There is a saying among men, put forth long ago, that you cannot judge a mortal's life and know whether it is good or bad until he dies. But well I know, even before I have passed away to Hades' domain, that my life is ill-fortuned and heavy. [5] For I, while still dwelling in the house of my father Oeneus at Pleuron, had such fear of marriage as never any woman of Aetolia had. For my suitor was a river-god, Achelous, [10] who in three shapes was always asking me from my father—coming now as a bull in visible form, now as a serpent, sheeny and coiled, now ox-faced with human trunk, while from his thick-shaded beard wellheads of fountain-water sprayed. [15] In the expectation that such a suitor would get me, I was always praying in my misery that I might die, before I should ever approach that marriage-bed.

But at last, to my joy, the glorious son of Zeus and Alcmena came and [20] closed with him in combat and delivered me. The manner of their fighting I cannot clearly recount. I know it not, but if there be anyone who watched that sight without trembling, he might give an account of it. But I, as I sat there, was struck with terror, [25] lest my beauty should win me sorrow in the end. But Zeus, Arbiter of Contests, accomplished a good ending—if indeed it was good. For since being joined with Heracles as his chosen bride, I nourish one fear after another in my anxiety for him. One night brings distress, [30] and the next night, in turn, drives it out. Children, furthermore, were born to us, whom at the time he looked at only as the farmer looks at a distant field, visiting it only once to sow seed and once to reap. Such was the manner of his life, ever sending him [35] to and from our home in servitude to some master.

But now, when he has risen above those trials—now it is that my fear is keenest. For ever since he slew the mighty Iphitus, we have been dwelling here in Trachis, refugees [40] in the home of a foreign host. But where Heracles is, no one knows. I only know that he is gone, and has caused me sharp pain for him. I am almost sure that he has come to some suffering. The interval has not been brief; rather, he is unheard from ten months already, [45] plus another five. Yes, there has been some terrible misfortune. That tablet which he left with me before departing suggests it to me. I often pray to the gods that I did not receive it to my misfortune.

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load focus Notes (Sir Richard C. Jebb, 1902)
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