THE TRACHINIAE by Sophocles, Part 11
By the stroke of the sword that makes sorrow.
Sawest thou that violent deed, poor helpless one?
I saw it; yea, I was standing near.
Whence came it? How was it done? Oh, speak
'Twas the work of her own mind and her own hand.
What dost thou tell us?
The sure truth.
The first-born, the first-born of that new bride is a dread Erinys for this house!
Too true; and, hadst thou been an eye-witness of the action, verily thy pity would have been yet deeper.
And could a woman's hand dare to do such deeds?
Yea, with dread daring; thou shalt hear, and then thou wilt bear me witness.
When she came alone into the house, and saw her son preparing a deep litter in the court, that he might go back with it to meet his sire, then she hid herself where none might see; and, falling before the altars, she wailed aloud that they were left desolate; and, when she touched any-household thing that she had been wont to use, poor lady, in the past, her tears would flow; or when, roaming hither and thither through the house, she beheld the form of any well-loved servant, she wept, hapless one, at that sight, crying aloud upon her own fate, and that of the household which would thenceforth be in the power of others.
But when she ceased from this, suddenly I beheld her rush into the chamber of Heracles. From a secret place of espial, I watched her; and saw her spreading coverings on the couch of her lord. When she had done this, she sprang thereon, and sat in the middle of the bed; her tears burst forth in burning streams, and thus she spake: 'Ah, bridal bed and bridal chamber mine, farewell now and for ever; never more shall ye receive me to rest upon this couch.' She said no more, but with a vehement hand loosed her robe, where the gold-wrought brooch lay above her breast, baring all her left side and arm. Then I ran with all my strength, and warned her son of her intent. But lo, in the space between my going and our return, she had driven a two-edged sword through her side to the heart.
At that sight, her son uttered a great cry; for he knew, alas, that in his anger he had driven her to that deed; and he had learned, too late, from the servants in the house that she had acted without knowledge, by the prompting of the Centaur. And now the youth, in his misery, bewailed her with all passionate lament; he knelt, and showered kisses on her lips; he threw himself at her side upon the ground, bitterly crying that he had rashly smitten her with a slander,- weeping that he must now live bereaved of both alike,- of mother and of sire.
Such are the fortunes of this house. Rash indeed, is he who reckons on the morrow, or haply on days beyond it; for to-morrow is not, until to-day is safely past.
strophe 1 Enter HYLLUS and an OLD MAN, with attendants,bearing Heracles upon a litter.
Which woe shall I bewail first, which misery is the greater? Alas, 'tis hard for me to tell.
One sorrow may be seen in the house; for one we wait with foreboding: and suspense hath a kinship with pain.
Oh that some strong breeze might come with wafting power unto our hearth, to bear me far from this land, lest I die of terror, when look but once upon the mighty son of Zeus!
For they say that he is approaching the house in torments from which there is no deliverance, a wonder of unutterable woe.
Ah, it was not far off, but close to us, that woe of which my lament gave warning, like the nightingale's piercing note!
Men of an alien race are coming yonder. And how, then, are they bringing him? In sorrow, as for some loved one, they move on their mournful, noiseless march.
Alas, he is brought in silence! What are we to think; that he is dead, or sleeping?
Woe is me for thee, my father, woe is me for thee, wretched that I am! Whither shall I turn? What can I do? Ah me!
OLD MAN whispering
Hush, my son! Rouse not the cruel pain that infuriates thy sire! He lives, though prostrated. Oh, put a stern restraint upon thy lips!