Unhappy man, I only loose thy bonds
In token of a still severer doom.
The freedom which the sanctuary imparts,
Like the last life-gleam o’er the dying face,
But heralds death. I cannot, dare not, say
Your doom is hopeless; for, with murderous hand,
Could I inflict the fatal blow myself?
And while I here am priestess of Diana,
None, be he who he may, dare touch your heads.
But the incensed king, should I refuse
Compliance with the rites himself enjoin’d,
Will choose another virgin from my train
As my successor. Then, alas! with naught,
Save ardent wishes, can I succor you.
Much honored countrymen! The humblest slave,
Who had but near’d our sacred household hearth,
Is dearly welcome in a foreign land;
How with proportion’d joy and blessing, then,
Shall I receive the man who doth recall
The image of the heroes, whom I learn’d
To honor from my parents, and who cheers
My inmost heart with flatt’ring gleams of hope!
Does prudent forethought prompt thee to conceal
Thy name and race? or may I hope to know
Who, like a heavenly vision, meets me thus?
Yes, thou shalt know me. Now conclude the tale
Of which thy brother only told me half
Relate their end, who coming home from Troy,
On their own threshold met a doom severe
And most unlook’d for. Young I was in sooth
When first conducted to this foreign shore,
Yet well I recollect the timid glance
Of wonder and amazement which I cast
On those heroic forms. When they went forth
It seem’d as though Olympus had sent down
The glorious figures of a bygone world,
To frighten Ilion; and above them all,
Great Agamemnon tower’d preeminent!
Oh, tell me! Fell the hero in his home,
Through Clytemnestra’s and AEgisthus’ wiles?
Unblest Mycene! Thus the sons
Of Tantalus, with barbarous hands, have sown
Curse upon curse; and, as the shaken weed
Scatters around a thousand poison-seeds,
So they assassins ceaseless generate,
Their children’s children ruthless to destroy.—
Now tell the remnant of thy brother’s tale,
Which horror darkly hid from me before.
How did the last descendant of the race,—
The gentle child, to whom the Gods assign’d
The office of avenger,—how did he
Escape that day of blood? Did equal fate
Around Orestes throw Avernus’ net
Say, was he saved? and is he still alive?
And lives Electra, too?