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    THE PERSIANS Essay

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    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.

    ATOSSA: Ever have nightly visions manifold
    Beset me, since, intent on ravaging
    Ionia’s soil, my son led forth his power.
    But never saw I dream so manifest
    As that of yesternight;–I’ll tell it thee;–
    Methought two women came before my sight,
    Richly apparelled, this in Persian robes
    Was habited, and that in Dorian garb;
    In height above their sex pre-eminent,
    Faultless in beauty, sisters of one race.
    As Fatherland the one by lot had gained
    Hellas, the other the Barbaric land.
    Between these twain, for so methought I saw,
    Some feud arose, which learning, straight my son
    Strove to appease and soothe; he to his car
    Yoked them, and placed the collar on their necks.
    Proudly the one exulted in this gear,
    And kept her mouth submissive to the reins;
    Restive the other was; she with her hands
    The chariot-harness rends, then, without bit,
    Whirls it along, snapping the yoke asunder.
    Prone falls my son, and close at hand his sire,
    Darius, pitying stands, whom when he sees,
    The robes about his person Xerxes rends.
    Such was, I say, my vision of the night.
    When I arose and with my hands had touched
    Fountain clear-flowing, I the altar neared
    With sacrificial hand, wishing to pay
    To the averting gods, to whom belong
    Such rites, oblations; forthwith I behold
    An eagle fleeing straight to Phoebus’ hearth.
    Speechless I stood through terror, friends; anon,
    A kite I see borne forward on swift wing,
    Tearing with talons fierce the eagle’s head;
    Meanwhile the eagle nothing did but cower,
    His body tamely yielding to the foe.
    Dreadful these portents are to me who saw
    And you who hear: for well ye know, my son,
    If victor, were a man with glory crowned,
    Yet worsted, to the state gives no account,
    And saved, he none the less this realm will sway.

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