have a readier wit for comrades of mine own age and small companies.
Yea, and this is as it should be; for they, whom the wise despise,
are better qualified to speak before a mob. Yet am I constrained under
the present circumstances to break silence. And at the outset will
I take the point which formed the basis of thy stealthy attack on
me, designed to put me out of court unheard; dost see yon sun, this
earth? These do not contain, for all thou dost deny it, chastity surpassing
mine. To reverence God I count the highest knowledge, and to adopt
as friends not those who attempt injustice, but such as would blush
to propose to their companions aught disgraceful or pleasure them
by shameful services; to mock at friends is not my way, father, but
I am still the same behind their backs as to their face. The very
crime thou thinkest to catch me in, is just the one I am untainted
with, for to this day have I kept me pure from women. Nor know I aught
thereof, save what I hear or see in pictures, for I have no wish to
look even on these, so pure my virgin soul. I grant my claim to chastity
may not convince thee; well, 'tis then for thee to show the way I
was corrupted. Did this woman exceed in beauty all her sex? Did aspire
to fill the husband's place after thee and succeed to thy house? That
surely would have made me out a fool, a creature void of sense. Thou
wilt say, "Your chaste man loves to lord it." No, no! say I, sovereignty
pleases only those whose hearts are quite corrupt. Now, I would be
the first and best at all the games in Hellas, but second in the state,
for ever happy thus with the noblest for my friends. For there one
may be happy, and the absence of danger gives a charm beyond all princely
joys. One thing I have not said, the rest thou hast. Had I a witness
to attest my purity, and were I pitted 'gainst her still alive, facts
would show thee on enquiry who the culprit was. Now by Zeus, the god
of oaths, and by the earth, whereon we stand, I swear to thee I never
did lay hand upon thy wife nor would have wished to, or have harboured
such a thought. Slay me, ye gods! rob me of name and honour, from
home and city cast me forth, a wandering exile o'er the earth! nor
sea nor land receive my bones when I am dead, if I am such a miscreant!
I cannot say if she through fear destroyed herself, for more than
this am I forbid. With her discretion took the place of chastity,
while I, though chaste, was not discreet in using this virtue.
LEADER Thy oath by heaven, strong security, sufficiently refutes
THESEUS A wizard or magician must the fellow be, to think he can
first flout me, his father, then by coolness master my resolve.
HIPPOLYTUS Father, thy part in this doth fill me with amaze; wert
thou my son and I thy sire, by heaven! I would have slain, not let
thee off with banishment, hadst thou presumed to violate my honour.
THESEUS A just remark! yet shalt thou not die by the sentence thine
own lips pronounce upon thyself; for death, that cometh in a moment,
is an easy end for wretchedness. Nay, thou shalt be exiled from thy
fatherland, and wandering to a foreign shore drag out a life of misery,
for such are the wages of sin.
HIPPOLYTUS Oh! what wilt thou do? Wilt thou banish me, without so
much as waiting for Time's evidence on my case?
THESEUS Ay, beyond the sea, beyond the bounds of Atlas, if I could,
so deeply do I hate thee.
HIPPOLYTUS What! banish me untried, without even testing my oath,
the pledge offer, or the voice of seers?
THESEUS This letter here, though it bears no seers' signs, arraigns
thy pledges; as for birds that fly o'er our heads, a long farewell
HIPPOLYTUS (aside) Great gods! why do I not unlock my lips, seeing
that I am ruined by you, the objects of my reverence? No, I will not;
I should nowise persuade those whom I ought to, and in vain should
break the oath I swore.
THESEUS Fie upon thee! that solemn air of thine is more than I can
bear. Begone from thy native land forthwith!
HIPPOLYTUS Whither shall I turn? Ah me! whose friendly house will