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THE TRACHINIAE by Sophocles, Part 14

HERACLES

Hear, then, thy task: now is the time to show what stuff is in thee, who art called my son.

It was foreshown to me by my Sire of old that I should perish by no creature that had the breath of life, but by one that had passed to dwell with Hades. So I have been slain by this savage Centaur, the living by the dead, even as the divine will had been foretold.

And I will show thee how later oracles tally therewith, confirming the old prophecy. I wrote them down in the grove of the Selli, dwellers on the hills, whose couch is on the ground; they were given by my Father's oak of many tongues; which said that, at the time which liveth and now is, my release from the toils laid upon me should be accomplished. And I looked for prosperous days; but the meaning, it seems, was only that should die; for toil comes no more to the dead.

Since, then, my son, those words are clearly finding their fulfilment, thou, on thy part, must lend me thine aid. Thou must not delay, and so provoke me to bitter speech: thou must consent and help with a good grace, as one who hath learned that best of laws, obedience to a sire.

HYLLUS
Yea, father,- though I fear the issue to which our talk hath brought me,- I will do thy good pleasure.

HERACLES
First of all, lay thy right hand in mine.

HYLLUS
For what purpose dost thou insist upon his pledge?

HERACLES
Give thy hand at once- disobey me not!

HYLLUS
Lo, there it is: thou shalt not be gainsaid.

HERACLES
Now, swear by the head of Zeus my sire!

HYLLUS
To do what deed? May this also be told?

HERACLES
To perform for me the task that I shall enjoin.

HYLLUS
I swear it, with Zeus for witness of the oath.

HERACLES
And pray that, if thou break this oath, thou mayest suffer.

HYLLUS
I shall not suffer, for I shall keep it:- yet so I pray.

HERACLES
Well, thou knowest the summit of Oeta, sacred to Zeus?

HYLLUS
Ay; I have often stood at his altar on that height.

HERACLES
Thither, then, thou must carry me up with thine own hands, aided by what friends thou wilt; thou shalt lop many a branch from the deep-rooted oak, and hew many a faggot also from the sturdy stock of the wild-olive; thou shalt lay my body thereupon, and kindle it with flaming pine-torch.

And let no tear of mourning be seen there; no, do this without lament and without weeping, if thou art indeed my son. But if thou do it not, even from the world below my curse and my wrath shall wait on thee for ever.

HYLLUS
Alas, my father, what hast thou spoken? How hast thou dealt with me!

HERACLES
I have spoken that which thou must perform; if thou wilt not, then get thee some other sire, and be called my son no more!

HYLLUS
Woe, woe is me! What a deed dost thou require of me, my father,-that I should become thy murderer, guilty of thy blood!

HERACLES
Not so, in truth, but healer of my sufferings, sole physician of my pain!

HYLLUS
And how, by enkindling thy body, shall I heal it?

HERACLES
Nay, if that thought dismay thee, at least perform the rest.

HYLLUS
The service of carrying thee shall not be refused.

HERACLES
And the heaping of the pyre, as I have bidden?

HYLLUS
Yea, save that I will not touch it with mine own hand. All else will I do, and thou shalt have no hindrance on my part.

HERACLES
Well, so much shall be enough.- But add one small boon to thy large benefits.

 

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