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THE TRACHINIAE by Sophocles, Part 06


Ask what thou wilt; thou art not taciturn.

That captive, whom thou hast brought home- thou knowest whom mean?

Yes; but why dost thou ask?

Well, saidst thou not that thy prisoner- she, on whom thy gaze now turns so vacantly- was Iole, daughter of Eurytus?

Said it to whom? Who and where is the man that will be thy witness to hearing this from me?

To many of our own folk thou saidst it: in the public gathering of Trachinians, a great crowd heard thus much from thee.

Ay- said they heard-but 'tis one thing to report a fancy, and another to make the story good.

A fancy! Didst thou not say on thine oath that thou wast bringing her us a bride for Heracles?

I? bringing a bride?- In the name of the gods, dear mistress, tell me who this stranger may be?

One who heard from thine own lips that the conquest of the whole city was due to love for this girl: the Lydian woman was not its destroyer, but the passion which this maid has kindled.

Lady, let this fellow withdraw: to prate with the brainsick befits not sane man.

Nay, I implore thee by Zeus whose lightnings go forth over the high glens of Oeta, do not cheat me of the truth! For she to whom thou wilt speak is not ungenerous, nor hath she yet to learn that the human heart is inconstant to its joys. They are not wise, then, who stand forth to buffet against Love; for Love rules the gods as he will, and me; and why not another woman, such as I am? So I am mad indeed, if I blame my husband, because that distemper hath seized him; or this woman, his partner in a thing which is no shame to them, and no wrong to me. Impossible! No; if he taught thee to speak falsely, 'tis not a noble lesson that thou art learning; or if thou art thine own teacher in this, thou wilt be found cruel when it is thy wish to prove kind. Nay, tell me the whole truth. To a free-born man, the name of liar cleaves as a deadly brand. If thy hope is to escape detection, that, too, is vain; there are many to whom thou hast spoken, who will tell me.

And if thou art afraid, thy fear is mistaken. Not to learn the truth,-that, indeed, would pain me; but to know it- what is there terrible in that? Hath not Heracles wedded others ere now,- ay, more than living man,- and no one of them hath bad harsh word or taunt from me; nor shall this girl, though her whole being should be absorbed in her passion; for indeed I felt a profound pity when I beheld her, because her beauty hath wrecked her life, and she, hapless one, all innocent, hath brought her fatherland to ruin and to bondage.

Well, those things must go with wind and stream.- To thee I say,-deceive whom thou wilt, but ever speak the truth to me.

Hearken to her good counsel, and hereafter thou shalt have no cause to complain of this lady; our thanks, too, will be thine.

Nay, then, dear mistress,- since I see that thou thinkest as mortals should think, and canst allow for weakness,- I will tell thee the whole truth, and hide it not. Yes, it is even as yon man saith. This girl inspired that overmastering love which long ago smote through the soul of Heracles; for this girl's sake the desolate Oechalia, her home, was made the prey of his spear. And he,- it is just to him to say so,- never denied this,- never told me to conceal it. But I, lady, fearing to wound thy heart by such tidings, have sinned, if thou count this in any sort a sin.

Now, however, that thou knowest the whole story, for both your sakes,- for his, and not less for thine own,- bear with the woman, and be content that the words which thou hast spoken regarding her should bind thee still. For he, whose strength is victorious in all else, hath been utterly vanquished by his passion for this girl.

Indeed, mine own thoughts move me to act thus. Trust me, I will not add a new affliction to my burdens by waging a fruitless fight against the gods.

But let us go into the house, that thou mayest receive my messages; and, since gifts should be meetly recompensed with gifts,- that thou mayest take these also. It is not right that thou shouldest go back with empty hands, after coming with such a goodly train.
Exit MESSENGER, as LICHAS and DEIANEIRA go into the house.

CHORUS singing

Great and mighty is the victory which the Cyprian queen ever bears away. I stay not now to speak of the gods; I spare to tell how she beguiled the son of Cronus, and Hades, the lord of darkness, or Poseidon, shaker of the earth.

But, when this bride was to be won, who were the valiant rivals that entered the contest for her hand? Who went forth to the ordeal of battle, to the fierce blows and the blinding dust?


One was a mighty river-god, the dread form of a horned and four-legged bull, Achelous, from Oeniadae: the other came from Thebe, dear to Bacchus, with curved bow, and spears, and brandished club, the son of Zeus: who then met in combat, fain to win a bride: and the Cyprian goddess of nuptial joy was there with them, sole umpire of their strife.


Then was there clatter of fists and clang of bow, and the noise of bull's horns therewith; then were there close-locked grapplings, and deadly blows from the forehead, and loud deep cries from both.

Meanwhile, she, in her delicate beauty, sat on the side of a hill that could be seen afar, awaiting the husband that should be hers.

So the battle rages, as I have told; but the fair bride who is the prize of the strife abides the end in piteous anguish. And suddenly she is parted from her mother, as when a heifer is taken from its dam.
DEIANEIRA enters from the house alone, carrying in her arms a casket containing a robe.


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