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A Minor Poet and other Verse. Levy, Amy, 1861–1889.
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page: 49

Scene II

[Time—After an interval ; the evening of the same day. Scene—A street. A crowd of people running to and fro.]

Nikias.

O horror, horror, have ye heard the tale ?

Ægeus.

Alas, a bloody rumour reached mine ears Of awful purport : that the king lies dead— page: 50

Nikias.

And by his side, his daughter ; both caught up In sudden toils of torment. With his grief Jason is all distraught ; behold her deed, The swift and subtle tigress !

Ægeus.

Woe ! Alas ! Woe for the state, woe for our Kreon slain, For hapless Glaukê, for our Jason, woe ! But three times woe for her that did the deed— Her womanhood sham’d ; her children basely wrong’d.

Nikias.

Hold back our pity till the tale be told, For never was there horror like to this. Ere now in Corinth, haply, you have heard How she did use for her crime’s instruments The tender boys sprung from great Jason’s loins ; Bidding them bear the garments wrought in Hell As bridal gifts to grace the marriage morn Of gold‐hair’d Glaukê. Serpent ! Sorceress !

Ægeus.

Alas, consider ; so the tigress springs page: 51 When that her cubs are menaced. ’Twas her love That wrought the deed—evil, yet wrought for love.

Nikias.

Spare me such love. I never yet could deem, Ev’n ere the horror, that Medea held The love of human mothers in her breast. For I have seen her, when her children played Their innocent, aimless sports about her knees, Or held her gown across the market‐place, Move all unheeding with her swart brows knit And fierce eyes fixed ; not, as is mothers’ wont, Eager to note the winning infant ways, A‐strain to catch the babbling treble tones Of soft lips clamouring for a kiss or smile. And once I marked her (’twas a summer’s morn) Turn suddenly and, stooping, catch and strain One tender infant to her breast. She held Her lips to his and looked into his eyes, Not gladly, as a mother with her child, But stirred by some strange passion ; then the boy Cried out with terror, and Medea wept. page: 52

Ægeus.

Your tale is strange.

Nikias.

Stranger is yet to come. How that the Colchian did send forth her sons, Innocent doers of most deadly deed, Has reached your knowledge. When the deed was done, And the dead king lay stretched upon the floor Clutching his daughter in a last embrace, Arose great clamour in the palace halls ; Wailing and cries of terror ; women’s screams ; A rush of flying feet from hall to hall ; The clanging fall of brazen instruments Upon the marble. The two tender boys, Half apprehending what thing had befallen, Fled forth unmarked, and all affrighted reached The house of Jason, where Medea stood Erect upon the threshold. From afar Sounded and surged the fiercely frighted roar Of the roused city, and, like waves of the sea, Grew nearer ev’ry beating of the pulse. Forth from the inmost chambers fled the slaves, Made fleet with sudden fear ; the little ones page: 53 With arms outspread rushed to the Colchian, And clung about her limbs and caught her robe, Hiding their faces. And Medea stood Calm as a carven image. As the sound Of wrath and lamentation drew more near, The pale lips seemed to smile. But when she saw Her children clinging round her, she stretched forth One strong, swart hand and put the twain away, And gathered up the trailing of her robe. I saw the deed, I, Nikias, with these eyes ! Then spake she (Zeus ! grant that I may not hear Such tones once more from human lips !). She spake : “I will not have ye, for I love ye not !” Then all her face grew alien. Those around Stood still, not knowing what she planned. Then she Forth from her gathered garment swiftly drew A thing that gleamed and glinted ; in the air She held it poised an instant ; then—O gods ! How shall I speak it ?—on the marble floor Was blood that streamed and spurted ; blood that flow’d From two slain, innocent babes ! page: 54

Ægeus.

O woful day !

Nikias.

Then brake a cry from all about : a wail Of lamentation. But above the sound A fierce long shriek, that froze the blood i’ the veins, Rang out and rose, cleaving the topmost cloud.

Ægeus.

O evil deed ! O essence of all evil Stealing the shape of woman !

Nikias.

After that All is confusion ; from all sides surged up The people, cursing, weeping. ’Thwart the din Each other moment the strained ear might catch Medea’s name, or Jason’s, or the King’s ; And women wailed out “Glaukê” through their tears. Then sudden came a pause ; the angry roar Died down into a murmur ; and the throng Grew still, and rolled aside like a clov’n sea. page: 55 And Jason strode between them till he reached His own home’s threshold where the twain lay dead, Long gazed he on their faces ; then he turned To the hush’d people ; turned to them and spake : (His face was whiter than the dead’s, his eyes Like to a creature’s that has looked on Hell) “Where is the woman ?” Lo, and when they sought Medea, no eye beheld her. And no man Had looked upon her since that moment’s space When steel had flashed and blood foamed in the air. Then Jason stood erect and spake again : “Let no man seek this woman ; blood enough Has stained our city. Let the furies rend Her guilty soul ; nor we pollute our hands With her accursèd body . . .”

Ægeus.

Cease, my friend ; It is enough. You judged this thing aright ; This woman was dark and evil in her soul ; Black to her fiend‐heart’s root ; a festering plague In our fair city’s midst. page: 56

Nikias.

Spake I not true?
[Night ; outside the city. Medea leaning against a rock.]
Here let me rest ; beyond men’s eyes, beyond The city’s hissing hate. Why am I here ? Why have I fled from death ? There’s sun on the earth, And in the shades no sun ;—thus much I know ; And sunlight’s good. Wake I, or do I sleep ? I’m weary, weary ; once I dream’d a dream Of one that strove and wept and yearned for love In a fair city. She was blind indeed. They say the woman had a fiend at heart, And afterwards—Hush, hush, I dream’d a dream. How cold the air blows ; how the night grows dark, Wrapping me round in blackness. Darker too Grows the deep night within. I cannot see ; I grope with weary hands ; my hands are sore With fruitless striving. I have fought with the Fates And I am vanquished utterly. The Fates Yield not to strife; nay, nor to many prayers. page: 57 Their ways are dark. One climbs the tree and grasps A handful of dead leaves ; another walks, Heedless, beneath the branches, and the fruit Falls mellow at his feet. This is the end : I have dash’d my heart against a rock ; the blood Is drain’d and flows no more ; and all my breast Is emptied of its tears. Thus go I forth Into the deep, dense heart of the night—alone.
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