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The Heracleidae   


gods and cast forth from the land. For this were shame on thee, and
hurtful likewise in thy state, should suppliants, exiles, kith and
kin of thine, be haled away by force. In pity cast one glance at them.
I do entreat thee, laying my suppliant bough upon thee, by thy hands
and beard, slight not the sons of Heracles, now that thou hast them
in thy power to help. Show thyself their kinsman and their friend;
be to them father, brother, lord; for better each and all of these
than to fall beneath the Argives' hand.
LEADER O king, I pity them, hearing their sad lot. Now more than
ever do see noble birth o'ercome by fortune; for these, though sprung
from noble sire, are suffering what they ne'er deserved.
DEMOPHON Three aspects of the circumstance constrain me, Iolaus,
not to spurn the guests thou bringest; first and foremost, there is
Zeus, at whose altar thou art seated with these tender children gathered
round thee; next come ties of kin, and the debt I owe to treat them
kindly for their father's sake; and last, mine honour, which before
all I must regard; for if I permit this altar to be violently despoiled
by stranger hands, men will think the land I inhabit is free no more,
and that through fear I have surrendered suppliants to Argives, and
this comes nigh to make one hang oneself. Would that thou hadst come
under a luckier star! yet, as it is, fear not that any man shall tear
thee and these children from the altar by force. (to COPREUS) Get
thee to Argos and tell Eurystheus so; yea and more, if he have any
charge against these strangers, he shall have justice; but never shalt
thou drag them hence.
COPREUS Not even if I have right upon my side and prove my case?
DEMOPHON How can it be right to drag the suppliant away by force?
COPREUS Well, mine is the disgrace; no harm will come to thee.
DEMOPHON 'Tis harm to me, if I let them be haled away by thee.
COPREUS Banish them thyself, and then will I take them from elsewhere.
DEMOPHON Nature made thee a fool, to think thou knowest better than
the god.
COPREUS It seems then evildoers are to find a refuge here.
DEMOPHON A temple of the gods is an asylum open to the world.
COPREUS Maybe they will not take this view in Mycenae.
DEMOPHON What! am I not lord of this domain?
COPREUS So long as thou injure not the Argives, and if wise, thou
wilt not.
DEMOPHON Be injured for all I care, provided I sin not against the
gods.
COPREUS I would not have thee come to blows with Argos.
DEMOPHON I am of like mind in this; but I will not dismiss these
from my protection.
COPREUS For all that, I shall take and drag my own away.
DEMOPHON Why then perhaps thou wilt find a difficulty in returning
to Argos.
COPREUS That shall I soon find out by making the attempt.
DEMOPHON Touch them and thou shalt rue it, and that without delay.
LEADER I conjure thee, never dare to strike a herald.
DEMOPHON Strike I will, unless that herald learn discretion.
LEADER Depart; and thou, O king, touch him not.
COPREUS I go; for 'tis feeble fighting with a single arm. But I will
come again, bringing hither a host of Argive troops, spearmen clad
in bronze; for countless warriors are awaiting my return, and king
Eurystheus in person at their head; anxiously he waits the issue here
on the borders of Alcathous' realm. And when he hears thy haughty
answer, he will burst upon thee, and thy citizens, on this land and
all that grows therein; for all in vain should we possess such hosts
of picked young troops in Argos, should we forbear to punish thee.
(COPREUS departs.)
DEMOPHON Perdition seize thee! I am not afraid of thy Argos. Be very
sure thou shalt not drag these suppliants hence by force, to my shame;
for I hold not this city subject unto Argos, but independently.
CHORUS (singing) 'Tis time to use our forethought, ere the host

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