I hear Ulysses speak.
Nay, mock me not.
Each must select the hero after whom
To climb the steep and difficult ascent
Of high Olympus. And to me it seems
That him nor stratagem nor art defiles
Who consecrates himself to noble deeds.
I most esteem the brave and upright man.
And therefore have I not desir’d thy counsel.
One step’s already taken. From our guards
E’en now I this intelligence have gained.
A strange and godlike woman holds in check
The execution of that bloody law
Incense, and prayer, and an unsullied heart,
These are the gifts she offers to the gods.
Rumor extols her highly, it is thought
That from the race of Amazon she springs,
And hither fled some great calamity.
Her gentle sway, it seems, lost all its power
When hither came the culprit, whom the curse,
Like murky night, envelops and pursues.
Our doom to seal, the pious thirst for blood
The ancient cruel rite again unchains
The monarch’s savage will decrees our death;
A woman cannot save when he condemns.
That ’tis a woman, is a ground for hope!
A man, the very best, with cruelty
At length may so familiarize his mind,
His character through custom so transform,
That he shall come to make himself a law
Of what at first his very soul abhorr’d.
But woman doth retain the stamp of mind
She first assum’d. On her we may depend
In good or evil with more certainty.
She comes; leave us alone. I dare not tell
At once our names, nor unreserv’d confide
Our fortunes to her. Now retire awhile,
And ere she speaks with thee we’ll meet again.
Whence art thou? Stranger, speak! To me
Stamps thee of Grecian, not of Scythian race.
[She unbinds his chains.]
The freedom that I give is dangerous;
The gods avert the doom that threatens you!
Delicious music! dearly welcome tones
Of our own language in a foreign land
With joy my captive eye once more beholds
The azure mountains of my native coast.
Oh, let this joy that I, too, am a Greek
Convince thee, priestess! How I need thine aid,
A moment I forget, my spirit rapt
In contemplation of so fair a vision.
If fate’s dread mandate doth not seal thy lips,
From which of our illustrious races say,
Dost thou thy godlike origin derive?