AETHRA May I a scheme declare, my son, that shall add to thy glory
and the state's?
THESEUS Yea, for oft even from women's lips issue wise counsels.
AETHRA Yet the word, that lurks within my heart, makes me hesitate.
THESEUS Shame! to hide from friends good counsel.
AETHRA Nay then, I will not hold my peace to blame myself hereafter
for having now kept silence to my shame, nor will I forego my honourable
proposal, from the common fear that it is useless for women to give
good advice. First, my son, I exhort thee give good heed to heaven's
will, lest from slighting it thou suffer shipwreck; for in this one
single point thou failest, though well-advised in all else. Further,
I would have patiently endured, had it not been my duty to venture
somewhat for injured folk; and this, my son, it is that brings thee
now thy honour, and causes me no fear to urge that thou shouldst use
thy power to make men of violence, who prevent the dead from receiving
their meed of burial and funeral rites, perform this bounden duty,
and check those who would confound the customs of all Hellas; for
this it is that holds men's states together,-strict observance of
the laws. And some, no doubt, will say, 'twas cowardice made thee
stand aloof in terror, when thou mightest have won for thy city a
crown of glory, and, though thou didst encounter a savage swine, labouring
for a sorry task, yet when the time came for thee to face the helmet
and pointed spear, and do thy best, thou wert found to be coward.
Nay! do not so if thou be son of mine. Dost see how fiercely thy country
looks on its revilers when they mock her for want of counsel? Yea,
for in her toils she groweth greater. But states, whose policy is
dark and cautious, have their sight darkened by their carefulness.
My son, wilt thou not go succour the dead and these poor women in
their need? have no fears for thee, starting as thou dost with right
upon thy side; and although I see the prosperity of Cadmus' folk,
still am I confident they will throw a different die; for the deity
reverses all things again.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Ah! best of friends, right well hast thou pleaded
for me and for Adrastus, and hence my joy is doubled.
THESEUS Mother, the words that I have spoken are his fair deserts,
and I have declared my opinion of the counsels that ruined him; yet
do I perceive the truth of thy warning to me, that it ill suits my
character to shun dangers. For by a long and glorious career have
I displayed this my habit among Hellenes, of ever punishing the wicked.
Wherefore I cannot refuse toil. For what will spiteful tongues say
of me, when thou, my mother, who more than all others fearest for
my safety, bidst me undertake this enterprise? Yea, I will go about
this business and rescue the dead by words persuasive; or, failing
that, the spear forthwith shall decide this issue, nor will heaven
grudge me this. But I require the whole city's sanction also, which
my mere wish will ensure; still by communicating the proposal to them
I shall find the people better disposed. For them I made supreme,
when I set this city free, by giving all an equal vote. So I will
take Adrastus as a text for what I have to say and go to their assembly,
and when have won them to these views, I will return hither, after
collecting a picked band of young Athenians; and then remaining under
arms I will send a message to Creon, begging the bodies of the dead.
But do ye, aged ladies, remove from my mother your holy wreaths, that
I may take her by the hand and conduct her to the house of Aegeus;
for a wretched son is he who rewards not his parents by service; for,
when he hath conferred on them the best he hath, he in his turn from
his own sons receives all such service as he gave to them. (AETHRA
leaves the altar and departs.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe)
O Argos, home of steeds, my native land! ye have heard with your
ears these words, the king's pious will toward the gods in the sight
of great Pelasgia and throughout Argos.
May he reach the goal! yea, and triumph o'er my sorrows, rescuing