The Priestess of Pythian Apollo
First, in this prayer of mine, I give the place of highest honor among the gods to the first prophet, Earth; and after her to Themis, for she was the second to take this oracular seat of her mother, as legend tells. And in the third allotment, with Themis' consent and not by force,
5another Titan, child of Earth, Phoebe, took her seat here. She gave it as a birthday gift to Phoebus, who has his name from Phoebe. Leaving the lake [Note]and ridge of
These are the gods I place in the beginning of my prayer.
Horrors to tell, horrors for my eyes to see, have sent me back from the house of Loxias, 35so that I have no strength and I cannot walk upright. I am running on hands and knees, with no quickness in my limbs; for an old woman, overcome with fright, is nothing, or rather she is like a child.
I was on my way to the inner shrine, decked with wreaths; I saw on the center-stone [Note]
Before this man an extraordinary band of women slept, seated on thrones. No! Not women, but rather Gorgons I call them; and yet I cannot compare them to forms of Gorgons either. Once before I saw some creatures in a painting, [Note] 50carrying off the feast of Phineus; but these are wingless in appearance, black, altogether disgusting; they snore with repulsive breaths, they drip from their eyes hateful drops; their attire is not fit to bring either before the statues of the gods or into the homes of men. 55I have never seen the tribe that produced this company, nor the land that boasts of rearing this brood with impunity and does not grieve for its labor afterwards.
Let what is to come now be the concern of the master of this house, 60powerful Loxias himself. He is a prophet of healing, a reader of portents, and for others a purifier of homes.Exit
No! I will not abandon you. Your guardian to the end, close by your side or far removed,
65I will not be gentle to your enemies. So now you see these mad women overcome; these loathsome maidens have fallen asleep, old women, ancient children, with whom no god or man or beast ever mingles.
70They were even born for evil, since they live in evil gloom and in Tartarus under the earth, creatures hateful to men and to the Olympian gods. Nevertheless, escape and do not be cowardly.
75For as you go always over the earth that wanderers tread, they will drive you on, even across the wide mainland, beyond the sea and the island cities. Do not grow weary too soon, brooding on this labor, but when you have come to
Orestes Lord Apollo, you know how to do no wrong; 85and, since you know this, learn not to be neglectful also. For your power to do good is assured.
Remember, do not let fear overpower your heart. You, Hermes, my blood brother, born of the same father, watch over him; true to your name,
90be his guide, [Note]shepherding this suppliant of mine—truly Zeus respects this right of outlaws—as he is sped on towards mortals with the fortune of a good escort.Exit. Orestes departs escorted by Hermes.
Ghost of Clytaemestra Sleep on! Aha! Yet what need is there of sleepers? It is due to you that I am thus dishonored among the other dead; 95because of those I killed the dead never cease to reproach me, and I wander in disgrace. I tell you that I am most greatly accused by them. And yet, although I have suffered cruelly in this way from my nearest kin, 100no divine power is angry on my behalf, slaughtered as I have been by the hands of a matricide. See these gashes in my heart, and from where they came! For the sleeping mind has clear vision, but in the daytime the fate of mortals is unforeseeable. 105
Truly, you have lapped up many of my offerings—wineless libations, a sober appeasement; and I have sacrificed banquets in the solemn night upon a hearth of fire at an hour unshared by any god. I see all this trampled under foot. 110But he has escaped and is gone, like a fawn; lightly indeed, from the middle of snares, he has rushed away mocking at you. Hear me, since I plead for my life, awake to consciousness, goddesses of the underworld! 115For in a dream I, Clytaemestra, now invoke you.
Chorus (whine)The Chorus begins to move uneasily, uttering a whining sound.
Ghost of Clytaemestra Whine, if you will! But the man is gone, fled far away. For he has friends that are not like mine!
Chorus (whine) 120The Chorus continues to whine.
Ghost of Clytaemestra You are too drowsy and do not pity my suffering. Orestes, the murderer of me, his mother, is gone!
Chorus (moan)The Chorus begins to moan
Ghost of Clytaemestra You moan, you drowse—will you not get up at once? Is it your destiny to do anything other than cause harm? 125
Chorus (moan)The Chorus continues to moan.
Ghost of Clytaemestra Sleep and toil, effective conspirators, have destroyed the force of the dreadful dragoness.
With whining redoubled and intensified.Catch him! Catch him! Catch him! Catch him! Look sharp!
Ghost of Clytaemestra In a dream you are hunting your prey, and are barking like a dog that never leaves off its keenness for the work. What are you doing? Get up; do not let fatigue overpower you, and do not ignore my misery because you have been softened by sleep. Sting your heart with merited reproaches; 135for reproach becomes a spur to the right-minded. Send after him a gust of bloody breath, shrivel him with the vapor, the fire from your guts, follow him, wither him with fresh pursuit!The Ghost of Clytaemestra disappears; the Furies, roused by their leader, awake one after the other.
Awake! Wake her up, as I wake you.
140Still asleep? Get up, shake off sleep, let us see if any part of this beginning [Note]is in vain.
Aeschylus, Eumenides (English) (XML Header) [genre: poetry; drama; tragedy] [word count] [Aesch. Eum.].