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Heracles   


did he aim his bow, who had crouched at the altar's foot thinking
to escape unseen. But ere he fired, the poor child threw himself at
his father's knees, and, flinging his hand to reach his beard or neck,
cried, "Oh! slay me not, dear father mine! I am thy child, thine own;
'tis no son of Eurystheus thou wilt slay."
But that other, with savage Gorgon-scowl, as the child now stood in
range of his baleful archery, smote him on the head, as smites a smith
his molten iron, bringing down his club upon the fair-haired boy,
and crushed the bones. The second caught, away he hies to add a third
victim to the other twain. But ere he could, the poor mother caught
up her babe and carried him within the house and shut the doors; forthwith
the madman, as though he really were at the Cyclopean walls, prizes
open the doors with levers, and, hurling down their posts, with one
fell shaft laid low his wife and child. Then in wild career he starts
to slay his aged sire; but lo! there came a phantom,-so it seemed
to us on-lookers,-Of Pallas, with plumed helm, brandishing a spear;
and she hurled a rock against the breast of Heracles, which stayed
him from his frenzied thirst for blood and plunged him into sleep;
to the ground he fell, smiting his back against a column that had
fallen on the floor in twain when the roof fell in. Thereon we rallied
from our flight, and with the old man's aid bound him fast with knotted
cords to the pillar, that on his awakening he might do no further
evil. So there he sleeps, poor wretch! a sleep that is not blest,
having murdered wife and children; nay, for my part know not any son
of man more miserable than he. (The MESSENGER withdraws.)
CHORUS (singing) That murder wrought by the daughters of Danaus,
whereof my native Argos wots, was formerly the most famous and notorious
in Hellas; but this hath surpassed and outdone those previous horrors.
I could tell of the murder of that poor son of Zeus, whom Procne,
mother of an only child, slew and offered to the Muses; but thou hadst
three children, wretched parent, and all of them hast thou in thy
frenzy slain. What groans or wails, what funeral dirge, or chant of
death am I to raise? Alas and woe! see, the bolted doors of the lofty
palace are being rolled apart. Ah me! behold these children lying
dead before their wretched father, who is sunk in awful slumber after
shedding their blood. Round him are bonds and cords, made fast with
many a knot about the body of Heracles, and lashed to the stone columns
of his house. While he, the aged sire, like mother-bird wailing her
unfledged brood, comes hasting hither with halting steps on his bitter
journey. (The central doors of the palace have opened and have disclosed
HERACLES lying asleep, bound to a shattered column. AMPHITRYON steps
out. The following lines between AMPHITRYON and the CHORUS are chanted
responsively.)

AMPHITRYON Softly, softly! ye aged sons of Thebes, let him sleep
on and forget his sorrows.
CHORUS For thee, old friend, I weep and mourn, for the children too
and that victorious chief.
AMPHITRYON Stand further off, make no noise nor outcry, rouse him
not from his calm deep slumber.
CHORUS O horrible! all this blood-
AMPHITRYON Hush, hush! ye will be my ruin.
CHORUS That he has spilt is rising up against him.
AMPHITRYON Gently raise your dirge of woe, old friends; lest he wake,
and, bursting his bonds, destroy the city, rend his sire, and dash
his house to pieces.
CHORUS I cannot, cannot-
AMPHITRYON Hush! let me note his breathing; come, let me put my ear
close.
CHORUS Is he sleeping?
AMPHITRYON Aye, that is he, a deathly sleep, having slain wife and
children with the arrows of his twanging bow.
CHORUS Ah! mourn-
AMPHITRYON I do.
CHORUS The children's death;

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