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Before the palace of Heracles at Thebes. Nearby stands the altar of Zeus, on the steps of which are now seated Amphitryon, Megara and her sons by Heracles. They are seeking refuge at the altar. Amphitryon What mortal has not heard of the one who shared a wife with Zeus, Amphitryon of Argos, whom once Alcaeus, son of Perseus, begot, Amphitryon the father of Heracles? Who lived here in Thebes, where from the sowing of the dragon's teeth grew up a crop of earth-born giants; and of these Ares saved a scanty band, and their children's children people the city of Cadmus. Hence sprung Creon, son of Menoeceus, king of this land; and Creon became the father of
s lady Megara, whom once all Cadmus' race escorted with the glad music of lutes at her wedding, when the famous Heracles led her to my halls.
Now he, my son, left Thebes where I was settled, left his wife Megara and her kin, eager to make his home in Argolis, in that walled town which the Cyclopes built, from which I am exiled fo
Megara Old warrior, who once razed the citadel of the Taphians leading on the troops of Thebes to glory, how uncertain are the gods' dealings with man! For I, as far as concerned my father, was never an outcast of fortune, for he was once accounted a man of might by reason of his wealth, possessed as he was of royal power, for which long spears are launched at the lives of the fortunate through love of it; children too he had; and he gave me to your son, matching me in glorious marriage with Heracles. And now all that is dead and gone from us; and I and you, old friend, are doomed to die, and these children of Heracles, whom I am guarding beneath my wing as a bird keeps her tender chicks under her. And they one after another keep asking me: “Mother, tell us, where is our father gone from the land? what is he doing? when will he return?” Thus they inquire for their father, in childish perplexity; while I put them off with excuses, inventing stories; but still I wonder if it is he
The Chorus of Old Men of Thebes enters. Chorus To the sheltering roof, to the old man's couch, leaning on my staff have I set forth, chanting a plaintive dirge like some bird grown grey, I that am only a voice and a fancy bred of the visions of sleep by night, palsied with age, yet meaning kindly. All hail! you orphaned children! all hail, old friend! you too, unhappy mother, wailing for your husband in the halls of Hades!
Ah! you land of Cadmus—for to you too will I turn, distributing my words of reproach—is this your defense of Heracles and his children? the man who faced alone all the Minyans in battle and allowed Thebes to see the light with free eyes. I cannot praise Hellas, nor will I ever keep silence, finding her so craven as regards my son; she should have come with fire and sword and warrior's arms to help these tender chicks, to requite him for all his labors in purging land and sea. Such help, my children, neither Hellas nor the city of Thebes affords you; to me a feeble friend you look, and I am empty sound and nothing more. For the vigor which once I had, has gone from me; my limbs are palsied with age, and my strength is decayed. If I were young and still powerful in body, I would have seized my spear and dabbled those flaxen locks of his with blood, so that the coward would now be flying from my spear beyond the bounds of Atlas. Chorus Leader Have not the brave among mankind a fair
Chorus Dances, dances and banquets now prevail throughout the holy town of Thebes. For change from tears, change from sorrow give birth to song. The new king is gone; our former monarch rules, having made his way even from the harbor of Acheron. Hope beyond all expectation is fulfilled.
Chorus O Ismenus, deck yourself with garlands! Break forth into dancing, you paved streets of our seven-gated city! come Dirce, fount of waters fair; and joined with her you nymphs of Asopus, come from your father's waves to add your voices to our hymn, the victor's prize that Heracles has won. O Pythian rock with forests crowned, and haunts of the Muses on Helicon! you will come to my city and her walls with cries of joy; where the earth-born crop sprang to view, a warrior-host with shields of brass, who are handing on their realm to children's children, a divine light to Thebes.