A monologue from the play by Aeschylus

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramas of Aeschylus. Trans. Anna Swanwick. London: George Bell and Sons, 1907.
  • IO: I know not how I can deny your wish,
    So in clear word all ye desire to know
    That shall ye hear;--Yet am I ashamed to tell
    Wherefore on me, forlorn one, burst the storm
    Heaven-sent and whence this form's disfigurement.
    For evermore would nightly visions haunt
    My virgin chambers, gently urging me
    With soothing words;--"O damsel, highly blest,
    Why longer live in maidenhood when thee
    Wait loftiest nuptials? For by passion's dart
    Inflamed is Zeus for thee and fain would share
    The yoke of Kypris. Spurn not thou, O child,
    The couch of Zeus, but to the grassy mead
    Of Lerna hie thee, to thy father's herds
    And cattle-stalls, that so the eye of Zeus
    From longing may find respite." By such dreams
    From night to night still was I visited,
    Unhappy one; till, taking heart at length,
    My night-born visions to my sire I told.
    Then he to Pytho made a herald sent
    And to Dodona; seeking to be taught
    How best, by deed or word, to please the gods.
    But they returned, announcing oracles
    Of riddling import, vague and hard to spell.
    At length to Inachos came clear response,
    By voice oracular commanding him
    From home and father-land to thrust me forth,
    At large to range, as consecrate to heaven,
    Far as earth's utmost bounds. Should he refuse,
    From Zeus would come the fiery thunderbold,
    And his whole race extirpate utterly.
    Then yielding to such Loxian Oracles,
    He drove me forth, and barred me from his home,
    Against his will and mine; but, forcefully,
    The curb of Zeus constrained him this to do.
    Forthwith my shape and mind distorted were,
    And horned, as ye behold me, goaded on
    By gad-fly, keen of fang, with frenzied bounds
    I to Kerchneias' limpid current rush'd,
    And found of Lerna. Then the earth-born herdsman,
    Hot-tempered Argos, ever dogged my steps,
    Gazing upon me with his myriad eyes.
    But him a sudden and unlooked-for fate
    Did reave of life; but I, brize-tortured, still
    Before the scorge divine am driven on
    From land to land; the past thou hearest; now
    If thou canst tell my future toils, say on,
    Nor, pity-moved, soothe me with lying tales,
    For garbled words, I hold, are basest ills.