Merope "He Bears The Seed Of Ruin In Himself"

Matthew Arnold

"He Bears The Seed Of Ruin In Himself"

Context: Polyphontes slays Cresphontes, the King of Messenia, and two of the latter's sons, to seize the throne of Messenia. He also makes the widow of Cresphontes, Merope, his unwilling wife. Merope sends away her surviving infant son, Aepytus, her third child by Cresphontes, to be reared in safety by his grandfather and Laias, her brother. Twenty years pass, and Aepytus grows to manhood. Accompanied by the uncle who reared him, the young man returns to Messenia to avenge the deaths of his father and brothers, and to make his claim to the kingdom. He goes to the royal palace and asks to see Polyphontes, the usurper. Given an interview by the king, Aepytus passes himself off as an Arcadian nobleman who has come to Messenia as a messenger to bring news of Aepytus' death. Polyphontes, eager to learn of the death of the young man who has a better right than he to the throne of Messenia, asks how Aepytus met his death. The disguised Aepytus says that he died while hunting, that while chasing a stag Aepytus followed the beast into the waters of a lake and was swept to his death by a swift current. He ends by saying that the king of Arcadia bade him bring the news, hoping that the death of the young man would end the suspicion between the Arcadian and Messenian kingdoms:

He to thee sends me on, in one thing glad,
While all else grieves him, that his grandchild's death
Extinguishes distrust 'twixt him and thee.
But I from our deplored mischance learn this:
The man who to untimely death is doom'd,
Vainly you hedge him from the assault of harm;
He bears the seed of ruin in himself.