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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Euripides' ORESTES Complete

Translated by E. Coleridge.

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After this my poor Orestes fell sick of a cruel wasting disease; upon
his couch he lies prostrated, and it is his mother's blood that goads
him into frenzied fits; this I say, from dread of naming those goddesses,
whose terrors are chasing him before them,-even the Eumenides. 'Tis
now the sixth day since the body of his murdered mother was committed
to the cleansing fire; since then no food has passed his lips, nor
hath he washed his skin; but wrapped in his cloak he weeps in his
lucid moments, whenever the fever leaves him; other whiles he bounds
headlong from his couch, as colt when it is loosed from the yoke.
Moreover, this city of Argos has decreed that no man give us shelter
at his fireside or speak to matricides like us; yea, and this is the
fateful day on which Argos will decide our sentence, whether we are
both to die by stoning, or to whet the steel and plunge it in our
necks. There is, 'tis true, one hope of escape still left us; Menelaus
has landed from Troy; his fleet now crowds the haven of Nauplia where
he is come to anchor, returned at last from Troy after ceaseless wanderings;
but Helen, that "lady of sorrows," as she styles herself, hath he
sent on to our palace, carefully waiting for the night, lest any of
those parents whose sons were slain beneath the walls of Troy, might
see her if she went by day, and set to stoning her. Within she sits,
weeping for her sister and the calamities of her family, and yet she
hath still some solace in her woe; for Hermione, the child she left
at home in the hour she sailed for Troys-the maid whom Menelaus brought
from Sparta and entrusted to my mother's keeping,-is still a cause
of joy to her and a reason to forget her sorrows.

I, meantime, am watching each approach, against the moment I see Menelaus
arriving; for unless we find some safety there, we have but feeble
anchor to ride on otherwise.

A helpless thing, an unlucky house! (Helen enters from the palace.)

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