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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Medea Resolving to Slay her Children

By Euripides (c. 480–406 B.C.)

Translation of Augusta Webster

O SONS, my sons, for you there is a home

And city where, forsaking wretched me,

Ye shall still dwell and have no mother more:

But I, an exile, seek another land,

Ere I have joyed in you and seen you glad,

Ere I have decked for you the nuptial pomp,

The bride, the bed, and held the torch aloft.

Oh me! forlorn by my untempered moods!

In vain then have I nurtured ye, my sons,

In vain have toiled and been worn down by cares,

And felt the hard child-bearing agonies.

There was a time when I, unhappy one,

Had many hopes in you, that both of you

Would cherish me in age; and that your hands,

When I am dead, would fitly lay me out—

That wish of all men: but now lost indeed

Is that sweet thought, for I must, reft of you,

Live on a piteous life and full of pain:

And ye, your dear eyes will no more behold

Your mother, gone into your new strange life.

Alas! Why do ye fix your eyes on me,

My sons? Why smile ye on me that last smile?

Alas! What must I do? for my heart faints,

Thus looking on my children’s happy eyes.

Women, I cannot. Farewell my past resolves:

My boys go forth with me. What boots it me

To wring their father with their cruel fates,

And earn myself a doubled misery?

It shall not be, shall not. Farewell resolves!—

And yet what mood is this? Am I content

To spare my foes and be a laughing-stock?

It must be dared. Why, out upon my weakness,

To let such coward thoughts steal from my heart!

Go, children, to the house: and he who lacks

Right now to stand by sacrifice of mine,

Let him look to it. I’ll not stay my hand.

Alas! Alas!

No, surely. O my heart, thou canst not do it!

Racked heart, let them go safely; spare the boys:

Living far hence with me they’ll make thee joy.

No; by the avenging demon gods in hell,

Never shall be that I should yield my boys

To the despitings of mine enemies!

For all ways they must die, and since ’tis so,

Better I slay them, I who gave them birth.

All ways ’tis fated; there is no escape.

For now, in the robes, the wealth upon her head,

The royal bride is perishing; I know it.

But, since I go on so forlorn a journey

And them too send on one yet more forlorn,

I’d fain speak with my sons. Give me, my children,

Give your mother your right hands to clasp to her.

O darling hands! O dearest lips to me!

O forms and noble faces of my boys!

Be happy: but there. For of all part here

Your father has bereft you. O sweet kiss!

O grateful breath and soft skin of my boys!

Go, go; I can no longer look on you,

But by my sufferings am overborne.

Oh, I do know what sorrows I shall make;

But anger keeps the mastery of my thoughts,

Which is the chiefest cause of human woes.