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Euripides - Smekende Moeders

Bron: perseus.tufts.edu

Vertaald door E.P. Coleridge. New York. Random House. 1938

Betoog

Koning Adrastus van Argos had op grond van een orakel zijn dochters ten huwelijk gegeven aan twee ballingen die bij hem hun toevlucht zochten: de Aetoliër Tydeus en Polynices uit Thebe. De laatste was een zoon van Oedipus. Na de troonsafstand van Oedipus had hij met zijn broer Eteocles afgesproken dat zij om de beurt een jaar zouden regeren. Zo hoopten zij te ontkomen aan de vervloeking van hun vader dat zij elkaar zouden doden. Eteocles was de afspraak niet nagekomen en had geweigerd de macht over te dragen.

Om de aanspraken van Polynices te ondersteunen was zijn schoonvader koning Adrastus met een aantal bondgenoten tegen Thebe opgerukt. De expeditie werd beroemd als de ‘Zeven tegen Thebe’. Adrastus verloor de slag voor de stad, de zeven legerleiders sneuvelden. Oedipus’ zonen Polynices en Eteocles doodden elkaar in een tweegevecht. Toen de nieuwe Thebaanse vorst Creon weigerde de lijken van de gevallen aanvoerders, zoals gebruikelijk was, terug te geven voor een begrafenis, begaven Adrastus en de moeders van de gesneuvelden zich naar Athene om te vragen of deze stad Creon tot teruggave wilden dwingen. Onderweg troffen zij bij de tempel van Demeter in Eleusis de Atheense koningin-moeder Aethra aan, die er een offer bracht. De moeders omringden haar als smekelingen – die over het algemeen niet worden afgewezen – en verhinderden haar naar Athene terug te keren.

Ongerust over het uitblijven van zijn moeder verschijnt in het stuk de Atheense koning Theseus ter plaatse, de grote mythische held van de Atheners, van wie talloze grote overwinningen werden overgeleverd op bandieten en monsters, waaronder de Kretenzische Minotaurus.

Personages

Aethra, moeder van de Atheense koning Theseus
Koor, van smekende moeders en vrouwelijke bedienden
Theseus, koning van Athene
Adrastus, koning van Argos
Gezant, van Thebe
Bode
Evadne, vrouw van de gesneuvelde legerleider Capaneus
Iphis, vader van Evadne en de gesneuvelde legerleider Eteoclus
Jongens, zonen van de gesneuvelde legerleiders
Athena, godin

Scene

Bij het altaar in de tempel van Demeter in Eleusis zit de Atheense koninginmoeder Aethra, omringd door het koor van moeders met smekelingentakken, op de grond ligt Argos’ koning Adrastus, weeklagend. Bij hem zitten zeven jongens, de zonen van de gesneuvelde legerleiders.

01. Proloog; regel 1;1-41

Aethra
Demeter, guardian of this Eleusinian land, and you servants of the goddess who attend her shrine, grant happiness to me and my son Theseus, to the city of Athens and the country of Pittheus, where my father reared me, Aethra, in a happy home, and gave me in marriage to Aegeus, Pandion's son, according to the oracle of Loxias. This prayer I make, when I behold these aged women, who, leaving their homes in Argos, now throw themselves with suppliant branches at my knees in their terrible trouble; for around the gates of Cadmus they have lost their seven noble sons, whom Adrastus, king of Argos, once led there, eager to secure for exiled Polyneices, his son-in-law, a share in the heritage of Oedipus; so now their mothers would bury in the grave the dead, whom the spear has slain, but the victors prevent them and will not allow them to take up the corpses, holding the laws of the gods in no honor. Here lies Adrastus on the ground with streaming eyes, sharing with them the burden of their prayer to me, and bemoaning the havoc of the sword and the sorry fate of the warriors whom he led from their homes. And he urges me to use entreaty to persuade my son to take up the dead and help to bury them, either by winning words or force of arms, laying on my son and on Athens this task alone. Now it happened that I had left my house and come to offer sacrifice on behalf of the earth's crop at this shrine, where first the fruitful corn showed its bristling shocks above the soil. And here at the holy altars of the two goddesses, Demeter and the Maiden, I wait, holding these sprays of foliage, a bond that does not bind, in compassion for these childless mothers, gray with age, and in reverence for the sacred garlands. My herald has gone to the city, to call Theseus here, so that he may rid the land of that which grieves them, or loose these suppliant bonds, with pious observance of the gods' will; for women should in all cases invoke the aid of men, women that are discreet.

02. Eerste Koorlied; regel 2;42-86

Koor - strofe
At your knees I fall, aged lady, and my old lips beseech you; the lawless ones—rescue my children!— those who left the limbs of the dead, relaxed in death, a prey to mountain beasts;

antistrofe
You too, honored lady, once bore a son, and thus made your bed dear to your husband; then share, share with me your feelings, in such measure as my sad heart grieves for my own dead sons; and persuade your son, O, we implore you, to go unto the river Ismenus, and place within my arms the bodies of the dead, slain in their prime and wandering without a tomb.

strofe
Not as piety enjoins, but from necessity I have come to the fire-crowned altars of the gods, falling on my knees with my demand, for my cause is just, and it is in your power, blessed as you are in your children, to remove from me my woe; so in my sore distress I beseech you place in my unhappy hands my son's dead body, that I may throw my arms about the hapless limbs of my child.

antistrofe
De bediendendeel van de godin beginnen te jammeren Behold a rivalry in sorrow! woe takes up the tale of woe; the hands of servants make an echo. Come, you who join the mourners' wail, come, O sympathetic band, to join the dance, which Hades honors; let the white nail be stained red, as it rends your cheeks, let your skin be streaked with gore; for honors rendered to the dead are an ornament to the living.

strofe
Sorrow's charm drives me wild—insatiate, painful, as the trickling stream that gushes from some steep rock's face, endless; for it is woman's way to mourn over the cruel calamity of children dead. Oh, oh! would I could forget my anguish in death!

03. Eerste akte; regel 3;87-364

Theseus en zijn gevolg komen op

Theseus
What is this lamentation that I hear, this beating of the breast, these dirges for the dead, with cries that echo from this shrine? How fluttering fear disquiets me, lest something has happened to my mother, in quest of whom I come, for she has been long absent from home. Ha! what is this? A strange sight challenges my speech: my aged mother sitting at the altar and foreign women with her, who in various note proclaim their woe; from aged eyes the piteous tear is starting to the ground, their hair is shorn, their robes are not the robes of joy. What does it mean, mother? It is for you to make it plain to me, for me to listen; yes, for I expect some strange tidings.

Aethra
My son, these are the mothers of those seven generals, who fell around the gates of Cadmus' town. With suppliant boughs they keep me prisoner, as you see, in their midst.

Theseus
And who is that man moaning piteously in the gateway?

Aethra
Adrastus, they inform me, king of Argos.

Theseus
Are those his children, those boys who stand round him?

Aethra
No, but the sons of the fallen slain.

Theseus
Why have they come to us, with suppliant hand outstretched?

Aethra
I know why; but it is for them to tell their story, my son.

Theseus
To you, in your mantle muffled, I address my inquiries; unveil your head, let lamentation be, and speak; for nothing can be achieved save through the utterance of your tongue.

Adrastus - terwijl hij gaat staan
Victorious prince of the Athenian realm, Theseus, I have come a suppliant to you and to your city.

Theseus
What do you hunt? What need is yours?

Adrastus
Do you know how I led an expedition to its ruin?

Theseus
Yes, you did not pass through Hellas in silence.

Adrastus
There I lost the pick of Argos' sons.

Theseus
These are the results of that unhappy war.

Adrastus
I went and demanded their bodies from Thebes.

Theseus
Did you rely on heralds, Hermes' servants, in order to bury them?

Adrastus
I did; and even then their slayers did not let me.

Theseus
Why, what did they say to your just request?

Adrastus
Say! Success makes them forget how to bear their fortune.

Theseus
Have you come to me then for counsel? or why?

Adrastus
With the wish that you, Theseus, should recover the sons of the Argives.

Theseus
Where is your Argos now? Were its boasts all in vain?

Adrastus
We failed and are ruined. We have come to you.

Theseus
Is this your own private resolve, or the wish of all the city?

Adrastus
The sons of Danaus, one and all, implore you to bury the dead.

Theseus
Why did you lead your seven armies against Thebes?

Adrastus
To confer that favor on the husbands of my two daughters.

Theseus
To which of the Argives did you give your daughters in marriage?

Adrastus
I made no match for them with kinsmen of my family.

Theseus
What! did you give Argive maids to foreigners?

Adrastus
Yes, to Tydeus, and to Polyneices, who was Theban-born.

Theseus
What induced you to select this alliance?

Adrastus
Dark riddles of Phoebus stole away my judgment.

Theseus
What did Apollo say to determine the maidens' marriage?

Adrastus
That I should give my two daughters to a wild boar and a lion.

Theseus
How do you explain the message of the god?

Adrastus
One night two exiles came to my door—

Theseus
The name of each declare; you are speaking of both together.

Adrastus
They fought together, Tydeus with Polyneices.

Theseus
Did you give your daughters to them as to wild beasts?

Adrastus
Yes, for, as they fought, I likened them to those two monsters.

Theseus
Why had they left the borders of their native land and come to you?

Adrastus
Tydeus was exiled for the murder of a kinsman.

Theseus
Why had the son of Oedipus left Thebes?

Adrastus
By reason of his father's curse, not to spill his brother's blood.

Theseus
That voluntary exile you have spoken of was no doubt wise.

Adrastus
But those who stayed at home were for injuring the absent.

Theseus
What! did brother rob brother of his.inheritance?

Adrastus
To avenge this I set out; hence my ruin.

Theseus
Did you consult seers, and gaze into the flame of burnt-offerings?

Adrastus
Ah me! you press on the very point where I failed most.

Theseus
It seems your going was not favored by heaven.

Adrastus
Worse; I went in spite even of Amphiaraus.

Theseus
And so heaven lightly turned its face from you?

Adrastus
I was carried away by the clamor of younger men.

Theseus
You favored courage instead of discretion.

Adrastus
True; and many a general owes defeat to that. O king of Athens, bravest of the sons of Hellas, I am ashamed to throw myself upon the ground and clasp your knees, I a grey-haired king, blessed in days gone by; yet I must yield to my misfortunes. Please save the dead; have pity on my sorrows and on these, the mothers of the slain, whom gray old age finds bereft of their sons; yet they endured to journey here and tread a foreign soil with aged tottering steps, bearing no embassy to Demeter's mysteries; only seeking burial for their dead, which lot should have been theirs, burial by the hands of sons still in their prime. And it is wise in the rich to see the poor man's poverty, and in the poor man to turn ambitious eyes toward the rich, that so he may himself indulge a longing for possessions; and they, whom fortune does not frown on, should dread misery. . . . likewise, the one who makes songs should take a pleasure in their making; for if it is not so with him, he would not be able if suffering at home, to gladden others; no, it is not even right to expect it. Perhaps you might say: “Why pass the land of Pelops over, and lay this toil on Athens?” This I am bound to declare. Sparta is cruel, her customs variable; the other states are small and weak. Your city alone would be able to undertake this labor; for it turns an eye on misery, and has in you a young and gallant shepherd; for the want of which to lead their hosts, states before now have often perished.

Koorleidster
I too, Theseus, urge the same plea to you; have pity on my hard fate.

Theseus
Full often have I argued out this subject with others. For there are those who say, there is more bad than good in human nature; but I hold a contrary view, that good over bad predominates in man, for if it were not so, we should not exist. He has my praise, whichever god brought us to live by rule from chaos and from brutishness, first by implanting reason, and next by giving us a tongue to declare our thoughts, so as to know the meaning of what is said, and bestowing fruitful crops, and drops of rain from heaven to make them grow, with which to nourish earth's fruits and to water her lap; and more than this, protection from the wintry storm, and means to ward from us the sun-god's scorching heat; the art of sailing over the sea, so that we might exchange with one another whatever our countries lack. And where sight fails us and our knowledge is not sure, the seer foretells by gazing on the flame, by reading signs in folds of entrails, or by divination from the flight of birds. Are we not then too proud, when heaven has made such preparation for our life, not to be content with it? But our presumption seeks to lord it over heaven, and in the pride of our hearts we think we are wiser than the gods. I think you also are of this number, a son of folly, seeing that you, though obedient to Apollo's oracle in giving your daughters to strangers, as if gods really existed, yet have hurt your house by mingling the stream of its pure line with muddy waters; no! never should the wise man have joined the stock of just and unjust in one, but should have gotten prosperous friends for his family. For the god, confusing their destinies, often destroys by the sufferer's fate his fellow sufferer, who never committed injustice. You led all Argos forth to battle, though seers proclaimed the will of heaven, and then in scorn of them and in violent disregard of the gods have ruined your city, led away by younger men, those who court distinction, and add war to war unrighteously, destroying their fellow-citizens; one aspires to lead an army; another would seize the reins of power and work his wanton will; a third is bent on gain, careless of any ill the people thereby suffer. For there are three ranks of citizens; the rich, a useless set, that ever crave for more; the poor and destitute, fearful folk, that cherish envy more than is right, and shoot out grievous stings against the men who have anything, beguiled as they are by the eloquence of vicious leaders; while the class that is midmost of the three preserves cities, observing such order as the state ordains. Shall I then become your ally? What fair pretext should I urge before my countrymen? Depart in peace! For if you have been ill-advised, drag your own fortune down, but leave us alone.

Koorleidster
He erred; but with the young men rests this error, while he may well be pardoned. But we have come to you, king, as to a doctor of our ills.

Adrastus
I did not choose you to judge my affliction; no! nor if in anything my fortunes prove me wrong, did I come to you to punish or correct them, but to seek your help. But if you will not, I must be content with your decision; for how can I help it? Come, aged women, away! Yet leave behind you here the pale green foliage, by the overturning of the bough calling to witness heaven and earth, Demeter, that fire-bearing goddess, and the sun-god's light, that our prayers to heaven availed us nothing.

Koor
. . . who was Pelops' son, and we are of the land of Pelops and share with you the blood of ancestors. What are you doing? Will you betray these suppliant symbols, and banish from your land these aged women without the boon they should obtain? Do not so; even the wild beast fInds a refuge in the rock, the slave in the altars of the gods, and a state when tempest-tossed cowers to its neighbor's shelter; for in this life of man there is nothing that is blessed unto its end. Rise, hapless one, from the sacred floor of Persephone; rise, clasp him by the knees and implore him, “Recover the bodies of our dead sons, the children that I lost—ah, woe is me!—beneath the walls of Cadmus' town.” Ah me! Take me by the hand, poor aged sufferer that I am, support and guide and raise me up. By your beard, kind friend, glory of Hellas, I do beseech you, as I clasp your knees and hands in my misery. O pity me as I entreat for my sons with my tale of wretched woe, like some beggar. Do not, child, let my sons lie there unburied in the land of Cadmus, glad prey for beasts, while you are in your prime, I implore you. See the tear-drop tremble in my eye, as thus I throw myself at your knees to win my children burial.

Theseus
Mother, why do you weep, drawing over your eyes your veil? Is it because you heard their piteous lamentations? It goes to my own heart as well. Raise your silvered head, do not weep where you sit at the holy altar of Demeter.

Aethra
Alas!

Theseus
It is not for you to lament their sorrows.

Aethra
You hapless women!

Theseus
You are not of their company.

Aethra
May I say something, my son, a glory to you and to the city?

Theseus
Yes, for often even from women come wise counsels.

Aethra
Yet the word, that lurks within my heart, makes me hesitate.

Theseus
Shame! to hide from friends good counsel.

Aethra
No then, I will not hold my peace to blame myself afterwards for having now kept silence to my shame, nor will I forego my honorable proposal, from the common fear that it is useless for women to give good advice. First, my son, I exhort you to give good heed to heaven's will, lest from slighting it you fall; for in this one single point you fall, though well-advised in all else. Further, I would have patiently endured, had it not been my duty to be bold for injured people; and this, my son, it is that brings you now your honor, and causes me no fear to urge that you should use your power to make men of violence, who prevent the dead from receiving their share of burial and funeral rites, perform this duty, and check those who would confound the customs of all Hellas; for this it is that holds men's states together—strict observance of the laws. And some, no doubt, will say it was cowardice made you stand aloof in terror, when you might have won for your city a crown of glory, and, though you encountered a savage swine, laboring for a sorry task, yet when the time came for you to face the helmet and pointed spear, and do your best, you were found to be coward. No! do not do so if you are indeed my son. Do you see how fiercely your country looks on its revilers when they mock her for want of counsel? Yes, for in her toils she grows greater. But states whose policy is dark and cautious have their sight darkened by their carefulness. My son, will you not go help the dead and these poor women in their need? I have no fears for you, starting as you do with right upon your side; and although I see the prosperity of Callmus' folk, still I am confident they will hurl a different cast of the dice; for the god reverses all things again.

Koorleidster
Ah! best of friends, you have pleaded well for me and for Adrastus, and so my joy is doubled.

Theseus
Mother, the words that I have spoken to him are fair, and I have declared my opinion of the counsels that tripped him up; yet I also perceive the truth of your warning to me, that it ill suits my character to shun dangers. For by a long and glorious career I have displayed this habit among Hellenes, of ever punishing the wicked. And so I cannot refuse toil. For what will spiteful tongues say of me, when you, my mother, who more than all others fear for my safety, bid me undertake this labor? Yes, I will go about this business and rescue the dead by persuasive words; or, failing that, the spear at once shall decide this issue, nor will the gods grudge me this. But I require the whole city's sanction also, which my wish will ensure; still, by communicating the proposal to them I would find the people better disposed. For I made them supreme, when I set this city free, by giving all an equal vote. So I will take Adrastus as proof of what I have to say and go to their assembly, and when I have won them to these views, I will return here, after collecting a picked band of young Athenians; and then remaining under arms I will send a message to Creon, begging the bodies of the dead. But you, aged ladies, remove from my mother your holy wreaths, so that I may take her by the hand and conduct her to the house of Aegeus; for a wretched son is he who does not serve his parents in return—fairest contribution; for, when he made his gift, he in his turn from his own sons receives all such service as he gave to his parents.

Aethra verlaat het altaar en vertrekt

04. Tweede koorlied; regel 4;365-380

Koor - strofe
O Argos, home of steeds, my native land! you have heard these words, you have heard the king's will, pious toward the gods, of great importance for Pelasgia and throughout Argos.

antistrofe
May he reach the goal! yes, and triumph over my sorrows, rescuing the gory corpse, the mother's idol, and making the land of Inachus his friend by helping her.

strofe
For pious toil is a fair ornament to cities, and carries with it a grace that never wastes away. What will the city decide, I wonder? Will it conclude a friendly truce with me, and shall we obtain burial for our sons?

antistrofe
Help, O help the mother, city of Pallas, that so they may not pollute the laws of all mankind. You, I know, reverence right, and to injustice deal out defeat, a protection at all times to the afflicted.

05. Tweede akte; regel 5;381-597

Theseus richt zich tot een van zijn herauten. Terwijl hij spreekt komt de gezant van koning Creon van Thebe op

Theseus
With this art you have always served the state and me by carrying my proclamations far and wide; now cross Asopus and the waters of Ismenus, and declare this message to the haughty king of the Cadmeans: “Theseus, your neighbor, one who well may win what he craves, begs as a favor your permission to bury the dead, winning to yourself the love of all the Erechtheidae.” And if they are willing, thank them and come back again, but if they do not hearken, your second message runs thus: they may expect my warrior army; for at the sacred fount of CalIichorus my army camps in readiness and is being reviewed. Moreover, the city gladly of its own accord undertook this labor, when it perceived my wish. Ha! who comes here to interrupt my speech? A Theban herald, so it seems, though I am not sure of this. Stay; perhaps he may save you your trouble. For by his coming he meets my purpose half-way.

Gezant uit Thebe
Who is the despot of this land? To whom must I announce the message of Creon who rules over the land of Cadmus, since Eteocles was slain by the hand of his brother Polyneices, at the sevenfold gates of Thebes?

Theseus
You have made a false beginning to your speech, stranger, in seeking a despot here. For this city is not ruled by one man, but is free. The people rule in succession year by year, allowing no preference to wealth, but the poor man shares equally with the rich.

Gezant uit Thebe
You give me here an advantage, as in a game of checkers; for the city from which I come is ruled by one man only, not by the mob; no one there puffs up the citizens with specious words, and for his own advantage twists them this way or that, one moment dear to them and lavish of his favors, the next harmful to all; and yet by fresh calumnies of others he hides his former failures and escapes punishment. Besides, how would the people, if it cannot form true judgments, be able rightly to direct the state? No, it is time, not haste, that affords a better understanding. A poor farmer, even if he were not unschooled, would still be unable from his toil to give his mind to politics. Truly the better sort count it no healthy sign when the worthless man obtains a reputation by beguiling with words the populace, though before he was nothing.

Theseus
This herald is a clever fellow, a dabbler in the art of talk. But since you have thus entered the contest with me, listen awhile, for it was you that challenged a discussion. Nothing is more hostile to a city than a despot; where he is, there are first no laws common to all, but one man is tyrant, in whose keeping and in his alone the law resides, and in that case equality is at an end. But when the laws are written down, rich and weak alike have equal justice, and it is open to the weaker to use the same language to the prosperous when he is reviled by him, and the weaker prevails over the stronger if he has justice on his side. Freedom's mark is also seen in this: “Who has wholesome counsel to declare unto the state?” And he who chooses to do so gains renown, while he, who has no wish, remains silent. What greater equality can there be in a city? Again, where the people are absolute rulers of the land, they rejoice in having a reserve of youthful citizens, while a king counts this a hostile element, and strives to slay the leading men, all such as he thinks discreet, fearing for his power. How then could a city remain stable, where one cuts short all enterprise and mows down the young like meadow-flowers in spring-time? What good is it to acquire wealth and livelihood for children, merely to add to the tyrant's substance by one's toil? Why train up daughters virtuously in our homes to gratify a tyrant's whim, whenever he wishes, 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 your words. Now say, why have you come? what do you need of this land? If your city had not sent you, to your cost you would have come with your outrageous utterances; for it is the herald's duty to tell the message he is bidden and go back in haste. Henceforth let Creon send to my city some other messenger less talkative than you.

Koorleidster
Ah! how insolent the villains are, when Fortune is kind to them, just as if it would be well with them for ever.

Gezant uit Thebe
Now I will speak. On these disputed points you hold this view, but I the contrary. I and all the people of Cadmus forbid you to admit Adrastus to this land, but if he is here, drive him forth in disregard of the holy suppliant bough, before the blazing sun sinks, and do not attempt violently to take up the dead, since you have nothing to do with the city of Argos. And if you will hearken to me, you shall bring your ship of state into port unharmed by the billows; but if not, fierce shall be the surge of battle that we and our allies shall raise. Take good thought, and do not, angered at my words, because you rule your city with so-called freedom, return a vaunting answer from your feebler means. Hope is not to be trusted; it has involved many a state in strife, by leading them into excessive rage. For whenever 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 another; but if death were before their eyes when they were giving their votes, Hellas would never rush to her doom in mad desire for battle. And yet each man among 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' dearest 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. Are you helping our foes even after death, trying to rescue and bury those whom their own acts of insolence have ruined? Was not Capaneus then rightly blasted by the thunderbolt, when he raised a ladder against our gates and swore he would sack our town, whether the god willed it or not? Should not the yawning earth have snatched away the seer, opening wide her mouth to take his chariot and its horses in, while the other chieftains are stretched at our gates, their skeletons crushed to atoms beneath boulders? Either boast your wit transcends 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 they ought to increase rather than break down. Rashness in a leader causes failure; the sailor of a ship is calm, wise at the proper time. Yes, and forethought, this too is bravery.

Koorleidster
The punishment Zeus has inflicted was surely enough; there was no need to heap this wanton insult on us.

Adrastus
Abandoned wretch!—

Theseus
Peace, Adrastus! say no more; do not set your words before mine, for it is not to you this fellow has come with his message, but to me, and I must answer him. Your first assertion I will answer first: I am not aware that Creon is my lord and master, or that his power outweighs mine, that so he should compel Athens to act in this way; no! for then would the tide of time have to flow backward, if we are to be ordered, as he thinks. It is 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 think it right to bury the fallen dead, not injuring any state nor yet introducing murderous strife, but preserving the law of all Hellas. What is not well in this? If you suffered anything from the Argives, they are dead; you 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 where it came to the body, the breath to the air, the body to the ground; for in no way did we get it for our own, but to live our life in, and after that its mother earth must take it back again. Do you think it is Argos you are injuring in refusing burial to the dead? No! all Hellas has a share of this, if a man robs the dead of their due and keeps them from the tomb; for, if this law is enacted, it will strike dismay into the stoutest hearts. And have you come to cast dire threats at me, while your own folk are afraid of giving burial to the dead? What is your fear? Do you think they will undermine your land in their graves, or that they will beget children in a cavern of the earth, from whom shall come vengeance? 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; there are some men that find their fortune soon, others have to wait, while some at once are blessed. Fortune lives a dainty life; to her the wretched pays his court and homage to win her smile; her likewise the prosperous man extols, for fear the favoring gale may leave him. These lessons we should take to heart, to bear with moderation, free from wrath, our wrongs, and do nothing to hurt a whole city. What then? Let us, who wish to perform the pious deed, bury the corpses of the slain. Or else the issue is clear; I will go and bury them by force. For never shall it be proclaimed through Hellas that the ancient law of the gods was set at nothing, when it devolved on me and the city of Pandion.

Koorleidster
Be of good cheer; for if you preserve the light of justice, you shall escape many a charge that men might urge.

Gezant uit Thebe
Do you want me to tell my story briefly?

Theseus
Say what you will; for you are not silent as it is.

Gezant uit Thebe
You shall never take the sons of Argos from our land.

Theseus
Hear, then, my answer too to that, if you wish.

Gezant uit Thebe
I will hear you; not that I wish it, but I must give you your turn.

Theseus
I will bury the dead, when I have removed them from Asopus' land.

Gezant uit Thebe
First you must run a risk in the front of war.

Theseus
Many an enterprise and of a different kind have I endured before this.

Gezant uit Thebe
Were you then begotten by your father to cope with every foe?

Theseus
Yes, with all wanton villains; virtue I do not punish.

Gezant uit Thebe
To meddle is always your custom, and your city's too.

Theseus
And so her enterprise on many a field has won her many blessings.

Gezant uit Thebe
Come then, that the warriors of the dragon-crop may catch you in our city.

Theseus
What furious warrior-army could spring from dragon's seed?

Gezant uit Thebe
You shall learn that to your cost. As yet you are young and rash.

Theseus
Your boastful speech does not stir my heart at all to rage. Yet leave the land, taking with you the idle words you brought; for we are making no advance. De gezant uit Thebe trekt zich terug It is time for all to start, each hoplite, and whoever mounts the chariot; it is time the bit, dripping with foam, should urge the steed on toward the Cadmeian land. For I will march in person to the seven gates of Cadmus with the sharp sword in my hand, and be myself my herald. But you, Adrastus, I bid stay, do not blend with mine your fate, for I with my own good fortune will take command, a new leader with a new army. One thing alone I need, the favor of all gods that reverence right, for the presence of these things insures victory. For their valor avails men nothing, unless they have the god's good will.

Theseus en zijn gevolg vertrekken.

06. Derde koorlied; regel 6;598-633

De volgende zinnen tussen de twee halve koren worden beurtelings gezongen

Ene helft van het koor
Unhappy mothers of those hapless chiefs! How wildly in my heart pale fear stirs up alarm!

Andere helft van het koor
What is this new cry you utter?

Ene helft van het koor
I fear the issue of the strife, where the hosts of Pallas march.

Andere helft van het koor
Do you speak of issues of the sword, or interchange of words?

Ene helft van het koor
That last would be gain indeed; but if the carnage of battle, fighting, and the noise of beaten breasts again shall be heard in the land, what, alas! will be said of me, who am the cause of it?

Andere helft van het koor
Yet may fate again bring low the brilliant victor; it is this brave thought that twines about my heart.

Ene helft van het koor
You speak of the gods as if they were just.

Andere helft van het koor
Yes, for who but they allot whatever happens?

Ene helft van het koor
I see much at variance in their dealings with men.

Andere helft van het koor
The former fear has warped your judgment. Vengeance calls vengeance forth; slaughter calls for slaughter, but the gods give to mortals respite from affliction, holding in their own hands each thing's allotted end.

Ene helft van het koor
Would I could reach the plains crowned with turrets, leaving Callichorus, fountain of the goddess!

Andere helft van het koor
O that some god would give you wings!

Ene helft van het koor
So that I might come to the city of two rivers!

Andere helft van het koor
So might you see and know the fortunes of your friends.

Ene helft van het koor
What fate, what issue there awaits the valiant monarch of this land?

Andere helft van het koor
Once more do we invoke the gods we called upon before.

Ene helft van het koor
Yes, in our fear this is our chiefest trust.

Andere helft van het koor
O Zeus, father to the child the heifer-mother bore in days long past, that daughter of Inachus!

Ene helft van het koor
O be gracious, I pray, and champion this city!

Andere helft van het koor
It is your own darling, your own settler in the city of Argos that I am striving from outrage to rescue for the funeral pyre.

07. Derde akte; regel 7;634-777

Er komt een boodschapper op

Bode
Ladies, I bring you joyous tidings, and I myself escaped—for I was prisoner in the battle which the seven companies of the dead chieftains fought near Dirce's fountain—to bear the news of Theseus' victory. But I will save you tedious questioning; I was the servant of Capaneus, whom Zeus with scorching bolt burnt to ashes.

Koorleidster
Dearest friend, fair is your news of your own return, not less the report about Theseus; and if the army of Athens, too, is safe, all your message will be welcome.

Bode
Safe, and all has happened as I would it had befallen Adrastus and his Argives, whom he led from Inachus, to march against the city of the Cadmeans.

Koorleidster
How did the son of Aegeus and his fellow-warriors raise their trophy to Zeus? Tell us, for you were there and can gladden us who were not.

Bode
Bright shone the sun, one levelled line of light, upon the world, as by Electra's gate I stood to watch, from a turret with a far outlook. And I saw the companies of three armies: the armor-clad warriors deployed on the high ground by the banks of Ismenus, as I heard, and the king himself, famous son of Aegeus, and those with him, posted on the right wing, and natives of old Cecropia, in equal numbers; chariot-teams and the dwellers by the sea, armed with spears, were by the fountain of Ares; on the outskirts of the army were posted cavalry. The people of Cadmus set themselves before the walls, placing in the rear the bodies for which they fought, in the shelter of Amphion's holy tomb. Cavalry to cavalry, and four-horse chariot to chariot stood ranged. Then the herald of Theseus said to all: “Be still, you folk! hush, you ranks of Cadmus, hearken! we have come for the bodies of the slain, wishing to bury them in observance of the universal law of Hellas; we have no wish to lengthen out the slaughter.” Not a word would Creon let his herald answer back, but there he stood in silence under arms. Then the drivers of the four-horse chariots began the battle; on past each other they drove their chariots, bringing the warriors at their sides up into line. Some fought with swords, some wheeled the horses back to combat 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 do not know: should it be the clouds of dust that mounted to the sky, or the men dragged this way and that in the reins, and 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 chariots, 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, before despondency should seize his allies. The whole army clashed together in the middle, dealing death and courting it, shouting loudly to each other the battle-cry: “Slay, and set your spear firmly against the sons of Erechtheus.” But not for that did Theseus recoil in fear; no! snatching up at once his glittering armor he rushed on. Fierce foes to cope with were the warriors whom the dragon's teeth reared to manhood; for they broke our left wing, but theirs was routed by our right and put to flight, so that the struggle was evenly balanced. Here again our chief deserved 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 you cannot restrain the earth-born warriors' stubborn spear, the cause of Pallas is lost.” And courage arose in all the army of Cranaus. Then he seized a fearsome club, weapon of Epidaurian warfare, and using it like a sling, he tore apart necks and covered heads at once, reaping and snapping off helmets with the cudgel. Scarcely even then they turned themselves to fly. I cried aloud for joy, and danced and clapped my hands. But they ran to the gates. 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, he said, to sack the town, but to ask for the bodies of the dead. Such is 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.

Koorleidster
Now I believe in the gods after seeing this unexpected day, and I feel my woes are lighter now that these men have paid their penalty.

Adrastus
O Zeus, why is it that men assert the wisdom of the wretched human race? On you we depend, and we do whatever you may wish. We thought our Argos irresistible, ourselves a young and lusty army, 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, became wantonly violent, and in their violence were ruined in their turn. O you who strain your bow beyond the mark; you foolish sons of men, only by suffering many evils as you deserve, though deaf to friends, yet you yield to circumstances; you cities likewise, though you might by parley end your ills, yet you choose the sword instead of reason to settle disputes. But why these reflections? This I would learn, the way you escaped; and after that I will ask you of the rest.

Bode
While the tumult of war shook the city, I passed the gates, just as the army had entered them.

Adrastus
Are you bringing the bodies, for which the strife arose?

Bode
Yes, each of the seven chiefs of famous homes.

Adrastus
What do you mean? The rest who fell—where are they?

Bode
They have found burial in the dells of Cithaeron.

Adrastus
On this or that side of the mountain? And who buried them?

Bode
Theseus buried them beneath the shadow of Eleutherae's cliff.

Adrastus
Where did you leave the dead he has not buried?

Bode
Nearby; earnest haste makes every goal look close.

Adrastus
No doubt in sorrow slaves would gather them from the carnage?

Bode
Slaves! not one of them was set to do this toil.

Adrastus
. . . . . . . . .

Bode
You would say so, had you been there to see his loving tendance of the dead.

Adrastus
Did he himself wash the bloody wounds of the hapless men?

Bode
Yes, and strewed their biers and wrapped them in their shrouds.

Adrastus
A dreadful burden this, involving some disgrace.

Bode
Why, what disgrace to men are their fellows' sorrows?

Adrastus
Ah me! how much rather had I died with them!

Bode
It is in vain to weep and move to tears these women.

Adrastus
I think it is they who give the lesson. Enough of that! My hands I lift at meeting of the dead, and pour forth a tearful dirge to Hades, calling on my friends, whose loss I mourn in wretched solitude; for this one thing, when once it is spent, man cannot recover, the breath of life, though he knows ways to get his wealth again.

08. Vierde koorlied; regel 8;778-794

Koor
Joy is here and sorrow too. For the state fair fame, and for our captains a double prize. For me it is bitter to see the limbs of my dead sons, and yet a welcome sight, if I shall really see it, when I behold the unexpected day after sorrow's cup was full. Would that old Time, father of days, had kept me unwed even till now! What need did I have of children? I think I should not have suffered overmuch, if I had never borne the marriage-yoke; but now I have my sorrow full in view, the loss of dear children. Lo! now I see the bodies of the fallen youths. Woe is me! would I could join these children in their death and descend to Hades with them!

09. Vierde akte; regel 9;795-954

Theseus en zijn soldaten komen op, terwijl ze de lijken van de verslagen aanvoerders dragen. Adrastus en het koor jammeren om buerten zingendKoor.

Adrastus
Mothers, raise the wail for the dead departed; cry in answer when you hear my note of woe.

Koor
My sons! O bitter words for loving mothers to address to you! To you, my lifeless child, I call.

Adrastus
Woe! woe!

Koor
Ah me, my sufferings!

Adrastus
Alas!

Koor
. . . . . . . . . . .

Adrastus
We have endured—

Koor
Sorrows most grievous.

Adrastus
O citizens of Argos! do you not behold my fate?

Koor
They see me also, the hapless mother, bereft of her children.

Adrastus
Bring near the blood-dripping corpses of those hapless men, unworthily slain by unworthy foes, with whom lay the decision of the contest.

Koor
Let me embrace and hold my children to my bosom in my enfolding arms.

Adrastus
There, there! you have—

Koor
Sorrows heavy enough to bear.

Adrastus
Alas!

Koor
Your groans mingle with those of their parents.

Adrastus
Hear me.

Koor
Over both of us you lament.

Adrastus
Would that the Theban ranks had laid me dead in the dust!

Koor
Oh that I had never been wedded to a husband!

Adrastus
Ah! hapless mothers, behold this sea of troubles!

Koor
Our nails have ploughed our cheeks in furrows, and over our heads have we strewn ashes.

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!

Koor
Bitter the marriages you witnessed, bitter the oracle of Phoebus! The curse of Oedipus, full of sorrow, after desolating his house, has come on you.

Theseus
I meant to question you when you were venting your lamentations to the army, but I will let it pass; yet, though I dropped the matter then and left it alone, I now ask you, Adrastus. Of what lineage sprang those youths, to shine so bright in courage? Tell it to our younger citizens, from your fuller wisdom; for you are skilled to know. I myself beheld their daring deeds, too high for words to tell, by which they thought to capture Thebes. One question I will spare you, lest I provoke your laughter; the foe that each of them encountered in the fray, the spear from which each received his death-wound. These are 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 it; for when a man is face to face with the foe, he could hardly see even that which it is his duty to observe.

Adrastus
Listen then. For in giving this task to me you find a willing eulogist of friends, whose praise I would declare in all truth and sincerity. Do you see that handsome man, transfixed by Zeus's bolt? That is Capaneus; though he had ample wealth, yet he was the last to boast of his prosperity; nor would he ever vaunt himself above a poorer neighbor, 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. He was a true friend to his friends, present or absent; of such the number is not great. His was a guileless character, courteous in his speech, that left no promise unperformed either towards his own household or his fellow-citizens. The next I name is Eteoclus, a master of other kinds of excellence; young, lacking in means to live, yet high in honor in the Argive land. And though his friends often 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 not to be blamed if it should get an evil name by reason of an evil governor. Such another was Hippomedon, third of this band; from his very boyhood he refrained from turning towards the allurements of the Muses, to lead a life of ease; his home was in the fields, and gladly would he school his nature to hardships with a view to manliness, always hastening to the chase, rejoicing in his steeds or straining his bow, because he would make his body useful to the city. Next behold the huntress Atalanta's son, Parthenopaeus, a youth of peerless beauty; from Arcady he came to the streams of Inachus, and in Argos spent his boyhood. There, when he grew up, 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 he took his stand amid the army, and fought for Argos as he were her own son, glad at heart whenever the city prospered, deeply grieved if ever reverses came. Although he had many lovers among men and women, yet he was careful to avoid offence. Of Tydeus next the lofty praise I will express in brief; He was no brilliant spokesman, but a clever craftsman in the art of war, with many a cunning plan. 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 a richly ambitious nature, a spirit equal to deeds, not words. From this account then do not wonder, Theseus, that they dared to die before the towers; for noble nurture carries reverence with it, and every man, when once he has practised virtue, scorns the name of villain. Courage may be learned, for even a baby learns to speak and hear things it cannot comprehend; and whatever someone has learned, this it is his wont to treasure up till he is old. So train up your children in a virtuous way.

Koor
Alas! my son, to sorrow I brought you up and carried you within my womb, enduring the labor pains; but now Hades takes the fruit of all my hapless toil, and I that bore a son am left, ah me! with no one to nurse my age.

Theseus
As for the noble son of Oecleus, him, while yet he lived, the gods snatched away to the bowels of the earth, and his chariot too, manifestly blessing him; while I myself may truthfully tell the praises of the son of Oedipus, that is, Polyneices, for he was my guest-friend before he left the town of Cadmus and crossed to Argos in voluntary exile. But do you know what I would have you do in this?

Adrastus
I know nothing but this—to yield obedience to your commands.

Theseus
As for Capaneus, stricken by the bolt of Zeus—

Adrastus
Will you bury him apart as a consecrated corpse?

Theseus
Yes; but all the rest on one funeral pyre.

Adrastus
Where will you set the tomb apart for him?

Theseus
Here near this temple I have built him a sepulchre.

Adrastus
Your slaves must undertake this toil at once.

Theseus
I myself will look to those others; let the biers advance.

Adrastus
Approach your sons, unhappy mothers.

Theseus
What you propose, Adrastus, is anything but good.

Adrastus
How is that? Must not the mothers touch their sons?

Theseus
It would kill them to see how they are altered.

Adrastus
True, the fresh and bloody wounds of the dead are a bitter sight.

Theseus
Why then will you add to their grief?

Adrastus
You are right. Tegen het koor, You must patiently abide, for the words of Theseus are good. But when we have committed them to the flames, you shall collect their bones. O wretched sons of men! Why do you get weapons and bring slaughter on one another? Cease from that, give over your toiling, and in mutual peace keep safe your cities. Short is the span of life, so it would be best to run its course as lightly as we may, free from trouble.

De lijken, gevolgd door de kinderen van de gestorven aanvoerders, worden naar de brandstapel gedragen die is aangestoken binnen het zicht van de personen op het toneel.

10. Vijfde koorlied; regel 10;955-979

Koor
No longer a happy mother, no longer blessed with children, nor do I share their happy lot among Argive women who have sons; nor any more will Artemis of childbirth kindly greet these childless mothers. Most dreary is my life, and like some wandering cloud I drift before the howling blast.

Koor
The seven noblest sons in Argos once we had, we seven hapless mothers; but now my sons are dead, I have no child, and old age comes to me piteously; neither among the dead nor the living do I count myself, having a lot apart from these.

Koor
Tears are left for me; in my house sad memories of my son are stored; mournful tresses shorn from his head, garlands that he wore, libations for the dead departed, and songs, but not such as golden-haired Apollo welcomes; and when I wake to weep, my tears will ever drench the folds of my robe upon my bosom.

11. Vijfde akte; regel 11;980-1234

Koor
Ah! there I see the sepulchre ready even now for Capaneus, his consecrated tomb, and the votive offerings Theseus gives to the dead outside the shrine, and near to that lightning-smitten chief I see his noble bride, Evadne, daughter of King Iphis. Why does she stand on the towering rock, which overtops this temple, advancing along the path?Evadne is seen on a rock which overhangs the burning pyre. She is dressed as though for a festival.

Evadne
What light, what radiancy did the sun-god's chariot dart forth, and the moon above the heaven, where they ride through the gloom, in the day that the city of Argos raised the stately chant of joy at my wedding, in honor of my marriage with Capaneus, alas! of the bronze armor? Now from my home in frantic haste with frenzied mind I rush to you, seeking to share with you the fire's bright flame and the same tomb, to be rid of my weary life, my suffering, in Hades; yes, for it is the sweetest death to die with those we love, if only fate will sanction it.

Koorleidster
Behold that pyre, which you are overlooking, near by, Zeus' treasure! There is your husband's body, vanquished by the blazing bolt.

Evadne
Life's goal I now see from my station here; may fortune aid me in my leap; yes! in honor's cause I will hurl myself from this rock with a leap into the fire below, to mix my ashes in the ruddy blaze with my husband's, to lie side by side with him, there in the couch of Persephone, for never will I, to save my life, prove untrue to you where you lie in your grave. Away with life and marriage too! Oh! may my children live to see the dawn of a fairer, happier wedding-day in Argos! A pious wedded husband fused with the guileless airs of a noble wife!

Koorleidster
And see, the aged Iphis, your father, draws near to hear your startling speech, which yet he does not know, and will grieve to learn.

Iphis komt op

Iphis
Unhappy child! I have come, an unhappy old man, with twofold sorrow in my house to mourn, that I may carry to his native land the corpse of my son Eteoclus, slain by the Theban spear, and also in quest of my daughter who rushed headlong from the house, for she was the wife of Capaneus and longed to die with her husband. Before this she was guarded in my house, but, when I took the watch away in the present troubles, she was gone. But I feel sure that she is here; tell me if you have seen her.

Evadne
Why question them? Here I am upon the rock, father, over the pyre of Capaneus, like some bird hovering lightly, in my wretchedness.

Iphis
What wind has blown you here, child? What was your errand? Why did you pass the threshold of my house and seek this land?

Evadne
It would only anger you to hear what I intend, and so I do not want you to hear, father.

Iphis
What! does your own father not have a right to know?

Evadne
You would not judge my purpose wisely.

Iphis
Why do you deck yourself in that apparel?

Evadne
This robe conveys a strange meaning, father.

Iphis
You have no look of mourning for your lord.

Evadne
No, the reason why I am decked in this way is new, perhaps.

Iphis
Do you then appear before a funeral-pyre?

Evadne
Yes, for here it is I come to take the prize of victory.

Iphis
What victory do you mean? I want to learn this from you.

Evadne
A victory over all women on whom the sun looks down.

Iphis
In Athena's handiwork or in prudent counsel?

Evadne
In courage; for I will lie down and die with my lord.

Iphis
What are you saying? What is this foolish riddle you propound?

Evadne
To that pyre where dead Capaneus lies, I will leap down.

Iphis
My daughter, do not speak thus before the multitude!

Evadne
The very thing I wish, that every Argive should learn it.

Iphis
No, I will never consent to let you do this deed.

Evadne
It is all one; you shall never catch me in your grasp. See! I cast myself down, no joy to you, but to myself and to my husband blazing on the pyre with me.

Ze springt op de brandstapel

Koor - zingend
O lady, you have done a fearful deed!

Iphis
Ah me! I am undone, women of Argos!

Koor - zingend
Oh, oh! this is a cruel blow to you, but you must yet witness, poor wretch, the full horror of this deed.

Iphis
A more unhappy wretch than me you could not find.

Koor - zingend
Woe for you! you, old man, have been made partaker in the fortune of Oedipus, you and my poor city too.

Iphis
Ah me! why do mortal men not have this, to live their youth twice over, and twice in turn to reach old age? If anything goes wrong within our homes, we set it right by judgment more maturely formed, but our life we may not so correct. Now if we had a second spell of youth and age, this double term of life would let us then correct each previous slip. For I, seeing others with children, longed to have them too, and found my ruin in that wish. Whereas if I had had my present experience, and by a father's light had learned how cruel a thing it is to be bereft of children, never should I have fallen on such evil days as these—I who begot a brave young son, and after all am now bereft of him. Enough of this. What remains for such a hapless wretch as me? Shall I to my home, there to see the desolation of the many halls and the blank within my life? or shall I go to the house of that dead Capaneus? sweet indeed to see in days gone by, when my daughter was alive. But she is lost and gone, she that would ever draw down my cheek to her lips, and take my head between her hands; for nothing is there more sweet unto an aged father than a daughter; our sons are made of sterner stuff, but less winning are their caresses. Oh! take me to my house at once, hide me in darkness, to waste and fret this aged frame with fasting! What shall it benefit me to touch my daughter's bones? Old age, resistless foe, how do I loathe your presence! Them too I loathe, whoever desire to lengthen out the span of life, seeking to turn the tide of death aside by food and drink and magic spells; those whom death should take away to leave the young their place, when they no more can benefit the world.

Iphis vertrekt. Een stoet komt op uit de richting van de brandstapel, geleid door de kinderen van de gestorven aanvoerders, die de as van hun vaders in urnen dragen.

De volgende zinnen worden afwisselend door het koor en de kinderen gezongen

Koor
Woe, woe! Behold our dead sons' bones are brought here; take them, servants, from your weak old mistress, for I have no strength left from mourning for my sons; time's comrade long have I been, and many a tear for many a sorrow have I shed. For what greater pang could you ever find for mortals than the sight of children dead?

Kinderen
I am bringing, I an bringing, poor mother, my father's bones from the fire, a burden grief has rendered heavy, though this tiny urn contains my all.

Koor
Oh! Oh! Why bear your tearful load to the fond mother of the dead? A handful of ashes in the place of those who once were men of mark in Mycenae?

Kinderen
You are childless, childless! And I, bereft of my hapless father, a wretched orphan shall inherit a desolate house, torn from my father's arms.

Koor
Oh! Oh! Where is now the toil I spent upon my sons? what thanks for giving birth? Where the mother's nursing care? the sleepless vigils my eyes have kept? the loving kiss upon my children's brow?

Kinderen
Your sons are dead and gone. Alas, father! dead and gone.

Koor
The boundless air now wraps them round, turned to ashes by the flame; they have winged their flight to Hades.

Kinderen
Father, do you hear your children's lamentation? Shall I ever, arrayed as a warrior, avenge your slaughter—if it may be so—and beget children?

Kinderen
Some day, if the god is willing, shall the avenging of my father be my task.

Koor
This evil does not yet sleep. Alas for my sorrows! I have enough ill-fortune, enough troubles.

Kinderen
Asopus' laughing tide shall yet reflect my brazen arms as I lead on my Argive troops, to avenge my fallen father.

Kinderen
I think I see you still before my eyes, my father—

Koor
Printing a loving kiss upon your cheek.

Kinderen
But your words of exhortation are borne away on the wind.

Koor
Two mourners has he left behind, your mother and you, bequeathing to you an endless legacy of grief for your father.

Kinderen
The weight of grief I have to bear has crushed me utterly.

Koor
Come, let me clasp the dear ashes to my bosom.

Kinderen
I weep to hear that most hateful word; it stabs me to the heart.

Koor
My child, you are gone; no more shall I behold you, your own fond mother's treasure.

Theseus
Adrastus, and you women sprung from Argos, you see these children bearing in their hands the bodies of their valiant sires whom I redeemed; to you I give these gifts, I and Athens. And you must bear in mind the memory of this favor, marking well the treatment you have had of me. And to the children I repeat these same words, that you may honor this city, to children's children ever handing on the the memory of what you have received. Be Zeus the witness, with the gods in heaven, of the treatment we vouchsafed you before you left us.

Adrastus
Theseus, well we know all the kindness you have conferred upon the land of Argos in her need, and ours shall be a gratitude that never grows old, for your generous treatment makes us debtors for a like return.

Theseus
What still remains, where I can serve you?

Adrastus
Fare well, for you are worthy of it, and your city too.

Theseus
It will be so; may you too have the same fortune!

Athene verschijnt uit de hoogte

Athena
Hear, Theseus, these words of Athena, what you must do that will benefit you. Do not give these bones to the children to carry to the land of Argos, letting them go so lightly; no, first take an oath of them that they will requite you and your city for your efforts. This oath Adrastus must swear, for as their king it is his right to take the oath for the whole realm of Argos. And this will be the oath: for the Argives never to lead on armor-clad troops to war against this land, and, if others come, to repel them. But if they violate their oath and come against the city, that the land of Argos may be miserably destroyed in turn. Now listen while I tell you where you must slay the victims. You have within your halls a tripod with brazen feet, which Heracles once, after he had overthrown the foundations of Ilium and was starting on another enterprise, enjoined you to set up at the Pythian shrine. Over it cut the throats of three sheep; then engrave the oaths within the tripod's hollow belly; and then deliver it to the god who watches over Delphi to keep, a witness and memorial unto Hellas of the oaths. And bury the sharp-edged knife, with which you shall have laid the victims open and shed their blood, deep in the bowels of the earth, beside the pyres where the seven chieftains burn; for its appearance shall strike them with dismay, if ever against your town they come, and shall cause them to return with sorrow. When you have done all this, dismiss the dead from your land. And to the god resign as sacred land the spot where their bodies were purified by fire, there by the meeting of the triple roads that lead to the Isthmus. Thus much to you, Theseus, I address; next to the sons of Argos I speak: when you are young men, the town beside Ismenus shall you sack, avenging the slaughter of your dead fathers; you too, Aegialeus, shall take your father's place and in your youth command the army, and with you, marching from Aetolia, Tydeus' son, whom his father named Diomedes. As soon as the beards overshadow your cheeks you must lead an armed Danaid army against the battlements of Thebes with sevenfold gates. For to their sorrow shall you come like lion's whelps in full-grown might to sack their city. No otherwise is it to be; and you shall be a theme for minstrels' songs in days to come, known through Hellas as “the After-born”; so famous shall your expedition be, thanks to the god.

Theseus
Lady Athena, I will hearken to your words; for you set me up, so that I do not go astray. And I will bind this man by an oath; only guide my steps aright. For if you are friendly to our state, we shall live secure for the future.

Athena verdwijnt

Koor
Let us go, Adrastus, and take the oath to this man and his state; for the service they have already done us claims our reverence.

© 2017 Maarten Hendriksz