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Medea   


MEDEA Why, what hath chanced that calls for such a flight of mine?
MESSENGER The princess is dead, a moment gone, and Creon too, her
sire, slain by those drugs of thine.
MEDEA Tidings most fair are thine! Henceforth shalt thou be ranked
amongst my friends and benefactors.
MESSENGER Ha! What? Art sane? Art not distraught, lady, who hearest
with joy the outrage to our royal house done, and art not at the horrid
tale afraid?
MEDEA Somewhat have I, too, to say in answer to thy words. Be not
so hasty, friend, but tell the manner of their death, for thou wouldst
give me double joy, if so they perished miserably.
MESSENGER When the children twain whom thou didst bear came with
their father and entered the palace of the bride, right glad were
we thralls who had shared thy griefs, for instantly from ear to ear
a rumour spread that thou and thy lord had made up your former quarrel.
One kissed thy children's hands, another their golden hair, while
I for very joy went with them in person to the women's chambers. Our
mistress, whom now we do revere in thy room, cast a longing glance
at Jason, ere she saw thy children twain; but then she veiled her
eyes and turned her blanching cheek away, disgusted at their coming;
but thy husband tried to check his young bride's angry humour with
these words: "O, be not angered 'gainst thy friends; cease from wrath
and turn once more thy face this way, counting as friends whomso thy
husband counts, and accept these gifts, and for my sake crave thy
sire to remit these children's exile." Soon as she saw the ornaments,
no longer she held out, but yielded to her lord in all; and ere the
father and his sons were far from the palace gone, she took the broidered
robe and put it on, and set the golden crown about her tresses, arranging
her hair at her bright mirror, with many a happy smile at her breathless
counterfeit. Then rising from her seat she passed across the chamber,
tripping lightly on her fair white foot, exulting in the gift, with
many a glance at her uplifted ankle. When lo! a scene of awful horror
did ensue. In a moment she turned pale, reeled backwards, trembling
in every limb, and sinks upon a seat scarce soon enough to save herself
from falling to the ground. An aged dame, one of her company, thinking
belike it was a fit from Pan or some god sent, raised a cry of prayer,
till from her mouth she saw the foam-flakes issue, her eyeballs rolling
in their sockets, and all the blood her face desert; then did she
raise a loud scream far different from her former cry. Forthwith one
handmaid rushed to her father's house, another to her new bridegroom
to tell his bride's sad fate, and the whole house echoed with their
running to and fro. By this time would a quick walker have made the
turn in a course of six plethra and reached the goal, when she with
one awful shriek awoke, poor sufferer, from her speechless trance
and oped her closed eyes, for against her a twofold anguish was warring.
The chaplet of gold about her head was sending forth a wondrous stream
of ravening flame, while the fine raiment, thy children's gift, was
preying on the hapless maiden's fair white flesh; and she starts from
her seat in a blaze and seeks to fly, shaking her hair and head this
way and that, to cast the crown therefrom; but the gold held firm
to its fastenings, and the flame, as she shook her locks, blazed forth
the more with double fury. Then to the earth she sinks, by the cruel
blow o'ercome; past all recognition now save to a father's eye; for
her eyes had lost their tranquil gaze, her face no more its natural
look preserved, and from the crown of her head blood and fire in mingled
stream ran down; and from her bones the flesh kept peeling off beneath
the gnawing of those secret drugs, e'en as when the pine-tree weeps
its tears of pitch, a fearsome sight to see. And all were afraid to
touch the corpse, for we were warned by what had chanced. Anon came
her haples father unto the house, all unwitting of her doom, and stumbles
o'er the dead, and loud he cried, and folding his arms about her kissed
her, with words like these the while, "O my poor, poor child, which
of the gods hath destroyed thee thus foully? Who is robbing me of
thee, old as I am and ripe for death? O my child, alas! would I could

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