confounded Jason's house I will leave the land, escaping punishment
for my dear children's murder, after my most unholy deed. For I cannot
endure the taunts of enemies, kind friends; enough! what gain is life
to me? I have no country, home, or refuge left. O, I did wrong, that
hour I left my father's home, persuaded by that Hellene's words, who
now shall pay the penalty, so help me God, Never shall he see again
alive the children I bore to him, nor from his new bride shall he
beget issue, for she must die a hideous death, slain by my drugs.
Let no one deem me a poor weak woman who sits with folded hands, but
of another mould, dangerous to foes and well-disposed to friends;
for they win the fairest fame who live then, life like me.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Since thou hast imparted this design to me,
I bid thee hold thy hand, both from a wish to serve thee and because
I would uphold the laws men make.
MEDEA It cannot but be so; thy words I pardon since thou art not
in the same sorry plight that I am.
LEADER O lady, wilt thou steel thyself to slay thy children twain?
MEDEA I will, for that will stab my husband to the heart.
LEADER It may, but thou wilt be the saddest wife alive.
MEDEA No matter; wasted is every word that comes 'twixt now and then.
Ho! (The NURSE enters in answer to her call.) Thou, go call me Jason
hither, for thee I do employ on every mission of trust. No word divulge
of all my purpose, as thou art to thy mistress loyal and likewise
of my sex. (The NURSE goes out.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe 1)
Sons of Erechtheus, heroes happy from of yore, children of the blessed
gods, fed on wisdom's glorious food in a holy land ne'er pillaged
by its foes, ye who move with sprightly step through a climate ever
bright and clear, where, as legend tells, the Muses nine, Pieria's
holy maids, were brought to birth by Harmonia with the golden hair.
And poets sing how Cypris drawing water from the streams of fair-flowing
Cephissus breathes o'er the land a gentle breeze of balmy winds, and
ever as she crowns her tresses with a garland of sweet rose-buds sends
forth the Loves to sit by wisdom's side, to take part in every excellence.
How then shall the city of sacred streams, the land that welcomes
those it loves, receive thee, the murderess of thy children, thee
whose presence with others is a pollution? 'Think on the murder of
thy children, consider the bloody deed thou takest on thee. Nay, by
thy knees we, one and all, implore thee, slay not thy babes.
Where shall hand or heart find hardihood enough in wreaking such
a fearsome deed upon thy sons? How wilt thou look upon thy babes,
and still without a tear retain thy bloody purpose? Thou canst not,
when they fall at thy feet for mercy, steel thy heart and dip in their
blood thy hand. (JASON enters.)
JASON I am come at thy bidding, for e'en though thy hate for me is
bitter thou shalt not fail in this small boon, but I will hear what
new request thou hast to make of me, lady.
MEDEA Jason, I crave thy pardon for the words I spoke, and well thou
mayest brook my burst of passion, for ere now we twain have shared
much love. For I have reasoned with my soul and railed upon me thus,
"Ah! poor heart! why am I thus distraught, why so angered 'gainst
all good advice, why have I come to hate the rulers of the land, my
husband too, who does the best for me he can, in wedding with a princess
and rearing for my children noble brothers? Shall I not cease to fret?
What possesses me, when heaven its best doth offer? Have I not my
children to consider? do I forget that we are fugitives, in need of
friends?" When I had thought all this I saw how foolish I had been,
how senselessly enraged. So now do commend thee and think thee most
wise in forming this connection for us; but I was mad, I who should
have shared in these designs, helped on thy plans, and lent my aid
to bring about the match, only too pleased to wait upon thy bride.