Priestess, with speed conclude the sacrifice,
Impatiently the king and people wait.
I had perform'd my duty and thy will,
Had not an unforeseen impediment
The execution of my purpose thwarted.
What is it that obstructs the king's commands?
Chance, which from mortals will not brook control.
Possess me with the reason, that with speed
I may inform the king, who hath decreed
The death of both.
The gods have not decreed it.
The elder of these men doth bear the guilt
Of kindred murder; on his steps attend
The dread Eumenides. They seiz'd their prey
Within the inner fane, polluting thus
The holy sanctuary. I hasten now,
Together with my virgin-train, to bathe
Diana's image in the sea, and there
With solemn rites its purity restore.
Let none presume our silent march to follow!
This hindrance to the monarch I'll announce:
Do not commence the rite till he permit.
The priestess interferes alone in this.
An incident so strange the king should know.
Here, nor his counsel nor command avails.
Oft are the great consulted out of form.
Do not insist on what I must refuse.
A needful and a just demand refuse not.
I yield, if thou delay not.
I with speed
Will bear these tidings to the camp, and soon
Acquaint thee, priestess, with the king's reply.
There is a message I would gladly bear him:
'Twould quickly banish all perplexity:
Thou didst not heed thy faithful friend's advice.
I willingly have done whate'er I could.
E'en now 'tis not too late to change thy mind.
To do so is, alas, beyond our power.
What thou wouldst shun, thou deem'st impossible.
Thy wish doth make thee deem it possible.
Wilt thou so calmly venture everything?
My fate I have committed to the gods.
The gods are wont to save by human means.
By their appointment everything is done.
Believe me, all doth now depend on thee.
The irritated temper of the king
Alone condemns these men to bitter death.
The soldiers from the cruel sacrifice
And bloody service long have been disused;
Nay, many, whom their adverse fortunes cast
In foreign regions, there themselves have felt
How godlike to the exil'd wanderer
The friendly countenance of man appears.
Do not deprive us of thy gentle aid!
With ease thou canst thy sacred task fulfil:
For nowhere doth benignity, which comes
In human form from heaven, so quickly gain
An empire o'er the heart, as where a race,
Gloomy and savage, full of life and power,
Without external guidance, and oppress'd
With vague forebodings, bear life's heavy load.
Shake not my spirit, which thou canst not bend
According to thy will.
While there is time
Nor labour nor persuasion shall be spar'd.
Thy labour but occasions pain to me;
Both are in vain; therefore, I pray, depart.
I summon pain to aid me. 'tis a friend
Who counsels wisely.
Though it shakes my soul,
It doth not banish thence my strong repugnance.
Can then a gentle soul repugnance feel
For benefits bestow'd by one so noble?
Yes, when the donor, for those benefits,
Instead of gratitude, demands myself.
Who no affection feels doth never want
Excuses. To the king I'll now relate
All that has happen'd. Oh, that in thy soul
Thou wouldst revolve his noble conduct, priestess,
Since thy arrival to the present day!