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SCENE I. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 3.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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Unhappy man, I only loose thy bonds
In token of a still severer doom.
The freedom which the sanctuary imparts,
Like the last life-gleam o’er the dying face,
But heralds death. I cannot, dare not say
Your doom is hopeless; for, with murderous hand,
Could I inflict the fatal blow myself?
And while I here am priestess of Diana,
None, be he who he may, dare touch your heads.
But the incens’d king, should I refuse
Compliance with the rites himself enjoin’d,
Will choose another virgin from my train
As my successor. Then, alas! with naught,
Save ardent wishes, can I succor you.
Much honored countrymen! The humblest slave.
Who had but near’d our sacred household hearth.
Is dearly welcome in a foreign land;
How with proportion’d joy and blessing, then,
Shall I receive the man who doth recall
The image of the heroes, whom I learn’d
To honor from my parents, and who cheers
My inmost heart with flatt’ring gleams of hope!
Does prudent forethought prompt thee to conceal
Thy name and race? or may I hope to know
Who, like a heavenly vision, meets me thus?
Yes, thou shalt know me. Now conclude the tale
Of which thy brother only told me half:
Relate their end, who coming home from Troy,
On their own threshold met a doom severe
And most unlook’d for. Young I was in sooth
When first conducted to this foreign shore,
Yet well I recollect the timid glance
Of wonder and amazement which I cast
On those heroic forms. When they went forth
It seem’d as though Olympus had sent down
The glorious figures of a bygone world,
To frighten Ilion; and above them all,
Great Agamemnon tower’d pre-eminent!
Oh, tell me! Fell the hero in his home,
Through Clytemnestra’s and Ægisthus’ wiles?
Unbless’d Mycene! Thus the sons
Of Tantalus, with barbarous hands, have sown
Curse upon curse; and, as the shaken weed
Scatters around a thousand poison-seeds,
So they assassins ceaseless generate,
Their children’s children ruthless to destroy,—
Now tell the remnant of thy brother’s tale,
Which horror darkly hid from me before.
How did the last descendant of the race,—
The gentle child, to whom the Gods assign’d
The office of avenger,—how did he
Escape that day of blood? Did equal fate
Around Orestes throw Avernus’ net?
Say, was he sav’d? and is he still alive?
And lives Electra, too?
They both survive.
Golden Apollo, lend thy choicest beams!
Lay them an offering at the throne of Jove!
For I am poor and dumb.
If social bonds
Or ties more close connect thee with this house,
As this thy rapturous joy betrayeth to me,
Oh, then rein in thy heart and hold it fast!
For insupportable the sudden plunge
From happiness to sorrow’s gloomy depth.
Thou knowest only Agamemnon’s death.
And is not this intelligence enough?
Half of the horror only hast thou heard.
What should I fear? Orestes, Electra live.
And fearest thou for Clytemnestra naught?
Her, neither hope nor fear have power to save.
She to the land of hope hath bid farewell.
Did her repentant hand shed her own blood?
Not so; yet her own blood inflicted death.
More plainly speak, nor leave me in suspense.
Uncertainty around my anxious head
Her dusky, thousand-folded pinion waves.
Have then the powers above selected me
To be the herald of a dreadful deed,
Which in the drear and soundless realms of night
I fain would hide forever? ’Gainst my will
Thy gentle voice constrains me; it demands,
And shall receive, a tale of direst woe.
Electra, on the day when fell her sire,
Her brother from impending doom conceal’d;
Him Strophius, his father’s relative,
Receiv’d with kindest care, and rear’d him up
With his own son, nam’d Pylades, who soon
Around the stranger twin’d love’s fairest bonds.
And as they grew, within their inmost souls
There sprang the burning longing to revenge
The monarch’s death. Unlook’d for, and disguis’d,
They reach Mycene, feigning to have brought
The mournful tidings of Orestes’ death,
Together with his ashes. Them the queen
Gladly receives. Within the house they enter;
Orestes to Electra shows himself:
She fans the fires of vengeance into flame,
Which in the sacred presence of a mother
Had burn’d more dimly. Silently she leads
Her brother to the spot where fell their sire:
Where lurid blood-marks, on the oft-wash’d floor,
With pailid streaks, anticipate revenge.
With fiery eloquence she pictur’d forth
Each circumstance of that atrocious deed,—
Her own oppress’d and miserable lite.
The prosperous traitor’s insolent demeanor,
The perils threat’ning Agamemnon’s race
From her who had become their stepmother.—
Then in his hand the ancient dagger thrust,
Which often in the house of Tantalus
With savage fury rag’d,—and by her son
Was Clytemnestra slain.
Whose pure and bless’d existence glides away
’Mid ever shifting clouds, me have ye kept
So many years secluded from the world,
Retain’d me near yourselves, consign’d to me
The childlike task to feed the sacred fire,
And taught my spirit, like the hallow’d flame,
With never-clouded brightness to aspire
To your pure mansions,—but at length to feel
With keener woe the horror of my house?
Oh, tell me of the poor unfortunate!
Speak of Orestes!
Oh, could I speak to tell thee of his death!
Forth from the slain ones spouting blood arose
His mother’s ghost;
And to the ancient daughters of the night
Cries,—“Let him not escape,—the matricide!
Pursue the victim, dedicate to you!”
They hear, and glare around with hollow eyes,
Like greedy eagles. In their murky dens
They stir themselves, and from the corners creep
Their comrades, dire Remorse and pallid Fear;
Before them fumes a mist of Acheron:
Perplexingly around the murderer’s brow
The eternal contemplation of the past
Rolls in its cloudy circles. Once again
The grisly band, commission’d to destroy,
Pollute earth’s beautiful and heaven-sown fields,
From which an ancient curse had banish’d them.
Their rapid feet the fugitive pursue;
They only pause to start a wilder fear.
Unhappy one! thy lot resembles his;
Thou feel’st what he, poor fugitive, must suffer.
What say’st thou? why presume my fate like his?
A brother’s murder weighs upon thy soul;
Thy younger brother told the mournful tale.
I cannot suffer that thy noble soul
Should by a word of falsehood be deceiv’d.
In cunning rich and practis’d in deceit
A web ensnaring let the stranger weave
To snare the stranger’s feet; between us twain
I am Orestes! and this guilty head
Is stooping to the tomb, and covets death;
It will be welcome now in any shape.
Whoe’er thou art, for thee and for my friend
I wish deliverance;—I desire it not.
Thou seem’st to linger here against thy will;
Contrive some means of flight, and leave me here:
My lifeless corpse hurl’d headlong from the rock,
My blood shall mingle with the dashing waves,
And bring a curse upon this barbarous shore!
Return together home to lovely Greece,
With joy a new existence to commence.
At length Fulfilment, fairest child of Jove,
Thou dost descend upon me from on high!
How vast thine image! scarce my straining eye
Can reach thy hands, which, fill’d with golden fruit
And wreaths of blessing, from Olympus’ height
Shower treasures down. As by his bounteous gifts
We recognize the monarch (for what seems
To thousands opulence, is naught to him).
So you, ye heavenly Powers, are also known
By bounty long withheld, and wisely plann’d.
Ye only know what things are good for us;
Ye view the future’s wide-extended realm,
While from our eye a dim or starry veil
The prospect shrouds. Calmly ye hear our prayers,
When we like children sue for greater speed.
Not immature ye pluck heaven’s golden fruit;
And woe to him, who with impatient hand,
His date of joy forestalling, gathers death.
Let not this long-awaited happiness,
Which yet my heart hath scarcely realiz’d,
Like to the shadow of departed friends,
Glide vainly by with triple sorrow fraught!
(Returning.) Dost thou for Pylades and for thyself
Implore the gods, blend not my name with yours;
Thou wilt not save the wretch whom thou would’st join,
But will participate his curse and woe.
My destiny is firmly bound to thine.
No, say not so: alone and unattended
Let me descend to Hades. Though thou should’st
In thine own veil enwrap the guilty one,
Thou could’st not shroud him from his wakeful foes;
And e’en thy sacred presence, heavenly maid,
But driveth them aside and scares them not.
With brazen impious feet they dare not tread
Within the precincts of this sacred grove:
Yet in the distance, ever and anon,
I hear their horrid laughter, like the howl
Of famish’d wolves, beneath the tree wherein
The traveller hides. Without, encamp’d they lie,
And should I quit this consecrated grove,
Shaking their serpent locks, they would arise,
And, raising clouds of dust on every side,
Ceaseless pursue their miserable prey.
Orestes, canst thou hear a friendly word?
Reserve it for one favored by the gods.
To thee they give anew the light of hope.
Through clouds and smoke I see the feeble gleam
Of the death-stream which lights me down to hell.
Hast thou one sister only, thy Electra?
I knew but one: yet her kind destiny,
Which seem’d to us so terrible, betimes
Remov’d an elder sister from the woe
Which o’er the house of Pelops aye impends.
Oh, cease thy questions, nor thus league thyself
With the Erinnys; still they blow away,
With fiendish joy, the ashes from my soul,
Lest the last embers of the fiery brand,
The fatal heritage of Pelops’ house,
Should there be quenched. Must then the fire for aye,
Deliberately kindled and supplied
With hellish sulphur, sear my tortur’d soul?
I scatter fragrant incense in the flame.
Oh, let the pure, the gentle breath of love,
Low murmuring, cool thy bosom’s fiery glow.
Orestes, fondly lov’d,—canst thou not hear me?
Hath the terrific Furies’ grisly band
Dried up the blood of life within thy veins?
Creeps there, as from the Gorgon’s direful head,
A petrifying charm through all thy limbs?
With hollow accents from a mother’s blood,
If voices call thee to the shades below,
May not a sister’s word with blessing rife
Call from Olympus’ height help-rendering gods?
She calls! she calls!—Dost thou desire my doom?
Is there a Fury shrouded in thy form?
Who art thou, that thy voice thus horribly
Can harrow up my bosom’s inmost depths?
Thine inmost heart reveals it. I am she,—
Iphigenia,—look on me, Orestes!
My own brother!
Hence, away, begone!
I counsel thee, touch not these fatal locks!
As from Creusa’s bridal robe, from me
An inextinguishable fire is kindled.
Leave me! Like Hercules, a death of shame,
Unworthy wretch, lock’d in myself, I’ll die!
Thou shalt not perish! Would that I might hear
One quiet word from thee! dispel my doubts,
Make sure the bliss I have implor’d so long.
A wheel of joy and sorrow in my heart
Ceaseless revolves. I from a man unknown
With horror turn; but with resistless might
My inmost heart impels me to my brother.
Is this Lyæus’ temple? Doth the glow
Of holy rage unbridled thus possess
The sacred priestess?
Hear me! oh, look up!
See how my heart, which hath been clos’d so long,
Doth open to the bliss of seeing thee,
The dearest treasure that the world contains,—
Of falling on thy neck, and folding thee
Within my longing arms, which have till now
Met the embraces of the empty wind.
Do not repulse me,—the eternal spring,
Whose crystal waters from Parnassus flow,
Bounds not more gayly on from rock to rock,
Down to the golden vale, than from my heart
The waters of affection freely gush,
And round me form a circling sea of bliss.
Orestes! O my brother!
Nor thy caresses, nor thyself I trust;
Diana claims attendants more severe,
And doth avenge her desecrated fane.
Remove thy circling arm! Wilt thou indeed
Safety and love upon a youth bestow,
And fondly tender him earth’s fairest joy?
Unto my friend, more worthy than myself,
Impart thy favors; ’mong yon rocks he roves,
Go, seek him; guide him hence, and heed not me.
Brother, command thyself, and better know
Thy sister, newly found! Misconstrue not
Her pure and heavenly rapture, blaming it
As lustful heat unbridled. O ye gods,
Remove delusion from his rigid gaze,
Lest that this moment, fraught with bliss supreme,
Should make us trebly wretched! She is here,
Thine own, thy long-lost sister! From the altar
The goddess rescu’d me, and plac’d me here,
Secure within her consecrated fane—
A captive thou, prepar’d for sacrifice,
And findest here a sister in the priestess.
Unblessed one! So may the radiant sun
The final horror of our house behold!
Is not Electra here? That she with us
May also perish, nor her life prolong
For heavier destiny and direr woe,
’Tis well,—I follow, priestess! Fratricide
Is an old custom of our ancient house;
And you, ye gods, I thank, that ye resolve
Childless to root me hence. Thee let me counsel
To view too fondly neither sun nor stars,
Come, follow to the gloomy realms below!
As dragons, gender’d in the sulphur pool,
Swallow each other with voracious rage,
So our accursed race destroys itself
Childless and guiltless come below with me!
There’s pity in thy look! oh, gaze not so,—
’Twas with such looks that Clytemnestra sought
An entrance to her son Orestes’ heart,
And yet his uprais’d arm her bosom pierc’d
His mother fell!—Appear, indignant shade!
Within the circle step, ye fiends of hell,
Be present at the welcome spectacle,
The last, most horrible that ye prepare!
Nor hate, nor vengeance whets the poniard now;
A loving sister is constrain’d to deal
The fatal blow. Weep not! Thou hast no guilt.
From earliest infancy I naught have lov’d,
As thee I could have lov’d, my sister. Come,
The weapon raise, spare not, this bosom rend,
And make an outlet for its boiling streams!
[He sinks exhausted.
Alone I cannot bear this bliss and woe.
Where art thou, Pylades? Thine aid I need.