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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Sophocles' TRACHINIAE Complete

Translated by R. Jebb.

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Page 2

Deianeira: There is a saying among men, put forth of old, that thou
canst not rightly judge whether a mortal's lot is good or evil, ere
he die. But I, even before I have passed to the world of death, know
well that my life is sorrowful and bitter; I, who in the house of
my father Oeneus, while yet I dwelt at Pleuron, had such fear of bridals
as never vexed any maiden of Aetolia. For my wooer was a river-god,
Achelous, who in three shapes was ever asking me from my sire,- coming
now as a bull in bodily form, now as serpent with sheeny coils, now
with trunk of man and front of ox, while from a shaggy beard the streams
of fountain-water flowed abroad. With the fear of such a suitor before
mine eyes, I was always praying in my wretchedness that I might die,
or ever I should come near to such a bed.

But at last, to my joy, came the glorious son of Zeus and Alcmena;
who dosed with him in combat, and delivered me. How the fight was
waged, I cannot clearly tell, I know not; if there be any one who
watched that sight without terror, such might speak: I, as I sat there,
was distraught with dread, lest beauty should bring me sorrow at the
last. But finally the Zeus of battles ordained well,- if well indeed
it be: for since I have been joined to Heracles as his chosen bride,
fear after fear hath haunted me on his account; one night brings a
trouble, and the next night, in turn, drives it out. And then children
were born to us; whom he has seen only as the husbandman sees his
distant field, which he visits at seedtime, and once again at harvest.
Such was the life that kept him journeying to and fro, in the service
of a certain master.

But now, when he hath risen above those trials,- now it is that my
anguish is sorest. Ever since he slew the valiant Iphitus, we have
been dwelling here in Trachis, exiles from our home, and the guests
of stranger; but where he is, no one knows; I only know that he is
gone, and hath pierced my heart with cruel pangs for him. I am almost
sure that some evil hath befallen him; it is no short space that hath
passed, but ten long months, and then five more,- and still no message
from him. Yes, there has been some dread mischance;- witness that
tablet which he left with me ere he went forth: oft do I pray to the
gods that I may not have received it for my sorrow.

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