Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Epode for Iphigenia

Meanwhile, the men from Argos, Iphigenia,
Are twisting flowers into the curls of your hair,
To lead you like a pure white heifer
Out of a mountain cave for slaughter
And prick a throat with human blood.
Not to the shepherd's pipe or herdsman's whistle
Were you brought up, but at your mother's side
To be adorned one day as bride
For the son of a king.
Where can Decency show her face?
Where has Virtue hidden?
Brute godlessness is all the rage:
Virtue tossed on the refuse heap.
Lawlessness now governs law.
Mankind no longer is concerned
With not provoking heaven.


Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis. Translation by Paul Roche, Euripides: Ten Plays. Penguin Putnam (New York: 1998) p. 256. The first five lines of this are exquisite; Agamemnon, of course, is going to sacrifice Iphigenia, his young daughter, to Artemis in order to get a good wind to Troy.

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