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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 Matricide

By Prosper Jolyot de Crébillon (1674–1762)

From ‘Electra’

ORESTES—Strike, ye gods!

Ye gods all-powerful, summoned by my fury;

Avenging gods! if there be such, then strike!

Since still I live. My crime, my hideous crime,

Is yours alone to reckon, yours to judge.

Has Heaven only gentle torments for me?

Alas! I see what stays your righteous vengeance;

You know not how to punish crime so foul,

Ye horror-stricken gods!
Electra—Ah, brother, brother!

Calm this blind frenzy; cure thee of this madness;

Have I not weight enough of grief to bear?

Wouldst thou, Orestes, slay me as I stand?

Orestes—Hush! utter it no more, that name abhorred.

And thou who shudderest at my odious presence—

Nature! so oft, so deeply outraged here—

I have avenged thee of my murdered father;

But who my murdered mother shall avenge?

Speak, Justice! if thine arm have lost its power,—

Filled with the fury of a just despair,

Behold, myself will aid it to strike home!

If man’s remorse can move divinity,

Gods! turn ye to the tears, the blood I spill—

Ha! seest thou, mother?

[He tries to kill himself, but is disarmed by his guardian Palamedes.]
Palamedes—O my lord!
Orestes—Leave, leave me!

From thee I will have nothing, wretch inhuman!

Nor from Electra. Was it not your hearts,

Thirsting for blood and victims, that compelled me

To stain my hands with guilt unspeakable?

But how now? whence this mist that darkens round me?

Thanks be to heaven, the way to hell is opened.

Let us to hell! there’s nothing that affrights me,—

And in the horror of eternal night

Hide and enwrap ourselves!—But what pale light

Shines on me now? who to this dark abode

Dares to bring daylight back? What do I see?

The dead of hell look shuddering upon me!

Oh hear the moans, the painful cries—“Orestes!”

Who calls me in this horrible retreat?

It is Ægisthus! oh, too much, too much!

And in my wrath—but soft: what sight is here?

What holds he in his hands? My mother’s head!

Ah, what a gaze! Where shall Orestes flee!

Atrocious monster! what a spectacle

Thou venturest to show me! Stay thy fury!

Behold my sufferings; and that awful head—

Hide, hide it from these terror-smitten eyes!

Ah, mother, spare me; spare thy unhappy son!

Ye shades of Agamemnon, hear my cries;

Shades of mine honored father, give thine aid;

Come, shield thy son from the pursuing anger

Of Clytemnestra! ah, show pity on me!

What! even into thy protecting arms

She, furious, still pursues me. All is over!

I yield me to the life-consuming torture.

My guiltless heart, that bore nor part nor share

In the black crime committed by my hand,

Is torn with torments. O ye gods! what culprit

Of deepest guilt could bear worse punishment?