Lady, I praise not this thy mood; with all reverence will I speak,
yet in reproof. Thou dost not well, I say, to kill fair hope by
fretting; remember that the son of Cronus himself, the all-disposing
king, hath not appointed a painless lot for mortals. Sorrow and joy
come round to all, as the Bear moves in his circling paths.
Yea, starry night abides not with men, nor tribulation, nor
wealth; in a moment it is gone from us, and another hath his turn of
gladness, and of bereavement. So would I wish thee also, the Queen, to
keep that prospect ever in thy thoughts; for when hath Zeus been found
so careless of his children?
Ye have heard of my trouble, I think, and that hath brought you
here; but the anguish which consumes my heart- ye are strangers to
that; and never may ye learn it by suffering! Yes, the tender plant
grows in those sheltered regions of its own! and the Sun-god's heat
vexes it not, nor rain, nor any wind; but it rejoices in its sweet,
untroubled being, til such time as the maiden is called a wife, and
finds her portion of anxious thoughts in the night, brooding on danger
to husband or to children. Such an one could understand the burden
of my cares; she could judge them by her own.
Well, I have had many a sorrow to weep for ere now; but I am going
to speak of one more grievous than them all.
When Heracles my lord was going from home on his last journey,
he left in the house an ancient tablet, inscribed with tokens which he
had never brought himself to explain to me before, many as were the
ordeals to which he had gone forth. He had always departed as if to
conquer, not to die. But now, as if he were a doomed man, he told me
what portion of his substance I was to take for my dower, and how he
would have his sons share their father's land amongst them. And he
fixed the time; saying that, when a year and three months should
have passed since he had left the country, then he was fated to die;
or, if he should have survived that term, to live thenceforth an
Such, he said, was the doom ordained by the gods to be
accomplished in the toils of Heracles; as the ancient oak at Dodona
had spoken of yore, by the mouth of the two Peleiades. And this is the
precise moment when the fulfilment of that word becomes due; so that I
start up from sweet slumber, my friends, stricken with terror at the
thought that I must remain widowed of the noblest among men.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Hush- no more ill-omened words; I see a man approaching, who wears
a wreath, as if for joyous tidings.
(A MESSENGER enters.)
Queen Deianeira, I shall be the first of messengers to free thee
from fear. Know that Alcmena's son lives and triumphs, and from battle
brings the first-fruits to the gods of this land.
What news is this, old man, that thou hast told me?
That thy lord, admired of all, will soon come to thy house,
restored to thee in his victorious might.
What citizen or stranger hath told thee this?
In the meadow, summer haunt of oxen, Lichas the herald is
proclaiming it to many: from him I heard it, and flew hither, that I
might be the first to give thee these tidings, and so might reap
some guerdon from thee, and win thy grace.