Tragedies of Sophocles (Plumptre 1878)/Maidens of Trachis

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For other English-language translations of this work, see Trachiniae.

 

THE MAIDENS OF TRACHIS.




ARGUMENT.

Œneus, king of Pleuron in Ætolia, had a fair daughter, Deianeira, and many sought her in marriage, chiefly the river god Acheloös, whom, she dreaded even to look upon. And Heracles came, and conquered the river god, and took Deianeira as his bride. And as they journeyed to Tiryns, they passed the stream Euenos, where Nessos the Kentaur was wont to carry travellers across. And as he bore Deianeira, he laid rude hands on her, and Heracles, seeing this, shot him with an arrow, that had been dipped in the venom of the Lernæan hydra; and Nessos, as he died, gave a rag, dipped in the blood of his wound, to Deianeira, and told her that it would be a love-charm to win back her husband's heart, should he ever prove unfaithful. And they lived together, and she bore him Hyllos and other children; and, though Heracles was light of love, yet she never used the charm, but kept her soul in patience.

And for many years Heracles went to and fro, fulfilling the labours which Eurystheus laid upon him, and, when these were over, being sore vexed, in his rage he slew Iphitos, the son of Eurytos, king of Œchalia, who had provoked him, and for this Zeus sentenced him to serve Omphale for a whole year in Lydia. And Deianeira fled from Tiryns, for fear of Eurystheus, and abode at Trachis. Now when the year of bondage to Omphale was over, Heracles, being in love with Iole, daughter of Eurytos, invaded her father's kingdom, and laid it waste, and sent Iole and other captive women to Tiryns, while he stayed to offer sacrifice to Zeus after his victory. And all this time Deianeira remained at home in much fear and trembling.

 

 

Dramatis Personæ.

Heracles.
Hyllos, son of Heracles.
Lichas, a herald.
Messenger.
Nurse.
Elder.
Deianeira, wife of Heracles.
Attendant.
Iole, a captive maiden.
Chorus of Trachinian Maidens.
 

 

THE MAIDENS OF TRACHIS.




SCENE—Trachis, in the courtyard of Deianeira's house.


Enter Deianeira, Attendant, and Chorus of Trachinian Maidens.


Deian. 'Tis an old saying, told of many men,
"Thou canst not judge man's life before he die,
Nor whether it be good or bad for him;"[1]
But I, before I tread the paths of death,
Know that my life is dark and full of woe,
Who, dwelling in my father Œneus' house,
At Pleuron, had, of all Ætolian maids,
Most cause to shrink from marriage; for my hand
The river Acheloös came to seek,
In triple form my father suing for me;10
At one time as a bull in bodily form,
Then as a dragon wound his speckled length,
And then with human trunk and head of ox,
And from his shaggy beard there flowed the streams
Of his clear fountains.[2] Such a suitor I,
Receiving sadly, wished that I might die
Ere I approached his bed. And then there came,
Later, indeed, yet much beloved by me,
Zeus' noble son, whom fair Alcmena bore,
Who, wrestling with him in the strife of war,20
Wrought out my rescue. What the mode of fight
I tell not, for I know not. He might tell
Whoe'er could gaze unshrinking at the sight;
For I was there, struck down with panic-fear
[Lest all my beauty should but bring me woe;]
But Zeus, the God of battles, gave to us
Good issue, if in truth it be but good;
For, sharing now the bed of Heracles
By special grace, I cherish fear on fear,
Still pining for him. Night brings woe with it,
*And if it bids it go, night but receives
Fresh trouble still. Yea! sons were born to us;30
And like a husbandman who tills the soil
Of distant field, and sees the crop but once,
Sowing and reaping, so is he to them;
Such course of life still sends my husband home,
And far from home, in servile labour bound
To one we know. And now when he has reached
The goal of all these labours, most of all
I sit and shudder. Since he smote the might
Of Iphitos, we here in Trachis dwell
Far from our land, and with a stranger host;
And where he is, none knows. But he has left40
In this his flight full bitter pangs for me,
And half I know he bears some weight of woe,
For no short time is passed, but ten long months
Added to five, and still no message comes.
And some sore woe comes on; for so it tells,
The tablet which he left us, and I pray
The Gods that gift may not bring woe to me.

Attend. My mistress, Deianeira, I have seen thee
Bewailing oft, with loud and bitter wails,50
The absence of thy Heracles; but now,
(If it be right with bond-slave's thoughts to school
Those that are free, and I must speak for thee),—
How comes it thou art rich in many sons,
Yet sendest none to track thy husband's steps?
Not even Hyllos, whom 'twere fit to send,
If he care aught about his father's fate,
To find it prospering. And lo! he comes,
Just at the moment, speeding by the house.
So, if I seem to give thee counsel good,
Thou may'st at once make use of him and it.60


Enter Hyllos.

Deian. My son, dear boy, good words of counsel fall
E'en from the meanest. Lo! this woman speaks,
Slave though she be, a free and noble speech.

Hyllos. What was it, mother? Tell me, if thou may'st.

Deian. That not to seek where now thy father dwells,
After such length of absence, brings thee shame.

Hyllos. Yet if one trust to rumours, I know well.

Deian. And where dost hear, my son, that he abides?

Hyllos. Long while, from seed-time unto seed-time round,
They say he served a Lydian lady's will.[3]70

Deian. Could he do that, one might hear anything.

Hyllos. But, so I hear, from this he has escaped.

Deian. Where now, or dead or living, tell they of him?

Hyllos. 'Tis said that he makes war, or plans to make,
On some Eubœan town of Eurytos'.

Deian. And dost thou know, my son, that he has left
With me true oracles of that same land?

Hyllos. What were they, mother? I know nought of them.

Deian. This, or that he shall find the end of life,
Or having this his task accomplished,80
Shall, through the coming years of all his life,
Rejoice and prosper. When the scales thus hang,
Wilt thou not go, my child, to give thy help,
*When either we a great deliverance gain,
*Or, if he perish, perish too with him?

Hyllos. Yes, I will go, my mother. Had I known
The utterance of these oracles, long since
I had been there. And, now that I have heard,
I will not fail in aught to learn the truth,90
The whole truth, of these matters. Yet the fate
Which waits upon my father gives no cause
For hasty dread and over-anxious care.

Deian. Go then, my son. To hear he prospers well,
Though one hear late, brings balance large of gain.

[Exit Hyllos.


Stroph. I.

Chor. Thee, whom the Night, star-spangled, bringeth forth,
Smitten and spoiled by thee,
Whom, in thy strength of fire,
She lulls to calmest couch,[4]
On thee I call, our sun-god, Helios,
Tell this, where now he dwells,
Alcmena's noble son, (Thou ever bright,
In sheen of glory clad;)
Or in the sea's deep glades,
Or taking rest in either continent?[5]100
Tell this, Ο Lord, whose eye
Sees with surpassing might.

Antistroph. I.

For, lo! I hear that Deianeira still,
Once wooed in many a strife,
Now like a wailing bird,
With sad and sore-vexed heart,
Can never lull to rest the strong desire
Of eyes undimmed with tears,
But ever nurses unforgetting dread
As to her husband's paths,
And wastes her life in anxious, widowed couch,110
Still looking, in her woe,
For doom of coming ill;

Stroph. II.

For as one sees, when North or South wind blows
In strength invincible,
Full many a wave upon the ocean wide,
Sweeping and rushing on,
So like a Cretan sea,
The stormy grief of life
Now bringeth low the son of Cadmos old,[6]
Now lifts him up again;
Yet some one of the Gods
Still keeps him from the house of Hades dark,120
As one who may not fail.

Antistroph. II.

Wherefore, half blaming thee, I speak my words,
Kindly, yet thwarting thee,
And say thou should'st not fret away good hope;
Not even He, who reigns in glory crowned,
The son of Cronos high,
Hath given to men a painless heritage,
*But still the whirling courses of the Bear
Bring grief and joy in turn.130

Epode.

For neither does the spangled night remain,
Nor the dark Fates, nor wealth, abide with men;
Quickly they leave this man, and pass to that,
Both joy, and loss of joy;
And this, I say that thou, our queen, should'st have
For ever in thy hopes.
For who hath known in Zeus forgetfulness
Of those He children calls?140

Deian. Thou comest, one may guess, as having learnt
My many woes: yet may'st thou never know,
(As now thou knowest not,) by suffering taught,
How I consume my soul. The tender plant
Grows in such climes where neither God's hot sun,
Nor storm, nor any blast may trouble it,
But in pure joy it lives its painless life,
Until that hour when maiden gains the name
Of wife, and gains her share of nightly grief,150
Or caring for her husband, or her babes.
Then might one see, by that experience taught,
How I am crushed with sorrows. Many a woe
Have I wept bitter tears for. Now of one
I'll tell thee, which I never knew before;
For when our king, our Heracles, went forth
From home for his last journey, then with me
He leaves a tablet, old, and written o'er
With special rules, which never until then
Had he the heart to tell me, though he went
On many a labour, but still started forth,
As one about to prosper, not to die.160
But now, like one as good as dead he told
What chattels I should take as marriage dower,
What shares of all their father's land he gave
In portions to his sons,[7] and fixed a time
That when for one whole year and three months more
He from this land was absent, then 'twas his,
Or in that self-same hour to die, or else,
Escaping that one crisis, thenceforth live
With life unvexed. Such things, he said, stood firm170
By doom of Gods, and thus the end would come
Of all the labours wrought by Heracles;
For so, he said, Dodona's[8] ancient oak
Had spoken by the voice of twin-born doves.
And of these things the unerring truth is come,
This very hour, as fate decreed it should;
And so, my friends, while sleeping sweetest sleep,
I start in fear and terror, lest I live
Bereaved of him, the noblest man of all.

Chor. Hush such ill-omened words; for, lo! I see
One coming crowned, as if for joyful news.


Enter Messenger, his head crowned with laurel.

Mess. My mistress, Deianeira, first of all180
That come as couriers, I will free thy soul
From every fear. Know then, Alcmena's son
Is living, and, victorious in the fight,
Brings his first-fruits unto his country's Gods.

Deian. What news is this, old man, thou bring'st to me?

Mess. That he, thy husband, praised of many men,
Will soon appear in strength of victory.

Deian. What townsman, or what stranger, told thee this?

Mess. In the wide meadow where the oxen graze,
Lichas the herald tells it to the crowd,
And I, thus hearing him, rushed forth at once,190
That I might be the first to tell it thee,
Gain some fair guerdon, and thy favour win.

Deian. If all goes well, why comes he not himself?

Mess. But little ease is there for him, Ο lady;
For all the Melian people stand around,
With eager quest, nor has he power to move,
For each one seeks to learn the uttermost,
And will not slack his craving till he hear
His heart's desire. Thus he, against his will,
With them, to meet their will, abides a while;
But thou shalt see him stand before thee soon.

Deian. Ο Zeus, who rulest Œta's unmown mead,[9]200
Though tardily, thou giv'st us fullest joy.
Shout, Ο ye maidens, shout, beneath the roof,
And ye beyond the courtyard, for we gain
From this report a light of rising dawn
We had not dared to hope for.

Chor. Let all within exult,
That wait their wedded joy,
With shouts on altar-hearth;
And with them let the stronger voice of men
Proclaim thy name, Apollo, guardian God,
Lord of the quiver bright,
And ye, Ο maidens. Pæan, Pæan raise;210
Shout out his Sister's name,
Ortygian[10] Artemis,
Who smites the fawn, torch-armed in either hand,
With all the neighbouring Nymphs.
I spring aloft, I can no more withstand
The flute's clear voice, Ο sovereign of my soul.
Behold, it stirs and works,
Evoi! Oh, Evoi!
The ivy-wreath that leads me back again
To hottest strife of Bacchic revelry.220
Io! Oh, Io!
Pæan! Oh, Pæan!
Look thou, dear lady, look;
Before thy face they come,
And thou may'st see them clear.


Enter Lichias, followed by Iole and a company of Captive Women.

Deian. I see it, Ο my friends, nor does it 'scape
Mine eye's keen watch that I should fail to note
This proud array. I welcome thee, Ο herald,
Though thou com'st late, if thou bring'st welcome news.

Lichas. Well are we come, and we are greeted well,
For what we gain in act. It needs must be230
That one who prospers should receive good words.

Deian. Ah! dearest friend, first tell me what I first
Desire to know. Comes Heracles alive?

Lichas. I, for my part, left him in strength of health,
Living and well, unsmitten of disease.

Deian. And where? At home, or on a foreign soil?

Lichas. There is a high Eubœan promontory
Where he now marks his altars' limits out,
His first-fruits offering to Kenæan Zeus.[11]

Deian. Fulfilling vows, or led by oracles?

Lichas. The vows he made when with his spear he sacked240
The city of these women whom thou see'st.

Deian. And these, in Heaven's name, who and whence are they?
Full sad, unless they cheat me with their grief.

Lichas. These, when he sacked the town of Eurytos,
He chose his own possession and the Gods'.

Deian. And was it against that city that he went,
That endless time of days innumerable?

Lichas. Not so. By far the longest time he spent
In Lydia; not, so says he, of free choice,
But sold as slave. Let not my tale, dear lady,250
Move thee to wrath, when Zeus himself appears
The doer of the deed. And he, being sold[12]
To Omphale, the alien, so he said,
Served one whole year. And thus, his soul being vexed
At this reproach, he vowed a bitter vow
That he would bring to bond-slave's low estate,
With wife and child, the man who caused this shame;
Nor did he speak in vain; but when his guilt
Was cleansed, he came, with army hired to help,
Against the town of Eurytos; for he,260
So said he, of all men that live, alone
Was guilty of that suffering, in that he,
When Heracles had come, in hearth and home
An old guest-friend, provoked his soul with words,
And many things spake out in baneful mood;
As this, that he, though having in his hands
His deadly darts, in skill of archery
Would fall below his children, and that he
*Wore out his life a slave instead of free;
And once at feast-time, staggering with the wine,
He cast him out. And then, in wrath for this,
When Iphitos to yon Tirynthian hill270
Came tracking out the course of wandering steeds,
With eyes that looked this way, and thoughts turned that,
He hurled him headlong from the tower-like crag.
And full of wrath for this thing that he did,
Olympian Zeus, the father of us all,
Sent him forth sold in bondage, spared him not,
Because he slew this man, alone of men,
With base deceit; for, had he come on him
In open fight, then Zeus had pardoned him
With justice conquering; for wanton wrong
Not even Gods can bear with. Those that waxed280
Too haughty in the pride of evil speech
Are dwellers now in Hades, all of them,
Their city captured. These thou look'st upon,
Falling from high estate to piteous life,
Now come to thee: for so thy husband charged,
And I, his faithful servant, do his will.
And as for him, when he pure sacrifice
Has offered unto Zeus, his fathers' God,
For that great capture, think of him as near;
Of all things spoken well the sweetest this.290

Chor. Now, Ο my queen, thou see'st thy joy full clear,
Part close at hand, part learning by report.

Deian. How can I but rejoice with all my heart,
Hearing my husband's high prosperity?
[Needs must that that should go along with this;]
And yet, for those who scan and look around,
Is cause to fear for one who prospers much,
Lest he too fail. Sad pity creeps on me,
My friends, when I behold these wretched ones
In a strange land as homeless, fatherless;300
And they who sprang, perchance, from free-born sires,
Now lead the life of bond-slaves. Grant, Ο Zeus,
Thou God averting evil, that I ne'er
May see Thee coming thus against my seed,
Nor, if Thou needs must work Thy will on them,
Fulfil it while I live. Such dread I feel
Beholding these. [To Iole.] Ο hapless one, what lot,
A maiden's, or a mother's, falls to thee?
Thy growth and form would say that thou had'st known
None of these things; and sure they witness too
That thou art nobly born. Come, Lichas, say
Whose daughter is this stranger? Who her mother,310
And who the father that begat her? Speak,
For more than all my whole heart pities her,
As, more than all, her soul is quick to feel.

Lichas. How should I know? Why ask'st thou me? Perchance
She springs from those not held in least repute.

Deian. Of royal race? The seed of Eurytos?

Lichas. I know not, for I did not question much.

Deian. Has none of her companions told her name?

Lichas. Not so. My work in silence I performed.

Deian. [To Iole.] Tell me, at least, Ο sad one, of thyself.320
['Tis sorrow not to know thee who thou art.]

Lichas. I trow that now she will not utter words,
True to her former self, that would not speak
Of matters small or great, but ever sad,
In travail sore with weight of bitter chance,
She weeps and weeps, since first she left her home,
Where all the winds sweep wildly. This her state
Is ill for her, and yet it calls for pity.

Deian. Let her then be, and go within the house,
Just as may please her best, nor let her have330
Fresh grief from me, as added unto those
She bears already. That which now she has
Is full enough. And now let all of us
Go to the house, that thou may'st hasten on
Where thou desirest, and that I may set
In meet array what calls for care within.

[Exeunt Lichas, Iole, and the other captives,
Deianeira following.

Mess. [Stopping Deianeira on her way out.] First
tarry here a little while and learn,
Apart from these, whom thou dost lead within,
And what thou hast not heard, may now learn well,
For I have got the whole truth of these things.

Deian. What means this? Wherefore dost thou stop me thus?

Mess. Stand thou, and list; for neither did'st thou hear340
A idle speech before, nor now, I trow.

Deian. Shall we, then, call those strangers back again?
Or wilt thou tell thy tale to me and these?

Mess. Nought hinders thee and these. Let those alone.

Deian. And they indeed are gone; so tell thy tale.

Mess. Of all he said this man not one word speaks
With truth and right, but either basest now,
Or else before, as falsest herald came.

Deian. What say'st thou? Tell me clearly what thou meanest;
I nothing know of all the things thou say'st.350

Mess. I, I myself heard this man say aloud—
Yes, before many hearers—that our lord,
For this girl's sake, did conquer Eurytos,
And captive take high-towered Œchalia;
That Love alone of all the Gods that are
Had charmed him to achieve this enterprise,
And not what passed in Lydia, nor his toil
In bondage unto Omphale, nor fate
Of Iphitos; and this man, thrusting back
All speech of Love, says just the contrary.
But when he could not win her father's will
To give his child to share clandestine bed,360
He, with some cause of quarrel furbished up,
Invades the country ruled by Eurytos,
And slays the king her father, and lays low
Her city; and, as thou beholdest now,
He brings her to this house (believe it, lady)
Not without purpose, no, nor as a slave;
Look not for that: it is not probable,
When he has been so hot in his desire.
So it seemed good to tell the truth to thee,
The whole truth as I heard it from this man;
And many heard it also, e'en as I,370
In all the throng of Trachis' market-place;
So thou may'st test the truth. And if I speak
Unwelcome news, I too am grieved indeed;
But at all costs I speak the right and true.

Deian. Oh! woe is me! What fate is come on me?
What mischief have I brought beneath my roof,
In secret lurking? Ah! and was she then
Without a name, as he who brought her swore?

Mess. Noble is she in beauty as in race,
The daughter of the house of Eurytos,380
And Iole her name, of whose descent
He nothing asked, forsooth, and nothing told.

Chor. A curse on all the wicked, most of all,
On him who loves ill deeds of secret guile.

Deian. What must I do, my friends? As one o'erwhelmed,
I stand perplexed by this report we hear.

Chor. Go, ask the man, for he, perchance, will speak
Clear answers, if thou question roundly with him.

Deian. And I will go; for wisely thou dost speak.

Mess. Shall we remain? Or what is right to do?390

Deian. Remain; for here the man approaches us,
Not summoned, but self-bidden, from the house.


Enter Lichas.

Lichas. What message hast thou, queen, for Heracles.
Tell me, for I, thou see'st, am on my way.

Deian. How quickly, having come with lingering time,
Thou startest, ere we can our talk renew.

Lichas. Here am I, if thou seek'st to question me.

Deian. And wilt thou give thy pledge of truthful speech?

Lichas. In all things I do know, so help me Zeus.

Deian. Who then is this, the maid thou bring'st to us?400

Lichas. Eubœan is she. What her birth I know not.

Mess. Ho, then! Look here. Dost know to whom thou speak'st?

Lichas. And thou, why ask'st thou question such as this?

Mess. Be bold, and speak, if thou my meaning see'st.

Lichas. I speak unto the queenly Deianeira,
Daughter of Œneus, wife of Heracles,
My mistress too, unless I see amiss.

Mess. 'Twas this I wished to learn from thee. Thou say'st
That she stands here, thy mistress?

Lichas. Rightly so.

Mess. Well, then, what forfeit wilt thou rightly pay,410
If thou be found as one doing wrong to her?

Lichas. "Doing wrong!" What cunning riddles, pray, are these?

Mess. None here, 'tis thou hast gone too far in that.

Lichas. I go: I was a fool to list so long.

Mess. Not so, before thou answerest one small word.

Lichas. Say what thou wilt. Thou art not taciturn.

Mess. That captive whom thou broughtest to this house,
Dost thou know her?

Lichas. E'en so. Why askest thou?

Mess. Did'st thou not say that she whom thou did'st bring,
*On whom thou look'st with such blank ignorance,
Was Iole, the child of Eurytos?420

Lichas. Among what men? Say, who and whence is he
Shall come and witness that he heard me say it?

Mess. Full many a townsman: In the market-place
Of Trachis all the crowd did hear thy speech.

Lichas. I said I heard it, but 'tis not the same
To speak one's guess, and vouch the matter true.

Mess. "One's guess!" And did'st not thou assert with oath
That thou did'st bring her, bride for Heracles?

Lichas. "His bride!" By all the Gods, my mistress dear,
Tell of this stranger, who and what he is.430

Mess. One who was by and heard thee, when thou said'st
How through desire for her the city fell,
And how 'twas not the Lydian dame, but love
For this fair maid that brought it to the dust.

Lichas. Bid the man go, dear lady. Thus to prate
With one of mind diseased is hardly sane.

Deian. Now, by great Zeus, who flashes forth his fire
On yon high glens of Œta, cheat me not,
I charge thee, of the truth. Thou dost not tell
Thy tale to wife of evil mood, nor one
Who does not know men's ways, and how their wont
Is not to love the same for evermore;440
And one who stands in combat against Love,
As athlete in close conflict, scarce is wise.
For he reigns high, supreme above the Gods,
And sways them as he will; (yea, sways my soul,
And why not then another's, like to me?)
So, should I blame my husband for his fate
In catching this disease, I should indeed
Have lost my reason; or if I should blame
This woman, guilty of no shameful deed,
Or wrong against me. No. It is not so;
But if, being taught by him, thou speakest false,
Then thou hast learnt a lesson far from good,450
And, if thou art self-taught in this deceit,
Then, when thou seek'st to play the part of good,
Thou shalt be seen as evil. Nay, but speak
The truth, the whole truth. No good fate is that,
When one free-born must bear the liar's name.
How can'st thou 'scape detection? There are many
To whom thou said'st it, who will tell it me;
And if thou fearest, thou dost ill to shrink,
For not to learn, that might indeed distress me;
But how can knowledge harm me? Has he not,
Our Heracles, of all the men that live,460
Wedded most wives, and yet not one of them
Has had from me or evil speech or taunt,
Nor will she have, though she in love for him
Should melt and pine; for lo! I pitied her
When first I saw her, for her beauty's sake;
For it, I knew, had wrecked her life's fond hope,
And she, poor soul, against her will, had wrought
The ruin of her fatherland, and brought
Its people into bondage. Let all this
Go to the winds. For thee I bid thee, I,
Be base to others, but to me be true.

Chor. Yes, hearken thou to her considerate speech,
And then in time to come thou shalt not blame470
This woman, and from me shalt favour win.

Lichas. Well, then, dear mistress, since I see that thou,
Being human, hast a human heart, and know'st
No stubborn purpose, I will tell thee all,
The whole truth, nought concealing. All is so
As this man tells thee. Strong desire for her
Did seize on Heracles, and so her land,
Œchalia, was laid waste by armed host,
And brought full low. And this (for I must tell
His doings also) he nor bade conceal
Nor yet denied, but I myself, dear lady,480
Fearing to grieve thy heart with these my words,
Did sin, if thou dost count it as a sin.
And now, since thou dost know the whole of things,
For his sake and for thine, full equally,
Treat the girl kindly, and those words of thine
Thou said'st of her, be firm and true to them,
For he, whose might prevails in all things else,
In all is conquered by his love for her.

Deian. We share thy thoughts, will do as thou hast said,490
And will not stir, by fighting with the Gods,
The ill now brought upon us. Let us go
Within the house, that thou may'st bear my message,
And gifts for gifts which it is meet to send,
That thou may'st take them, for it were not right
That thou who cam'st with such a company
Should go back empty. [Exeunt Deianeira, Lichas,
and Messenger.


Stroph.

Chor. Great is the conquering might
Which she of Kypros boasteth evermore.
I hasten by what touches on the Gods,
And will not even tell
How she beguiled the son of Kronos old,500
Or Hades of the dark,
Or him who shakes the earth, Poseidaôn;
But who for this fair bride,
As well-matched rivals came,
Before the marriage-feast?
Who fought in many a struggle sore and sharp,
Blows thickly falling, wrestlings in the dust?

Antistroph.

A mighty stream was one,
Dread form of monster bull, with lofty horn,
The torrent Acheloös, river-God,
Come from Œniadæ,[13]
And one from Thebes which Bacchos owns as his,510
Wielding his pliant bow,
His spear and club, the son of Zeus supreme.
So they in conflict met,
Urged on by hot desire;
And She, of Kypros queen,
Alone stood by, fair source of marriage joy,
Wielding her rod of umpire's sovereignty.

Epode.

Clash of hands and darts,
And, mingling with them both,
The din of horns, were there,
Limbs intertwined with limbs,
Fierce blows from butting head,520
And loud deep cries on either side were heard.
And she in beauty delicate and fair,
Sat still awaiting her appointed lord,
Where from the hill the prospect far was seen.
Such is the tale we tell,
*E'en as her mother saw;
And lo! the bride's fair face,
The prize of all the strife,
Still piteously abides,
And from her mother's care
She, like lorn heifer, strays.530


Enter Deianeira.

Deian. While, Ο my friends, the stranger speaks within,
To those poor captives, as about to start,
I come without to see you secretly,
In part to tell you what my hands devise,
In part to crave your pity for my wrongs.
This maiden I receive,—and yet I trow
No longer maid, but one already wed,—
As sailor who takes in a troublous freight,
So a bad bargain I receive in her,
Poor wage for all my love. And so we share,
We twain, th' embrace one coverlet conceals.
Such is the meed of all my care of home,
That Heracles, whom men call true and good,540
Hath sent to me for all my years of toil;
And I indeed have found it hard to feel
Fierce wrath against him, with this fell disease
Sore smitten as he is. But who could bear,
What woman's heart, with such a one to dwell,
And share one bed with her? Her bloom I see
Still coming on, and mine begins to wane;
*And well I know the eye is wont to seize
*That blossom fair, and turn the foot from age.
And so I fear lest Heracles be found
My lawful spouse, but husband fond and true550
Of her the younger. But, as I have said,
It is not good a wife of judgment sound
Should show her anger. Therefore, Ο my friends,
I tell you what I have as remedy
To set me free. A gift long since I had
From the old Kentaur stored in vase of bronze,
Which I, while yet a girl, from Nessos had,
As he, with swarth, rough mane, did bleed to death,
For he was wont to carry men for pay
Across Evenos' deep and torrent stream,
Nor plying oars, nor spreading sail of ship.560
And he, when first, as bride of Heracles,
I followed from my father's house sent forth,
Upon his shoulders bore me, and, mid-stream,
With rude hands touched me. And I shouted out;
And then the son of Zeus quick turned, and shot
A winged dart, which, whizzing through the breast,
Pierced to the lungs. And then the monster spake
In agony of death thus much: "Ο child
Of Œneus old, if thou wilt list to me,
Some profit of my ferryings thou shalt have,570
Since thee I bore the last. If thou wilt take
The clotted blood that oozes from my wound,
Where the Lernæan hydra, monster dread,
The darts in dark gall dipped, this, this shall be
Thy love-charm o'er the soul of Heracles,
That he shall never look on woman fair,
And love her more than thee." And I, dear friends,
Recalling this, (for, on his death, within
I kept it safely stored,) have dipped this robe,
And added all things that he bade me do,580
While yet he lived; and now 'tis fully done.
Base deeds of daring may I never know,
Nor learn that lesson; those that dare I hate.
But if by love-spells meant for Heracles,
We can in anywise this girl o'ercome,
The thing is planned and done, unless I seem
To you to work in vain; if so, I cease.

Chor. If there be ground for faith in what thou dost,
Thou seem'st to us not badly to have planned.

Deian. Thus stands my faith, I think it probable,590
While yet I have not made experiment.

Chor. But thou should'st know by act, for thinking only
Without a trial gives no certain proof.

Deian. Well, we shall know full soon, for lo! he stands
E'en now outside the door, and quickly comes;
Only keep ye my counsel. In the dark,
Though thou work shameful things, thou 'scapest shame.


Enter Lichas.

Lichas. Come, child of Œneus, tell me what to do;
For we long time have loitered in delay.

Deian. This very thing I have been doing, Lichas,600
While thou within did'st to those strangers speak,
That thou should'st take this stately-woven robe,
Gift to my husband from these hands of mine.
And when thou giv'st it say that none that lives,
Prior to him must wear it on his flesh,
Nor must the light of sunshine look on it,
Nor sacred shrine, nor flame of altar hearth,
Before he stands, conspicuous, showing it
On day of sacrifice, in sight of Gods.
For so I vowed, if I should see him safe610
At home, or hear his safety well assured,
To clothe him with this tunic, and send forth
*The glorious worshipper in glorious robe;
And thou shalt take a token of these things,
Which he, the seal beholding, will know well.
But go thy way, and first take heed to this,
Being but a courier, not to meddle much;
And next so act that from myself and him,
Our thanks from single may as twofold come.

Lichas. As true as I serve Hermes in my work,620
A trusty messenger, I will not fail
To take and give this package as it is,
And add good proof of all thy messages.

Deian. Now then start forth, for thou dost know right well
How things within our dwelling chance to stand.

Lichas. I know, and I will say that all is well.

Deian. And how the stranger maiden fares, thou know'st,
[Seeing that warm welcome I received her with.]

Lichas. So much so, that my heart leapt up for joy.

Deian. Why should'st thou tell aught else? for much I fear630
Lest thou should'st tell my longing love for him,
Before we know if he doth long for us.

[Exit Lichas; Deianeira withdraws
into her house
.

Stroph. I.

Chor. Ο ye that dwell along the harbour's shore,
Or by the rock's hot streams,[14]
And Œta's mountain slopes,
Or the mid Melian lake,
Or by Her shore who owns the golden darts,
Where the high courts of all the Hellenes meet,
From Pylæ named of old.

Antistroph. I.

Soon will the clear-voiced flute return to you640
With no unfitting strain.
But like a lyre with hymn
And song the Gods approve;[15]
For, lo! the hero whom Zeus owns as son,
Of fair Alcmena born, hastes home to us,
With trophies of high worth.

Stroph. II.

Him we, (for twelve long months,
Still waiting, knowing nought of all that passed,)
Counted as wanderer far upon the sea;
And she, his dear-loved wife,650
Weeping with many tears,
Full sadly wore her saddened heart away,
But Ares, roused to rage,
Hath freed us from our dark and troublous days.

Antistroph. II.

Ah may he come, yea, come!
Let not his ship of many oars lie to,
Before this city welcomes his approach;
Leaving the island hearth,
Where he his victims slays,
*Thence may he come, yea, come with strong desire,660
Tempered by suasive spell,
Of that rich unguent, as the Monster spake.


Enter Deianeira from the house.

Deian. Ah, women! how I fear lest all I did
But now be found as having gone too far.

Chor. What now, Ο child of Œneus, Deianeira?

Deian. I know not; but I tremble lest too soon
I seem with fair hopes to have wrought great ill.

Chor. Not from those gifts thou gav'st to Heracles?

Deian. Yes. It is that; and never more would I
Bid any yield to impulse hazardous.670

Chor. If thou may'st tell it, tell me what thou dread'st.

Deian. Thus much has happened, Ο my friends, most strange,
For you to hear, yea, passing all belief:
For that with which but now I did anoint
The stately snow-white robe, a lock of wool,
This is all gone, by nought within consumed,
But, self-devoured, it withers and decays,
And crumbles on the surface of the stone.
And that thou may'st the whole strange story know,
How this was done, I will unfold the tale;
For I, of all the monster Kentaur taught,680
(His side sore smitten with the bitter dart,)
No precept left undone, but kept them all,
Like writing on a tablet-book of bronze,
Which nothing may wash out. And this command
Was given, and this I did, to keep the charm
Medicinal, untouched by fire, or sun,
In sheltered closet, till the hour should come
To use the fresh-spread unguent. Thus I did;
And now the time to act was come, I spread it,
Within the house, in secret, with a lock
Of fleecy wool from off mine own sheep cut;690
And then I folded it, and placed it safe,
Untouched by sunlight, in a hollow chest,
The gift, as ye have seen. And now, within
Adventuring, I behold a marvel, strange
To tell, by human thought unfathomable;
For I, by chance, had flung the wisp of wool,
In full broad sunshine. Then as it grew hot
It melts away, and crumbles in the earth,
In look most like to saw-dust one may see
Where men work timber; so it fell and lay,700
And from the earth where it had lain, there oozed
Thick clots of foam, as when in vintage bright,
Rich must is poured upon the earth from vine
Sacred to Bacchos; and I know not now
Which way of thought to turn, but see too well
That I have done a deed most perilous.
What cause had he, the Kentaur, dying then,
To wish me well on whose account he died?
It cannot be. But seeking to destroy
The man that smote him, he beguiled my soul;
And I, too late, when knowledge nought avails,710
That knowledge gain. For, if my soul errs not,
I, I alone (ah me!) shall work his death;
For well I know the piercing dart sore vexed
E'en Cheiron, though a God,[16] and, where it smites,
Lays low in death all monsters. Can it be
That this black venom, oozing from his wounds,
With blood commingled, shall not slay him too?
So I at least must deem; yet deem I too
If he shall die, that I shall die with him720
By that same death-stroke; since for one to live
With evil fame who makes her chiefest boast
Not to be evil, that is hard to bear.

Chor. We needs must shrink at thought of dreadful deeds,
Yet should not count too soon on good or ill.

Deian. Not so, not so; in schemes that are not good
There is no hope to give one confidence.

Chor. And yet for those who sin not wilfully
Anger is softened; and that case is thine.

Deian. Such words one well might speak, who does not share
The ill, on whom no evil presses close.730


Enter Hyllos.

Chor. 'Twere well that thou should'st cease all further speech,
Unless thou sayest aught to this thy son;
For here he comes who went to seek his sire.

Hyllos. My mother, I could wish one thing of three—
Or that thou should'st no longer live; or else
Live, and be called my mother nevermore;
Or gain in some way better heart than now.

Deian. What is there, son, thus worthy of thy hate?

Hyllos. Know, of thy husband, whom I father call,
Thou art, this very day, the murderess.740

Deian. Ah me, my son! what word is this thou bring'st?

Hyllos. One which no power on earth can cancel now;
For who can make undone what once has been?

Deian. What say'st thou, Ο my son? By what man taught,
Say'st thou that I have done so base a deed?

Hyllos. I, with these eyes my father's piteous fate
Myself beholding, to no tales gave heed.

Deian. Where did'st thou meet him? Where stand by and see?

Hyllos. If thou must learn, 'tis well to tell thee all.
When he had sacked the town of Eurytos,
Renowned in story, and was on his way
With trophies and first-fruits of victory,750
There stands a high Eubœan promontory,
Keneian named, sea-washed on either side,
And there to Zeus, his father, he marks out
His altars, and the consecrated grove,
And there with eager welcome first I saw him;
And, when about to offer sacrifice
Of many victims, Lichas comes from home,
His home-reared herald, bearing in his arms
Thy gift, the fatal robe. And he, arrayed
In it, as thou did'st bid him, slaughtered there
Twelve oxen tall, the first-fruits of the spoil;760
But altogether, cattle great and small,
A hundred did he offer. First, poor wretch,
With soul serene, rejoicing to be decked
In that apparel, thus he made his prayers.
But, when the blood-fed flame from resinous pine
And from the holy things began to blaze,
There came a sweat upon his flesh, and lo!
As though fresh glued by some artificer,
The tunic folds around his every joint,
And through his bones there went convulsive starts;
And when the venom of the hateful snake770
Devoured his flesh, he called poor Lichas to him,
In nothing guilty of this crime of thine,
And asked with what device he brought the robe.
And he, poor wretch, nought knowing, said the gift
Was thine alone, as thou did'st bid him say.
And when he heard it, and a spasm of pain
Had seized his chest, he grasped him by the foot,
Just where the ancle hinges on its joint,
And hurled him on the rock, on either side
Washed by the waters; then from curling locks780
The white brain gushed, his skull being split in twain,[17]
With blood commingled. And a cry went up,
A cry of all the people, as they saw
So tortured one, and one so foully slain.
And no one dared to go and face the man,
For strange convulsions drew him, now to earth,
Now lifted up, with cries of agony,
And all the rocks re-echoed his complaints,
The Locrian headlands and Eubœan capes.
And, when his spirit failed, full oft he dashed
Himself upon the earth, full oft he groaned,790
Cursing his marriage that he made with thee,
That wedlock fraught with evils, and the ties
With Œneus made, how great a bane he found them
Wearing his life. And when from out the smoke
That clung around he turned his eye askance,
And saw me in the midst of all the host,
Weeping for grief, he gazed, and called on me.
"My son, come hither, turn not thou aside
From this my trouble, even though 'twere thine
To die as I am dying. But, I pray,
Bear me away; and chiefly, place me there
Where never mortal eye may look on me;800
Or from this land, at least, if pity move thee,
With all speed bear me, that I die not here."
And when he thus had charged me, in mid-ship
We placed him, and to this land steered our way,
He groaning in convulsions, and ere long
Or living or just dead wilt thou behold him.
Such deeds, my mother, 'gainst my father thou
Wast seen to have planned and acted, and on thee
May sternest Justice and Erinnyes swift
Inflict their vengeance, . . . if that prayer be right, . . .
And right it is, for thou the right hast scorned,810
Murdering the noblest man of all the earth,
Of whom thou ne'er shalt see the like again.

[Exit Deianeira, slowly, and despondingly.

Chor. [To Deianeira, as she goes.] Why creep'st thou
off in silence? Know'st thou not
That silence but admits the accuser's charge?

Hyllos. Let her creep off. Fair wind go with her now,
As she creeps on away from these mine eyes:
What need to vainly cherish vainest show
Of mother's name, where mother's acts are not?
No! Let her go, in God's name, and the joy
She gives my father, may it fall on her. 820[Exit.


Stroph. I.

Chor. See, Ο ye maidens fair,
How even now there comes upon our view
The word of augury,
Sprung from high foresight in the days of old,
Which said the earing-tide
Of the twelfth year should come in cycle full,[18]
And bring the son of Zeus a rest from toil;
And now, with prosperous breeze,
It speeds unto its end;
For how can he, who sees no more the light,
Still serve in tasks of toil?830

Antistroph. I.

For if the Kentaur's craft
Wraps him, resistless, in dark cloud of death,
While the thick venom melts,
Which death brought forth and spotted dragon fed,
How can he see the light
Of other day than this,
*Wasting away with hydra's fearful spell,
While, still in varied forms,
The subtly working pangs
Of him, the beast with rough and swarthy mane,840
Torture with fiercest heat?

Stroph. II.

And she, ill-starred one, seeing a great wrong
Rush with no lingering on her hearth and home,
From new-formed marriage ties
Gave but small heed to what had passed of old,
Nor what had come from stranger's counsel false,
With issues of dread doom.
Full sure she now bewails,
Full sure she weeps fresh dew of plenteous tears;
And Fate, in onward course,
Brings forth a subtle, great calamity.850

Antistroph. II.

It bursts full stream, the fountain of hot tears;
The plague (oh, heavens!) spreads over every limb,
The like of which from foes
Ne'er came to vex the far-famed son of Zeus.
Ah! the dark point of champion's foremost spear,
Which then bore off the bride,
Won by the right of war,
From high Œchalia's peaks! while dumbly working
She who o'er Kypros reigns,
Is seen the mighty doer of the whole.860

1st Maiden. Am I deceived, or do I hear indeed
The sound of wailing coming from the house?
What shall I say?

2d Maiden. No doubtful voice I hear,
But miserable, wailing cry within;
And, lo! our house is on the eve of change.


Enter Nurse.

3d Maiden. Look then on her who comes with tight-drawn brow,
Old and in sorrow, as with news to tell.870

Nurse. Oh, girls! No little evil has it caused,
That fatal gift she sent to Heracles.

Chor. Oh, full of years! What new deed tell'st thou of?

Nurse. Moving no step has Deianeira gone
The very last of all her ways on earth.

Chor. Thou dost not speak of death?

Nurse. My tale is told.

Chor. And is she dead?

Nurse. Again thou hearest it.

Chor. Poor doomed one, and how was it that she died?

Nurse. In way most piteous.

Chor. With what death, I pray?

Nurse. She slew herself.880

Chor. What madness or disease
With blow of deadly weapon slew her too?
And how, alone, none with her, did she thus
Add death to death?

Nurse. With stroke of ruthless blade.

Chor. And did'st thou see, Ο babbler, this foul deed?

Nurse. I saw it clear, as standing close at hand.

Chor. What was it ? Tell, I pray.890

Nurse. With her own hands
She did the deed.

Chor. What say'st thou?

Nurse. Things too clear.

Chor. Truly this new-found bride
Brings forth, brings forth to those who dwell with us
A great calamity.

Nurse. Too great indeed, and had'st thou stood and seen
What things she did thou would'st have pitied her.

[Chor. And could a woman's hand cause woe so great?

Nurse. 'Twas dreadful: but thy witness thou shalt bear,
Hearing my tale, that I have told the truth;]
For when she came alone within the house,900
And saw her son, within the palace courts,
A hollowed couch preparing, that he might
Go back to meet his father, she, concealed
Where none might see her, on the altar fell,
And wailed aloud that they were desolate,
And wept, poor wretch, still touching household things
Which use had made familiar. Wandering round,
Now here, now there, throughout her dwelling-place,
If she perchance some faithful servant saw,
The poor soul wept, as she did look on them,
Still calling out upon her evil fate,910
Her future lot of utter childlessness:
And when this ceased, I see her suddenly
Rush wildly to the bed of Heracles,
And I, close hidden, with a secret eye,
Watched her, and saw her lay the coverlet
Outspread upon the couch of Heracles;
And when this ended, leaping in, she sat,
Just in the very centre of the bed:
And weeping scalding tide of many tears,
Thus spake she: "Ah, my bridal bower, and bed,920
Henceforth, farewell; for never more shall ye
Receive me in this couch a slumberer."
And, saying this, with eager hand she loosed
Her robe, where golden buckle fastened it
Below her breast, and tore the garment off
From her left arm and bosom. And I ran
With all my strength to tell her son of this
That she was doing. While we went and came,
We saw that she had struck with two-edged blade930
Below the heart and bosom, and her son
Saw it, and groaned. For well he knew, poor wretch,
That he, in wrath, had driven her on to this,
Learning too late from those that are within
That she against her will had done the deed,
Led to it by the Kentaur. And her son,
In deepest woe, ceased not to pour lament,
Wailing her fate, nor yet to kiss her lips,
But, falling side by side, he lay and groaned,
That he had falsely brought a charge of guilt940
Against her, wailing that he now was left,
Of father and of mother both bereaved.
So stand things there; and if one dares to count
On two short days, or more, vain fool is he;
The morrow is as nought, till one has passed
The present day in fair prosperity. [Exit.


Stroph. I.

Chor. Which shall I wail for first?
Which sorrow goes furthest in woe?
Hard question is this to decide,
For me at least in my grief.

Antistroph. I.

One evil we see close at hand,950
And one we await in our fear:
And whether we see or await,
The sorrow is equal in both.

Stroph. II.

Would that some blast of the winds
Might rise with fair gale on our hearth,
And carry me far from these climes,
That I might not die in my fear,
At the sight of this strong son of Zeus.
For, lo! they say that he comes
To his home in pain none can heal,
A marvel of infinite woe.960

Antistroph. II.

Near, close at hand, not far off,
I wailed, as a nightingale sad;
Dread steps of strangers draw nigh.
And how do they bear him? They come,
As mourning a friend, with hushed tread;
Silently so is he borne.
Ah, must we deem him as dead,
Or has he fallen asleep?970


Enter Hyllos, Elder, and Others, bearing Heracles on a couch.

Hyllos. Ah me ! ah me, Ο my father!
Ah me, for thee in my woe!
What must I suffer, ah me!
What shall I counsel or plan?

Elder. Hush, my son! lest thou stir
Thy sore-vexed father's woe;
Still lives he, though he lies
Thus prostrate on his couch:
Hush! bite thy lips; be still.

Hyllos. How say'st thou? Doth he live?

Elder. Wake him not, plunged in sleep;
Move him not, lest thou rouse,
Ο boy, the dreaded scourge980
That drives him in frenzy of soul.

Hyllos. Yea; but on me, in my woe,
Presses a boundless grief;
Wildly my spirit swells.

Hera. [Waking.] Zeus! In what land am I?
On whose coasts lie, laid low
In anguish nought can soothe?
Ah! once more the dire pest
Gnaws the heart's inmost core.

Elder. [To Hyllos.] Did'st thou not know what gain
Lies in restraining speech,
Not driving sleep 'from his eyes?990

Hyllos. And yet, beholding this,
How could I hold my peace?

Hera. Ο thou Kenæan rock,
Where altars crown the height,
What thanks for what great gifts
Hast thou, Ο Zeus, wrought out
For me in my great woe!
What, ah! what great hurt
Hast thou appointed me!
Would that thou ne'er had'st met
These eyes of mine, to see
This crown of frenzy none have power to soothe!1000
What charmer, what skilled leech,
Less than great Zeus himself,
Will soothe this direst woe?
Far off is that wonder to see.
Ah! ah!
Leave me to sleep, yes, leave me, wretched one;
Leave me to sleep my sleep.
Where dost thou touch me? Where move?
Death thou wilt bring; yea, bring death.
What awhile knew repose
Now thou dost stir again;
It grasps me, creeping still.
Where are ye, of all men that live on the earth most ungrateful?1010
For whom I of old, in all forests and seas, slaying monsters,
Wore out my life; and now, when I lie sore smitten before you,
Not one of you all will bring the fire or the sword that will help me.
Ah me! will no one come,
And, smiting my head, put a stop
To this weary struggle of life?
Ah! woe is me! Woe is me!

Elder. Ο boy, that art this hero's son, the task
Goes far beyond my strength. Do thou take part;
Thy hand is stronger far than mine to save.

Hyllos. I lay my hand upon him, but to grant1020
A life that shall forget its toil and pain,
This neither from mine own nor others' help
Is mine to work. Zeus only giveth that.

Hera. Ah, boy! Where art thou, boy?
Lift me a little. This way, this way prop.
Ah! Ο ye Heavens!
Again it seizes, seizes in dread strength,
To the grave bringing low,
The fierce disease no healing skill may reach.1030
Ο Pallas! Pallas! yet again it stings.
Have pity, my son, on thy father; strike with a sword none will blame;
Strike me under the neck, and heal the pain which she wrought,
Thy mother, godless in guilt. Ah, may I see her brought low,
Slain, yea, as thus she slays!
Ο Hades, kind and sweet,1040
Twin-born brother of Zeus,
Lull me, lull me to sleep,
With fate that brooks no delay,
Smiting the man worn with woe.

Chor. I shudder, as I hear, my friends, the griefs
With which our king, being what he is, is vexed.

Hera. Ah me! full many labours hard to tell,
Many and fierce, with hand and strength of back
Have I wrought out. And ne'er the wife of Zeus
Such task assigned, nor yet Eurystheus harsh,
As did that child of Œneus, steeped in guile,1050
Casting around my shoulders such a net,
Erinnys-woven, that has wrought my death;
For, cleaving to my side, it eats within,
Consuming all my flesh, and from my lungs,
Still winding in, it drains my arteries,
Drinks the warm blood, and I am done to death,
My whole frame bound with this unheard of chain;
And never yet did host on battle-plain,
Nor earth-born troop of Giants, nor the might
Of savage beasts, nor Hellas, nor the land
Of men that speak not,[19] nor the regions vast1060
I traversed clearing, work a deed like this:
But she, a woman, woman-like in mind,
Not of man's strength, alone, without a sword,
She has destroyed me; and do thou, my son,
Prove thyself truly mine, and honour not
Thy mother's name henceforward more than mine;
But thou thyself with thine own hands from home
To my hands bring her, that I thus may know
If thou dost mourn my sorrow more than hers,
When thou shalt see her body maimed and shamed
In righteous judgment. Come, my son, be bold,
And pity me, in all ways pitiable,1070
Who, like a girl must weep and shriek in pain;
And yet there lives not one who, ere it came,
Could say that he had seen this man thus act,
But ever I bore pain without a groan;
Yet now with this I grow a woman weak.
And now, come thou, and near thy father stand,
And see by what strange chance I suffer this;
For I will show what lies below these wraps:
Come, all of you, behold this wretched frame,
Behold me, how I suffer piteously.1080
Ah, miserable me!
Again the dart of pain is fever-hot,
And rushes through my breast. This cursed ill,
So seems it, will not leave me unassailed,
Still eating on. Ο Hades, king, receive me;
Smite me, Ο flash of Zeus; yea, shake, Ο king,
Yea, father, dart thy thunderbolts on me;
For now once more it eats, it grows, it spreads.
Ο hands, my hands! Ο back, and chest, and arms1090
That once were dear, there lie ye now who once
Subdued by force the Nemean habitant.
The lion, troubler of the flocks and herds,
A monster none might war with or approach;
And that Lernæan hydra, and the host
Of Kentaurs, all of double form, half-horse,
Fearful, and fierce, and lawless, strong and proud,
The beast of Erymanthos, and the dog
Of deepest Hades, with the triple head,
A portent awful; and the dreaded shape
Of that fierce serpent, and the dragon guard
That at the world's end watched the golden fruit;1100
And thousand other toils I tasted of,
And no man raised his trophies over me;
But now thus jointless, worn to rags and shreds,
By plague obscure I waste away in woe,
Who from a noble mother took my name,
Reputed son of Zeus the star-girt king:
But know this well, that though I be as nought,
As nothing creep, yet, even as I am,
I will smite her who brought me to this pass.
Let her but come that she may learn, and tell1110
That I, or dead or living, punished guilt.

Chor. Oh, wretched Hellas! what a weight of woe
Do I foresee if it shall lose this man!

Hyllos. Since thou, my father, lett'st me answer thee,
By this thy silence, hear in spite of pain,
For I will ask what 'tis but right to grant.
Give me thyself, not such as when thy wrath
Stings thee to frenzy; else thou shalt not know
In what thou wrongly seekest to rejoice,
In what thou wrongly grievest.

Hera. Say thy say,
And hold thy peace. I nothing understand,1120
In this my pain, of all thy glozing speech.

Hyllos. I come to tell thee of my mother's plight,
And how she sinned, yet most unwillingly.

Hera. Vilest of all the vile, and hast thou dared
To speak of her, thy murd'ress mother, to me?

Hyllos. So stands the case that silence would be wrong.

Hera. True, it were wrong, with all those sins of hers.

Hyllos. Thou wilt not speak thus of this day's offence.

Hera. Speak; but look to it, lest thou too prove base.

Hyllos. I speak, then. She is dead, but now laid low.1130

Hera. By whom? Strange portent tell'st thou with ill words.

Hyllos. By her own hand: no other struck the blow.

Hera. Ah me! Ere I could slay her as was meet?

Hyllos. Even thy wrath would melt, did'st thou know all.

Hera. Dread is thy preface, yet tell out thy tale.

Hyllos. In one short word, she sinned, desiring good.

Hera. Did she do good, thou vile one, slaying me?

Hyllos. Thinking to send a charm to win thy love,
When she thy new bride saw, she missed her aim.

Hera. And what Trachinian boasts such skill in charms?1140

Hyllos. Nessos, of old, the Kentaur, counselled her
With such a spell to kindle thy desire.

Hera. Ah me! ah me! I die in wretchedness;
I perish, perish: light is gone from me.
Woe! woe! I see what issue we have reached.
Come, Ο my child; thy father is no more:
Call thou all those that name thee brother here,
And call the poor Alcmena (all in vain
The bride of Zeus) that ye may hear, and learn
The last of all the oracles I know.1150

Hyllos. Thy mother is not here, for so it chanced,
She dwelleth now on Tiryns' further shore;
And of thy children some she rears with her,
And some, know thou, dwell under Theban towers.
But we, my father, that are present here,
Will hear and do whatever thou shalt bid.

Hera. Hear then what presses. Thou hast reached an age
When thou must show what mould of man thou art,
That thou art called my son. For, lo! to me
Long since it was revealèd of my Sire
That I should die by hand of none that live,1160
But one, who dead, had dwelt in Hades dark;
And thus the Kentaur-monster, as was shown,
Though dead, hath slain me who till now did live;
And I will show to thee new prophecies,
Following on these, agreeing with the old,
Which I, within the grove the Selli own,[20]
Who haunt the hills, and sleep upon the earth,
Wrote down from that tall oak of many tongues,
To Zeus, my father, sacred. And it said
That in the time that liveth, and now is,
Should come the end of labours. And I thought1170
That all would prosper; yet it meant nought else
Than this my death, for unto those that die
No labour comes. And now since this has come,
Most clearly, Ο my son, 'tis meet for thee
To come as helper to this sufferer here,
And not by lingering make my speech more sharp,
But yielding, working with me, finding thus
Thy noblest law, thy father to obey.

Hyllos. I dread, my father, bandying words with thee,
And will obey in all thou thinkest right.1180

Hera. Give me thy right hand then as surest pledge.

Hyllos. To what end turnest thou an oath so dread?

Hera. Wilt thou not give it, and obey my voice?

Hyllos. Lo, then, I give it, and will gainsay nought.

Hera. Swear by the head of Zeus who gave me life.

Hyllos. Swear to do what? Shall that be told me too?

Hera. That thou wilt do the work I set on thee.

Hyllos. So swear I, calling Zeus to bind the oath.

Hera. Pray thou that thou may'st suffer if thou fail.

Hyllos. I shall not suffer, for I'll act; yet still,
I pray as thou dost bid me.1190

Hera. Thou dost know
The topmost peak of Œta, claimed by Zeus?

Hyllos. Right well, for there I oft have sacrificed.

Hera. There thou must bear my body, thou thyself,
With friends whom thou may'st wish for, and must pluck
Full many a branch of deeply-rooted oak,
And many a male wild olive,[21] and on them
Place this my body, and then, taking fire
Of pine-wood torch, must burn it. Let no tear
Of wailing enter in, but do thy deed,
If thou art mine, without or tear or groan;1200
Or else, though I be in the grave, my curse
Shall rest upon thee, grievous evermore.

Hyllos. What say'st thou, Ο my father? Woe is me,
That thou hast thus dealt with me!

Hera. I have said
What thou must do, or nevermore be called
My son, but seek another father for thee.

Hyllos. Ah me! once more. And dost thou bid me, father,
To be thy slayer and thy murderer?

Hera. Not so bid I; but of the ills I bear,
To be the one great healer, strong to save.

Hyllos. And how can I work health by burning thee?1210

Hera. If this thou fearest, do at least the rest.

Hyllos. I shall not grudge to bear thy body there.

Hera. And wilt thou heap the pyre I bade thee heap?

Hyllos. All but the touching it with these my hands:
In all things else my labour shall not fail.

Hera. That, then, shall be enough. But add for me
One little favour to these greater ones.

Hyllos. Though it be very great, it shall be done.

Hera. Thou knowest that maiden, child of Eurytos?

Hyllos. Thou speakest, so I guess, of Iole?1220

Hera. E'en so. And this I charge thee, Ο my son,
When I am dead, if thou wilt reverence show,
Be mindful of the oath thou now hast sworn,
And take her as thy wife.[22] Rebel thou not;
Nor let another take, instead of thee,
One who has clung so closely to my side;
But thou thyself, my son, make her thy wife.
Obey me, for to trust in greater things,
And then, in small, distrust, this cancels quite
The former boon.

Hyllos. [Aside.] Ah me! To vent one's wrath
On one so vexed is wrong. Yet who can bear1230
To see him in this mood?

Hera. Thou speakest then
As meaning not to do the things I say.

Hyllos. Nay, who could choose a wife who guilty stands,
She, and she only, of my mother's death,
And that thou, father, art as now thou art?
Who could do this, unless the fiends had laid
The spell of madness on him? Better 'twere
For me to die, my father, than to live
With worst foes dwelling.

Hera. This boy, it seems, denies
What I in death have asked for. But a curse
From God awaits thee, if thou disobey.1240

Hyllos. Too soon, 'twould seem, thou 'lt shew how wild thou art.

Hera. Yes; thou hast roused me when the ill was lulled.

Hyllos. Woe's me! I stand as one in much perplexed.

Hera. Yes, for thou dar'st thy father disobey.

Hyllos. But must I learn, my father, godless deeds?

Hera. No godless deed, if so thou glad my heart.

Hyllos. And dost thou bid me do it in full earnest?

Hera. Yea, even so; I call the Gods to witness.

Hyllos. Then will I do, as in the sight of God,
What thou dost ask, and will refuse no more;
I shall not shew as base, obeying thee.1250

Hera. Thou endest well; and add, my son, this boon,
And quickly, ere some fresh convulsive throb
Or dart of pain comes on me, place me there,
Upon the pyre. Come quick, and lift me up.
This is his rest who lies before you here,
His last, last end.

Hyllos. Nay, nothing hinders now
Our doing this, since thou, my father, bidd'st,
And so constrainest us to do thy will.

Hera. Come then, ere once again
The evil stirs in its might.
Come, heart strong to restrain,
Putting a curb on thy lips,
Wrought of the steel and the stone.1260
Cease from thy wailing, as one
About to accomplish a task
Unwelcome, yet fruitful in joy.
Farewell, friends, faithful and true,
*Grant me your pardon for this;
*But the Gods . . . oh pardon them not,
*For the deeds that are ever being done,
Who, being and bearing the name
Of Fathers, look on such wrong.

Chor. What cometh no man may know,1270
What is is piteous for us,
Base and shameful for Them,
And for him who endureth this woe,
Above all that live hard to bear.

Hyllos. [To Chorus.] And thou, Ο maiden, within,
Fail not in aught that is right,
Seeing great and terrible deaths,
Many and strange forms of woe,
And nothing which Zeus works not.



  1. The proverb itself, like most maxims of the same kind, came to be associated with a conspicuous name, and appears in Herodotos as the great lesson which Solon tried to impress on the mind of Crœsos.
  2. It may be worth while to note the analogies which suggested the symbolic forms. In the strength of the river, and the sound of its many waters, men found what reminded them of the bull. As they saw its windings through the plain, it seemed like a great serpent. The figure of the human form, with the head of an ox, embodied the feeling that the river seemed to wind "at its own sweet will."
  3. The characteristic effeminacy of the Lydian men made bondage to a Lydian woman the extremest degradation.
  4. The words embody the old mythos that the sun each night lay down to rest in a winged boat in the far West, and that the boat bore him over the great ocean till he appeared once again in the East.
  5. In the earliest Greek geography the earth was divided into two continents only, Africa—of which but little was known—being grouped now with Europe and now with Asia.
  6. Heracles, as being of Thebes, is described as the son of the mythical founder of the city.
  7. The division connects itself with the mythos of the return of the Heracleidæ to claim the whole Peloponnesos as their inheritance.
  8. The oracles at Dodona, given by the Pelasgic Zeus in the land of the Thesprotians, were uttered from a grove of oaks. At first the Selli were the interpreters, then three aged priestesses. Then grew up the mythos (rising partly from a play on words) that two doves had flown from Egyptian Thebes, and that one of them flew to the oracle at Dodona, the other to that of Ammon in the Libyan oasis.
  9. Meadows consecrated to the Gods were never ploughed or mown.
  10. The epithet was, in the first instance, applied to Artemis in her temple at Chalkis in Ætolia.
  11. The promontory itself was named Kenæon, and there men pointed to the temple of Zeus at the summit, and the tomb of Lichas. What is described is not merely the act of sacrifice, but the consecration of the ground for ever, as the fruits of his conquest of the lands.
  12. The mythos ran that Zeus, wroth at the murder of Iphitos, sent Hermes to sell Heracles to Omphale.
  13. Œniadæ, at the mouth of the Acheloös in Acarnania.
  14. The rock's hot streams are those between the mountains and the coast which gave a name to the narrow pass of Thermopylæ. The Melian lake is strictly a gulf. The goddess of the golden darts is Artemis, the guardian of all the havens of Thessaly. The "high courts of the Hellenes" are the Amphictyonic assemblies that held their sessions near Thermopylæ.
  15. Ordinarily the "flute" was the accompaniment of wild ecstatic songs and dances. "Now," the Chorus says, "it shall be subdued into a calm, serene music like that of the lyre at festivals of the Gods."
  16. The legend ran that when the Kentaurs took refuge in Cheiron's cave on Pelion, Heracles, who was pursuing them, wounded Cheiron in the knee, and he, being a God, could neither be healed nor die, till Zeus gave to him to descend to Hades in lieu of Prometheus.
  17. Popular tradition in the time of Æschylos, (p. 29,) pointed to a rock in the Eubœan gulf as the grave of Lichas. Later legends found a human form in the rock, and told that the victim had been transformed into the rock, Ovid, Metap., ix. 226.)
  18. Deianeira had dwelt on the oracle which promised a great change after an absence of fifteen months. The Chorus looks back to an earlier prediction given twelve years before.
  19. The "land of men that speak not" is simply that of the non-Hellenic races, whose speech seemed to the Greeks inarticulate as the chirping of choughs or swallows.
  20. The Selli are described by Homer (Il. xvi. 233) as hermit-prophets, dwelling around the Pelasgic shrine of Dodona, and interpreting the oracles which came from the sacred oak.
  21. Oak, because it was from that tree at Dodona that the prediction of his death had come; wild olive, because that was sacred to Heracles, as having been brought by him from the land of the Hyperboreans, (Pind. Ol. iv. 13.)
  22. Revolting as this element in the drama is to our feelings, the thought which seems to underlie it is, that the coming apotheosis of Heracles removed him from the normal conditions of human life, and cancelled the relationship which, even to the Greek mind, would have made such a union horrible.