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The Suppliants   


Theseus cry aloud to all: "Be still, ye folk! hush, ye ranks of Cadmus,
hearken! we are come to fetch the bodies of the slain, wishing to
bury them in observance of the universal law of Hellas; no wish have
we to lengthen out the slaughter." Not a word would Creon let his
herald answer back, but there he stood in silence under arms. Then
did the drivers of the four-horse cars begin the fray; on, past each
other they drave their chariots, bringing the warriors at their sides
up into line. Some fought with swords, some wheeled the horses back
to the fray again for those they drove. Now when Phorbas, who captained
the cavalry of the Erechtheidae, saw the thronging chariots, he and
they who had the charge of the Theban horse met hand to hand, and
by turns were victors and vanquished. The many horrors happening there
I saw, not merely heard about, for I was at the spot where the chariots
and their riders met and fought, but which to tell of first I know
not,-the clouds of dust that mounted to the sky, the warriors tangled
in the reins and dragged this way and that, the streams of crimson
gore, when men fell dead, or when, from shattered chariot-seats, they
tumbled headlong to the ground, and, amid the splinters of their cars,
gave up the ghost. But Creon, when he marked our cavalry's success
on one wing, caught up a shield and rushed into the fray, ere that
despondency should seize his men; but not for that did Theseus recoil
in fear; no! snatching up at once his glittering harnes he hied him
on. And the twain, clashing their shields together as they met in
the midst of the assembled host, were dealing death and courting it,
shouting loudly each to his fellow the battle-cry: "Slay, and with
thy spear strike home against the sons of Erechtheus." Fierce foes
to cope with were the warriors whom the dragon's teeth to manhood
reared; so fierce, they broke our left wing, albeit theirs was routed
by our right and put to flight, so that the struggle was evenly balanced.
Here again our chief deserved all praise, for this success was not
the only one he gained; no! next he sought that part of his army which
was wavering; and loud he called to them, that the earth rang again,
"My sons, if ye cannot restrain the earth-born warriors' stubborn
spear, the cause of Pallas is lost." His word inspired new courage
in all the Danaid host. Therewith himself did seize a fearsome mace,
weapon of Epidaurian warfare, and swung it to and fro, and with that
club, as with a sickle, he shore off necks and heads and helmets thereupon.
Scarce even then they turned themselves to fly. I cried aloud for
joy, and danced and clapped my hands; while to the gates they ran.
Throughout the town echoed the shrieks of young and old, as they crowded
the temples in terror. But Theseus, when he might have come inside
the walls, held back his men, for he had not come, said he, to sack
the town, but to ask for the bodies of the dead. Such the general
men should choose, one who shows his bravery in danger, yet hates
the pride of those that in their hour of fortune lose the bliss they
might have enjoyed, through seeking to scale the ladder's topmost
step.
LEADER Now do I believe in the gods after seeing this unexpected
day, and feel my woes are lighter now that these have paid their penalty.
ADRASTUS O Zeus, why do men assert the wisdom of the wretched human
race? On thee we all depend, and all we do is only what thou listest.
We thought our Argos irresistible, ourselves a young and lusty host,
and so when Eteocles was for making terms, in spite of his fair offer
we would not accept them, and so we perished. Then in their turn those
foolish folk of Cadmus, to fortune raised, like some beggar with his
newly-gotten wealth, waxed wanton, and, waxing so, were ruined in
their turn. Ye foolish sons of men! who strain your bow like men who
shoot beyond their mark, and only by suffering many evils as ye deserve,
though deaf to friends, yet yield to circumstances; ye cities likewise,
though ye might by parley end your ills, yet ye choose the sword instead
of reason to settle all disputes. But wherefore these reflections?
This I fain would learn, the way thou didst escape; and after that
I will ask thee of the rest.
MESSENGER During the uproar which prevailed in the city owing to

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