Ion - Euripides - ebook

Outside the temple of Apollo at Delphi, Hermes recalls the time when Creusa, the daughter of Erectheus, was raped by Apollo in a cave at Long Rocks under the Acropolis. Creusa secretly gave birth to a child, whom she left in a basket, along with some trinkets, expecting that he would be devoured by beasts. Apollo sent Hermes to bring the boy to Delphi where he has grown up as an attendant at the temple. Creusa, meanwhile, was married to the foreign-born Xuthus, son of Aeolus, the son of Zeus. Xuthus won Creusa by assisting the Athenians in a war against the Chalcidians.

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First published in 2015

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Before the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The sun is about to rise. MERCURY enters.


Atlas, that on his brazen shoulders rolls Yon heaven, the ancient mansion of the gods, Was by a goddess sire to Maia; she To supreme Jove bore me, and call›d me Hermes; Attendant on the king, his high behests I execute. To Delphi am I come, This land where Phoebus from his central throne Utters to mortals his high strain, declaring The present and the future; this is the cause; Greece hath a city of distinguish›d glory, Which from the goddess of the golden lance Received its name; Erechtheus was its king; His daughter, call›d Creusa, to the embrace Of nuptial love Apollo strain›d perforce, Where northward points the rock beneath the heights Crown›d with the Athenian citadel of Pallas, Call›d Macrai by the lords of Attica. Her growing burden, to her sire unknown (Such was the pleasure of the god,) she bore, Till in her secret chamber to a son The rolling months gave birth: to the same cave, Where by the enamour›d god she was compress›d, Creusa bore the infant: there for death Exposed him in a well-compacted ark Of circular form, observant of the customs Drawn from her great progenitors, and chief From Erichthonius, who from the Attic earth Deriv›d his origin: to him as guards Minerva gave two dragons, and in charge Consign›d him to the daughters of Aglauros: This rite to the Erechthidae hence remains, Mid serpents wreathed in ductile gold to nurse Their children. What of ornament she had She hung around her son, and left him thus To perish. But to me his earnest prayer Phoebus applied, «To the high-lineaged sons Of glorious Athens go, my brother; well Thou know›st the city of Pallas; from the cave Deep in the hollow rock a new-born babe, Laid as he is, and all his vestments with him; Bring to thy brother to my shrine, and place At the entrance of my temple; of the rest (For, know, the child is mine) I will take care.» To gratify my brother thence I bore The osier-woven ark, and placed the boy Here at the temple›s base, the wreathed lid Uncovering, that the infant might be seen. It chanced, as the orient sun the steep of heav›n Ascended, to the god›s oracular seat The priestess entering, on the infant cast Her eye, and marvelled, deeming that some nymph Of Delphi at the fane had dared to lay The secret burden of her womb: this thought Prompts her to move it from the shrine: but soon To pity she resign›d the harsh intent; The impulse of the god secretly acting In favour of the child, that in his temple It might abide; her gentle hand then took it, And gave it nurture; yet conceived she not That Phoebus was the sire, nor who the mother Knew aught, nor of his parents could the child Give information. All his youthful years Sportive he wandered round the shrine, and there Was fed: but when his firmer age advanced To manhood, o›er the treasures of the god The Delphians placed him, to his faithful care Consigning all; and in this royal dome His hallow›d life he to this hour hath pass›d. Meantime Creusa, mother of the child, To Xuthus was espoused, the occasion this:- On Athens from Euboean Chalcis roll›d The waves of war; be join›d their martial toil, And with his spear repell›d the foe; for this To the proud honour of Creusa›s bed Advanc›d; no native, in Achaea sprung From Aeolus, the son of Jove. Long time Unbless›d with children, to the oracular shrine Of Phoebus are they come, through fond desire Of progeny: to this the god hath brought The fortune of his son, nor, as was deem›d, Forgets him; but to Xuthus, when he stands This sacred seat consulting, will he give That son, declared his offspring; that the child, When to Creusa›s house brought back, by her May be agnized; the bridal rites of Phoebus Kept secret, that the youth may claim the state Due to his birth, through all the states of Greece Named Ion, founder of the colonies On the Asiatic coast. The laurell›d cave Now will I visit, there to learn what fortune Is to the boy appointed, for I see This son of Phoebus issuing forth to adorn The gates before the shrine with laurel boughs. First of the gods I hail him by the name Of Ion, which his fortune soon will give him.

MERCURY vanishes. ION and the attendants of the temple enter.

ION chanting

Now flames this radiant chariot of the sun High o›er the earth, at whose ethereal fire The stars into the sacred night retreat: O›er the Parnassian cliffs the ascending wheels To mortals roll the beams of day; the wreaths Of incense-breathing myrrh mount to the roof Of Phoebus› fane; the Delphic priestess now Assumes her seat, and from the hallow›d tripod Pronounces to the Greeks the oracular strains Which the god dictates. Haste, ye Delphic train, Haste to Castalia›s silver-streaming fount; Bathed in its chaste dews to the temple go; There from your guarded mouths no sound be heard But of good omen, that to those who crave Admission to the oracle, your voice May with auspicious words expound the answers. My task, which from my early infancy Hath been my charge, shall be with laurel boughs And sacred wreaths to cleanse the vestibule Of Phoebus, on the pavement moistening dews To rain, and with my bow to chase the birds Which would defile the hallow›d ornaments. A mother›s fondness, and a father›s care I never knew: the temple of the god Claims then my service, for it nurtured me.

The attendants leave. ION busies himself before the temple as he continues to sing.

stropheHaste, thou verdant new-sprung bough, Haste, thy early office know; Branch of beauteous laurel come, Sweep Apollo›s sacred dome, Cropp›d this temple›s base beneath, Where the immortal gardens breathe, And eternal dews that round Water the delicious ground, Bathe the myrtle›s tresses fair. Lightly thus, with constant care, The pavement of the god I sweep, When over the Parnassian steep Flames the bright sun›s mounting ray; This my task each rising day. Son of Latona, Paean, Paean, hail! Never, O never may thy honours fail! antistropheGrateful is my task, who wait Serving, Phoebus, at thy gate; Honouring thus thy hallow›d shrine, Honour for the task is mine. Labouring with unwilling hands, Me no mortal man commands: But, immortal gods, to you All my pleasing toil is due. Phoebus is to me a sire; Grateful thoughts my soul inspire; Nurtured by thy bounty here, Thee, Apollo, I revere; As a father›s I repeat. Son of Latona, Paean, Paean, hail! Never, O never may thy honours fail! Now from this labour with the laurel bough I cease; and sprinkling from the golden vase The chaste drops which Castalia›s fountain rolls, Bedew the pavement. Never may I quit This office to the god; or, if I quit it, Be it, good Fortune, at thy favouring call! But see, the early birds have left their nests, And this way from Parnassus wing their flight. Come not, I charge you, near the battlements, Nor near the golden dome. Herald of Jove, Strong though thy beak beyond the feather›d kind, My bow shall reach thee. Towards the altar, see, A swan comes sailing: elsewhere wilt thou move Thy scarlet-tinctured foot? or from my bow The lyre of Phoebus to thy notes attuned Will not protect thee; farther stretch thy wings; Go, wanton, skim along the Delian lake, Or wilt thou steep thy melody in blood. Look, what strange bird comes onwards; wouldst thou fix Beneath the battlements thy straw-built nest? My singing bow shall drive thee hence; begone, Or to the banks of Alpheus, gulfy stream, Or to the Isthmian grove; there hatch thy young; Mar not these pendent ornaments, nor soil The temple of the god: I would not kill you: