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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Bloody Banquet

By Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (1674–1762)

From ‘Atreus and Thyestes’

ATREUS—Now in this cup, the pledge of brotherhood,

Behold the sacred earnest of our peace!

How timely has it come, to still the fears

That bid thee doubt a brother’s bounteous love!

If dark distrust of Atreus linger still

Within thy heart—give me the sacred cup.

That shame may fill Thyestes, to withhold

His share in this fraternal festival:

That brothers’ hearts, whom love hath set at twain,

Love’s holy bonds may reunite again:

Give me the cup! that I, in drinking first,

May drown thy doubts.—Eurysthenes, the cup!

[He takes the cup from the hand of Eurysthenes, his confidant.]
Thyestes—Have I not said, my lord, thou takest ill

My groundless doubts and coward quavering fears?

What henceforth could thy hate deprive me of,

Since son, and provinces, have been restored?

Whate’er the cause and meaning of this wrath,

Have I deserved that thou shouldst crown my days,

My wretched days, with kindness such as this?

Nay; first, Eurysthenes, give me the cup.

Let me be first to pledge all gratitude,

And drown my heart’s misgivings, that have lain

Like bitter lees within the cup I drain.

[He takes the cup from the hand of Atreus, saying:—]
Yet why delays my son?
Atreus[addressing his guards]—Give answer, guards!

Has he not yet returned?[Addressing Thyestes]—Be not uneasy.

You soon shall see him, soon to him be joined;

More near and close your union than you dream;

Most sacred pledge, he, of our solemn bond.

Thyestes—Be thou the voucher, then, of Atreus’s faith,

And of Thyestes’s safety from his hate,—

Cup of our ancestors! And you, ye gods,

Whom I to witness call! may you strike dead

With swift avenging thunderbolt of wrath

Him who first breaks this pact of peace.—And thou,

Brother as dear as daughter or as son,

Receive this proof of firmest faith.[He drains the cup, and recoils.]Ah, wretch!

What do I see? Great gods, ’tis blood, blood, blood!

Ah, horror! Blood!—mine own runs cold within

My frozen heart, my heart with horror chilled.

The sun grows dim around me; and the cup,

Dyed with such dreadful crimson, seems to shrink

From touch of this my trembling hand.—I die!

’Tis death I feel upon me. O my son!

What has become of thee?[Turning to Atreus]—My son is dead!

My son is dead, thou cruel one! who offerest

False promises of peace to me bereavèd

In the same instant which has snatched him from me.

And lest this frightful blow should leave me living,

Monster! ’tis wine of blood thy hand is giving!

O Earth! canst thou support us at this moment?

My dream, my ghastly dream returned upon me!

Was it thy blood, my son! they gave thy father?

Atreus—And canst thou recognize this blood?
Thyestes—My brother

I recognize.
Atreus—Thou shouldst have recognized him

And known his nature, in the past, nor wronged him,

And forced him, ingrate! thus to hurl his vengeance!

Thyestes—O mighty gods! what crimes are ye avenging?

Thou fiend spewed forth by hell to blight the earth,

More fully spend the rage that fills thy breast:

Send an unhappy father to his son!

Give this new victim to his bloody manes,

Nor stop half-way in thy vile path of crime.

How canst thou spare me, barbarous wretch! to mourn

Within a world whence thou hast driven away

The gods, and even the wholesome light of day?

Atreus—Nay; I should wish thee back again to life,

Which I can stuff so bravely with disasters.

I know thy grief, I hear it in thy moans,

I see thy sorrows wound thee as I wished;

And in thy tears I find fulfilled the hope

That fast was fading in my heart,—revenge!

Thou callest on death, and I have left thee life,

’Tis my revenge.
Thyestes—Ah, vain and flattering hope!

Thyestes’s hand can rob thee of that joy![He kills himself.

Theodamia, daughter of Thyestes—Ah, heaven!
Thyestes—Be thou comforted, my daughter;

Hence, and leave justice to the most high gods,

Whose hearts your tears will move. Hence! and await

His punishment, whose perjuries turned pale

The very gods themselves: they promise it;

’Tis pledged me in this bloody cup, and now—

Just gods!—I die!
Atreus—And I accept the omen;

For thy self-slaying hand hath crowned my wishes,

And I enjoy at last my crimes’ fell fruitage!