(SCENE:- At Trachis, before the house of HERACLES.
Enter DEIANEIRA from the house, accompanied by the NURSE.)
THERE is a saying among men, put forth of old, that thou canst not
rightly judge whether a mortal's lot is good or evil, ere he die.
But I, even before I have passed to the world of death, know well that
my life is sorrowful and bitter; I, who in the house of my father
Oeneus, while yet I dwelt at Pleuron, had such fear of bridals as
never vexed any maiden of Aetolia. For my wooer was a river-god,
Achelous, who in three shapes was ever asking me from my sire,- coming
now as a bull in bodily form, now as serpent with sheeny coils, now
with trunk of man and front of ox, while from a shaggy beard the
streams of fountain-water flowed abroad. With the fear of such a
suitor before mine eyes, I was always praying in my wretchedness
that I might die, or ever I should come near to such a bed.
But at last, to my joy, came the glorious son of Zeus and Alcmena;
who dosed with him in combat, and delivered me. How the fight was
waged, I cannot clearly tell, I know not; if there be any one who
watched that sight without terror, such might speak: I, as I sat
there, was distraught with dread, lest beauty should bring me sorrow
at the last. But finally the Zeus of battles ordained well,- if well
indeed it be: for since I have been joined to Heracles as his chosen
bride, fear after fear hath haunted me on his account; one night
brings a trouble, and the next night, in turn, drives it out. And then
children were born to us; whom he has seen only as the husbandman sees
his distant field, which he visits at seedtime, and once again at
harvest. Such was the life that kept him journeying to and fro, in the
service of a certain master.
But now, when he hath risen above those trials,- now it is that my
anguish is sorest. Ever since he slew the valiant Iphitus, we have
been dwelling here in Trachis, exiles from our home, and the guests of
stranger; but where he is, no one knows; I only know that he is
gone, and hath pierced my heart with cruel pangs for him. I am
almost sure that some evil hath befallen him; it is no short space
that hath passed, but ten long months, and then five more,- and
still no message from him. Yes, there has been some dread
mischance;- witness that tablet which he left with me ere he went
forth: oft do I pray to the gods that I may not have received it for
Deianeira, my mistress, many a time have I marked thy bitter tears
and lamentations, as thou bewailedst the going forth of Heracles;
but now,- if it be meet to school the free-born with the counsels of a
slave, and if I must say what behoves thee,- why, when thou art so
rich in sons, dost thou send no one of them to seek thy lord;- Hyllus,
before all, who might well go on that errand, if he cared that there
should be tidings of his father's welfare? Lo! there he comes,
speeding towards the house with timely step; if, then, thou deemest
that I speak in season, thou canst use at once my counsel, and the
(HYLLUS comes in from the side.)
My child, my son, wise words may fall, it seems, from humble lips;
this woman is a slave, but hath spoken in the spirit of the free.
How, mother? Tell me, if it may be told.
It brings thee shame, she saith, that, when thy father hath been
so long a stranger, thou hast not sought to learn where he is.
Nay, I know,- if rumour can be trusted.
And in what region, my child, doth rumour place him?