Skip to main content

Full text of "The Medea of Euripides"

See other formats

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 
to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 
publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 

We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at jhttp : //books . qooqle . com/ 

Www (Xd&rJLs 


This One 















Copyright, 1906, by 
Oxford University Press 




The Afedea, in spite of its background of wonder and 
enchantment, is not a romantic play but a tragedy of 
character and situation. It deals, so to speak, not with 
the romance itself, but with the end of the romance, a 
thing which is so terribly often the reverse of romantic. 
For all but the very highest of romances are apt to have 
just one flaw somewhere, and in the story of Jason and 
Medea the flaw was of a fatal kind. 

The wildness and beauty of the Argo legend run 
through all Greek literature, from the mass of Corin- 
thian lays older than our present Iliad, which later 
writers vaguely associate with the name of Eum&us, to 
the Fourth Pythian Ode of Pindar and the beautiful 
Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius. Our poet knows 
the wildness and the beauty ; but it is not these quali- 
ties that he specially seeks. He takes them almost for 
granted, and pierces through them to the sheer tragedy 
that lies below. 

Jason, son of Aeson, King of I61cos, in Thessaly, 
began his life in exile. His uncle Pelias had seized his 
father's kingdom, and Jason was borne away to the 
mountains by night and given, wrapped in a purple 
robe, to Chiron, the Centaur. When he reached man- 
hood he came down to I61cos to demand, as Pindar 
tells us, his ancestral honour, and stood in the market- 
place, a world-famous figure, one-sandalled, witb his 


pard-skin, his two spears and his long hair, gentle and 
wild and fearless, as the Wise Beast had reared him. 
Pelias, cowed but loath to yield, promised to give up the 
kingdom if Jason would make his way to the unknown 
land of Colchis and perform a double quest. First, if 
I read Pindar aright, he must fetch back the soul of his 
kinsman Phrixus, who had died there far from home ; 
and, secondly, find the fleece of the Golden Ram which 
Phrixus had sacrificed. Jason undertook the quest: 
gathered the most daring heroes from all parts of Hellas ; 
built the first ship, Argo, and set to sea. After all man- 
ner of desperate adventures he reached the land of 
Ai£t£s, king of the Colchians, and there hope failed him. 
By policy, by tact, by sheer courage he did all that man 
could do. But Ai&Ss was both hostile and treacherous. 
The Argonauts were surrounded, and their destruction 
seemed only a question of days when, suddenly, un- 
asked, and by the mercy of Heaven, Ai6t6s' daughter, 
M6d6a, an enchantress as well as a princess, fell in love 
with Jason. She helped him through all his trials ; slew 
for him her own sleepless serpent, who guarded the 
fleece ; deceived her father, and secured both the fleece 
and the soul of Phrixus. At the last moment it ap- 
peared that her brother, Absyrtus, was about to lay an 
ambush for Jason. She invited Absyrtus to her room, 
stabbed him dead, and fled with Jason over the seas. 
She had given up all, and expected in return a perfect 

And what of Jason ? He could not possibly avoid 
taking Medea with him. He probably rather loved 
her. She formed at the least a brilliant addition to 
the glory of his enterprise. Not many heroes could 


produce a barbarian princess ready to leave all and 
follow them in blind trust. For of course, as every 
one knew without the telling in fifth-century Athens, 
no legal marriage was possible between a Greek and 
a barbarian from Colchis. 

All through the voyage home, a world-wide baffled 
voyage by the Ister and the Eridanus and the African 
Syrtes, Medea was still in her element, and proved a 
constant help and counsellor to the Argonauts. When 
they reached Jason's home, where Pelias was still king, 
things began to be different. An ordered and law- 
abiding Greek state was scarcely the place for the un- 
tamed Colchian. We only know the catastrophe. She 
saw with smothered rage how Pelias hated Jason and 
was bent on keeping the kingdom from him, and she 
determined to do her lover another act of splendid ser- 
vice. Making the most of her fame as an enchantress, 
she persuaded Pelias that he could, by a certain pro- 
cess, regain his youth. He eagerly caught at the hope. 
His daughters tried the process upon him, and Pelias 
died in agony. Surely Jason would be grateful now! 

The real result was what it was sure to be in a civil- 
ised country. Medea and her lover had to fly for their 
lives, and Jason was debarred for ever from succeeding 
to the throne of I61cos. Probably there was another 
result also in Jason's mind : the conclusion that at all 
costs he must somehow separate himself from this wild 
beast of a woman who was ruining his life. He di- 
rected their flight to Corinth, governed at the time by 
a ruler of some sort, whether " tyrant " or king, who 
was growing old and had an only daughter. Creon 
would naturally want a son-in-law to support and sue- 


ceed him. And where in all Greece could he find one 
stronger or more famous than the chief of the Argo- 
nauts ? If only Medea were not there ! No doubt 
Jason owed her a great debt for her various services. 
Still, after all, he was not married to her. And a man 
must not be weak in such matters as these. Jason ac- 
cepted the princess's hand, and when Medea became 
violent, found it difficult to be really angry with Creon 
for instantly condemning her to exile. At this point 
the tragedy begins. 

The Medea is one of the earliest of Euripides' works 
now preserved to us. And those of us who have in our 
time glowed at all with the religion of realism, will 
probably feel in it many of the qualities of youth. Not, 
of course, the more normal, sensuous, romantic youth, 
the youth of Romeo and Juliet; but another kind— crude, 
austere, passionate— the youth of the poet who is also 
a sceptic and a devotee of truth, who so hates the 
conventionally and falsely beautiful that he is apt to 
be unduly ascetic towards beauty itself. When a 
writer really deficient in poetry walks in this path, the 
result is purely disagreeable. It produces its best re- 
sults when the writer, like Euripides or Tolstoy, is so 
possessed by an inward flame of poetry that it breaks 
out at the great moments and consumes the cramping 
theory that would hold it in. One can feel in the 
Medea that the natural and inevitable romance of the 
story is kept rigidly down. One word about Medea's 
ancient serpent, two or three references to the Clashing 
Rocks, one startling flash of light upon the real love of 
Jason's life, love for the ship Argo, these are almost 
all the concessions made to us by die merciless 


delineator of disaster into whose hands we are fallen. 
Jason is a middle-aged man, with much glory, indeed, 
and some illusions ; but a man entirely set upon build- 
ing up a great career, to whom love and all its works, 
though at times he has found them convenient, are for 
the most part only irrational and disturbing elements in 
a world which he can otherwise mould to his will. 
And yet, most cruel touch of all, one feels this man to 
be the real Jason. It is not that he has fallen from 
his heroic past. It is that he was really like this always. 
And so with Medea. It is not only that her beauty 
has begun to fade ; not only that she is set in surround- 
ings which vaguely belittle and weaken her, making 
her no more a bountiful princess, but only an am- 
biguous and much criticised foreigner. Her very 
devotion of love for Jason, now turned to hatred, shows 
itself to have been always of that somewhat rank and 
ugly sort to which such a change is natural. 

For concentrated dramatic quality and sheer intensity 
of passion few plays ever written can vie with the 
Medea. Yet it obtained only a third prize at its first 
production; and, in spite of its immense fame, there 
are not many scholars who would put it among their 
favourite tragedies. The comparative failure of the 
first production was perhaps due chiefly to the extreme 
originajity of the play. The Athenians in 432 *.c. had 
not yet learnt to understand or tolerate such work as 
this, though it is likely enough that they fortified their 
unfavourable opinion by the sort of criticisms which 
we still find attributed to Aristotle and Dic*archus. 

At the present time it is certainly not the newness 
of the subject : I do not think it is Aegeus, nor yet 


the dragon chariot, much less Medea's involuntary 
burst of tears in the second scene with Jason, that 
really produces the feeling of dissatisfaction with which 
many people must rise from this great play. It is 
rather the general scheme on which the drama is built. 
It is a scheme which occurs again* and again in Eurip- 
ides, a study of oppression and revenge. Such a 
subject in the hands of a more ordinary writer would 
probably take the form of a triumph of oppressed 
virtue. But Euripides gives us nothing so sympathetic, 
nothing so cheap and unreal. If oppression usually 
made people virtuous, the problems of the world 
would be very different from what they are. Euripides 
seems at times to hate the revenge of the oppressed al- 
most as much as the original cruelty of the oppressor ; 
or, to put the same fact in a different light, he seems 
deliberately to dwell upon the twofold evil of cruelty, 
that it not only causes pain to the vfctim, but actually 
by means of the pain makes hint a worse man, so that 
when his turn of triumph comes, it is no longer a 
triumph of justice or a thing to make men rejoice. 
This is a grim lesson ; taught often enough by history, 
though seldom by the fables of the poets. 

Seventeen years later than the Medea Euripides 
expressed this sentiment in a more positive way in 
the Trojan Women, where a depth of wrong borne 
without revenge becomes, or seems for the moment to 
become, a thing beautiful and glorious. But more 
plays are constructed like the Medea, The Hecuba begins 
with a noble and injured Queen, and ends with her 
hideous vengeance on her enemy and his innocent 
sons. In the Orestes all our hearts go out to the suf- 


fering and deserted prince, till we find at last that we 
have committed ourselves to the blood-thirst of a mad- 
man. In the Electra, the workers of the vengeance 
themselves repent. 

The dramatic effect of this kind of tragedy is 
curious. No one can call it undramatic or tame. Yet 
it is painfully unsatisfying. At the close of the Medea 
I actually find myself longing for a deus ex machind, 
for some being like Artemis in the Hippolytus or the 
good Dioscuri of the Electra, to speak, a word of ex- 
planation or forgiveness, or at least leave some sound 
of music in our ears to drown that dreadful and in- 
sistent clamour of hate. The truth is that in this play 
Medea herself is the dea ex machind. The woman 
whom Jason and Creon intended simply to crush has 
been transformed by her injuries from an individual 
human being into a sort of living Curse. She is in- 
spired with superhuman force. Her wrongs and her 
hate fill all the sky. And the judgment pronounced 
on Jason comes not from any disinterested or peace- 
making God, but from his own victim transfigured 
into a devil. 

From any such judgment there is an instant appeal 
to sane human sympathy. Jason has suffered more 
than enough. But that also is the way of the world. 
And the last word upon these tragic things is most 
often something not to be expressed by the sentences 
of even the wisest articulate judge, but only by the 
unspoken lacrima rerum. 

G. M. 



Medka, daughter of Aiitis, King of Colchis. 

Jason, chief of the Argonauts; nephew of Pelias, King ofldlco? 

in Thessaly. 
Creon, ruler of Corinth. 
Aegeus, King of Athens. 
Nurse of Medea. 

Two Children of Jason and Medea. 
Attendant on the children. 
A Messenger. 

Chorus of Corinthian Women, with their Leader. 
Soldiers and Attendants 

The scene is laid in Corinth. The play was first acted when 
PythodSrus was Archon, Olympiad Sy, year I (b.c. 431). 
Euphorion was first, Sophocles second, Euripides third, with 
Medea, Philoctites, Dictys, and the Harvesters, a Satyr-play, 


The Scene represents the front of Medea's House in 
Corinth. A road to the right leads towards the royal 
castle, one on the left to the harbour. The Nurse is 
discovered alone. 


Would God no Argo e'er had winged the seas 
To Colchis through the blue Symplggades : 
No shaft of riven pine in Prion's glen 
Shaped that first oar-blade in the hands of men 
Valiant, who won, to save King Pelias* vow, 
The fleece All-golden ! Never then, I trow, 
Mine own princess, her spirit wounded sore 
With love of Jason, to the encastled shore 
Had sailed of old I61cos : never wrought 
The daughters of King Pelias, knowing not, 
To spill their father's life : nor fled in fear, 
Hunted for that fierce sin, to Corinth here 
With Jason and her babes. This folk at need 
Stood friend to her, and she in word and deed 
Served alway Jason. Surely this doth bind, 
Through all ill days, the hurts of humankind, 
When man and woman in one music move. 

But now, the world is angry, and true love 
Sick as with poison. Jason doth forsake 
My mistress and his own two sons, to make 



His couch in a king's chamber. He must wed : 
Wed with this Creon's child, who now is head 
And chief of Corinth. Wherefore sore betrayed 
Medea calleth up the oath they made, 
They two, and wakes the clasp&d hands again, 
The troth surpassing speech, and cries amain 
On God in heaven to mark the end, and how 
Jason hath paid his debt. 

All fasting now 
And cold, her body yielded up to pain, 
Her days a waste of weeping, she hath lain, 
Since first she knew that he was false. Her eyes 
Are lifted not ; and all her visage lies 
In the dust. If friends will speak, she hears no 

Than some dead rock or wave that beats the shore : 
Only the white throat in a sudden shame 
May writhe, and all alone she moans the name 
Of father, and land, and home, forsook that day 
For this man's sake, who casteth her away. 
Not to be quite shut out from home . . . alas, 
She knoweth now how rare a thing that was ! 
Methinks she hath a dread, not joy, to see 
Her children near. 'Tis this that maketh me 
Most tremble, lest she do I know not what. 
Her heart is no light thing, and useth not 
To brook much wrong. I know that woman, aye, 
And dread her! Will she creep alone to die 
Bleeding in that old room, where still is laid 
Lord Jason's bed ? She hath for that a blade 
Made keen. Or slay the bridegroom and the king, 
And win herself God knows what direr thing ? 


Tis a fell spirit. Few, I ween, shall stir 
Her hate unscathed, or lightly humble her. 

Ha ! 'Tis the children from their games again, 
Rested and gay ; and all their mother's pain 
Forgotten ! Young lives ever turn from gloom ! 

[The Children and their Attendant come in. 


Thou ancient treasure of my lady's room, 
What mak'st thou here before the gates alone, 
And alway turning on thy lips some moan 
Of old mischances ? Will our mistress be 
Content, this long time to be left by thee ? 


Grey guard of Jason's children, a good thrall 

Hath his own grief, if any hurt befall 

His masters. Aye, it holds one's heart ! , . . 

I have strayed out so deep in evil dreams, 
I longed to rest me here alone, and cry 
Medea's wrongs to this still Earth and Sky. 

H ow ? Are the tears yet running in her eyes ? 


'Twere good to be like thee ! . . . Her sorrow lies 
Scarce wakened yet, not half its perils wrought. 



Mad spirit ! ... if a man may speak his thought 
Of masters mad.— And nothing in her ears 
Hath sounded yet of her last cause for tears! 

[He moves towards the house, but the Nurse 
checks him. 


What cause, old man ? . . . Nay, grudge me not one 

'Tis nothing. Best forget what thou hast heard. 


Nay, housemate, by thy beard ! Hold it not hid 
From me. ... I will keep silence if thou bid. 


I heard an old man talking, where he sate 
At draughts in the sun, beside the fountain gate, 
And never thought of me, there standing still 
Beside him. And he said, 'Twas Creon's will, 
Being lord of all this land, that she be sent, 
And with her her two sons, to banishment 
Maybe 'tis all false. For myself, I know 
No further, and I would it were not so. 


Jason will never bear it— his own sons 
Banished,— however hot his anger runs 
Against their mother! 



Old love burneth low 
When new love wakes, men say. He is not now 
Husband nor father here, nor any kin. 


But this is ruin ! New waves breaking in 
To wreck us, ere we are righted from the old! 


Well, hold thy peace. Our mistress will be told 
All in good time. Speak thou no word hereof. 


My babes ! What think ye of your father's love ? 
God curse him not, he is my master still : 
But, oh, to them that loved him, 'tis an ill 
Friend. . . . 


And what man on earth is different ? How ? 
Hast thou lived all these years, and learned but now 
That every man more loveth his own head 
Than other men's ? He dreameth of the bed 
Of this new bride, and thinks not of his sons. 


Go : run into the house, my little ones : 

All will end happily! . . . Keep them apart: 

Let not their mother meet them while her heart 


Is darkened. Yester night I saw a flame 
Stand in her eye, as though she hated them, 
And would I know not what For sure her wrath 
Will never turn nor slumber, till she hath . . . 
Go : and if some must suffer, may it be 
Not we who love her, but some enemy! 

Voice (within). 
Oh shame and pain : O woe is me ! 
Would I could die in my misery ! 

\Ihe Children and the Attendant go in. 

Ah, children, hark ! She moves again 

Her frozen heart, her sleeping wrath. 

In, quick ! And never cross her path, 
Nor rouse that dark eye in its pain ; 

That fell sea-spirit, and the dire 

Spring of a will untaught, unbowed. 
Quick, now!— Methinks this weeping cloud 

Hath in its heart some thunder-fire, 

Slow gathering, that must flash ere long. 

I know not how, for ill or well, 

It turns, this uncontrollable 
Tempestuous spirit, blind with wrong. 

Voice (within). 
Have I not suffered ? Doth it call 
No tears ? . . . Ha, ye beside the wall 
Unfathered children, God hate you 
As I am hated, and him, too, 

That gat you, and this house and all ! 



For pity ! What have they to do, 

Babes, with their father's sin ? Why call 
Thy curse on these ? . . . Ah, children, all 

These days my bosom bleeds for you. 

Rude are the wills of princes : yea, 
Prevailing alway, seldom crossed, 
On fitful winds their moods are tossed : 

'Tis best men tread the equal way. 

Aye, not with glory but with peace 

May the long summers find me crowned : 
For gentleness— her very sound 

Is magic, and her usages 

All wholesome : but the fiercely great 
Hath little music on his road, 
And falleth, when the hand of God 
Shall move, most deep and desolate. 

[During the last words the Leader of the 
Chorus has entered. Other women follow 


I heard a voice and a moan, 
A voice of the eastern seas : 
Hath she found not yet her ease ? 
Speak, O aged one. 

For I stood afar at the gate, 

And there came from within a cry, 


And wailing desolate. 

Ah, no more joy have I, 
For the griefs this house doth see, 
And the love it hath wrought in me. 


There is no house! Tis gone. The lord 
Seeketh a prouder bed : and she 

Wastes in her chamber, not one word 
Will hear of care or charity. 

Voice (within). 

O Zeus, O Earth, O Light, 
Will the fire not stab my brain ? 
What profiteth living ? Oh, 
Shall I not lift the slow 
Yoke, and let Life go, 
As a beast out in the night, 
To lie, and be rid of pain ? 

Some Women 

" O Zeus, O Earth, O Light : " 
The cry of a bride forlorn 
Heard ye, and wailing born 
Of lost delight? 



Why weariest thou this day, 

Wild heart, for the bed abhorred, 

The cold bed in the clay ? 

Death cometh though no man pray, 
Ungarlanded, un-ador&d. 
Call him not thou. 


If another's arms be now 

Where thine have been, 

On his head be the sin : 
Rend not thy brow! 


All that thou sufferest, 

God seeth : Oh, not so sore 
Waste nor weep for the breast 

That was thine of yore. 

Voice {within). 

Virgin of Righteousness, 
Virgin of hallowed Troth, 
Ye marked me when with an oath 
I bound him ; mark no less 
That oath's end. Give me to see 
Him and his bride, who sought 
My grief when I wronged her not, 
Broken in misery, 


And all her hbuse. . . . O God, 

My mother's home, and the dim 

Shore that I left for him, 

And the voice of my brother's blood. . . . 


Oh, wild words! Did ye hear her cry 

To them that guard man's faith forsworn, 
Themis and Zeus ? . . . This wrath new-born 

Shall make mad workings ere it die. 


Other Women. 


Would she but come to seek 

Our faces, that love her well, 

And take to her heart the spell 

Of words that speak ? 


Alas for the heavy hate 

And anger that burneth ever! 

Would it but now abate, 

Ah God, I love her yet. 

And surely my love's endeavour 
Shall fail not here, 


Go : from that chamber drear 

Forth to the day 
Lead her, and say, Oh, say 

That we love her dear. 



Go, lest her hand be hard 

On the innocent : Ah, let be ! 
For her grief moves hitherward, 
Like an angry sea. 


That will I : though what words of mine 
Or love shall move her ? Let them lie 
With the old lost labours ! , . . Yet her eye- 
Know ye the eyes of the wild kine, 

The lion flash that guards their brood ? 

So looks she now if any thrall 

Speak comfort, or draw near at all 
My mistress in her evil mood. 

[The Nurse goes into the house. 


A Woman. 

Alas, the bold blithe bards of old 
That all for joy their music made, 

For feasts and dancing manifold, 
That Life might listen and be glad. 

But all the darkness and the wrong, 

Quick deaths and dim heart-aching things, 

Would no man ease them with a song 
Or music of a thousand strings ? 


Then song had served us in our need. 

What profit, o'er the banquet's swell 
That lingering cry that none may heed ? 

The feast hath filled them : all is well! 


I heard a song, but it comes no more. 

Where the tears ran over : 
A keen cry but tired, tired : 
A woman's cry for her heart's desired, 
For a traitor's kiss and a lost lover. 
But a prayer, methinks, yet riseth sore 

To God, to Faith, God's ancient daughter— 
The Faith that over sundering seas 
Drew her to Hellas, and the breeze 
Of midnight shivered, and the door 
Closed of the salt unsounded water. 

[During the last words Medea has come 
out from the house. 


Women of Corinth, I am come to show 
My face, lest ye despise me. For I know 
Some heads stand high and fail not, even at night 
Alone— far less like this, in all men's sight: 
And we, who study not our wayfarings 
But feel and cry— Oh we are drifting things, 
And evil ! For what truth is in men's eyes, 
Which search no heart, but in a flash despise 


A strange face, shuddering back from one that ne'er 
Hath wronged them ? . . . Sure, far-comers anywhere, 
I know, must bow them and be gentle. Nay, 
A Greek himself men praise not, who alway 
Should seek his own will recking not. . . . But I— 
This thing undreamed of, sudden from on high, 
Hath sapped my soul : I dazzle where I stand, 
The cup of all life shattered in my hand, 
Longing to die— O friends! He, even he, 
Whom to know well was all the world to me, 
The man I loved, hath proved most evil.— Oh, 
Of all things upon earth that bleed and grow, 
A herb most bruised is woman. We must pay 
Our store of gold f hoarded for that one day, 
To buy us some man's love ; and lo, they bring 
A master of our flesh ! There comes the sting 
Of the whole shame. And then the jeopardy, 
For good or ill, what shall that master be ; 
Reject she cannot : and if he but stays 
His suit* 'tis shame on all that woman's days. 
So thrown amid new laws, new places, why, 
'Tis magic she must have, or prophecy- 
Home never taught her that— how best to guide 
Toward peace this thing that sleepeth at her side. 
And she who, labouring long, shall find some way 
Whereby her lord may bear with her, nor fray 
His yoke too fiercely, blessed is the breath 
That woman draws! Else, let her pray for death. 
Her lord, if he be wearied of the face 
Withindoors, gets him forth ; some merrier place 
Will ease his heart : but she waits on, her whole 
Vision enchained on a single soul. 


And then, forsooth, 'tis they that face the call 
Of war, while we sit sheltered, hid from all 
Peril!— False mocking! Sooner would I stand 
Three times to face their battles, shield in hand, 
Than bear one child. 

But peace ! There cannot be 
Ever the same tale told of thee and me. 
Thou hast this city, and thy father's home, 
And joy of friends, and hope in days to come : 
But I, being citiless, am cast aside 
By him that wedded me, a savage bride 
Won in far seas and left— no mother near, 
No brother, not one kinsman anywhere 
For harbour in this storm. Therefore of thee 
I ask one thing. If chance yet ope to me 
Some path, if even now my hand can win 
Strength to requite this Jason for his sin, 
Betray me not ! Oh, in all things but this, 
I know how full of fears a woman is, 
And faint at need, and shrinking from the light 
Of battle : but once spoil her of her right 
In man's love, and there moves, I warn thee well, 
No bloodier spirit between heaven and hell. 


I will betray thee not It is but just, 

Thou smite him.— And that weeping in the dust 

And stormy tears, how should I blame them ? . . . 

'Tis Creon, lord of Corinth, makes his way 
Hither, and bears, methinks, some word of weight. 


Enter from the right Creon, the King, with armed 


Thou woman sullen-eyed and hot with hate 
Against thy lord, Medea, I here command 
That thou and thy two children from this land 
Go forth to banishment. Make no delay : 
Seeing ourselves, the King, are come this day 
To see our charge fulfilled ; nor shall again 
Look homeward ere we have led thy children twain 
And thee beyond our realm's last boundary. 

Lost ! Lost ! 

Mine haters at the helm with sail flung free 
Pursuing ; and for us no beach nor shore 
In the endless waters ! . . . Yet, though stricken sore, 
I still will ask thee, for what crime, what thing 
Unlawful, wilt thou cast me out, O King ? 


What crime ? I fear thee, woman— little need 
To cloak my reasons— lest thou work some deed 
Of darkness on my child. And in that fear 
Reasons enough have part. Thou comest here 
A wise- woman confessed, and full of lore 
In unknown ways of evil. Thou art sore 
In heart, being parted from thy lover's arms. 
And more, thou hast made menace ... so the 


But now have reached mine ear ... on bride and groom, 
And him who gave the bride, to work thy doom 
Of vengeance. Which, ere yet it be too late, 
I sweep aside. I choose to earn thine hate 
Of set will now, not palter with the mood 
Of mercy, and hereafter weep in blood. 


Tis not the first nor second time, O King, 
That fame hath hurt me, and come nigh to bring 
My ruin. . . . How can any man, whose eyes 
Are wholesome, seek to rear his children wise 
Beyond men's wont ? Much helplessness in arts 
Of common life, and in their townsmen's hearts 
Envy deep-set ... so much their learning brings ! 
Come unto fools with knowledge of new things, 
They deem it vanity, not knowledge. Aye, 
And men that erst for wisdom were held high, 
Feel thee a thorn to fret them, privily 
Held higher than they. So hath it been with me. 
A wise-woman I am ; and for that sin 
To divers ill names men would pen me in ; 
A seed of strife ; an eastern dreamer ; one 
Of brand not theirs ; one hard to play upon . . . 
Ah, I am not so wondrous wise!— And now, 
To thee, I am terrible ! What f earest thou ? 
What dire deed ? Do I tread so proud a path- 
Fear me not thou!— that I should brave the wrath 
Of princes ? Thou : what has thou ever done 
To wrong me ? Granted thine own child to one 
Whom thy soul chose.— Ah, him out of my heart 
I hate ; but thou, meseems, hast done thy part 


Not ill. And for thine houses' happiness 

I hold no grudge. Go : marry, and God bless 

Your issues. Only suffer me to rest 

Somewhere within this land. Though sore oppressed, 

I will be still, knowing mine own defeat. 


Thy words be gentle : but I fear me yet 
Lest even now there creep some wickedness 
Deep hid within thee. And for that the less 
I trust thee now than ere these words began. 
A woman quick of wrath, aye, or a man, 
Is easier watching than the cold and still. 

Up, straight, and find thy road ! Mock not my will 
With words. This doom is passed beyond recall ; 
Nor all thy crafts shall help thee, being withal 
My manifest foe, to linger at my side. 

Medea {suddenly throwing herself down and 
clinging to Creon). 

Oh, by thy knees ! By that new-wedded bride . . . 

'Tis waste of words. Thou shalt not weaken me. 

Wilt hunt me ? Spurn me when I kneel to thee ? 

'Tis mine own house that kneels to me, not thou. 


Home, my lost home, how I desire thee now ! 

And I mine, and my child, beyond all things. 

O Loves of man, what curse is on your wings! 

Blessing or curse, 'tis as their chances flow. 

Remember, Zeus, the cause of all this woe ! 

Oh, rid me of my pains! Up, get thee gone! 

What would I with thy pains ? I have mine own. 

Up : or, 'fore God, my soldiers here shall fling . . . 

Not that! Not that! ... I do but pray, O King ... < 


Thou wilt not ? I must face the harsher task ? 

I accept mine exile. 'Tis not that I ask. 

Why then so wild ? Why clinging to mine hand ? 

Medea {rising). 

For one day only leave me in thy land 
At peace, to find some counsel, ere the strain 
Of exile fall, some comfort for these twain, 
Mine innocents ; since others take no thought, 
It seems, to save the babes that they begot. 

Ah ! Thou wilt pity them ! Thou also art 
A father : thou hast somewhere still a heart 
That feels. ... I reck not of myself : 'tis they 
That break me, fallen upon so dire a day. 


Mine is no tyrant's mood. Aye, many a time 
Ere this my tenderness hath marred the chime 
Of wisest counsels. And I know that now 
I do mere folly. But so be it ! Thou 
Shalt have this grace . . . But this I warn thee clear, 
If once the morrow's sunlight find thee here 
Within my borders, thee or child of thine, 
Thou diest ! ... Of this judgment not a line 


Shall waver nor abate. So linger on, 
If thou needs must, till the next risen sun ; 
No further. ... In one day there scarce can be 
Those perils wrought whose dread yet haunteth me. 
[Exit Creon with his suite. 


O woman, woman of sorrow, 
Where* wilt thou turn and flee ? 

What town shall be thine to-morrow, . 
What land of all lands that be, 

What door of a strange man's home ? 
Yea, God hath hunted thee, 

Medea, forth to the foam 
Of a trackless sea. 


Defeat on every side; what else?— But Oh, 
Not here the end is : think it not ! I know 
For bride and groom one battle yet untried, 
And goodly pains for him that gave the bride. 

Dost dream I would have grovelled to this man, 
Save that I won mine end, and shaped my plan 
For merry deeds ? My lips had never deigned 
Speak word with him : my flesh been never stained 
With touching. . . . Fool, Oh, triple fool! It. lay 
So plain for him to kill my whole essay 
By exile swift : and, lo, he sets me free 
This one long day : wherein mine haters three 
Shall lie here dead, the father and the bride 
And husband— mine, not hers! Oh, I have tried 


So many thoughts of murder to my turn, 
I know not which best likes me. Shall I burn 
Their house with fire ? Or stealing past unseen 
To Jason's bed— I have a blade made keen 
For that— stab, breast to breast, that wedded pair ? 
Good, but for one thing. When I am taken there, 
And killed, they will laugh loud who hate me. . . . 

I love the old way best, the simple way 
Of poison, where we too are strong as men. 
Ah me! 

And they being dead— what place shall hold me then ? 
What friend shall rise, with land inviolate 
And trusty doors, to shelter from their hate 
This flesh ? . . . None anywhere ! . . . A little more 
I needs must wait : and, if there ope some door 
Of refuge, some strong tower to shield me, good : 
In craft and darkness I will hunt this blood. 
Else, if mine hour be come and no hope nigh, 
Then sword in hand, full- willed and sure to die, 
I yet will live to slay them. I will wend 
Man-like, their road of daring to the end. 

So help me She who of all Gods hath been 
The best to me, of all my chosen queen 
And helpmate, Hecat£, who dwells apart, 
The flame of flame, in my fire's inmost heart : 
For all their strength, they shall not stab my soul 
And laugh thereafter ! Dark and full of dole 
Their bridal feast shall be, most dark the day 
They joined their hands, and hunted me away. 

Awake thee now, Medea ! Whatso plot 
Thou hast, or cunning, strive and falter not 


On to the peril-point! Now comes the strain 

Of daring. Shall they trample thee again ? 

How ? And with Hellas laughing o'er thy fall 

While this thief's daughter weds, and weds withal 

Jason ? . . . A true king was thy father, yea, 

And born of the ancient Sun! . . . Thou know'st 

the way; 
And God hath made thee woman, things most vain 
For help, but wondrous in the paths of pain. 

[Medea goes into the House. 


Back streams the wave on the ever-running river: 
Life, life is changed and the laws of it o'ertrod. 
Man shall be the slave, the affrighted, the low-liver! 

Man hath forgotten God. 
And woman, yea, woman, shall be terrible in story : 
The tales too, meseemeth, shall be other than of 
For a fear there is that cometh out of Woman and a 
And the hard hating voices shall encompass her no 

The old bards shall cease, and their memory that 
Of frail brides and faithless, shall be shrivelled as 
with fire. 
For they loved us not, nor knew us : and our lips were 
dumb, our fingers 

Could wake not the secret of the lyre. 


Else, else, O God the Singer, I had sung amid their 
A long tale of Man and his deeds for good and ill. 
But the old World knoweth— 'tis the speech of all his 
ages — 
Man's wrong and ours : he knoweth and is still. 

Some Women. 

Forth from thy father's home 
Thou earnest, O heart of fire, 
To the Dark Blue Rocks, to the clashing foam, 
To the seas of thy desire : 

Till the Dark Blue Bar was crossed ; 

And, lo, by an alien river 
Standing, thy lover lost, 
Void-armed for ever, 

Forth yet again, O lowest 

Of landless women, a ranger 
Of desolate ways, thou goest, 

From the walls of the stranger. 


And the great Oath waxeth weak ; 

And Ruth, as a thing outstriven, 
Is fled, fled, from the shores of the Greek, 

Away on the winds of heaven. 


Dark is the house afar, 

Where an old king called thee daughter; 
All that was once thy star 
In stormy water, 

Dark : and, lo, in the nearer 

House that was sworn to love thee, 
Another, queenlier, dearer, 
Is throned above thee. 

Enter from the right Jason. 


Oft have I seen, in other days than these, 

How a dark temper maketh maladies 

No friend can heal. 'Twas easy to have kept 

Both land and home. It needed but to accept 

Unstrivingly the pleasure of our lords. 

But thou, for mere delight in stormy words, 

Wilt lose all ! . . . Now thy speech provokes not me. 

Rail on. Of all mankind let Jason be 

Most evil ; none shall check thee. But for these 

Dark threats cast out against the majesties 

Of Corinth, count as veriest gain thy path 

Of exile. I myself, when princely wrath 

Was hot against thee, strove with all good will 

To appease the wrath, and wished to keep thee still 

Beside me. But thy mouth would never stay 

From vanity, blaspheming night and day 

Our masters. Therefore thou shalt fly the land. 

Yet, even so, I will not hold my hand 
From succouring mine own people. Here am I 
To help thee, woman, pondering needfully 


Thy new state. For I would not have thee flung 
Provisionless away— aye, and the young 
Children as well ; nor lacking aught that will 
Of mine can bring thee. Many a lesser ill 
Hangs on the heels of exile. . . . Aye, and though 
Thou hate me, dream not that my heart can know 
Or fashion aught of angry will to thee. 


Evil, most evil ! . . . since thou grantest me 

That comfort, the worst weapon left me now 

To smite a coward. . . . Thou comest to me, thou, 

Mine enemy! (Turning to the Chorus.) Oh, say, 

how call ye this, 
To face, and smile, the comrade whom his kiss 
Betrayed? Scorn? Insult? Courage? None of 

these : 
'Tis but of all man's inward sicknesses 
The vilest, that he knoweth not of shame 
Nor pity ! Yet I praise him that he came . . . 
To me it shall bring comfort, once to clear 
My heart on thee, and thou shalt wince to hear. 

I will begin with that, 'twixt me and thee, 
That first befell. I saved thee. I saved thee— 
Let thine own Greeks be witness, every one 
That sailed on Argo— saved thee, sent alone 
To yoke with yokes the bulls of fiery breath, 
And sow that Acre of the Lords of Death ; 
And mine own ancient Serpent, who did keep 
The Golden Fleece, the eyes that knew not sleep, 
And shining coils, him also did I smite 
Dead for thy sake, and lifted up the light 


That bade thee live. Myself, uncounsell&d, 

Stole forth from father and from home, and fled 

Where dark Idlcos under Pelion lies, 

With thee— Oh, single-hearted more than wise! 

I murdered Pelias, yea, in agony, 

By his own daughters' hands, for sake of thee ; 

I swept their house like War.— And hast thou then 

Accepted all— O evil yet again!— 

And cast me off and taken thee for bride 

Another ? And with children at thy side ! 

One could forgive a childless man. But no : 

I have borne thee children . . . 

Is sworn faith so low 
And weak a thing? I understand it not. 
Are the old gods dead ? Are the old laws forgot, 
And new laws made ? Since not my passioning, 
But thine own heart, doth cry thee for a thing 

[She catches sight of her own hand which she 
has thrown out to denounce him. 
Poor, poor right hand of mine, whom he 
Did cling to, and these knees, so cravingly, 
We are unclean, thou and I ; we have caught the stain 
Of bad men's flesh . . . and dreamed our dreams in vain. 

Thou comest to befriend me ? Give me, then, 
Thy counsel. 'Tis not that I dream again 
For good from thee : but, questioned, thou wilt show 
The viler. Say : now whither shall I go ? 
Back to my father ? Him I did betray, 
And all his land, when we two fled away. 
To those poor Peliad maids ? For them 'twere good 
To take me in, who spilled their father's blood. . . . 


Aye, so my whole life stands ! There were at home 

Who loved me well : to them I am become 

A curse. And the first friends who sheltered me, 

Whom most I should have spared, to pleasure thee 

I have turned to foes. Oh, therefore hast thou laid 

My crown upon me, blest of many a maid 

In Hellas, now I have won what all did crave, 

Thee, the world-wondered lover and the brave ; 

Who this day looks and sees me banished, thrown 

Away with these two babes, all, all, alone . . . 

Oh, merry mocking when the lamps are red : 

" Where go the bridegroom's babes to beg their bread 

In exile, and the woman who gave all 

To save him?" 

O great God, shall gold withal 
Bear thy clear mark, to sift the base and fine, 
And o'er man's living visage runs no sign 
To show the lie within, ere all too late ? 


Dire and beyond all healing is the hate 
When hearts that loved are turned to enmity. 


In speech at least, meseemeth, I must be 
Not evil ; but, as some old pilot goes 
Furled to his sail's last edge, when danger blows 
Too fiery, run before the wind and swell, 
Woman, of thy loud storms.— And thus I tell 
My tale. Since thou wilt build so wondrous high 
Thy deeds of service in my jeopardy, 


To all my crew and quest I know but one 

Saviour, of Gods or mortals one alone, 

The Cyprian. Oh, thou hast both brain and wit, 

Yet underneath . . . nay, all the tale of it 

Were graceless telling ; how sheer love, a fire 

Of poison-shafts, compelled thee with desire 

To save me. But enough. I will not score 

That count too close. Twas good help : and therefor 

I give thee thanks, howe'er the help was wrought. 

Howbeit, in my deliverance, thou hast got 

Far more than given. A good Greek land hath 

Thy lasting home, not barbary. Thou hast seen 
Our ordered life, and justice, and the long 
Still grasp of law not changing with the strong 
Man's pleasure. Then, all Hellas far and near 
Hath learned thy wisdom, and in every ear 
Thy fame is. Had thy days run by unseen 
On that last edge of the world, where then had been 
The story of great Medea ? Thou and I . . . 
What worth to us were treasures heaped high 
In rich kings' rooms ; what worth a voice of gold 
More sweet than ever rang from Orpheus old, 
Unless our deeds have glory ? 

Speak I so, 
Touching the Quest I wrought, thyself did throw 
The challenge down. Next for thy cavilling 
Of wrath at mine alliance with a king, 
Here thou shalt see I both was wise, and free 
From touch of passion, and a friend to thee 
Most potent, anil my children . . . Nay, be still ! 
When first I stood in Corinth, clogged with ill 


From many a desperate mischance, what bliss 
Could I that day have dreamed of, like to this, 
To wed with a king's daughter, I exiled 
And beggared? Not— what makes thy passion 

From loathing of thy bed ; not over-fraught 
With love for this new bride ; not that I sought 
To upbuild mine house with offspring : 'tis enough, 
What thou hast borne : I make no word thereof : 
But, first and greatest, that we all might dwell 
In a fair house and want not, knowing well 
That poor men have no friends, but far and near 
Shunning and silence. Next, I sought to rear 
Our sons in nurture worthy of my race, 
And, raising brethren to them, in one place 
Join both my houses, and be all from now 
Prince-like and happy. What more need hast 

Of children ? And for me, it serves my star 
To link in strength the children that now are 
With those that shall be. 

Have I counselled ill ? 
Not thine own self would say it, couldst thou still 
One hour thy jealous flesh.— 'Tis ever so! 
Who looks for more in women ? When the flow 
Of love runs plain, why, all the world is fair : 
But, once there fall some ill chance anywhere 
To baulk that thirst, down in swift hate are trod 
Men's dearest aims and noblest. Would to God 
We mortals by some other seed could raise 
Our fruits, and no blind women block our ways ! 
Then had there been no curse to wreck mankind. 



Lord Jason, very subtly hast thou twined 
Thy speech : but yet, though all athwart thy will 
I speak, this is not well thou dost, but ill, 
Betraying her who loved thee and was true. 


Surely I have my thoughts, and not a few 

Have held me strange. To me it seemeth, when 

A crafty tongue is given to evil men 

'Tis like to wreck, not help them. Their own brain 

Tempts them with lies to dare and dare again, 

Till ... no man hath enough of subtlety. 

As thou— be not so seeming-fair to me 

Nor deft of speech. One word will make thee fall. 

Wert thou not false, 'twas thine to tell me all, 

And charge me help thy marriage path, as I 

Did love thee ; not befool me with a lie. 


An easy task had that been ! Aye, and thou 
A loving aid, who canst not, even now, 
Still that loud heart that surges like the tide! 


That moved thee not. Thine old barbarian bride, 

The dog out of the east who loved thee sore, 

She grew grey-haired, she served thy pride no more. 



Now understand for once ! The girl to me 
Is nothing, in this web of sovranty 
I hold. I do but seek to save, even yet, 
Thee : and for brethren to our sons beget 
Young kings, to prosper all our lives again. 


God shelter me from prosperous days of pain, 
And wealth that maketh wounds about my heart. 


Wilt change that prayer, and choose a wiser part ? 
Pray not to hold true sense for pain, nor rate 
Thyself unhappy, being too fortunate. 


Aye, mock me ; thou hast where to lay thine head, 
But I go naked to mine exile. 


Thine own path ! Thou hast made it all to be. 

How ? By seducing and forsaking thee ? 



By those vile curses on the royal halls 
Let loose. . . . 


On thy house also, as chance falls, 
lam a living curse. 


Oh, peace ! Enough 
Of these vain wars : I will no more thereof. 
If thou wilt take from all that I possess 
Aid for these babes and thine own helplessness 
Of exile, speak thy bidding. Here I stand 
Full-willed to succour thee with stintless hand, 
And send my signet to old friends that dwell 
On foreign shores, who will entreat thee well. 
Refuse, and thou shalt do a deed most vain. 
But cast thy rage away, and thou shalt gain 
Much, and lose little for thine anger's sake. 


I will not seek thy friends. I will not take 
Thy givings. Give them not. Fruits of a stem 
Unholy bring no blessing after them. 


Now God in heaven be witness, all my heart 
Is willing, in all ways, to do its part 


For thee and for thy babes. But nothing good 
Can please thee. In sheer savageness of mood 
Thou drivest from thee every friend. Wherefore 
I warrant thee, thy pains shall be the more. 

[He goes slowly away. 


Go : thou art weary for the new delight 
Thou wooest, so long tarrying out of sight 
Of her sweet chamber. Go, fulfil thy pride, 
O bridegroom ! For it may be, such a bride 
Shall wait thee,— yea, God heareth me in this-* 
As thine own heart shall sicken ere it kiss. 


Alas, the Love that falleth like a flood, 

Strong- winged and transitory : 
Why praise ye him ? What beareth he of good 

To man, or glory ? 
Yet Love there is that moves in gentleness, 
Heart-filling, sweetest of all powers that bless. 
Loose not on me, O Holder of man's heart, 

Thy golden quiver, 
Nor steep in poison of desire the dart 

That heals not ever. 

The pent hate of the word that cavilleth, 

The strife that hath no fill, 
Where once was fondness ; and the mad heart's breath 

For strange love panting still : 
O Cyprian, cast me not on these ; but sift, 
Keen-eyed, of love the good and evil gift. 


Make Innocence my friend, God's fairest star, 

Yea, and abate not 
The rare sweet beat of bosoms without war, 

That love, and hate not. 

Home of my heart, land of my own, 

Cast me not, nay, for pity, 
Out on my ways, helpless, alone, 
Where the feet fail in the mire and stone, 

A woman without a city. 
Ah, not that! Better the end : 

The green grave cover me rather, 
If a break must come in the days I know, 
And the skies be changed and the earth below ; 
For the weariest road that man may wend 

Is forth from the home of his father. 

Lo, we have seen : 'tis not a song 
Sung, nor learned of another. 

For whom hast thou in thy direst wrong 

For comfort ? Never a city strong 
To hide thee, never a brother. 

Ah, but the man— cursfcd be he, 
Cursed beyond recover, 

Who openeth, shattering, seal by seal, 

A friend's clean heart, then turns his heel, 

Deaf unto love : never in me 

Friend shall he know nor lover. 

[While Medea is waiting downcast, seated 
upon her door-step, there passes from the 
left a traveller with followers. As he 
catches sight of Medba he stops. 



Have joy, Medea 1 'Tis the homeliest 

Word that old friends can greet with, and the best. 

Medea {looking up, surprised). 

Oh, joy on thee, too, Aegeus, gentle king 

Of Athens!— But whence com'st thou journeying? 

From Delphi now and the old encaverned stair. . . . 


Where Earth's heart speaks in song? What mad'st 
thou there ? 

Prayed heaven for children— the same search alway. 

Children ? Ah God ! Art childless to this day ? 

So God hath willed. Childless and desolate. 

What word did Phoebus speak, to change thy fate ? 


Riddles, too hard for mortal man to read. 

Which I may hear? 


Assuredly: they need 
A rarer wit 

How said he ? 


Not to spill 
Life's wine, nor seek for more. . . . 




I tread the hearth-stone of my sires of yore. 

And what should bring thee here, by Creon's shore? 

One Pittheus know'st thou, high lord of Trozfin ? 


Aye, Pelops' son, a man most pure of sin. 

Him I would ask, touching Apollo's will. 

Much use in God's ways hath he, and much skill 


And, long years back he was my battle-friend, 
The truest e'er man had. 


Well, may God send 
Good hap to thee, and grant all thy desire. 


But thou . . . ? Thy frame is wasted, and the fire 
Dead in thine eyes. 


Aegeus, my husband is 
The falsest man in the world. 


What word is this * 
Say clearly what thus makes thy visage dim ? 


He is false to me, who never injured him* 

What hath he done ? Show all, that I mav see. 


Ta'en him a wife ; a wife, set over me 
To rule his house. 


He hath not dared to do, 
Jason, a thing so shameful ? 


Aye, 'tis true : 
And those he loved of yore have no place now. 


Some passion sweepeth him ? Or is it thou 
He turns from ? 


Passion, passion to betray 
His dearest! 


Shame be his, so fallen away 
From honour! 

A king's heir! 


Passion to be near a throne, 

How, who gives the bride ? Say on. 

Creon, who o'er all Corinth standeth chief. 

Woman, thou hast indeed much cause for grief. 

Tis ruin.— And they have cast me out as well 

Who ? 'Tis a new wrong this, and terrible. 

Creon the king, from every land and shore. . . . 

And Jason suffers him ? Oh, 'tis too sore! 



He loveth to bear bravely ills like these! 

But, Aegeus, by thy beard, oh, by thy knees, 
I pray thee, and I give me for thine own, 
Thy suppliant, pity me ! Oh, pity one 
So miserable. Thou never wilt stand there 
And see me cast out friendless to despair. 
Give me a home in Athens ... by the fire 
Of thine own hearth ! Oh, so may thy desire 
Of children be fulfilled of God, and thou 
Die happy ! . . . Thou canst know not ; even now 
Thy prize is won ! I, I will make of thee 
A childless man no more. The seed shall be, 
I swear it, sown. Such magic herbs I know. 


Woman, indeed my heart goes forth to show 

This help to thee, first for religion's sake, 

Then for thy promised hope, to heal my ache 

Of childlessness. 'Tis this hath made mine whole 

Life as*a shadow, and starved out my soul. 

But thus it stands with me. Once make thy way 

To Attic earth, I, as in law I may, 

Will keep thee and befriend. But in this land, 

Where Creon rules, I may not raise my hand 

To shelter thee. Move of thine own essay 

To seek my house, there thou shalt alway stay, 

Inviolate, never to be seized again. 

But come thyself from Corinth. I would fain 

Even in foreign eves be alway just 



Tis well. Give me an oath wherein to trust 
And all that man could ask thou hast granted me. 

Dost trust me not ? Or what thing troubleth thee ? 


I trust thee. But so many, far and near, 

Do hate me— all King Pelias' house, and here 

Creon. Once bound by oaths and sanctities 

Thou canst not yield me up for such as these 

To drag from Athens. But a spoken word, 

No more, to bind thee, which no God hath heard. . 

The embassies, methinks, would come and go : 

They all are friends to thee. . . . Ah me, I know 

Thou wilt not list to me ! So weak am I, 

And they full-filled with gold and majesty. 


Methinks 'tis a far foresight, this thine oath. 

Still, if thou so wilt have it, nothing loath 

Am I to serve thee. Mine own hand is so 

The stronger, if I have this plea to show 

Thy persecutors : and for thee withal 

The bond more sure.— On what God shall I call? 



Swear by the Earth thou treadest, by the Sun, 
Sire of my sires, and all the gods as one. . . . 

To do what thing or not do ? Make all plain. 


Never thyself to cast me out again. 
Nor let another, whatsoe'er his plea, 
Take me. while thou yet livest and art free. 


Never : so hear me, Earth, and the great star 
Of daylight, and all other gods that are! 

'Tis well : and if thou falter from thy vow . . . ? 

God's judgment on the godless break my brow! 


Go! Go thy ways rejoicing.— All is bright 
And clear before me. Go : and ere the night 
Myself will follow, when the deed is done 
I purpose, and the end I thirst for won/ 

[Aegeus and his train depart. 



Farewell : and Maia's guiding Son 
Back lead thee to thy hearth and fire, 
Aegeus ; and all the long desire 

That wasteth thee, at last be won : 

Our eyes have seen thee as thou art, 

A gentle and a righteous heart. 


God, and God's Justice, and ye blinding Skies ! 
At last the victory dawneth ! Yea, mine eyes 
See, and my foot is on the mountain's brow. 
Mine enemies ! Mine enemies, oh, now 
Atonement cometh ! Here at my worst hour 
A friend is found, a very port of power 
To save my shipwreck. Here will I make fast 
Mine anchor, and escape them at the last 
In Athens' waited hill.— But ere the end 
'Tis meet I show thee all my counsel, friend : 
Take it, no tale to make men laugh withal ! 

Straightway to Jason I will send some thrall 
To entreat him to my presence. Comes he here, 
Then with soft reasons will I feed his ear, 
How his will now is my will, how all things 
Are well, touching this marriage-bed of kings 
For which I am betrayed— all wise and rare 
And profitable ! Yet will I make one prayer, 
That my two children be no more exiled 
But stay. . . . Oh, not that I would leave a child 


Here upon angry shores till those have laughed 

Who hate me : 'tis that I will slay by craft 

The king's daughter. With gifts they shall be sent, 

Gifts to the bride to spare their banishment, 

Fine robings and a carcanet of gold. 

Which raiment let her once but take, and fold 

About her, a foul death that girl shall die 

And all who touch her in her agony. 

Such poison shall they drink, my robe and wreath ! 

Howbeit, ot that no more. I gnash my teeth 
Thinking on what a path my feet must tread 
Thereafter. I shall lay those children dead- 
Mine, whom no hand shall steal from me away ! 
Then, leaving Jason childless, and the day 
As night above him, I will go my road 
To exile, flying! flying from the blood 
Of these my best-beloved, and having wrought 
All horror, so but one thing reach me not, 
The laugh of them that hate us. 

Let it come! 
What profits life to me ? I have no home, 
No country now, nor shield from any wrong. 
That was my evil hour, when down the long 
Halls of my father out I stole, my will 
Chained by a Greek man's voice, who still, oh, still, 
If God yet live, shall all requited be. 
For never child of mine shall Jason see 
Hereafter living, never child beget 
From his new bride, who this day, desolate 
Even as she made me desolate, shall die 
Shrieking amid my poisons. . . . Names have I 
Among your folk ? One light ? One weak of hand ? 
An eastern dreamer?— Nay, but with the brand 


Of strange suns burnt, my hate, by Gad above, 
A perilous thing, and passing sweet my love! 
For these it is that make life glorious. 


Since thou has bared thy fell intent to us 

I, loving thee, and helping in their need 

Man's laws, adjure thee, dream not of this deed ! 


There is no other way.— I pardon thee 
Thy littleness, who art not wronged like me. 

Thou canst not kill the fruit thy body bore! 

Yes : if the man I hate be pained the more. 

And thou made miserable, most miserable ? 


Oh, let it come! All words. of good or ill 
Are wasted now. 

[She claps her hands: the Nurse comes out 
from the house. 

Ho, woman ; get thee gone 
And lead lord Jason hither. . . .There is none 


Like thee, to work me these high services. 
But speak no word of what my purpose is, 
As thou art faithful, thou, and bold to try 
All succours, and a woman even as I ! 

[The Nurse departs. 


The sons of Erechtheus, the olden, 

Whom high gods planted of yore 
In an old land of heaven upholden, 

A proud land untrodden of war : 
They are hungered, and, lo, their desire 

With wisdom is fed as with meat : 
In their skies is a shining of fire, 

A joy in the fall of their feet : 
And thither, with manifold dowers, 

From the North, from the hills, from the morn, 
The Muses did gather their powers, 

That a child of the Nine should be born ; 
And Harmony, sown as the flowers, 

Grew gold in the acres of corn. 

And Cephisus, the fair-flowing river— 

The Cyprian dipping her hand 
Hath drawn of his dew, and the shiver 

Of her touch is as joy in the land. 
For her breathing in fragrance is written, 

And in music her path as she goes, 
And the cloud of her hair, it is litten 

With stars of the wind-woven rose. 
So fareth she ever and ever, 

And forth of her bosom is blown. 


As dews on the winds of the river, 

An hunger of passions unknown, 
Strong Loves of all godlike endeavour, 

Whom Wisdom shall throne on her throne. 

Same Women. 

But Cephisus the fair-flowing, 
Will he bear thee on his shore ? 

Shall the land that succours all, succour thee, 
Who art foul among thy kind, 
With the tears of children blind ? 
Dost thou see the red gash growing, 
Thine own burden dost thou see ? 

Every side, Every way, 
Lo, we kneel to thee and pray : 

By thy knees, by thy soul, O woman wild ! 
One at least thou canst not slay, 
Not thy child! 


Hast thou ice that thou shalt bind it 
To thy breast, and make thee dead 

To thy children, to thine own spirit's pain ? 
When the hand knows what it dares, 
When thine eyes look into theirs, 
Shalt thou keep by tears unblinded 
Thy dividing of the slain? 

These be deeds Not for thee : 
These be things that cannot be ! 

Thy babes— though thine hardihood be fell, 
When they cling about thy knee, 
'Twill be welll 


Enter Jason. 


I answer to thy call. Though full of hate 

Thou be, I yet will not so far abate 

My kindness for thee, nor refuse mine ear. 

Say in what new desire thou hast called me here. 


Jason, I pray thee, for my words but now 

Spoken, forgive me. My bad moods. . . . Oh, thou 

At least wilt strive to bear with them ! There be 

Many old deeds of love 'twixt me and thee. 

Lo, I have reasoned with myself apart 

And chidden : " Why must I be mad, O heart 

Of mine : and raging against one whose word 

Is wisdom : making me a thing abhorred 

To them that rule the land, and to mine own 

Husband, who doth but that which, being done, 

Will help us all— to wed a queen, and get 

Young kings for brethren to my sons ? And yet 

I rage alone, and cannot quit my rage— 

What aileth me ?— when God sends harbourage 

So simple ? Have I not my children ? Know 

I not we are but exiles, and must go 

Beggared and friendless else ? " Thought upon 

So pressed me, till I knew myself full-fraught 
With bitterness of heart and blinded eyes. 
So now— I give thee thanks: and hold thee wise 


To have caught this anchor for our aid. The fool 
Was I ; who should have been thy friend, thy tool; 
Gone wooing with thee, stood at thy bed-side 
Serving, and welcomed duteously thy bride. 
But, as we are, we are— I will not say 
Mere evil— women! Why must thou to-day 
Turn strange, and make thee like some evil thing, 
Childish, to meet my childish passioning ? 
See, I surrender : and confess that then 
I had bad thoughts, but now have turned again 
And found my wiser mind. [She claps her hands. 

Ho, children! Run 
Quickly! Come hither, out into the sun, 

[The Children come from the house, followed 
by their Attendant. 
And greet your father. Welcome him with us, 
And throw quite, quite away, as mother does, 
Your anger against one so dear. Our peace 
Is made, and all the old bad war shall cease 
For ever.— Go, and take his hajid. . . . 

[As the Children go to Jason, she suddenly 
bursts into tears. The Children quickly 
return to her : she recovers herself smiling 
amid her tears. 

Ah me, 
I am full of hidden horrors! . . . Shall it be 
A long time more, my children, that ye live 
To reach to me those dear, dear arms? . . . Forgive! 
I am so ready with my tears to-day, 
And full of dread. ... I sought to smooth away 
The long strife with your father, and, lo, now 
I have all drowned with tears this little brow ! 

[She wipes the child's face. 



O'er mine eyes too there stealeth a pale tear: 
Let the evil rest, O God, let it rest here I 


Woman, indeed I praise thee now, nor say 
111 of thine other hour. Tis nature's way, 
A woman needs must stir herself to wrath, 
When work of marriage by so strange a path 
Crosseth her lord. But thou, thine heart doth wend 
The happier road. Thou hast seen, ere quite the 

What choice must needs be stronger : which to do 
Shows a wise-minded woman. . . . And for you, 
Children ; your father never has forgot 
Your needs. If God but help him, he hath 

A strong deliverance for your weakness. Yea, 
I think you, with your brethren, yet one day 
Shall be the mightiest voices in this land. 
Do you grow tall and strong. Your father's hand 
Guideth all else, and whatso power divine 
Hath alway helped. him. . . . Ah, may it be mine 
To see you yet in manhood, stern of brow, 
Strong-armed, set high o'er those that hate me. . . . 

Woman, thy face is turned. Thy cheek is swept 
With pallor of strange tears. Dost not accept 
Gladly and of good will my benisons? 


'Tis nothing. Thinking of these little ones. . . • 

Take heart, then. I will guard them from all ill. 


I do take heart. Thy word I never will 
Mistrust. Alas, a woman's bosom bears 
But woman's courage, a thing born for tears. 

What ails thee ?— All too sore thou weepest there. 


I was their mother! When I heard thy prayer 
Of long life for them, there swept over me 
A horror, wondering how these things shall be. 

But for the matter of my need that thou 
Should speak with me, part I have said, and now 
Will finish.— Seeing it is the king's behest 
To cast me out from Corinth . . . aye, and best, 
Far best, for me— I know it— not to stay 
Longer to trouble thee and those who sway 
The realm, being held to all their house a foe. . . . 
Behold, I spread my sails, and meekly go 


To exile. But our children. . . . Could this land 
Be still their home awhile : could thine own hand 
But guide their boyhood. . . . Seek the king, and 

His pity, that he bid thy children stay ! 

He is hard to move. Yet surely 'twere well done. 

Bid her— for thy sake, for a daughter's boon. . . . 

Well thought ! Her I can fashion to my mind. 


Surely. She is a woman like her kind. . . . 

Yet I will aid thee in thy labour ; I 

Will send her gifts, the fairest gifts that lie 

In the hands of men, things of the days of old, 

Fine robings and a carcanet of gold, 

By the boys' hands.— Go, quick, some handmaiden, 

And fetch the raiment. 

[A handmaid goes into the house 
Ah, her cup shall then 
Be filled indeed ! What more should woman crave, 
Being wed with thee, the bravest of the brave, 


And girt with raiment which of old the sire 
Of all my house, the Sun, gave, steeped in fire, 
To his own fiery race ? 

[The handmaid has returned bearing the Gifts. 
Come, children, lift 
With heed these caskets. Bear them as your gift 
To her, being bride and princess and of right 
Blessed!— I think she will not hold them light. 


Fond woman, why wilt empty thus thine hand 

Of treasure ? Doth King Creon's castle stand 

In stint of raiment, or in stint of gold ? 

Keep these, and make no gift. For if she hold 

Jason of any worth at all, I swear 

Chattels like these will not weigh more with her. 


Ah, chide me not! 'Tis written, gifts persuade 
The gods in heaven ; and gold is stronger made 
Than words innumerable to bend men's ways. 
Fortune is hers. God maketh great her days : 
Young and a crownfed queen ! And banishment 
For those two babes. ... I would not gold were 

But life's blood, ere that come. 

My children, go 
Forth into those rich halls, and, bowing low, 
Beseech your father's bride, whom I obey, 
Ye be not, of her mercy, cast away 


Exiled : and give the caskets— above all 

Mark this!— to none but her, to hold withal 

And keep. ... Go quick! And let your mother 

Soon the good tiding that she longs for. ... Go ! 

[She goes quickly into the house. Jason and 
the Children with their Attendant 


Now I have no hope more of the children's living ; 

No hope more. They are gone forth unto death. 
The bride, she taketh the poison of their giving : 

She taketh the bounden gold and openeth ; 
And the crown, the crown, she lifteth about her brow, 
Where the light brown curls are clustering. No 
hope now! 

O sweet and cloudy gleam of the garments golden ! 
The robe, it hath clasped her breast and the crown 
her head. 
Then, then, she decketh the bride, as a bride of 
Story, that goeth pale to the kiss of the dead. 
For the ring hath closed, and the portion of death 

is there ; 
And she flieth not, but perisheth unaware. 

Some Women. 

O bridegroom, bridegroom of the kiss so cold, 
Art thou wed with princes, art thou girt with gold, 


Who know'st not, suing 

For thy child's undoing, 
And, on her thou lovest, for a doom untold ? 
How art thou fallen from thy place of old! 


O Mother, Mother, what hast thou to reap, 
When the harvest cometh, between wake and sleep ? 
For a heart unslaken, 
For a troth forsaken, 
Lo, babes that call thee from a bloody deep : 
And thy love returns not Get thee forth and weep ! 
[Enter the Attendant with the two 
Children: Medea comes out from 
the house. 


Mistress, these children from their banishment 
Are spared. The royal bride hath mildly bent 
Her hand to accept thy gifts, and all is now 
Peace for the children.— Ha, why standest thou 
Confounded, when good fortune draweth near? 

Ah God! 

This chimes not with the news I bear. 

O God, have mercy! 



Is some word of wrath 
Here hidden that I knew not of ? And hath 
My hope to give thee joy so cheated me ? 

Thou givest what thou givest : I blame not thee. 

Thy brows are all o'ercast : thine eyes are filled. . . . 


For bitter need, Old Man ! The gods have willed, 
And my own evil mind, that this should come. 

Take heart! Thy sons one day will bring thee home. 

Home ? . . . I have others to send home. Woe's me ! 


Be patient Many a mother before thee 

Hath parted from her children. We poor things 

Of men must needs endure what fortune brings. 


I will endure.— Go thou within, and lay 
All ready that my sons may need to-day. 

[The Attendant goes into the house. 
O children, children mine : and you have found 
A land and home, where, leaving me discrowned 
And desolate, forever you will stay, 
Motherless children ! And I go my way 
To other lands, an exile, ere you bring 
Your fruits home, ere I see you prospering 
Or know your brides, or deck the bridal bed, 
All flowers, and lift your torches overhead. 

Oh, cursfcd be mine own hard heart! 'Twasall 
In vain, then, that I reared you up, so tall 
And fair ; in vain I bore you, and was torn 
With those long pitiless pains, when you were 

Ah, wondrous hopes my poor heart had in you, 
How you would tend me in mine age, and do 
The shroud about me with your own dear hands, 
When I lay cold, blessed in all the lands 
That knew us. And that gentle thought is dead ! 
You go, and I live on, to eat the bread 
Of long years, to myself most full of pain. 
And never your dear eyes, never again, 
Shall see your mother, far away being thrown 
To other shapes of life. . . . My babes, my own, 
Why gaze ye so ?— What is it that ye see?— 
And laugh with that last laughter ? . • . Woe is me, 
What shall I do ? 

Women, my strength is gone, 
Gone like a dream, since once I looked upon 


Those shining faces. ... I can do it not 
Good-bye to all the thoughts that burned so hot 
Aforetime ! I will take and hide them far, 
Far, from men's eyes. Why should I seek a war 
So blind : by these babes' -wounds to sting again 
Their father's heart, and win myself a pain 
Twice deeper? Never, never! I forget 
Henceforward all I laboured for. 

And yet, 
What is it with me ? Would I be a thing 
Mocked at, and leave mine enemies to sting 
Unsmitten ? It must be. O coward heart, 
Ever to harbour such soft words!— Depart 
Out of my sight, ye twain. \Thc Children go in. 

And they whose eyes 
Shall hold it sin to share my sacrifice, 
On their heads be it! My hand shall swerve not now. 

Ah, Ah, thou Wrath within me ! Do not thou, 
Do not. . . . Down, down, thou tortured thing, and 

My children ! They will dwell with us, aye, there 
Far off, and give thee peace. 

Too late, too late ! 
By all Hell's living agonies of hate, 
They shall not take my little ones alive 
To make their mock with ! Howsoe'er I strive 
The thing is doomed ; it shall not escape now 
From being. Aye, the crown is on the- brow, 
And the robe girt, and in the robe that high 
Queen dying. 

I know all. Yet . . seeing that I 


Must go so long a journey, and these twain 
A longer yet and darker, I would fain 
Speak with them, ere I go. 

[A handmaid brings the Children out again. 
Come, children; stand 
A little from me. There. Reach out your hand, 
Your right hand— so— to mother: and good-bye! 

[She has kept them hitherto at arm's length : 
but at the touch of their hands, her resolu- 
tion breaks down, and she gathers them 
passionately into her arms. 
Oh, darling hand! Oh, darling mouth, and eye, 
And royal mien, and. bright brave faces clear, 
May you be blessed, but not here ! What here 
Was yours, your father stole. ... Ah God, the glow 
Of cheek on cheek, the tender touch ; and Oh, 
Sweet scent of childhood. . . . Go! Go! . . . Am I 

blind? . . . 
Mine eyes can see not, when I look to find 
Their places. I am broken by the wings 
Of evil. . . Yea, I know to what bad things 
I go, but louder than all thought doth cry 
Anger, which maketh man's worst misery. 

[She follows the Children into the house. 

My thoughts have roamed a cloudy land, 
And heard a fierier music fall 
Than woman's heart should stir withal : 
And yet some Muse majestical, 
Unknown, hath hold of woman's hand, 
Seeking for Wisdom— not in all : 


A feeble seed, a scattered band, 
Thou yet shalt find in lonely places. 
Not dead amongst us, nor our faces 
Turned alway from the Muses' call. 

And thus my thought would speak : that she 

Who ne'er hath borne a child nor known 

Is nearer to felicity : 

Unlit she goeth and alone, 

With little understanding what 

A child's touch means of joy or woe, 

And many toils she beareth not. 

But they within whose garden fair 

That gentle plant hath blown, they go 

Deep- written all their days with care— 

To rear the children, to make fast 

Their hold, to win them wealth ; and then 

Much darkness, if the seed at last 

Bear fruit in good or evil men ! 

And one thing at the end of all 

Abideth, that which all men dread : 

The wealth is won, the limbs are bred 

To manhood, and the heart withal 

Honest : and, lo, where Fortune smiled, 

Some change, and what hath fallen ? Hark ! 

'Tis death slow winging to the dark, 

And in his arms what was thy child. 

What therefore doth it bring of gain 
To man, whose cup stood full before, 


That God should send this one thing more 
Of hunger and of dread, a door 
Set wide to every wind of pain ? 

[Medea comes out alone from the house. 


Friends, this long hour I wait on Fortune's eyes, 
And strain my senses in a hot surmise 
What passeth on that hill.— Ha! even now 
There comes ... 'tis one of Jason's men, I trow. 
His wild-perturbfcd breath doth warrant me 
The tidings of some strange calamity 

[Enter Messenger. 


O dire and ghastly deed ! Get thee away, 

Medea! Fly! Nor let behind thee stay 

One chariot's wing, one keel that sweeps the seas. . . . 

And what hath chanced, to cause such flights as these ? 


The maiden princess lieth— and her sire, 
The king— both murdered by thy poison-fire. 


Most happy tiding ! Which thy name prefers 
Henceforth among my friends and well-wishers. 



What say'st thou ? Woman, is thy mind within 
Clear, and not raving ? Thou art found in sin 
Most bloody wrought against the king's high head, 
And laughest at the tale, and hast no dread ? 


I have words also that could answer well 
Thy word. But take thine ease, good friend, and tell, 
How died they ? Hath it been a very foul 
Death, prithee ? That were comfort to my soul. 


When thy two children, hand in hand entwined, 
Came with their father, and passed on to find 
The new-made bridal rooms, Oh, we were glad, 
We thralls, who ever loved thee well, and had 
Grief in thy grief. And straight there passed a word 
From ear to ear, that thou and thy false lord 
Had poured peace offering upon wrath foregone. 
A right glad welcome gave we them, and one 
Kissed the small hand, and one the shining hair : 
Myself, for very joy, I followed where 
The women's rooms are. There our mistress . . . she 
Whom now we name so . . . thinking not to see 
Thy little pair, with glad and eager brow 
Sate waiting Jason. Then she saw, and slow 
Shrouded her eyes, and backward turned again, 
Sick that thy children should come near her. Then 


Thy husband quick went forward, to entreat 

The young maid's fitful wrath. "Thou will not 

Love's coming with unkindness ? Nay, refrain 
Thy suddenness, and turn thy face again, 
Holding as friends all that to me are dear, 
Thine husband. And accept these robes they bear 
As gifts : and beg thy father to unmake 
His doom of exile on them— for my sake." 
When once she saw the raiment, she could still 
Her joy no more, but gave him all his will. 
And almost ere the father and the two 
Children were gone from out the room, she drew 
The flowered garments forth, and sate her down 
To her arraying : bound the golden crown 
Through her long curls, and in a mirror fair 
Arranged their separate clusters, smiling there 
At the dead self that faced her. Then asidfc 
She pushed her seat, and paced those chambers 

Alone, her white foot poising delicately— 
So passing joyful in those gifts was she!— 
And many a time would pause, straight-limbed, and 

Her head to watch the long fold to her heel 
Sweeping. And then came something strange. Her 

Seemed pale, and back with crooked steps and weak 
Groping of arms she walked, and scarcely found 
Her old seat, that she fell not to the ground. 

Among the handmaids was a woman old 
And grey, who deemed, I think, that Pan had hold 


Upon her, or some spirit, and raised a Keen 
Awakening shout ; till through her lips was seen 
A white foam crawling, and her eyeballs back 
Twisted, and all her face dead pale for lack 
Of life : and while that old dame called, the cry 
Turned strangely to its opposite, to die 
Sobbing. Oh, swiftly then one woman flew 
To seek her father's rooms, one for the new 
Bridegroom, to tell the tale. And all the place 
Was loud with hurrying feet. 

So long a space 
As a swift walker on a measured way 
Would pace a furlong's course in, there she lay 
Speechless, with veiled lids. Then wide her eyes 
She oped, and wildly, as she strove to rise, 
Shrieked : for two diverse waves upon her rolled 
Of stabbing death. The carcanet of gold 
That gripped her brow was molten in a dire 
And wondrous river of devouring fire. 
And those fine robes, the gift thy children gave— 
God's mercy!— everywhere did lap and lave 
The delicate flesh ; till up she sprang, and fled, 
A fiery pillar, shaking locks and head 
This way and that, seeking to cast the crown 
Somewhere away. But like a thing nailed down 
The burning gold held fast the anadem, 
And through her locks, the more she scattered 

Came fire the fiercer, till to earth she fell 
A thing— save to her sire — scarce nameable, 
And strove no more. That cheek of royal mien, 
Where was it— or the place where eyes had been? 


Only from crown and temples came faint blood 
Shot through with fire. The very flesh, it stood 
Out from the bones, as from a wounded pine 
The gum starts, where those gnawing poisons fine 
Bit in the dark— a ghastly sight ! And touch 
The dead we durst not We had seen too much. 

But that poor father, knowing not, had sped, 
Swift to his daughter's room, and there the dead 
Lay at his feet. He knelt, and groaning low, 
Folded her in his arms, and kissed her : " Oh, 
Unhappy child, what thing unnatural hath 
So hideously undone thee ? Or what wrath 
Of gods, to make this old grey sepulchre 
Childless of thee ? Would God but lay me there 
To die with thee, my daughter! " So he cried. 
But after, when he stayed from tears, and tried 
To uplift his old bent frame, lo, in the folds 
Of those fine robes it held, as ivy holds 
Strangling among your laurel boughs. Oh, then 
A ghastly struggle came ! Again, again, 
Up on his knee he writhed ; but that dead breast 
Clung still to his : till, wild, like one possessed, 
He dragged himself half free ; and, lo, the live 
Flesh parted ; and he laid him down to strive 
No more with death, but perish ; for the deep 
Had risen above his soul. And there they sleep, 
At last, the old proud father and the bride, 
Even as his tears had craved it, side by side. 

For thee— Oh, no word more! Thyself will know 
How best to baffle vengeance. . . . Long ago 
I looked upon man's days, and found a grey 
Shadow. And this thing more I surely say, 


That those of all men who are counted wise, 
Strong wits, devisers of great policies, 
Do pay the bitterest toll. Since life began, 
Hath there in God's eye stood one happy man ? 
Fair days roll on, and bear more gifts or less 
Of fortune, but to no man happiness. 

[Exit Messenger. 


Some Women. 

Wrath upon wrath, meseems, this day shall fall 
From God on Jason ! He hath earned it all. 

Other Women. 

O miserable maiden, all my heart 
Is torn for thee, so sudden to depart 
From thy king's chambers and the light above 
To darkness, all for sake of Jason's love! 


Women, my mind is clear. I go to slay 
My children with all speed, and then, away 
From hence •, not wait yet longer till they stand 
Beneath another and an angrier hand 
To die. Yea, howsoe'er I shield them, die 
They must. And, seeing that they must, 'tis I 
Shall slay them, I their mother, touched of none 
Beside. Oh, up and get thine armour on, 


My heart! Why longer tarry we to win 
Our crown of dire inevitable sin ? 
Take up thy sword, O poor right hand of mine, 
Thy sword : then onward to the thin-drawn line 
Where life turns agony. Let there be naught 
Of softness now : and keep thee from that thought, 
'Born of thy flesh,' 'thine own beloved.' Now, 
For one brief day, forget thy children : thou 
Shalt weep hereafter. Though thou slay them, yet 
Sweet were they. ... I am sore unfortunate. 

[She goes into the house. 


Some Women. 

O Earth, our mother; and thou 

All-seer, arrowy crown 
Of Sunlight, manward now 

Look down, Oh, look down ! 
Look upon one accurst, 
Ere yet in blood she twine 
Red hands— blood that is thine! 
O Sun, save her first ! 
She is thy daughter still, 

Of thine own golden line ; 
Save her! Or shall man spill 
The life divine ? 
Give peace, O Fire that diest not ! Send thy spell 

To stay her yet, to lift her afar, afar— 
A torture-changed spirit, a voice of Hell 
Wrought of old wrongs and war ! 



Alas for the mother's pain 
Wasted ! Alas the dear 
Life that was born in vain ! 

Woman, what mak'st thou here, 
Thou from beyond the Gate 
Where dim Sympl£gades 
Clash in the dark blue seas, 
The shores where death doth wait ? 
Why hast thou taken on thee, 

To make us desolate, 
This anger of misery 
And guilt of hate ? 
For fierce are the smitings back of blood once shed 
Where love hath been : God's wrath upon them that 
And an anguished earth, and the wonder of the dead 
Haunting as music still. . . . 

[A cry is heard within. 

A Woman. 
Hark ! Did ye hear ? Heard ye the children's cry ? 


miserable woman ! abhorred ! 

A Child within. 

What shall I do? What is it? 
From mother! 

Keep me fast 

The Other Child. 

I know nothing. 
I think she means to kill us. 

Brother! Oh, 




A Woman. 

Let me go ! 
I will— Help! Help!— and save them at the 

A Child. 

Yes, in God's name! Help quickly ere we die! 

The Other Child. 

She has almost caught me now. She has a sword. 
[Many of the Women are now beating at the 
barred door to get in. Others are stand- 
ing apart. 

Women at the door. 

Thou stone, thou thing of iron ! Wilt verily 
Spill with thine hand that life, the vintage stored 
Of thine own agony ? 

The Other Women. 

A Mother slew her babes in days of yore, 
One, only one, from dawn to eventide, 

Ino, god-maddened, whom the Queen of Heaven 
Set frenzied, flying to the dark : and she 
Cast her for sorrow to the wide salt sea, 
Forth from those rooms of murder unf orgiven, 
Wild-footed from a white crag of the shore, 
And clasping still her children twain, she died. 

O Love of Woman, charged with sorrow sore, 
What hast thou wrought upon us ? What beside 
Resteth to tremble for ? 

I Enter hurriedly Jason and Attendants. 



Ye women by this doorway clustering 

Speak, is the doer of the ghastly thing 

Yet here, or fled? What hopeth she of flight? 

Shall the deep yawn to shield her? Shall the height 

Send wings, and hide her in the vaulted sky 

To work red murder on her lords, and fly 

Unrecompensed ? But let her go ! My care 

Is but to save my children, not for her. 

Let them she wronged requite her as they may. 

I care not. 'Tis my sons I must some way 

Save, ere the kinsmen of the dead can win 

From them the payment of their mother's sin. 


Unhappy man, indeed thou knowest not 

What dark place thou art come to ! Else, God wot, 

Jason, no word like these could fall from thee. 

What is it?— Ha! The woman would kill me? 

Thy sons are dead, slain by their mother's hand. 


How ? Not the children. ... I scarce under- 
stand. . . . 
O God, thou hast broken me ! 



Think of those twain 
As things once fair, that ne'er shall bloom again. 

Where did she murder them ? In that old room ? 

Open, and thou shalt see thy children's doom. 


Ho, thralls ! Unloose me yonder bars ! Make more 
Of speed ! Wrench out the jointing of the door. 
And show my two-edged curse, the children dead, 
The woman. . . . Oh, this sword upon her 


[ While the Attendants are still battering at 
the door Medea appears on the roof, 
standing on a chariot of winged Dragons, 
in which are the children's bodies. 


What make ye at my gates ? Why batter ye 

With brazen bars, seeking the dead and me 

Who slew them? Peace! . . . And thou, if aught 

of mine 
Thou needest, speak, though never touch of thine 


Shall scathe me more. Out of his firmament 
My fathers' father, the high Sun, hath sent 
This, that shall save me from mine enemies' rage. 


Thou living hate! Thou wife in every age 
Abhorred, blood-red mother, who didst kill 
My sons, and make me as the dead : and still 
Canst take the sunshine to thine eyes, and smell 
The green earth, reeking from thy deed of hell ; 
I curse thee ! Now, Oh, now mine eyes can see, 
That then were blinded, when from savagery 
Of eastern chambers, from a cruel land, 
To Greece and home I gathered in mine hand 
Thee, thou incarnate curse: one that betrayed 
Her home, her father, her . . . Oh, God hath laid 
Thy sins on me!— I knew, I knew, there lay 
A brother murdered on thy hearth that day 
When thy first footstep fell on Argo's hull. . . . 
Argo, my own, my swift and beautiful 

That was her first beginning. Then a wife 
I made her in my house. She bore to life 
Children : and now for love, for chambering 
And men's arms, she hath murdered them! A 

Not one of all the maids of Greece, not one, 
Had dreamed of; whom I spurned, and for mine 

Chose thee, a bride of hate to me and death, 
Tigress, not woman, beast of wilder breath 


Than Skylla shrieking o'er the Tuscan sea. 
Enough ! No scorn of mine can reach to thee, 
Such iron is o'er thine eyes. Out from my road, 
Thou crime-begetter, blind with children's blood ! 
And let me weep alone the bitter tide 
That sweepeth Jason's days, no gentle bride 
To speak with more, no child to look upon 
Whom once I reared ... all, all for ever gone! 


An easy answer had I to this swell 
Of speech, but Zeus our father knoweth well, 
All I for thee have wrought, and thou for me. 
So let it rest. This thing was not to be, 
That thou shouldst live a merry life, my bed 
Forgotten and my heart uncomf orted, 
Thou nor thy princess : nor the king that planned 
Thy marriage drive Medea from his land, 
And suffer not. Call me what thing thou please, 
Tigress or Skylla from the Tuscan seas : 
My claws have gripped thine heart, and all things 


Thou too hast grief. Thy pain is fierce as mine. 

I love the pain, so thou shalt laugh no more. 

Oh, what a womb of sin my children bore! 


Sons, did ye perish for your father's shame? 

How ? It was not my hand that murdered them. 

'Twas thy false wooings, 'twas thy trampling pride. 

Thou hast said it! For thy lust of love they died. 

Jtnd love to women a slight thing should be ? 

To women pure!— All thy vile life to thee! 

Think of thy torment. They are dead, they are dead! 

No: quick, great God; quick curses round thy head! 

The Gods know who began this work of woe. 


Thy heart and all its loathliness they know. 


Loathe on. . . . But, Oh, thy voice. It hurts me 

Aye, and thine me. Wouldst hear me then no more ? 

How ? Show me but the way. Tis this I crave. 

Give me the dead to weep, and make their grave. 


Never! Myself will lay them in a still 

Green sepulchre, where Hera by the Hill 

Hath precinct holy, that no angry men 

May break their graves and cast them forth again 

To evil. So I lay on all this shore 

Of Corinth a high feast for evermore 

And rite, to purge them yearly of the stain 

Of this poor blood. And I, to Pallas' plain 

I go, to dwell beside Pandion's son, 

Aegeus.— For thee, behold, death draweth on, 

Evil and lonely, like thine heart : the hands 

Of thine old Argo, rotting where she stands, 


Snaa smite thine head in twain, and bitter be 
To the last end thy memories of me. 

[She rises on the chariot and is slowly borne away. 

May They that hear the weeping child 
Blast thee, and They that walk in blood 1 

Thy broken vows, thy friends beguiled 
Have shut for thee the ears of God. 

Go, thou art wet with children's tears! 
Go thou, and lay thy bride to sleep. 

Childless, I go, to weep and weep. 
Not yet! Age cometh and long years. 

My sons, mine own! 

Not thine, but mine . . • 

• • Who slew them ! 


Yes: to torture thee. 

Once let me kiss their lips, once twine 

Mine arms and touch. . . . Ah, woe is me! 



Wouldst love them and entreat ? But now 
They were as nothing. 


4 At the last, 

O God, to touch that tender brow ! 

Thy words upon the wind are cast. 


Thou, Zeus, wilt hear me. All is said 

For naught. I am but spurned away 
And trampled by this tigress, red 

With children's blood. Yet, come what may, 
So far as thou hast granted, yea, 

So far as yet my strength may stand, 
I weep upon these dead, and say 

Their last farewell, and raise my hand 

To all the daemons of the air 

In witness of these things ; how she 
Who slew them, will not suffer me 

To gather up my babes, nor bear 

To earth their bodies ; whom, O stone 

Of women, would I ne'er had known 
Nor gotten, to be slain by thee ! 

[He casts himself upon the earth. 



Great treasure halls hath Zeus in heaven. 
From whence to man strange dooms be given, 

Past hope or fear. 
And the end men looked for cometh not, 
And a path is there where no man thought : 

So hath it fallen here. 


P. 3, L 2, To Colchis through the blue Symple 1 - 
gades.]— The 9ympl£gades (" Clashing ") or Kuaneai 
(" Dark blue' 1 ) were two rocks in the sea which used 
to clash together and crush anything that was between 
them. They stood above the north end of the Bos- 
phorus and formed the Gate (L 1264, p. 70) to the 
Axeinos Pontes, or "Stranger-less Sea," where all 
Greeks were murdered* At the farthest eastern end of 
that sea was the land of Colchis. 

P. 3, L 3, PeMion.]— The great mountain in Thessaly. 
I61COS, a little kingdom between Felion and the sea, 
ruled originally by Aeson, Jason's father, then by the 
usurping Pelias. 

P. 3, 1. 9, Daugnters of Pelias.] — See Introduction, 
p. vii. 

P. 4, 1. 18, Wed.]— Medea was not legally married 
to Jason, and could not be, though in common par- 
lance he is sometimes called her husband. Inter- 
marriage between the subjects of two separate states 
was not possible in antiquity without a special treaty. 
And naturally there was no such treaty with Colchis. 

This is, I think, the view of the play, and corre- 
sponds to the normal Athenian conceptions of society. 
In the original legend it is likely enough that Medea 
belongs to " matriarchal " times before the institution 
of marriage. 

P. 4, L 18, Head of Corinth.]— A peculiar word 


(ai<rv/ivov) afterwards used to translate the Roman 
dictator, Creon is, however, apparently descended 
from the ancient king Sisyphus. 

P. 4, 1. 40, She hath a blade made keen, &c] — 
These lines (40, 41) are repeated in a different context 
later on, p. 23, U. 379, 380. The sword which to the 
Nurse suggested suicide was really meant for murder. 
There is a similar and equally dramatic repetition of 
the lines about the crown and wreath (786, 949, pp. 
46, 54), and of those about the various characters 
popularly attributed to Medea (11. 304, 808, pp. 18, 46). 

P. 5, 1. 48, Attendant.]— Greek Paidagogos, or 
"pedagogue" ; a confidential servant who escorted the 
boys to and from school, and in similar ways looked 
after them. Notice the rather light and cynical char- 
acter of this man, compared with the tenderness of 
the Nurse. 

P. 5, 1. 57, To this still earth and sky.]— Not a mere 
stage explanation. It was the ancient practice, if you 
had bad dreams or terrors of the night, to " show " 
them to the Sun in the morning, that he might clear 
them away. 

P. 8, 1. Ill, Have I not suffered?]— Medea is ap- 
parently answering some would-be comforter. Cf . p. 
4. ("If friends will speak," &c.) 

P. 9, 1. 131, Chorus.]— As Dr. Verrall has remarked, 
the presence of the Chorus is in this play unusually 
awkward from the dramatic point of view. Medea's 
plot demands most absolute secrecy; and it is in- 
credible that fifteen Corinthian women, simply be- 
cause they were women, should allow a half -mad 
foreigner to murder several people, including their 


own Corinthian king and princess— who was a 
woman also— rather than reveal her plot. We must re- 
member in palliation (1) that these women belong to 
the faction in Corinth which was friendly to Medea and 
hostile to Creon; (2) that the appeal to them as 
women had more force in antiquity than it would now, 
and the princess had really turned traitor to her sex. 
(See note on this subject at the end of the present 
writer's translation of the Electra.) (3) The non-inter- 
ference of the Chorus seems monstrous : yet in ancient 
times, when law was weak and punishment was chiefly 
the concern of the injured persons, and of no one else, 
the reluctance of bystanders to interfere was much 
greater than it is now in an ordered society. Some 
oriental countries, and perhaps even California or 
Texas, could afford us some startling instances of 
impassiveness among bystanders. 

P. 12, 1. 167, Oh, wild words!]— The Nurse breaks 
in, hoping to drown her mistress's dangerous self-be- 
trayal. Medea's murder of her brother (see Introduc- 
tion, p. vi) was by ordinary standards her worst act, and 
seems not to have been known in Corinth. It forms 
the climax of Jason's denunciation, 1. 1334, p. 74. 

P. 13, 1. 190, Alas, the brave blithe bards, &c.]— Who 
is the speaker ? According to the MSS. the Nurse, and 
there is some difficulty in taking the lines from her. Yet 
(1) she has no reason to sing a song outside after saying 
that she is going in ; and (2) it is quite necessary that 
she should take a little time indoors persuading Medea 
to come out. The words seem to suit the lips of an 
impersonal Chorus. 

The general sense of the poem is interesting. It is 


an apology for tragedy. It gives the tragic poet's con- 
ception of the place of his art in the service of human- 
ity, as against the usual feeling of the public, whose 
serious work is devoted to something else, and who " go 
to a play to be amused." 

P. 14, 1. 214, Women of Corinth, I am come, &c.]— 
These opening lines are a well-known crux inierpretutn. 
It is interesting to note, (1) that the Roman poet Ennius 
(ca. 200 B.C.) who translated the Medea, did not under- 
stand them in the least ; while, on the other hand, the 
earliest Greek commentators seem not to have noticed 
that there was any difficulty in them worth commenting 
upon. That implies that while the acting tradition 
was alive and unbroken, the lines were easily under- 
stood ; but when once the tradition failed, the meaning 
was lost. (The first commentator who deals with the 
passage is Irenaeus, a scholar of the Augustan time.) 

P. 15, 1. 231, A herb most bruised is woman.]— This 
fine statement of the wrongs of women in Athens doubt- 
less contains a great deal of the poet's own mind ; but 
from the dramatic point of view it is justified in several 
ways. (1) Medea is seeking for a common ground on 
which to appeal to the Corinthian women. (2) She 
herself is now in the position of all others in which a 
woman is most hardly treated as compared with a man. 
(3) Besides this, one can see that, being a person of great 
powers and vehement will, she feels keenly her lack of 
outlet. If she had men's work to do, she could be a 
hero : debarred from proper action (from rh irpdxr<ruv, 
Hip. 1019) she is bound to make mischief. Cf. p. 24, 
U. 408, 409. "Things most vain, &c." 

There is a slight anachronism in applying the Attic 


system of doweries to primitive times. Medea's con- 
temporaries either lived in a "matriarchal" system 
without any marriage, or else were bought by their 
husbands for so many cows. 

P. 17, 1. 271, Creon.]— Observe the somewhat 
archaic abruptness of this scene, a sign of the early 
date of the play. 

P. 18, 1. 295, Wise beyond men's wont.]— Medea 
was a " wise woman " which in her time meant much 
the same as a witch or enchantress. She did really 
know more than other women ; but most of this extra 
knowledge consisted— or was supposed to consist — 
either in lore of poisons and charms, or in useless 
learning and speculation. 

P. 18, 1. 304, A seed of strife, an Eastern dreamer, 
&c] — The meaning of these various "ill names " is not 
certain. Cf. 1. 808, p. 46. Most scholars take Oaripov 
Tpovov (" of the other sort ") to mean " the opposite of 
a dreamer." 

P. 20, 11. 333-4, What would I with thy pains?]— 
A conceit almost in the Elizabethan style, as if by tak- 
ing "pains" away from Creon, she would have them 

P. 20, 1. 335, Not that! Not that!]— Observe what 
a dislike Medea has of being touched : cf. 1. 370 ( "my 
flesh been never stained," &c.) and 1. 496 ( "poor, poor 
right hand of mine ! "), pp. 22, and 28. 

P. 22, 1. 364, Defeat on every side.]— Observe (1) 
that in this speech Medea's vengeance is to take the 
form of a clear fight to the death against the three 
guilty persons. It is both courageous and, judged by 
the appropriate standard, just. (2) She wants to save 


her own life, not from cowardice, but simply to make 
her revenge more complete. To kill her enemies and 
escape is victory. To kill them and die with them is 
only a drawn battle. Other enemies will live and 
"laugh." (3) Already in this first soliloquy there is a 
suggestion of that strain of madness which becomes 
unmistakable later on in the play. (" Oh, I have tried 
so many thoughts of murder," &c, and especially the 
lashing of her own fury, "Awake thee now, Medea.") 

P. 24, 1. 405, Thief's daughter: lit. "a child of Sisy- 
phus."]— Sisyphus, an ancient king of Corinth, was one 
of the well-known sinners punished in Tartarus. Me- 
dea's father, Ai£t£s, was a brother of Circe, and born 
of the Sun. 

P. 24, 1. 409, Things most vain for help.]— See on 11. 
230 ff. 

P. 24,11. 410-430, Chorus.]— The song celebrates the 
coming triumph of Woman in her rebellion against 
Man ; not by any means Woman as typifying the do- 
mestic virtues, but rather as the downtrodden, uncivil- 
ised, unreasoning, and fiercely emotional half of hu- 
manity. A woman who in defence of her honour and 
her rights will die sword in hand, slaying the man who 
wronged her, seems to the Chorus like a deliverer of 
the whole sex. 

P. 24, 1. 421, Old bards.]— Early literature in most 
countries contains a good deal of heavy satire on wo- 
men: e.g. Hesiod's "Who trusts a woman trusts a 
thief ; " or Phocylides' " Two days of a woman are 
very sweet : when you marry her and when you carry 
her to her grave." 

It is curious how the four main Choruses of the 


Medea are divided each into two parts, distinct in sub- 
ject and in metre. 

P. 25, 1. 439, Faith is no more sweet.]— Copied 
from a beautiful passage in Hesiod, Works and Days, 
198 flE. : "There shall be no more sweetness found in 
the faithful man nor the righteous. . . . And at last up 
to Olympus from the wide-wayed earth, shrouding 
with white raiment their beautiful faces, go Ruth and 
Rebuking." (Aidos and Nemesis : i.e. the Ruth or 
Shame that you feel with reference to your own 
actions, and the Indignation or Disapproval that 
others feel.) 

P. 27, 11. 478 ff., Bulls of fiery breath.]— Among 
the tasks set him by Ai£t£s, Jason had to yoke two 
fire-breathing bulls, and plough with them a certain 
Field of Ares, sow the field with dragon's teeth, and 
reap a harvest of earth-born or giant warriors which 
sprang from the seed. When all this was done, there 
remained the ancient serpent coiled round the tree 
where the Golden Fleece was hanging. 

P. 29,1. 507, The first friends who sheltered me.]— 
i.e. the kindred of Pelias. 

P. 29, 1. 509, Blest of many a maid in Hellas.] — 
Jason was, of course, the great romantic hero of his 
time. Cf. his own words, 1. 1340, p. 74. 

Pp. 29 ff.,11. 523-575.— Jason's defence is made the 
weaker by his reluctance to be definitely insulting to 
Medea. He dares not say: "You think that, because 
you conceived a violent passion for me,— to which, I 
admit, I partly responded— I must live with you 
always ; but the truth is, you are a savage with whom 
a civilised man cannot go on living." This point 


comes out unveiled in his later speech, 1. 1329, ff., 
p. 74. 

P. 30, 11. 536 ff., Our ordered life and justice.] — 
Jason has brought the benefits of civilisation to Medea ! 
He is doubtless sincere, but the peculiar ironic cruelty 
of the plea is obvious. 

P. 30, 11. 541 ff., The story of Great Medea, &c. 
. . . Unless our deeds have glory.]— This, I think, is 
absolutely sincere. To Jason ambition is everything. 
And, as Medea has largely shared his great deeds with 
him, he thinks that she cannot but feel the same. It 
seems to him contemptible that her mere craving for 
personal love should outweigh all the possible glories 
of life. 

P. 31, 1. 565, What more need hast thou of chil- 
dren?]— He only means, "of more children than you 
now have." But the words suggest to Medea a 
different meaning, and sow in her mind the first seed 
of the child-murder. See on the Aegeus scene below. 

P. 34, 1. 608, A living curse.]— Though she spoke 
no word, the existence of a being so deeply wronged 
would be a curse on her oppressors. So a murdered 
man's blood, or an involuntary cry of pain (Aesch. Ag. 
237) on the part of an injured person is in itself 
fraught with a curse. 

P. 35, 11. 627-641, Chorus. Alas, the Love, &c] 
—A highly characteristic Euripidean poem, keenly 
observant of fact, yet with a lyrical note penetrating 
all its realism, A love which really produces " good 
to man and glory," is treated in the next chorus, 1. 844 
ff., p. 49. 

Pp. 37 ff., 11 663-759, Aegeus.1— This scene is 


generally considered to be a mere blot on the play, 
not, I think, justly. It is argued that the obvious 
purpose which the scene serves, the provision of an 
asylum for Medea, has no keen dramatic interest. 
The spectator would just as soon, or sooner, have her 
die. And, besides, her actual mode of escape is largely 
independent of Aegeus. Further, the arrival of 
Aegeus at this moment seems to be a mere coincidence 
(Ar. Poetics, 61 b, 23), and one cannot help suspect- 
ing that the Athenian poet was influenced by mere 
local interests in dragging in the Athenian king and 
the praises of Athens where they were not specially 

To these criticisms one may make some answer. (1) 
As to the coincidence, it is important to remember al- 
ways that Greek tragedies are primarily historical plays, 
not works of fiction. They are based on definite Logoi 
or traditions (Frogs, 1. 1052, p. 254) and therefore can, 
and should, represent accidental coincidences when it 
was a datum of the tradition that these coincidences 
actually happened. By Aristotle's time the practice 
had changed. The tragedies of his age were essentially 
fiction ; and he tends to criticise the ancient tragedies 
by fictional standards. 

Now it was certainly a datum in the Medea legend 
that she took refuge with Aegeus, King of Athens, and 
was afterwards an enemy to his son Theseus ; but I 
think we may go further. This play pretty certainly 
has for its foundation the rites performed by the Corin- 
thians at the Grave of the Children of Medea in the 
precinct of Hera Acraia near Corinth. See on 1. 1379. 
p. 77. The legend in such cases is usually invented to 


explain the ritual ; and I suspect that in the ritual, and, 
consequently, in the legend, there were two other 
data : first, a pursuit of Medea and her flight on a 
dragon-chariot, and, secondly, a meeting between 
Medea and Aegeus. (Both subjects are frequent on 
vase paintings, and may well be derived from historical 
pictures in some temple at Corinth.) 

Thus, the meeting with Aegeus is probably not 
the free invention of Euripides, but one of the data 
supplied to him by his subject. But he has made 
it serve, as von Arnim was the first to perceive, a re- 
markable dramatic purpose. Aegeus was under a curse 
of childlessness, and his desolate condition suggests to 
Medea the ultimate form of her vengeance. She will 
make Jason childless. Cf. 1. 670, "Children! Ah 
God, art childless ? " (A childless king in antiquity 
was a miserable object : likely to be deposed and dis- 
honoured, and to miss his due worship after death. 
See the fragments of Euripides' Oineus.) 

There is also a further purpose in the scene, of a 
curious and characteristic kind. In several plays of 
Euripides, when a heroine hesitates on the verge of 
a crime, the thing that drives her over the brink is 
some sudden and violent lowering of her self-respect. 
Thus Phaedra writes her false letter immediately 
after her public shame. Creusa in the Ion turns 
murderous only after crying in the god's ears the 
story of her seduction. Medea, a princess and, as we 
have seen, a woman of rather proud chastity, feels, after 
the offer which she makes to Aegeus in this scene 
(1. 716 ff., p. 42), that she need shrink from nothing. 

P. 38, 1. 681, The hearth-stone of my sires of yore.] 


—This sounds as if it meant Aegeus' own house : in 
reality, by an oracular riddle, it meant the house of 
Pittheus, by whose daughter, Aethra, Aegeus became 
the father of Theseus. 

P. 43, 1. 731, An oath wherein to trust.]— Observe that 
Medea is deceiving Aegeus. She intends to commit a 
murder before going to him, and therefore wishes to 
bind him down so firmly that, however much he wish 
to repudiate her, he shall be unable. Hence this insist- 
ence on the oath and the exact form of the oath. (At 
this time, apparently, she scarcely thinks of the children, 
only of her revenge.) 

P. 46, 1. 808, No eastern dreamer, &c.]— See on 1. 304. 

P. 47, 1. 820, The Nurse comes out]— There is no in- 
dication in the original to show who comes out. But 
it is certainly a woman ; as certainly it is not one of the 
Chorus ; and Medea's words suit the Nurse well. It is 
an almost devilish act* to send the Nurse, who would 
have died rather than take such a message had she un- 
derstood it. 

P. 48, 11. 824-846, The sons of Erechtheus, &c.] — 
This poem is interesting as showing the ideal concep- 
tion of Athens entertained by a fifth-century Athenian. 
One, might compare with it Pericles' famous speech in 
Thucydides, ii., where the emphasis is laid on Athenian 
"plain living and high thinking" and the freedom of 
daily life. Or, again, the speeches of Aethra in Eurip- 
ides' Suppliant Women, where more stress is laid on 
mercy and championship of the oppressed. 

The allegory of " Harmony," as a sort of KorS, or 
Earth-maiden, planted by all the Muses in the soil of 
Attica, seems to be an invention of the poet. Not any 


given Art or Muse, but a spirit which unites and 
harmonises all, is the special spirit of Athens. The Attic 
connection with Er6s, on the other hand, is old and 
traditional. But Euripides has transformed the primi- 
tive nature-god into a mystic and passionate longing for 
"all manner of high deed/' a Love which, different 
from that described in the preceding chorus, really en- 
nobles human life. 

This first part of the Chorus is, of course, suggested 
by Aegeus; the second is more closely connected with 
the action of the play. " How can Medea dream of 
asking that stainless land to shelter her crimes ? But 
the whole plan of her revenge is not only wicked but 
impossible. She simply could not do such a thing, if 
she tried." 

Pp. 50 ff., 1. 869, The second scene with Jason.] — 
Dicaearchus, and perhaps his master Aristotle also, seems 
to have complained of Medea's bursting into tears in 
this scene, instead of acting her part consistently— a 
very prejudiced criticism. What strikes one about 
Medea's assumed rile is that in it she remains so like 
herself and so unlike another woman. Had she really 
determined to yield to Jason, she would have done so 
in just this way, keen-sighted and yet passionate. One 
is reminded of the deceits of half-insane persons, which 
are due not so much to conscious art as to the emer- 
gence of another side of the personality. 

P. 54, 1. 949, Fine robings, &c.] — Repeated from 1. 
786, p. 46, where it came full in the midst of Medea's 
avowal of her murderous purpose. It startles one here, 
almost as though she had spoken out the word " mur- 
der " in some way which Jason could not understand. 


P. 56, 1. 976, Chorus.] — The inaction of the 
Chorus women during the last scene will not bear 
thinking about, if we regard them as real human 
beings, like, for instance, the Bacchae and the Trojan 
Women in the plays that bear their name. Still there 
is not only beauty, but, I think, great dramatic value 
in the conventional and almost mystical quality of this 
Chorus, and also in the low and quiet tone of that 
which follows, 1. 1081 fF. 

P. 59, 11. 1021 fL, Why does Medea kill her 
children ?]— She acts not for one clearly stated reason, 
like a heroine in Sardou, but for many reasons, both 
conscious and subconscious, as people do in real life. 
Any analysis professing to be exact would be mis- 
leading, but one may note some elements in her feeling : 
(1) She had played dangerously long with the notion 
of making Jason childless. (2) When she repented of 
this (1. 1046, p. 60) the children had already been 
made the unconscious murderers of the princess. They 
were certain to be slain, perhaps with tortures, by the 
royal kindred. (3) Medea might take them with her 
to Athens and trust to the hope of Aegeus* being able 
and willing to protect them. But it was a doubtful 
chance, and she would certainly be in a position of 
weakness and inferiority if she had the children to 
protect. (4) In the midst of her passionate half- 
animal love for the children, there was also an element 
of hatred, because they were Jason's : cf. 1. 112, p. 8. 
(5) She also seems to feel, in a sort of wild-beast way, 
that by killing them she makes them more her own : cf . 
1. 793, p. 46, " Mine, whom no hand shall steal from me 
away;" 1. 1241, p. 68, "touched of none beside." (6) 


Euripides had apparently observed how common it is, 
when a woman's mind is deranged by suffering, that 
her madness takes the form of child-murder. The 
terrible lines in which Medea speaks to the " Wrath " 
within her, as if it were a separate being (1. 1056, p. 
60), seem to bear out this view. 

P. 59, 1. 1038, Other shapes of life.]— A mystical 
conception of death. Cf. Ion, 1067, where almost ex- 
actly the same phrase is used. 

P. 61, 1. 1078, I know to what bad deeds, &c.]— 
This expression of double consciousness was immensely 
famous in antiquity. It is quoted by Lucian, Plu- 
tarch, Clement, Galen, Synesius, Hierocles, Arrian, 
Simplicius, besides being imitated, e.g. by Ovid: "video 
meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor." 

P. 63, 1. 1123 ff., Messenger.]— A pendant to the 
Attendant's entrance above, 1. 1002. The Attendant, 
bringing apparently good news, is received with a 
moan of despair, the Messenger of calamity with 
serene satisfaction. Cf. the Messenger who announces 
the death of Pentheus in the Baccha. 

P. 65, 1. 1162, Dead self.]— The reflection in the 
glass, often regarded as ominous or uncanny in some 

P. 66, 1. 1176, The cry turned strangely to its op- 
posite.]— The notion was that an evil spirit could be 
scared away by loud cheerful shouts— ololuga. But 
while this old woman is making an ololugt, she sees 
that the trouble is graver than she thought, and the 
cheerful cry turns into a wail. 

P. 68, 1. 1236, Women, my mind is clear.]— With the 
silence in which Medea passes over the success 


of her vengeance compare Theseus' words, Hip., 
1. 1260, "I laugh not, neither weep, at this fell doom." 

P. 69, L 1249, Thou shalt weep hereafter.]— Cf. 
Othello^ v. ii., " Be thus when thou art dead, and I will 
kiss thee, And love thee after." 

P. 69, 11. 1251 ff.— This curious prayer to the Sun to 
" save " Medea— both from the crime of killing her 
children and the misfortune of being caught by her 
enemies— is apparently meant to prepare us for the 
scene of the Dragon Chariot. Notice the emphasis 
laid on the divine origin of Medea's race and her 
transformation to "a voice of Hell." 

P. 71, 11. 1278 ff., Death of the children.]— The 
door is evidently barred, since Jason has to use crow- 
bars to open it in 1. 1317. Cf. the end of Maeterlinck's 
Mort de Ttntagiles. 

P. 71, 1. 1281, A mother slew her babes in days of 
yore, &c.]— Ino, wife of Athamas, King of Thebes, 
nursed the infant Dionysus. For this Hera punished 
her with madness. She killed her two children, Lear- 
chus and Melicertes, and leaped into the sea. (There 
are various versions of the story.)— Observe the tech- 
nique : just as the strain is becoming intolerable, we are 
turned away from tragedy to pure poetry. See on Hip. 

P. 74, 1. 1320, This, that shall save me from mine 
enemies' rage.]— Jhere is nothing in the words of the 
play to show what "this" is, but the Scholiast explains 
it as a chariot drawn by winged serpents, and the stage 
tradition seems to be clear on the subject. See note to 
the Aegeus scene (p. 88). 

This first appearance of Medea "above, on the 


tower " (Scholiast) seems to me highly effective. The 
result is to make Medea into something like a dea ex 
tnachindy who prophesies and pronounces judgment. 
See Introduction. 

P. 76, 1. 1370, They are dead, they are dead!]— This 
wrangle, though rather like some scenes in Norse sagas, 
is strangely discordant for a Greek play. It seems as 
if Euripides had deliberately departed from his usual 
soft and reflective style of ending in order to express 
the peculiar note of discord which is produced by the 
so-called "satisfaction" of revenge. Medea's curious 
cry : " Oh, thy voice ! It hurts me sore !" shows that 
the effect is intentional. 

P. 77, 1. 1379, A still green sepulchre.] — There was a 
yearly festival in the precinct of Hera Acraia, near 
Corinth, celebrating the deaths of Medea's children. 
This festival, together with its ritual and " sacred leg- 
end," evidently forms the germ of the whole tragedy. 
Cf. the Trozenian rites over the tomb of Hippolytus, 
Hip. 1424 ff. 

P. 77, 1. 1386, The hands of thine old Argo.] —Jason, 
left friendless and avoided by his kind, went back to 
live with his old ship, now rotting on the shore. While 
he was sleeping under it, a beam of wood fell upon 
him and broke his head. It is a most grave mistake 
to treat the line as spurious. 





Essay in ' Liberalism and thi Empiee. * 

EURIPIDIS FABULAE: Beevi Adnotatione Ceitica 
Inbteuctae, Vols. I. and II. 

EURIPIDES: Hippolytus; Bacchaej Aeistophanes* 
' Feoos. ' Translated into English verse. 

EURIPIDES : The Teojan Women. Translated into 
English verse. 

EURIPIDES J Electea. Translated into English verse.