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The Heracleidae   


come unto my city, thou shalt not get so easily what thou expectest.
Thou art not the only man to wield a sword or targe with plates of
brass. Nay, thou eager warrior, I warn thee, bring not war's alarms
against our lovely town; restrain thyself. (DEMOPHON re-enters.)
IOLAUS My son, why, prithee, art thou returned with that anxious
look? Hast thou news of the enemy? Are they coming, are they here,
or what thy tidings? For of a surety yon herald will not play us false.
No! sure I am their captain, prosperous heretofore, will come, with
thoughts exceeding proud against Athens. But Zeus doth punish overweening
pride.
DEMOPHON The host of Argos is come, and Eurystheus its king; my own
eyes saw him, for the man who thinks he knows good generalship must
see the foe not by messengers alone. As yet, however, he hath not
sent his host into the plain, but, camped upon a rocky brow, is watching-I
only tell thee what I think this means-to see by which road to lead
his army hither without fighting, and how to take up a safe position
in this land. However, all my plans are by this time carefully laid;
the city is under arms, the victims stand ready to be slain to every
god, whose due this is; my seers have filled the town with sacrifices,
to turn the foe to flight and keep our country safe. All those who
chant prophetic words have I assembled, and have examined ancient
oracles, both public and secret, as means to save this city. And though
the several answers differ in many points, yet in one is the sentiment
of all clearly the same; they bid me sacrifice to Demeter's daughter
some maiden from a noble father sprung. Now I, though in your cause
I am as zealous as thou seest, yet will not slay my child, nor will
I compel any of my subjects to do so against his will; for who of
his own will doth harbour such an evil thought as to yield with his
own hands the child he loves? And now thou mayest see angry gatherings,
where some declare, 'tis right to stand by suppliant strangers, while
others charge me with folly; but if I do this deed, a civil war is
then and there at hand. Do thou then look to this and help to find
a way to save yourselves and this country without causing me to be
slandered by the citizens. For I am no despot like a barbarian monarch;
but provided do what is just, just will my treatment be.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Can it be that heaven forbids this city to help
strangers, when it hath the will and longing so to do?
IOLAUS My children, we are even as those mariners, who have escaped
the storm's relentless rage, and have the land almost within their
reach, but after all are driven back from shore by tempests to the
deep again. Even so we, just as we reach the shore in seeming safety,
are being thrust back from this land. Ah me! Why, cruel hope, didst
thou then cheer my heart, though thou didst not mean to make the boon
complete? The king may well be pardoned, if he will not slay his subjects'
children; and with my treatment here I am content; if indeed 'tis
heaven's will, I thus should fare, still is my gratitude to thee in
no wise lost. Children, I know not what to do for you. Whither shall
we turn? for what god's altar have we left uncrowned? to what fenced
city have we failed to go? Ruin and surrender are our instant lot,
poor children! If I must die, 'tis naught to me, save that thereby
I give those foes of mine some cause for joy. But you, children, I
lament and pity, and that aged mother of your sire, Alcmena. Ah, woe
is thee for thy long span of life! and woe is me for all my idle toil!
'Twas after all our destined doom to fall into the hands of our hated
foe, and die a death of shame and misery. But lend me thine aid, thou
knowest how; for all hope of these children's safety has not yet left
me. Give me up instead of them to the Argives, O king; run no risk,
but let me save the children; to love my life becomes me not; let
it pass. Me will Eurystheus be most glad to take and treat despitefully,
as I was Heracles' companion; for the man is but a boor; wherefore
wise men ought to pray to get a wise man for their foe, and not a
proud senseless fool; for so, even if by fortune flouted, one would
meet with much consideration.
LEADER Old man, blame not this city; for though perhaps a gain to

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