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Before the temple of Demeter at Eleusis. On the steps of the great altar is seated Aethra. Around her, in the garb of suppliants, is the Chorus of Argive mothers. Adrastus lies on the ground before the altar, crushed in abject grief. The children of the slain chieftains stand nearby. Around the altar are the attendants of the goddess. 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 Polyneice
Children Some day, if the god is willing, shall the avenging of my father be my task. Chorus This evil does not yet sleep. Alas for my sorrows! I have enough ill-fortune, enough troubles. Children Asopus' laughing tide shall yet reflect my brazen arms as I lead on my Argive troops, to avenge my fallen father.
Chorus 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.