Hail to Earth,
Hail to the Sun,
whose rays illuminate all things.
Turn your eyes, look down,
see this destroying woman,
before she sets her bloody hands,
her instruments of murder,
onto her own children,
those offshoots of your golden race.
It’s a fearful thing for men
to spill the blood of gods.
O light which comes from Zeus,
stop her, take from the house
this blood-thirsty savage Fury
gripped by the spirit of revenge.
The pain you felt in giving birth
was useless, wasted.
Those children you so love,
you bore them all in vain.
You who left behind you
the inhospitable passage
where the Symplegades dance,
those deadly, dark-blue rocks,
you unhappy woman,
why does your anger
fall so heavily upon your heart,
and one harsh murder
follow so quickly on another?
The polluting moral stain
that taints all mortal men
who shed their family blood
upon the earth—that’s hard to bear.
For the gods send down
onto the houses of the ones who kill
sorrows to match their crimes.
CHILD [from inside the house] Help me . . . help . . .
Did you hear that?
Did you hear the children cry?
That wretched, evil woman!
CHILD [from within]
What do I do? How can I escape
my mother’s hands?
I don’t know, dear brother.
It’s over for us . . .
CHORUS [shouting in response]
Should I go in the house?
I’m sure I must prevent this murder.
Yes—for the love of gods, stop this! And hurry!
The sword has almost got us—like a snare!
You hard and wretched woman,
just like stone or iron—
to kill your children,
ones you bore yourself,
sealing their fate with your own hands.
Of all women that ever lived before
I know of one, of only one,
who laid hands on her dear children—
and that was Ino,
driven to madness by the gods,
when Hera, Zeus’ wife,
sent her wandering in a fit
away from home,
that sad lady leapt into the sea,
because she’d killed her sons
a most unholy murder.
She walked into the surf
at the sea’s edge, perishing
so she could join in death
her own two children.
But what horror still remains
after what’s happened here?
A woman’s marriage bed—
so full of pain—how many evils,
has it brought on humankind?
You women standing there beside the house,
where’s Medea, who’s done these awful things?
Is she still inside? Or has she left here?
She’ll have to hide herself under the earth,
or else fly up to heaven’s overarching vault,
if she’s going to avoid her punishment
from the royal house. Did she really think
she could kill the rulers of this country
and get away unharmed? But at this point
she’s no concern of mine. I’m worried
for my children. Those whom she has wronged
will take care of her. I’ve come for the boys,
to save their lives, in case the next of kin
try to harm me and mine, retribution
for their mother’s profane murders.
Unhappy man, you don’t know the full extent
of your misfortune, or you would not say this.
What is it? Does she plan to kill me, too?
Your boys are dead, killed by their mother’s hand.
No. What are you saying? Woman,
you have destroyed me.
The boys are dead.
You must fix your mind on that. They’re gone.
Where did she do this? Inside or outside?
Open the doors and you will see them,
your slaughtered children.
JASON [shouting into the house, as he shakes the doors]
You slaves in there,
remove the bar from this door at once,
withdraw the bolts, so I may see two things—
my dead sons and their murderer, that woman
on whom I shall exact revenge.
Why are you rattling the doors like that,
trying to unbar them so you can find
their bodies and me, the one who killed them?
Stop trying. If you want something from me,
then say so, if you want to. But you’ll never
have me in your grasp, not in this chariot,
a gift to me from my grandfather Helios,
to protect me from all hostile hands.
You accursed woman, most hateful
to the gods and me and all mankind.
You dared to take the sword to your own boys,
you—the one who bore them—and to leave me
destroyed and childless. Having done this,
after committing this atrocious crime,
can you still look upon the earth and sun?
May you be destroyed! Now I understand—
I must have lost my mind to bring you here,
from that savage country, to a Greek home.
You were truly evil then—you betrayed
your father and the land that raised you.
But the avenging fury meant for you
the gods have sent to me. You slaughtered
your brother in your home, then came aboard
our fine ship, the Argo. That’s how you began.
When you married me and bore my children,
in your lust for sex and our marriage bed,
you killed them. No woman from Greece would dare
to do this, but I chose you as my wife
above them all, and that has proved to be
a hateful marriage—it has destroyed me.
You’re not a woman. You’re a she-lion.
Your nature is more bestial than Scylla,
the Tuscan monster. But my insults,
multiplied a thousand fold, don’t hurt you.
Your heart’s too hard for that. So be off,
you shameful murderer of your children.
Let me lament my fate. I’ll get no delight
from my new bride, nor will I ever speak
to my own living children, the two boys
I bred and raised. They’re lost to me.
I would reply to your words at length,
if father Zeus did not already know
what I did for you and what you did to me.
You weren’t going to shame my marriage bed
and have a pleasant life ridiculing me.
Nor was that royal bride or Creon,
who gave her to you, going to banish me,
throw me from here with impunity.
So if you want, call me a lioness
or Scylla, who lives on Tuscan shores.
For I’ve made contact with your heart at last.
You have your own share of pain and sorrow.
That’s true. But there’s relief in knowing
you cannot laugh at me.
O my children,
you had such an evil mother!
O my children,
victims of your father’s evil actions!
At least it was not my hand that killed them.
No. It was an insult—your new marriage.
Was it right to murder them for that?
Do you think that insult to a woman
is something insignificant?
Yes, I do,
to a woman with good sense. But to you
it’s completely evil.
Well, your sons are gone.
That should cause you pain.
I think their spirits live
to take out their revenge on you.
The gods are aware who began this fight.
Yes, they well know your detested heart.
Keep up your hate. How I loathe your voice.
And I hate yours. It won’t be difficult
for the two of us to part.
Tell me how.
What shall I do? For that’s what I want, too.
Let me bury these dead boys and mourn them.
Never. My own hands will bury them.
I’ll take them to Hera’s sacred lands
in Acraia, so no enemy of mine
will commit sacrilege against them
by tearing up their graves. And in this place,
this land of Sisyphus, I’ll initiate
a solemn celebration, with mystic rites,
future atonement for this wicked murder.
I’ll now go to the land of Erechtheus,
to live with Aegeus, son of Pandion.
As for you, you’ll have a miserable death,
as is fitting for a coward. Now you’ve seen
the bitter ending of your marriage to me,
your head will be smashed in, when you’re hit
by a moldy relic of your ship the Argo.
May the avenging Fury of our children
destroy you—may you find blood justice.
What god or spirit listens to you,
a man who doesn’t keep his promises,
a man who deceives and lies to strangers?
You polluted wretch! Child killer!
Bury that wife of yours.
I’ve lost both my sons.
Your grief’s not yet begun.
Wait until you’re old.
Oh such loving children!
Their mother loved them. You did not.
And yet you killed them?
Yes, to injure you.
Alas, how I long to see my dear boys’ faces,
to hold them in my arms.
So now, at this point,
you’ll talk to them, you’ll give them an embrace.
Before this, you shoved them from you.
By the gods,
I beg you, let me feel their tender skin.
No. Your words are wasted.
do you hear how I’m being driven off,
what I must endure from this child killer,
this she lion, this abomination?
But I’ll use the strength I have for grieving
and praying to the gods to bear witness
how you have killed my children and refuse
to let me hold their bodies or bury them.
How I wish I’d never been a father
and had to see you kill my children.
Zeus on Olympus,
dispenses many things.
Gods often contradict
our fondest expectations.
What we anticipate
does not come to pass.
What we don’t expect
some god finds a way
to make it happen.
So with this story.