« ZurückWeiter »
And these afflicted Matrons ? for your safety
Dearest Æthra, Well didst thou plead Adrastus' cause and mine: Hence twofold joy I feel.
He hath deserv'd O Mother, the severe reproofs which flow'd From my indignant 'tongue, and I my thoughts Of those pernicious counsels whence arose His ruin, have express’d. Yet I perceive What you suggest, that ill would it become The character I have maintain'd, to fly From danger. After many glorious deeds Atchiev'd, among the Greeks, I chose this office, An exemplary punishment t inflict On all the wicked. Therefore from no toils Can I shrink back, for what would those who hate me Have to allege, when you who gave me birth, And tremble for my safety, are the first Who bid me enter on the bold emprise ? I on this errand go, and will redeem The dead by words persuasive, or if words Are ineffectual, with protended spear, And in an instant, if the envious Gods Refuse not their assistance. But I wish That the whole city may a sanction give : They to my pleasure their assent would yield; But to the scheme, if I propose it first To be debated, I shall find the people More favourable ; for them I made supreme,
And on this city, with an equal right
Hast heard the King's benevolent design,
Still objects of maternal love ; his aid
Will he do this; with us in friendship join,
Which man holds sacred, thou rever’st the right, Sett'st the afflicted free, and quell'st outrageous might.
THESEUS, ADRASTUS, CHORUS.
THESEUS TO A HERALD. Thou, always practising this art, has serv'd Thy city, and to various regions borne My embassies: when therefore thou hast cross'd Asopus, and Ismenos' stream, address The Theban Monarch in these courteous words ; “ Theseus, who dwells in an adjacent realm, " And hath a right such favour to receive, “ Requests you as a friend t'inter the dead, “ And gain the love of all Erectheus' race.” To this petition if they yield assent, Come back again in peace: if they refuse, Thy second message shall be this; “My band “ Of chosen youths in glittering mail array'd “ They must expect : for at the sacred fount “ Callichore, e'en now the assembled host “ Halts under arms, prepar’d for instant fight.” For in this arduous enterprise, with zeal The city of its own accord engag’d, When they perceiv’d my wish. But who intrudes E'en while I yet am speaking? he appears To be a Theban Herald, though I doubt it. Stay; for thy errand he may surpersede, And by his coming obviate my designs.
THEBAN HERALD, THESEUS, ADRASTUS,
Slain by his Brother Polynices' hand
With an untruth Thy speech, O stranger, hast thou op'd by asking For a King here; for Athens, this free city, By no one man is govern'd, but the people Rule in succession year by year; to wealth No preference is allow'd, but the poor man An equal share of empire doth possess.
THEBAN HERALD. By yielding up this point, to me you grant Advantage such as equals the first throw At dice; the city whence I came is rul'd By one man only, not by multitudes: No crafty orator with specious words For his own interest turns the wavering minds Of its inhabitants, this moment dear To all around, and lavish of his favours, The next a public bane, yet he conceals By some fresh calumny his errors past, And scapes the stroke of justice. How can they Who no sound judgements form, the people, guide A city well ? for Time instead of Haste Affords the best instructions. But the man Who tills the ground, by poverty deprest, If to that poverty he add the want Of due experience, through the manual toils He is engag'd in, to the public good Can ne'er look up. Those too of noble birth Are much disgusted when the worthless hold Posts of the highest rank, and he who erst Was nothing, with his tongue beguiles the crowd,
THESEUS. This witty Herald to his message adds The flowers of eloquence. But on this strife Since thou hast enter'd, hear me; for 'twas thou
That gav'st the challenge to debate: no curse
(11) “ The word Tugarvas here evidently means a King, for he is called Basileus, v. 444; and the dispute is about Monarchy, or the power of
one man compared with a Democracy: though in some places the “ Poet may seem to confound Royalty with Tyranny; in order, I appre" hend, to place it in a more invidious light.” MARKLAND.