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Heracles   


harden my heart against death and seek thy city, with grateful thanks
for all thou offerest me. (He weeps.) Of countless troubles have
I tasted, God knows, but never yet did faint at any or shed a single
tear; nay, nor ever dreamt that I should come to this, to let the
tear-drop fall. But now, it seems, I must be fortune's slave. Well,
let it pass; old father mine, thou seest me go forth to exile, and
in me beholdest my own children's murderer. Give them burial and lay
them out in death with the tribute of a tear, for the law forbids
my doing so. Rest their heads upon their mother's bosom and fold them
in her arms, sad pledges of our union, whom I, alas! unwittingly did
slay. And when thou hast buried these dead, live on here still, in
bitternes maybe, but still constrain thy soul to share my sorrows.
O children! he who begat you, your own father, hath been your destroyer,
and ye have had no profit of my triumphs, all my restless toil to
win you a fair name in life, a glorious guerdon from a sire. Thee
too, unhappy wife, this hand hath slain, a poor return to make thee
for preserving mine honour so safe, for all the weary watch thou long
hast kept within my house. Alas for you, my wife, my sons! and woe
for me, how sad my lot, cut off from wife and child! Ah! these kisses,
bitter-sweet! these weapons which 'tis pain to own! I am not sure
whether to keep or let them go; dangling at my side they thus will
say, "With us didst thou destroy children and wife; we are thy children's
slayers, and thou keepest us." Shall I carry them after that? what
answer can I make? Yet, am I to strip me of these weapons, the comrades
of my glorious career in Hellas, and put myself thereby in the power
of my foes, to die a death of shame? No! I must not let them go, but
keep them, though it grieve me. In one thing, Theseus, help my misery;
come to Argos with me and aid in settling my reward for bringing Cerberus
thither; lest, if I go all alone, my sorrow for my sons do me some
hurt.
O land of Cadmus, and all ye folk of Thebes! cut off your hair, and
mourn with me; go to my children's burial, and with united dirge lament
alike the dead and me; for on all of us hath Hera inflicted the same
cruel blow of destruction.
THESEUS Rise, unhappy man! thou hast had thy fill of tears.
HERACLES I cannot rise; my limbs are rooted here.
THESEUS Yea, even the strong are o'erthrown by misfortunes.
HERACLES Ah! would I could grow into a stone upon this spot, oblivious
of trouble!
THESEUS Peace! give thy hand to a friend and helper.
HERACLES Nay, let me not wipe off the blood upon thy robe.
THESEUS Wipe it off and spare not; I will not say thee nay.
HERACLES Reft of my own sons, I find thee as a son to me.
THESEUS Throw thy arm about my neck; I will be thy guide.
HERACLES A pair of friends in sooth are we, but one a man of sorrows.
Ah! aged sire, this is the kind of man to make a friend.
AMPHITRYON Blest in her sons, the country that gave him birth!
HERACLES O Theseus, turn me back again to see my babes.
THESEUS What charm dost think to find in this to soothe thy soul?
HERACLES I long to do so, and would fain embrace my sire.
AMPHITRYON Here am I, my son; thy wish is no less dear to me.
THESEUS Hast thou so short a memory for thy troubles?
HERACLES All that I endured of yore was easier to bear than this.
THESEUS If men see thee play the woman, they will scoff.
HERACLES Have I by living grown so abject in thy sight? 'twas not
so once, methinks.
THESEUS Aye, too much so; for how dost show thyself the glorious
Heracles of yore?
HERACLES What about thyself? what kind of hero wert thou when in
trouble in the world below?
THESEUS I was worse than anyone as far as courage went.
HERACLES How then canst thou say of me, that I am abased by my troubles?
THESEUS Forward!
HERACLES Farewell, my aged sire!

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