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A monologue from the play by Euripides
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. ii. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922.
Why was this privilege, alas! denied
To mortals, twice to flourish in the bloom
Of youth, and for a second time grow old?
For in our houses, we, if aught is found
To have been ill contrived, amend the fault
Which our maturer judgment hath descried;
While each important error in our life
Admits of no reform: but if with youth
And ripe old age we twice had been indulged,
Each devious step that marked our first career
We in our second might set right. For children,
Seeing that others had them, much I wished,
And pined away with vehement desire;
But if I had already felt these pangs,
And from my own experience learnt how great
Is the calamity to a fond father
To be bereft of all his hopeful race,
I into such distress had never fallen
As now o’erwhelms me, who begot a youth
Distinguished by his courage, and of him
Am no deprived. No more. But what remains
For me–wretch that I am? Shall I return
To my own home, view many houses left
Without inhabitants, and waste the dregs
Of life in hopeless anguish, or repair
To the abode of Capaneus, with joy
By me frequented while my daughter lived?
But she is now no more, who loved to kiss
My furrowed cheeks and stroked this hoary head.
Nought can delight us more than the attention
Which to her aged sire a daughter pays:
Though our male progeny have souls endued
With courage far superior, yet less gently
Do they these soothing offices perform.
Will ye not quickly drag me to my home,
And in some dungeon’s gloomy hold confine,
To wear away these aged limbs by famine?
Me, what, alas! can it avail to touch
My daughter’s bones! What hatred do I bear
To thee, O irresistible old age!
Them, too, my soul abhors who vainly strive
To lengthen out our little span of life;
By th’ easy vehicle, the downy couch,
And by the boasted aid of magic song,
Labouring to turn aside from his career
Remorseless death: when they who have no longer
The strength required to serve their native land
Should vanish, and to younger men give place.