SERVANT How shalt thou show thyself before the troops unarmed?
IOLAUS There be captured arms within this shrine; these will I use,
and, if I live, restore; and, if I am slain, the god will not demand
them of me back. Go thou within, and from its peg take down a suit
of armour and forthwith bring it to me. To linger thus at home is
infamous, while some go fight, and others out of cowardice remain
behind. (The SERVANT goes into the temple.)
CHORUS (singing) Not yet hath time laid low thy spirit, 'tis young
as ever; but thy body's strength is gone. Why toil to no purpose?
'Twill do thee hurt and benefit our city little. At thy age thou shouldst
confess thy error and let impossibilities alone. Thou canst in no
way get thy vigour back again.
ALCMENA What means this mad resolve to leave me with my children
IOLAUS Men must fight; and thou must look to them.
ALCMENA And what if thou art slain? what safety shall I find?
IOLAUS Thy son's surviving children will care for thee.
ALCMENA Suppose they meet with some reverse? which Heaven forefend!
IOLAUS These strangers will not give thee up, fear not.
ALCMENA They are my last and only hope, I have no other.
IOLAUS Zeus too, I feel sure, cares for thy sufferings.
ALCMENA Ah! of Zeus will I never speak ill, but himself doth know
whether he is just to me. (The SERVANT enters from the temple, carrying
SERVANT Lo! here thou seest a full coat of mail; make haste to case
thyself therein; for the strife is nigh, and bitterly doth Ares loathe
loiterers; but if thou fear the weight of the armour, go now without
it, and in the ranks do on this gear; meantime will I carry it.
IOLAUS Well said! keep the harness ready to my hand, put a spear
within my grasp, and support me on the left side, guiding my steps.
SERVANT Am I to lead this warrior like a child?
IOLAUS To save the omen, we must go without stumbling.
SERVANT Would thy power to act were equal to thy zeal!
IOLAUS Hasten; I shall feel it grievously, if I am too late for the
SERVANT 'Tis thou who art slow, not I, though thou fanciest thou
art doing wonders.
IOLAUS Dost not mark how swift my steps are hasting?
SERVANT I mark more seeming than reality in thy haste,
IOLAUS Thou wilt tell a different tale when thou seest me there.
SERVANT What shall I see thee do? I wish thee all success, at any
IOLAUS Thou shalt see me smite some foeman through the shield.
SERVANT Perhaps, if ever we get there. I have my fears of that.
IOLAUS Ah! would to Heaven that thou, mine arm, e'en as I remember
thee in thy lusty youth, when with Heracles thou didst sack Sparta,
couldst so champion me to-day! how I would put Eurystheus to flight!
since he is to craven to wait the onslaught. For prosperity carries
with it this error too, a reputation for bravery; for we think the
prosperous man a master of all knowledge. (IOLAUS and the SERVANT
CHORUS (singing, strophe 1)
O earth, and moon that shines by night, and dazzling radiance of
the god, that giveth light to man, bear the tidings to me, shout aloud
to heaven for joy, and beside our ruler's throne, and in the shrine
of grey-eyed Athene. For my fatherland and home will I soon decide
the issue of the strife with the gleaming sword, because I have taken
suppliants under my protection.
'Tis a fearful thing, that a city prosperous as Mycenae is, one famed
for martial prowess, should harbour wrath against my land; still,
my countrymen, it were a shameful thing in us to yield up suppliant
strangers at the bidding of Argos. Zeus is on my side, I am not afraid;
Zeus hath a favour unto me, as is my due; never by me shall gods be