Things at a distance wear not the same semblance
As when on them we fix a closer view.
I certainly with gratitude embrace
My better fortunes, having found in you
A father. But whence rose my anxious thoughts
Now hear: in Athens, I am told, a native
Is deemed a glorious name, not so the race
Of aliens. I its gates shall enter laden
With these two evils; from a foreign sire
Descended, and myself a spurious child.
Branded with this reproach, doomed to continue
In base obscurity, I shall be called
A man of no account: but if intruding
Into the highest stations in the city,
I aim at being great, I shall incur
Hate from the vulgar, for superior power
Is to the people odious; but the friends
Of virtue, they whose elevated souls
With real wisdom are endued, observe
A modest silence, nor with eager haste
Rush into public business; such as these
Will laugh and brand me with an idiot's name,
For not remaining quiet in a land
Which with tumultuous outrages abounds.
Again, will those of a distinguished rank
Who at the helm preside, when I attempt
To raise myself to honour, be most wary
How on an alien they their votes confer,
For thus, my sire, 'tis ever wont to be;
They who possess authority and rank
Loathe their competitors. But when I come,
Unwelcome stranger, to a foreign house
And to the childless matron--partner once
In your calamity, of all her hopes
Now reft--with bitter anguish will she feel
In private this misfortune: by what means
Can I escape her hatred, at your footstool
When I am seated, but she, still remaining
A childless consort, with malignant eyes
The object of your tenderness beholds?
Then or, betraying me, will you regard
Your wife: or by th' esteem for me exprest,
A dire confusion in your palace cause.
For men, by female subtlety, how oft
Have poisons been invented to destroy;
Yet is my pity to your consort due,
Childless and hastening to the vale of years;
Sprung from heroic sires she ill deserves
To pine through want of issue. But the face
Of empire whom we foolishly commend
Is fair indeed, though in her mansions Grief
Hath fixed her loathed abode. For who is happy,
Who fortunate, when his whole life is spent
In circumspection and in anxious fears?
Rather would I in an ignoble state
Live blest, than be a monarch who delights
In evil friends, and hates the good, still fearing
The stroke of death. Perhaps you will reply
That gold can all these obstacles surmount,
And to grow rich is sweet. I would not hear
Tumultuous sounds, or grievous toils endure,
Because these hands my treasures still retain.
May I possess an humbler rank exempt
From sorrow! O my sire, let me describe
The blessings I have here enjoyed; first ease,
To man most grateful; by the busy crowd
I seldom was molested, from my path
No villain drove me: not to be endured
Is this, when we to base competitors
Are forced to yield pre-eminence. I prayed
Fervently to the gods, or ministered
To mortals, and with those who did rejoice
I never grieved. Some strangers I dismissed,
But others came. Hence a new object still
Did I remain, and each new votary please.
What men are bound to wish for, even they
Who with reluctance practise what they ought,
The laws conspired to aid my natural bent,
And in the sight of Phoebus made me just.
These things maturely weighing in my breast,
I deem my situation here exceeds
What Athens can bestow. Allow me then
The privilege of living to myself:
For 'tis an equal blessing, or to taste
The splendid gifts of fortune with delight,
Or in an humbler station rest content.
Credits: Reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. ii.
Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922.
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