nor yet introducing murderous strife, but preserving the law of all
Hellas. What is not well in this? If ye suffered aught from the Argives-lo!
they are dead; ye took a splendid vengeance on your foes and covered
them with shame, and now your right is at an end. Let the dead now
be buried in the earth, and each element return to the place from
whence it came to the body, the breath to the air, the body to the
ground; for in no wise did we get it for our own, but to live our
life in, and after that its mother earth must take it back again.
Dost think 'tis Argos thou art injuring in refusing burial to the
dead? Nay! all Hellas shares herein, if a man rob the dead of their
due and keep them from the tomb; for, if this law be enacted, it will
strike dismay into the stoutest hearts. And art thou come to cast
dire threats at me while thy own folk are afraid of giving burial
to the dead? What is your fear? Think you they will undermine your
land in their graves, or that they will beget children in the womb
of earth, from whom shall rise an avenger? A silly waste of words,
in truth it was, to show your fear of paltry groundless terrors. Go,
triflers, learn the lesson of human misery; our life is made up of
struggles; some men there be that find their fortune soon, others
have to wait, while some at once are blest. Fortune lives a dainty
life; to her the wretched pays his court and homage to win her smile;
her likewise doth the prosperous man extol, for fear the favouring
gale may leave him. These lessons should we take to heart, to bear
with moderation, free from wrath, our wrongs, and do naught to hurt
a whole city. What then? Let us, who will the pious deed perform,
bury the corpses of the slain. Else is the issue clear; I will go
and bury them by force. For never shall it be proclaimed through Hellas
that heaven's ancient law was set at naught, when it devolved on me
and the city of Pandion.
LEADER Be of good cheer; for if thou preserve the light of justice,
thou shalt escape many a charge that men might urge.
THEBAN HERALD Wilt thou that I sum up in brief all thou wouldst say?
THESEUS Say what thou wilt; for thou art not silent as it is.
THEBAN HERALD Thou shalt never take the sons of Argos from our land.
THESEUS Hear, then, my answer too to that, if so thou wilt.
THEBAN HERALD I will hear thee; not that I wish it, but I must give
thee thy turn.
THESEUS I will bury the dead, when from Asopus' land I have removed
THEBAN HERALD First must thou adventure somewhat in the front of
THESEUS Many an enterprise and of a different kind have I ere this
THEBAN HERALD Wert thou then begotten of thy sire to cope with every
THESEUS Ay, with all wanton villains; virtue I punish not.
THEBAN HERALD To meddle is aye thy wont and thy city's too.
THESEUS Hence her enterprise on many a field hath won her many blessings.
THEBAN HERALD Come then, that the warriors of the dragon-crop may
catch thee in our city.
THESEUS What furious warrior-host could spring from dragon's seed?
THEBAN HERALD Thou shalt learn that to thy cost. As yet thou art
young and rash.
THESEUS Thy boastful speech stirs not my heart at all to rage. Yet
get thee gone from my land, taking with thee the idle words thou broughtest;
for we are making no advance. (The THEBAN HERALD withdraws.) 'Tis
time for all to start, each stout footman, and whoso mounts the car;
'tis time the bit, dripping with foam, should urge the charger on
toward the land of Cadmus. For I will march in person to the seven
gates thereof with the sharp sword in my hand, and be myself my herald.
But thee, Adrastus, I bid stay, nor blend with mine thy fortunes,
for I will take my own good star to lead my host, a chieftain famed
in famous deeds of arms. One thing alone I need, the favour of all
gods that reverence right, for the presence of these things insures