Theatre of Tragedy – “Cassandra”

Among the prequel myths to the Trojan War, we find that of the Trojan princess Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba. So well known is she as the prophetess whose prophecies are cursed not to be believed, that her name has become a word for anyone whose forewarnings of doom (founded or otherwise) fall on deaf ears.

In the opening track to their 1998 album Aegis, the Norwegian gothic metal band Theater of Tragedy examines how Cassandra fell under her tragic curse. The god Apollo, god of prophecy, gave her such a gift as was his to give in return for her affections. However, when he later came to consummate his love with her, she refused his advances. Incensed, Apollo cursed her to live through the whole ten years of the Trojan War, seeing every day the inevitable fall of her city, death of her brothers, and enslavement of her sisters. She was carried off by the victorious Greek warlord Agamemnon to the shores of Argos. There, before entering the palace, she foresaw her own death at the hands of Agamemnon’s vengeful wife Clytemnestra. Again, no one believed what horrors she warned would soon unfold. Nevertheless, she accepted her fate, and her final release from Apollo’s curse.

The gods of the Greeks, of Homer, were never moral exemplars, but simply mighty forces who cannot be resisted without dire consequences. They represented the forces not merely of nature, but of human nature, even and especially at its darkest.

He gave to her, yet tenfold claim’d in return –
She hath no life but the one he for her wrought;
Proffer’d to her his wauking heart – she turn’d it down,
Ripostéd with a tell-tale lore of lies and scorn.

Prophetess or fond?,
Tho’ her parle of truth:
«I ken to-morrow – refell me if ye can!»,
Yet the kiss and breath – Apollo’s bane –
Sëer of the future, not of twain,
«Sicker!», quoth Cassandra.

Still, is she lief and quaint in his eyne, a sight divine? –
A mistress fuell´d by his prest haughtiness –
If he did grant, wherefore then did he not foresee,
Belike egal as it to him might be?!

Prophetess or fond?,
Tho’ her parle of truth:
«I ken to-morrow – refell me if ye can!»,
Yet the kiss and breath – Apollo’s bane –
Sëer of the future, not of twain,
«Sicker!», quoth Cassandra.

‘Or was he an æriéd being,
‘Or was he weening – alack nay mo;
Her naysay’ raught his heart,
Her daffing was the grave of all hope –
She beliéd her own words,
He thought her life, save moreo’er scourge,
She held him august, yet wee;
He left her ne’er without his heart.

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