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 Zeus, set him who is within the palace before his foes;
  2. since, if you exalt him, he will gladly pay you with double and triple recompense.
  1. Know that the orphaned colt of a loved one is harnessed to the chariot of distress.
  2. And by setting bounds to his course may you grant that we see him keep a steady pace through this race and win the goal in the straining stride of a gallop.[*](That is, let him bide his time by guarding against haste.)
  1. And you who within the house inhabit the inner chamber that exults in its wealth, hear me, you gods, that feel with us! By a fresh award redeem the blood of deeds done long ago.
  2. May aged Murder cease begetting offspring in our house!
  1. And you who occupy the mighty, gorgeously built cavern,[*](The inner sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi was a narrow cave or vault in which, over a cleft, stood a tripod covered by a slab on which the prophetess sat (Athenaeus , 701c, Strabo, ix. 641).) grant that the man’s house may lift up its eyes again in joy, and that with glad
  2. eyes it may behold from under its veil of gloom the radiant light of freedom.
  1. May Maia’s son,[*](Hermes, the patron of guile and god of eloquence.) as he rightfully should, lend his aid, for no one can better sail a deed on a favoring course, when he would do so.[*](The bracketed line 815 reads And many another hidden thing he will make plain, if he desires.)
  2. But by his mysterious utterance he brings darkness over men’s eyes by night, and by day he is no more clear at all.
  1. And then at last with a loud voice we shall sing a song of the deliverance of our house,
  2. the song that women raise when the wind sits fair, and not the shrill strain of those who mourn: The ship goes well. This grows to profit for me, for me, and calamity holds off from those I love.
  1. But may you with good courage, when the part of action comes, cry out loud the name Father when she exclaims Son,
  2. and accomplish the baneful but irreproachable deed.
  1. Raise up Perseus’ spirit within my breast. And for those dear to you below the earth, and for those above, exact satisfaction for their dire wrath
  2. by working bloody ruin in our house and obliterating the guilt of murder.[*](Of verses 819-837 only the general sense is clear.)
Enter Aegisthus
  1. I have come not unasked but summoned by a messenger. I heard startling news told by some strangers who have arrived, tidings far from welcome:
  2. —that Orestes is dead. To lay this too upon our house would be a fearful burden when it is still festering and galled by the wound inflicted by an earlier murder. How can I believe this tale is the living truth? Or is it merely a panic-stricken report spread by women
  3. which leaps up to die away in nothingness? What can you tell me of this to make it plain to my mind?
  1. We heard the tale, it is true. But go inside and inquire of the strangers. The certainty of a messenger’s report