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Heracles   


with three bodies;
(antistrophe 3)
And many another glorious achievement he brought to a happy issue;
to Hades' house of tears hath he now sailed, the goal of his labours,
where he is ending his career of toil, nor cometh he thence again.
Now is thy house left without a friend, and Charon's boat awaits thy
children to bear them on that journey out of life, whence is no returning,
contrary to God's law and man's justice; and it is to thy prowess
that thy house is looking although thou art not here. Had I been strong
and lusty, able to brandish the spear in battle's onset, my Theban
compeers too, I would have stood by thy children to champion them;
but now my happy youth is gone and I am left.
But lo! I see the children of Heracles who was erst so great, clad
in the vesture of the grave, and his loving wife dragging her babes
along at her side, and that hero's aged sire. Ah! woe is me! no longer
can I stem the flood of tears that spring to my old eyes. (MEGARA,
AMPHITRYON, and the children enter from the palace.)

MEGARA Come now, who is to sacrifice or butcher these poor children?
or rob me of my wretched life? Behold! the victims are ready to be
led to Hades' halls. O my children! an ill-matched company are we
hurried off to die, old men and babes, and mothers, all together.
Alas! for my sad fate and my children's, whom these eyes now for the
last time behold. So I gave you birth and reared you only for our
foes to mock, to flout, and slay. Ah me! how bitterly my hopes have
disappointed me in the expectation once formed from the words of your
father. (Addressing each of her sons in turn) To thee thy dead sire
was for giving Argos; and thou wert to dwell in the halls of Eurystheus,
lording it o'er the fair fruitful land of Argolis; and o'er thy head
would he throw that lion's skin wherewith himself was girt. Thou wert
to be king of Thebes, famed for its chariots, receiving as thy heritage
my broad lands, for so thou didst coax thy father dear; and to thy
hand used he to resign the carved club, his sure defence, pretending
to give it thee. To thee he promised to give Oechalia, which once
his archery had wasted. Thus with three principalities would your
father exalt you his three sons, proud of your manliness; while I
was choosing the best brides for you, scheming to link you by marriage
to Athens, Thebes, and Sparta, that ye might live a happy life with
a fast sheet-anchor to hold by. And now that is all vanished; fortune's
breeze hath veered and given to you for brides the maidens of death
in their stead, and tears to me to bathe them in; woe is me for my
foolish thoughts and your grandsire here is celebrating your marriage-feast,
accepting Hades as the father of your brides, a grim relationship
to make. Ah me! which of you shall I first press to my bosom, which
last? on which bestow my kiss, or clasp close to me? Oh! would that
like the bee with russet wing, I could collect from every source my
sighs in one, and, blending them together, shed them in one copious
flood! Heracles, dear husband mine, to thee I call, if haply mortal
voice can make itself heard in Hades' halls; thy father and children
are dying and I am doomed, I who once because of thee was counted
blest as men count bliss. Come to our rescue; appear, I pray, if but
as a phantom, since thy mere coming would be enough, for they are
cowards compared with thee, who are slaying thy children.
AMPHITRYON Lady, do thou prepare the funeral rites; but I, O Zeus,
stretching out my hand to heaven, call on thee to help these children,
if such be thy intention; for soon will any aid of thine be unavailing;
and yet thou hast been oft invoked; my toil is wasted; death seems
inevitable. Ye aged friends, the joys of life are few; so take heed
that ye pass through it as gladly as ye may, without a thought of
sorrow from morn till night; for time recks little of preserving our
hopes; and, when he has busied himself on his own business, away he
flies. Look at me, a man who had made mark amongst his fellows by
deeds of note; yet hath fortune in a single day robbed me of it as
of a feather that floats away toward the sky. know not any whose plenteous
wealth and high reputation is fixed and sure; fare ye well, for now

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