Yet happy are the thousands who receiv’d
Their bitter death-blow from a hostile hand!
For terror wild, and end most tragical.
Some hostile, angry deity prepar’d,
Instead of triumph, for the home-returning.
Do human voices never reach this shore?
Far as their sound extends, they bear the fame
Of deeds unparallel’d. And is the woe
Which fills Mycene’s halls with ceaseless sighs
To thee a secret still?—And know’st thou not
That Clytemnestra, with AEgisthus’ aid,
Her royal consort artfully ensnar’d,
And murder’d on the day of his return?—
The monarch’s house thou honorest! I perceive.
Thy breast with tidings vainly doth contend
Fraught with such monstrous and unlook’d for woe.
Art thou the daughter of a friend? Art born
Within the circuit of Mycene’s walls?
Conceal it not, nor call me to account
That here the horrid crime I first announce.
Proceed, and tell me how the deed was done.
The day of his return, as from the bath
Arose the monarch, tranquil and refresh’d,
His robe demanding from his consort’s hand,
A tangled garment, complicate with folds,
She o’er his shoulders flung and noble head;
And when, as from a net, he vainly strove
To extricate himself, the traitor, base
AEgisthus, smote him, and envelop’d thus
Great Agamemnon sought the shades below.
And what reward receiv’d the base accomplice?
A queen and kingdom he possess’d already.
Base passion prompted then the deed of shame?
And feelings, cherish’d long, of deep revenge.
How had the monarch injured Clytemnestra?
By such a dreadful deed, that if on earth
Aught could exculpate murder, it were this.
To Aulis he allur’d her, when the fleet
With unpropitious winds the goddess stay’d;
And there, a victim at Diana’s shrine,
The monarch, for the welfare of the Greeks,
Her eldest daughter doomed, Iphigenia.
And this, so rumor saith, within her heart
Planted such deep abhorrence that forthwith
She to AEgisthus hath resigned herself,
And round her husband flung the web of death.
IPHIGENIA (veiling herself)
It is enough! Thou wilt again behold me.
The fortune of this royal house, it seems,
Doth move her deeply. Whosoe’er she be,
She must herself have known the monarch well;—
For our good fortune, from a noble house,
She hath been sold to bondage. Peace, my heart!
And let us steer our course with prudent zeal
Toward the star of hope which gleams upon us.