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Erechtheus A Tragedy (New Edition)

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ERECHTHEUS. Mother of life and death and all men's days,Earth, whom I chief of all men born would bless,And call thee with more loving lips than theirsMother, for of this very body of thineAnd living blood I have my breath and live,Behold me, even thy son, me crowned of men,Me made thy child by that strong cunning GodWho fashions fire and iron, who begatMe for a sword and beacon-fire on thee,10 Me fosterling of Pallas, in her shadeReared, that I first might pay the nursing debt,Hallowing her fame with flower of third-year feasts,And first bow down the bridled strength of steedsTo lose the wild wont of their birth, and bearClasp of man's knees and steerage of his hand,Or fourfold service of his fire-swift wheelsThat whirl the four-yoked chariot; me the kingWho stand before thee naked now, and cry,O holy and general mother of all men born,20 But mother most and motherliest of mine,Earth, for I ask thee rather of all the Gods,What have we done? what word mistimed or workHath winged the wild feet of this timeless curseTo fall as fire upon us? Lo, I standHere on this brow's crown of the city's headThat crowns its lovely body, till death's hourWaste it; but now the dew of dawn and birthIs fresh upon it from thy womb, and weBehold it born how beauteous; one day more30 I see the world's wheel of the circling sunRoll up rejoicing to regard on earthThis one thing goodliest, fair as heaven or he,Worth a God's gaze or strife of Gods; but nowWould this day's ebb of their spent wave of strifeSweep it to sea, wash it on wreck, and leaveA costless thing contemned; and in our stead,Where these walls were and sounding streets of men,Make wide a waste for tongueless water-herdsAnd spoil of ravening fishes; that no more40 Should men say, Here was Athens. This shalt thouSustain not, nor thy son endure to see,Nor thou to live and look on; for the wombBare me not base that bare me miserable,To hear this loud brood of the Thracian foamBreak its broad strength of billowy-beating warHere, and upon it as a blast of deathBlowing, the keen wrath of a fire-souled king,A strange growth grafted on our natural soil,A root of Thrace in Eleusinian earth50 Set for no comfort to the kindly land,Son of the sea's lord and our first-born foe,Eumolpus; nothing sweet in ears of thineThe music of his making, nor a songToward hopes of ours auspicious; for the noteRings as for death oracular to thy sonsThat goes before him on the sea-wind blownFull of this charge laid on me, to put outThe brief light kindled of mine own child's life,Or with this helmsman hand that steers the state60 Run right on the under shoal and ridge of deathThe populous ship with all its fraughtage goneAnd sails that were to take the wind of timeRent, and the tackling that should hold out fastIn confluent surge of loud calamitiesBroken, with spars of rudders and lost oarsThat were to row toward harbour and find restIn some most glorious haven of all the worldAnd else may never near it: such a songThe Gods have set his lips on fire withal70 Who threatens now in all their names to bringRuin; but none of these, thou knowest, have IChid with my tongue or cursed at heart for grief,Knowing how the soul runs reinless on sheer deathWhose grief or joy takes part against the Gods....