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Theseus and his retinue enter.

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, [90] 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 [95] 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.

[100] 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.

And who is that man moaning piteously in the gateway?

[105] Adrastus, they inform me, king of Argos.

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

No, but the sons of the fallen slain.

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

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

[110] 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.

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