Sophocles, creator; Sophocles the plays and fragments with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose, Part 5 The Trachiniae; Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, 1841-1905, editor, translator; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1892.
- For just as one may see billow after billow
- advancing and passing over the wide deep before the tireless south-wind, or the north, so the great toil of his life, stormy as the Cretan sea, now whirls back the heir of Cadmus, now exalts him. But some god always
- keeps him unerring from the house of Hades.
- With respect I reproach you for your weeping, but still I will speak in dissent.
- You must not, I say, wear away fair hope. Remember that the all-accomplishing king, the son of Cronus, does not appoint a painless lot for mortals. Sorrow and joy revolve to all, as the stars of the Bear
- move in their circling paths.
- Starry night does not remain constant with men, nor does tribulation, nor wealth; in a moment it is gone from us, and to another in his turn come both
- gladness and bereavement. So I urge even you, our Queen, to keep these matters firmly in your outlook. You must, for who has
- known Zeus to be so without care for his children?
- You have heard of my trouble, I would guess, and that has brought you here. But the anguish which consumes my heart—may you never come to know it through your own experience!—to that now you are total strangers. Yes, a young life grows in those sheltered regions
- of its own, and the Sun-god’s heat disturbs it not, nor rain, nor any wind. Rather it takes up a toilless existence amidst pleasure, until such time as she is called “wife” instead of “maiden”, and takes her portion of anxious thoughts in the night,
- fearing for husband or for children. At that point a woman could understand the burden of my misfortunes by recalling her own experience. As a matter of fact, I have had many a trouble to weep for, but I am going to speak of one that none of the previous could equal.
- When lord Heracles was setting out from home on his last journey, he left in the house an ancient tablet, inscribed with signs which he had never before brought himself to explain to me when going out on one of his many labors.
- He had always departed as if to conquer, not to die. But now, as if he were a doomed man, he told me what I should take for my marriage portion, and what share of their father’s land he wished divided for his children. And he fixed the time for the division, saying that, when he had been gone
- from our land for a year and three months, he was fated either to die at that time, or by escaping the end of the period to live thereafter an untroubled life. That, he explained, was the fate ordained by the gods
- to be the end of the labors of Heracles just as, he said, the ancient oak at Dodona had once told him through the mouths of the two Peleiades. And it is in the present time that the truth of these prophecies is coming to pass, so that they must be fulfilled.
- As a result I leap up from sweet sleep in fear, dear maidens, terrified at the possibility that I must remain widowed of the noblest man of all.
- Hush—no more ill-omened words! I see a man approaching who is crowned with garlands as if for joyous news.
- Queen Deianeira, I shall be the first messenger to free you from fear. Know that Alcmena’s son lives and triumphs, and from battle brings the first-fruits to the gods of this land.
- What news is this, old man, that you give me?