knees. What hope or way of salvation art thou now devising, old friend?
for to thee I look. We can never steal beyond the boundaries of the
land unseen, for there is too strict a watch set on us at every outlet,
nor have we any longer hopes of safety in our friends. Whatever thy
scheme is, declare it, lest our death be made ready, while we are
only prolonging the time, powerless to escape.
AMPHITRYON 'Tis by no means easy, my daughter, to give one's earnest
advice on such matters easily, without weary thought.
MEGARA Dost need a further taste of grief, or cling so fast to life?
AMPHITRYON Yes, I love this life, and cling to its hopes.
MEGARA So do I; but it boots not to expect the unexpected, old friend.
AMPHITRYON In these delays is left the only cure for our evils.
MEGARA 'Tis the pain of that interval I feel so.
AMPHITRYON Daughter, there may yet be a happy escape from present
troubles for me and thee; my son, thy husband, may yet arrive. So
calm thyself, and wipe those tears from thy children's eyes, and soothe
them with soft words, inventing a tale to delude them, piteous though
such fraud be. Yea, for men's misfortunes ofttimes flag, and the stormy
wind doth not always blow so strong, nor are the prosperous ever so;
for all things change, making way for each other. The bravest man
is he who relieth ever on his hopes, but despair is the mark of a
coward. (The CHORUS OF OLD MEN OF THEBES enters.)
CHORUS (chanting, strophe)
To the sheltering roof, to the old man's couch, leaning on my staff
have I set forth, chanting a plaintive dirge like some bird grown
grey, I that am but a voice and nothing more, a fancy bred of the
visions of sleep by night, palsied with age, yet meaning kindly. All
hail! ye orphaned babes! all hail, old friend thou too, -unhappy mother,
wailing for thy husband in the halls of Hades!
Faint not too soon upon your way, nor let your limbs grow weary,
even as a colt beneath the yoke grows weary as he mounts some stony
hill, dragging the weight of a wheeled car. Take hold of hand or robe,
whoso feels his footsteps falter. Old friend, escort another like
thyself, who erst amid his toiling peers in the days of our youth
would take his place beside thee, no blot upon his country's glorious
See, how like their father's sternly flash these children's eyes!
Misfortune, God wot, hath not failed his children, nor yet hath his
comeliness been denied them. O Hellas! if thou lose these, of what
allies wilt thou rob thyself!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS But I see Lycus, the ruler of this land, drawing
near the house. (Lycus and his attendants enter.)
LYCUS One question, if I may, to this father of Heracles and his
wife; and certainly as your lord and master I have a right to put
what questions choose. How long do ye seek to prolong your lives?
What hope, what succour do ye see to save you from death? Do you trust
that these children's father, who lies dead in the halls of Hades,
will return? How unworthily ye show your sorrow at having to die,
thou (to AMPHITRYON) after thy idle boasts, scattered broadcast
through Hellas, that Zeus was partner in thy marriage-bed and there
begat a new god; and thou (to MEGARA) after calling thyself the
wife of so peerless a lord.
After all, what was the fine exploit thy husband achieved, if he did
kil a hydra in a marsh or that monster of Nemea? which he caught in
a snare, for all he says he strangled it to death in his arms. Are
these your weapons for the hard struggle? Is it for this then that
Heracles' children should be spared? a man who has won a reputation
for valour in his contests with beasts, in all else a weakling; who
ne'er buckled shield to arm nor faced the spear, but with a bow, that
coward's weapon, was ever ready to run away. Archery is no test of
manly bravery; no! he is a man who keeps his post in the ranks and
steadily faces the swift wound the spear may plough. My policy, again,
old man, shows no reckless cruelty, but caution; for I am well aware