DEIANIRA: 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.