LEADER OF THE CHORUS But lo! I see a servant of Hippolytus hasting
with troubled looks towards the palace. (A MESSENGER enters.)
MESSENGER Ladies, where may I find Theseus, king of the country?
pray, tell me if ye know; is he within the palace here?
LEADER Lo! himself approaches from the palace. (THESEUS enters.)
MESSENGER Theseus, I am the bearer of troublous tidings to thee and
all citizens who dwell in Athens or the bounds of Troezen.
THESEUS How now? hath some strange calamity o'ertaken these two neighbouring
MESSENGER In one brief word, Hippolytus is dead. 'Tis true one slender
thread still links him to the light of life.
THESEUS Who slew him? Did some husband come to blows with him, one
whose wife, like mine, had suffered brutal violence?
MESSENGER He perished through those steeds that drew his chariot
and through the curses thou didst utter, praying to thy sire, the
ocean-king, to slay thy son.
THESEUS Ye gods and king Poseidon, thou hast proved my parentage
by hearkening to my prayer! Say how he perished; how fell the uplifted
hand of justice to smite the villain who dishonoured me?
MESSENGER Hard by the wave-beat shore were we combing out his horses'
manes, weeping the while, for one had come to say that Hippolytus
was harshly exiled by thee and nevermore would return to set foot
in this land. Then came he, telling the same doleful tale to us upon
the beach, and with him was a countless throng of friends who followed
after. At length he stayed his lamentation and spake: "Why weakly
rave on this wise? My father's commands must be obeyed. Ho! servants,
harness my horses to the chariot; this is no longer now city of mine."
Thereupon each one of us bestirred himself, and, ere a man could say
'twas done, we had the horses standing ready at our master's side.
Then he caught up the reins from the chariot-rail, first fitting his
feet exactly in the hollows made for them. But first with outspread
palms he called upon the gods, "O Zeus, now strike me dead, if I have
sinned, and let my father learn how he is wronging me, in death at
least, if not in life." Therewith he seized the whip and lashed each
horse in turn; while we, close by his chariot, near the reins, kept
up with him along the road that leads direct to Argos and Epidaurus.
And just as we were coming to a desert spot, a strip of sand beyond
the borders of this country, sloping right to the Saronic gulf, there
issued thence a deep rumbling sound, as it were an earthquake, fearsome
noise, and the horses reared their heads and pricked their ears, while
we were filled with wild alarm to know whence came the sound; when,
as we gazed toward the wave-beat shore, a wave tremendous we beheld
towering to the skies, so that from our view the cliffs of Sciron
vanished, for it hid the isthmus and the rock of Asclepius; then swelling
and frothing with a crest of foam, the sea discharged it toward the
beach where stood the harnessed car, and in the moment that it broke,
that mighty wall of waters, there issued from the wave a monstrous
bull, whose bellowing filled the land with fearsome echoes, a sight
too awful as it seemed to us who witnessed it. A panic seized the
horses there and then, but our master, to horses' ways quite used,
gripped in both hands his reins, and tying them to his body pulled
them backward as the sailor pulls his oar; but the horses gnashed
the forged bits between their teeth and bore him wildly on, regardless
of their master's guiding hand or rein or jointed car. And oft as
he would take the guiding rein and steer for softer ground, showed
that bull in front to turn him back again, maddening his team with
terror; but if in their frantic career they ran towards the rocks,
he would draw nigh the chariot-rail, keeping up with them, until,
suddenly dashing the wheel against a stone, he upset and wrecked the
car; then was dire confusion, axle-boxes and linchpins springing into
the air. While he, poor youth, entangled in the reins was dragged
along, bound by a stubborn knot, his poor head dashed against the
rocks, his flesh all torn, the while he cried out piteously, "Stay,
stay, my horses whom my own hand hath fed at the manger, destroy me