Libation Bearers


Aeschylus, creator; Aeschylus with an English translation Vol II. Smyth, Herbert Weir, 1857- 1937, editor, translator. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann, Ltd.: 1926.

  1. O children, O saviors of your father’s hearth,
  2. speak not so loud, dear children, in case someone should overhear and report all this to our masters merely for the sake of rumor. May I some day see them dead in the ooze of flaming pitch!
  1. Surely he will not abandon me, the mighty oracle of Loxias,
  2. who urged me to brave this peril to the end and loudly proclaims calamities that chill the warmth of my heart, if I do not take vengeance on my father’s murderers. He said that,
  3. I should pay the debt myself with my own life, after many grievous sufferings. For he spoke revealing to mortals the wrath of malignant powers from underneath the earth, and telling of plagues:
  4. leprous ulcers that mount with fierce fangs on the flesh and eat away its primal nature; and how a white down[*](The down upon the sore, not the temples turned white (cp. Leviticus xiii.3).) should sprout up on the diseased place. And he spoke of other assaults of the Furies that are destined to be brought to pass from paternal blood.
  5. For the dark bolt of the infernal powers, who are stirred by kindred victims calling for vengeance, and madness, and groundless terrors out of the night, torment and harass a man, and he sees clearly, though he moves his eyebrows in the dark.[*](He cannot sleep through terror of the Erinyes of his murdered kin whom he has not avenged.) And with his body marred by the brazen scourge,
  6. he is even chased in exile from his country. And the god declared that to such as these it is not allowed to have a part either in the ceremonial cup or in the cordial libation; his father’s wrath, though unseen, bars him from the altar; no one receives him or lodges with him;
  7. and at last, despised by all, friendless, he perishes, shrivelled pitifully by a death that wastes him utterly away. Must I not put my trust in oracles such as these? Yet even if I do not trust them, the deed must still be done. For many impulses conspire to one conclusion.
  8. Besides the god’s command, my keen grief for my father, and also the pinch of poverty—that my countrymen, the most renowned of mortals, who overthrew Troy in the spirit of glory, should not be subjected so to a pair of women.
  9. For he has a woman’s mind, or if not, it will soon be found out.
  1. You mighty Fates, through the power of Zeus grant fulfilment in the way to which Justice now turns. For a word of hate let a word of hate be said,
  2. Justice cries out as she exacts the debt, and for a murderous stroke let a murderous stroke be paid. Let it be done to him as he does, says the age-old wisdom.
  1. O father, unhappy father, by what word or deed of mine can I succeed in sailing from far away to you, where your resting-place holds you, a light to oppose your darkness?
  2. Yet a lament in honor of the Atreidae who once possessed our house is none the less a joyous service.
  1. My child, the fire’s ravening jaw does not overwhelm the wits of the dead man,
  2. but afterwards he reveals what stirs him. The murdered man has his dirge; the guilty man is revealed. Justified lament for fathers and for parents,
  3. when raised loud and strong, makes its search everywhere.
  1. Hear then, O father, as in turn we mourn with plentiful tears. Look, your two children mourn you
  2. in a dirge over your tomb. As suppliants and exiles as well they have sought a haven at your sepulchre. What of these things is good, what free of evil? Is it not hopeless to wrestle against doom?