it; let it sink beneath the waves! Would it had never found its way
to the homes and towns of mortal men, but were still drifting on for
ever down the wind.
Had the gods shown discernment and wisdom, as mortals count these
things, men would have gotten youth twice over, a visible mark of
worth amongst whomsoever found, and after death would these have retraced
their steps once more to the sun-light, while the mean man would have
had but a single portion of life; and thus would it have been possible
to distinguish the good and the bad, just as sailors know the number
of the stars amid the clouds. But, as it is, the gods have set no
certain boundary 'twixt good and bad, but time's onward roll brings
increase only to man's wealth.
Never will I cease to link in one the Graces and the Muses, fairest
union. Never may my lines be cast among untutored boors, but ever
may I find a place among the crowned choir! Yes, still the aged bard
lifts up his voice of bygone memories; still is my song of the triumphs
of Heracles, whether Bromius the giver of wine is nigh, or the strains
of the seven-stringed lyre and the Libyan flute are rising; not yet
will I cease to sing the Muses' praise, my patrons in the dance.
As the maids of Delos raise their song of joy, circling round the
temple gates in honour of Leto's fair son, the graceful dancer; so
with my old lips will sing songs of victory at thy palace-doors, song
of my old age, such as sings the dying swan; for there is a goodly
theme for minstrelsy; he is the son of Zeus; yet high above his noble
birth tower his deeds of prowess, for his toil secured this life of
calm for man, having destroyed all fearsome beasts. (AMPHITRYON comes
out of the palace as Lycus and his retinue enter.)
LYCUS Ha! Amphitryon, 'tis high time thou camest forth from the palace;
ye have been too long arraying yourselves in the robes and trappings
of the dead. Come, bid the wife and children of Heracles show themselves
outside the house, to die on the conditions you yourselves offered.
AMPHITRYON O king, thou dost persecute me in my misery and heapest
insult upon me over and above the loss of my son; thou shouldst have
been more moderate in thy zeal, though thou art my lord and master.
But since thou dost impose death's stern necessity on me, needs must
I acquiesce and do thy will.
LYCUS Pray, where is Megara? where are the children of Alcmena's
AMPHITRYON She, I believe, so far as I can guess from outside-
LYCUS What grounds hast thou to base thy fancy on?
AMPHITRYON Is sitting as a suppliant on the altar's hallowed steps.
LYCUS Imploring them quite uselessly to save her life.
AMPHITRYON And calling on her dead husband, quite in vain.
LYCUS He is nowhere near, and he certainly will never come.
AMPHITRYON No, unless perhaps a god should raise him from the dead.
LYCUS Go to her and bring her from the palace.
AMPHITRYON By doing so I should become an accomplice in her murder.
LYCUS Since thou hast this scruple, I, who have left fear behind,
will myself bring out the mother and her children. Follow me, servants,
that we may put an end to this delay of our work to our joy. (Lycus
and his servants enter the palace.)
AMPHITRYON Then go thy way along the path of fate; for what remains,
maybe another will provide. Expect for thy evil deeds to find some
ill thyself. Ah! my aged friends, he is marching fairly to his doom;
soon will he be entangled in the snare of the sword, thinking to slay
his neighbours, the villain! I will hence, to see him fall dead; for
the sight of a foe being slain and paying the penalty of his misdeeds
gives pleasure. (AMPHITRYON follows Lycus into the palace.)
CHORUS (singing) Evil has changed sides; he who was erst a mighty
king is now turning his life backward into the road to Hades.
Hail to thee! justice and heavenly retribution.