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The Suppliants   


for he feareth for his power. How then can a city remain stable, where
one cuts short all enterprise and mows down the young like meadow-flowers
in spring-time? What boots it to acquire wealth and livelihood for
children, merely to add to the tyrant's substance by one's toil? Why
train up virgin daughters virtuously in our homes to gratify a tyrant's
whim, whenso he will, and cause tears to those who rear them? May
my life end if ever my children are to be wedded by violence! This
bolt I launch in answer to thy words. Now say, why art thou come?
what needest thou of this land? Had not thy city sent thee, to thy
cost hadst thou come with thy outrageous utterances; for it is the
herald's duty to tell the message he is bidden and hie him back in
haste. Henceforth let Creon send to my city some other messenger less
talkative than thee.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Look you! how insolent the villains are, when
Fortune is kind to them, just as if it would be well with them for
ever.
THEBAN HERALD Now will I speak. On these disputed points hold thou
this view, but the contrary. So I and all the people of Cadmus forbid
thee to admit Adrastus to this land, but if he is here, drive him
forth in disregard of the holy suppliant bough he bears, ere sinks
yon blazing sun, and attempt not violently to take up the dead, seeing
thou hast naught to do with the city of Argos. And if thou wilt hearken
to me, thou shalt bring thy barque of state into port unharmed by
the billows; but if not, fierce shall the surge of battle be, that
we and our allies shall raise. Take good thought, nor, angered at
my words, because forsooth thou rulest thy city with freedom, return
a vaunting answer from thy feebler means. Hope is man's curse; many
a state hath it involved in strife, by leading them into excessive
rage. For whenso the city has to vote on the question of war, no man
ever takes his own death into account, but shifts this misfortune
on to his neighbour; but if death had been before their eyes when
they were giving their votes, Hellas would ne'er have rushed to her
doom in mad desire for battle. And yet each man amongst us knows which
of the two to prefer, the good or ill, and how much better peace is
for mankind than war,-peace, the Muses' chiefest friend, the foe of
sorrow, whose joy is in glad throngs of children, and its delight
in prosperity. These are the blessings we cast away and wickedly embark
on war, man enslaving his weaker brother, and cities following suit.
Now thou art helping our foes even after death, trying to rescue and
bury those whom their own acts of insolence have ruined. Verily then
it would seem Capaneus was unjustly blasted by the thunderbolt and
charred upon the ladder he had raised against our gates, swearing
he would sack our town, whether the god would or no; nor should the
yawning earth have snatched away the seer, opening wide her mouth
to take his chariot and its horses in, nor should the other chieftains
be stretched at our gates, their skeletons to atoms crushed 'neath
boulders. Either boast thy wit transcendeth that of Zeus, or else
allow that gods are right to slay the ungodly. The wise should love
their children first, next their parents and country, whose fortunes
it behoves them to increase rather than break down. Rashness in a
leader, as in a pilot, causeth shipwreck; who knoweth when to be quiet
is a wise man. Yea and this too is bravery, even forethought.
LEADER The punishment Zeus hath inflicted was surely enough; there
was no need to heap this wanton insult on us.
ADRASTUS Abandoned wretch!
THESEUS Peace, Adrastus! say no more; set not thy words before mine,
for 'tis not to thee this fellow is come with his message, but to
me, and I must answer him. Thy first assertion will I answer first:
I am not aware that Creon is my lord and master, or that his power
outweigheth mine, that so he should compel Athens to act on this wise;
nay! for then would the tide of time have to flow backward, if we
are to be ordered, as he thinks. 'Tis not I who choose this war, seeing
that I did not even join these warriors to go unto the land of Cadmus;
but still I claim to bury the fallen dead, not injuring any state

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