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I pray that Zeus who cares for suppliants
will look with kindness on our company,
whose ship has travelled here across the sea
from the ﬁne-grained sandy estuary
of river Nile. We ﬂed that sacred land,
whose pastures border Syria, and come
as fugitives, not exiled by decree
of public banishment for shedding blood,
but acting on our own, because we wished
to ﬂee a marriage we could not accept,
a hateful and sacrilegious match
with Aegyptus’ sons. For Danaus,
our father, who is our counsellor
and leads our group, debated what to do
and of our painful options chose the best-
to rush away as quickly as we could,
sailing across the ocean seas to Argos.
We can claim with pride our family line
comes from this land, for it sprang up
from the hand and breath of Zeus, who touched
that cow tormented by a gadﬂy’s sting.
To what land could we come which offered us
more welcome kindness when our hands hold out
these branches wrapped with wool, which indicate
that we are here as suppliants. 0 this city,
this land and its clear streams, O gods above,
and you beneath the earth, stern punishers,
who guard the tombs, and third of all, you too,
O Zeus the Saviour, who defends the homes
of righteous men, with this land's spirit of care
receive our female suppliant band,
and before that swarming horde of men,
those insolent sons born to Aegyptus,
set foot upon this marshy shore, force them
and their swift-moving ship back out to sea,
and there let them run into violent storms,
with lightning, thunder, rain-drenched hurricanes
and perish in the wild and stormy waves,
before they ever carry us away,
their cousins, against our will, and climb
into our beds, an act which Right forbids.
And now we call the Zeus-born calf,
our champion from across the sea, offspring
of our ancestor, the ﬂower-grazing cow
caressed by Zeus’ breath, who in due time
gave birth to Epaphus, whose very name
derives from his own birth.
I call on him by name,
here in his mother’s ancient pasturelands.
Remembering the torment she once faced,
I will set out for those who live here now
trustworthy evidence, and they will see
some unexpected proofs, and at the end
men will believe the truth of what I say.
Should someone living here and close to us
be skilled in understanding songs of birds,
then when he hears our melancholy chant,
it will seem to him our singing voice,
belongs to Metis, Tereus’ poor wife,
the hawk-chased nightingale.
from her green leafy haunts, she cries in grief
for her familiar woods and sings the tale
of her chi1d’s fate, who died at her own hand,
the victim of a merciless mother’s rage.
In the same way, too, I chant my grief,
invoking these Ionian strains.
I tear these tender cheeks of mine
burned by Nile sun and rend my heart
which has not yet known tears.
I gather ﬂowers of grief, ﬁlled with fear
that no friends will appear to stand by us
as fugitives from that mist-covered land?
But you gods of our race, O listen to me!
Look for what is righteous in this case!
If you deny young men’s unjust desires
and if you truly loathe their wanton lust,
you will uphold the lawful rights of marriage.