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Agamemnon feels himself compelled to make this cruel sacrifice. He acquaints his gentle child, and her love of life for a while contends against this dreadful necessity, but at length she yields.
AGAMEMNON, IPHIGENIA, and CLYTEMNESTRA.
Iph. Had I, my father, the persuasive voice
Of Orpheus, and his skill to charm the rocks
To follow me, and soothe whome'er I please
With winning words, I would make trial of it:
But I have nothing to present thee now
Save tears, my only eloquence; and those
I can present thee. On thy knees I hang,
Ah! kill me not in youth's fresh prime.
Sweet is the light of heaven : compel me not
What is beneath to view I was the first
To call thee father, me thou first didst call .
Thy child : I was the first that on thy knees
Fondly caress’d thee, and from thee receiv'd
The fond caress. This was thy speech to me--..
Shall I, my child, e'er see thee in some house
Of splendour, happy in thy husband, live
And flourish, as becomes my dignity ?
My speech to thee was, leaning 'gainst thy cheek,
Which with my hand I now caress. And what
Shall I then do for thee? Shall I receive
My father when grown old, and in my house
Cheer him with each fond office, to repay
The careful nurture which he gave my youth?
These words are on my memory deep impress’d,
Thou hast forgot them, and wilt kill thy child. -
By Pelops I entreat thee, by thy sire
Atreus, by this my mother, do not kill me.
If Paris be enamour'd of his bride,
His Helen, what concerns it me? and how
Comes he to my destruction?
Look upon me,
Give me a smile, give me a kiss, my father,
That, if my words persuade thee not, in death.
I may have this memorial of thy love.
My brother, small assistance canst thou give
Thy friends, yet for thy sister with thy tears
Implore thy father that she may not die :
E'en infants have a sense of ills : and see,
My father, silent though he be, he sues
To thee: be gentle to me, on my life
Have pity. Thy two children by this beard
Entreat thee, thy dear children; one is yet
An infant,* one to riper years arriv'd.
I will sum all in this, which shall contain:
More than long speech; to view the light of life
To mortals is most sweet, but all beneath
Is nothing: of bis senses is he reft,
Who hath a wish to die; for life, though ill,
Excels what'er there is of good in death.
Aga. What calls for pity, and what not, I know :
I love my children, else I should be void
Of reason: to dare this is dreadful to me,
And not to dare is dreadful. I perforce i
Must do it. What a naval camp is here
You see, how many kings for Greece array'd go
In glittring arms: to Ilium's towers are these
Denied t advance, unless I offer thee
A victim, thus the pruphet Calchas speaks,
Denied from her foundations to o'erturn
Illustrious Troy; and through the Grecian host
Maddens the fierce desire to sail with speed
'Gainst the barbarians' land, and check their rage
For Grecian dames: my daughters these will slay
At Argos, you too will they slay, and me,
Should I, the goddess not revering, make
Of none effect her oracle. To this
Not Menelaus, my child, hath wrought my soul,
Nor to his will am I a slave; but Greece,
For which, will I, or will I not, perforce
Thee I must sacrifice : my weakness here
I feel, and must submit. In thee, my child,
What lies, and what in me, Greece should be free,
Nor should her sons beneath barbarians bend,
Their household joys to ruffian force a prey.
Clyt. Alas, my child!
How wretched in thy death! thy father flies thee,
He flies, but dooms thee to the realms beneath.
Iph. My mother, hear ye now my words: for thee
Offended with thy husband I behold:
Vain anger! for where force will take its way,
To struggle is not easy.
Hear then what to my mind
Deliberate thought presents : it is decreed
For me to die: this then I wish, to die
With glory, all reluctance banish'd far. .
My mother, weigh this well, that what I speak
Is honour's dictate:" all the powers of Greece
Have now their eyes on me; on me depends
The sailing of the fleet, the fall of Troy,
And not to suffer, should a new attempt
Be dar'd, the rude barbarians from blest Greece
To bear in future times her dames by force,
This ruin bursting on them for the loss
Of Helena, whom Paris bore away.
By dying, all these things shall I achieve,
And blest, for that I have deliver'd Greece,
Shall be my fame.
To be too fond of life
Becomes not me; nor for thyself alone,
But to all Greece a blessing didst thou bear me.
Shall thousands, when their country's injur'd, lift
Their shields, shall thousands grasp the oar, and dare;
*Advancing bravely 'gainst the foes, to die
For Greece ? and shall my life, my single life
Obstruct all this? would this be just? what word
Can we reply?
* * esotho * * * *
If me The chaste Diana wills t'accept, shall I,
A mortal, dare oppose her heavenly will?
Vain the attempt: for Greece I give my life.
Slay me, demolish Troy: for these shall be
Long time my monuments, my children these,
My nuptials, and my glory.
It is meet
That Greece should o'er barbarians bear the sway,
Not that barbarians lord it over Greece :
Nature hath form’d them slaves, the Grecians free.'.
IPHIGENIA and CHORUS.
Iph. Lead me : mine the glorious fate "
To o’erturn the Phrygian state!
Ilium's towers their head shall bow. . ,
With garlands bind my brow,
Bring them, be these tresses crown'd.
Round the shrine, the altar round
Bear the lavers, which you fill
From the pure translucent rill.
High your choral voices raise,
Tun’d to hymn Diana's praise,
Blest Diana, royal maid.
Since the fales demand my aid,
I fulfil their awful power
By my slaughter, by my gore.
Chor. Reverenc'd, reverenc'd mother, now .
Thus for thee our tears shall flow:
For unhallow'd would a tear .
'Midst the solemn rites appear.
Iph. Swell the notes, ye virgin train,
To Diana swell the strain,
Queen of Chalcis, adverse land,
Queen of Aulis, on whose strand,
Winding to a narrow bay,
Fierce to take its angry way,
Waits the war, and calls on me
Its retarded force to free.
O my country, where these eyes
Open'd on Pelasgic skies !
Oye virgins, once my pride,
In Mycenæ who reside!
Chor. Why of Perseus name the town,
Which Cyclopean rampires crown? -
Iph. Me you rear'd a beam of light :
Freely now I sink in night.
Chor. And for this, immortal fame,..
Virgin, shall attend thy name.
Iph. Ah, thou beaming lamp of day,
Jove-born, bright, etherial ray,
Other regions we await,
Other life, and other fate!
Farewell, beauteous lamp of day,
Farewell, bright etherial ray!
Chor. See, she goes : her glorious fate
To o’erturn the Phrygian state :
Soon the wreaths shall bind her brow;
Soon the lustral waters flow;
Soon that beauteous neck shall feel
Piercing deep the fatal steel,
"And the ruthless altar o’er eller en
Sprinkle drops of gushing gore.
By thy father's dread command
There the cleansing lavers stand;
There in arms the Grecian powers
Burn to march 'gainst Ilium's towers.
But our voices let us raise,
Tun’d to hymn Diana's praise,
Virgin daughter she of Jove,
Queen among the gods above.
That with conquest and renown
She the arms of Greece may crown.
Not Menelaus, but Greece, hath wrought my mind to this.--Not the persuasions of Menelaus, but the dreaded vengeance of the Greeks upon us, if by forbearing to sacrifice thee, I should frustrate their present designs, determines me to this unnatural act.