Dear god, let me avenge my father’s murder—fight beside me now with all your might!
The proud dead stir under the earth,
They rage against the ones who took their lives…
What to say when I pour the cup of sorrow?
What kindness, what prayer can touch my father?
Shall I say I bring him love for love, a woman’s
love for her husband? My mother, love from her?
I’ve no taste for that, no words to say
as I run the honeyed oil on father’s tomb.
For our enemies I say,
raise up your avenger, into the light, my father—
kill the killers in return, with justice!
So in the midst of prayers for good I place
this curse for them.
Your pain is mine.
If I laugh at yours, I only laugh at mine.
You light to my eyes, four loves in one!
I have to call you father, it is fate;
and I turn to you the love I gave my mother—
I despise her, she deserves it, yes,
and the love I gave my sister, sacrificed
on the cruel sword, I turn to you.
Apollo will never fail me, no,
his tremendous power, his oracle charges me
to see this trial through.
Justice turns the wheel.
‘Word for word, curse for curse
be born now,’ Justice thunders,
hungry for retribution.
‘stroke for bloody stroke be paid.
The one who acts must suffer.’
If the serpent came from the same place as I,
and slept in the bands that swaddled me, and its jaws
spread wide for the breast that nursed me into life
and clots stained the milk, mother’s milk,
and she cried in fear and agony—so be it.
As she bred this sign, this violent prodigy
so she dies by violence. I turn serpent,
I kill her. So the vision says.
Oh but a man’s high daring spirit,
who can account for that? Or woman’s
desperate passion daring past all bounds?
She couples with every form of ruin known to mortals.
Woman, frenzied, driven wild with lust,
twists the dark, warm harness
of wedded love—tortures man and beast!
Slave, the slave!—
where is he? Hear me pounding the gates?
Is there a man inside the house?
For the third time, come out of the halls!
If Aegisthus has them welcome friendly guests.
the life is hard. The old griefs, the memories
mixing, cups of pain, so much pain in the halls of
the house of Atreus…
The butcher comes. Wipe out death with death.
Ah, a riddle. I do well at riddles.
By cunning we die, precisely as we killed.
Hand me the man-axe, someone, hurry!
Clytemnestra: Wait, my son—no respect for this, my child?
The breast you held, drowsing away the hours,
soft gums tugging the milk that made you grow?
Orestes: What will I do, Pylades?—I dread to kill my mother!
Pylades: What of the future? What of the Prophet God Apollo,
the Delphic voice, the faith and oaths we swear?
Make all mankind your enemy, not the gods.
Clytemnestra: Watch out—the hounds of a mother’s curse will hunt you down.
Orestes: But how to escape a father’s if I fail?
But she who plotted this horror against her husband,
she carried his children, growing in her womb
and she—I loved her once
and now I loathe, I have to loathe—what is she?
Some moray eel, some viper born to rot her mate
with a single touch, no fang to strike him
just the wrong, the reckless fury in her heart!
Live with such a woman, marry her? Sooner
the gods destroy me—die without an heir!
I embrace you…you,
My victory, are my guilt, my curse, and still—
Aye, trouble is now,
and trouble still to come.
Where will it end?
Where will it sink to sleep and rest,
this murderous hate,