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Enter Deianeira.

Dear friends, while our guest is saying his farewell to the captive girls in the house, I have stolen away partly to tell you what these hands have devised, [535] and partly to grieve over my sufferings in your company.

I have received a maiden—or, I believe, no longer a maiden, but an experienced woman—into my home, just as a mariner takes on cargo, a merchandise to wreck my peace of mind. And now we are two, a pair waiting under [540] a single bedspread for one man's embrace. Such is the reward that Heracles has sent me—he whom I called true and loyal—for guarding his home through all that long time. I do not know how to be angry with him, even though he is infected with this disease. [545] But, then again, to live with her, sharing the same marriage—what woman could endure it? For I see that the flower of her youth is blossoming, while mine is fading. The eyes of men love to pluck off the bloom of youth, but they turn their steps from the old. [550] On this account I am afraid lest Heracles, in name my husband, should be the younger woman's man.

But, as I said, anger brings shame to a woman of understanding. I will tell you, my friends, the way by which I will have deliverance and relief. [555] I had a gift, an old one given to me by a monster of long ago, and kept it hidden in a bronze urn. While yet a girl, I took this gift from the shaggy-chested Nessus—from his lifeblood, as he lay dying. He is the one who used to carry men [560] in his arms for hire across the deep current of the Evenus, using no oar for conveyance, nor ship's sail. He carried me, too, on his shoulders, when at my father's sending, I first departed with Heracles as his wife. When I was in midstream, [565] he touched me with lewd hands. I shrieked, and straightaway the son of Zeus turned round and with his hands shot a feathered arrow that whistled right through his chest to the lungs. As he passed away the monster spoke these few words: “Child of aged Oeneus, [570] you will have this benefit from my ferrying, if you obey me, since you were the last whom I carried. If you gather with your hands the blood clotted round my wound, at the place where the Hydra, Lerna's monstrous growth, imbued the arrow with black gall, [575] you will have a charm for the heart of Heracles, so that he will never look upon any woman and love her more than you.”

Remembering this charm, my friends—for, after his death, I had kept it carefully locked up in the house— [580] I have imbued this robe with it, applying to it all that he instructed while he lived. The work is finished. May deeds of wicked daring always be far from my thoughts and from my knowledge, as I detest the women who attempt them! But if in any way I may prevail against this girl by love-spells [585] and the charms used on Heracles, the means to that end have been devised—unless I seem to be acting rashly. If so, I will stop immediately.

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load focus Notes (Sir Richard C. Jebb, 1902)
load focus English (Robert Torrance)
load focus Greek (Francis Storr, 1913)
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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus, 1110-1185
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