Fiction > Harvard Classics > Aeschylus > The Furies
Aeschylus (525–456 B.C.).  The Furies.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Lines 800–1210
Pass to each free man’s heart, by day and night        800
Enjoining, Thou shalt do no unjust thing,
So long as law stands as it stood of old
Unmarred by civic change. Look you, the spring
Is pure; but foul it once with influx vile        804
And muddy clay, and none can drink thereof.
Therefore, O citizens, I bid ye bow
In awe to this command, Let no man live
Uncurbed by law nor curbed by tyranny;        808
Nor banish ye the monarchy of Awe
Beyond the walls; untouched by fear divine,
No man doth justice in the world of men.
Therefore in purity and holy dread        812
Stand and revere; so shall ye have and hold
A saving bulwark of the state and land,
Such as no man hath ever elsewhere known,
Nor in far Scythia, nor in Pelops’ realm.        816
Thus I ordain it now, a council-court
Pure and unsullied by the lust of gain,
Sacred and swift to vengeance, wakeful ever
To champion men who sleep, the country’s guard.        820
Thus have I spoken, thus to mine own clan
Commended it for ever. Ye who judge,
Arise, take each his vote, mete out the right,
Your oath revering. Lo, my word is said.  [The twelve judges come forward, one by one, to the urns of decision; the first votes; as each of the others follows, the Chorus and Apollo speak alternately.        824

I rede ye well, beware! nor put to shame,
In aught, this grievous company of hell.

I too would warn you, fear mine oracles—
From Zeus they are,—nor make them void of fruit.        828

Presumptuous is thy claim blood-guilt to judge,
And false henceforth thine oracles shall be.

Failed then the counsels of my sire, when turned
Ixion, first of slayers, to his side?        832

These are but words; but I, if justice fail me,
Will haunt this land in grim and deadly deed.

Scorn of the younger and the elder gods
Art thou: ’tis I that shall prevail anon.        836

Thus didst thou too of old in Pheres’ halls,
O’erreaching Fate to make a mortal deathless,

Was it not well my worshipper to aid,
Then most of all when hardest was the need?        840

I say thou didst annul the lots of life,
Cheating with wine the deities of eld.

I say thou shalt anon, thy pleadings foiled,
Spit venom vainly on thine enemies.        844

Since this young god o’errides mine ancient right,
I tarry but to claim your law, not knowing
If wrath of mine shall blast your state or spare.

Mine is the right to add the final vote,
And I award it to Orestes’ cause.
For me no mother bore within her womb,
And, save for wedlock evermore eschewed,
I vouch myself the champion of the man,        852
Not of the woman, yea, with all my soul,—
In heart, as birth, a father’s child alone.
Thus will I not too heinously regard
A woman’s death who did her husband slay,        856
The guardian of her home; and if the votes
Equal do fall, Orestes shall prevail.
Ye of the judges who are named thereto,
Swiftly shake forth the lots from either urn.  [Two judges come forward, one to each urn.        860

O bright Apollo, what shall be the end?

O Night, dark mother mine, dost mark these things?

Now shall my doom be life or strangling cords.

And mine, lost honour or a wider sway.

O stranger judges, sum aright the count
Of votes cast forth, and, parting them, take heed
Ye err not in decision. The default
Of one vote only bringeth ruin deep;        868
One, cast aright, doth stablish house and home.

Behold, this man is free from guilt of blood,
For half the votes condemn him, half set free!

O Pallas, light and safety of my home,
Thou, thou hast given me back to dwell once more
In that my fatherland, amerced of which
I wandered; now shall Grecian lips say this,
The man is Argive once again, and dwells        876
Again within his father’s wealthy hall,
By Pallas saved, by Loxias, and by Him,
The great third saviour, Zeus omnipotent—
Who thus in pity for my father’s fate        880
Doth pluck me from my doom, beholding these,
Confederates of my mother. Lo, I pass
To mine own home, but proffering this vow
Unto thy land and people: Nevermore,        884
Thro’ all the manifold years of Time to be,
Shall any chieftain of mine Argive land
Bear hitherward his spears for fight arrayed.
For we, though lapped in earth we then shall lie,        888
By thwart adversities will work our will
On them who shall transgress this oath of mine,
Paths of despair and journeyings ill-starred
For them ordaining, till their task they rue.        892
But if this oath be rightly kept, to them
Will we, the dead, be full of grace, the while
With loyal league they honour Pallas’ town.
And now farewell, thou and thy city’s folk—        896
Firm be thine arms’ grasp, closing with thy foes,
And, strong to save, bring victory to thy spear.  [Exit Orestes, with Apollo.

    Woe on you, younger gods! the ancient right
    Ye have o’erridden, rent it from my hands.        900
    I am dishonoured of you, thrust to scorn!
            But heavily my wrath
    Shall on this land fling forth the drops that blast and burn.
    Venom of vengeance, that shall work such scathe        904
    As I have suffered; where that dew shall fall,
            Shall leafless blight arise.
    Wasting Earth’s offspring,—Justice, hear my call!—
    And thorough all the land in deadly wise        908
    Shall scatter venom, to exude again
            In pestilence of men.
    What cry avails me now, what deed of blood,
    Unto this land what dark despite?        912
            Alack, alack, forlorn
      Are we, a bitter injury have borne!
      Alack, O sisters, O dishonoured brood
              Of mother Night!        916

Nay, bow ye to my words, chafe not nor moan:
Ye are not worsted nor disgraced; behold,
With balanced vote the cause had issue fair,
Nor in the end did aught dishonour thee.        920
But thus the will of Zeus shone clearly forth,
And his own prophet—god avouched the same,
Orestes slew: his slaying is atoned.
Therefore I pray you, not upon this land        924
Shoot forth the dart of vengeance; be appeased,
Nor blast the land with blight, nor loose thereon
Drops of eternal venom, direful darts
Wasting and marring nature’s seed of growth.        928
For I, the queen of Athens’ sacred right,
Do pledge to you a holy sanctuary
Deep in the heart of this my land, made just
By your indwelling presence, while ye sit        932
Hard by your sacred shrines that gleam with oil
Of sacrifice, and by this folk adored.

    Woe on you, younger gods! the ancient right
    Ye have o’erridden, rent it from my hands.        936
    I am dishonoured of you, thrust to scorn!
            But heavily my wrath
    Shall on this land fling forth the drops that blast and burn.
    Venom of vengeance, that shall work such scathe        940
    As I have suffered; where that dew shall fall,
            Shall leafless blight arise.
    Wasting Earth’s offspring,—Justice, hear my call!—
    And thorough all the land in deadly wise        944
    Shall scatter venom, to exude again
            In pestilence of men.
    What cry avails me now, what deed of blood,
    Unto this land what dark despite?        948
            Alack, alack, forlorn
      Are we, a bitter injury have borne!
      Alack, O sisters, O dishonoured brood
              Of mother Night!        952

Dishonoured are ye not; turn not, I pray,
As goddesses your swelling wrath on men,
Nor make the friendly earth despiteful to them.
I too have Zeus for champion—’tis enough—        956
I only of all goddesses do know
To ope the chamber where his thunderbolts
Lie stored and sealed; but here is no such need.
Nay, be appeased, nor cast upon the ground        960
The malice of thy tongue, to blast the world;
Calm thou thy bitter wrath’s black inward surge,
For high shall be thine honour, set beside me
For ever in this land, whose fertile lap        964
Shall pour its teeming firstfruits unto you,
Gifts for fair childbirth and for wedlock’s crown:
Thus honoured, praise my spoken pledge for aye.

I, I dishonoured in this earth to dwell,—
Ancient of days and wisdom! I breathe forth
Poison and breath of frenzied ire. O Earth,
          Woe, woe for thee, for me!
From side to side what pains be these that thrill?        972
Hearken, O mother Night, my wrath, mine agony!
Whom from mine ancient rights the gods have thrust,
          And brought me to the dust—
Woe, woe is me!—with craft invincible.        976

Older art thou than I, and I will bear
With this thy fury. Know, although thou be
More wise in ancient wisdom, yet have I
From Zeus no scanted measure of the same,        980
Wherefore take heed unto this prophecy—
If to another land of alien men
Ye go, too late shall ye feel longing deep
For mine. The rolling tides of time bring round        984
A day of brighter glory for this town;
And thou, enshrined in honour by the halls
Where dwelt Erechtheus, shalt a worship win
From men and from the train of womankind,        988
Greater than any tribe elsewhere shall pay.
Cast thou not therefore on this soil of mine
Whetstones that sharpen souls to bloodshedding,
The burning goads of youthful hearts, made hot        992
With frenzy of the spirit, not of wine.
Nor pluck as ’twere the heart from cocks that strive,
To set it in the breasts of citizens
Of mine, a war-god’s spirit, keen for fight,        996
Made stern against their country and their kin.
The man who grievously doth lust for fame,
War, full, immitigable, let him wage
Against the stranger; but of kindred birds        1000
I hold the challenge hateful. Such the boon
I proffer thee—within this land of lands,
Most loved of gods, with me to show and share
Fair mercy, gratitude and grace as fair.        1004

I, I dishonoured in this earth to dwell,—
Ancient of days and wisdom! I breathe forth
Poison and breath of frenzied ire. O Earth,
          Woe, woe for thee, for me!        1008
From side to side what pains be these that thrill?
Hearken, O mother Night, my wrath, mine agony!
Whom from mine ancient rights the gods have thrust,
          And brought me to the dust—        1012
Woe, woe is me!—with craft invincible.

I will not weary of soft words to thee,
That never mayst thou say, Behold me spurned,
An elder by a younger deity,        1016
And from this land rejected and forlorn,
Unhonoured by the men who dwell therein.
But, if Persuasion’s grace be sacred to thee,
Soft in the soothing accents of my tongue,        1020
Tarry, I pray thee; yet, if go thou wilt,
Not rightfully wilt thou on this my town
Sway down the scale that beareth wrath and teen
Or wasting plague upon this folk. ’Tis thine,        1024
If so thou wilt, inheritress to be
Of this my land, its utmost grace to win.

O queen, what refuge dost thou promise me?

Refuge untouched by bale: take thou my boon.

What, if I take it, shall mine honour be?

No house shall prosper without grace of thine.

Canst thou achieve and grant such power to me?

Yea, for my hand shall bless thy worshippers.

And wilt thou pledge me this for time eterne?

Yea: none can bid me pledge beyond my power.

Lo, I desist from wrath, appeased by thee.

Then in the land’s heart shalt thou win thee friends.

What chant dost bid me raise, to greet the land?

Such as aspires towards a victory
Unrued by any: chants from breast of earth,
From wave, from sky; and let the wild winds’ breath        1040
Pass with soft sunlight o’er the lap of land,—
Strong wax the fruits of earth, fair teem the kine,
Unfailing, for my town’s prosperity,
And constant be the growth of mortal seed.        1044
But more and more root out the impious,
For as a gardener fosters what he sows,
So foster I this race, whom righteousness
Doth fend from sorrow. Such the proffered boon.        1048
But I, if wars must be, and their loud clash
And carnage, for my town, will ne’er endure
That aught but victory shall crown her fame.

    Lo, I accept it; at her very side
        Doth Pallas bid me dwell:
    I will not wrong the city of her pride,
  Which even Almighty Zeus and Ares hold
        Heaven’s earthly citadel,        1056
  Loved home of Grecian gods, the young, the old,
        The sanctuary divine,
        The shield of every shrine!
  For Athens I say forth a gracious prophecy,—        1060
    The glory of the sunlight and the skies
        Shall bid from earth arise
Warm wavelets of new life and glad prosperity.

    Behold, with gracious heart well pleased
        I for my citizens do grant
        Fulfilment of this covenant:
    And here, their wrath at length appeased,
        These mighty deities shall stay,        1068
      For theirs it is by right to sway
The lot that rules our mortal day,
        And he who hath not inly felt
      Their stern decree, ere long on him,        1072
      Not knowing why and whence, the grim
        Life-crushing blow is dealt.
        The father’s sin upon the child
      Descends, and sin is silent death,        1076
      And leads him on the downward path,
          By stealth beguiled,
        Unto the Furies: though his state
      On earth were high, and loud his boast,        1080
        Victim of silent ire and hate
          He dwells among the Lost.

To my blessing now give ear.—
Scorching blight nor singèd air        1084
Never blast thine olives fair!
Drouth, that wasteth bud and plant,
Keep to thine own place. Avaunt,
Famine fell, and come not hither        1088
Stealthily to waste and wither!
Let the land, in season due,
Twice her waxing fruits renew;
Teem the kine in double measure;        1092
Rich in new god-given treasure;
Here let men the powers adore
For sudden gifts unhoped before!

  O hearken, warders of the wall
  That guards mine Athens, what a dower
  Is unto her ordained and given!
For mighty is the Furies’ power,
  And deep-revered in courts of heaven        1000
And realms of hell; and clear to all
  They weave thy doom, mortality!
And some in joy and peace shall sing;
But unto other some they bring        1104
  Sad life and tear-dimmed eye.

And far away I ban thee and remove,
  Untimely death of youths too soon brought low!
And to each maid, O gods, when time is come for love,        1108
  Grant ye a warrior’s heart, a wedded life to know.
Ye too, O Fates, children of mother Night,
  Whose children too are we, O goddesses
Of just award, of all by sacred right        1112
  Queens, who in time and in eternity
Do rule, a present power for righteousness,
  Honoured beyond all gods, hear ye and grant my cry!

And I too, I with joy am fain,
Hearing your voice this gift ordain
Unto my hand. High thanks be thine,
Persuasion, who with eyes divine
Into my tongue didst look thy strength,        1120
To bend and to appease at length
  Those who would not be comforted.
Zeus, king of parley, doth prevail,
And ye and I will strive nor fail,        1124
  That good may stand in evil’s stead,
And lasting bliss for bale.

And nevermore these walls within
Shall echo fierce sedition’s din,        1128
  Unslaked with blood and crime;
The thirsty dust shall nevermore
Suck up the darkly streaming gore
Of civic boils, shed out in wrath        1132
And vengeance, crying death for death!
But man with man and state with state
Shall vow The pledge of common hate
And common friendship, that for man        1136
Hath oft made blessing out of ban,
Be ours unto all time.

Skill they, or not, the path to find
Of favouring speech and presage kind?        1140
Yea, even from these, who, grim and stern,
  Glared anger upon you of old,
O citizens, ye now shall earn
  A recompense right manifold.        1144
Deck them aright, extol them high,
Be loyal to their loyalty,
  And ye shall make your town and land
  Sure, propped on Justice’ saving hand,        1148
    And Fame’s eternity.

    Hail ye, all hail! and yet again, all hail,
      O Athens, happy in a weal secured!
  O ye who sit by Zeus’ right hand, nor fail        1152
    Of wisdom set among you and assured,
  Loved of the well-loved Goddess-Maid! the King
Of gods doth reverence you, beneath her guarding wing.

All hail unto each honoured guest!
Whom to the chambers of your rest
’Tis mine to lead, and to provide
The hallowed torch, the guard and guide.
Pass down, the while these altars glow        1160
With sacred fire, to earth below
    And your appointed shrine.
There dwelling, from the land restrain
The force of fate, the breath of bane,        1164
But waft on us the gift and gain
    Of Victory divine!
And ye, the men of Cranaos’ seed,
I bid you now with reverence lead        1168
These alien powers that thus are made
Athenian evermore. To you
Fair be their will henceforth, to do
    Whate’er may bless and aid!        1172

Hail to you all! hail yet again,
All who love Athens, gods and men,
    Adoring her as Pallas’ home!
And while ye reverence what ye grant—        1176
My sacred shrine and hidden haunt—
  Blameless and blissful be your doom!

Once more I praise the promise of your vows,
And now I bid the golden torches’ glow        1180
Pass down before you to the hidden depth
Of earth, by mine own sacred servants borne,
My loyal guards of statue and of shrine.
Come forth, O flower of Theseus’ Attic land,        1184
O glorious band of children and of wives,
And ye, O train of matrons crowned with eld!
Deck you with festal robes of scarlet dye
In honour of this day: O gleaming torch,        1188
Lead onward, that these gracious powers of earth
Henceforth be seen to bless the life of men.  [Athena leads the procession downwards into the Cave of the Furies, under Areopagus: as they go, the escort of women and children chant aloud.

With loyalty we lead you; proudly go,
Night’s childless children, to your home below!        1192
  (O citizens, awhile from words forbear!)
  To darkness’ deep primeval lair,
  Far in Earth’s bosom, downward fare,
  Adored with prayer and sacrifice        1196
    (O citizens, forbear your cries!)
  Pass hitherward, ye powers of Dread,
  With all your former wrath allayed,
    Into the heart of this loved land;        1200
  With joy unto your temple wend,
  The while upon your steps attend
    The flames that fed upon the brand—
(Now, now ring out your chant, your joy’s acclaim!)        1204
    Behind them, as they downward fare,
    Let holy hands libations bear,
        And torches’ sacred flame.
    All-seeing Zeus and Fate come down        1208
    To battle fair for Pallas’ town!
Ring out your chant, ring out your joy’s acclaim!  [Exeunt omnes.


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