The Scene is in front of Jason’s House at Corinth.
Enter NURSE of Medea’s Children.
Nurse. Would God that Argo’s hull had never flown
Through those blue Clashing Rocks to Kolchis-land!
Nor that in Pelion’s glens had fallen ever
The axe-hewn pine, nor filled with oars the hands
Of hero-princes, who at Pelias’ hest
Quested the Golden Fleece! My mistress then,
Medea, to Iolkos’ towers had sailed not
With love for Jason thrilled through all her soul,
Nor had on Pelias’ daughters wrought to slay
Their sire, nor now in this Corinthian land
Dwelt with her lord and children, gladdening
By this her exile them whose land received her;
Yea, and in all things serving Jason’s weal,
Which is the chief salvation of the home,
When wife stands not at variance with her lord.
Now all is hatred: love is sickness-stricken.
For Jason, traitor to his babes and her,
My mistress, weddeth with a child of kings,
Daughter of Kreon ruler of the land.
And, slighted thus, Medea, hapless wife,
Cries on the oaths, invokes that mightiest pledge
Of the right hand, and calls the gods to witness
From Jason what requital she receives.
Foodless she lies, her frame to griefs resigned,
Wasting in tears all those long, weary hours
Since first she knew her outraged by her lord,
Never uplifting eye, nor turning ever
From earth her face; but like a rock or sea-wave
So hearkens she to friends that counsel her;
Saving at whiles, when, turning her white neck,
All to herself she wails her sire beloved,
Her land, her home, forsaking which she came
Hither with him who holds her now dishonoured.
Now knows she, hapless, by affliction’s teaching,
How good is fatherland unforfeited.
She loathes her babes, joys not beholding them.
I fear her, lest some mischief she devise.
Grim is her spirit, one that will not brook
Mishandling: yea, I know her, and I dread
Lest through her heart she thrust the whetted knife,
Through the halls stealing silent to her bed,
Or slay the king and him that weds his child,
And get herself therefrom some worse misfortune;
For dangerous is she: who begins a feud
With her, not soon shall sing the triumph-song.
But lo, her boys, their racing-sport put by,
Draw near, unwitting of their mother’s ills,
For the young heart loves not to brood in grief.
Enter CHILDREN’S GUARDIAN, with boys.
Children’s Guardian. O ancient chattel of my mistress’ home,
Why at the gates thus lonely standest thou,
Thyself unto thyself discoursing ills?
How wills Medea to be left of thee?
Nurse. O grey attendant of the sons of Jason,
The hearts of faithful servants still are touched
By ill-betiding fortunes of their lords.
For I have come to such a pass of grief,
That yearning took me hit her ward to come
And tell to earth and heaven my lady’s fortunes.
Children’s Guardian. Ceaseth not yet the hapless one from moan?
Nurse. Cease! — her pain scarce begun, the midst far off!
Children’s Guardian. Ah, fool! — if one may say it of his lords —
Little she knoweth of the latest blow.
Nurse. What is it, ancient? Grudge not thou to tell me.
Children’s Guardian. Naught: I repent me of the word that ’scaped me.
Nurse. Nay, by thy beard, from fellow-thrall hide not —
Silence, if need be, will I keep thereof.