They disgust me.
These grey, ancient children never touched
By god, man, or beast—the eternal virgins.
Born for destruction only, the dark pit,
They range the bowels of Earth, the world of death,
Loathed by men and the gods who hold Olympus.
You—how can you sleep?
Awake, awake—what use are sleepers now?
I go stripped of honour, thanks to you,
Alone among the dead. And for those I killed
The charges of the dead will never cease, never—
I wander in disgrace, I feel the guilt, I tell you,
Withering guilt from all the outraged dead!
But I suffered too, terribly, from dear ones,
And none of my spirits rages to avenge me.
I was slaughtered by his matricidal hand.
See these gashes—Carve them in your heart!
Lord Apollo, now it is your turn to listen.
You are no mere accomplice in this crime.
You did it all, and all the guilt is yours.
Marriage of man and wife is Fate itself,
Stronger than oaths, and Justice guards its life.
I say your manhunt of Orestes is unjust.
Some things stir your rage, I see. Others,
Atrocious crimes, lull your will to act.
Under Apollo’s orders I have come.
Receive me kindly. Curst and an outcast,
No suppliant for purging…my hands are clean.
You’ll give me blood for blood, you must!
Out of your living marrow I will drain
My red libation, out of your veins I suck my food,
My raw, brutal cups—
Wither you alive,
Drag you down and there you pay, agony
For mother-killing agony!
And there you will see them all.
Every mortal who outraged god or guest or loving parent:
Each receives the pain his pains exact.
Hold out your hands, if they are clean
No fury of ours will stalk you,
You will go through life unscathed.
But show us the guilty—one like this
Who hides his reeking hands,
And up from the outraged dead we rise,
Witness bound to avenge their blood
We rise in flames against him to the end!
Two sides are here, and only half is heard.
ATHENA: …you are set
On the name of justice rather than the act.
LEADER: How? Teach us. You have a genius for refinements.
ATHENA: Injustice, I mean, should never triumph thanks to oaths.
LEADER: Then examine him yourself, judge him fairly.
ATHENA: You would turn over responsibility to me,
To reach the final verdict?
We respect you. You show us respect.
But were we just or not? Judge us now.
My fate is in your hands. Stand or fall
I shall accept your verdict.
Embrace the one? Expel the other? It defeats me.
I will appoint the judges of manslaughter,
Swear them in, and found a tribunal here
For all time to come.
Summon your trusted witnesses and proofs,
Your defenders under oath to help your cause.
And I will pick the finest men of Athens,
Return and decide the issue fairly, truly—
Bound to our oaths, our spirits bent on justice.
Oh I can hear the father now
Or the mother sob with pain
At the pain’s onset…hopeless now,
The house of Justice falls.
You’d force this man’s acquittal? Behold, Justice!
Can a son spill his mother’s blood on the ground,
Then settle into his father’s halls in Argos?
The woman you call the mother of the child
Is not the parent, just a nurse to the seed,
The new-sown seed that grows and swells inside her.
The man is the source of life—the one who mounts.
If you would hear my law, you men of Greece,
You who will judge the first trial of bloodshed.
Now and forever more, for Aegeus’ people
This will be the court where judges reign.
Here from the heights, terror and reverence,
My people’s kindred powers
Will hold them from injustice through the day
And through the mild night.
Untouched by lust for spoil, this court of law
Majestic, swift to fury, rising above you
As you sleep, our night watch always wakeful,
Guardian of our land—I found it here and now.
Beware. Our united force can break your land.
Never wound our pride, I tell you, never.
I will cast my lot for you.
No mother gave me birth.
I honour the male, in all things but marriage.
Yes, with all my heart I am my Father’s child.
I cannot set more store by the woman’s death—
She killed her husband, guardian of their house.
Even if the vote is equal, Orestes wins.
You, you younger gods!—
You have ridden down
The ancient laws, wrenched them from my grasp—
And I, robbed of my birthright, suffering, great with wrath,
I loose my poison over the soil, aieee!
Poison to match my grief comes pouring out my heart,
Cursing the land to burn it sterile and now
Rising up from its roots a cancer blasting leaf and child,
Now for Justice, Justice!—cross the face of the earth
The bloody tide comes hurling, all mankind destroyed.
And now you’d vent your anger, hurt the land?
Consider a moment. Calm yourself. Never
Render us barren, raining your potent showers
Down like spears, consuming every seed.
By all my rights I promise you your seat
In the depths of earth, yours by all rights—
Stationed at hearths equipped with glistening thrones,
Covered with praise! My people will revere you.
This is the life I offer,
It is yours to take.
Do great things, feel greatness, greatly honoured.
Share this country cherished by the gods.
Your magic is working…I can feel the hate,
The fury slip away…
I will embrace
One home with you, Athena,
Never fail the city
Spirit of Athens, hear my words, my prayer,
Like a prophet’s warm and kind,
That the rare good things of life
Come rising crest on crest,
Sprung from the rich black earth and
Gleaming with the bursting flash of sun.
Do you hear how Fury sounds her blessings forth,
How Fury finds the way?
Shining out of the terror of their faces
I can see great gains for you, my people.
Hold them kindly, kind as they are to you.
Exalt them always, you exalt your land,
Your city straight and just –
Its light goes through the world.