But because the words of Euripides move many, who
seems to frame a heavy charge against banishment and to
urge it home, let us see what he says more particularly in
his questions and answers about it.
JOCASTA. But is't so sad one's country to forego,
And live in exile? Pray, son, let me know.
POL. Some ills when told are great, when tried are less;
But this is saddest felt, though sad t' express.
JOC. What is't, I pray, afflicts the banished most?
POL. That liberty to speak one's mind is lost.
JOC. He is indeed a slave that dares not utter
His thoughts, nor 'gainst his cruel masters mutter.
POL. But all their insolencies must o'erpass,
And bear their follies tamely like an ass.
These assertions of his are neither good nor true. For
first, not to speak what one thinks is not a piece of slavery;
but it is the part of a prudent man to hold one's peace and
be silent when time and the circumstances of affairs require it; as he himself says better elsewhere, that a wise
Both when it's best no tongue to find,
And when it's safe to speak his mind.
Again, as for the rudeness and insolency of such as have
power in their hands, they that stay in their country are
no less forced to bear and endure it than those that are
driven out of it; nay, commonly the former stand more in
fear of false informations and the violence of unjust rulers
in cities than the latter. But his greatest mistake and
absurdity is his taking away all freedom of speech from
exiles. It is wonderful indeed if Theodorus had no freedom of this kind, who,—when King Lysimachus said to
him: Thou being such a criminal, the country cast thee
forth, did it not?—replied: Yes, not being able to bear
me; just as Semele cast out Bacchus, when she could bear
him no longer. And when the king showed him Telesphorus in an iron cage, with his eyes digged out of their
holes, his nose and ears and tongue cut off, and said: So I
deal with those that injure me, he was not abashed.
What! did not Diogenes retain his wonted freedom of
speaking, who coming into King Philip's camp, when he
was going to give the Grecians battle, was brought before
him for a spy; and confessed that he was so, but that he
came to take a view of his unsatiable greediness of empire and of his madness and folly who was going in the
short time of a fight to throw a die for his crown and
And what say you to Hannibal the Carthaginian? Did
not he use a convenient freedom towards Antiochus (he at
that time an exile, and the other a king), when upon an
advantageous occasion he advised him to give his enemies
battle? He, when he had sacrificed, told him the entrails
forbade it. Hannibal sharply rebuked him thus: You are
for doing what the flesh of a beast, not what the reason of
a wise man, adviseth.
Neither does banishment deprive geometricians or mathematicians
of the liberty of discoursing freely concerning
matters they know and have skill in; and why should any
worthy or good man be denied it? But meanness of
thought obstructs and hinders the voice, strangles the
power of speech, and makes a man a mute. But let us
see what follows from Euripides:
JOC. Upon good hopes exiles can thrive, they say.
POL. Hopes have fine looks, but kill one with delay.
This is also an accusation of men's folly rather than of
banishment; for it is not the well instructed and those that
know how to use what they have aright, but such as depend upon what is to come and desire what they have not,
that are carried and tossed up and down by hopes, as in a
floating vessel, though they have scarce ever stirred beyond
the gates of their own city. But to go on:
JOC. Did not your father's friends aid your distress?
POL. Take care to thrive; for if you once are poor,
Those you call friends will know you then no more.
JOC. Did not your high birth stand you in some stead?
POL. It's sad to want, for honor buys no bread.
These also are ungrateful speeches of Polynices, who
accuses banishment as casting disparagement upon noble
birth and leaving a man without friends, who yet because
of his high birth was thought worthy, though an exile, to
have a king's daughter given him in marriage, and also by
the powerful assistance of his friends gathered such an
army as to make war against his own country, as he confesses himself a little after:
Many a famous Grecian peer
And captain from Mycenae here
'In readiness t' assist me tarry;
Sad service 'tis, but necessary.
Neither are the words of his lamenting mother any wiser:
No nuptial torch at all I lighted have
To thee, as doth a wedding-feast beseem;
No marriage-song was sung; nor thee to lave
Was water brought from fair Ismenus' stream.
She ought to have been well pleased and rejoiced when
she heard that her son dwelt in such kingly palaces; but,
whilst she laments that the nuptial torch was not lighted,
and the want of waters from Ismenus's river for him to
have bathed in (as if people at Argos were destitute both
of fire and water at their weddings), she makes those evils,
which her own conceit and folly produced, to be the effects