Es wurde ihnen die Wahl gestellt, Könige oder der Könige Kuriere zu werden. Nach Art der Kinder wollten alle Kuriere sein. Deshalb gibt es lauter Kuriere, sie jagen durch die Welt und rufen, da es keine Könige gibt, einander selbst die sinnlos gewordenen Meldungen zu. Gerne würden sie ihrem elenden Leben ein Ende machen, aber sie wagen es nicht wegen des Diensteides.
They were given the choice of becoming kings or the kings' messengers. As is the way with children, they all wanted to be messengers. That is why there are only messengers, racing through the world and, since there are no kings, calling out to each other the messages that have now become meaningless. They would gladly put an end to their miserable life, but they do not dare to do so because of their oath of loyalty. [Kaiser/Wilkins]
They were offered the choice between being kings and being royal envoys. Like children, they all wanted to be envoys. This is why there are so many envoys chasing through the world, shouting -- for the want of kings -- the most idiotic messages to one another. They would willingly end their miserable lives, but because of their oaths of duty, they don't dare to. [Hofmann]
Why is this childish? Don't children play-act at being kings all the time? But maybe that's the point; the messenger play-acts at being king insofar as he speaks the king's words in the name of the king. This reminds me of Nietzsche's criticism of Hegel's idea of power; Hegel wrote that man wants acknowledgement of his power by other men, that this basically is power. Nietzsche said this is to mistake the emblems of power for power itself, as if snatching the crown from off the king's head and clapping it on yours would mean everyone had to do as you say. It would mean that power had to ask permission from someone else, or to put it more accurately, from everyone else, in order to be power. Childish people, and there are no other kind, don't want real power but only its trappings. They turn going through the motions into the only form of motion, but it's a pointless dispersal of energy.
Who offered them the choice and extracted the oath from them? The oath is part of the emblems of power -- in adhering to it they are choosing to have no choice; they want to escape this life by committing suicide, but not by simply walking away. Their mistake is clinging to the emblems of power instead of giving it up. They're weirdly insisting on a subordination that doesn't exist, like religious fanatics who claim they act for God, not themselves, and so make God the author of all their misdeeds.
There is also a parallel with the law, which used to be considered a codification of God's will, and which came to be an independent power in its own right. The law as such is just an empty word that is used to justify the implementation of certain rules, but what justifies law as such is a mystery, or just a sham.