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Pages of Medea

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Before MEDEA's house in Corinth, near the palace Of CREON. The NURSE
enters from the house.

NURSE Ah! Would to Heaven the good ship Argo ne'er had sped its
course to the Colchian land through the misty blue Symplegades, nor
ever in the glens of Pelion the pine been felled to furnish with oars
the chieftain's hands, who went to fetch the golden fleece for Pelias;
for then would my own mistress Medea never have sailed to the turrets
of Iolcos, her soul with love for Jason smitten, nor would she have
beguiled the daughters of Pelias to slay their father and come to
live here in the land of Corinth with her husband and children, where
her exile found favour with the citizens to whose land she had come,
and in all things of her own accord was she at one with Jason, the
greatest safeguard this when wife and husband do agree; but now their
love is all turned to hate, and tenderest ties are weak. For Jason
hath betrayed his own children and my mistress dear for the love of
a royal bride, for he hath wedded the daughter of Creon, lord of this
land. While Medea, his hapless wife, thus scorned, appeals to the
oaths he swore, recalls the strong pledge his right hand gave, and
bids heaven be witness what requital she is finding from Jason. And
here she lies fasting, yielding her body to her grief, wasting away
in tears ever since she learnt that she was wronged by her husband,
never lifting her eye nor raising her face from off the ground; and
she lends as deaf an ear to her friend's warning as if she were a
rock or ocean billow, save when she turns her snow-white neck aside
and softly to herself bemoans her father dear, her country and her
home, which she gave up to come hither with the man who now holds
her in dishonour. She, poor lady, hath by sad experience learnt how
good a thing it is never to quit one's native land. And she hates
her children now and feels no joy at seeing them; I fear she may contrive
some untoward scheme; for her mood is dangerous nor will she brook
her cruel treatment; full well I know her, and I much do dread that
she will plunge the keen sword through their hearts, stealing without
a word into the chamber where their marriage couch is spread, or else
that she will slay the prince and bridegroom too, and so find some
calamity still more grievous than the present; for dreadful is her
wrath; verily the man that doth incur her hate will have no easy task
to raise o'er her a song of triumph. Lo! where her sons come hither
from their childish sports; little they reck of their mother's woes,
for the soul of the young is no friend to sorrow. (The ATTENDANT
leads in MEDEA'S children.)

ATTENDANT Why dost thou, so long my lady's own handmaid, stand here
at the gate alone, loudly lamenting to thyself the piteous tale? how
comes it that Medea will have thee leave her to herself?
NURSE Old man, attendant on the sons of Jason, our masters' fortunes
when they go awry make good slaves grieve and touch their hearts.
Oh! have come to such a pitch of grief that there stole a yearning
wish upon me to come forth hither and proclaim to heaven and earth
my mistress's hard fate.
ATTENDANT What! has not the poor lady ceased yet from her lamentation?
NURSE Would I were as thou art! the mischief is but now beginning;
it has not reached its climax yet.
ATTENDANT O foolish one, if I may call my mistress such a name; how
little she recks of evils yet more recent!
NURSE What mean'st, old man? grudge not to tell me.
ATTENDANT 'Tis naught; I do repent me even of the words I have spoken.
NURSE Nay, by thy beard I conjure thee, hide it not from thy fellow-slave;
will be silent, if need be, on that text.
ATTENDANT I heard one say, pretending not to listen as I approached
the place where our greybeards sit playing draughts near Pirene's
sacred spring, that Creon, the ruler of this land, is bent on driving
these children and their mother from the boundaries of Corinth; but
I know not whether the news is to be relied upon, and would fain it
were not.

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