Sophocles, creator; Sophocles the plays and fragments with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose Part 6 The Electra; Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, 1841-1905, editor, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1894.
Son of him who once commanded our forces at Troy, son of Agamemnon!—now you may survey all that your heart has desired for so long. There is the ancient Argos of your yearning,
that consecrated land from which the gad-fly drove the daughter of Inachus; there, Orestes, is the Lycean market place, named from the wolf-slaying god; there on the left is Hera’s famous temple; and in this place to which we have come, know that you see Mycenae, the rich in gold,
and here the house of Pelops’ heirs, so often stained with bloodshed. Long ago from here, away from the murder of your father, I carried you for her whose blood is yours, your sister, and saved you and reared you up to manhood to be the avenger of your murdered father.
Now, therefore, Orestes, and you, best of allies, Pylades, our plan of action must be quickly laid; for look, already the sun’s bright ray is stirring the birds’ songs into clarity, and the kindly darkness of the stars is spent.
Before, then, anyone comes out from the house, we must make our plans, since we are at the point where it is no longer opportune to hesitate, but it is the moment for action.
True friend and follower, how well you prove your loyalty to our house!
Just as a thoroughbred mount, even if advanced in years, does not lose courage in danger, but pricks up his ears, so you speed us forward and follow in the first ranks. I will tell you, then, what I have determined.
Listen closely to my words and correct me, if I miss the mark in any way.When I went to the Pythian oracle to learn how I might avenge my father on his murderers,
Phoebus gave me the commandment which you will now hear: that alone, and by stealth, without the aid of arms or large numbers, I should carry off my right hand’s just slaughters. Accordingly, since I received this divine declaration, you must go into that house there
when opportunity gives you entrance, and learn all that is happening, so that you may report to us out of sure knowledge. Your age and the lapse of time will prevent them from recognizing you; they will never suspect who you are with that silvered hair. Let your story be that you are a Phocian stranger
sent by Phanoteus, since he is the greatest of their allies. Tell them, and affirm it with your oath, that Orestes has perished by a fatal chance, hurled at the Pythian games
from his speeding chariot. Let that be the substance of your message. Meanwhile, we will first crown my father’s tomb as the god ordered with libations and the luxuriant tribute of a severed lock; then we will return here, bearing in our hands an urn of hammered bronze
—now hidden, as you no doubt know, in the brushwood—so that we may gladden them with the false tidings that this body of mine exists no more, but has been consumed with fire and reduced to ashes. How does it hurt me, when by feigned death
I find true life and win renown? No word is ill-omened, I trust, if it yields gain. For often before now I have seen clever men die in false report; then, when they return home, they are held in greater honor.
And so for myself I trust that as a result of this rumor I, too, shall live, shining down like a star upon my enemies.But you, O my fatherland and native gods of my soil, receive me with good fortune in this journey, and you also, house of my ancestors,
since I come by divine mandate to cleanse you as justice demands. Do not dismiss me from this land in dishonor, but grant that I may rule over my possessions and restore my house!I have said enough. Go now, old one, and take care to watch over your task.
The two of us will depart; for so opportunity bids, chief ruler of every enterprise for men.
ah, me, ah, joyless me!
Listen, my son; from the doors of the house, I think, came the sound of some serving girl moaning inside.
Can it be my joyless Electra? Shall we remain here and listen to her cries?