A monologue from the play by Sophocles
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.
Friends, while our guest is parleying in the house
With the girl-captives, on the point to go,
I am come forth to you in private, first
Wishing to tell you my devices, next
To be condoled with for my injuries.
For I have taken to my house a maid–
A maid no more, but mated, to my thinking–
Even as a shipman takes a load on board,
A losing bargain for my heart! And now
We two abide beneath one coverlet
To be embraced. This reward Heracles–
Faithful and good as we reputed him–
Sends, in return for my long house-tending.
And him I cannot be indignant with,
Often afflicted by this malady;
But to keep house with her, and to go shares
In the same marriage-bond–what wife could do it?
For I see bloom on her side coming on,
And on mine fading; and of such an eye
Will pick the flower, and eschew the rest.
This, then, is what I fear; lest Heracles
Come to be called my consort, but her mate,
The younger woman. Still it is not well
A wife who has discretion, as I said,
Should become wroth; rather in what way, friends,
I may find easement, to deliver me,
Lo, I will tell you. I have long possessed
A keepsake of a monster of old time,
Put by in a brass vessel, which I took
When yet a girl, out of the mortal wound
Of the shag-bosomed Nessus, as he died;
Who used to carry men across the ford
Of the Evenus, a deep stream, for hire,
With his mere hands, plying without oar or sail.
He, when I first with Heracles a bride
Went, at my sire’s disposing, carried me
Upon his back, when he was in mid-passage,
Touched me with wanton hands. And I cried out;
And straight the son of Jove turned, and his hands
Launched a winged shaft; and it whizzed through the breast,
Into his lungs. And as the brute expired,
He spake these words; “Child of old Œneus,
If you will hear, you shall have this much profit,
Seeing you were my last of passengers,
Out of my ferrying; for if you collect
The gore that stiffens round my deadly wound,
Just where the black envenomed shafts were dipped
In blood of the Lernæan water-snake,
A medicine for the heart of Heracles
It shall be to you; so that he shall love
No woman whom he looks on, more than you.”
Mindful of this, my friends–for since his death
It has been carefully locked up at home–
I dipped this tunic, and threw in the whole
Of what he told me just before he died.
This has been done. Now never may I know–
Never be taught–malign experiments;
Nay, those who try them I detest; but if
Against this girl by charms I may prevail,
And by a philtre used on Heracles–
Why, means have been supplied; unless I seem
Busied in vain; if so, I will not do it.