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The Phoenissae   


LEADER OF THE CHORUS Wondrous dear to woman is the child of her travail,
and all her race hath some affection for its babes.
POLYNEICES Mother, I have come amongst enemies wisely or foolishly;
but all men needs must love their native land; whoso saith otherwise
is pleased to say so but his thoughts are turned elsewhere. So fearful
was I and in such terror, lest my brother might slay me by treachery
that I made my way through the city sword in hand, casting my eyes
all round me. My only hope is the truce and thy plighted word which
induced me to enter my paternal walls; and many a tear I shed by the
way, seeing after a weary while my home and the altars of the gods,
the training ground, scene of my childhood, and Dirce's founts from
which I was unjustly driven to sojourn in a strange city, with tears
ever gushing from mine eyes. Yea, and to add to my grief I see thee
with hair cut short and clad in sable robe; woe is me for my sorrows!
How terrible, dear mother, is hatred 'twixt those once near and dear;
how hard it makes all reconciliation! What doth my aged sire within
the house, his light all darkness now? what of my sisters twain? Ah!
they, I know, bewail my bitter exile.
JOCASTA Some god with fell intent is plaguing the race of Oedipus.
Thus it all began; I broke God's law and bore a son, and in an evil
hour married thy father and thou wert born. But why repeat these horrors?
what Heaven sends we have to bear. I am afraid to ask thee what I
fain would, for fear of wounding thy feelings; yet I long to.
POLYNEICES Nay, question me, leave naught unsaid; for thy will, mother,
is my pleasure too.
JOCASTA Well then, first I ask thee what I long to have answered.
What means exile from one's country? is it a great evil?
POLYNEICES The greatest; harder to bear than tell.
JOCASTA What is it like? what is it galls the exile?
POLYNEICES One thing most of all; he cannot speak his mind.
JOCASTA This is a slave's lot thou describest, to refrain from uttering
what one thinks.
POLYNEICES The follies of his rulers must be bear.
JOCASTA That too is bitter, to join in the folly of fools.
POLYNEICES Yet to gain our ends we must submit against our nature.
JOCASTA Hope, they say, is the exile's food.
POLYNEICES Aye, hope that looks so fair; but she is ever in the future.
JOCASTA But doth not time expose her futility?
POLYNEICES She hath a certain winsome charm in misfortune.
JOCASTA Whence hadst thou means to live, ere thy marriage found it
for thee?
POLYNEICES One while I had enough for the day, and then maybe I had
it not.
JOCASTA Did not thy father's friends and whilom guests assist thee?
POLYNEICES Seek to be prosperous; once let fortune lour, and the
aid supplied by friends is naught.
JOCASTA Did not thy noble breeding exalt thy horn for thee?
POLYNEICES Poverty is a curse; breeding would not find me food.
JOCASTA Man's dearest treasure then, it seems, is his country.
POLYNEICES No words of thine could tell how dear.
JOCASTA How was it thou didst go to Argos? what was thy scheme?
POLYNEICES I know not; the deity summoned me thither in accordance
with my destiny.
JOCASTA He doubtless had some wise design; but how didst thou win
thy wife?
POLYNEICES Loxias had given Adrastus an oracle.
JOCASTA What was it? what meanest thou? I cannot guess.
POLYNEICES That he should wed his daughters to a boar and a lion.
JOCASTA What hadst thou, my son, to do with the name of beasts?
POLYNEICES It was night when I reached the porch of Adrastus.
JOCASTA In search of a resting-place, or wandering thither in thy
exile?
POLYNEICES Yes, I wandered thither; and so did another like me.
JOCASTA Who was he? he too it seems was in evil plight.

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