« PreviousContinue »
She is herself his net, who drew sweet breath
Upon his pillow, now his murderess-mate ;
Howl, treason ! o'er this victim of his fate,
One of the death-doom'd race, “ fall’n from his high estate !" Chorus. What fury dost thou bid
To lift her voice aloud, that all the house
Re-echoes to the sound?
Her speech does trouble me,
The blood runs back upon my heart,
A saffron paleness sits upon my cheek,
As when the glimmering eyeballs fail in death.
Some new misfortune is at hand.
Keep back the heifer from the bull ! wo, wo!
She takes him in the snaring vesture's fold,
And with her lifted engine smites: behold!
He falls within the font: I tell to thee
The font's deceit and slaughterous tragedy !
Chorus. I boast not to attain the height
Of oracles, but liken them to evil.
What speech of good from oracles
Has ever reach'd the mortal ear?
From immemorial time
The arts of prophets bear
Dread and disaster to the mind.
Cassandra. Alas! alas! oh wretched, wretched fate !
Mine—1 deplore my own forlorn estate :
Why hast thou led ine hither, wretched maid !
Why—but that I may be to death betray'd?
Chorus. Thou art delirious: brainsick with the God
That sets thy senses thus upon the whirl ;
And from thy own imaginings
Utterest the veering strain
Ev’n as the tawny nightingale
From her sad pity-loving soul
With Itys, Itys, sobs away
Her life, that blossoms but with miseries.
Cassandra. Ah me! ah me! the nightingale's sweet lot!
A sweet existence that lamenteth not,
A body clothed with plumes the Gods have given :-
The two-edged falchion is my doom from heaven.
Chorus. Whence hast thou these thick fancies, rhapsodies,
These airy slaughters, and with voice,
Tuneful yet terrible,
Chantest thy boding numbers high and shrill ?
Whence hast thou thus the way
Of evil-omen'd prophecy?
Cassandra. Wedding of Paris ! wedding fraught with death!
Scamander, where I drew my wretched breath
And tasted infant's food !-alas for me!-
Now on Cocytus' banks, methinks, I prophesy.
Chorus. Nay—this thy speech pertaineth not to seers :
The babe new-born may hear and understand:
But bloody terror smites me, while she wails
Her hapless fortune and her many woes
That rend my wounded ear.
Cassandra. Oh heaven! oh heavenly powers ; how fierce a flame!
Help, Phæbus! Lycian Phæbus!-thrills my frame !
The biped lioness who makes her mate
The wolf, the generous lion gone, shall wait
To slay me, wretched that I am ! the wife
Now drugs the posset that shall quench my life,
As payment of her hate: against her lord,
Who bore me with him, proud she whets the sword.
Why do I wear these mockeries still? this rod,
And these neck-garlands of the prophet God?
Thus ere I die I cast you from me: torn
And trampled, hence! some other be your scorn!
Apollo's self has rent my robes aside:
Be witnesses, that foes and friends deride
The prophetess, in all her deck'd attire,
With mocks, how undeserved! I bore the shame,
The vagrant witch, the beggar-maniac's name.
At length the prophet God conducts his seer,
To end her course in deadly fortunes, here.
Mine the same altar where my father bled,
My steaming blood, like his, a victim's shed,
Not unavenged of heaven !he comes anon !
The mother-slaying, sire-avenging son,
A wandering bạnish'd man, returns to cheer
His friends, and higher heap this gory bier,
Revenging him unkindly prostrate here.
Yet wherefore as a native should I groan
For this land's ills, who saw the miseries of my own?
And see the foes that scaled our Ilium's towers
Fall thus, by judgment of heaven's righteous powers ?
On, and endure !-heaven has my oath ; and now
Hear, Oh ye gates of hell! accept my vow!
Let my life's blood ebb easily away,
And my closed eyes at once shut out the day!
Chorus. Oh most unhappy lady and too wise !
Thou draw'st thy words at length, when time seems pressing.
If thou indeed be conscious to thyself
Of thy own death approaching, wherefore thus
Rush, like a heaven-driven heifer, to the altar?
Cassandra. Strangers! I may no longer fly my fate.
Chorus. The latest time is best.
The day's at hand,
And flight were little gain.
Thou art most surely
Wretched, thus daring with a desperate mind.
Cassandra. The ear that hears thee is not of the happy.
Chorus. Mortals are favour'd by a death of honour.
Cassandra. Alas, for thee and thy brave race, my father !
Chorus. What now ?-What terror makes thee thus recoil ?
Cassandra. Ah me! ah me!
Why shrink'st thou in abhorrence ?
Cassandra. This dwelling breathes of blood.
Why doth the fume
Of hearth-slain victims thus affect thy sense?
Cassandra. An odour issues forth as out of graves..
Chorus. No Syrian perfume this thou tell'st us of.
Cassandra. No--for I mourn, within that mansion, mine
And Agamemnon's death. Suffice it now
That I have lived. O strangers! not from fear
Ye see me shrink, as the bird shuns the twig;
But that ye may bear witness when I'm dead,
When for a woman dead a woman dies,
And a man falls for an ill-mated man,
About to die I thus repay'd your welcome.
Chorus. Poor maid ! I mourn thy prophesied decease.
Cassandra. Yet ere I go, receive my last bequest,
And hear me chant my dirge: Oh Sun ! oh Sun!
Till thy last lingering light
I call upon thee! I invoke thee, Sun!
With others my avengers ! that at once
On these my hateful murderers ye avenge
A captive maiden, slain with easy conquest.
Oh mutable affairs of men !
Prosperous, a crossing shadow overturns
Their pride of place;
Adverse, a sponge obliterates their image :
This more than all of human change,
This utter desolation moves my pity.
Chorus. But the well-doer still
Has praise from mortal men;
On him who is the gaze of all the world
For virtue, none forbidding shuts the door.
Cross not the threshold with these boding ravings.
(Cassandra goes in.
The blessed Gods have granted him to take
The city of Priam ; home-return'd he comes,
Heaven-honour'd: but if now he is to rue
The blood he shed before, and die himself
For those who died, most heavy were th' atonement.
Who, when he hears the tale, shall say that e'er
A kindly genius bless'd the birth of man?
Oh me! I'm stricken: wounded to the death !
Semi-chorus. Peace !--who exclaims
As wounded to the death?
Agamemnon. Oh me! again I'm wounded.
'Tis the king : By that his cry death-deeds are busy with him.
Let us consult with caution.
I would counsel
To raise the city with our cries, and bring
Aid to the palace.
Let us rather fall
Upon the murderers, while the sword is reeking
Within their hands, and thus detect the deed.
Semi-chorus. I think the same; that something should be done,
And not the time let slip.
We must look to it:
This is the prelude to a tyranny:
Semi-chorus. We waste the time. They, who would put in act
Their purpose, seldom sleep.
I know not what
To think or to advise. Who mean to act
Must first deliberate.
But for action I:
Our speeches cannot raise the dead to life.
Semi-chorus. Shall we, to stretch a vile existence, yield
To chiefs like these, who stain their house with crimes ?
Semi-chorus. This must not be endured : to die were better :
Death can be better borne than tyranny.
Semi-chorus. Shall we regard those outcries as a proof
That he is dead?
They may speak thus who know:
To know and to surmise are not the same.
Semi-chorus. You shall o'er-rule me; let us in, and see
With our own eyes how fares it with Atrides.
That which I spoke at large in fitting season,
I blush not to retract: who otherwise
Devising hostile practice against foes
That seem to be as friends, might safe contrive
Inextricable ruin, and o'erleap
The height of their success? For not to me
The struggle for this victory, plann'd long since,
Comes unpremeditated, though it come
Late; and I stood beside him where he fell
Into my deep-laid snares. I so contrived,
(For why should I deny it?) neither flight
From death, nor yet resistance stood him aught
In stead:—for like a fisher's net I threw
Th' indissoluble folds of his own robe
Around him, whose embroideries were his bane.
I struck him twice, and with two outcries dropp’d
His limbs unnerved; and prostrate as he lay
I dealt him a third wound, a grateful offering
To Hades under earth who keeps the dead.
He fell, and falling gasp'd away his soul;
And breathing out the life-blood at a gush
With the so sudden wound, he sprinkled me
With drops of crimson from a gory dew,
And I feli gladden'd as the freshen'd earth
With heaven's own moisture, when the flower-bud opens.
Ye have what has occurr'd: then, reverend men
Of Greece! rejoice, if that rejoice ye may,
And such my wish: were it allow'd to pour
Libation for the dead, 'twere justly done;
So beyond measure had that man filld up
For this our house the cup of woes accurst,
From which at length return'd he suck'd the lees.
Chorus. We marvel that thy tongue
Rings such audacious larum of the breath
Blazoning thy husband's murder.
To daunt me as a pusillanimous woman.
The heart I bear is fearless, and full well
I think ye know it. Blame me or approve
I heed not which. Here Agamemnon lies
Dead; ev'n my husband; dead, and by this hand.
I plann'd the deed in justice, and 'tis done.
Chorus. Oh woman! of what food
Or maddening beverage tasting
Which earth or the salt ocean yields,
Hast thou set forth a bloody sacrifice,
And drawn upon thy head the people's curses ?
Thou hast wounded; thou hast slain ;
The city casts thee out; the nation's horror.
Clytemnestra. So—ye can sentence me to banishment
Smit by the city's ban, the people's curse ;
But have ye nothing 'gainst this man, who took
His flesh and blood, his daughter, like a lamb
Out of the grassy pasture, the dear child
Whom I had borne, and offer'd her t appease
The blasts of Thrace? Had not this man well-ear'd
The wages of your banishment? But me
Ye sentence, and condemn this act of mine
Before well heard. Now let me speak in turn :
I brave your malice: I am one prepared
For each event; if ye with like success
Can triumph o'er me with a stronger arm,
Ye shall be masters : if the God I serve
Have otherwise decreed, ye shall, be sure,
Learn wisdom, though the lesson may be late.
Chorus. Thou talk'st it bravely, and thy high disdain
O'er-vaults itself. The mind within thee reels
With slaughter-drunken fortune unto madness :
Thine eyes stand out in fulness, but their beauty
Is all suffused with blood :-thou shalt atone
Blow for each blow, and every friend desert thee.
Clytemnestra. Then hear me while I swear :-By that revenge
Ta’en for my murther'd daughter,-by those Furies
To whom I offer'd him a reeking victim,
I dream not e'er to walk my house in fear,
While my Ægisthus stands beside its hearth
To aid me, as before, with strength of counsel:
My shield of dauntless confidence is he.
Yes—he lies dead, who was a blasting mischief,
While he had life, to me an injured woman;
The paramour of every light Chryseis
Within Troy's city; she too, his fair captive,
Who babbled oracles and shared his bed ;
His seer and concubine ; who plied her trade
Before the mast and on the rower's bench,
She too is dead: they died in all their glory:
He, as ye have been told: she, like the swan,
Warbling her own death-ditties to the last.
Well-she is dead, this mistress ; and has brought
A feast of pleasures to my bed of love.
Alas! what sudden fate
With no preparing pains,
No hand assiduous tending a sick bed,
Has brought upon us an eternal sleep!
The guardian of our kingdom, he is slain;
The most benign of men,
Who for a woman's sake so much had suffer'd,
And now has lost his life, and by a woman !
ON THE TENTH AND ELEVENTH OF JULY LAST,
IN COMMEMORATION OF THE INVENTION OF PRINTING.
It was on one of summer's love the citizens of Mentz, is now proved, liest mornings, that the firing of cane beyond dispute, to belong to Launon and the waving of a white flag,* rens Koster of Haarlem. from the steeple of the great church Four hundred years have elapsed at Haarlem, announced to the inha- since he sent the product of his gebitants of the city, and to crowds of nius to the world—and in that period strangers and foreigners collected what has it not effected? It has from all parts, the commencement of blunted the edge of persecution's a festival, designed to commemorate sword—laid open to man his own the Invention of Printing with mor heart-struck the sceptre from the able types, the honour of which, so hard hand of tyranny-and awakenlong and so warmly questioned by ed from its inglorious slumbers a
* On the flag was inscribed Laur. J. F. Costero.