Aiskhylos — Agammemnon. The Khoros recalls how the war began, then watches Queen Klytaimnestra enter

Note: For more, please see Aiskhylos — Agamemnon.

greek theater, aschylus, agamemnon


The Khoros recalls how the war began, then watches Queen Klytaimnestra enter
(lines 40-103)

by Aiskhylos (Aeschylus)

Translated by William P. Coleman


It’s ten years since Priam’s
great adversary
Lord Menelaos and Agamemnon —
on twin thrones by the will of Zeus, twin scepters
yoked firmly by honor — raised
a force of Argive sons of Atreus
to go from this country
with a thousand ships, as armed help.

The soldiers yelped great Ares from their hearts —
as vultures do at extreme of pain for
their children stolen from their beds. They eddy
round in the heights
and row the oars of their wings,
the care they’ve given their nesting chicks
Highest of all, Apollo — or Pan or Zeus —
sensing their visitors’ shrill,
howling bird cries
sends an avenging Fury
to go with them.

Just so, Zeus — powerful — the guardian
of guest and host — sent the sons of Atreus against
Alexander. Because of a woman surrounded by husbands
he’d set equally for Danaan and Trojan
many bouts — to be weighed down
into the dust on their scraped
knees from the beginning
of the fight.

It is now the way it is
and will come to its end according to the way it was set up.
Unless ignited by holy fire, neither sacrifices,
nor libations, nor tears can soften it
or twist it from its nature.

But, unhonored, with aged flesh,
left back from helping,
we stand still —
our strength like a child’s, walking on canes.
For young marrow in our chests that should be
ready to start up
is like an old man’s, with Ares no longer
there. We old men, like piles of leaves
already withered, go three-footed
on the roads. No better than a child,
we wander through a dream that comes in daylight.

But you now, daughter
of Tyndareos, Queen Klytaimnestra,
what need? What news? Of what are you aware?
What report
sent round convinced you to make burnt sacrifices?

The altars of all gods worshiped by
our city — the highest,
those underground, those of the heavens,
those of the market — burn with gifts.
From one place and then another, as high as heaven,
flames reach up that she treated with oil that
inspires religious awe — fresh, persuading harmlessly —
a royal mixture for the gods from the women’s quarters.

Soothe me about these things — whatever
force and custom can tell.
Bring into being a Paian about these thoughts
that one moment are saturated by malice
and the next seem gentle, a hopeful offering
that wards off the insatiable worry —
the pain in the entrails that eats the heart.

Note: For more, please see Aiskhylos — Agamemnon.

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