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- The Iphigenia in Tauris - 10/17 -


Led me to Athens, that the nameless Wraths Might bring me before judgment. For that land A pure tribunal hath, where Ares' hand, Red from an ancient stain, by Zeus was sent For justice. Thither came I; and there went God's hate before me, that at first no man Would give me shelter. Then some few began To pity, and set out for me aloof One table. There I sate within their roof, But without word they signed to me, as one Apart, unspoken to, unlocked upon, Lest touch of me should stain their meat and sup. And every man in measure filled his cup And gave me mine, and took their joy apart, While I sat silent; for I had no heart To upbraid the hosts that fed me. On I wrought In my deep pain, feigning to mark them not.

And now, men say, mine evil days are made A rite among them and the cups are laid Apart for each. The rule abideth still.

Howbeit, when I was come to Ares' Hill They gave me judgment. On one stone I stood, On one she that was eldest of the brood That hunted me so long. And many a word Touching my mother's death was spoke and heard, Till Phoebus rose to save me. Even lay The votes of Death and Life; when, lo, a sway Of Pallas' arm, and free at last I stood From that death grapple. But the Shapes of Blood-- Some did accept the judgment, and of grace Consent to make their house beneath that place In darkness. Others still consented not, But clove to me the more, like bloodhounds hot On the dying; till to Phoebus' house once more I crept, and cast me starving on the floor Facing the Holy Place, and made my cry: "Lord Phoebus, here I am come, and here will die, Unless thou save me, as thou hast betrayed." And, lo, from out that dark and golden shade A voice: "Go, seek the Taurian citadel: Seize there the carven Artemis that fell From heaven, and stablish it on Attic soil. So comes thy freedom." [IPHIGENIA shrinks.] Sister, in this toil

Help us!--If once that image I may win That day shall end my madness and my sin: And thou, to Argos o'er the sundering foam My many-oared barque shall bear thee home.

O sister loved and lost, O pitying face, Help my great peril; help our father's race. For lost am I and perished all the powers Of Pelops, save that heavenly thing be ours!

LEADER. Strange wrath of God hath fallen, like hot rain, On Tantalus' house: he leadeth them through pain.

IPHIGENIA. Long ere you came my heart hath yearned to be In Argos, brother, and so near to thee: But now--thy will is mine. To ease thy pain, To lift our father's house to peace again, And hate no more my murderers--aye,'tis good. Perchance to clean this hand that sought thy blood, And save my people... But the goddess' eyes, How dream we to deceive them? Or what wise Escape the King, when on his sight shall fall The blank stone of the empty pedestal? ... I needs must die ... What better can I do?

And yet, one chance there is: could I but go Together with the image: couldst thou bear Both on the leaping seas! The risk were fair. But how?

Nay, I must wait then and be slain: Thou shalt walk free in Argolis again, And all life smile on thee ... Dearest, we need Nor shrink from that. I shall by mine own deed Have saved thee. And a man gone from the earth Is wept for. Women are but little worth.

ORESTES. My mother and then thou? It may not be. This hand hath blood enough. I stand with thee One-hearted here, be it for life or death, And either bear thee, if God favoureth, With me to Greece and home, or else lie here Dead at thy side.--But mark me: if thou fear Lest Artemis be wroth, how can that be? Hath not her brother's self commanded me To bear to Greece her image?--Oh, he knew Her will! He knew that in this land we two Must meet once more. All that so far hath past Doth show his work. He will not at the last Fail. We shall yet see Argos, thou and I.

IPHIGENIA. To steal for thee the image, yet not die Myself! 'Tis that we need. 'Tis that doth kill My hope. Else ... Oh, God knows I have the will!

ORESTES. How if we slew your savage king?

IPHIGENIA. Ah, no: He sheltered me, a stranger.

ORESTES. Even so, If it bring life for me and thee, the deed May well be dared.

IPHIGENIA. I could not ... Nay; indeed I thank thee for thy daring.

ORESTES. Canst thou hide My body in the shrine?

IPHIGENIA. There to abide Till nightfall, and escape?

ORESTES. Even so; the night Is the safe time for robbers, as the light For just men.

IPHIGENIA. There be sacred watchers there Who needs must see us.

ORESTES. Gods above! What prayer Can help us then?

IPHIGENIA. I think I dimly see One chance.

ORESTES. What chance? Speak out thy fantasy.

IPHIGENIA'. On thine affliction I would build my way.

ORESTES. Women have strange devices.

IPHIGENIA. I would say Thou com'st from Hellas with thy mother's blood Upon thee.

ORESTES. Use my shame, if any good Will follow.

IPHIGENIA. Therefore, an offence most high It were to slay thee to the goddess!

ORESTES. Why? Though I half guess.

IPHIGENIA. Thy body is unclean.-- Oh, I will fill them with the fear of sin!

ORESTES. What help is that for the Image?

IPHIGENIA. I will crave To cleanse thee in the breaking of the wave.

ORESTES. That leaves the goddess still inside her shrine, And'tis for her we sailed.

IPHIGENIA. A touch of thine Defiled her. She too must be purified.

ORESTES. Where shall it be? Thou knowest where the tide Sweeps up in a long channel?

IPHIGENIA. Yes! And where


The Iphigenia in Tauris - 10/17

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