The Madness of Orestes


Orestes . Heavy and murderous dreams, O my Electra,
Have dragged me from myself.
Is this Mycenai?
Are we . . . . . . are all who should be . . . . . . in our house?
Living? unhurt? our father here? our mother?
Why that deep gasp? for 'twas not sigh nor groan.
She then . . . . . . 'twas she who fell! when? how? beware!
No, no, speak out at once, that my full heart
May meet it, and may share with thee in all . .
In all . . . but that one thing.
It was a dream.
We may share all.
They live: both live:
O say it!
Electra . The Gods have placed them from us, and there rolls
Between us that dark river . . . . .
Orestes . Blood! blood! blood!
I see it roll; I see the hand above it,
Imploring; I see her .
Hiss me not back
Ye snake-hair'd maids! I will look on; I will
Hear the words gurgle thro' that cursed stream,
And catch that hand . . that hand . . which slew my father!
It cannot be . . . . . . . how could it slay my father?
Death to the slave who spoke it! . . . . slay my father!
It tost me up to him to earn a smile,
And was a smile then such a precious boon,
And royal state and proud affection nothing?
Ay, and thee too, Electra, she once taught
To take the sceptre from him at the door . .
Not the bath-door, not the bath-door, mind that! . .
And place it in the vestibule, against
The spear of Pallas, where it used to stand.
Where is it now? methinks I missed it there.
How we have trembled to be seen to move it!
Both looking up, lest that stern face should frown,
Which always gazed on Zeus right opposite.
Oh! could but one tear more fall from my eyes,
It would shake off those horrid visages,
And melt them into air.
I am not your's,
Fell Goddesses! A just and generous Power,
A bright-hair'd God, directed me.
And thus
Abased is he whom such a God inspired!
( After a pause .)
Into whose kingdom went they? did they go
Electra . Oh! they were not long apart.
Orestes . I know why thou art pale; I know whose head
Thy flowerlike hands have garlanded; I know
For whom thou hast unbraided all thy love.
He well deserves it . . . . . . he shall have it all.
Glory and love shall crown thee, my brave sister!
Electra . I am not she of Sparta. Let me live
(If live I must, Orestes!) not unnamed
Nor named too often. Speak no more of love,
Ill-omen'd and opprobrious in this house . .
A mother should have had, a father had it,
O may a brother let it dwell with him,
Unchangeable, unquestioned, solitary,
Strengthened and hallowed in the depths of grief!
Gaze not so angrily . . I dare not see thee,
I dare not look where comfort should be found.
Orestes . I dare and do behold them all day long,
And, were that face away so like my mother's,
I would advance and question and compell them . .
They hear me, and they know it.
Electra . Hear me too,
Ye mighty ones! to me invisible!
And spare him! spare him! for without the Gods
He wrought not what he wrought: And are not ye
Partakers of their counsels and their power?
O spare the son of him whom ye and they
Sent against Ilion, to perform your will
And bid the rulers of the earth be just.
Orestes . And dare they frighten thee too? frighten thee!
And bend thee into prayer?
Off, hateful eyes!
Look upon me, not her.
Ay, thus, 'tis well.
Cheer, cheer thee, my Electra!
I am strong,
Stronger than ever . . steel, fire, adamant . .
But cannot bear thy brow upon my neck,
Cannot bear these wild writhings, these loud sobs,
By all the Gods! I think thou art half-mad . . . . . .
I must away . . . . . . follow me not . . . . . . stand there!
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