MACARIA My death shall no chance lot decide; there is no graciousness
in that; peace! old friend. But if ye accept and will avail you of
my readiness, freely do I offer my life for these, and without constraint.
IOLAUS Ah, this is even nobler than thy former word; that was matchless,
but thou dost now surpass thy bravery and noble speech. I cannot bid,
will not forbid thy dying, O my daughter! for by thy death thou dost
thy brothers serve.
MACARIA A cautious bidding thine! Fear not to take a stain of guilt
from me, only let me die as one whose death is free. Follow me, old
friend, for in thy arms I fain would die; stand by and veil my body
with my robe, for I will go even to the dreadful doom of sacrifice,
seeing whose daughter I avow myself.
IOLAUS I cannot stand by and see thee bleed.
MACARIA At least do thou beg me this boon of the king, that I may
breathe out my life in women's arms instead of men's.
DEMOPHON It shall be so, unhappy maid; for this were shame to me
to refuse the honour due, for many reasons: because thou hast a soul
so brave; because 'tis right; and thou hast shown more courage than
any of thy sex my eyes have ever seen. Now, if thou hast aught to
say to these children or thy aged guide. oh! say the last thou hast
to say-then go.
MACARIA Farewell, old friend, farewell and prithee teach these children
to be like thyself, wise at every point; let them strive no further,
for that will suffice them. And seek to save them from death, even
as thou art anxious to do; thy children are we, thy care it was that
nurtured us. Thou seest how I yield my bridal bloom to die for them.
For you, my brothers gathered here, may you be happy! and may every
blessing be yours, for the which my blood shall pay the price! Honour
this old friend, and her that is within the house, Alcmena, the aged
mother of my sire, and these strangers too. And if ever heaven for
you devise release from trouble and a return to your home, remember
the burial due to her that saved you, funeral fair as I deserve; for
I have not failed, but stood by you, and died to save my race. This
shall be my pearl of price instead of children, and for the maiden
life I leave, if there be really aught beyond the grave-God grant
there may not be! For if, e'en there, we who are to die shall find
a life of care, I know not whither one shall turn; for death is held
a sovereign cure for every ill.
IOLAUS Maiden of heroic soul, transcending all thy race, be sure
the fame that thou shalt win from us, in life, in death, shall leave
the rest of women far behind; farewell to thee! I dare not say harsh
words of her to whom thou art devoted, the goddess-daughter of Demeter.
(DEMOPHON leads MACARIA away.) Children, I am undone, grief unnerves
my limbs; take hold and support me to a seat hard by, when ye have
drawn my mantle o'er my face, my sons. For I am grieved at what hath
happened, and yet, were it not fulfilled, we could not live; thus
were our fate worse, though this is grief enough.
CHORUS (singing, strophe)
Without the will of heaven none is blest, none curst, I do maintain;
nor doth the same house for ever tread the path of bliss; for one
kind of fortune follows hard upon another; one man it brings to naught
from his high estate, another though of no account it crowns with
happiness. To shun what fate decrees, is no wise permitted; none by
cunning shall thrust it from him; but he, who vainly would do so,
shall have unceasing trouble.
Then fall not prostrate thou, but bear what heaven sends, and set
limit to thy soul's grief; for she, poor maid! in dying for her brothers
and this land, hath won a glorious death, and splendid fame shall
be her meed from all mankind; for virtue's path leads through troublous
ways. Worthy of her father, worthy of her noble birth is this she
does. And if thou dost honour the virtuous dead, I share with thee
that sentiment. (The SERVANT OF HYLLUS enters.)
SERVANT OF HYLLUS All hail, ye children! Where is aged Iolaus? where