THESEUS How dost thou explain the message of the god?
ADRASTUS One night came to my door two exiles.
THESEUS The name of each declare: thou art speaking of both together.
ADRASTUS They fought together, Tydeus with Polyneices.
THESEUS Didst thou give thy daughters to them as to wild beasts?
ADRASTUS Yea, for, as they fought, I likened them to those monsters
THESEUS Why had they left the borders of their native land and come
ADRASTUS Tydeus was exiled for the murder of a kinsman.
THESEUS Wherefore had the son of Oedipus left Thebes?
ADRASTUS By reason of his father's curse, not to spill his brother's
THESEUS Wise no doubt that voluntary exile.
ADRASTUS But those who stayed at home were for injuring the absent.
THESEUS What! did brother rob brother of his inheritance?
ADRASTUS To avenge this I set out; hence my ruin.
THESEUS Didst consult seers, and gaze into the flame of burnt-offerings?
ADRASTUS Ah me! thou pressest on the very point wherein I most did
THESEUS It seems thy going was not favoured by heaven.
ADRASTUS Worse; I went in spite even of Amphiaraus.
THESEUS And so heaven lightly turned its face from thee.
ADRASTUS I was carried away by the clamour of younger men.
THESEUS Thou didst favour courage instead of discretion.
ADRASTUS True; and many a general owes defeat to that. O king of
Athens, bravest of the sons of Hellas, I blush to throw myself upon
the ground and clasp thy knees, I a grey-haired king, blest in days
gone by; yet needs must yield to my misfortunes. I pray thee save
the dead; have pity on my sorrows and on these, the mothers of the
slain, whom hoary eld finds reft of their sons; yet they endured to
journey hither and tread a foreign soil with aged tottering steps,
bearing no embassy to Demeter's mysteries; only seeking burial for
their dead, which lot should have been theirs, e'en burial by the
hands of sons still in their prime. And 'tis wise in the rich to see
the poor man's poverty, and in the poor man to turn ambitious eyes
toward the rich, that so he may himself indulge a longing for possessions;
and they, whom fortune frowns not on, should gaze on misery's presentment;
likewise, who maketh songs should take a pleasure in their making;
for if it be not so with him, he will in no wise avail to gladden
others, if himself have sorrow in his home; nay, 'tis not even right
to expect it. Mayhap thou'lt say, "Why pass the land of Pelops o'er,
and lay this toil on Athens?" This am I bound to declare. Sparta is
cruel, her customs variable; the other states are small and weak.
Thy city alone would be able to undertake this labour; for it turns
an eye on suffering, and hath in thee a young and gallant king, for
want whereof to lead their hosts states ere now have often perished.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS I too, Theseus, urge the same plea to thee;
have pity on my hard fate.
THESEUS Full oft have I argued out this subject with others. For
there are who say, there is more bad than good in human nature, to
the which I hold contrary view, that good o'er bad predominates in
man, for if it were not so, we should not exist. He hath my praise,
whoe'er of gods brought us to live by rule from chaos and from brutishness,
first by implanting reason, and next by giving us a tongue to declare
our thoughts, so as to know the meaning of what is said, bestowing
fruitful crops, and drops of rain from heaven to make them grow, wherewith
to nourish earth's fruits and to water her lap; and more than this,
protection from the wintry storm, and means to ward from us the sun-god's
scorching heat; the art of sailing o'er the sea, so that we might
exchange with one another whatso our countries lack. And where sight
fails us and our knowledge is not sure, the seer foretells by gazing
on the flame, by reading signs in folds of entrails, or by divination