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HERCULES. Do you pretend to sit as high on Olympus as Hercules? Did
kill the Nemean lion, the Erymanthian, boar, the Lernean serpent, and the Stymphalian birds ? Did you destroy tyrants and robbers? You value yourself greatly on subduing one serpent: I did as much as that, while I lay in
CADMUS. It is not on account of the serpent, that I boast myself a greater benefactor to Greece than you. Actions should be valued by their utility, rather than by their éclat. I taught Greece the art of writing, to which laws owe their precision and permanency. You subdued monsters; I civilized men. It is from untamed passions, not from wild beasts, that the greatest evils arise
to buman society. By wisdom, by art, by the united strength of civil community, men have been enabled to subdue the whole race of lions, bears, and serpents, and, what is more, to bind in laws and wholesome regulations the ferocious violence and dangerous treachery of the human disposition. Had lions been destroyed only in single combat, men had had but a bad time of it; and what but laws could awe the men, who killed the lions ? The genuine glory, the proper distinction of the rational species, arises from the perfection of the mental powers. Courage is apt to be fierce, and strength is often exerted in acts of oppression. But Wisdom is the associate of Justice; it assists her to form equal laws, to pursue right measures, to correct power, protect weakness, and to unite individuals in a common interest and general welfare. Heroes may kill tyrants; by it is wisdom, and laws that prevent tyranny and oppression. The operations of policy far surpass the labours of Hercules, preventing many evils which valour and
might cannot even redress. You heroes consider nothing but glory, and hardly regard whether the conquests which raise your fame, are really beneficial to your
, country. Unhappy are the people who are governed by valour not directed by prudence, and not mitigated by the gentle arts !
HERCULES: I do not expect to find an admirer of my strenuous life in the man who taught his countrymen to sit still and read, and to lose the hours of youth and action in idle speculation and the sport of words.
CADMUS. An ambition to have a place in the registers of fame is the Eurystheus, which imposes heroic labours on mankind. The Muses incite to action, as well as entertain the hours of repose ; and I think you should honour them for presenting to heroes such a noble recreation, as may prevent their taking up the distaff, when they laid down the club.