Part 6 out of 10
JASON. They are the cup from which, in greedy draughts,
I drink the only comfort left me now.
MEDEA (_who has gone silently up-stage and taken up again the discarded
Jason, I know a song!
JASON (_not noticing her_).
And then the tower!
Know'st thou that tower upon the sea-strand there,
Where by thy father thou didst stand and weep,
What time I climbed the Argo's side, to sail
On that far journey? For thy falling tears
I had no eyes, my heart but thirsted deep
For deeds of prowess. Lo, there came a breeze
That loosed the wimple bound about thy locks
And dropped it on the waves. Straightway I sprang
Into the sea, and caught it up, to keep
In memory of thee when far away.
CREUSA. Hast thou it still?
JASON. Nay, think how many years
Are gone since then, and with them this, thy token,
Blown far by some stray breeze.
MEDEA. I know a song!
JASON (_ignoring her_).
Then didst thou cry to me, "Farewell, my brother!"
CREUSA. And now my cry is, "Brother, welcome home!"
Jason, I know a song.
CREUSA. She knows a song
That thou wert wont to sing. I pray thee, listen,
And she will sing it thee.
JASON. A song? Well, well!
Where was I, then?--From childhood I was wont
To dream and dream, and babble foolishly
Of things that were not and could never be.
That habit clung to me, and mocks me now.
For, as the youth lives ever in the future,
So the grown man looks alway to the past,
And, young or old, we know not how to live
Within the present. In my dreams I was
A mighty hero, girded for great deeds,
And had a loving wife, and gold, and much
Goodly possessions, and a peaceful home
Wherein slept babes of mine.
What is it thou
Wouldst have with me?
CREUSA. She asks to sing a song
That thou in youth wert wont to sing to us.
JASON (_to_ MEDEA).
And _thou_ hast learned it?
MEDEA. I have done my best.
JASON. Go to! Dost think to give me back my youth,
Or happiness to win again for me,
By singing me some paltry, childish tune?
Give o'er! We will not part, but live together;
That is our fate, it seems, as things have chanced;
But let me bear no word of foolish songs
Or suchlike nonsense!
CREUSA. Let her sing, I pray.
She hath conned it o'er and o'er, to know it well,
Indeed she hath!
JASON. Well, sing it, sing it then!
CREUSA (_to _MEDEA).
So, pluck the second string. Thou know'st it still?
MEDEA (_drawing her hand across her brow as if in pain_).
I have forgotten!
JASON. Ay, said I not so?
She cannot sing it.--Other songs are hers,
Like that which, with her magic arts, she sang
Unto the dragon, that he fell asleep.
That was no pure, sweet strain, like this of thine!
CREUSA (_whispering in _MEDEA's _ear_).
"Ye gods above, ye mighty gods--."
MEDEA (_repeating it after her_).
"Ye gods above--"
O gods in heaven, O righteous, mighty gods!
[_She lets the lyre fall to the ground, and clasps both hands before her
CREUSA. She weeps! Canst be so stern and hard?
JASON (_holding_ CREUSA _back from_ MEDEA).
A child, and canst not know us, what we are!
The hand she feels upon her is the gods',
That reacheth her e'en here, with bloody gripe!
Then strive not thou to balk the gods' just doom.
O, hadst thou seen her in the dragon's cave,
Seen how she leaped to meet that serpent grim,
Shot forth the poisonous arrows of her tongue,
And darted hate and death from blazing eyes,
Then were thy bosom steeled against her tears!--
Take thou the lyre, sing thou to me that song,
And exorcise the hateful demon here
That strangles, chokes me! Thou canst sing the song,
Mayhap, though she cannot.
CREUSA. Ay, that I will.
[_She stoops to take up the lyre._]
MEDEA (_gripping_ CREUSA's _arm with one hand and holding her back,
while with the other she herself picks up the lyre_).
CREUSA. Right gladly, if thou'lt play.
MEDEA. Not I!
JASON. Thou wilt not give it her?
JASON. Nor to me?
JASON (_striding up to her and grasping at the lyre_).
I will take it, then!
MEDEA (_without moving from her place, but drawing the lyre away from
JASON. Give it me!
MEDEA (_crushing the lyre, so that it breaks with a loud, cracking
Here, take it! Broken! Thy fair lyre is broken!
[_She flings the pieces down in front of_ CREUSA.]
CREUSA (_starting back in horror_).
MEDEA (_looking swiftly about her as in a daze_).
Dead? Who speaks of death? I am alive!
[_She stands there violently agitated and staring dazedly before her. A
trumpet-blast sounds without._]
JASON. Ha, what is that?
Why standest silent there?
Thou'lt rue this moment, that I know full well!
[_Another trumpet-blast without. The _KING_ appears suddenly at the
JASON (_hurrying to meet him_).
What means that warlike trumpet-blast without?
KING. Unhappy man, canst ask?
JASON. I do, my lord!
KING. The stroke that I so feared is fall'n at last.--
Before my palace gates a herald stands,
Sent hither from the Amphictyons' holy seat,
Seeking for news of thee and of thy wife,
Crying to Heaven the doom of banishment
JASON. This, too?
KING. So is it--. Peace, he comes.
[_The palace doors swing open and a_ HERALD _enters, followed by two
trumpeters and, at a little distance, by a numerous suite._]
HERALD. The blessing of the gods upon this house!
Who art thou? On what errand art thou come?
HERALD. A herald of the gods am I, sent forth
From the ancient council of the Amphictyons
That speaks its judgments in that holy town
Of freedom, Delphi. And I follow close,
With cries of vengeance, on the guilty tracks
Of those false kinsmen of King Pelias,
Who ruled Iolcos, ere he fell in death.
KING. Thou seek'st the guilty? Seek in his own house,
'Mongst his own children seek them--but not here!
HERALD. Here have I found them. Here I'll speak my charge:
Thou art accursed, Jason, thou, and she,
Thy wife! With evil magic are ye charged,
Wherewith thine uncle darkly ye did slay.
JASON. A lie! Naught know I of mine uncle's death!
HERALD. Then ask thy wife, there; she will know, perchance.
JASON. Was 't she that slew him?
HERALD. Not with her own hand,
But by those magic arts ye know so well,
Which ye have brought here from that foreign land.
For, when the king fell sick--perchance e'en then
A victim, for the signs of his disease
Were strange and dreadful--to Medea then
His daughters came, and begged for healing balms
From her who knew so well to heal. And she
Gave swift consent, and followed them.
JASON. Nay, hold!
She went not! I forbade it, and she stayed.
HERALD. The first time, yes. But when, unknown to thee,
They came again, she companied them back,
Only demanding, if she healed the king,
The Golden Fleece in payment for her aid;
It was a hateful thing to her, she said;
And boded evil. And those foolish maids,
All joyful, promised. So she came with them
To the king's chamber, where he lay asleep.
Straightway she muttered strange and secret words
Above him, and his sleep grew ever deep
And deeper. Next, to let the bad blood out,
She bade them ope his veins. And even this
They did, whereat his panting breath grew still
And tranquil; then the gaping wounds were bound,
And those sad maids were glad to think him healed.
Forth went Medea then, as she hath said;
His daughters, too, departed, for he slept.
But, on a sudden, came a fearful cry
From out his chamber! Swift his daughters sped
To aid him, and--oh, ghastly, horrible!--
There on the pavement lay the aged king,
His body twisted in a hideous knot,
The cloths that bound his veins all torn away
From off his gaping wounds, whence, in a black
And sluggish stream, his blood came welling forth.
He lay beside the altar, where the Fleece
For long was wont to hang--and that was gone!
But, in that selfsame hour, thy wife was seen,
The golden gaud upon her shoulder flung,
Swift hasting through the night.
MEDEA (_dully, staring straight before her_).
'Twas my reward!--
I shudder still, when'er I think upon
The old man's furious rage!
HERALD. Now, that no longer
Such horrors bide here, poisoning this land
With their destructive breath, I here proclaim
The solemn doom of utter banishment
On Jason, the Thessalian, Aeson's son,
Spouse of a wicked witch-wife, and himself
An arrant villain; and I drive him forth
From out this land of Greece, wherein the gods
Are wont to walk with men; to exile hence,
To flight and wandering I drive him forth,
And with him, this, his wife, ay, and his babes,
The offspring of his marriage-bed. Henceforth
No rood of this, his fatherland, be his,
No share in her protection or her rights!
[_He raises his hand and three times makes solemn proclamation, turning
to different quarters._]
Banished are Jason and Medea!
Medea and Jason are banished!
Banished are Jason and Medea!
And whoso harbors him, or gives him aid,
After three days and nights are come and gone,
Upon that man I here declare the doom
Of death, if he be burgher; if a king,
Or city-state, then war shall be proclaimed.
So runs the Amphictyons' reverend decree,
The which I here proclaim, as is most meet,
That each may know its terms, and so beware.--
The blessing of the gods upon this house!
[_He turns to depart._]
JASON. Why stand ye there, ye walls, and crash not down
To save this king the pains of slaying me?
KING. A moment yet, sir Herald. Hear this, too.
[_He turns to_ JASON.]
Think'st thou I rue the promise I have made?
If I could think thee guilty, ay, wert thou
My very son, I'd give thee up to these
That seek thee. But thou art not! Wherefore, I
Will give thee shelter. Stay thou here.--Who dares
To question Creon's friend, whose innocence
Stands pledged by mine own words? Who dares, I say,
To lay a hand upon my son to be?
Yea, Herald, on my son to be, the spouse
Of this my daughter! 'Twas my dearest wish
In happy days long past, when Fortune smiled;
Now, when he's compassed round by stormy waves
Of evil fortune, it shall come to pass.
Ay, she shall be thy wife, and thou shalt stay
Here, with thy father. And I will myself
Make answer for it to the Amphictyons.
Who now will cry him guilty, when the king
Hath sworn him free from blame, and given him
The hand of his own daughter?
(_To the_ HERALD.)
Take my words
To those that sent thee hither. Go in peace!
The blessing of the gods be on thy head!
[_The_ HERALD _goes._]
KING (_turning to_ MEDEA).
This woman, whom the wilderness spewed up
To be a bane to thee and all good men,
Her that hath wrought the crimes men lay to thee,
Her do I banish forth from out this land
And all its borders. Death shall be her lot
And portion, if the morrow find her here!
Depart from out my fathers' pious town,
And make the air thou poisonest pure again!
MEDEA. Is that thy sentence? Falls it, then, on me,
And me alone? And yet I say to thee,
O king, I did it not!
KING. Nay, thou hast done
Enough of evil since he saw thee first.
Away with thee from out my house and town!
MEDEA (_turning to _JASON).
Say, must I go? So be it--but follow me!
We bear the blame together, let us bear
The punishment as well! Dost thou not know
The ancient proverb: "None shall die alone?"
One home for both, one body--and one death!
Long since, when Death stared grimly in our eyes,
We sware that oath. Now keep it! Follow me!
JASON. Nay, touch me not! Begone from me, thou curse
Of all my days, who hast robbed me of my life
And happiness, from whom, when first mine eyes
Met thine, I shrank and shuddered, though I thought
Those fearful struggles in my very soul
Were but the signs of rash and foolish love.
Hence, to that wilderness that cradled thee!
Back to that bloody folk whose child thou art
In very thought and deed! But, ere thou go,
Give back to me what thou hast stol'n away,
Thou wanton! Give Prince Jason back to me!
MEDEA. Is't Jason thou desirest? Take him, then!
But who shall give Medea back to me?
Was't I that in thy homeland sought thee out?
Was't I that lured thee from thy father's house?
Was't I that forced, ay, forced my love on thee?
Was't I that wrenched thee from thy fatherland,
Made thee the butt of strangers' haughty scorn,
Or dragged thee into wantonness and crime?
Thou nam'st me Wanton?--Woe is me! I am!
Yet--how have I been wanton, and for whom?
Let these pursue me with their venomous hate,
Ay, drive me forth and slay me! 'Tis their right,
Because I am in truth a dreadful thing
And hateful unto them, and to myself
A deep abyss of evil, terrible!
Let all the world heap curses on my head,
Save only thee alone! Nay, thou shalt not!
'Twas thou inspiredst all these horrid deeds,
Yea, thou alone. Dost thou not call to mind
How I did clasp my hands about thy knees
That day thou bad'st me steal the Golden Fleece?
And, though I sooner far had slain myself,
Yet thou, with chilly scorn, commandedst me
To take it. Dost remember how I held
My brother in my bosom, faint to death
From that fierce stroke of thine that laid him low,
Until he tore him from his sister's arms
To 'scape thy frenzied vengeance, and leaped swift
Into the sea, to find a kinder death
Beneath its waves? Dost thou remember?--Nay,
Come here to me, and shrink not so away
To shelter thee behind that maiden there!
JASON (_coming forward_).
I hate thee,--but I fear thee not!
MEDEA. Then come!
[_She addresses him earnestly in low tones._]
Dost thou remember--Nay, look not on me
So haughtily!--how, on that very day
Before thine uncle died, his daughters went
So sorrowful and hopeless forth from me,
Because I sent them back at thy behest,
And would not aid them? Then thou cam'st, alone,
Unto my chamber, looking in mine eyes
So earnestly, as though some purpose grim,
Deep hidden in thy heart, would search my soul
To find its like therein? And how thou saidst
That they were come to me for healing balms
To cure their old, sick father? 'Twas thy wish
That I should brew a cool, refreshing draught
To cure him of his ills forevermore--
And thee as well! Hast thou forgotten that?
Nay, look at me, eye straight to eye, if thou
JASON. Thou demon! Why these frantic words,
This rage against me? Why recall to life
These shadows of my dreams and make them real,
Why hold a mirror up to me wherein
Naught but thine own vile thoughts do show, and say
'Tis I that look therefrom? Why call my thoughts
From out the past to charge me with thy crimes?
Naught know I of thy plans and plottings, naught!
From the beginning I have hated thee,
I've cursed the day when first I saw thy face;
'Tis pity only held me at thy side!
But now I cast thee off forevermore
With bitter curses, e'en as all the world
Doth curse thee!
MEDEA (_throwing herself at his feet with a cry of agony_).
No! My love, my husband! No!
MEDEA. That day my old, gray father cursed
My name, thou gay'st thy promise, nevermore
To leave me, nevermore! Now keep thy word!
JASON. Thine own rash deeds have made that promise naught,
And here I give thee to thy father's curse.
MEDEA. I hate thee!--Come! Come, O my husband!
MEDEA. Come to my loving arms! 'Twas once thy wish!
JASON. Back! See, I draw my sword. I'll strike thee dead,
Unless thou yield, and go!
MEDEA (_approaching him fearlessly_).
Then strike me, strike!
CREUSA (_to_ JASON).
Hold! Let her go in peace, and harm her not!
MEDEA. Ha! Thou here, too, thou snow-white, silvery snake?
Oh, hiss no more, nor shoot thy forked tongue
With honied words upon it! Thou hast got
What thou didst wish--a husband at the last!
For this, then, didst thou show thyself so soft
And smooth-caressing, for this only wind
Thy snaky coils so close about my neck?
Oh, if I had a dagger, I would smite
Thee, and thy father, that so righteous king!
For this, then, hast thou sung those winsome songs,
Taught me to play the lyre, and tricked me out
In these rich garments?
[_She suddenly rends her mantle in twain._]
Off with you! Away
With the vile gifts of that accursed jade!
[_She turns to _JASON.]
See! As I tear this mantle here in twain,
Pressing one part upon my throbbing breast,
And cast the other from me at thy feet,
So do I rend my love, the common tie
That bound us each to each. What follows now
I cast on thee, thou miscreant, who hast spurned
The holy claims of an unhappy wife!--
Give me my children now, and let me go!
KING. The children stay with us.
MEDEA. They may not go
With their own mother?
KING. With a wanton, no!
MEDEA (_to_ JASON).
Is it thy will, too?
MEDEA (_hastening to the door_).
Come forth, my babes!
Your mother calls you!
MEDEA. 'Tis, then, thy will
That I go forth alone?--'Tis well, so be it!
I say but this, O king: Before the gray
Of evening darken, give me back my babes!
Enough for now!
(_Turning to_ CREUSA.)
But thou, who standest there
In glistering raiment, cloaking thy delight,
In thy false purity disdaining me,
I tell thee, thou wilt wring those soft, white hands
In agony, and envy me my lot,
Hard though it seemeth now!
JASON. How dar'st thou?
MEDEA. I go, but I will come again, to take
What is mine own, and bring what ye deserve.
KING. Ha! Wouldst thou threaten us before our face?
If words will not suffice--
(_To his attendants._)
Then teach ye her
How she should bear herself before a king!
MEDEA. Stand back! Who dares to block Medea's path?
Mark well, O king, this hour when I depart.
Trust me, thou never saw'st a blacker one!
Make way! I go,--and take with me revenge!
[_She goes out._]
KING. Our punishment, at least, will follow thee!
Nay, tremble not. We'll keep thee safe from her!
CREUSA. I wonder only, whether what we do
Be right? If so, no power can work us harm!
(_The curtain falls._)
_The outer court of CREON'S palace. In the background the entrance to
the royal apartments; on the right at the side a colonnade leading to_
MEDEA _is standing in the foreground, behind her at a distance _GORA _is
seen speaking to a servant of the king._
GORA. Say to the king:
Medea takes no message from a slave.
Hath he aught to say to her,
He must e'en come himself.
Perchance she'll deign to hear him.
[_The slave departs._]
(GORA _comes forward and addresses _MEDEA.)
They think that thou wilt go,
Taming thy hate, forgetting thy revenge.
Or wilt thou go? Wilt thou?
I could almost believe thou wilt.
For thou no longer art the proud Medea,
The royal seed of Colchis' mighty king,
The wise and skilful daughter of a wise
And skilful mother.
Else hadst thou not been patient, borne their gibes
So long, even until now!
MEDEA. Ye gods! O hear her! Borne! Been patient!
So long, even until now!
GORA. I counseled thee to yield, to soften,
When thou didst seek to tarry yet awhile;
But thou wert blind, ensnared;
The heavy stroke had not yet fallen,
Which I foresaw, whereof I warned thee first.
But, now that it is fall'n, I bid thee stay!
They shall not laugh to scorn this Colchian wife,
Heap insult on the blood of our proud kings!
Let them give back thy babes,
The offshoots of that royal oak, now felled,
Or perish, fall themselves,
In darkness and in night!
Is all prepared for flight?
Or hast thou other plans?
MEDEA. First I will have my children. For the rest,
My way will be made plain.
GORA. Then thou wilt flee?
MEDEA. I know not, yet.
GORA. Then they will laugh at thee!
MEDEA. Laugh at me? No!
GORA. What is thy purpose, then?
MEDEA. I have no heart to plan or think at all.
Over the silent abyss
Let dark night brood!
GORA. If thou wouldst flee, then whither?
Whither? Ah, whither?
GORA. Here in this stranger-land
There is no place for us. They hate thee sore,
These Greeks, and they will slay thee!
MEDEA. Slay me? Me?
Nay, it is I will slay them!
GORA. And at home,
There in far Colchis, danger waits us, too!
MEDEA. O Colchis, Colchis! O my fatherland!
GORA. Thou hast heard the tale, how thy father died
When thou wentest forth, and didst leave thy home,
And thy brother fell? He died, says the tale,
But methinks 'twas not so? Nay, he gripped his grief,
Sharper far than a sword, and, raging 'gainst Fate,
'Gainst himself, fell on death!
MEDEA. Dost thou, too, join my foes?
Wilt thou slay me?
GORA. Nay, hark! I warned thee. I said:
"Flee these strangers, new-come; most of all flee this man,
Their leader smooth-tongued, the dissembler, the traitor!"
MEDEA. "Smooth-tongued, the dissembler, the traitor"
--were these thy words?
GORA. Even these.
MEDEA. And I would not believe?
GORA. Thou wouldst not; but into the deadly net
Didst haste, that now closes over thine head.
MEDEA. "A smooth-tongued traitor!" Yea, that is the word!
Hadst thou said but that, I had known in time;
But thou namedst him foe to us, hateful, and dread,
While friendly he seemed and fair, and I hated him not.
GORA. Thou lovest him, then?
MEDEA. I? Love?
I hate and shudder at him
As at falsehood, treachery,
Black horrors--as at myself!
GORA. Then punish him, strike him low!
Avenge thy brother, thy sire,
Our fatherland and our gods,
Our shame-yea, mine, and thine!
MEDEA. First I will have my babes;
All else is hidden in night.
What think'st thou of this?--When he comes
Treading proud to his bridal with her,
That maid whom I hate,
If, from the roof of the palace above him,
Medea crash down at his feet and lie there,
A ghastly corpse?
GORA. 'Twere a sweet revenge!
MEDEA. Or if, at the bridal-chamber's door,
I lay her dead in her blood,
Beside her the children--Jason's children--dead?
GORA. But thyself such revenge would hurt, and not him.
MEDEA. Ah, I would that he loved me still,
That I might slay myself, and make him groan!
But what of that maid, so false, so pure?
GORA. Ha! There thou strikest nearer to the mark!
MEDEA. Peace, peace! Back, whence ye came, ye evil thoughts!
Back into silence, into darkest night!
[_She covers her face with her veil._]
GORA. Those heroes all, who made with him
The wanton Argo-voyage hence,
The gods above have recompensed
With just requital, swift revenge.
Death and disgrace have seized them all
Save one--how long shall he go free?
Each day I listen greedily,
And joy to hear how they have died,
How fell these glorious sons of Greece,
The robber-band that fought their way
Back from far Colchis. Thracian maids
Rent limb from limb sweet Orpheus' frame;
And Hylas found a watery grave;
Pirithoues and Theseus pierced
Even to Hades' darksome realm
To rob that mighty lord of shades
Of his radiant spouse, Persephone;
But then he seized, and holds them there
For aye in chains and endless night.
MEDEA (_swiftly snatching her veil from before her face_).
Because they came to steal his wife?
Good! Good! 'Twas Jason's crime, nay, less!
GORA. Great Heracles forsook his wife,
For he was snared by other charms,
And in revenge she sent to him
A linen tunic, which he took
And clad himself therewith--and sank
To earth in hideous agonies;
For she had smeared it secretly
With poison and swift death. He sank
To earth, and Oeta's wooded heights
Were witness how he died in flames!
MEDEA. She wove it, then, that tunic dire
That slew him?
GORA. Ay, herself.
GORA. Althea 'twas--his mother--smote
The mighty Meleager down
Who slew the Calydonian boar;
The mother slew her child.
MEDEA. Was she
Forsaken by her husband, too?
GORA. Nay, he had slain her brother.
GORA. Nay, her son, I mean.
MEDEA. And when the deed was done, she died?
GORA. She liveth yet.
MEDEA. To do a deed
Like that--and live! Oh, horrible!
Thus much do I know, thus much I see clear
Not unavenged shall I suffer wrong;
What that vengeance shall be, I know not,--would not know.
Whatso'er I can do, he deserves,--ay, the worst!
But--mankind are so weak,
So fain to grant time for the sinner to feel remorse!
GORA. Remorse? Ask thy lord if he rue his deed!
For, see! He draws nigh with hasty steps.
MEDEA. And with him the king, my bitter foe,
Whose counsel hath led my lord astray.
Him must I flee, for I cannot tame
[_She goes swiftly toward the palace._]
But if lord Jason wish
To speak with me, then bid him come in,
To my side in the innermost chambers--there
I would parley with him, not here
By the side of the man who is my foe.
They come. Away!
[_She disappears into the palace._]
GORA. Lo, she is gone!
And I am left to deal with the man
Who is killing my child, who hath brought it to pass
That I lay my head on a foreign soil,
And must hide my tears of bitter woe,
Lest I see a smile on the lips of these strangers here.
_The_ KING _and _JASON _enter._
KING. Why hath thy mistress fled? 'Twill serve her not
GORA. Fled? Nay, she went, because she hates thy face
KING. Summon her forth!
GORA. She will not come.
KING. She shall!
GORA. Then go thou in thyself and call her forth,
If thou dost dare.
Where am I, then, and who,
That this mad woman dares to spite me thus?
The servant mirrors forth the mistress' soul--
Servant and mistress mirror forth that land
Of darkness that begat them! Once again
I tell thee, call her forth!
GORA (_pointing to Jason_).
There stands the man
That she would speak with. Let him go within--
If he hath courage for it.
JASON. Get thee gone,
Old witch, whom I have hated from the first!
Tell her, who is so like thee, she must come.
GORA. Ah, if she were like me, thou wouldst not speak
In such imperious wise! I promise thee
That she shall know of it, and to thy dole!
JASON. I would have speech with her.
GORA. Go in!
JASON. Not I!
'Tis she that shall come forth. Go thou within
And tell her so!
GORA. Well, well, I go, if but
To rid me of the sight of you, my lords;
Ay, and I'll bear your summons, but I know
Full well she will not come, for she is weak
And feels her sickness all too grievously.
[_She goes into the palace._]
KING. Not one day longer will I suffer her
To stay in Corinth. This old dame but now
Gave utterance to the dark and fell designs
On which yon woman secretly doth brood.
Methinks her presence is a constant threat.
Thy doubts, I hope, are laid to rest at last?
JASON. Fulfil, O King, thy sentence on my wife!
She can no longer tarry where I am,
So, let her go; the sentence is not harsh.
Forsooth, though I am less to blame than she,
My lot is bitt'rer, harder far than hers.
She but returns to that grim wilderness
Where she was born, and, like a restive colt
From whom the galling yoke is just removed,
Will rush to freedom, and become once more
Untamed and stubborn.
But my place is here;
Here must I sit and while away the days
In meek inaction, burdened with the scorn
And scoffing of mankind, mine only task
Dully to muse upon my vanished past.
KING. Thou wilt be great and famous yet again,
Believe me. Like the bow which, once set free
From the fierce strain, doth speed the arrow swift
And straight unto its mark, whenso the hand
Is loosed that bent it, so wilt thou spring back
And be thyself again, once she is gone.
JASON. Naught feel I in my breast to feed such hopes!
Lost is my name, my fame; I am no more
Than Jason's shadow, not that prince himself.
KING. The world, my son, is not so harsh as thou:
An older man's misstep is sin and crime;
The youth's, a misstep only, which he may
Retrace, and mend his error. All thy deeds
In Colchis, when thou went a hot-head boy,
Will be forgot, if thou wilt show thyself
Henceforth a man.
JASON. O, might I trust thy words,
I could be happy once again!
KING. Let her
But leave thy side, and thou wilt say I'm right.
Before the Amphictyons' judgment-seat I'll go
And speak for thee, defend thy righteous cause,
And prove that it was she alone, Medea,
Who did those horrid deeds wherewith thou'rt charged,
Prove her the wanton, her the darksome witch.
Lifted shall be the doom of banishment
From off thy brow. If not, then thou shalt rise
In all thy stubborn strength, and to the breeze
Unfurl the glorious banner of pure gold
Which thou didst bring from earth's most distant land,
And, like a rushing torrent, all the youth
Of Greece will stream to serve thee once again
And rally 'round thy standard to oppose
All foes that come, rally 'round thee, now purged
Of all suspicion, starting life anew,
The glorious hope of Greece, and of the Fleece
The mighty hero!--Thou hast got it still?
JASON. The Fleece?
JASON. Nay, not I.
KING. And yet thy wife
Bore it away from old King Pelias' house.
JASON. Then she must have it still.
KING. If so, then she
Shall straightway yield it up, perforce. It is
The pledge and symbol of thy power to come.
Ay, thou shalt yet be strong and great again,
Thou only son of my old friend! A king
Am I, and have both wealth and power, the which
With mine own daughter's spouse I'll gladly share.
JASON. And I will go to claim the heritage
My fathers left me, of that false man's son
That keeps it from me. For I, too, am rich,
Could I but have my due.
KING. Peace! Look, she comes
Who still doth vex us. But our task is brief.
MEDEA _comes out of the palace, attended by_ GORA.
MEDEA. What wouldst thou with me?
KING. I did send thee late
Some slaves to speak my will, whom thou didst drive
With harsh words forth, and didst demand to hear
From mine own lips whate'er I had to say,
What my commands and what thou hadst to do.
MEDEA. Say on!
KING. Naught strange or new have I to tell.
I would but speak once more the doom I set
Upon thy head, and add thereto that thou
Must forth today.
MEDEA. And why today?
KING. The threats
That thou halt uttered 'gainst my daughter's life--
For those against mine own I do not care:
The savage moods that thou of late hast shown,
All these do warn me how thy presence here
Bodes ill. Wherefore, today thou must begone!
MEDEA. Give me my babes, and I will go--perhaps!
KING. Nay, no "Perhaps!" Thou goest! But the babes
MEDEA. How? Mine own babes? But I forget
To whom I speak. Let me have speech with him,
My husband, standing there.
KING. Nay, hear her not!
MEDEA (_to _JASON).
I pray thee, let me speak with thee!
JASON. Well, well,
So be it, then, that thou may'st see I have
No fear of any words of thine to me.
(_To the_ KING.)
Leave us, my lord! I'll hear what she would say.
KING. I go, but I am fearful. She is sly
And cunning! [_He departs._]
MEDEA. So, he's gone! No stranger now
Is here to vex us, none to come between
Husband and wife, and, what our hearts do feel,
That we can speak out clear.--Say first, my lord,
What are thy plans, thy wishes?
JASON. Thou dost know.
MEDEA. I guess thy will, but all thy secret thoughts
I know not.
JASON. Be contented with the first,
For they are what decide.
MEDEA. Then I must go?
MEDEA. And today?
MEDEA. And thou canst stand
So calm before me and speak such a word,
Nor drop thine eyes for shame, nor even blush?
JASON. I must needs blush, if I should say aught else!
MEDEA. Ha! Good! Well done! Speak ever words like these
When thou wouldst clear thyself in others' eyes,
But leave such idle feigning when thou speak'st
JASON. Dost call my dread of horrid deeds
Which thou hast done, a sham, and idle, too?
Thou art condemned by men; the very gods
Have damned thee! And I give thee up to them
And to their judgment! 'Tis a fate, in sooth,
Thou richly hast deserved!
MEDEA. Who is this man,
This pious, virtuous man with whom I speak?
Is it not Jason? Strives he to seem mild?
O, mild and gentle one, didst thou not come
To Colchis' strand, and win in bloody fight
The daughter of its king? O, gentle, mild,
Didst thou not slay my brother, was it not
At thine own hands mine aged father fell,
Thou gentle, pious man? And now thou wouldst
Desert the wife whom thou didst steal away!
Mild? No, say rather hateful, monstrous man!
JASON. Such wild abuse I will not stay to hear.
Thou knowest now what thou must do. Farewell!
MEDEA. Nay, nay, I know not! Stay until I learn!
Stay, and I will be quiet even as thou.--
So, I am banished, then? But what of thee?
Methinks the Herald's sentence named thee, too.
JASON. When it is known that I am innocent
Of all these horrid deeds, and had no hand
In murdering mine uncle, then the ban
Will be removed from me.
MEDEA. And thou wilt live
Peaceful and happy, for long years to come?
JASON. I shall live quietly, as doth become
Unhappy men like me.
MEDEA. And what of me?
JASON. Thou dost but reap the harvest thine own hands
MEDEA. My hands? Hadst thou no part therein?
JASON. Nay, none.
MEDEA. Didst never pray thine uncle's death
Might speedily be compassed?
JASON. No command
At least I gave.
MEDEA. Ne'er sought to learn if I
Had heart and courage for the deed?
JASON. Thou know'st
How, in the first mad burst of rage and hate,
A man speaks many hot, impetuous threats
Which calm reflection never would fulfil.
MEDEA. Once thou didst blame thyself for that mad deed;
Now thou hast found a victim who can bear
The guilt in place of thee!
JASON. 'Tis not the thought
Of such a deed that merits punishment;
It is the deed itself.
I did it not!
JASON. Who, then, is guilty?
MEDEA. Not myself, at least!
Listen, my husband, and be thou the first
To do me justice.
As I stood at the chamber door, to enter
And steal away the Fleece,
The king lay there on his couch;
Sudden I heard a cry! I turned,
And lo! I saw the aged king
Leap from his couch with frightful shrieks,
Twisting and writhing; and he cried,
"Com'st thou, O brother, to take revenge,
Revenge on me? Ha! Thou shalt die
Again, and yet again!" And straight
He sprang at me, to grip me fast,
For in my hands I held the Fleece.
I shook with fear, and cried aloud
For help to those dark gods I know;
The Fleece before me like a shield
I held. His face was twisted swift
To maniac grins, and leered at me!
Then, with a shriek, he madly tore
At the clothes that bound his aged veins;
They rent; the blood gushed forth in streams,
And, even as I looked, aghast
And full of horror, there he lay,
The king, at my very feet, all bathed
In his own blood-lay cold and dead!
JASON. And thou canst stand and tell me such a tale,
Thou hateful witchwife? Get thee gone from me!
Away! I shudder at thee! Would that I
Had ne'er beheld thy face!
MEDEA. Thou knewest well
That I was skilled in witchcraft, from that day
When first thou saw'st me at my magic arts,
And still didst yearn and long to call me thine!
JASON. I was a youth then, and an arrant fool!
What boys are pleased with, men oft cast away.
MEDEA. O, say no word against the golden days
Of youth, when heads are hot, but hearts are pure!
O, if thou wert but now what once thou wast,
Then were I happier far! Come back with me
Only a little step to that fair time
When, in our fresh, green youth, we strayed together
By Phasis' flowery marge. How frank and clear
Thy heart was then, and mine how closely sealed
And sad! But thou with thy soft, gentle light
Didst pierce my darkness, drive away the clouds,
And make me bright and happy. Thine I was,
And thou wert mine; O, Jason, is it then
Vanished forever, that far, happy time?
Or hath the bitter struggle for a hearth
And home, for name and fame, forever killed
The blooms of fairest promise on the tree
Of thy green youth? Oh, compassed though I be
With woe and heavy sorrows all about,
Yet I think often on that springtime sweet
Whence soft and balmy breezes o'er the years
Are wafted to me! If Medea then
Seemed fair to thee and lovely, how today
Can she be dread and hateful? What I was
Thou knewest, and didst seek me none the less.
Thou took'st me as I was; O, keep me, as I am!
JASON. Thou hast forgot the dreadful deeds that since
Have come to pass.
MEDEA. Ay, dread they are, in sooth,
And I confess it! 'Gainst mine aged sire
I sinned most deeply, 'gainst my brother, too,
And none condemns me more than I myself.
I'll welcome punishment, and I'll repent
In joy and gladness; only thou shalt not
Pronounce the doom upon me, nay, not thou!
For all my deeds were done for love of thee.--
Come, let us flee together, once again
Made one in heart and soul! Some distant land
Will take us to its bosom.
JASON. What land, then?
And whither should we flee?
JASON. Thou'rt mad,
And dost revile me, that I do not choose
To share thy raving! No! Our life together
Is done! The gods have cursed our union long,
As one with deeds of cruelty begun,
That since hath waged and found its nourishment
In horrid crimes. E'en granting thou didst not
Thyself slay Pelias, who was there to see?
Or who would trust thy tale?
JASON. Even then,
What can I do, how clear thee?--It were vain!
Come, let us yield to Fate, not stubbornly
Defy it! Let us each repentance seek,
And suffer our just doom, thou fleeing forth
Because thou may'st not stay, I tarrying here
When I would flee.
MEDEA. Methinks thou dost not choose
The harder lot!
JASON. Is it so easy, then,
To live, a stranger, in a stranger's house,
Subsisting on a stranger's pitying gifts?
MEDEA. Nay, if it seem so hard, why dost not choose
To fly with me?
JASON. But whither? Ay, and how?
MEDEA. There was a time thou hadst not shown thyself
So over-prudent, when thou camest first
To Colchis from the city of thy sires,
Seeking the glitter of an empty fame
In distant lands.
JASON. I am not what I was;
Broken my strength, the courage in my breast
A dead thing. And 'tis thou I have to thank
For such misfortune! Bitter memories
Of days long past lie like a weight of lead
Upon my anxious soul; I cannot raise
Mine eyes for heaviness of heart. And, more,
The boy of those far days is grown a man,
No longer, like a wanton, sportive child,
Gambols amid bright flow'rs, but reaches out
For ripened fruit, for what is real and sure.
Babes I have got, but have no place where they
May lay their heads; my task it is to make
An heritage for these. Shall Jason's stock
Be but a withered weed beside the road,
By all men spurned and trampled? If thou e'er
Hast truly loved me, if I e'er was dear
To thee, oh, give me proof thereof, restore
Myself to me again, and yield a grave
To me in this, my homeland!
MEDEA. And in this
Same homeland a new marriage-bed, forsooth I
Am I not right?
JASON. What idle talk is this?
MEDEA. Have I not heard how Creon named thee son,
And husband of his daughter? She it is,
Creusa, that doth charm thee, hold thee fast
In Corinth! 'Tis for her that thou wouldst stay!
Confess, I have thee there!
JASON. Thou hast me not,
And never hadst me.
MEDEA. So, thou wilt repent,
And I, thy wife Medea, I must go
Away?--I stood beside you there and wept
As thou didst trace with her your happy days
Of youth together, tarrying at each step
In sweet remembrance, till thou didst become
Naught but an echo of that distant past.--
I will not go, no, will not!
JASON. Thou'rt unjust,
And hard and wild as ever!
MEDEA. I unjust!
Thou dost not seek her, then, to wife? Say no!
JASON. I do but seek a place to lay me down
And rest. What else will come, I do not know!
MEDEA. Ay, but I know full well, and it shall be
My task to thwart thee, with the help of heaven!
JASON. Thou canst not speak with calmness, so, farewell!
[_He takes a step toward the door._]
JASON (_turning back_).
What wouldst thou?
MEDEA. 'Tis, perchance, the last,
Last time that we shall speak together!
Then let us without hate or rancor part.
MEDEA. Thou mad'st me love thee deeply. Wouldst thou now
Flee from my face?
JASON. I must!
MEDEA. Hast robbed me, too,
Of my dear father; and wouldst steal away
JASON. I am helpless!
MEDEA. At thy hands
My brother met his death untimely. Him
Thou hast taken from me, too, and now wouldst fly
And leave me?
JASON. He was innocent; he fell.
And I am blameless, too; but I must flee thee.
MEDEA. I left my fatherland to follow thee!
JASON. Thou didst but follow thine own will, not me.
Gladly would I, if thou hadst rued thy deed,
Have sent thee back again.
MEDEA. I am accurst,
And damned by all the world,--and all for thee!
And, for thy sake, I even hate myself!
Wilt thou forsake me still?
JASON. 'Tis not my will,
Nay; but a higher bidding tells me plain
That I must leave thy side. Thy fate seems hard,
But what of mine? And yet, I pity thee,
If that be any comfort!
MEDEA (_falling upon her knees to him_).
What wouldst thou further?
MEDEA (_rising suddenly_).
Nothing! It is past
And done with! O proud sires, O mighty gods
Of Colchis, grant forgiveness to thy child
Who hath so humbled and dishonored you,
(Ay, and herself as well)--for I was pressed
And needs must do it. Now, receive me back!
[JASON _turns to leave her._]
JASON. Hope not that thou canst soften me!
MEDEA. Nay, never think I wished it! Give me back
Thy children? Never!
They are mine!
JASON. Men call them by their father's name; and that
Shall never grace barbarians! Here in Greece
I'll rear them, to be Greeks!
MEDEA. To be despised
And scorned by offspring of thy later bed?
I tell thee, they are mine!
JASON. Nay, have a care,
Lest thou shouldst turn my pity unto hate!
And keep a quiet mien, since that is all
Can soften thy hard fate.
MEDEA. To prayers and tears
I needs must humble me! My husband!--No,
For that thou art no more! Beloved!--No,
For that, thou never wert! Man, shall I say?
He is no man who breaks his solemn oath!
Lord Jason!--Pah! It is a traitor's name!
How shall I name thee? Devil!--Gentle! Good!
Give me my babes, and let me go in peace!
JASON. I cannot, I have told thee, cannot do it.
MEDEA. Hard heart! Thou tak'st the husband from the wife,
And robb'st the mother of her babes as well?
JASON. Nay, then, that thou may'st know how I have yet
Some kindness left, take with thee when thou goest
One of the babes.
MEDEA. But one? Say, only one?
JASON. Beware thou ask too much! The little I
Have just now granted, oversteps the right.
MEDEA. Which shall it be?
JASON. We'll leave the choice to them,
The babes themselves; and whichsoever will,
Him thou shalt take.
MEDEA. O thanks a thousand times,
Thou gentle, kindly man! He lies who calls
[_The_ KING_ appears at the door._]
JASON. Come, my lord!
KING. Is't settled, then?
JASON. She goes; and I have granted her to take
One of the children with her.
(_To one of the slaves who has accompanied the _KING.)
And bring the babes before us!
KING. What is this?
Here they shall stay, ay, both of them!
MEDEA. This gift
That in mine eyes so small is, seemeth it
So great a boon to thee? Hast thou no fear
Of Heaven's fell anger, harsh and violent man?
KING. The gods deal harshly with such wanton crimes
As thou hast done!
MEDEA. Yea, but they see the cause
That drove us to such deeds!
KING. 'Tis wicked thoughts,
Deep in the heart, beget such crimes as thine!
MEDEA. All causes else thou count'st for naught?
KING. With stern
And iron justice mine own self I rule,
And so, with right, judge others.
MEDEA. In the act
Of punishing my crimes, thou dost commit
A worse thyself!
JASON. She shall not say of me
That I am all hard-hearted; wherefore I
One of the babes have promised her, to be
His mother's dearest comfort in her woe.
CREUSA _enters with the children._
CREUSA. One told me that these babes were summoned here.
What will ye have? What deeds are now afoot?
Behold how they do love me, though they were
But now brought here to Corinth! 'Tis as if
Long years already we had seen and known
Each one the other. 'Twas my gentle words
That won them; for, poor babes, they were not used
To loving treatment; and their sore distress,
Their loneliness did straightway win my heart.
MEDEA. One of the babes goes with me!
CREUSA. What is this?
KING. E'en so. It is their father's will!
(_To_ MEDEA,_ who stands in deep meditation._)
Here are thy children. Let them make their choice!
The babes! My children! Ay, 'tis they, in sooth!
The one thing left me in this bitter world!
Ye gods, forget those dark and wicked thoughts
That late I harbored; grant me both my babes,
Yea, both, and I'll go forth from out this land
Praising your mercy! Yea, I'll e'en forgive
My husband there, and her--No! Her I'll not
Forgive--nor Jason, either! Come to me,
Come here, my babes!--Why stand ye silent there
And cling upon the breast of my false foe?
Ah, could ye know how she hath humbled me,
Ye would arm your tiny hands, curve into claws
Those little, weakling fingers, rend and tear
That soft and tender form, whereto ye cling
So lovingly!--Wouldst hold my children back
From coming to me? Let them go!
CREUSA. In sooth,
Unhappy woman, I restrain them not!
MEDEA. Not with thy hand, I know, but with thy glance,
Thy false, deceitful face, that seems all love,
And holds my husband from me, too! Thou laugh'st?
I promise thee thou'lt weep hot tears in days
CREUSA. Now may the gods chastise me if I had
A thought of laughing!
KING. Woman, break not forth
In insults and in anger! Do what thou
Hast yet to do, or go!
MEDEA. Thou'rt right, O king,
Most just of kings! Not so much kind of heart
As just! How do thy bidding? Yet will I
Strive to do both. Hark, children! List to me!
They send your mother forth, to wander wide
O'er sea and land. Who knows where she shall come?
These kindly folk, thy father, and that just
And gentle king that standeth there, have said
That I may take, to share my lonely fate,
One of my babes, but only one. Ye gods,
Hear ye this sentence? One, and one alone!
Now, whichsoever of you loves me more,
Let that one come to join me, for I may
Not have you both; the other here must stay
Beside his father, and with that false king's
Still falser daughter!--Hear ye what I say?
Why linger there?
KING. Thou seest they will not come!
MEDEA. Thou liest, false and wicked king! They would,
Save that thy daughter hath enchanted them
And keeps them from me!--Heard ye not, my babes?--
Accurst and monstrous children, bane and curse
Of your poor mother, image of your sire!
JASON. They will not come!
MEDEA (_pointing to _CREUSA).
Let her but go away!
They love me! Am I not their mother? Look
How she doth beckon, nod to them, and draw
Them further from me!
CREUSA. I will go away,
Though I deserve not thy suspicious hate.
MEDEA. Come to me, children!--Come!--O viper brood!
[_She advances toward them threateningly; the children fly to_ CREUSA
MEDEA. They fly from me! They fly!
KING. Thou seest, Medea,
The children will not come--so, get thee gone!
MEDEA. They will not? These my babes do fear to come
Unto their mother?--No, it is not true,
It cannot be!--Aeson, my elder son,
My best beloved! See, thy mother calls!
Come to her! Nay, no more will I be harsh,
No more enangered with thee! Thou shalt be
Most precious in mine eyes, the one thing left
I call mine own! Hark to thy mother! Come!--
He turns his face away, and will not! O
Thou thankless child, thou image of thy sire,
Like him in each false feature, in mine eyes
Hateful, as he is! Stay, then, where thou art!
I know thee not!--But thou, Absyrtus, child
Of my sore travail, with the merry face
Of my lost brother whom with bitter tears
I mourn, and mild and gentle as was he,
See how thy mother kneels upon the ground
And, weeping, calls thee! O let not her prayers
Be all in vain! Absyrtus, come to me,
My little son! Come to thy mother!--What?
He tarries where he is! Thou, too? Thou, too?
Give me a dagger, quick, that I may slay
These whelps, and then myself!
[_She springs up._]
[Illustration: MEDEA From the Grillparzer Monument at Vienna]
JASON. Nay, thou must thank thyself that thy wild ways
Have startled them, estranged them, turned their hearts
Unto that mild and gentle maid they love.
They do but echo what the gods decree!--
Depart now; but the babes, they tarry here.
MEDEA. O children, hear me!
JASON. See, they hearken not!
MEDEA. O children, children!
KING (_to_ CREUSA).
Lead them back again
Into the palace! 'Tis not meet they hate
The mother that did bear them.
[CREUSA _moves away with the children._]
MEDEA. Woe is me!
They flee! My children flee before my face!
KING (_to_ JASON).
Come we away! To weep for what must be
MEDEA. O my babes, my little babes!
GORA _enters quickly._
GORA. Come, calm thyself, nor grant to these thy foes
The joy of seeing how they've conquered thee!
MEDEA (_flinging herself upon the ground_).
Conquered I am, at last, made nothing worth,
Trampled beneath my foes' triumphant feet!
They flee me, flee me! Mine own children flee me!
GORA (_bending over her_).
Thou must not die!
MEDEA. Nay, let me die! My babes,
My little babes!
_The outer court of _CREON'S _palace, as in the preceding act. It is
twilight._ MEDEA lies prone upon the steps that lead to her apartments;
_GORA_ is standing before her._
GORA. Up, Medea, speak!
Why liest thou there so silent, staring
Blindly before thee? Rise, and speak!
O, help our sore distress!
MEDEA. My babes! My babes!
GORA. Forth must we flee ere night shall fall,
And already the twilight draweth down.
Up! Rouse thee, and gird thee for flight!
Swiftly they come to slay!
MEDEA. Alas, my children!
GORA. Nay, up! I say, unhappy one,
Nor kill me with thy cries of woe!
Hadst thou but heeded when I warned,
Still should we be at home
In Colchis, safe; thy kinsmen yet
Were living; all were well with us.
Rise up! What use are tears? Come, rise!
[MEDEA _drags herself half up and kneels on the steps._]
MEDEA. 'Twas so I knelt, 'twas so I lay
And stretched my hands for pity out
To mine own children; begged and wept
And prayed for one, for only one
Of my dear children! Death itself
Were not so bitter, as to leave
One of them here!--But to have none--!
And neither came! They turned away
With terror on their baby lips,
And fled for comfort to the breast
Of her--my bitterest enemy!
[_She springs up suddenly._]
But he,--he laughed to see, and she
Did laugh as well!
GORA. O, woe is me!
O, woe and heavy sorrow!
MEDEA. O gods, is this your vengeance, then,
Your retribution? All for love
I followed him, as wife should e'er
Follow her lord. My father died,
But was it I that slew him? No!
My brother fell. Was't, then, my hand
That dealt the stroke? I've wept for them
With heavy mourning, poured hot tears
To serve as sad libation for
Their resting-place so far away!
Ye gods! These woes so measureless
That I have suffered at your hands--
Call ye these justice,--retribution?
GORA. Thou didst leave thine own--
Thine own desert thee now!
MEDEA. Then will I visit punishment
On them, as Heaven on me!
There shall no deed of wickedness
In all the wide world scathless go!
Leave vengeance to my hand, O gods above!
GORA. Nay, think how thou mayst save thyself;
All else forget!
MEDEA. What fear is this
That makes thy heart so craven-soft?
First thou wert grim and savage, spak'st
Fierce threats of vengeance, now art full
Of fears and trembling!
GORA. Let me be!
That moment when I saw thy babes
Flee their own mother's yearning arms,
Flee from the arms of her that bare
And reared them, then I knew at last
'Twas the gods' hand had struck thee down!
Then brake my heart, my courage sank!
These babes, whom it was all my joy
To tend and rear, had been the last
Of all the royal Colchian line,
On whom I still could lavish all
My love for my far fatherland.
Long since, my love for thee was dead;
But in these babes I seemed to see
Again my homeland, thy dear sire,
Thy murdered brother, all the line
Of princely Colchians,--ay, thyself,
As once thou wert,--and art no more!
So, all my thought was how to shield
And rear these babes; I guarded them
E'en as the apple of mine eye,
MEDEA. They have repaid thy love
As thanklessness doth e'er repay!
GORA. Chide not the babes! They're innocent!
MEDEA. How, innocent? And flee their mother
Innocent? They are Jason's babes,
Like him in form, in heart, and in
My bitter hate! If I could hold them here,
Their life or death depending on my hand,
E'en on this hand I reach out, so, and one
Swift stroke sufficed to slay them, bring to naught
All that they were, or are, or e'er can be,--
Look! they should be no more!
GORA. O, woe to thee,
Cruel mother, who canst hate those little babes
Thyself didst bear!
MEDEA. What hopes have they, what hopes?
If here they tarry with their sire,
That sire so base and infamous,
What shall their lot be then?
The children of this latest bed
Will scorn them, do despite to them
And to their mother, that wild thing
From distant Colchis' strand!
Their lot will be to serve as slaves;
Or else their anger, gnawing deep
And ever deeper at their hearts,
Will make them bitter, hard,
Until they grow to hate themselves.
For, if misfortune often is begot
By crime, more often far are wicked deeds
The offspring of misfortune!--What have they
To live for, then? I would my sire
Had slain me long, long years agone
When I was small, and had not yet
Drunk deep of woe, as now I do--
Thought heavy thoughts, as now!
GORA. Thou tremblest! What dost think to do?
MEDEA. That I must forth, is sure; what else
May chance ere that, I cannot see.
My heart leaps up, when I recall
The foul injustice I have borne,
And glows with fierce revenge! No deed
So dread or awful but I would
Put hand to it!--
He loves these babes,
Forsooth, because he sees in them
His own self mirrored back again,
Himself--his idol!--Nay, he ne'er
Shall have them, shall not!--Nor will I!
I hate them!
GORA. Come within! Nay, why
Wouldst tarry here?
MEDEA. All empty is that house,
And all deserted! Desolation broods
Upon those silent walls, and all is dead
Within, save bitter memories and grief!
GORA. Look! They are coming who would drive us hence.
Come thou within!
MEDEA. Thou saidst the Argonauts
Found each and every one a grave unblest,
The wages of their treachery and sin?
GORA. Ay, sooth, and such a grave shall Jason find!
MEDEA. He shall, I promise thee, he shall, indeed!
Hylas was swallowed in a watery grave;
The gloomy King of Shades holds Theseus bound;
And how was that Greek woman called--the one
That on her own blood bloody vengeance took?
How was she called, then? Speak!
GORA. I do not know
What thou dost mean.
MEDEA. Althea was her name!
GORA. She who did slay her son
MEDEA. The very same!
How came it, then? Tell me the tale once more.
GORA. Unwitting, in the chase, he had struck down
MEDEA. Him alone? He did not slay
Her father, too? Nor fled his mother's arms,
Nor thrust her from him, spurned her scornfully?
And yet she struck him dead--that mighty man,
Grim Meleager, her own son! And she--
She was a Greek! Althea was her name.
Well, when her son lay dead--?
GORA. Nay, there the tale
MEDEA. Doth end! Thou'rt right, for death ends all!
GORA. Why stand we here and talk?
MEDEA. Dost think that I
Lack courage for the venture? Hark! I swear
By the high gods, if he had giv'n me both
My babes--But no! If I could take them hence
To journey with me, at his own behest,
If I could love them still, as deep as now
I hate them, if in all this lone, wide world
One single thing were left me that was not
Poisoned, or brought in ruin on my head--
Perchance I might go forth e'en now in peace
And leave my vengeance in the hands of Heaven.
But no! It may not be!
They name me cruel
And wanton, but I was not ever so;
Though I can feel how one may learn to be.
For dread and awful thoughts do shape themselves
Within my soul; I shudder--yet rejoice
Thereat! When all is finished--Gora, hither!
GORA. What wouldst thou?
MEDEA. Come to me!
GORA. And why?
MEDEA. Come hither!
See! There they lay, the babes--ay, and the bride,
Bleeding, and dead! And he, the bridegroom, stood
And looked and tore his hair! A fearful sight
GORA. Heaven forfend! What mean these words?
MEDEA. Ha, ha! Thou'rt struck with terror then, at last?
Nay, 'tis but empty words that I did speak.
My old, fierce will yet lives, but all my strength
Is vanished. Oh, were I Medea still--!
But no, I am no more! O Jason, why,
Why hast thou used me so? I sheltered thee,
Saved thee, and gave thee all my heart to keep;
All that was mine, I flung away for thee!
Why wilt thou cast me off, why spurn my love,
Why drive the kindly spirits from my heart
And set fierce thoughts of vengeance in their place?
I dream of vengeance, when I have no more
The power to wreak revenge! The charms I had
From my own mother, that grim Colchian queen,
From Hecate, that bound dark gods to me
To do my bidding, I have buried them,
Ay, and for love of thee!--have sunk them deep
In the dim bosom of our mother Earth;
The ebon wand, the veil of bloody hue,
Gone!--and I stand here helpless, to my foes
No more a thing of terror, but of scorn!
GORA. Then speak not of them if they'll serve thee not!
MEDEA. I know well where they lie;
For yonder on the plashy ocean-strand
I coffined them and sank them deep in earth.
'Tis but to toss away a little mold,
And they are mine! But in my inmost soul
I shudder when I think on such a venture,
And on that blood-stained Fleece. Methinks the ghosts
Of father, brother, brood upon their grave
And will not let them go. Dost thou recall
How on the pavement lay my old, gray sire
Weeping for his dead son, and cursing loud
His daughter? But lord Jason swung the Fleece
High o'er his head, with fierce, triumphant shouts!
'Twas then I swore revenge upon this traitor
Who first did slay my best-beloved, now