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.
  • ION: 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.