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The Phoenissae   


POLYNEICES Tydeus, son of Oeneus, was his name.
JOCASTA But why did Adrastus liken you to wild beasts?
POLYNEICES Because we came to blows about our bed.
JOCASTA Was it then that the son of Talaus understood the oracle?
POLYNEICES Yes, and he gave to us his daughters twain.
JOCASTA Art thou blest or curst in thy marriage?
POLYNEICES As yet I have no fault to find with it.
JOCASTA How didst thou persuade an army to follow thee hither?
POLYNEICES To me and to Tydeus who is my kinsman by marriage, Adrastus
sware an oath, even to the husbands of his daughters twain, that he
would restore us both to our country, but me the first. So many a
chief from Argos and Mycenae has joined me, doing me a bitter though
needful service, for 'tis against my own city I am marching. Now I
call heaven to witness, that it is not willingly I have raised my
arm against parents whom I love full well. But to thee, mother, it
belongs to dissolve this unhappy feud, and, by reconciling brothers
in love, to end my troubles and thine and this whole city's. 'Tis
an old-world maxim, but I will cite it for all that: "Men set most
store by wealth, and of all things in this world it hath the greatest
power." This am I come to secure at the head of my countless host;
for good birth is naught if poverty go with it.
LEADER Lo! Eteocles comes hither to discuss the truce. Thine the
task, mother Jocasta, to speak such words as may reconcile thy sons.
(ETEOCLES and his retinue enter.)
ETEOCLES Mother, I am here; but it was only to pleasure thee I came.
What am to do? Let some one begin the conference; for I stopped marshalling
the citizens in double lines around the walls, that I might hear thy
arbitration. between us; for it is under this truce that thou hast
persuaded me to admit this fellow within the walls.
JOCASTA Stay a moment; haste never carries justice with it; but slow
deliberation oft attains a wise result. Restrain the fierceness of
thy look, that panting rage; for this is not the Gorgon's severed
head but thy own brother whom thou seest here. Thou too, Polyneices,
turn and face thy brother; for if thou and he stand face to face,
thou wilt adopt a kindlier tone and lend a readier ear to him. I fain
would give you both one piece of wholesome counsel; when a man that
is angered with his friend confronts him face to face, he ought only
to keep in view the object of his coming, forgetting all previous
quarrels. Polyneices my son, speak first, for thou art come at the
head of a Danaid host, alleging wrongful treatment; and may some god
judge betwixt us and reconcile the trouble.
POLYNEICES The words of truth are simple, and justice needs no subtle
interpretations, for it hath a fitness in itself; but the words of
injustice, being rotten in themselves, require clever treatment. I
provided for his interests and mine in our father's palace, being
anxious to avoid the curse which Oedipus once uttered against us;
of my own free-will I left the land, allowing him to rule our country
for one full year, on condition that I should then take the sceptre
in turn, instead of plunging into deadly enmity and thereby doing
others hurt or suffering it myself, as is now the case. But he, after
consenting to this and calling the gods to witness his oath, has performed
none of his promises, but is still keeping the sovereignty in his
own hands together with my share of our heritage. Even now am I ready
to take my own and dismiss my army from this land, receiving my house
in turn to dwell therein, and once more restore it to him for a like
period instead of ravaging our country and planting scaling-ladders
against the towers, as I shall attempt to do if I do not get my rights.
Wherefore I call the gods to witness that spite of my just dealing
in everything I am being unjustly robbed of my country by most godless
fraud. Here, mother, have I stated the several points on their own
merits, without collecting words to fence them in, but urging a fair
case, I think, alike in the judgment of skilled or simple folk.
LEADER To me at least, albeit I was not born and bred in Hellas,
thy words seem full of sense.

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