Libation Bearers

Aeschylus

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. For since the gods laid constraining doom about my city and led me from my father’s house to a slave’s lot, it is fitting for me to govern my bitter hate, even against my will, and submit to the wishes of my masters, whether just or unjust.
  2. But I weep beneath my veil over the senseless fate of my lord, my heart chilled by secret grief.
Electra
  1. You handmaidens who set our house in order, since you are here as my attendants in this rite of supplication,
  2. give me your counsel on this: what should I say while I pour these offerings of sorrow? How shall I find gracious words, how shall I entreat my father? Shall I say that I bring these offerings to a loved husband from a loving
  3. wife—from my own mother? I do not have the assurance for that, nor do I know what I should say as I pour this libation onto my father’s tomb. Or shall I speak the words that men are accustomed to use: To those who send these honors may he return benefits—
  4. a gift, indeed, to match their evil?[*](Their evil is unexpectedly substituted for their good. The question is ironical, since it was natural for a Greek to return evil for evil (cp. 123).) Or, in silence and dishonor, even as my father perished, shall I pour them out for the earth to drink and then retrace my steps, like one who carries refuse away from a rite, hurling the vessel from me with averted eyes?
  5. In this, my friends, be my fellow-counsellors. For we cherish a common hatred within our house. Do not hide your counsel in your hearts in fear of anyone. For the portion of fate awaits both the free man and the man enslaved by another’s hand.
  6. If you have a better course to urge, speak!
Chorus
  1. In reverence for your father’s tomb, as if it were an altar, I will speak my thoughts from the heart, since you command me.
Electra
  1. Speak, even as you revere my father’s grave.
Chorus
  1. While you pour, utter benedictions for loyal hearts.
Electra
  1. And to whom of those dear to me should I address them?
Chorus
  1. First to yourself, then to whoever hates Aegisthus.
Electra
  1. Then for myself and for you also shall I make this prayer?
Chorus
  1. That is for you, using your judgment, to consider now for yourself.
Electra
  1. Then whom else should I add to our company?
Chorus
  1. Remember Orestes, though he is still away from home.
Electra
  1. Well said! You have indeed admonished me thoughtfully.
Chorus
  1. For the guilty murderers now, mindful of—
Electra
  1. What should I say? Instruct my inexperience, prescribe the form.