High thanks, my children, unto Argos con,
And to this folk, as to Olympian gods,
Give offerings meet of sacrifice and wine;
For saviours are they in good sooth to you.
From me they heard, and bitter was their wrath,
How those your kinsmen strove to work you wrong,
And how of us were thwarted: then to me
This company of spearmen did they grant,
That honoured I might walk, nor unaware
Die by some secret thrust and on this land
Bring down the curse of death, that dieth not.
Such boons they gave me: it behoves me pay
A deeper reverence from a soul sincere.
Ye, to the many words of wariness
Spoken by me your father, add this word,
That, tried by time, our unknown company
Be held for honest: over-swift are tongues
To slander strangers, over-light is speech
To bring pollution on a stranger’s name.
Therefore I rede you, bring no shame on me
Now when man’s eye beholds your maiden prime.
Lovely is beauty’s ripening harvest-field,
But ill to guard; and men and beasts, I wot,
And birds and creeping things make prey of it.
And when the fruit is ripe for love, the voice
Of Aphrodite bruiteth it abroad,
The while she guards the yet unripened growth.
On the fair richness of a maiden’s bloom
Each passer looks, o’ercome with strong desire,
With eyes that waft the wistful dart of love.
Then be not such our hap, whose livelong toil
Did make our pinnace plough the mighty main:
Nor bring we shame upon ourselves, and joy
Unto my foes. Behold, a twofold home-
One of the king’s and one the people’s gift-
Unbought, ’tis yours to hold,-a gracious boon.
Go-but remember ye your sire’s behest,
And hold your life less dear than chastity.
The gods above grant that all else be well.
But fear not thou, O sire, lest aught befal
Of ill unto our ripened maidenhood.
So long as Heaven have no new ill devised,
From its chaste path my spirit shall not swerve.
Yet not in scorn we chant, but in honour of Aphrodite;
She truly and Hera alone have power with Zeus and control.
Holy the deeds of her rite, her craft is secret and mighty,
And high is her honour on earth, and subtle her sway of the soul.
Yea, and her child is Desire: in the train of his mother he goeth-
Yea and Persuasion soft-lipped, whom none can deny or repel:
Cometh Harmonia too, on whom Aphrodite bestoweth
The whispering parley, the paths of the rapture that lovers love well.
Ah, but I tremble and quake lest again they should sail to reclaim!
Alas for the sorrow to come, the blood and the carnage of war.
Ah, by whose will was it done that o’er the wide ocean they came,
Guided by favouring winds, and wafted by sail and by oar?
Peace! for what Fate hath ordained will surely not tarry but come;
Wide is the counsel of Zeus, by no man escaped or withstood:
Only I pray that whate’er, in the end, of this wedlock he doom,
We, as many a maiden of old, may win from the ill to the good.
Come what come may, ’tis Fate’s decree.
Soft is thy word-the doom is hard.
Thou know’st not what the Fates provide.
Pray thou no word of omen ill.
What timely warning wouldst thou teach?
Beware, nor slight the gods in speech.
Zeus, hold from my body the wedlock detested, the bridegroom abhorred!
It was thou, it was thou didst release
Mine ancestress Io from sorrow: thine healing it was that restored,
The touch of thine hand gave her peace.
Be thy will for the cause of the maidens! of two ills, the lesser
The exile that leaveth me pure.
May thy justice have heed to my cause, my prayers to thy mercy find way!
For the hands of thy saving are sure.