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Pages of Heracles

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(angrily to the CHORUS) As for you, old men, since ye thwart my
views, not for the children of Heracles alone shall ye lament but
likewise for every blow that strikes his house, and ye shall ne'er
forget ye are slaves and I your prince.
LEADER Ye sons of Earth, whom Ares on a day did sow, when from the
dragon's ravening jaw he had torn the teeth, up with your staves,
whereon ye lean your hands, and dash out this miscreant's brains!
a fellow who, without even being a Theban, but a foreigner, lords
it shamefully o'er the younger folk; but my master shalt thou never
be to thy joy, nor shalt thou reap the harvest of all my toil; begone
with my curse upon thee! carry thy insolence back to the place whence
it came. For never whilst I live, shalt thou slay these sons of Heracles;
not so deep beneath the earth hath their father disappeared from his
children's ken. Thou art in possession of this land which thou hast
ruined, while he its benefactor has missed his just reward; and yet
do I take too much upon myself because I help those I love after their
death, when most they need a friend? Ah! right hand, how fain wouldst
thou wield the spear, but thy weakness is a death-blow to thy fond
desire; for then had I stopped thee calling me slave, and I would
have governed Thebes, wherein thou art now exulting, with credit;
for city sick with dissension and evil counsels thinketh not aright;
otherwise it would never have accepted thee as its master.
MEGARA Old sirs, I thank you; 'tis right that friends should feel
virtuous indignation on behalf of those they love; but do not on our
account vent your anger on the tyrant to your own undoing. Hear my
advice, Amphitryon, if haply there appear to thee to be aught in what
I say. I love my children; strange if I did not love those whom I
laboured to bring forth! Death I count a dreadful fate; but the man
who wrestles with necessity I esteem a fool. Since we must die, let
us do so without being burnt alive, to furnish our foes with food
for merriment, which to my mind is an evil worse than death; for many
a fair guerdon do we owe our family. Thine has ever been a warrior's
fair fame, so 'tis not to be endured that thou shouldst die a coward's
death; and my husband's reputation needs no one to witness that he
would ne'er consent to save these children's lives by letting them
incur the stain of cowardice; for the noble are afflicted by disgrace
on account of their children, nor must I shrink from following my
lord's example. As to thy hopes consider how I weigh them. Thou thinkest
thy son will return from beneath the earth: who ever has come back
from the dead out of the halls of Hades? Thou hast a hope perhaps
of softening this man by entreaty: no, no! better to fly from one's
enemy when he is so brutish, but yield to men of breeding and wisdom;
for thou wilt more easily obtain mercy there by friendly overtures.
True, a thought has already occurred to me that we might by entreaty
obtain a sentence of exile for the children; yet this too is misery,
to compass their deliverance with dire penury as the result; for 'tis
a saying that hosts look sweetly on banished friends for a day and
no more. Steel thy heart to die with us, for that awaits thee after
all. By thy brave soul I challenge thee, old friend; for whoso struggles
hard to escape destiny shows zeal no doubt, but 'tis zeal with a taint
of folly; for what must be, no one will ever avail to alter.
LEADER If a man had insulted thee, while yet my arms were lusty,
there would have been an easy way to stop him; but now am I a thing
of naught; and so thou henceforth, Amphitryon, must scheme how to
avert misfortune.
AMPHITRYON 'Tis not cowardice or any longing for life that hinders
my dying, but my wish to save my son's children, though no doubt I
am vainly wishing for impossibilities. Lo! here is my neck ready for
thy sword to pierce, my body for thee to hack or hurl from the rock;
only one boon I crave for both of us, O king; slay me and this hapless
mother before thou slay the children, that we may not see the hideous
sight, as they gasp out their lives, calling on their mother and their
father's sire; for the rest work thy will, if so thou art inclined;
for we have no defence against death.

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