THE CHARIOT RACE (from "Electra")
- HEY took
their stand where the appointed judges
- Had cast their lots and ranged the rival cars.
- Rang out the brazen trump! Away they bound,
- Cheer the hot steeds and shake the slackened reins;
- As with a body the large space is filled
- With the huge clangor of the rattling cars.
- High whirl aloft the dust-clouds; blent together,
- Each presses each and the lash rings; and loud
- Snort the wild steeds, and from their fiery breath,
- Along their manes and down the circling wheels
- Scatter the flaking foam. Orestes still--
- Ays, as he swept around the perilous pillar
- Last in the course, wheeled in the rushing axle;
- The left rein curbed,--that on the dexter hand
- Flung loose.-- So on erect the chariots rolled!
- Sudden the Ænian's fierce and headlong steeds
- Broke from the bit -- and, as the seventh time now
- The course was circled, on the Libyan car
- Dashed their wild fronts: then order changed to ruin:
- Car crashed on car; the wide Crissæan plain
- Was sea-like strewed with wrecks; the Athenian saw,
- Slackened his speed, and wheeling round the marge,
- Unscathed and skillful, in the midmost space,
- Left the wild tumult of that tossing storm.
- Behind, Orestes, hitherto the last,
- Had yet kept back his coursers for the close;
- Now one sole rival left -- on, on he flew,
- And the sharp sound of the impelling scourge
- Rang in the keen ears of the flying steeds.
- He nears, he reaches -- they are side by side --
- Now one -- the other -- by a length the victor.
- The courses all are past -- the wheels erect --
- All safe -- when, as the hurrying coursers round
- The fatal pillar dashed, the wretched boy
- Slackened the left rein: on the column's edge
- Crashed the frail axle: headlong from the car
- Caught and all meshed within the reins, he fell;
- And masterless the mad steeds raged along!
- Loud from that mighty multitude arose
- A shriek -- a shout! But yesterday such deeds,
- To-day such doom! Now whirled upon the earth,
- Now his limbs dashed aloft, they dragged him -- those
- Wild horses -- till all gory from the wheels
- Released; -- and no man, not his nearest friends,
- Could in that mangled corpse have traced Orestes.
- They laid the body on the funeral-pyre;
- And while we speak, the Phocian strangers bear,
- In a small, brazen, melancholy urn,
- That handful of cold ashes to which all
- The grandeur of the Beautiful hath shrunk.
POEMS BY SOPHOCLES
This English translation, by Edward
Bulwer Lytton, of 'The Chariot Race' is reprinted from Greek
Poets in English Verse. Ed. William Hyde Appleton. Cambridge:
The Riverside Press, 1893.