HERACLES O horror! what hideous sight is here? ah me!
AMPHITRYON My son, against thy children hast thou waged unnatural
HERACLES War! what meanst thou? who killed these?
AMPHITRYON Thou and thy bow and some god, whoso he be that is to
HERACLES What sayst thou? what have I done? Speak, father, thou messenger
AMPHITRYON Thou wert distraught; 'tis a sad explanation thou art
HERACLES Was it I that slew my wife also?
AMPHITRYON Thy own unaided arm hath done all this.
HERACLES Ah, woe is me! a cloud of sorrow wraps me round.
AMPHITRYON The reason this that I lament thy fate.
HERACLES Did I dash my house to pieces or incite others thereto?
AMPHITRYON Naught know I save this, that thou art utterly undone.
HERACLES Where did my frenzy seize me? where did it destroy me?
AMPHITRYON In the moment thou wert purifying thyself witb fire at
HERACLES Ah me! why do I spare my own life when I have taken that
of my dear children? Shall I not hasten to leap from some sheer rock,
or aim the sword against my heart and avenge my children's blood,
or burn my body in the fire and so avert from my life the infamy which
now awaits me?
But hither I see Theseus coming to check my deadly counsels, my kinsman
and friend. Now shall I stand revealed, and the dearest of my friends
will see the pollution I have incurred by my children's murder. Ah,
woe is me! what am I to do? Where can I find release from my sorrows?
shall I take wings or plunge beneath the earth? Come, let me veil
my head in darkness; for I am ashamed of the evil I have done, and,
since for these I have incurred fresh blood-guiltiness, I would fain
not harm the innocent. (THESEUS and his retinue enter.)
THESEUS I am come, and others with me, young warriors from the land
of Athens, encamped by the streams of Asopus, to help thy son, old
friend. For a rumour reached the city of the Erechtheidae, that Lycus
had usurped the sceptre of this land and was become your enemy even
to battle. Wherefore I came making recompense for the former kindness
of Heracles in saving me from the world below, if haply ye have any
need of such aid as I or my allies can give, old prince.
Ha! what means this heap of dead upon the floor? Surely I have not
delayed too long and come too late to check new ills? Who slew these
children? whose wife is this I see? Boys do not go to battle; nay,
it must be some other strange mischance I here discover. (The following
lines between THESEUS and AMPHITRYON are chanted responsively.)
AMPHITRYON O king, whose home is that olive-clad hill!
THESEUS Why this piteous prelude in addressing me?
AMPHITRYON Heaven has afflicted us with grievous suffering.
THESEUS Whose be these children, o'er whom thou weepest?
AMPHITRYON My own son's children, woe to him! their father and butcher
both was he, hardening his heart to the bloody deed.
THESEUS Hush good words only!
AMPHITRYON I would I could obey!
THESEUS What dreadful words!
AMPHITRYON Fortune has spread her wings, and we are ruined, ruined.
THESEUS What meanest thou? what hath he done?
AMPHITRYON Slain them in a wild fit of frenzy with arrows dipped
in the venom of the hundred-headed hydra.
THESEUS This is Hera's work; but who lies there among the dead, old
AMPHITRYON My son, my own enduring son, that marched with gods to
Phlegra's plain, there to battle with giants and slay them, warrior
that he was.
THESEUS Ah, woe for him! whose fortune was e'er so curst as his?
AMPHITRYON Never wilt thou find another that hath borne a larger