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Deianeira returns from the palace.
Friends, while our visitor inside the palace
is bidding farewell to the captive maidens,
I have come forth to you in secret, partly
to tell you what I have contrived, but also
to win your sympathy for what I suffer.
I have received this maiden - no, not maiden -
this mistress, as a sailor welcomes freightage:
a burden which my heart finds hard to bear.
For now he will have two of us to clasp
540under one blanket; this is the reward
Heracles, whom we call the good and faithful,
has given me for waiting all this time!
I cannot find it in me to be angry,
often as this disease has come upon him;
but then, to live together with her, sharing
my marriage-bed - what woman could endure it?
I see her youthful beauty blooming; mine
is vanishing: his eye will love to pluck
those blossoms, but will turn away from me.
550I fear that Heracles will soon be called
my husband, but this younger woman's man.
Yet anger, as I said, is wrong for women
of understanding. Let me tell you, friends,
the solacing release that I have found.
I have long had a present, which a beast
once gave me, hidden in an urn of bronze.
While still a child I took it from the blood
of shaggy-breasted Nessus as he died -
Nessus, a centaur who would carry men
560for pay across the deep Evenus river,
using no oars or sails to help convey them.
So, when my father sent me forth to follow
Heracles, as his bride, this monster bore me
upon his back and, when we reached midstream,
touched me with lusting hands: I screamed aloud:
then Zeus's son immediately turned round
and shot a feathered arrow whizzing through
his breast into his lungs. As he lay dying
the beast said, "Daughter of old Oeneus, listen
570to me, and you will profit from this voyage,
for I will never carry any other.
Take in your hands the clotted blood around
my wound, in which the monstrous beast of Lerna,
Hydra, once dipped his arrows of black gall;
and this will be a love-charm for the heart
of Heracles, so that he will not ever
love anyone he looks on more than you."
I thought of this just now, my friends, for since
he died I have concealed it in my house;
580and I have dipped this tunic in it, as
he said when living. Yes, I have performed it.
Oh, may I never come to know the meaning
of wickedness or women who are wicked;
but if I am able to excel this girl
by using magic charms on Heracles,
the means are ready. Do you think my actions
are rash? For if you do, I will not try them.