from the flight of birds. Are we not then to proud, when heaven hath
made such preparation for our life, not to be content therewith? But
our presumption seeks to lord it over heaven, and in the pride of
our hearts we think we are wiser than the gods. Methinks thou art
even of this number, a son of folly, seeing that thou, though obedient
to Apollo's oracle in giving thy daughters to strangers, as if gods
really existed, yet hast hurt thy house by mingling the stream of
its pure line with muddy waters; no! never should the wise man have
joined the stock of just and unjust in one, but should have gotten
prosperous friends for his family. For the deity, confusing their
destinies, doth oft destroy by the sinner's fate him who never sinned
nor committed injustice. Thou didst lead all Argos forth to battle,
though seers proclaimed the will of heaven, and then in scorn of them
and in violent disregard of the gods hast ruined thy city, led away
by younger men, such as court distinction, and add war to war unrighteously,
destroying their fellow-citizens; one aspires to lead an army; another
fain would seize the reins of power and work his wanton will; a third
is bent on gain, careless of any ill the people thereby suffer. For
there are three ranks of citizens; the rich, a useless set, that ever
crave for more; the poor and destitute, fearful folk, that cherish
envy more than is right, and shoot out grievous stings against the
men who have aught, beguiled as they are by the eloquence of vicious
leaders; while the class that is midmost of the three preserveth cities,
observing such order as the state ordains. Shall I then become thy
ally? What fair pretext should I urge before my countrymen? Depart
in peace! For why shouldst thou, having been ill-advised thyself,
seek to drag our fortune down?
LEADER He erred; but with the young men rests this error, while he
may well be pardoned.
ADRASTUS I did not choose thee, king, to judge my affliction, but
came to thee to cure it; no! nor if in aught my fortunes prove me
wrong, came I to the to punish or correct them, but to seek thy help.
But if thou wilt not, must be content with thy decision; for how can
I help it? Come, aged dames, away! Yet leave behind you here the woven
leaves of pale green foliage, calling to witness heaven and earth,
Demeter, that fire-bearing goddess, and the sun-god's light, that
our prayers to heaven availed us naught.
CHORUS (singing) ...who was Pelops' son, and we are of the land
of Pelops and share with thee the blood of ancestors. What art thou
doing? wilt thou betray these suppliant symbols, and banish from thy
land these aged women without the boon they should obtain? Do not
so; e'en the wild beast finds a refuge in the rock, the slave in the
altars of the gods, and a state when tempest-tossed cowers to its
neighbour's shelter; for naught in this life of man is blest unto
Rise, hapless one, from the sacred floor of Persephone; rise, clasp
him by the knees and implore him, "O recover the bodies of our dead
sons, the children that I lost-ah, woe is me!-beneath the walls of
Cadmus' town." Ah me! ah me! Take me by the hand, poor aged sufferer
that I am, support and guide and raise me up. By thy beard, kind friend,
glory of Hellas, I do beseech thee, as I clasp thy knees and hands
in my misery; O pity me as I entreat for my sons with my tale of wretched
woe, like some beggar; nor let my sons lie there unburied in the land
of Cadmus, glad prey for beasts, whilst thou art in thy prime, I implore
thee. See the teardrop tremble in my eye, as thus I throw me at thy
knees to win my children burial.
THESEUS Mother mine, why weepest thou, drawing o'er thine eyes thy
veil? Is it because thou didst hear their piteous lamentations? To
my own heart it goes. Raise thy silvered head, weep not where thou
sittest at the holy altar of Demeter.
AETHRA Ah woe!
THESEUS 'Tis not for thee their sorrows to lament.
AETHRA Ye hapless dames!
THESEUS Thou art not of their company.