Oh, that I bore within a manly heart!
Which, when it hath conceiv’d a bold resolve,
’Gainst every other voice doth close itself.
In vain thou dost refuse; with iron hand
Necessity commands; her stern decree
Is law supreme, to which the gods themselves
Must yield submission. In dread silence rules
The uncounsell’d sister of eternal fate.
What she appoints thee to endure,—endure;
What to perform,—perform. The rest thou knowest.
Ere long I will return, and then receive
The seal of safety from thy sacred hand.
I must obey him, for I see my friends
Beset with peril. Yet my own sad fate
Doth with increasing anguish move my heart.
May I no longer feed the silent hope
Which in my solitude I fondly cherish’d?
Shall the dire curse eternally endure?
And shall our fated race ne’er rise again
With blessings crown’d?—All mortal things decay—
The noblest powers, the purest joys of life
At length subside: then wherefore not the curse?
And have I vainly hoped that, guarded here,
Secluded from the fortunes of my race,
I, with pure heart and hands, some future day
Might cleanse the deep defilement of our house?
Scarce was my brother in my circling arms
From raging madness suddenly restor’d,
Scarce had the ship, long pray’d for, near’d the strand
Once more to waft me to my native shores,
When unrelenting Fate, with iron hand,
A double crime enjoins; commanding me
To steal the image, sacred and rever’d,
Confided to my care, and him deceive
To whom I owe my life and destiny.
Let not abhorrence spring within my heart!
Nor the old Titan’s hate, toward you, ye gods
Infix its vulture talons in my breast!
Save me and save your image in my soul!
An ancient song comes back upon mine ear—
I had forgotten it, and willingly—
The Parcae’s song, which horribly they sang,
What time, hurl’d headlong from his golden seat,
Fell Tantalus. They with their noble friend
Keen anguish suffer’d; savage was their breast
And horrible their song. In days gone by,
When we were children, oft our ancient nurse
Would sing it to us, and I mark’d it well.
Oh, fear the immortals,
Ye children of men!
They hold in their hands,
And o’er their wide empire
Wield absolute sway.
Whom they have exalted
Let him fear them most!
Around golden tables,
On cliffs and clouds resting
The seats are prepar’d.
If contest ariseth,
The guests are hurl’d headlong,
Disgrac’d and dishonor’d,
To gloomy abysses,
And, fetter’d in darkness,
Await the vain longing
A juster decree.