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Aeschylus: The unpeopled land laments her youth


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Aeschylus: Ares, father of tears, mows the field of man


From The Persians
Translated by Robert Potter


Through sad constraint, ah me! forsaken lie,
All pale and smear’d with gore:-
Raise high the mournful strain,
And let the voice of anguish pierce the sky:-
Or roll beneath the roaring tide,
By monsters rent of touch abhorr’d;
While through the widow’d mansion echoing wide
Sounds the deep groan, and wails its slaughter’d lord:
Pale with his fears the helpless orphan there
Gives the full stream of plaintive grief to flow;
While age its hoary head in deep despair
Bends; list’ning to the shrieks of wo.


He in realm-unpeopling war
Wasted not his subjects’ blood,
Godlike in his will to spare,
In his councils wise and good.


And was riot this the phrensy of the soul?
But much I fear lest all my treasured wealth
Fall to some daring hand an easy prey…
This from too frequent converse with bad men
The impetuous Xerxes learn’d; these caught his ear
With thy great deeds, as winning for thy sons
Vast riches with thy conquering spear, while he
Tim’rous and slothful, never, save in sport,
Lifted his lance, nor added to the wealth
Won by his noble fathers. This reproach
Oft by bad men repeated, urged his soul
To attempt this war, and lead his troops to Greece.


…now these glories are no more:
Farewell the big war’s plumed pride:
The gods have crush’d this trophied power;
Sunk are our vanquish’d arms beneath the indignant tide.


O thou afflicted monarch, once the lord
Of marshall’d armies, of the lustre beam’d
From glory’s ray o’er Persia, of her sons
The pride, the grace, whom ruin now hath sunk
In blood! The unpeopled land laments her youth
By Xerxes led to slaughter, till the realms
Of death are gorged with Persians; for the flower
Of all the realm, thousands, whose dreadful bows
With arrowy shower annoy’d the foe, are fall’n.

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