Tradução de R.C. Jebb
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 (…) 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.”
why, when thou art so rich in sons, dost thou send no one of them to seek thy lord; – Hyllus, before all, who might well go on that errand, if he cared that there should be tidings of his father’s welfare?”
“this woman is a slave, but hath spoken in the spirit of the free.”
Last year, they say, through all the months, he toiled as bondman to Lydian woman.”
“Thou dost not well, I say, to kill fair hope by fretting; remember that the son of Cronus himself, the all-disposing king, hath not appointed a painless lot for mortals. Sorrow and joy come round to all, as the Bear moves in his circling paths.”
“Yes, the tender plant grows in those sheltered regions of its own! and the Sun-god’s heat vexes it not, nor rain, nor any wind; but it rejoices in its sweet, untroubled being, til such time as the maiden is called a wife, and finds her portion of anxious thoughts in the night, brooding on danger to husband or to children. Such an one could understand the burden of my cares; she could judge them by her own. (…) He had always departed as if to conquer, not to die. But now, as if he were a doomed man, he told me what portion of his substance I was to take for my dower, and how he would have his sons share their father’s land amongst them. And he fixed the time; saying that, when a year and three months should have passed since he had left the country, then he was fated to die; or, if he should have survived that term, to live thenceforth an untroubled life.
Such, he said, was the doom ordained by the gods to be accomplished in the toils of Heracles; as the ancient oak at Dodona had spoken of yore, by the mouth of the two Peleiades.”
Queen Deianeira, I shall be the first of messengers to free thee from fear. Know that Alcmena’s son lives and triumphs, and from battle brings the first-fruits to the gods of this land.”
“So he passed a whole year, as he himself avows, in thraldom to Omphale the barbarian. And so stung was he by that reproach, he bound himself by a solemn oath that he would one day enslave, with wife and child, the man who had brought that calamity upon him. (…) So those men, who waxed so proud with bitter speech, are themselves in the mansions of the dead, all of them, and their city is enslaved; while the women whom thou beholdest, fallen from happiness to misery, come here to thee; for such was thy lord’s command, which I, his faithful servant, perform. He himself, thou mayest be sure, – so soon as he shall have offered holy sacrifice for his victory to Zeus from whom he sprang, – will be with thee.”
“A strange pity hath come over me, friends, at the sight of these ill-fated exiles, homeless and fatherless in a foreign land; once the daughters, perchance, of free-born sires, but now doomed to the life of slaves.”
I heard this man declare, before many witnesses, that for this maiden’s sake Heracles overthrew Eurytus and the proud towers of Oechalia; Love, alone of the gods, wrought on him to do those deeds of arms, – not the toilsome servitude to Omphale in Lydia, nor the death to which Iphitus was hurled. But now the herald has thrust Love out of sight, and tells different tale.
Well, when he could not persuade her sire [amo] to give him the maiden for his paramour [amante], he devised some petty [insignificante] complaint as a pretext, and made war upon her land, – that in which, as he said, this Eurytus bore sway, – and slew the prince her father, and sacked her city. And now, as thou seest, he comes sending her to this house not in careless fashion, lady, nor like slave: – no, dream not of that, – it is not likely, if his heart is kindled with desire.”
“Hapless that I am!”
Nay, illustrious by name as by birth; she is the daughter of Eurytus, and was once called Iole”
“for Love rules the gods as he will, and me; and why not another woman, such as I am? So I am mad indeed, if I blame my husband, because that distemper hath seized him; or this woman, his partner in a thing which is no shame to them, and no wrong to me. Impossible! No; if he taught thee to speak falsely, ‘tis not a noble lesson that thou art learning; or if thou art thine own teacher in this, thou wilt be found cruel when it is thy wish to prove kind. Nay, tell me the whole truth. To a free-born man, the name of liar cleaves as a deadly brand. If thy hope is to escape detection, that, too, is vain; there are many to whom thou hast spoken, who will tell me.
(…) Hath not Heracles wedded others ere now, – ay, more than living man, – and no one of them hath bad harsh word or taunt from me; nor shall this girl, though her whole being should be absorbed in her passion; for indeed I felt a profound pity when I beheld her, because her beauty hath wrecked her life, and she, hapless one, all innocent, hath brought her fatherland to ruin and to bondage. Well, those things must go with wind and stream.”
“And now we twain are to share the same marriage-bed, the same embrace. Such is the reward that Heracles hath sent me, – he whom I called true and loyal, – for guarding his home through all that weary time. I have no thought of anger against him, often as he is vexed with this distemper. But then to live with her, sharing the same union – what woman could endure it? For I see that the flower of her age is blossoming, while mine is fading; and the eyes of men love to cull the bloom of youth, but they turn aside from the old. (…) <If thou gatherest with thy hands the blood clotted round my wound, at the place where the Hydra, Lerna’s monstrous growth, hath tinged the arrow with black gall, – this shall be to thee a charm for the soul of Heracles, so that he shall never look upon any woman to love her more than thee.>”
“thou shouldest take for me this long robe, woven by mine own hand, a gift to mine absent lord.
For thus had I vowed, – that if I should ever see or hear that he had come safely home, I would duly clothe him in this robe, and so present him to the gods, newly radiant at their altar in new garb.”
Friends, how I fear that I may have gone too far in all that I have been doing just now!
What hath happened, Deianeira, daughter of Oeneus?
I know not; but feel a misgiving that I shall presently be found to have wrought a great mischief, the issue of a fair hope.
It is nothing, surely, that concerns thy gift to Heracles?
Yea, even so. And henceforth I would say to all, act not with zeal, if ye act without light.”
“I neglected no part of the precepts which the savage Centaur gave me, when the bitter barb was rankling in his side: they were in my memory, like the graven words which no hand may wash from a tablet of bronze. Now these were his orders, and I obeyed them: – to keep this unguent in secret place, always remote from fire and from the sun’s warm ray, until I should apply it, newly spread, where I wished. So had I done. And now, when the moment for action had come, I performed the anointing privily in the house, with a tuft of soft wool which I had plucked from a sheep of our home-flock; then I folded up my gift, and laid it, unvisited by sunlight, within its casket, as ye saw.
But as I was going back into the house, I beheld a thing too wondrous for words, and passing the wit of man to understand. I happened to have thrown the shred of wool, with which I bad been preparing the robe, into the full blaze of the sunshine. As it grew warm, it shrivelled all away, and quickly crumbled to powder on the ground, like nothing so much as the dust shed from a saw’s teeth where men work timber. In such a state it lies as it fell. And from the earth, where it was strewn, clots of foam seethed up, as when the rich juice of the blue fruit from the vine of Bacchus is poured upon the ground.
(…) Why or wherefore should the monster, in his death-throes, have shown good will to me, on whose account he was dying? Impossible! No, he was cajoling me, in order to slay the man who had smitten him: and I gain the knowledge of this too late, when it avails no more. Yes, I alone – unless my foreboding prove false – I, wretched one, must destroy him! For I
know that the arrow which made the wound did scathe even to the god Cheiron; and it kills all beasts that it touches. And since ‘tis this same black venom in the blood that hath passed out through the wound of Nessus, must it not kill my lord also? I ween [suponho] it must.
Howbeit, I am resolved that, if he is to fall, at the same time I also shall be swept from life; for no woman could bear to live with an evil name, if she rejoices that her nature is not evil.”
O mother, would that one of three things had befallen thee! Would that thou wert dead, – or, if living, no mother of mine, – or that some new and better spirit had passed into thy bosom.
Ah, my son, what cause have I given thee to abhor me?
I tell thee that thy husband – yea, my sire – bath been done to death by thee this day.
Oh, what word hath passed thy lips, my child!
A word that shall not fail of fulfilment; for who may undo that which bath come to pass?
What saidst thou, my son? Who is thy warranty for charging me with a deed so terrible?
I have seen my father’s grievous fate with mine own eyes; I speak not from hearsay.”
“At first, hapless one, he prayed with serene soul, rejoicing in his comely garb. But when the blood-fed flame began to blaze from the holy offerings and from the resinous pine, a sweat broke forth upon his flesh, and the tunic clung to his sides, at every joint, close-glued, as if by a craftsman’s hand; there came a biting pain that racked his bones; and then the venom, as of some deadly, cruel viper, began to devour him.”
“But when he was spent with oft throwing himself on the ground in his anguish, and oft making loud lament, – cursing his fatal marriage with thee, the vile one, and his alliance with Oeneus, – saying how he had found in it the ruin of his life, – then from out of the shrouding altar-smoke, he lifted up his wildly-rolling eyes, and saw me in the great crowd, weeping. He turned his gaze on me, and called me: <O son, draw near; do not fly from my trouble, even though thou must share my death. Come, bear me forth, and set me, if thou canst, in a place where no man shall see me; or, if thy pity forbids that, at least convey me with all speed out of this land, and let me not die where I am>.”
“May avenging justice and the Erinys visit thee for them! Yes, if it be right, that is my prayer: and right it is, – for I have seen thee trample on the right, by slaying the noblest man in all the world, whose like thou shalt see nevermore!” “Why should the name of mother bring her a semblance of respect, when she is all unlike a mother in her deeds?”
“how can he look upon tomorrow’s sun, – when that appalling Hydra-shape holds him in its grip, and those murderous goads, prepared by the wily words of black-haired Nessus, have started into fury, vexing him with tumultuous pain? (…) alas, a plague is upon him more piteous than any suffering that foemen ever brought upon that glorious hero. (…) But the Cyprian goddess, ministering in silence, hath been plainly proved the doer of these deeds.”
“At that sight, her son uttered a great cry; for he knew, alas, that in his anger he had driven her to that deed; and he had learned, too late, from the servants in the house that she had acted without knowledge, by the prompting of the Centaur. And now the youth, in his misery, bewailed her with all passionate lament; he knelt, and showered kisses on her lips; he threw himself at her side upon the ground, bitterly crying that he had rashly smitten her with a slander,- weeping that he must now live bereaved of both alike”
O Zeus, to what land have I come? Who are these among whom I lie, tortured with unending agonies? Wretched, wretched that I am! Oh, that dire pest is gnawing me once more! (…) Where is the charmer, where is the cunning healer, save Zeus alone, that shall lull this plague to rest?”
“I wore out my troublous days in ridding Greece of pests, on the deep and in all forests; and now, when I am stricken, will no man succour me with merciful fire of sword?
Oh, will no one come and sever the head, at one fierce stroke, from this wretched body? Woe, woe is me!
Not the warrior on the battle-field, not the Giants’ earth-born host, nor the might of savage beasts, hath ever done unto me thus, – not Hellas, nor the land of the alien, nor any land to which I have come as a deliverer: no, a woman, a weak woman, born not to the strength of man, all alone hath vanquished me, without stroke of sword.
Son, show thyself my son indeed, and do not honour a mother’s name above a sire’s: bring forth the woman that bare thee, and give her with thine own hands into my hand, that I may know of a truth which sight grieves thee most, – my tortured frame, or hers, when she suffers her righteous doom!
Go, my son, shrink not – and show thy pity for me, whom many might deem pitiful, – for me, moaning and weeping like a girl; – and the man lives not who can say that he ever saw me do thus before; no, without complaining I still went whither mine evil fortune led. But now, alas, the strong man hath been found a woman. Approach, stand near thy sire, and see what a fate it is that hath brought me to this pass; for I will lift the veil. Behold! Look, all of you, on this miserable body; see how wretched, how piteous is my plight!
Ah, woe is me!”
“Ah, hapless Greece, what mourning do I forsee for her, if she must lose this man”
“Say what thou wilt, and cease; in this my pain I understand nought of all thy riddling words.”
Well, thou knowest the summit of Oeta, sacred to Zeus?
Ay; I have often stood at his altar on that height.
Thither, then, thou must carry me up with thine own hands, aided by what friends thou wilt; thou shalt lop many a branch from the deep-rooted oak, and hew many a faggot also from the sturdy stock of the wild-olive; thou shalt lay my body thereupon, and kindle it with flaming pine-torch.
And let no tear of mourning be seen there; no, do this without lament and without weeping, if thou art indeed my son. But if thou do it not, even from the world below my curse and my wrath shall wait on thee for ever.
Alas, my father, what hast thou spoken? How hast thou dealt with me!
I have spoken that which thou must perform; if thou wilt not, then get thee some other sire, and be called my son no more!
Woe, woe is me! What a deed dost thou require of me, my father, – that I should become thy murderer, guilty of thy blood!
Not so, in truth, but healer of my sufferings, sole physician of my pain!
And how, by enkindling thy body, shall I heal it?
Nay, if that thought dismay thee, at least perform the rest.
The service of carrying thee shall not be refused.
And the heaping of the pyre, as I have bidden?
Yea, save that I will not touch it with mine own hand. All else will I do, and thou shalt have no hindrance on my part.
Well, so much shall be enough. – But add one small boon [bênção] to thy large benefits.
Be the boon never so large, it shall be granted.
Knowest thou, then, the girl whose sire was Eurytus?
It is of Iole that thou speakest, if I mistake not.
Even so. This, in brief, is the charge that I give thee, my son. When am dead, if thou wouldest show a pious remembrance of thine oath unto thy father, disobey me not, but take this woman to be thy wife. Let no other espouse her who hath lain at my side, but do thou, O my son, make that marriage-bond thine own. Consent: after loyalty in great matters, to rebel in less is to cancel the grace that had been won.
Ah me, it is not well to be angry with a sick man: but who could bear to see him in such a mind?
Thy words show no desire to do my bidding.
What! When she alone is to blame for my mother’s death, and for thy present plight besides? Lives there the man who would make such choice, unless he were maddened by avenging fiends?
Better were it, father, that I too should die, rather than live united to the worst of our foes!
He will render no reverence, it seems, to my dying prayer. – Nay, be sure that the curse of the gods will attend thee for disobedience to my voice.
Ah, thou wilt soon show, methinks, how distempered thou art!
Yea, for thou art breaking the slumber of my plague.
Hapless that I am! What perplexities surround me!
Yea, since thou deignest not to hear thy sire.
But must I learn, then, to be impious, my father?
‘Tis not impiety, if thou shalt gladden my heart.
Dost thou command me, then, to do this deed, as a clear duty?
I command thee, – the gods bear me witness!
Then will I do it, and refuse not, – calling upon the gods to witness thy deed. I can never be condemned for loyalty to thee, my father.”
“mark the great cruelty of the gods in the deeds that are being done. They beget children, they are hailed as fathers, and yet they can look upon such sufferings.”