us, yet would it be a foul reproach that we betrayed strangers.
DEMOPHON A generous scheme is thine, but impossible. 'Tis not in
quest of the yon king comes marching hither; what would Eurystheus
gain by the death of one so old? Nay, 'tis these children's blood
he wants. For there is danger to a foe in the youthful scions of a
noble race, whose memory dwells upon their father's wrongs; all this
Eurystheus must foresee. But if thou hast any scheme besides, that
better suits the time, be ready with it, for, since I heard that oracle,
I am at a loss and full of fear. (MACARIA enters from the temple.)
MACARIA Sirs, impute not boldness to me, because I venture forth;
this shall be my first request, for a woman's fairest crown is this,
to practise silence and discretion, and abide at home in peace. But
when I heard thy lamentations, Iolaus, I came forth, albeit I was
not appointed to take the lead in my family. Still in some sense am
I fit to do so, for these my brothers are my chiefest care, and I
fain would ask, as touching myself, whether some new trouble, added
to the former woes, is gnawing at thy heart.
IOLAUS My daughter, 'tis nothing new that I should praise thee, as
I justly may, above all the children of Heracles. Our house seemed
to be prospering, when back it fell again into a hopeless state; for
the king declares the prophets signify that he must order the sacrifice,
not of bull or heifer, but of some tender maid of noble lineage, if
we and this city are to exist. Herein is our perplexity; the king
refuses either to sacrifice his own or any other's child. Wherefore,
though he use not terms express, yet doth he hint, that, unless we
find some way out of this perplexity, we must seek some other land,
for he this country fain would save.
MACARIA Are these indeed the terms on which our safety depends?
IOLAUS Yea, on these; if, that is, we are successful otherwise.
MACARIA No longer then cower before the hated Argive spear; for I,
of my own free will, or ever they bid me, am ready to die and offer
myself as a victim. For what excuse have we, if, while this city deems
it right to incur great danger on our behalf, we, though we might
save ourselves, fly from death, by foisting our trouble on others?
No! indeed, 'twere surely most ridiculous to sit and mourn as suppliants
of the gods, and show ourselves but cowards, children as we are of
that illustrious sire. Where among the brave is such conduct seen?
Better, I suppose, this city should be taken and I (which Heaven forefend!)
fall into the hands of the enemy, and then, for all I am my noble
father's child, meet an awful doom, and face the Death-god none the
less. Shall I wander as an exile from this land? Shall I not feel
shame then, when someone says, as say they will, "Why are ye come
hither with suppliant boughs, loving your lives too well? Begone from
our land! for we will not succour cowards." Nay, if these be slain
and I alone be saved, I have no hope in any wise of being happy, though
many ere now have in this hope betrayed their friends, For who will
care to wed a lonely maid or make me mother of his children? 'Tis
better I should die than meet such treatment, little as I merit it.
This were fitter treatment for some other, one that is not born to
fame as I am. Conduct me to the scene of death, crown me with garlands,
and begin the rites, if so it please you; then be victorious o'er
the foe, for here I offer my life freely and without constraint, and
for my brothers and myself I undertake to die. For I, by loving not
my life too well, have found a treasure very fair, a glorious means
to leave it.
LEADER Ah, what shall I say on hearing the maid's brave words, she
that is ready to die for her brothers? Who can speak more noble words
or do more noble deeds henceforth for ever?
IOLAUS Daughter, thou art his own true child, no other man's but
Heracles', that godlike soul; proud am I of thy words, though I sorrow
for thy lot. Yet will I propose a fairer method: 'tis right to summon
hither all the sisters of this maiden, and then let her, on whom the
lot shall fall, die for her family; for that thou shouldst die without
the lot is not just.