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Medea   


me in my age and deck my corpse with loving hands, a boon we mortals
covet; but now is my sweet fancy dead and gone; for I must lose you
both and in bitterness and sorrow drag through life. And ye shall
never with fond eyes see your mother more for o'er your life there
comes a change. Ah me! ah me! why do ye look at me so, my children?
why smile that last sweet smile? Ah me! what am I to do? My heart
gives way when I behold my children's laughing eyes. O, I cannot;
farewell to all my former schemes; I will take the children from the
land, the babes I bore. Why should I wound their sire by wounding
them, and get me a twofold measure of sorrow? No, no, I will not do
it. Farewell my scheming! And yet what possesses me? Can I consent
to let those foes of mine escape from punishment, and incur their
mockery? I must face this deed. Out upon my craven heart! to think
that I should even have let the soft words escape my soul. Into the
house, children! (The children go into the house.) And whoso feels
he must not be present at my sacrifice, must see to it himself; I
will not spoil my handiwork. Ah! ah! do not, my heart, O do not do
this deed! Let the children go, unhappy one, spare the babes! For
if they live, they will cheer thee in our exile there. Nay, by the
fiends of hell's abyss, never, never will I hand my children over
to their foes to mock and flout. Die they must in any case, and since
'tis so, why I, the mother who bore them, will give the fatal blow.
In any case their doom is fixed and there is no escape. Already the
crown is on her head, the robe is round her, and she is dying, the
royal bride; that do I know full well. But now since I have a piteous
path to tread, and yet more piteous still the path I send my children
on, fain would I say farewell to them. (The children come out at
her call. She takes them in her arms.)
O my babes, my babes, let
your mother kiss your hands. Ah! hands I love so well, O lips most
dear to me! O noble form and features of my children, I wish ye joy,
but in that other land, for here your father robs you of your home.
O the sweet embrace, the soft young cheek, the fragrant breath! my
children! Go, leave me; I cannot bear to longer look upon ye; my sorrow
wins the day. At last I understand the awful deed I am to do; but
passion, that cause of direst woes to mortal man, hath triumphed o'er
my sober thoughts. (She goes into the house with the children.)
CHORUS (chanting) Oft ere now have I pursued subtler themes and
have faced graver issues than woman's sex should seek to probe; but
then e'en we aspire to culture, which dwells with us to teach us wisdom;
I say not all; for small is the class amongst women-(one maybe shalt
thou find 'mid many)
-that is not incapable of wisdom. And amongst
mortals I do assert that they who are wholly without experience and
have never had children far surpass in happiness those who are parents.
The childless, because they have never proved whether children grow
up to be a blessing or curse to men are removed from all share in
many troubles; whilst those who have a sweet race of children growing
up in their houses do wear away, as I perceive, their whole life through;
first with the thought how they may train them up in virtue, next
how they shall leave their sons the means to live; and after all this
'tis far from clear whether on good or bad children they bestow their
toil. But one last crowning woe for every mortal man now will name;
suppose that they have found sufficient means to live, and seen their
children grow to man's estate and walk in virtue's path, still if
fortune so befall, comes Death and bears the children's bodies off
to Hades. Can it be any profit to the gods to heap upon us mortal
men beside our other woes this further grief for children lost, a
grief surpassing all? (MEDEA comes out of the house.)
MEDEA Kind friends, long have I waited expectantly to know how things
would at the palace chance. And lo! I see one of Jason's servants
coming hither, whose hurried gasps for breath proclaim him the bearer
of some fresh tidings. (A MESSENGER rushes in.)
MESSENGER Fly, fly, Medea! who hast wrought an awful deed, transgressing
every law: nor leave behind or sea-borne bark or car that scours the
plain.

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