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The Suppliants   


ADRASTUS Ah me! ah me! Oh that earth's floor would swallow me, or
the whirlwind snatch me away, or Zeus's flaming bolt descend upon
my head!
CHORUS Bitter the marriages thou didst witness, bitter the oracle
of Phoebus! The curse of Oedipus, fraught with sorrow, after desolating
his house, is come on thee.
THESEUS I meant to question thee when thou wert venting thy lamentations
to the host, but I will let it pass; yet, though I dropped the matter
then and left it alone, I now do ask Adrastus, "Of what lineage sprang
those youths, to shine so bright in chivalry?" Tell it to our younger
citizens of thy fuller wisdom, for thou art skilled to know. Myself
beheld their daring deeds, too high for words to tell, whereby they
thought to capture Thebes. One question will I spare thee, lest I
provoke thy laughter; the foe that each of them encountered in the
fray, the spear from which each received his death-wound. These be
idle tales alike for those who hear or him who speaks, that any man
amid the fray, when clouds of darts are hurtling before his eyes,
should declare for certain who each champion is. I could not ask such
questions, nor yet believe those who dare assert the like; for when
a man is face to face with the foe, he scarce can see even that which
'tis his bounden duty to observe.
ADRASTUS Hearken then. For in giving this task to me thou findest
a willing eulogist of friends, whose praise I would declare in all
truth and sincerity. Dost see yon corpse by Zeus's bolt transfixed?
That is Capaneus; though he had ample wealth, yet was he the last
to boast of his prosperity; nor would he ever vaunt himself above
a poorer neighbour, but shunned the man whose sumptuous board had
puffed him up too high and made him scorn mere competence, for he
held that virtue lies not in greedy gluttony, but that moderate means
suffice. True friend was he, alike to present or to absent friends
the same; of such the number is not great. His was guileless character,
a courteous address, that left no promise unperformed either towards
his own household or his fellow-citizens. The next I name is Eteoclus;
a master he of other kinds of excellence; young, nor richly dowered
with store, yet high in honour in the Argive land. And though his
friends oft offered gifts of gold, he would not have it in his house,
to make his character its slave by taking wealth's yoke upon him.
Not his city, but those that sinned against her did he hate, for a
city is no wise to be blamed if it get an evil name by reason of an
evil governor. Such another was Hippomedon, third of all this band;
from his very boyhood he refrained from turning towards the allurements
of the Muses, to lead life of ease; his home was in the fields, and
gladly would he school his nature to hardships with a view to manliness,
aye hasting to the chase, rejoicing in his steeds or straining of
his bow, because he would make himself of use unto his state. Next
behold the huntress Atalanta's son, Parthenopaeus, a youth of peerless
beauty; from Arcady he came even to the streams of Inachus, and in
Argos spent his boyhood. There, when he grew to man's estate, first,
as is the duty of strangers settled in another land, he showed no
pique or jealousy against the state, became no quibbler, chiefest
source of annoyance citizen or stranger can give, but took his stand
amid the host, and fought for Argos as he were her own son, glad at
heart whenso the city prospered, deeply grieved if e'er reverses came;
many a lover though he had midst men and maids, yet was he careful
to avoid offence. Of Tydeus next the lofty praise I will express in
brief; no brilliant spokesman he, but a clever craftsman in the art
of war, with many a shrewd device; inferior in judgment to his brother
Meleager, yet through his warrior skill lending his name to equal
praise, for he had found in arms a perfect science; his was an ambitious
nature, a spirit rich in store of deeds, with words less fully dowered.
From this account then wonder not, Theseus, that they dared to die
before the towers; for noble nurture carries honour with it, and every
man, when once he hath practised virtue, scorns the name of villain.
Courage may be learnt, for even a babe doth learn to speak and hear

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