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The Trachinian Maidens
by [?]

Edited and translated by Lewis Campbell, M.A.

THE PERSONS

DEANIRA, wife of Heracles.
An Attendant.
HYLLUS, son of Heracles and Deanira.
CHORUS of Trachinian Maidens.
A Messenger.
LICHAS, the Herald.
A Nurse.
An Old Man.
HERACLES.
IOLE, who does not speak.

SCENE
. Before the temporary abode of Heracles in Trachis.

This tragedy is named from the Chorus. From the subject it might have been called ‘Deanira or the Death of Heracles’.

The Centaur Nessus, in dying by the arrow of Heracles, which had been dipped in the venom of the Hydra, persuaded the bride Deanira, whose beauty was the cause of his death, to keep some of the blood from the wound as a love-charm for her husband. Many years afterwards, when Heracles was returning from his last exploit of sacking Oechalia, in Euboea, he sent before him, by his herald Lichas, Iole, the king’s daughter, whom he had espoused. Deanira, when she had discovered this, commissioned Lichas when he returned to present his master with a robe, which she had anointed with the charm,–hoping by this means to regain her lord’s affection. But the poison of the Hydra did its work, and Heracles died in agony, Deanira having already killed herself on ascertaining what she had done. The action takes place in Trachis, near the Mahae Gulf, where Heracles and Deanira, by permission of Ceyx, the king of the country, have been living in exile. At the close of the drama, Heracles, while yet alive, is carried towards his pyre on Mount Oeta.

THE TRACHINIAN MAIDENS

DEANIRA.
Men say,–’twas old experience gave the word,
–‘No lot of mortal, ere he die, can once
Be known for good or evil.’ But I know,
Before I come to the dark dwelling-place,
Mine is a lot, adverse and hard and sore.
Who yet at Pleuron, in my father’s home,
Of all Aetolian women had most cause
To fear my bridal. For a river-god,
Swift Acheloues, was my suitor there
And sought me from my father in three forms;
Now in his own bull-likeness, now a serpent
Of coiling sheen, and now with manlike build
But bovine front, while from the shadowy beard
Sprang fountain-waters in perpetual spray.
Looking for such a husband, I, poor girl!
Still prayed that Death might find me, ere I knew
That nuptial.–Later, to my glad relief,
Zeus’ and Alcmena’s glorious offspring came,
And closed with him in conflict, and released
My heart from torment. How the fight was won
I could not tell. If any were who saw
Unshaken of dread foreboding, such may speak.
But I sate quailing with an anguished fear,
Lest beauty might procure me nought but pain,
Till He that rules the issue of all strife,
Gave fortunate end–if fortunate! For since,
Assigned by that day’s conquest, I have known
The couch of Heracles, my life is spent
In one continual terror for his fate.
Night brings him, and, ere morning, some fresh toil
Drives him afar. And I have borne him seed;
Which he, like some strange husbandman that farms
A distant field, finds but at sowing time
And once in harvest. Such a weary life
Still tossed him to and fro,–no sooner home
But forth again, serving I know not whom.
And when his glorious head had risen beyond
These labours, came the strongest of my fear.
For since he quelled the might of Iphitus,
We here in Trachis dwell, far from our home,
Dependent on a stranger, but where he
Is gone, none knoweth. Only this I know,
His going pierced my heart with pangs for him,
And now I am all but sure he bears some woe.
These fifteen months he hath sent me not one word.
And I have cause for fear. Ere he set forth
He left a scroll with me, whose dark intent
I oft pray Heaven may bring no sorrow down.