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HERALD. A herald of the G.o.ds am I, sent forth From the ancient council of the Amphictyons That speaks its judgments in that holy town Of freedom, Delphi. And I follow close, With cries of vengeance, on the guilty tracks Of those false kinsmen of King Pelias, Who ruled Iolcos, ere he fell in death.
KING. Thou seek’st the guilty? Seek in his own house, ‘Mongst his own children seek them–but not here!
HERALD. Here have I found them. Here I’ll speak my charge: Thou art accursed, Jason, thou, and she, Thy wife! With evil magic are ye charged, Wherewith thine uncle darkly ye did slay.
JASON. A lie! Naught know I of mine uncle’s death!
HERALD. Then ask thy wife, there; she will know, perchance.
JASON. Was ‘t she that slew him?
HERALD. Not with her own hand, But by those magic arts ye know so well, Which ye have brought here from that foreign land.
For, when the king fell sick–perchance e’en then A victim, for the signs of his disease Were strange and dreadful–to Medea then His daughters came, and begged for healing balms From her who knew so well to heal. And she Gave swift consent, and followed them.
JASON. Nay, hold!
She went not! I forbade it, and she stayed.
HERALD. The first time, yes. But when, unknown to thee, They came again, she companied them back, Only demanding, if she healed the king, The Golden Fleece in payment for her aid; It was a hateful thing to her, she said; And boded evil. And those foolish maids, All joyful, promised. So she came with them To the king’s chamber, where he lay asleep.
Straightway she muttered strange and secret words Above him, and his sleep grew ever deep And deeper. Next, to let the bad blood out, She bade them ope his veins. And even this They did, whereat his panting breath grew still And tranquil; then the gaping wounds were bound, And those sad maids were glad to think him healed.
Forth went Medea then, as she hath said; His daughters, too, departed, for he slept.
But, on a sudden, came a fearful cry From out his chamber! Swift his daughters sped To aid him, and–oh, ghastly, horrible!– There on the pavement lay the aged king, His body twisted in a hideous knot, The cloths that bound his veins all torn away From off his gaping wounds, whence, in a black And sluggish stream, his blood came welling forth.
He lay beside the altar, where the Fleece For long was wont to hang–and that was gone!
But, in that selfsame hour, thy wife was seen, The golden gaud upon her shoulder flung, Swift hasting through the night.
MEDEA (_dully, staring straight before her_).
‘Twas my reward!– I shudder still, when’er I think upon The old man’s furious rage!
HERALD. Now, that no longer Such horrors bide here, poisoning this land With their destructive breath, I here proclaim The solemn doom of utter banishment On Jason, the Thessalian, Aeson’s son, Spouse of a wicked witch-wife, and himself An arrant villain; and I drive him forth From out this land of Greece, wherein the G.o.ds Are wont to walk with men; to exile hence, To flight and wandering I drive him forth, And with him, this, his wife, ay, and his babes, The offspring of his marriage-bed. Henceforth No rood of this, his fatherland, be his, No share in her protection or her rights!
[_He raises his hand and three times makes solemn proclamation, turning to different quarters._]
Banished are Jason and Medea!
Medea and Jason are banished!
Banished are Jason and Medea!
And whoso harbors him, or gives him aid, After three days and nights are come and gone, Upon that man I here declare the doom Of death, if he be burgher; if a king, Or city-state, then war shall be proclaimed.
So runs the Amphictyons’ reverend decree, The which I here proclaim, as is most meet, That each may know its terms, and so beware.– The blessing of the G.o.ds upon this house!
[_He turns to depart._]
JASON. Why stand ye there, ye walls, and crash not down To save this king the pains of slaying me?
KING. A moment yet, sir Herald. Hear this, too.
[_He turns to_ JASON.]
Think’st thou I rue the promise I have made?
If I could think thee guilty, ay, wert thou My very son, I’d give thee up to these That seek thee. But thou art not! Wherefore, I Will give thee shelter. Stay thou here.–Who dares To question Creon’s friend, whose innocence Stands pledged by mine own words? Who dares, I say, To lay a hand upon my son to be?
Yea, Herald, on my son to be, the spouse Of this my daughter! ‘Twas my dearest wish In happy days long past, when Fortune smiled; Now, when he’s compa.s.sed round by stormy waves Of evil fortune, it shall come to pa.s.s.
Ay, she shall be thy wife, and thou shalt stay Here, with thy father. And I will myself Make answer for it to the Amphictyons.
Who now will cry him guilty, when the king Hath sworn him free from blame, and given him The hand of his own daughter?
(_To the_ HERALD.)
Take my words To those that sent thee hither. Go in peace!
The blessing of the G.o.ds be on thy head!
[_The_ HERALD _goes._]
KING (_turning to_ MEDEA).
This woman, whom the wilderness spewed up To be a bane to thee and all good men, Her that hath wrought the crimes men lay to thee, Her do I banish forth from out this land And all its borders. Death shall be her lot And portion, if the morrow find her here!
Depart from out my fathers’ pious town, And make the air thou poisonest pure again!
MEDEA. Is that thy sentence? Falls it, then, on me, And me alone? And yet I say to thee, O king, I did it not!
KING. Nay, thou hast done Enough of evil since he saw thee first.
Away with thee from out my house and town!
MEDEA (_turning to _JASON).
Say, must I go? So be it–but follow me!
We bear the blame together, let us bear The punishment as well! Dost thou not know The ancient proverb: “None shall die alone?”
One home for both, one body–and one death!
Long since, when Death stared grimly in our eyes, We sware that oath. Now keep it! Follow me!
JASON. Nay, touch me not! Begone from me, thou curse Of all my days, who hast robbed me of my life And happiness, from whom, when first mine eyes Met thine, I shrank and shuddered, though I thought Those fearful struggles in my very soul Were but the signs of rash and foolish love.
Hence, to that wilderness that cradled thee!
Back to that b.l.o.o.d.y folk whose child thou art In very thought and deed! But, ere thou go, Give back to me what thou hast stol’n away, Thou wanton! Give Prince Jason back to me!
MEDEA. Is’t Jason thou desirest? Take him, then!
But who shall give Medea back to me?
Was’t I that in thy homeland sought thee out?
Was’t I that lured thee from thy father’s house?
Was’t I that forced, ay, forced my love on thee?
Was’t I that wrenched thee from thy fatherland, Made thee the b.u.t.t of strangers’ haughty scorn, Or dragged thee into wantonness and crime?
Thou nam’st me Wanton?–Woe is me! I am!
Yet–how have I been wanton, and for whom?
Let these pursue me with their venomous hate, Ay, drive me forth and slay me! ‘Tis their right, Because I am in truth a dreadful thing And hateful unto them, and to myself A deep abyss of evil, terrible!
Let all the world heap curses on my head, Save only thee alone! Nay, thou shalt not!
‘Twas thou inspiredst all these horrid deeds, Yea, thou alone. Dost thou not call to mind How I did clasp my hands about thy knees That day thou bad’st me steal the Golden Fleece?
And, though I sooner far had slain myself, Yet thou, with chilly scorn, commandedst me To take it. Dost remember how I held My brother in my bosom, faint to death From that fierce stroke of thine that laid him low, Until he tore him from his sister’s arms To ‘scape thy frenzied vengeance, and leaped swift Into the sea, to find a kinder death Beneath its waves? Dost thou remember?–Nay, Come here to me, and shrink not so away To shelter thee behind that maiden there!
JASON (_coming forward_).