Ὦ τέκν’, ἔοιγμεν ναυτίλοισιν οἵτινες
χειμῶνος ἐκφυγόντες ἄγριον μένος
ἐς χεῖρα γῇ συνῆψαν, εἶτα χερσόθεν
πνοιαῖσιν ἠλάθησαν ἐς πόντον πάλιν.
οὕτω δὲ χἠμεῖς τῆσδ’ ἀπωθούμεσθα γῆς
ἤδη πρὸς ἀκταῖς ὄντες ὡς σεσωμένοι.
οἴμοι· τί δῆτ’ ἔτερψας ὦ τάλαινά με
ἐλπὶς τότ’, οὐ μέλλουσα διατελεῖν χάριν;
συγγνωστὰ γάρ τοι καὶ τὰ τοῦδ’, εἰ μὴ θέλει
κτείνειν πολιτῶν παῖδας, αἰνέσαι δ’ ἔχω
καὶ τἀνθάδ’· εἰ θεοῖσι δὴ δοκεῖ τάδε
πράσσειν ἔμ’, οὔτοι σοί γ’ ἀπόλλυται χάρις.
ὦ παῖδες, ὑμῖν δ’ οὐκ ἔχω τί χρήσομαι.
ποῖ τρεψόμεσθα; Τίς γὰρ ἄστεπτος θεῶν;
ποῖον δὲ γαίας ἕρκος οὐκ ἀφίγμεθα;
ὀλούμεθ’, ὦ τέκν’· ἐκδοθησόμεσθα δή.
κἀμοῦ μὲν οὐδὲν εἴ με χρὴ θανεῖν μέλει,
πλὴν εἴ τι τέρψω τοὺς ἐμοὺς ἐχθροὺς θανών·
ὑμᾶς δὲ κλαίω καὶ κατοικτίρω, τέκνα,
καὶ τὴν γεραιὰν μητέρ’ Ἀλκμήνην πατρός.
ὦ δυστάλαινα τοῦ μακροῦ βίου σέθεν,
τλήμων δὲ κἀγὼ πολλὰ μοχθήσας μάτην.
χρῆν χρῆν ἄρ’ ἡμᾶς ἀνδρὸς εἰς ἐχθροῦ χέρας
πεσόντας αἰσχρῶς καὶ κακῶς λιπεῖν βίον.
(Euripides, Heraclid. 427-450)
My children, we are like sailors who have escaped the wild blast of the storm and are a hand’s breadth from dry land, but then are driven by winds into the deep again! That is how we are being thrust from this land when we are already at its shores and feeling safe. Ah me! Why did you give me pleasure before, cruel Hope, if you did not intend to carry out your favor to the end? For, of course, Demophon’s position is quite understandable, that he is unwilling to kill the children of his citizens, and I can find words of praise even for what has happened here: if it is the gods’ will that I should fare thus, you at any rate have not lost the gratitude we owe you.
My children, I do not know what I am to do for you. Where shall we turn? What god’s altars have we not garlanded? To what land have we not come for refuge? We are doomed, my children, now we shall be given up! I do not care for myself if I must die, unless my death gives pleasure to my enemies. It is you I weep for, you I pty, my children, and Alcmene your aged grandmother! How unlucky you are in your long life! I too am luckless for having toiled so long in vain. It was fated, fated, I see it now, that we must fall into the hands of our enemy and lose our lives in disgrace and pain! (tr. David Kovacs)