof from Argos’ citizens
All plague and pestilence,
And may the Archer-God our children spare!
May Zeus with foison and with fruitfulness
The land’s each season bless,
And, quickened with Heaven’s bounty manifold,
Teem grazing flock and fold.
Beside the altars of Heaven’s hallowing
Loud let the minstrels sing,
And from pure lips float forth the harp-led strain in air!
And let the people’s voice, the power
That sways the State, in danger’s hour
Be wary, wise for all;
Nor honour in dishonour hold,
But-ere the voice of war be bold-
Let them to stranger peoples grant
Fair and unbloody covenant-
Justice and peace withal;
And to the Argive powers divine
The sacrifice of laurelled kine,
By rite ancestral, pay.
Among three words of power and awe,
Stands this, the third, the mighty law-
Your gods, your fathers deified,
Ye shall adore. Let this abide
For ever and for aye.
Dear children, well and wisely have ye prayed;
I bid you now not shudder, though ye hear
New and alarming tidings from your sire.
From this high place beside the suppliants’ shrine
The bark of our pursuers I behold,
By divers tokens recognized too well.
Lo, the spread canvas and the hides that screen
The gunwale; lo, the prow, with painted eyes
That seem her onward pathway to descry,
Heeding too well the rudder at the stern
That rules her, coming for no friendly end.
And look, the seamen-all too plain their race-
Their dark limbs gleam from out their snow-white garb;
Plain too the other barks, a fleet that comes
All swift to aid the purpose of the first,
That now, with furled sail and with pulse of oars
Which smite the wave together, comes aland.
But ye, be calm, and, schooled not scared by fear,
Confront this chance, be mindful of your trust
In these protecting gods. And I will hence,
And champions who shall plead your cause aright
Will bring unto your side. There come perchance
Heralds or envoys, eager to lay hand
And drag you captive hence; yet fear them not;
Foiled shall they be. Yet well it were for you
(If, ere with aid I come, I tarry long)
Not by one step this sanctuary to leave.
Farewell, fear nought: soon shall the hour be born
When he that scorns the gods shall rue his scorn.