The Cranes Of Ibycus

 Once to the song and chariot-fight,
Where all the tribes of Greece unite
On Corinth's isthmus joyously,
The god-loved Ibycus drew nigh.
On him Apollo had bestowed The gift of song and strains inspired; So, with light staff, he took his road From Rhegium, by the godhead fired.
Acrocorinth, on mountain high, Now burns upon the wanderer's eye, And he begins, with pious dread, Poseidon's grove of firs to tread.
Naught moves around him, save a swarm Of cranes, who guide him on his way; Who from far southern regions warm Have hither come in squadron gray.
"Thou friendly band, all hail to thee! Who led'st me safely o'er the sea! I deem thee as a favoring sign,-- My destiny resembles thine.
Both come from a far distant coast, Both pray for some kind sheltering place;-- Propitious toward us be the host Who from the stranger wards disgrace!" And on he hastes, in joyous wood, And reaches soon the middle wood When, on a narrow bridge, by force Two murderers sudden bar his course.
He must prepare him for the fray, But soon his wearied hand sinks low; Inured the gentle lyre to play, It ne'er has strung the deadly bow.
On gods and men for aid he cries,-- No savior to his prayer replies; However far his voice he sends, Naught living to his cry attends.
"And must I in a foreign land, Unwept, deserted, perish here, Falling beneath a murderous hand, Where no avenger can appear?" Deep-wounded, down he sinks at last, When, lo! the cranes' wings rustle past.
He hears,--though he no more can see,-- Their voices screaming fearfully.
"By you, ye cranes, that soar on high, If not another voice is heard, Be borne to heaven my murder-cry!" He speaks, and dies, too, with the word.
The naked corpse, ere long, is found, And, though defaced by many a wound, His host in Corinth soon could tell The features that he loved so well.
"And is it thus I find thee now, Who hoped the pine's victorious crown To place upon the singer's brow, Illumined by his bright renown?" The news is heard with grief by all Met at Poseidon's festival; All Greece is conscious of the smart, He leaves a void in every heart; And to the Prytanis [33] swift hie The people, and they urge him on The dead man's manes to pacify And with the murderer's blood atone.
But where's the trace that from the throng The people's streaming crowds among, Allured there by the sports so bright, Can bring the villain back to light? By craven robbers was he slain? Or by some envious hidden foe? That Helios only can explain, Whose rays illume all things below.
Perchance, with shameless step and proud, He threads e'en now the Grecian crowd-- Whilst vengeance follows in pursuit, Gloats over his transgression's fruit.
The very gods perchance he braves Upon the threshold of their fane,-- Joins boldly in the human waves That haste yon theatre to gain.
For there the Grecian tribes appear, Fast pouring in from far and near; On close-packed benches sit they there,-- The stage the weight can scarcely bear.
Like ocean-billows' hollow roar, The teaming crowds of living man Toward the cerulean heavens upsoar, In bow of ever-widening span.
Who knows the nation, who the name, Of all who there together came? From Theseus' town, from Aulis' strand From Phocis, from the Spartan land, From Asia's distant coast, they wend, From every island of the sea, And from the stage they hear ascend The chorus's dread melody.
Who, sad and solemn, as of old, With footsteps measured and controlled, Advancing from the far background, Circle the theatre's wide round.
Thus, mortal women never move! No mortal home to them gave birth! Their giant-bodies tower above, High o'er the puny sons of earth.
With loins in mantle black concealed, Within their fleshless bands they wield The torch, that with a dull red glows,-- While in their cheek no life-blood flows; And where the hair is floating wide And loving, round a mortal brow, Here snakes and adders are descried, Whose bellies swell with poison now.
And, standing in a fearful ring, The dread and solemn chant they sing, That through the bosom thrilling goes, And round the sinner fetters throws.
Sense-robbing, of heart-maddening power, The furies' strains resound through air The listener's marrow they devour,-- The lyre can yield such numbers ne'er.
"Happy the man who, blemish-free, Preserves a soul of purity! Near him we ne'er avenging come, He freely o'er life's path may roam.
But woe to him who, hid from view, Hath done the deed of murder base! Upon his heels we close pursue,-- We, who belong to night's dark race!" "And if he thinks to 'scape by flight, Winged we appear, our snare of might Around his flying feet to cast, So that he needs must fall at last.
Thus we pursue him, tiring ne'er,-- Our wrath repentance cannot quell,-- On to the shadows, and e'en there We leave him not in peace to dwell!" Thus singing, they the dance resume, And silence, like that of the tomb, O'er the whole house lies heavily, As if the deity were nigh.
And staid and solemn, as of old, Circling the theatre's wide round, With footsteps measured and controlled, They vanish in the far background.
Between deceit and truth each breast.
Now doubting hangs, by awe possessed, And homage pays to that dread might, That judges what is hid from sight,-- That, fathomless, inscrutable, The gloomy skein of fate entwines, That reads the bosom's depths full well, Yet flies away where sunlight shines.
When sudden, from the tier most high, A voice is heard by all to cry: "See there, see there, Timotheus! Behold the cranes of Ibycus!" The heavens become as black as night, And o'er the theatre they see, Far over-head, a dusky flight Of cranes, approaching hastily.
"Of Ibycus!"--That name so blest With new-born sorrow fills each breast.
As waves on waves in ocean rise, From mouth to mouth it swiftly flies: "Of Ibycus, whom we lament? Who fell beneath the murderer's hand? What mean those words that from him went? What means this cranes' advancing band?" And louder still become the cries, And soon this thought foreboding flies Through every heart, with speed of light-- "Observe in this the furies' might! The poets manes are now appeased The murderer seeks his own arrest! Let him who spoke the word be seized, And him to whom it was addressed!" That word he had no sooner spoke, Than he its sound would fain invoke; In vain! his mouth, with terror pale, Tells of his guilt the fearful tale.
Before the judge they drag them now The scene becomes the tribunal; Their crimes the villains both avow, When neath the vengeance-stroke they fall.

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