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Trachiniae   



May he come, may he come! Pause not the many-oared ship that
carries him, till he shall have reached this town, leaving the
island altar where, as rumour saith, he is sacrificing! Thence may
he come, full of desire, steeped in love by the specious device of the
robe, on which Persuasion hath spread her sovereign charm!
(DEIANEIRA comes out of the house in agitation.)
DEIANEIRA
Friends, how I fear that I may have gone too far in all that I
have been doing just now!
LEADER
What hath happened, Deianeira, daughter of Oeneus?
DEIANEIRA
I know not; but feel a misgiving that I shall presently be found
to have wrought a great mischief, the issue of a fair hope.
LEADER
It is nothing, surely, that concerns thy gift to Heracles?
DEIANEIRA
Yea, even so. And henceforth I would say to all, act not with
zeal, if ye act without light.
LEADER
Tell us the cause of thy fear, if it may be told.
DEIANEIRA
A thing hath come to pass, my friends, such that, if I declare it,
ye will hear a marvel whereof none could have dreamed.
That with which I was lately anointing the festal robe,- a white
tuft of fleecy sheep's wool,- hath disappeared,- not consumed by
anything in the house, but self-devoured and self-destroyed, as it
crumbled down from the surface of a stone. But I must tell the story
More at length, that thou mayest know exactly how this thing befell.
I neglected no part of the precepts which the savage Centaur
gave me, when the bitter barb was rankling in his side: they were in
my memory, like the graven words which no hand may wash from a
tablet of bronze. Now these were his orders, and I obeyed them:-to
keep this unguent in secret place, always remote from fire and from
the sun's warm ray, until I should apply it, newly spread, where I
wished. So had I done. And now, when the moment for action had come, I
performed the anointing privily in the house, with a tuft of soft wool
which I had plucked from a sheep of our home-flock; then I folded up
my gift, and laid it, unvisited by sunlight, within its casket, as
ye saw.
But as I was going back into the house, I beheld a thing too
wondrous for words, and passing the wit of man to understand. I
happened to have thrown the shred of wool, with which I bad been
preparing the robe, into the full blaze of the sunshine. As it grew
warm, it shrivelled all away, and quickly crumbled to powder on the
ground, like nothing so much as the dust shed from a saw's teeth where
men work timber. In such a state it lies as it fell. And from the
earth, where it was strewn, clots of foam seethed up, as when the rich
juice of the blue fruit from the vine of Bacchus is poured upon the
ground.
So I know not, hapless one, whither to turn my thoughts; I only
see that I have done a fearful deed. Why or wherefore should the
monster, in his death-throes, have shown good will to me, on whose
account he was dying? Impossible! No, he was cajoling me, in order
to slay the man who had smitten him: and I gain the knowledge of
this too late, when it avails no more. Yes, I alone- unless my
foreboding prove false- I, wretched one, must destroy him! For I
know that the arrow which made the wound did scathe even to the god
Cheiron; and it kills all beasts that it touches. And since 'tis
this same black venom in the blood that hath passed out through the
wound of Nessus, must it not kill my lord also? I ween it must.
Howbeit, I am resolved that, if he is to fall, at the same time
I also shall be swept from life; for no woman could bear to live

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