have ye seen the last of your old friend, my comrades. (MEGARA catches
sight of HERACLES approaching.) MEGARA Ha! old friend, is it my own,
my dearest I behold? or what am I to say?
AMPHITRYON I know not, my daughter; I too am struck dumb.
MEGARA Is this he who, they told us, was beneath the earth?
AMPHITRYON 'Tis he, unless some day-dream mocks our sight.
MEGARA What am I saying? What visions do these anxious eyes behold?
Old man, this is none other than thy own son. Come hither, my children,
cling to your father's robe, make haste to come, never loose your
hold, for here is one to help you, nowise behind our saviour Zeus.
HERACLES All hail! my house, and portals of my home, how glad am
I to emerge to the light and see thee. Ha! what is this? I see my
children before the house in the garb of death, with chaplets on their
heads, my wife amid a throng of men, and my father weeping o'er some
mischance. Let me draw near to them and inquire; lady, what strange
stroke of fate hath fallen on the house?
MEGARA Dearest of all mankind to me! O ray of light appearing to
thy sire! art thou safe, and is thy coming just in time to help thy
HERACLES What meanest thou? what is this confusion I find on my arrival,
MEGARA We are being ruined; forgive me, old friend, if I have anticipated
that which thou hadst a right to tell him; for woman's nature is perhaps
more prone than man's to grief, and they are my children that were
being led to death, which was my own lot too.
HERACLES Great Apollo! what a prelude to thy story!
MEGARA Dead are my brethren, dead my hoary sire.
HERACLES How so? what befell him? who dealt the fatal blow?
MEGARA Lycus, our splendid monarch, slew him.
HERACLES Did he meet him in fair fight, or was the land sick and
MEGARA Aye, from faction; now is he master of the city of Cadmus
with its seven gates.
HERACLES Why hath panic fallen on thee and my aged sire?
MEGARA He meant to kill thy father, me, and my children.
HERACLES Why, what had he to fear from my orphan babes?
MEGARA He was afraid they might some day avenge Creon's death.
HERACLES What means this dress they wear, suited to the dead?
MEGARA 'Tis the garb of death we have already put on.
HERACLES And were ye being haled to death? O woe is me!
MEGARA Yes, deserted by every friend, and informed that thou wert
HERACLES What put such desperate thoughts into your heads?
MEGARA That was what the heralds of Eurystheus kept proclaiming.
HERACLES Why did ye leave my hearth and home?
MEGARA He forced us; thy father was dragged from his bed.
HERACLES Had he no mercy, to ill-use the old man so?
MEGARA Mercy forsooth! that goddess and he dwell far enough apart.
HERACLES Was I so poor in friends in my absence?
MEGARA Who are the friends of a man in misfortune?
HERACLES Do they make so light of my hard warring with the Minyae?
MEGARA Misfortune, to repeat it to thee, has no friends.
HERACLES Cast from your heads these chaplets of death, look up to
the light, for instead of the nether gloom your eyes behold the welcome
sun. I, meantime, since here is work for my hand, will first go raze
this upstart tyrant's halls, and when I have beheaded the miscreant,
I will throw him to dogs to tear; and every Theban who I find has
played the traitor after my kindness, will I destroy with this victorious
club; the rest will I scatter with my feathered shafts and fill Ismenus
full of bloody corpses, and Dirce's clear fount shall run red with
gore. For whom ought I to help rather than wife and children and aged
sire? Farewell my labours! for it was in vain I accomplished them
rather than succoured these. And yet I ought to die in their defence,