The Maidens of Trachis, Sophocles
The Maidens of Trachis
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The Trachiniae (Ancient Greek: Τραχίνιαι, Trachiniai) c. 450–425 BC, is an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles. It was translated into English by Edward Hayes Plumptre in 1878. Maidens of Trachis is generally considered to be less developed than Sophocles' other works, and its dating has been a subject of disagreement among critics and scholars. The story begins with Deianeira, the wife of Heracles, relating the story of her early life and her plight adjusting to married life. She is now distraught over her husband's neglect of her family. Often involved in some adventure, he rarely visits them. She sends their son Hyllus to find him, as she is concerned over prophecies about Heracles and the land he is currently in. After Hyllus sets off, a messenger arrives with word that Heracles, victorious in his recent battle, is making offerings on Cape Cenaeum and coming home soon to Trachis.

The Maidens of Trachis


Dramatis Personæ

Hyllos, son of Heracles.
Lichas, a herald.
Deianeira, wife of Heracles.
Iole, a captive maiden.
Chorus of Trachinian Maidens.

SCENE — Trachis, in the courtyard of Deianeira’s house.

Enter Deianeira, Attendant, and Chorus of Trachinian Maidens.

Deian. ’Tis an old saying, told of many men,
"Thou canst not judge man's life before he die,
Nor whether it be good or bad for him;"
But I, before I tread the paths of death,
Know that my life is dark and full of woe,
Who, dwelling in my father Œneus' house,
At Pleuron, had, of all Ætolian maids,
Most cause to shrink from marriage; for my hand
The river Acheloös came to seek,
In triple form my father suing for me;⁠
At one time as a bull in bodily form,
Then as a dragon wound his speckled length,
And then with human trunk and head of ox,
And from his shaggy beard there flowed the streams
Of his clear fountains. Such a suitor I,
Receiving sadly, wished that I might die
Ere I approached his bed. And then there came,
Later, indeed, yet much beloved by me,
Zeus' noble son, whom fair Alcmena bore,
Who, wrestling with him in the strife of war,⁠
Wrought out my rescue. What the mode of fight
I tell not, for I know not. He might tell
Whoe'er could gaze unshrinking at the sight;
For I was there, struck down with panic-fear
[Lest all my beauty should but bring me woe;]
But Zeus, the God of battles, gave to us
Good issue, if in truth it be but good;
For, sharing now the bed of Heracles
By special grace, I cherish fear on fear,
Still pining for him. Night brings woe with it,
*And if it bids it go, night but receives
Fresh trouble still. Yea! sons were born to us;⁠
And like a husbandman who tills the soil
Of distant field, and sees the crop but once,
Sowing and reaping, so is he to them;
Such course of life still sends my husband home,
And far from home, in servile labour bound
To one we know. And now when he has reached
The goal of all these labours, most of all
I sit and shudder. Since he smote the might
Of Iphitos, we here in Trachis dwell
Far from our land, and with a stranger host;
And where he is, none knows. But he has left⁠
In this his flight full bitter pangs for me,
And half I know he bears some weight of woe,
For no short time is passed, but ten long months
Added to five, and still no message comes.
And some sore woe comes on; for so it tells,
The tablet which he left us, and I pray
The Gods that gift may not bring woe to me.

Attend. My mistress, Deianeira, I have seen thee
Bewailing oft, with loud and bitter wails,⁠
The absence of thy Heracles; but now,
(If it be right with bond-slave's thoughts to school
Those that are free, and I must speak for thee), —
How comes it thou art rich in many sons,
Yet sendest none to track thy husband's steps?
Not even Hyllos, whom 'twere fit to send,
If he care aught about his father's fate,
To find it prospering. And lo! he comes,
Just at the moment, speeding by the house.
So, if I seem to give thee counsel good,
Thou may'st at once make use of him and it.⁠

Enter Hyllos.

Deian. My son, dear boy, good words of counsel fall
E’en from the meanest. Lo! this woman speaks,
Slave though she be, a free and noble speech.

Hyllos. What was it, mother? Tell me, if thou may’st.

Deian. That not to seek where now thy father dwells,
After such length of absence, brings thee shame.

Hyllos. Yet if one trust to rumours, I know well.

Deian. And where dost hear, my son, that he abides?

Hyllos. Long while, from seed-time unto seed-time round,
They say he served a Lydian lady’s will.

Deian. Could he do that, one might hear anything.

Hyllos. But, so I hear, from this he has escaped.

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