the gory corpse, the mother's idol and making the land of Inachus
his friend by helping her.
For pious toil is a fair ornament to cities, and carries with it
grace that never wastes away. What will the city decide, I wonder?
Will it conclude a friendly truce with me, and shall we obtain burial
for our sons?
Help, O help, city of Pallas, the mother's cause, that so they may
not pollute the laws of all mankind. Thou, I know, dost reverence
right, and to injustice dealest out defeat, a protection at all times
to the afflicted. (THESEUS addresses one of his own heralds. As he
speaks, the HERALD from King Creon of Thebes enters.)
THESEUS Forasmuch as with this thy art thou hast ever served the
state and me by carrying my proclamations far and wide, so now cross
Asopus and the waters of Ismenus, and declare this message to the
haughty king of the Cadmeans: "Theseus, thy neighbour, one who well
may win the boon he craves, begs as a favour thy permission to bury
the dead, winning to thyself thereby the love of all the Erechtheidae."
And if they will acquiesce, come back again, but if they hearken not,
thy second message runneth thus, they may expect my warrior host;
for at the sacred fount of Callichorus my army camps in readiness
and is being reviewed. Moreover, the city gladly of its own accord
undertook this enterprise, when it perceived my wish. Ha! who comes
hither to interrupt my speech? A Theban herald, so it seems, though
I am not sure thereof. Stay; haply he may save the thy trouble. For
by his coming he meets my purpose half-way.
THEBAN HERALD Who is the despot of this land? To whom must I announce
the message of Creon, who rules o'er the land of Cadmus, since Eteocles
was slain by the hand of his brother Polyneices, at the sevenfold
gates of Thebes?
THESEUS Sir stranger, thou hast made a false beginning to thy speech,
in seeking here a despot. For this city is not ruled by one man, but
is free. The people rule in succession year by year, allowing no preference
to wealth, but the poor man shares equally with the rich.
THEBAN HERALD Thou givest me here an advantage, as it might be in
a game of draughts; for the city, whence I come, is ruled by one man
only, not by the mob; none there puffs up the citizens with specious
words, and for his own advantage twists them this way or that,-one
moment dear to them and lavish of his favours, the next a bane to
all; and yet by fresh calumnies of others he hides his former failures
and escapes punishment. Besides, how shall the people, if it cannot
form true judgments, be able rightly to direct the state? Nay, 'tis
time, not haste, that affords a better understanding. A poor hind,
granted be he not all unschooled, would still be unable from his toil
to give his mind to politics. Verily the better sort count it no healthy
sign when the worthless man obtains a reputation by beguiling with
words the populace, though aforetime he was naught.
THESEUS This herald is a clever fellow, a dabbler in the art of talk.
But since thou hast thus entered the lists with me, listen awhile,
for 'twas thou didst challenge a discussion. Naught is more hostile
to a city than a despot; where he is, there are first no laws common
to all, but one man is tyrant, in whose keeping and in his alone the
law resides, and in that case equality is at an end. But when the
laws are written down, rich and poor alike have equal justice, and
it is open to the weaker to use the same language to the prosperous
when he is reviled by him, and the weaker prevails over the stronger
if he have justice on his side. Freedom's mark is also seen in this:
"Who hath wholesome counsel to declare unto the state?" And he who
chooses to do so gains renown, while he, who hath no wish, remains
silent. What greater equality can there be in a city? Again, where
the people are absolute rulers of the land, they rejoice in having
reserve of youthful citizens, while a king counts this a hostile element,
and strives to slay the leading men, all such as he deems discreet,