Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

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Mat I be permitted to chat a little, by way
of leoreation, at the end of a somewhat toil-
some and perhaps fruitless adventore ?

If, beoanse of the immense fame of the fol-
lowing Tragedy, I wished to acquaint myself
with it, and oonld only do so by the help of a
translator, I should require him to be literal at
every cost saTe that of absolute yiolence to our
language. The use of certain allowable con-
structions which, happening to be out of daily
favor, are all the more appropriate to archaic
workmanship, is no violence : but I would be
tolerant for once — in the case of so immensely
famous an original — of even a clumsy attempt
to furmah me with the very turn of each phrase
in as Greek a fashion as English will bear:
while, with respect to amplifications and em-
bellishments, — anything rather than, with the
good farmer, experience that most signal of
mortifications, ** to gape for .^Ischylus and get
Theognis." I should especially decline — what
may appear to brighten up a passage — the
employment of a new word for some old
one, — v6v«t^ or Myoc, or riXoc, with its eonge-
ners, recurring four times in three lines : for
though such substitution may be in itself per-
fectly justifiable, yet this exercise of ingenuity
ought to be withiJi the competence of the un-
aided English reader if he likes to show him-
self ingenious. Learning Greek teaches Greek,
and nothing else : certainly not common sense,
if that have failed to precede the teaching.
Further, — if I obtained a mere strict bald
version of thing by thing, or at least word
pregnant with thing, 1 should hardly look for
an impossible transmission of the reputed mag-
niloquence and sonority of the Greek ; and this
with the less regret, inasmuch as there is
abundant musicality elsewhere, but nowhere
else than in his poem the ideas of the poet.
And lastly, when presented with these ideas,
I should expect the result to prove very
hard reading indeed if it were meant to
resemble .^Isohylus, (vM^aXcty ov pfStof, *^not
easy to understand," in the opinion of his
stoutest advocate among the ancients ; while, I
suppose, even modem scholarship sympathizes
with that early declaration of the redoubtable
Salmasius, when, looking about for an example
of the truly obscure for the benefit of those
who found obscurity in the sacred books, he
protested that this particular play leaves them
all behind in this respect, with their " He-
braisms, Syriasms, Hellenisms, and the whole



of such bag and baggage.'*^ For, over and abon
the proposed ambiguity of the Chorus, the tot
is sadly corrupt, probably interpolated, aad
certainly mutilated ; and no unlearned peaoi
enjoys the scholar's privilege of trying Ins fanej
upon each obstacle whenever he comes to »
stoppage, and efBectually clearing the way bj
suppressing what seems to lie in it.

All I can say for the present performaaoeii,
that I have done as I would be done bj, if
need were. Should anybody, without need,
honor my translation by a comparison vitk
the original, I beg him to observe that, foUov-
ing no editor exclusively, I keep to the earlier
readings so long as sense can be made onto!
them, but disregard, I hope, little of import-
ance in reoent criticism so far as I have falkt
in with it. Fortunately, the poorest truda*
tion, provided only it be faithful, — thougli it
reproduce all the artistic confusion of teuei,
moods, and persons, with which the ongiul
teems, — will not only suffice to display wkit
an eloquent friend maintains to be the aU-is-tA
of poetry — **the action of the piece"— bat
may help to illustrate his assurance that ^'tbi
Greeks are the highest models of expteaioB,
the unapproached masters of the grand st^:
their expression is so excellent because it it so
admirably kept in its right degree of promi-
nence, because it is so simple and so weU sub-
ordinated, because it draw^ its force directly
from the pregnancy of the matter which it eoa-
veys ... not a word wasted, not a een timwit
capriciously thrown in, stroke ^n stroke!"*
So may all happen I ^^

Just a word more on the subject )|f my spell-
ing — in a transcript from the Greelu*''^ ^^^^'^
exclusively — Greek names and places^veoisely
as does the Greek author. I began tG9 P**^
tice, with great innooency of intentioii;)|<>B^
six-and-thirty years ago. Leigh Hunt, .f"
member, was accustomed to speak o£¥*
gratitude, when ignorant of Greek, to th^
writers (like Goldsmith) who had obliged liir
by using English characters, so that he ml^l
relish, for instance, the smooth quality of sac



1 **Qtda JEoehylnm poMlt siBrmare Onooe na*
sdentl magit patere explloabllem qtuun Enngelia ^
EpUtoUa Aportolieas? Unaa ejas Agamanmon J^
•ottritate niperat qQantom est Ubroruin Mcroram cf*
■nis Habraiamis et Byriasmia et toCa HeDeniatioa^B*
pellMtm rel fotragine.**— Balmasiub de HeOm^m ^
Splat Dedic r^

* Pomm by ICAnsur Axaou>, Preface.



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a phiaae aa '* hapalimeUu galen^ ; *' he atad
also that Shelley waa indignant at ^* Firenxe "
having displaced the Dantesqne **Fiorenza,*'
and would oontemptnonsly Engliah the intruder
**' flrenoe." I sappoeed I was doing a simple
thing enoos^ : hut there has heen till lately
mooh astonishment at 0$ and iw, at and 01, rep-
resenting the same letters in Greek. Of a sud-
den, howeyer, whether in translation or out of
it, eyeryhody seems committing the offence,
although the adoption of u for v still presents
■uoh difficulty that it is a wonder how we have
hitherto escaped " Eyripides." But there ex-
isted a sturdy Briton who, Ben Jonson informs
us, wrote ** The Life of the Emperor Anthony
Pie** — whom we now acquiesce in as An-
toninus Pius: for " with time and patience the
mulberry leaf becomes satin." Tet there is on
all sides much profession of respect for what
Keats called " Towelled Greek "—'* conso-
nanted,** one would expect ; and, in a criticism
upon a late admirable translation of something
of my own, it was deplored that, in a certain
Terse corresponding in measure to the four-
teenth of the sixth Pythian Ode, '* neither
Professor Jebb in his €beek, nor lir. Browning
in his English, could emulate that matchlessly
musical y6v9¥ iSkv KiXKurrw di^pwr.** Now,
undoubtedly, *^ Seeing her son the fairest of
men *' has more sense than sound to boast of :
but then, would not an Italian roll us out



** Rimirando il figliu<^ bellissimo de^ 1
ini ? '* whereat Pindar, no less than Ph>fe8sor
Jebb and Mr. Browning, rpcoxr^ppv <hx«v«* rvx^r.

It is recorded in the Annals of Art^ that
there was once upon a time, practising so far
north as Stockholm, a painter and picture-
deaner— sire of a less unhappy son^Old
Muytens: and the annalist, Baron de Teas^,
has not concealed his profound dissatisfaction
at Old Muytens' conceit " to have himself had
something to do with the work of whatever
master of eminence might pass through his
hands." Whence it was — the Baron goes on
to deplore — that much detriment was done
to that excellent piece ** The Recognition of
Achilles,** by Rubens, through the penrersity
of Old Muytens, " who must needs take on him
to beautify every nymph of the twenty by the
bestowment of a widened eye and an enlarged
mouth.** I, at least, hsTC left eyes and mouths
STerywhere as I found them, and this conserT-
atism is all that dauns praise for — what
is, after all Aic4\tv9rot it^^e^t loM, No,
neither ** uncommanded ** nor " unrewarded : **
since it was conunanded of me by my Tenerated
friend Thomas Carlyle, and rewarded will it
indeed become, if I am permitted to dignify it
by the prefatory insertion of his dear and noble
name. R. B.

Loiroov, October 1, 1877.

1 Leiiret h unjeune PHnee, tndultes da SnMok,



AGAMEMNON



PERSONS OF THE DRAMA



WAiosa.

Ohobm or Old Mbv.
KLUTAZMnrnu.
TALToamuM, Herald,



AeAnamioH.

AieisTHOt.

K*M4wns4.



Warder. The gods I ask deliverance from
these labors,
Watch of a year's length whereby, slumbering

throng it
On the Atreidai's roofs on elbow, — dog-like —
>o. I know of nighUy star-groups the asseim>lage,
t, . And those that bring to men winter and sum-
of naer,

^(^ Bright dynasts, as the:|r pride them in the «ther
, 1^ — Stars, when they wither, and the uprisings
'^ of them.

> ^ And now on ward I wait the torch's token,
0^ s» The glow of fire, shall bring from Troia mes-



gg IB And word of capture : so preTails audacious

^: The man's -way-planning hoping heart of
^ woman.

( But when I, dxiTcn from night-rest, dew-
^ drenched, hold to

^« This couch of mine — not looked upon by



Snoe fear instead of sleep still stands beside me,



So as that fast I fix in sleep no eyelids—
And when to sing or chirp a tune I fancy.



For slumber such song-remedr infusing,
I wail then, for this House's fortune



u«i



groan-



Not, as of old, after the best ways gOTemed.

Now, lucky be deliverance from these labora.

At good news — the appearing dusky fire !

O hail, thou lamp of night, a day-long light-
ness

Revealing, and of dances the ordainment I

Halloo, halloo I

To Agamemnon's wife I show, by shouting.

That, from bed starting up at once, V the
household

Joyous acclaim, good-omened to this torch-
blaze.

She send aloft if hi4>ly Ilion*s city

Be taken, as the beacon boasts announdng.

Ay, and, for me, myself will dance a prelude,

For, that my masters' dice drep right, I 'II
reckon:

l^nce thrice-six has it thrown to me, this
signal.

Well, may it hap that, as he comes, the loved
hand

O* the household's lord I may sustain with this
handl

As for the rest, I *m mute : on tongue a big
ox



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Has trodden. Yet thia House, if voice it take

should.
Host plain would speak. So, willing 1 myself

speak
To those who know : to who know not — I 'm

hlankness.
Choros. The tenth year this, since Priamos'

neat match,
Eling Menelaoe, Agamemnon King,

— "nie strenuous yoke-pair of the Atreidai's

honor
Two-throned, two-sceptred, whereof Zeus was

donor —
Did from this land the aid, the armament dis-
patch.
The thousand-sailored force of Argives clamor-
ing
'* Ares ''^from out the indignant hreast, as fling
Passion forth vultures which, because of e^rief
Away, — as are their young ones, — with the

thief,
Lofty above their brood-nests wheel in rin^.
Row round and round with oar of either wing.
Lament the bedded chicks, lost labor that was

love:
Which hearing, one above

— Whether Apollon, Pan or Zeus — that wail.
Sharp-piercing bird-shriek of the guests who

fare
Housemates with gods in air —
Such-an-one sends, against who these aasidl.
What, late-sent, shall not fail
Of punishing — Erinus. Here as there.
The Guardian of the Guest, Zeus, the excelling

oncj
Sends agamst Alexandros either son
Of Atreus : for that wife, the many-husbanded.
Appointing many a tug that tries the limb,
While the knee plays the prop in dust, while,

shred
To morsels, lies the spear-shaft; in those

^ grim
Marriage-prolusions when their Fury wed
Danaoi and Troes, both alike. All 's Bsad :
Things are where things are, and, as fate has

willed.
So shall they be fulfilled.
Kot gently-grieving, not just doling out
The drops of expiation — no, nor tears dis-

Shall he we know of bring the hard about
To soft — that intense ire
At those mock rites unsanctified by fire.
But we pay naught here : through our flesh, age-
weighed.
Left out from who gave aid
In that day, — we remain.
Staying on staves a strength
The equal of a child's at length.
For when young marrow in the breast doth

That 's &e old man's match, — Ares out of

place
In either : but in oldest age's case.
Foliage a-fading, why, he wends his wav^
On three feet, and, no stronger than a child,
Wanders about gone wild,
A dream in day.



But thou, Tundareus' daughter, KLut
queen,

Whatneed? What new? What having heixd
or seen,

By what announcement's tidings, everywhere

Settest thou, round about, the sacrifice aflare?

For, of all gods the cit^-swaying,

Those supernal, those infenud.

Those of the fields', those of Uie mait'i
obeyinjf,—

The altars blaze with gifts ;

And here and there, heavenrhigh the torch up-
lifts

Flame — medicated with persuasions mild.

With foul admixture unbeguiled —

Of holv unguent, from the clotted chrism

Brought from the palace^ safe in its abysm.

Of wese things, speakmg what may be in-
deed

Both possible and lawful to concede.

Healer do thou become ! — of this solicitude

Which, now, stands plainly forth of evil mood,

And, then . . • but from oblations, hope, to*
day

Gracious appearing, wards away

From soul tne insatiate care.

The sorrow at my breast, devouring there I

Empowered am I to sing

The omens, what their force which, jonxney-

Rejoiceathe i>otentates :

g'^or still, from GM, inflates
y breast, song^uasion : age.
Bom to the business, still such war can wags)

— How the fierce bird against the Teukris uod
Dispatched, with spear and executing hand.
The Achaaan's two-throned empery — o'er

Hellas' youth
Two rulers with one mind :
The birds' king to these kings of shipe, on hi([li,

— The black sort, and the sort that 's .wmte

behind, —
Appearing by the palace, on the spear-throv

side.
In right sky^regions, viable far and wide, —
Devonrinjpr a hiu«-creature, great with young.
Balked of more racings they, as she £n>m whom

they sprung t
Ah, Linos, say — ah. Linos, song of wail !
But may the good prevail !

The prudent army-prophet seeing two

The Atreidai, two their tempers, knew

Those feasting on the hare

The armament-conductors were ^

And thus he spoke, explaining signs in view.

"'In time, this outset takes the town of

Priamos :
But all before its towers, — the people's weakh

that was.
Of flocks and herds, — as sure, shall booiy-

sharing thence
Dnun to the dr€«s away, by battle violence.
Only, have care lest grudge of any god disturb
With cloud the unsullied shine cl that great

force, the curb
Of Troia, struck wiUi damp



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Beforehand in the oamp I

For envyingrly is

The yiigin Artemis

Toward — her father's flying hounds — this

House —
The saorifioers of the piteous
And cowerine beast.
Brood and all, ere the birth : she hates ^e

eagles' feast.
Ah, Linos, say ■— ah. Linos, song of wail I
But may the good prevail I

^* Thus ready is the beauteous one with help
To those small dewdrop things fierce lions

whelp.
And udder-loying litter of each brute
That roams the mead; and therefore makes

she suit.
The fair one, for fulfilment to the end
Of things these signs portend —
Which partly smile, indeed, but partly soowl —
The phantasms of the f owL
I call leios Paian to avert
She work the Danaoi hurt
By any thwarting waftures, long and fast
Holdings from sail of ships :
And sacrifice, another than the last,
She for herself precipitate —
Something unlawful, feast for no man's lips.
Builder of quarrels, with the House cognate —
Having in awe no husband : for remains
A frightful, backward-darting in the path.
Wily nouse-kee^ing chronicler of wrath.
That has to punish that old children's fate I "
Such things did Kalohas, — with abundant

gains
As well, — vociferate.
Predictions from the birds, in journeying,
Above the abode of either king.
With these, symphonious, sing —
Ah, Linos, say — ah, Linos, song of wul I
But may the good prevail 1

Zeus, whosoe'er he be, — if that express

Auent dear to him on whom 1 call —

So do 1 him address.

I cannot liken out, by all

Admeasurement of powers,

Any but Zeus for refuge at snoh hours,

H veritably needs I must

From off my soul its vague care-burden thrust.

Not — whosoever was the great of yore.

Bursting to bloom with bravery all romid —

Is in our mouths : he was, but is no more*

And who it was that after came to be.

Met the thrice-throwing wrestler, — he

Is also gone to ground.

But ''Zeus" — if any, heart and soul, that



Shouting the triumph-praise — proclaim,
Complete in judgment shall that man be found.
Zeus, who leflids onward mortals to be wise.
Appoints that suffering masterfully teaoh.
In sleep, before the heart of each,
A woe-remembering travail sheds in dew
Discretion, — ay, and melts the unwilling too
By what, perchance, may be a gradousness



Of gods, enforced no lees, —

As they, commanders of the orew,

Assnme the awful seat.

And then the old leader of the Aoludan fleet.

Disparaging no seer —

With bated breath to suit misfortune's inrush

here
— (What time it labored, that Achaian host.
By stay from sailing, — every pulse at lengtn
Emptied of vital strength, —
Hard over Kalchis shore-boundf ourrent-croet
In Aulis station, — while the winds which poet
From Strumon, ill-delayers, fainine-&»ught.
Tempters of man to sail where harborage is*

nauffht,
Spendthrirts of ships and cables, turning time
To twice the length, —these carded, by delay,
To less and less away
The Argeians' flowery prime :
And when a remedy more grave and grand
Than aught before — yea, for the st^m and

deaith —
The proohet to the foremost in command
Shriekea forth, as cause of this
Adducing Artemis,

So that the Atreidiu striking staves on earth
Gould not withhold the tear) —
Then did the king, the elder, speak this dear.

** Heavy the fate, indeed — to disobey I

Yet heavy if my child I slay,

The adornment of my household: with the

tide
Of virgin-slaughter, at the altaivside,
A father's hands defiling : which the way
Without its evils, say ?
How shall I turn fleet-fugitive,
Failinfir of duty to allies r
Since tor a wind-abating sacrifice
And virgin blood, — 't is right they strive.
Nay, madden with desire.
Wdl may it work them — this that they ie«

quire I"

But when he underwent neoeenty's
Toke-traoe, — from soul blowing unhallowed

change
Undean, abominable, — thenoe — another

man —
The audadous mind of him began
Its wildest ranj^.

For this it is gives mortals hardihood —
Some vice-devising miserable mood
Of madness, and nrst woe of all the brood.
The sacrificer of his daughter — strange I —
He dared become, to expedite
Woman-avenging warfare, —anchors weighed
With such pxeludve rite I

Prayines and callings " Father " — naught

they made
Of these, and of the virgin-age, —
Captains heart-set on war to wage I
His mimstrants, vows done, the father bade —
Kid-like, above the altar, swathed in pall.
Take her — lift high, and have no fear at all.
Head-downward, and the fair month's guard



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And frontage hold, — press hard

From ntteranoe a ourse against the House

By dint of bit — Tiolenoe oridling speech.

And as to ground her saffron-yest she shed.

She smote the saorifioers all and each

With arrow sweet and piteous,

IVom the eye onlv sped, -—

Significant of will to use a word,

Just as in pictures : since, full many a time,

In her sirens guest-hall, by the well-heaped

board
Had she made music, — lovinglT with chime
Of her chaste yoioe, that unpolluted thing.
Honored the third libation, — paian that should

bring
Good fortune to the sire she lored so welL

What followed — those things I nor saw nor

tell.
But Kalohas' arts —whatever they indicate —
Hiss of fulfilment nerer : it is fate.
True, justice makes, in sufferers, a desire
To know the future woe
But — hear before is need !
To that, farewell and welcome I 't is the same,

indeed.
As grief beforehand : clearly, part for part,
Gomormably to Kalohas* ait.
Shall come the event.

But be they as they may, thinss subsequent, —
What is to do, prosperi^ betide
£*en as we wish it ! — we, the next allied.
Sole guarding barrier of the Apian land.

I am come, reyerencing power in thee,

Klutaimnestra ! For 't is just we bow

To the ruler*s wife, — the male-seat man-be-

reayed.
But if thou, haying heard good news, — or

none, —
For good news* hope dost sacrifice thus wide,

1 would hear gladly : art thou mute, — no

grudge I
Klutaimnestra. Good-newB-announcer,may—

as is the by-word —
Mom become, truly, — news from Night his

mother I
But thou shalt learn joy past all hope of hear-
ing.
Priamor city haye the Argeioi taken.
Cho, How sayest ? The word, from want of

faith^ escaped me.
Klu, Troia the Achaioi hold: do I speak

plainly?
Cho. Joy oyereree p s me, calling forth the

teaivdrop.
Klu. Right r for, that glad thou art, thine

eye oonyicts thee.
Cho. For — what to thee, of all this, trusty

token?
KJu. What's here! how else? unless the

god haye cheated.
Cho. Haply thou flattering shows of dreams

respectest?
Klu. No {anej would I take of soul sleep-
burdened.
Cho. But has there puffed thee up some un-

wingedomen?



Klu. As a youn^ maid's my mind thoa

mockest grossly.
Cho. Well, at what time waa— eren sadced,

thecil^?
Klu. Of this same mother Night — the dawn,

IteUthee.
Cho. And who of messengers ooold reach this

swiftness?
Klu. Hephaistos — sending a bright Ua»
from Id^.
Beacon did beacon send, &om fire the poster,
Hitherward : Id^ to the rock Hermaiaa
Of Lemnos: and a third great torch o* the



Zeus' seat reoeiyed in turn, the Athoan sum-
mit.
And, — so upsoaring as to stride sea orar.
The strong lamp-yoyager, and all for joyanee—
Did the gold-glorious splendor, any sun Uke,
Pass on — the pine-tree — to Makistos' watdi-

plaoe;
Who did not, — tardy, — caught, no wita about

him.
By sleep, — decline his portion of the nuasiye.
And far the beacon's light, on stream Emi-

pos
Arriying, made aware Messapioe' warders.
And up they lit in turn, played herald o»>

wards.
Kindling with flame a heap of gray old

heather.
And, strengthening still, the lamp, deoayiag

nowise.
Springing o*er Plain Asopos, — fnllnuMB-

fauiion
Effulgent, — toward the crag of Mount Kitha-

iron.
Roused a new rendering^up of fire the escort—
And Hght, far escort, lacked no recognitian
O' the guard — as burning more than bormngs

toldyou.
And oyer Lake Gorgopis light went leaping;
And, at Mount AJgiplanktos safe arriying.
Enforced the law— *'to neyer stint the fire-
stuff."
And they send, lighting up with ungmdged

▼igor.
Of fiame a huge beard^ ay, the yery foreland
So as to strike aboye, m burning onward.
The look-out which conmumds the Strait

Saronic,
Then did it dart until it reached the outpost
Mount Arachnaios here, the city's neighbor ;
And then darts to this roof of the Atreidai
This light of Id^'s fire not unforefathered !
Such are the rules prescribed the flambeau*

bearers:
He beats that 's first and also last in running.
Such is the proof and token I declare thee.
My husband haying sent me news from Tktna.
Cho. The gods, indeed, anon will I fnay.

woman I
But now, these words to hear, and sate my

wonder
Thoroughly, I am fain — if twice them teD

them.
KJu. ISroia do the Achaim hold, thia same

day.



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I think a noiM — no mixture — reigns i' the

city.
Sour wine and nngnent poor thou in one

veesel —
Standers-apart, not lorers, would'st thoa style

them :
And so. of oaptiTee and of oonqnerors, partwise
The Toices are to hear, of fortune diverse.
For those, indeed, npon the bodies prostrate
Of hoflbands, i>roihers, children upon parents
— The old men, from a throat that 's free no

longer,
Shriekingiy wail the death-doom of their dear-
est:
While these — the after-battle hungry labor,
Which prompts night-faring, marsnals them to

breakfast
On the town^s store, aooordinff to no billet
Of sharing, but as each drew lot of fortune.
Li the spear-captured Troic habitations
House tney already : from the frosts upnthral
And dews delivered, will they, luckless crea-
tures.
Without a watch to keep, slumber all night

through.
And if they fear the gods, the eity-guarders.
And if the gods' structures of the conquered

connt^.
They may^ not — capturers — soon in turn be

captiye.
But see no prior lust befall the army
To sack things sacred — by gain-cravings yan-

quished I
For there needs homeward the return's sal-
vation.
To round the new limb back o' the doable race-
course.
And guilty to the gods if came the army.
Awakened up the sorrow of those slaughtered



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 164 of 198)