Page:Euripides the Rationalist.djvu/92

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death of a certain woman has been predicted for a certain day. She and her family are convinced that on that day she will certainly die. This expectation (be it observed) is grounded solely on the prophecy[1]. Up to the morning of the day itself, and even on that morning, she is so far from showing signs of danger, that those who see her can even speak of her 'unchanged complexion'. Nevertheless, acting upon the absolute certainty of her approaching end, she rises at dawn, bathes, robes herself elaborately as for burial, and goes the round of the palace in which she is queen, paying her devotion 'at every altar which it contains '. She then takes a long and passionate farewell of her chamber, then of her children, and then of all the household (a royal household) 'down to the very meanest'. From this time in fact till her 'death' she is occupied incessantly in adieux. She lies in her husband's arms, expecting the end, surrounded by the whole weeping assembly, servants and children, and still, so long as she can, repeating her farewells. Her case is treated from the first and throughout as hopeless. No attempt is made to sustain her, either by herself or the rest, except 'beseeching her not to depart'. In such scenes the hours go by until she has become very weak; with more adieux she becomes weaker; and at last it is plain that she is sinking. Carried into the air, she rallies sufficiently for yet one prolonged farewell, after which she sinks again, sinks rapidly, and becomes unconscious. Being already prepared for burial, except for the addition of certain ornaments, which are also ready, the body, just as it lies, is carried to a neighbouring monument, laid there and left. Later in the day the woman is brought back from the tomb to her house.

Where is the miracle? There is no one now, and assuredly there was no one at Athens in the days of Protagoras, who assuming these facts would dream of a miraculous explanation, instead of the obvious explanation, that the woman and her friends were mistaken, that she was not in such danger as she and they too credulously supposed, that she wanted nothing but a little rest from their killing importunities, and would have revived, not in a tomb but in her house, if the 'survivors' had given her time to do so. And in fact this is the conviction of

  1. See the narrative beginning at v. 157.