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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 Lament of the Old Nurse

By Æschylus (c. 525–456 B.C.)

From Edward Hayes Plumptre’s Translation of ‘The Libation-Pourers


OUR mistress bids me with all speed to call

Ægisthus to the strangers, that he come

And hear more clearly, as a man from man,

This newly brought report. Before her slaves,

Under set eyes of melancholy cast,

She hid her inner chuckle at the events

That have been brought to pass—too well for her,

But for this house and hearth most miserably,—

As in the tale the strangers clearly told.

He, when he hears and learns the story’s gist,

Will joy, I trow, in heart. Ah, wretched me!

How those old troubles, of all sorts made up,

Most hard to bear, in Atreus’s palace-halls

Have made my heart full heavy in my breast!

But never have I known a woe like this.

For other ills I bore full patiently,

But as for dear Orestes, my sweet charge,

Whom from his mother I received and nursed …

And then the shrill cries rousing me o’ nights,

And many and unprofitable toils

For me who bore them. For one needs must rear

The heedless infant like an animal,

(How can it else be?) as his humor serve

For while a child is yet in swaddling clothes,

It speaketh not, if either hunger comes,

Or passing thirst, or lower calls of need;

And children’s stomach works its own content.

And I, though I foresaw this, call to mind,

How I was cheated, washing swaddling clothes,

And nurse and laundress did the selfsame work.

I then with these my double handicrafts,

Brought up Orestes for his father dear;

And now, woe’s me! I learn that he is dead,

And go to fetch the man that mars this house;

And gladly will he hear these words of mine.