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Specimens of Greek Tragedy - Aeschylus and Sophocles
by Goldwin Smith
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CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Not unto thee belongs This care. 'Twas we that slew, And we will bury him. Not from his house shall go His mourning train. By the swift-flowing stream Of lamentation his loved child, Iphigenia, shall her father meet, Embrace and fondly kiss.



THE CHOEPHOROE

Electra, the daughter of Agamemnon, has been living beneath the hated domination of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, the murderer and murderess of her father. Her brother Orestes, the avenger of blood and the hope of her house, has been living in banishment, while she has been looking and longing for his return. At length he returns with his faithful comrade Pylades, and intimates his presence by placing a lock of his hair as his offering on Agamemnon's tomb. Electra announces the discovery to the Chorus of Trojan women, who bear her libation for her to the tomb of her father, and from whom the play is named.

* * * * *

ORESTES DISCOVERS HIMSELF TO ELECTRA.

LINES 158-274.

ELECTRA.

My father's grave has drunk the holy wine; Now lend your ears to the strange news I bring.

CHORUS.

Speak on, my heart thrills with expectancy.

ELECTRA.

I found this lock of hair upon the tomb.

CHORUS.

Who was it, man or maid, that laid it there?

ELECTRA.

This to divine were not so difficult.

CHORUS.

Old as I am on thy young lips I hang.

ELECTRA.

From what head could the lock be cut but mine?

CHORUS.

They that should offer mourning locks are foes.

ELECTRA.

This lock of hair is wondrous like in hue.

CHORUS.

Like to whose hair? 'Tis this I long to learn.

ELECTRA.

Like, passing like, to hers that speaks to thee.

CHORUS.

Think'st thou Orestes sent it secretly?

ELECTRA.

The lock in hue is like no hair but his.

CHORUS.

But how could he adventure to come here?

ELECTRA.

Perchance he sent the offering to his sire.

CHORUS.

This will not staunch the fountain of my woes, If he is ne'er to set foot in our land.

ELECTRA.

Not less through me a tide of passion rolled, And as it were an arrow pierced my breast, While from my eyes coursed down my thirsty cheeks The gushing tears, till sorrow's fount was dry, As on this lock I looked. No citizen Of ours could own it saving one alone; Nor was it shred by her the murderess That but usurps a mother's hallowed name, To us, her children, so unmotherly. Surely to say what I would fain believe, That this fair offering from Orestes comes Dearest of men, I dare not, yet I hope. Oh, would it had a voice to speak to me, And so to end distraction in my soul; That I might cast it scornfully away, If it were taken from a hated head. If from a head I love, that it might pay With me sad homage to my father's tomb.

CHORUS.

The heavenly powers on whom we call well know With what a sea, like storm-tossed mariners, We battle; yet, if destiny be kind, From a small seed a mighty tree may spring.

ELECTRA.

Then, for a second sign, foot-prints I find Like to my own in shape and measurement. For there were two imprints, one of his own, The other of a fellow-traveller's foot; And those of his own foot, compared with mine, In their whole shape exactly correspond. I am all anguish and bewilderment.

ORESTES (suddenly entering).

Pray for whatever else thy soul desires, And may a like fulfilment crown the prayer.

ELECTRA.

What prayer of mine now have the gods fulfilled?

ORESTES.

Whom thou didst yearn to see is now before thee.

ELECTRA.

Whom I did yearn to see? What was his name?

ORESTES.

Orestes, by thy craving lips pronounced.

ELECTRA.

In what respect, then, has my prayer been heard?

ORESTES.

The bearer of that name beloved am I.

ELECTRA.

Stranger, is this some trick thou playest on me?

ORESTES.

An 'twere, I should conspire against myself.

ELECTRA.

Sure thou art sporting with my misery.

ORESTES.

Sporting with thine were sporting with my own.

ELECTRA.

And is it to Orestes' self I speak?

ORESTES.

Orestes' self, whom seeing thou dost doubt Thine eyesight, though a lock of hair or prints Of feet that tallied with thine own could raise My apparition in thy fluttering heart. Apply the lock which tallies with thy hair To this my head from which it was cut off. Look on this robe, the work of thine own hand, And trace the figures which thy shuttle wrought. But calm thee, let not joy distract thy soul, For near of kin we know is far from kind.

ELECTRA.

O hope and darling of my father's house, Seed of redemption, watered with my tears, Trust thy right arm; it shall win back thy home. Thou art the fourfold object of my love: Electra has no father left but thee; No mother—hateful she who bears that name; Thou art to me in my lost sister's place; The brother thou that dost my name uphold; Only let might and justice and the king Of gods and men be with thee in the fight.

ORESTES.

Zeus, Zeus, look down on what is passing here, Take pity on the eagle's brood, whose sire, Trapped in the coils of a most deadly snake, Was stung to death and left his orphan brood A prey to hunger. For no strength have they To bring the quarry home, as did their sire. In me and my Electra here thou seest Two eaglets of their sire alike bereft, And outcasts both from what was once their home.

ELECTRA.

High honour did our father pay to thee, Rich gifts he gave thy shrine; his offspring gone, Who will be left to heap thy altars more? Thy race of eagles lost, thou wilt have none To be the herald of thy will to man. This royal stock blasted, thou wilt have none To tend thy shrine on days of sacrifice. Watch o'er us, and the house that now seems fallen Past hope, may to its ancient greatness rise.

CHORUS.

My children, of your line sole trust and stay, Be silent lest your words be overheard, And borne by some loose babbler to the ear Of those in power, whom soon I hope to see Laid smouldering on the pitchy funeral pile.

ORESTES.

My trust is in Apollo's oracle That bade me set forth on this enterprise, With high command and threats of dire disease To gripe my vitals if I failed to wreak Vengeance upon my father's murderers, Enjoining me to slay as they had slain, Taking no fine as quittance for his blood. For this was I to answer with my life. And as I would escape the penalties [Footnote: This passage is corrupt or dislocated, and perplexes the commentators. I have tried to give the general sense.] That injured and neglected ghosts demand; As fell diseases that with cankering maw Eat the distempered flesh from off the bones, Madness and panic fears that haunt by night; Then banishment from human intercourse; From the libation, from the loving cup, And from the altar, whence a father's wrath Unseen should drive the recreant; at the last Death without honour and without a friend.— Think ye that I such oracles could slight? And if I did, the deed must still be done; For many motives join to set me on: The gods command, my murdered father calls For vengeance, and my desperate need impels; All bid me save our famous citizens, Troy's glorious conquerors, from the base yoke Of yonder pair of women; for his heart Is womanish, if not, we soon will know.

* * * * *

CLYTAEMNESTRA PLEADS TO HER SON ORESTES FOR HER LIFE IN VAIN.

LINES 860-916.

SERVANT.

Alas! my lord is slain, my lord is slain, My lord is slain; Aegisthus is no more. Haste and unbar the woman's chamber, haste; Be stirring, or your aid will come too late. What, ho! what, ho! I shout unto the sleeping or the deaf. Whither has Clytaemnestra gone? What does she? Now is the queen on peril's sharpest edge, And like to fall by the avenger's sword.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

How now? What means this shouting in the house?

SERVANT.

It means that dead men kill and live men die.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Ah me! Too well I can thy riddle guess; By treason as we slew, we shall be slain. Fetch me the axe, which well this hand can wield, And we will strike for death or victory, For to this mortal issue have we come.

ORESTES.

'Tis thee I seek; thy leman has enough.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Ah me! Aegisthus, then, my love, is slain.

ORESTES.

Thy love is he? Then shalt thou share his tomb, And be his faithful consort to the end.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Oh, stay thy hand, my child, and spare this breast, On which so often thou didst slumbering lie And suck with baby lips the milk of life.

ORESTES.

Say, Pylades, shall nature's plea be heard?

PYLADES.

Half of Apollo's best has been fulfilled; Think on the other half and on thine oath. Better defy the world than brave the gods.

ORESTES.

Thou hast well spoken, and I do assent.

(To CLYTAEMNESTRA.)

Come in; I'll lay thee at thy leman's side. He to my father living was preferred, And now in death his partner thou shalt be, The guerdon due to thy adulterous love.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

I nursed thee; let me at thy side grow old.

ORESTES.

What, dwell with thee, my father's murderess?

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Blame destiny, my son, for what I did.

ORESTES.

Blame destiny for what I now must do.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Hast thou no reverence for a mother's prayer?

ORESTES.

That mother ruthlessly cast off her child.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Not cast thee off; but sent thee to a friend.

ORESTES.

Twice was I sold, although a freeman born.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

What was the price that I received for thee?

ORESTES.

To tell thee in plain words I am ashamed.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Tell it, but tell thy sire's transgression too.

ORESTES.

Home-keeping wives should not the toilers chide.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

'Tis sad for wives to lie without their mates.

ORESTES.

Yet wives are fed by those that sweat abroad.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

It seems, my child, thou wilt thy mother slay.

ORESTES.

Not on my head but thine thy blood will be.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Strike, and a mother's Furies follow thee.

ORESTES.

A father's will, if I withhold the blow.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

Deaf as the grave is he to whom I wail.

ORESTES.

As died my father thou art doomed to die.

CLYTAEMNESTRA.

My womb too truly has a serpent borne.

ORESTES.

No lying prophet was thy dream of fear. Unnatural was thy deed, so be thy doom.



THE EUMENIDES

The ancient Council of the Areopagus, like other primeval councils, was at once political and judicial. It was the venerable stronghold of the old Athenian and conservative party to which Aeschylus belonged, and was at this time being attacked by the radical party under Pericles and Ephialtes. To save it from its enemies by awakening national sentiment on its behalf, Aeschylus presents it as the high court of justice selected on account of its supreme moral authority totry the grand mythical case of Orestes arraigned by the Furies for matricide. There is also a good word for the diplomatic connection between Argos, represented by Orestes, and Athens. Orestes by Apollo's advice has appealed to the Areopagus. The court consists of Athenian citizens. Athene in person presides. The Furies appear as the accusers. They form the Chorus, which in this case plays a part in the drama. Apollo appears as a witness for his accused votary, and as responsible for the act which he had commanded. The result is the acquittal of Orestes by the presiding goddess. The proceedings are opened by Athene.

* * * * *

LINES 536-747.

ATHENE.

Herald, proclaim good order through the host, Then let the loud Tyrrhenian trumpet's blast Thrill forth its warning to the multitude. 'Tis meet that while the judges take their seats All citizens keep silence and give ear To that which now and for all time to come I have ordained, that justice may be done.

CHORUS OF FURIES.

(Seeing APOLLO approach.)

Rule, Lord Apollo, o'er thy own domain. What portion hast thou in this cause of ours?

APOLLO.

First, as a witness in this cause I come, To say this man with me took sanctuary, And that I cleansed him of the stain of blood. Next, as a party to this cause I come, Since I was the prime mover of the deed. Call on the cause, then, and let right be done.

ATHENE.

The cause is called, and the word rests with you.

(To the FURIES.)

Let the accuser first be heard and lay The cause before the court, for so is best.

CHORUS.

Many we are, yet brief our speech shall be; Do thou to questions plain, plain answer give; And tell us first, didst thou thy mother slay?

ORESTES.

I slew my mother, and deny it not.

CHORUS.

One bout, then, of our wrestling match is won.

ORESTES.

Too soon thou boastest; not yet am I thrown.

CHORUS.

Now must thou tell us how the deed was done.

ORESTES.

I drew my sword and smote her that she died.

CHORUS.

Who was it counselled thee, and set thee on?

ORESTES.

His oracle that is my witness here.

CHORUS.

Sayest thou the prophet counselled matricide?

ORESTES.

He did, and so far I repent me not.

CHORUS.

Thou wilt when in the judgment thou art cast.

ORESTES.

No fear have I; aid from the dead will come.

CHORUS.

Aid from the dead to thee, a matricide?

ORESTES.

My mother bore a double taint of crime.

CHORUS.

How doubly? let the judges understand.

ORESTES.

She slew her consort and my sire in one.

CHORUS.

Her death has made her peace, but thou still liv'st.

ORESTES.

Why did ye not pursue her while she lived?

CHORUS.

Because she was not kin to him she slew.

ORESTES.

Am I of kin, then, to my mother's blood?

CHORUS.

Wretch, wast thou not beneath her girdle borne, And dar'st thou to forswear thy mother's blood?

ORESTES.

Apollo, now stand forth and testify. Say, was my mother rightly slain or not? The deed itself is not by us denied; Whether't was rightly done or not, judge thou, That I may plead thy sentence to this court.

APOLLO.

I will before this high Athenian court Bear witness true: the prophet cannot lie; For never in my seat of prophecy Spoke I of man, of woman, or of state, Aught else than the Olympian father bade. I pray you, mark the force of this my plea, And yield obedience to the will of Zeus, For Zeus is mightier than a judge's oath.

CHORUS.

Zeus, as thou sayest, inspired this oracle Which bade Orestes, for his father's death Take vengeance, reckless of a mother's claim.

APOLLO.

'Twas different when a noble warrior fell, One that the heaven-entrusted sceptre swayed, Slain by a woman's hand, not with the bow, As slays the fierce far-darting Amazon, But in such wise as Pallas and the court Impanelled to decide this cause shall hear.— As from the war he happily returned She met him with perfidious flatteries. Then in his bath, as to the laver's edge He came, she, like a canopy, outspread A robe and smote him tangled in its folds. By such foul practice died a man of all Worshipped, the puissant leader of our host. Such was his murderess; well the tale may touch The hearts of those who shall pass judgment here.

CHORUS.

Zeus, then, it seems, is on the father's side, Yet Zeus his aged father put in bonds. How squares that story with thy present plea? I pray the court to hark to his reply.

APOLLO.

O hateful brood, abhorred of all the gods, He who is bound may be unbound again. There's many a way to set a captive free; But when the dust has drunk the blood of man, Death knows no cure or resurrection. For death my father hath no remedy, All else he with his will omnipotent Sorts as him lists, exhaustless in his power.

CHORUS.

Suppose yon wretch acquitted on thy plea, Can he, polluted with a mother's blood, At Argos dwell and in his father's home? What public altar can he use, what guild Of kinsmen will admit him to their rite?

APOLLO.

With this, too, will I deal, and mark me well, The mother is not parent to the child, But only fosters that she hath conceived. The male is the true parent, and his mate But holds the germ, so it 'scape blight, in trust. This can I prove by puissant argument. A father sans a mother there may be. There stands the daughter of Olympian Zeus, She ne'er was nurtured in the darkling womb, Yet could no god in heaven beget her peer. Pallas, as always my endeavour is Thy city and thy people to exalt, So I have sent this suppliant to thy hearth, That he might be thy ever faithful friend, And thou might'st count him as a sure ally, Him and his race hereafter, and this bond Unbroken through all ages might endure.

ATHENE.

The pleadings now are ended, and I call Upon the panel for a righteous vote.

CHORUS.

On our side the last arrow has been shot; We wait but for the verdict of the court.

ATHENE.

What order can I take that will content ye?

CHORUS.

Ye all have heard the pleadings in this cause; Now in your hearts let justice rule the vote.

ATHENE.

Ye men of Athens, hear what is ordained For this first trial of a homicide. So long as Aegeus' nation shall endure Upon this hill shall Justice hold her seat. Here Theseus' foes, the Amazons, did camp In days of old; here they a fortress built In rivalry to this new-founded town; Here sacrificed to Ares, whence the name Of Ares' Hill; and here, by day and night, Indwelling reverence and the fear of wrong Shall keep my people from unrighteousness, So they abstain from innovation rash. Foul the clear fountain with impurities, And of its waters thou canst drink no more. Hold fast the golden mean, from anarchy And from a despot's rule alike removed; Nor cast all awe out of the commonwealth, For who is righteous that is void of awe? What now is founded if ye will revere, Your land and state shall such a bulwark have As hath no nation in the universe From Pelops' realm to Scythia's utmost wild. This counsel I establish incorrupt, August, high-souled, and ever vigilant To guard the public weal while others sleep. Such is my counsel to my citizens For times to come. Now let the judges rise. Their ballots take, and a true verdict give According to their oath; no more I say.

CHORUS.

(One FURY speaking for the rest.)

I warn ye to respect this company, Whom else your land may find sore visitants.

APOLLO.

I warn ye to respect the oracles Of Zeus and mine, nor dare to make them void.

CHORUS.

Bloodshedding falls not within thy domain; Thy holy shrine will holy be no more.

APOLLO.

Was then my sire misled in that from blood He cleansed Ixion, first of homicides?

CHORUS.

Say what thou wilt of justice, if we miss, We shall return in wrath to haunt the land.

APOLLO.

Both by the new and by the ancient gods Thou art despised: the victory will be mine.

CHORUS.

'Twas thou that didst in Pheres' house cajole The fates to grant a mortal endless life.

APOLLO.

Was it not well to do good unto him That honoured me, and at his utmost need?

CHORUS.

Thou didst, subverting all the rule of eld, Beguile with wine those ancient deities.

APOLLO.

And thou wilt soon, barred of thy cruel will, Spit forth thy venom, yet not harm thy foe.

CHORUS.

Since thy pert youth doth spurn my reverend age. I wait the issue of this cause in doubt Whether to lay my curse upon this land.

ATHENE.

To me it falls at last to give my vote, And I my vote will for Orestes give; No mother bore me, to the male I cleave In all things saving that I wedlock shun With my whole heart, and am my father's child. Therefore, a woman's fate that slew her lord, The guardian of her home, concerns me not. Now, if there be a tie, Orestes wins. Judges, to whom that office is assigned, Be quick, turn out the ballots from the urns.

ORESTES.

Phoebus, kind god, what will the verdict be?

CHORUS.

O Night, my sable mother, now look down.

ORESTES.

For me salvation or despair is nigh.

CHORUS.

For us, fresh veneration or disgrace.

APOLLO.

Ye men of Athens, truly count the votes, Strictly observing justice in the tale, For want of caution here will work much woe, While a great house may by one vote be saved.

ATHENE.

(To ORESTES.)

Thou art acquitted of blood-guiltiness, For equal are the numbers of the votes.

ORESTES.

O Pallas, thou hast saved a royal house! I was an exile; thou hast brought me home. And now shall every son of Hellas say, He is once more an Argive, once more holds. His father's state, for which my gratitude Is due to Pallas and to Loxias, And, lastly, to the all-preserving Zeus, Who, taking pity on my father's fate, Saved me from these my mother's advocates. Now to my home I go; but first I swear To thee and thine an everlasting oath, That never from my land shall chieftain come To lift against this land his martial spear. Ourselves, though then we in our graves shall be, Will on the breakers of our covenant Send such disaster, such perplexity, Such faintness, and such evil auguries, That they shall surely rue their enterprise; But if my people keep the covenant, And ever true allies to thine remain, My spirit shall fight with them from the tomb. Now fare ye well, thou and thy citizens; Still in war's wrestle may your foemen fall, And ever on your spears sit victory.



SOPHOCLES



OEDIPUS THE KING.

Oedipus is the son of Laius, King of Thebes, and Queen Jocasta. It had been prophesied of him, before his birth, that he would kill his father and lie with his mother. To avert this, when born, he is devoted by his mother to death by exposure on a mountain. But he is saved and taken to Polybus, King of Corinth, who adopts him, and whose son he believes himself to be. Having heard of the prophecy concerning himself, he leaves Corinth to avoid its fulfilment; but on his road falls in with Laius, has a quarrel with his attendants, and kills him. He then goes to Thebes, delivers the Thebans from the Sphinx, by guessing her riddle, is rewarded with the kingdom, and marries the widowed Queen Jocasta, his own mother, who bears children to him. The gods, offended by the presence of murder and incest, send a plague on Thebes. Oedipus sends his brother-in-law, Creon, to consult the oracle at Delphi respecting the visitation. The oracle bids the Thebans expel the murderer of Laius. This leads to an inquiry after the murderer, and through successive disclosures, in the management of which the poet exerts his art, to the revelation of the dreadful secret. It is a story of overmastering fate.

* * * * *

THE PLAGUE.

The plague sent by the angry gods is raging at Thebes. The people are gathered in supplication round the altars before the palace of Oedipus, who comes forth to them.

LINES 1-77.

OEDIPUS.

My children, progeny of Cadmus old, Why in this posture do I find you here, With wool-wreathed branches in your suppliant hands? The city is with breath of incense filled, Filled with sad chant, and voices of lament, Whereof the truth to learn from other lips Deeming not right, myself am present here, That Oedipus, the world-renowned, am hight. Say, reverend sir, since thee it well beseems To speak for all, what moves this company, Fear or desire? Know that I fain would aid With all my power. Hard-hearted I must be If pity for such suppliants touched me not.

THE PRIEST.

Oedipus, puissant ruler of our land, Behold us prostrate at thy altars here, And mark our ages; some are callow boys, Others are priests laden with years, as I Am priest of Zeus; others are chosen youths. The rest, with suppliant emblems in their hands, Sit in the mart, or at the temples twain Of Pallas' or Ismenus' prescient hearth. The city, as thou dost perceive, is tossed On the o'er-mastering billows, and no more Can lift her head above the murderous surge. Her foodful fruits all withering in the germ, Her flocks and herds expiring on the lea, Her births abortive, while the fiery fiend Of deadly pestilence has swooped on her, Making the homes of Cadmus desolate, And gluts dark Hades with the wail of death. An equal of the gods, I and these youths That here sit on this earth, account thee not; But we account thee first of men to deal With visitation or cross accident. A stranger thou didst bring to us release From tribute to that cruel songstress paid. Advantage from our guidance thou hadst none, 'Twas by the inspiration of a god As we believe that thou didst redeem our State. Now, Oedipus, thou whom we all revere, We bow before thee, and implore thy grace To find some succour for us if thou canst By heavenly teaching or through human aid. In men, who by experience have been tried, We find the happiest fruits of policy. Come, best of men, lift up our city's head! Look to thy own renown; thy zeal once shown Has earned for thee a patriot saviour's name. Let us not think of thee as of a prince That raised us up to let us fall again; But make our restoration firm and sure. 'Twas under happy omens that thou then Didst succour us; what then thou wast, be now. Our king thou art; if king thou wilt remain, Reign o'er a peopled realm, not o'er a waste. Naught is the bravest ship without her crew, The strongest fort without its garrison.

OEDIPUS.

Poor children, little needs to tell me that For which ye come to pray; too well I know Ye all are sick. And, sick as ye may be, There is not one whose sickness equals mine. The grief of each of you touches himself, And touches none beside: your sovereign's heart Bears your griefs, and the city's and his own. Not from a slumber have ye wakened me, Trust me, I many an anxious tear have shed, And many a path have tried in wandering thought. Such remedy as, scanning all, I find I have applied. Creon, Menoeceus' son And my Queen's brother, to the Pythian shrine Of Phoebus I have sent to ask what act Or word of mine this city will redeem. And now, as anxiously I mete the time, My soul is troubled, for, to my surprise, He has been absent longer than he ought. But when he comes, a caitiff I shall be If I do not all that the god ordains.

* * * * *

THE DAWN OF DISCOVERY.

Oedipus, having learned from the oracle that the cause of the wrath of the gods and of the plague is the presence of the murderer of Laius in the land, sends for the blind prophet, Tiresias, to tell him who is the murderer. Tiresias, knowing the secret, is reluctant to reveal it, and an altercation ensues, Oedipus suspecting that Tiresias has been set on by Creon, the Queen's brother, who he thinks is intriguing to supplant him in the monarchy.

LINES 300-462.

OEDIPUS.

Tiresias, thou whose thought embraces all, Revealed or unrevealed, in heaven or earth, In how sad plight our city is, thy mind, If not thy eye, discerns. Prophet, in thee Resides our sole hope of deliverance. Phoebus, if thou hast not the tidings heard, Has to our envoys answered, that the plague Will never leave this city till we find The murderers of the late King Laius, And slay them or expel them from the land. Then, if a way thou know'st, by augury Or divination, put forth all thy power, Save this our commonwealth, thyself and me; Put from us the pollution of this blood. To thee alone we look; what gifts one has To use for good is of all toil the best.

TIRESIAS.

Ah! what an ill possession knowledge is When ignorance were gain. This well I know, And yet forgot, else had I not come here.

OEDIPUS.

What ails thee that thou bring'st this face of gloom?

TIRESIAS.

Let me go home, for each of us will bear His burden easiest if so thou dost.

OEDIPUS.

Whatever thou dost know, the voice of right And call of patriot duty bids thee speak.

TIRESIAS.

Speech is not always opportune; in thee It is not; thy mistake I would not share.

OEDIPUS.

Oh, by the gods, I pray thee stand not mute! We all as suppliants kneel in heart to thee.

TIRESIAS.

Then are ye all misguided. As for me, I tell not that which told would hurt us both.

OEDIPUS.

How! dost thou know and yet refuse to tell? Wilt thou prove traitor and undo the State?

TIRESIAS.

I will not bring down woe on thee and me. Press me no more; thy questioning is vain.

OEDIPUS.

O vilest of mankind, for thou would'st move A stone to righteous wrath, wilt thou not speak But still stand there unmoved and obdurate?

TIRESIAS.

Thou dost reprove my heart, yet near thine own Is something that the censor wots not of.

OEDIPUS.

Whose wrath would not be kindled when he heard Language so hateful to a patriot's ear?

TIRESIAS.

Even if I keep silence, it must come.

OEDIPUS.

That which must come why not disclose to me?

TIRESIAS.

I will speak no word more; then, if thou wilt, Freely give vent to thy most savage wrath.

OEDIPUS.

Freely my anger shall give utterance To what I think: I think that in thy mind This murder was engendered, was thy act Save the mere blow, and hadst thou not been blind, I should have deemed thee the sole murderer.

TIRESIAS.

Ha! Then I call upon thee to be true To thy own proclamation, and henceforth Abstain from intercourse with these or me, As he that brings on us the curse of blood.

OEDIPUS.

Hast thou the impudence such calumny To vent, and dream'st thou of impunity?

TIRESIAS.

I fear thee not; truth's power is on my side.

OEDIPUS.

Whence did it come to thee? not from thy art.

TIRESIAS.

From thee that made me speak against my will.

OEDIPUS.

Speak how? Repeat thy words that I may know.

TIRESIAS.

Didst thou not understand or tempt'st thou me?

OEDIPUS.

Fully I did not. Say it once again.

TIRESIAS.

I say the murderer whom thou seek'st is thou.

OEDIPUS.

Unpunished twice thy slanders shall not go.

TIRESIAS.

Shall I say more, further to fire thy wrath?

OEDIPUS.

All that thou wilt; 'twill be of none effect.

TIRESIAS.

I say that thou dost with thy next of kin Foully consort, not knowing where thou art.

OEDIPUS.

And think'st thou still unscathed to say these things?

TIRESIAS.

I do, if there is any strength in truth.

OEDIPUS.

In truth is strength, but that strength is not thine; Thou in eyes, ears, and mind alike art blind.

TIRESIAS.

And thou art wretched, casting in my teeth What all men presently will cast in thine.

OEDIPUS.

Thy lot is utter darkness; neither I Nor any one who sees, can fear thy wrath.

TIRESIAS.

Not mine is chastisement; Apollo's might Sufficient is, and will bring all to pass.

OEDIPUS.

Is this contrivance Creon's or thine own?

TIRESIAS.

Thyself, not Creon, is thy enemy.

OEDIPUS.

O wealth, O sovereignty, O art of arts That givest victory in the race of life, How are ye still by envious malice dogged! This place of power, which now I hold, by me Unsought, was by the city's will bestowed. Yet the thrice-loyal Creon, my fast friend, Seeks now to oust me by foul practices, Using for tool this knavish soothsayer, This lying mountebank, whose greedy palm Has eyes, while in his science he is blind. Show me the proofs of thy prophetic gift. Why, when the riddling Sphinx was here, didst thou Fail by thy skill to save the commonwealth? The riddle was not such as all can read, But gave thy art fair opportunity, Yet neither inspiration served thee then, Nor omens, but I, skilless Oedipus, Out of my ignorance confounded her, By my own wit, unhelped by auguries; I, whom thou now conspirest to depose, Hoping that thou wilt stand by Creon's throne. These pious efforts, trust me, will be rued By thee and him that sets thee on; thy years Are thy defence from instant chastisement.

CHORUS.

To us, Lord Oedipus, alike thy word And the seer's seem the utterance of your wrath. Wrath here is out of place, what we would seek Is a right reading of the oracle.

TIRESIAS

High is thy throne, yet must thou stoop so low As to endure free speech; that power is mine. I to my god am servant, not to thee, And therefore, ask not Creon's patronage. I tell thee who with blindness tauntest me, Sight though thou hast thou seest not what thou art, Nor where thou hast been dwelling, nor with whom. Know'st thou thy birth? No, nor that thou art loathed By thine own kin, the living and the dead. One day thy sire's and mother's awful curse, With double scourge, will whip thee from this land. Dark then shall be those eyes which now are light, And with thy cries what place shall not resound, What glen of wide Cithaeron shall not ring, As soon as thou dost learn into what port Of marriage swelling sails have wafted thee? Much is in store beside to bring thee down Unto thy children's level and thy own. Then trample upon Creon and my gift Of prophecy. Of all mankind is none Whom ruin more complete awaits than thee.

OEDIPUS.

Who can endure this caitiff's insolence? Go to perdition on the instant; pack, And of thy presence let this house be rid.

TIRESIAS.

I had not come except at thy command.

OEDIPUS.

I knew not then what folly thou would'st talk, Else should I scarce have called thee to my house.

TIRESIAS.

Such it appears in thy conceit, am I, A fool; yet to thy parents I seemed wise.

OEDIPUS.

My parents, hold there! Tell me who were they.

TIRESIAS.

This day shall bring thee parents and despair.

OEDIPUS.

Riddles again; still utterances dark.

TIRESIAS.

In guessing riddles art thou not supreme?

OEDIPUS.

Welcome the taunt which to my greatness points.

TIRESIAS.

And yet that day of greatness ruined thee.

OEDIPUS.

I reck not if it saved the commonwealth.

TIRESIAS.

I will be gone. Boy, lead me to my home.

OEDIPUS.

Yea, let him lead thee; thy intrusion here Troubles us; thy departure were relief.

TIRESIAS.

I go, but first will my deliverance make Maugre thy frown, which can do me no harm. I tell thee that the man whom thou dost seek With proclamations and with threat'nings dire, The man who murdered Laius, is here; In name a foreigner, a native born In fact, as will to his small joy appear. For he who now has sight will go forth blind, He who is rich will go forth penniless, Groping his way to dwell in a strange land; Brother of his own offspring he has been, As all the world shall know, husband of her That brought him forth, with incest stained, and stained With parricide. Get thee into thy house, There think upon my words, and if I lie Say I have lost the gift of prophecy.

* * * * *

DISCOVERY.

A messenger from Corinth announces to Oedipus the death of his reputed father, Polybus, king of Corinth, and incidentally reveals to him in part the history of his birth. Jocasta, the queen of Oedipus and his real mother, is on the scene when the messenger arrives; upon her the fatal secret dawns at once.

LINES 924-1085.

MESSENGER.

Strangers, I pray ye tell me if ye can Where is the palace of King Oedipus; Or better, where is Oedipus himself.

CHORUS.

This is the palace, in it is the king, And there the mother of his children stands.

MESSENGER.

Blessed may she be, be all around her blessed, If she indeed his honoured consort is.

JOCASTA.

Blessed be thou too, O stranger; such return Thy courtesy demands; but let me know Wherefore thou comest, what thou hast to tell.

MESSENGER.

Good news to thee, lady, and to thy lord.

JOCASTA.

What is the news, whence is thy embassage?

MESSENGER.

From Corinth, and the tidings on my lips May please, must please, and yet perchance may pain.

JOCASTA.

What can it be that has this double power?

MESSENGER.

The denizens of yonder Isthmian land Will make thy lord their king, as rumour goes.

JOCASTA.

What? Is old Polybus their king no more?

MESSENGER.

His lease of power has ended in his grave.

JOCASTA.

What say'st thou, that King Polybus is dead?

MESSENGER.

If I speak false let death be my reward.

JOCASTA.

Fly, fly, my handmaid, bear unto your lord This news without delay. O oracles, Where are ye? Oedipus in exile lives Lest he should slay this prince, and lo, this prince, Untouched by him, in course of nature dies.

OEDIPUS (entering).

Jocasta, dearest partner of my life, Why from the palace hast thou summoned me?

JOCASTA.

Hear this man's tidings, and by them be taught To what have come those reverend oracles.

OEDIPUS.

Who is the man? What is the news he brings?

JOCASTA.

He comes from Corinth, and the news he brings Is that thy father, Polybus, is dead.

OEDIPUS.

What say'st thou, stranger? Tell it me thyself.

MESSENGER.

If it is this thou first wouldst surely know, Then surely know that Polybus is gone.

OEDIPUS.

Died he of sickness or through treachery?

MESSENGER.

A touch will lay the aged form to sleep.

OEDIPUS.

He died, poor king, by sickness it would seem.

MESSENGER.

By sickness added to his length of years.

OEDIPUS.

Fie on it, wife! why should we ever waste One thought on that prophetic Pythian shrine, Or on the notes of birds whose boding cry Foretold that I should be a parricide? Beneath the ground my father lies, and I Am guiltless of his blood, unless his heart Broke at my loss, and thus through me he died. These prophecies that trouble us are naught, Are buried in the grave of Polybus.

JOCASTA.

Said I not from the first it would be so?

OEDIPUS.

Thou didst, but I was led astray by fear.

JOCASTA.

Henceforth dismiss these bugbears from thy soul.

OEDIPUS.

The incest—have I not still that to dread?

JOCASTA.

Why should man fear whose life is but the sport Of chance, to whom the future is all dark? 'Tis best to live at hazard as one may. For that predicted incest, dread it not, For many a man has in a dream ere this Lain with his mother. He who takes no thought Of such hobgoblins, lives the easiest life.

OEDIPUS.

All thou hast said would have my full assent Were not my mother still alive; but now, Though thou say'st well, I cannot choose but fear.

JOCASTA.

A light of hope shines from your father's grave.

OEDIPUS.

Yes, but my mother lives, and fear with her.

MESSENGER.

What, lady, is the cause of your alarm?

OEDIPUS.

'Tis Merope, the Queen of Polybus.

MESSENGER.

And what is there in her to breed your fears?

OEDIPUS.

A dreadful ordinance of destiny.

MESSENGER.

Is it a mystery? May it be told?

OEDIPUS.

It may be told. The god before my birth Foreshowed that with my mother I should lie, And shed with my own hands my father's blood. For which cause I have long my dwelling made Far off from Corinth. Happily, 'tis true, Yet to behold a parent's face is sweet.

MESSENGER.

Was this the fear that drove thee from that land?

OEDIPUS.

This, and the dreadful thought of parricide.

MESSENGER.

Why do I not at once, as here I am Wishing thy good, relieve thee of that fear?

OEDIPUS.

Thou wouldst not fail to reap my gratitude.

MESSENGER.

'Twas to that end I came, that to thy home When thou hadst come I might the gainer be.

OEDIPUS.

Home, while my mother lives, I will not go.

MESSENGER.

My son, 'tis plain thou know'st not what thou dost.

OEDIPUS.

How? By the gods, old man, explain to me!

MESSENGER.

If thou on her account dost shun thy home.

OEDIPUS.

I fear the god's prediction may prove true.

MESSENGER.

Touching the stain of incest, wouldst thou say?

OEDIPUS.

'Tis this, old man, I dread unceasingly.

MESSENGER.

Knowest thou not that thy alarms are vain?

OEDIPUS.

How vain, if of these parents I was born?

MESSENGER.

Polybus was no relative of thine.

OEDIPUS.

What say'st thou? Was not Polybus my sire?

MESSENGER.

As much thy sire as I am, and no more.

OEDIPUS.

Can father and not father be the same?

MESSENGER.

Neither did I beget thee nor did he.

OEDIPUS.

Then for what reason did he call me son?

MESSENGER.

Thou wast a gift to him, and from this hand.

OEDIPUS.

And could he take a foundling to his heart?

MESSENGER.

It was the yearning of a childless man.

OEDIPUS.

Was I thine own, or was I bought by thee?

MESSENGER.

I found thee in Cithaeron's bosky glade.

OEDIPUS.

What was it brought thee to this neighbourhood?

MESSENGER.

I kept the flocks that fed upon these hills.

OEDIPUS. Wast thou a shepherd wandering for hire?

MESSENGER.

Poor as I was, O King, I saved thy life.

OEDIPUS.

In what so evil plight then was I found?

MESSENGER.

Thy insteps to that question can reply.

OEDIPUS.

Alack! what evil memory is this?

MESSENGER.

Thy feet were pierced through when I rescued thee.

OEDIPUS.

A hapless babe, foul swaddling clothes had I.

MESSENGER.

Thy name is thy misfortune's monument.

OEDIPUS.

Was it my mother's or my father's act?

MESSENGER.

I know not; he who gave me thee may tell.

OEDIPUS.

Was I received, then, and not found by thee?

MESSENGER.

Another shepherd put thee in my hands.

OEDIPUS.

Who was he? Canst thou point him out to me?

MESSENGER.

A serving-man of Laius he was called.

OEDIPUS.

That Laius who was ruler of this land?

MESSENGER.

The same; the man I mean his herdsman was.

OEDIPUS.

Is he alive? can he be seen by me?

MESSENGER.

You that this land inhabit best can tell.

OEDIPUS. Does any one of you who stand around The herdsman know of whom this stranger speaks? Either afield or here has he been seen? Speak out! 'tis time that all should be revealed.

CHORUS.

I ween it is no other than the hind Of whom thou wast in quest some time ago; But Queen Jocasta could most likely tell.

OEDIPUS.

Wife, dost thou know the man for whom erewhile We sent? Is it of him that this man speaks?

JOCASTA.

Why ask? what matters it of whom he spoke? Let not such follies dwell upon thy mind.

OEDIPUS.

Think not to hinder me, with such a clue, From searching out the secret of my birth.

JOCASTA.

For Heaven's sake, for the sake of thy own life, Desist! That I am stricken is enough.

OEDIPUS.

Fear not; though I be proved through three descents Three times a slave, thy birth will take no stain.

JOCASTA.

Hear me, I do implore thee! Search no more.

OEDIPUS.

I will not stop till all has been revealed!

JOCASTA.

She that entreats thee has thy good at heart.

OEDIPUS.

Good it may be, yet does it please me ill.

JOCASTA.

Unhappy man! what thou art, never know.

OEDIPUS.

Go, some one; fetch the herdsman with all speed, And let this lady vaunt her pedigree.

JOCASTA.

Alack! alack! Wretch, by no other name Can I now call thee or shall call thee more! (JOCASTA rushes off the scene.)

CHORUS.

O King, why has the lady rushed away In this wild burst of grief? I sorely fear Her silence prefaces a storm of woe.

OEDIPUS.

Let her storm on! resolved am I to find The stem that bore me, lowly though it be. She, very like, puffed with a woman's pride, May feel ashamed of my ignoble birth. For me, I do esteem me Fortune's child, Nor blush to hold me of her favour born. She is my mother; and my father, Time, Whose months have on to greatness borne his child. With such a parentage I fear no change That should forbid me to search out my birth.

* * * * *

THE CATASTROPHE.

Jocasta, in despair, hangs herself. Oedipus puts out his own eyes. The scene is described by a second messenger, who has witnessed it.

LINES 1223-1296.

MESSENGER.

O reverend priests and elders of this land, What are ye doomed to hear? what to behold? What sorrow will be yours if loyally Ye love the royal house of Labdacus? Ister or Phasis were too scant a stream, To wash the bloodstains of this roof away, Such horrors does it hide, and presently Will show beneath the sun; horrors self-caused, And self-caused woes are of all woes the worst.

CHORUS.

That which we knew already topped the height Of misery. What hast thou more to tell?

MESSENGER.

What fewest words serve to impart is this, Jocasta the illustrious is no more.

CHORUS.

Alas, poor Queen! How was it that she died?

MESSENGER.

By her own hand. That which is worst of all, The sight of what was done, your eyes are spared; But to your ears, so far as memory serves, I will recount her most disastrous end. When, in a storm of passion, hence she passed To yonder house, straight to her marriage-bed, Tearing her hair with both her hands, she flew. She slammed the door behind her; then she cries To Laius, that had long been in his grave, Calling to mind the seed that they had raised To murder its begetter, while his mate, Was left to her own child's incestuous arms. She cursed the bed which to a husband bore A husband and gave children to a child. Thereon she slew herself, I wot not how, For, with loud outcries Oedipus rushed in, And on his movements all our eyes were turned, So that we could not mark Jocasta's end. He, raving, shouted to us for a sword, And asked where was his wife that was no wife, But his own mother and his children's, too. Then, in his frenzy, some mysterious power, For it was none of us, showed him the way. With a wild yell, as though one led him on, He charged the doorway, from their sockets tore The bolts, and headlong dashed into the room. There we beheld Jocasta hanging dead, Her neck entangled in the fatal noose. This the King seeing, gave a fearful yell, And loosed the rope; the corpse fell to the ground. What then ensued was fearful to behold: The golden buckles wherewith she was dight He from her garment plucked, and, lifting them On high, he smote the pupils of his eyes, Crying aloud that they should look no more Upon his suffering or his crimes, but dark Henceforth betray their duty seeing those Whom they ought not, not seeing those they ought. Chanting this strain, once and again he smote, With hand uplift, his eyeballs, till the blood Ran from his wounded eyes down to his chin, Not in slow-oozing drops of clotted gore, But in a pelting shower of crimson hue. Such is the wreck, not of a single life, But of a husband's and a wife's in one. The grandeur of this house in happier hours Was grandeur worthy of the name. To-day Sorrow and desolation, death and shame, All evils for which man has names are here.

CHORUS.

Rests now the victim from this agony?

MESSENGER.

He calls to us to open wide the door And let all Thebes behold the parricide. His mother's—names too horrible he used, Vowing he'll doom himself to banishment, Nor live beneath the curse himself called down. But some support and guidance he will need, For he is stricken past man's strength to bear. Thyself will see it, for behold, the gates Open and will a spectacle disclose That might the bitterest foe to pity move!

* * * * *

THE PARTING.

Oedipus bewails his calamities. A scene follows between him and Creon, his wife's brother, whom he had accused of treasonably plotting against him in concert with Tiresias.

LINES 1369-1514.

OEDIPUS.

That what is done is not done for the best, Forbear to preach; thy counsel is in vain. Could I have looked upon my father's face, Meeting him yonder in the underworld, Or on my hapless mother's, when to both I had done wrongs worse than the worst of deaths? Perchance you'll say to see my progeny Were sweet! when I remembered whence they sprung. Never, believe me, to their father's eyes; Nor to see city, tower, or temple more, From which, of all men most unfortunate, When I had lived the noblest life in Thebes, I did myself cut off, adjuring all To drive the sinner out by heaven declared Accursed and of the blood of Laius. When I had thus proclaimed my infamy, Could I meet, eye to eye, those citizens? It might not be. Nay, were there any means Of cutting off the source of hearing, too, I would have closed all avenues of sense, And made this wretched frame both blind and deaf. The mind has peace that dwells apart from ills. Why, O Cithaeron, didst thou cherish me, Not end my life at once, that so my kind Had never learned the secret of my birth? O Polybus, and Corinth, and that home By me paternal deemed, how foul beneath Was that which ye brought up so outward fair! I stand a villain, and of villains born. O meeting of three ways, and lonely glen, And copse, and narrow pass at the cross-roads, That from my father's veins drank, by my hand, The blood which filled my own, remember ye, What ye beheld me do, and what I did Thereafter in this land? Marriage ill-starred, Thou gavest me birth, and then of me gave birth To a fresh offspring, and before the sun Showed fathers, brothers, children, parricides, Brides, wives, and mothers in unnatural train, With all things most abhorred among mankind. But what is foul to do is foul to hear, Therefore, at once bury me out of sight; Put me to death, cast me into the sea, That never eye of man may see me more. Come, lay your hands upon my wretched frame, Do as I pray ye, fearing naught, my load Of woe no mortal can support but I. (Enter CREON.)

CHORUS.

At the right time thy wish to execute And give thee counsel, Creon comes, now left In place of thee sole guardian of our State.

OEDIPUS.

Alas! To him what can I find to say, What plea of justice, since my conscience cries That he has met foul treatment at my hands?

CREON.

I came not, Oedipus, to mock thy fall, Nor to upbraid thee with unkindness past. But ye, that stand around, if human hearts Ye do not reverence, reverence yonder sun Whose fire feeds all things, and expose no more Unveiled to view this horror, which nor earth Nor heaven's sweet rains nor sunlight can endure. Bear him within; let there be no delay. The sorrows of a household, piety Reserves for kindred eyes and ears alone.

OEDIPUS.

Since thou my expectation hast belied, Proving thyself as good as I am bad, Grant what I ask, for thy behoof I speak.

CREON.

What is this thing that thou wouldst have me do?

OEDIPUS.

Cast me, and instantly, out of this land, Beyond the pale of human intercourse.

CREON.

Already had I done this, but I first Desired to ask the counsel of the god.

OEDIPUS.

The god had fully made his counsel known, Which was to slay the impious parricide.

CREON.

So did we hold, yet in our present case Better we deemed it to be circumspect.

OEDIPUS.

Wilt thou enquire about a wretch like me?

CREON.

Thyself by this hast learned to trust the gods.

OEDIPUS.

I do conjure thee, and enjoin on thee, Her that within there lies, as seems thee fit, Lay in the ground. To thee that care belongs. But me, let never this my fatherland Be so dishonoured as to hold alive. Upon the mountains let my dwelling be, Upon my own Cithaeron, which my sire And mother chose as my appointed tomb, And so let those who sought it take my life. And yet past doubt it is that I was proof 'Gainst death in all its forms; if I were saved, It must have been for some fell destiny. But be my own lot what it may, my care Is for my children, Creon. For the boys I'd have thee take no thought; as they are men, Where'er they be they'll find a livelihood. But for my girls now lorn and desolate, My girls, apart from whom was never set Their father's table, who still had their share Of everything on which his hand was laid, I crave thy care. And first let me embrace My darlings and unite my tears to theirs. Pray, good my lord, Consent, kind heart. To hold them in my arms Would be to feel them mine as when I saw— What shall I say?

(ANTIGONE and ISMENE, OEDIPUS' daughters, are brought upon the scene.)

Is it my darlings' weeping that I hear? Do my ears tell me true? Has Creon sent My best beloved in mercy to their sire? Say I aright?

CREON.

Thou say'st aright. 'Tis I that, knowing well Thy heart's desire, have granted thee this boon.

OEDIPUS.

Fortune befriend thee for their presence here, Heaven guard thee better than it guarded me. Daughters, where are ye? Come unto these arms, These arms that issued from one womb with you, Which on the father that begot you brought This darkness for the light he had before. Blindly, my children, and unwittingly, Offspring I got in an incestuous bed. See you I cannot, but I weep for you, When I bethink me of the bitter life That ye must live, marks for the scorn of men. To what assembly, to what festival, Will ye e'er go and not be driven home In tears, excluded from the spectacle? And when your marriageable hour has come, Where will be found the man so venturesome To take upon him the reproach that falls Upon my parents and from them on you? What stain is lacking when your father slew His father, her that bore him took to wife 'Gainst nature's law, and had you born to him From the same womb from which himself was born? In face of such reproaches who will wed? No one will dare. Daughters, to waste away Lonely and childless is your certain doom. Son of Menoeceus, thou alone art left As father to these children, in one day Bereft of both their parents; let them not Go forth to roam famished and desolate, Nor let them be confounded with my crimes. Have pity on them, seeing them so young, Deprived of all saving thy charity. Reach forth thy hand in token of assent. Children, were ye of age to understand, I had much counsel giv'n ye; but now pray That you may dwell where it is best to dwell, And yours may be a happier lot than mine.



OEDIPUS AT COLONUS.

After the day of horrors the blind Oedipus is cast forth from Thebes, and becomes a wanderer over the face of the earth, guided and tended by his faithful daughter, Antigone. He comes at last to Colonus, a rural district near Athens, and one of the holy places of Attica. Here he is destined to end his life, to be buried, and by the presence of his remains to confer a blessing on the country which has given him a last resting-place and a tomb. The dark cloud of involuntary guilt, which has hitherto overshadowed him, lifts at the end, and is succeeded by a calm evening light.

* * * * *

OEDIPUS AND ANTIGONE ARRIVE AT COLONUS AND ENTER THE CONSECRATED GROUND.

LINES 1-110

OEDIPUS.

Child of a blind old man, Antigone, Unto what land, whose city, have we come? Who is there for this day to entertain With scanty fare the wanderer, Oedipus, Who asks but little and still less receives, Yet with his dole is fain to be content— For time and suffering and a noble heart Have taught me how to bear adversity. But, daughter, if thou seest a resting-place, Either in common ground or hallowed grove, There guide me to a seat, that we may ask What place is this: strangers, we come to learn Of citizens and what they bid us do.

ANTIGONE.

Oedipus, my unhappy sire, the towers That fence the city round far off appear. This seems a holy place; 'tis full of pine, Of laurel, and of vine under whose leaves Trills her sweet notes full many a nightingale. Here rest thee on this unhewn seat of rock; The journey for thy aged feet was long.

OEDIPUS.

Guide thy old father safely to the seat.

ANTIGONE.

It is a lesson taught me long ago.

OEDIPUS.

Where is it we have halted? canst thou tell?

ANTIGONE.

Athens I know; this spot is strange to me.

OEDIPUS.

That it was Athens every traveller said.

ANTIGONE.

Wouldst thou that I go ask what place it is?

OEDIPUS.

Yea, daughter, if it is inhabited.

ANTIGONE.

Inhabited it is; but I may spare My pains, for close at hand I see a man.

OEDIPUS.

Bends he his steps in our direction, child?

ANTIGONE.

Yes, and is now at hand.

(Enter STRANGER.)

Whate'er is meet For thee to say, speak; he is at thy side.

OEDIPUS.

O stranger, listen to this maid who sees Both for herself and me, since our good luck Hath sent thee to inform our ignorance.

STRANGER.

Ere thou dost question further, leave that place; 'Tis holy ground whereon thou mayest not tread.

OEDIPUS.

What, then, is the indwelling deity?

STRANGER.

I tell thee it is hallowed; it belongs To the dread Daughters of the Earth and Night.

OEDIPUS.

What is their name? With reverence I would ask.

STRANGER.

With us, the Eumenides, of sleepless eye; But different names seem good in different lands.

OEDIPUS.

May they receive the suppliant to their grace, For I intend no more to leave this ground.

STRANGER.

What means this?

OEDIPUS.

'Tis the token of my doom.

STRANGER.

Myself I dare not thrust thee out until On my report the State my act approves.

OEDIPUS.

To a poor wanderer, friend, be not unkind, But what I humbly ask thee deign to tell.

STRANGER.

Speak on, and no unkind refusal fear.

OEDIPUS.

What is the place, then, upon which we stand?

STRANGER.

Thou shalt know all that I can tell. The place Around is holy, dread Posidon here Is present, present here the lord of fire, Titan Prometheus. What thou standest on Is of this region hight the Brazen Way, The prop of Athens, while these neighbouring fields Boast of Colonus, that famed charioteer, As their first settler; and their denizens Are proud to bear their founder's sainted name. Such claims to pious reverence hath this place, Stranger, which they who dwell here feel the more.

OEDIPUS.

There are then people who inhabit it?

STRANGER.

Yes, people named after their patron god.

OEDIPUS.

Has it a king or do the commons rule?

STRANGER.

The King of yonder city is its lord.

OEDIPUS.

And who now fills the seat of royalty?

STRANGER.

Theseus, the son of Aegeus, is his name.

OEDIPUS.

Would one of you my envoy be to him?

STRANGER.

To tell him aught, or bid him come to thee?

OEDIPUS.

To show him how small cost may bring great gain.

STRANGER.

And wherein can the blind advantage him?

OEDIPUS.

My eyes are blind, but when I speak I see.

STRANGER.

Attend my words if thou'rt an honest man, And honest though ill-starred thou seemst to me. Stir not from off this spot where thou dost stand, Till to this township's rural denizens I have recounted all. They will decide Whether thou may'st remain or must depart.

(Exit STRANGER.)

OEDIPUS.

My daughter, has the stranger gone from us?

ANTIGONE.

He has, my father; all is still around. Thou mayst speak freely for I only hear.

OEDIPUS.

Dread goddesses, of awful countenance, Since in your holy precincts first I rest, Be merciful to Phoebus and to me; For Phoebus, when he all my woes foretold, Promised me peace at last, then to be mine When at my wandering's limit I should find A shrine and hostel of the powers of awe. Here of my misery was to be the goal, And I was to bring blessings to my hosts, And curses upon them that drove me out. Tokens of this he pledged his word to send, An earthquake, lightning, or a thunder peal. Sure then I am that auguries from you, Who cannot lie, my wandering feet have led Unto this grove. How should the wayfarer Else have on you first lighted, like himself, Untasting of the wine-cup, and have found This sacred seat unhewn? O goddesses, Fulfil Apollo's oracles, and grant Some termination of this weary life, Unless my sum of pain seems incomplete, When long unbroken sufferings I have borne. O daughters dear of immemorial night, Athens, of cities most illustrious, That art to the great Pallas dedicate, Take pity on this ghost of Oedipus; Once I was not the thing that now I am.

* * * * *

THE PRAISES OF COLONUS AND ATHENS.

LINES 668-719.

CHORUS.

Of this land of chivalry Thou the garden here dost see, White Colonus, in whose glade, Underneath the greenwood shade, Her loved haunt, the nightingale Poureth oft her luscious wail. Glossy-dark the ivy creeps; Flourishes along the steeps With berries store, scorched by no ray, Rent by no storm, the sacred bay. Here loves the jolly god to rove With merry nymphs that round him move. Here many a flower, heaven-watered, blows, Worthy to bind immortal brows. Narcissus waves its clusters gay, And crocus gleams with golden ray. Nor do the springs that feed thy flow, Cephisus, intermission know: Day after day their crystal stream Makes the rich loam with plenty teem. Nor do the muses keep afar, Nor Aphrodite's golden car. Here grows, what neither Asia's coast Nor Pelops' Dorian Isle can boast, The tree that Nature's bounty rears, The tree that mocks the foeman's spears, That nowhere blooms so fair and free And rich—our own grey olive tree, Of which no chieftain, old or young, Shall rob the land from which it sprung. Blue-eyed Athene is its guard, And Morian Zeus its sleepless ward. And loftier still the note of praise That by the grace of heaven we raise To this our motherland, for she Is Queen of steeds, Queen of the sea. Poseidon, son of Saturn, thou Didst set this crown upon her brow, When first upon Athenian course Thou taughtst to curb the fiery horse. The dashing oar our seamen ply, Light o'er the wave our galleys fly, Keeping the sea-nymphs company.

* * * * *

LENGTH OF DAYS.

LINES 1211-1238.

CHORUS.

Little wisdom hath the man That would over-live his span. Length of days brings many a moan When life's prime is past and gone; But of pleasures, never a one. Then all alike from dole to save, Comes the dark and cheerless grave.

Not to be is happiest; Next with speed to part is best. Bloodshed, battle, hatred, strife, Youth with all these ills is rife. Then comes the last, the dreariest stage, Sour, companionless old age.

* * * * *

THE END OF OEDIPUS.

LINES 1579-1667.

MESSENGER. (To the CHORUS.)

Brief is the speech, my fellow-citizens, Needed to tell that Oedipus is dead; But a brief speech will not suffice to give A full account of all that there befell.

CHORUS.

His life of sorrow then has found its end.

MESSENGER.

He is where he will never sorrow more.

CHORUS.

Died he by act of heaven and painlessly?

MESSENGER.

Herein consists the wonder of my tale. When from this place he went, as thou didst see, No longer guided by a friendly hand, But himself acting as the guide of all, Having arrived at the descending stair, With brazen steps fast rooted in the earth, He halted upon one of many paths, Hard by the basin wherein treasured lie Pledges of Theseus and Pirithous. Midway from this to the Thorician rock, The hollow pear-tree and the marble tomb, He took his seat and disarrayed himself Of his soiled weeds; then to his daughters called Water to bring that he might cleanse himself. They to a knoll that rose above the fane Of boon Demeter, hastening, did with speed That which their sire commanded,—bathed his limbs, And in new garments seemly him arrayed. When thus his heart's desire had been fulfilled, And none of his behests remained undone, Thunder beneath the earth was heard, whereat The maidens quaked, and on their father's knees They laid them down and wept, nor ceased to beat Their breasts and to pour forth the long-drawn wail. He, hearing all at once their bitter cry, Folded his hands over their heads, and said, "Daughters, this day your father is no more, For now my course is ended and your life Of travel sore in tending me is done. Hard was that life, my daughters, well I know, And yet a single word makes up for all. Love did ye never meet at any hand Greater than his, of whom henceforth bereft, Ye must drag out whate'er remains of life." Thus folded each in other's last embrace, They sobbed and wailed. When they at last had done Their weeping and their cry arose no more, A silence followed; all at once a voice Called him, and made the hair of each of us That heard it stand on end with sudden fear. Repeatedly it called, that mystic voice, "Oedipus, linger thou no more," it said, "Thine hour is come; too long is thy delay." He, hearing the celestial summons, called For our King Theseus to draw near to him; And when the King drew near, he said, "Dear Prince, Pledge to my daughters troth by your right hand, As they will pledge their troth to thee, and swear That thou wilt not desert them, but whate'er Thou mayst do thou wilt do it for their good." Theseus, with noble soul, calm and unmoved, Swore to fulfil his stranger friend's request. Which being ended, straightway Oedipus, With his blind hands touching his daughters, said, "Children, ye now must bear up gallantly And from this spot depart, nor seek to see Or hear that which may not be seen or heard. Tarry no longer; what is now to come Theseus alone may lawfully behold." These words of his all that were present heard. So we departed, and with streaming eyes Walked by the maidens. Having gone some way We turned, looked back, and saw that Oedipus Had vanished, nor did trace of him appear, While the King stood alone, holding his hand Before his eyes as though some awful form, Some overpowering vision had appeared. And no long time had passed, when he was seen Falling upon his knees and worshipping At once the Earth and all the Olympian gods. But in what way Oedipus left this life Theseus alone of human kind can tell. There flashed from heaven no lightning in that hour To strike him dead; there came not from the sea A tempest with its blast to sweep him off. Some envoy from the gods was sent to him, Or opening earth engulfed him painlessly. The old man died without disease or pang To make us grieve for him; by miracle, If ever man so died. Thinkst thou I dream? I know not how to show thee that I wake.



ANTIGONE.

Eteocles and Polynices, the unnatural brothers, having fallen by each other's hands, Creon is King of Thebes. To Eteocles, who had died in defence of the city, he awards honourable burial; Polynices, who had fallen in attacking the city, he dooms to lie unburied, a great dishonour and calamity in Hellenic opinion. Antigone resolves to disregard the ordinance, and pay the funeral rites to her brother Polynices. The conflict between the law of the State and the divine law which Antigone obeys is the moral key-note of the play. Ismene is Antigone's weaker sister and serves as a foil to her. Antigone is betrothed to Haemon, a son of Creon.

* * * * *

THE TWO SISTERS.

LINES 1-99.

ANTIGONE.

Ismene, sister mine in blood and heart, All woes that had their source in Oedipus Zeus will bring on us yet before we die. Nothing there is disastrous or accursed, No blot of shame, no brand of infamy, Which in our list of ills I reckon not. What is this proclamation that I hear The general has put forth to all the host? Say, canst thou tell, or art thou ignorant That those we hate are threat'ning those we love?

ISMENE.

To me, Antigone, no word has come Either of joyful tidings or of bad Since we of our two brothers were bereft, Slain in one day, each by the other's hand. Last night the Argive army marched away; This much I know, and I know nothing more To add to or abate our misery.

ANTIGONE.

Of that I was assured, and called thee forth Before the gate to speak to thee apart.

ISMENE.

What is it? Something ferments in thy soul.

ANTIGONE.

Creon to one of our two brothers grants, But to the other he denies, a grave. Eteocles, as they tell me, he has laid With all due form and reverence in the tomb, There to be ranked among the honoured dead. But Polynices' miserable corpse, It seems, by strict injunction he forbids All citizens to bury or to mourn; Ordering that it be left without a grave, Unwailed, a welcome prey to ravening birds. This proclamation Creon, worthy man— Look thou, look both of us alike—puts forth. 'Tis said he hither comes to publish it, To all who know it not, nor deems the thing Of small concern; for whoso disobeys His penalty is to be stoned to death. So stands the matter; it will now be seen Whether thy soul is worthy of thy race.

ISMENE.

How, daring maid, can I in such a case, Whether to loose or bind, assistance lend?

ANTIGONE.

Wilt thou take part and aid me? Ponder well.

ISMENE.

In what adventure? What is in thy mind?

ANTIGONE.

Will thy arm help me to uplift the corpse?

ISMENE.

How! Wouldst thou brave the law and bury him?

ANTIGONE.

Bury thy brother and mine own I would. Do as thou wilt, my duty shall not fail.

ISMENE.

In face of Creon's edict? Art thou mad?

ANTIGONE.

Has he the right to part me from mine own?

ISMENE.

Sister, alack! think how our father fell, O'erwhelmed with hatred and with infamy Through sins which his own act had brought to light, His eyes bereft of sight by his own hand; How she that was his wife and mother too Perished, self-strangled with a twisted cord, And lastly our two brothers in one day With fratricidal hands most ruefully Upon each other brought a common doom. Now only we are left, and worst of all Our fate will be, if, in contempt of law, Our ruler's will and order we defy. Think first that we are women, and too weak Battle to do against the strength of men; And next, that we are subject unto power, And must in harder things than this obey. For my share then, I will entreat the dead To pardon what I do unwillingly, And bow to the command of those in power. High vaulting virtue overleaps itself.

ANTIGONE.

I urge thee not; nay, didst thou wish to aid, My heart would not accept thy partnership. Hold to thy own opinion; him I mean To bury; death were honour in that cause. I in the tomb shall lie with those I love, A glorious criminal. Longer will last The praise of those below than those above. There I shall ever dwell. Then, if thou wilt, Treat as of no account the claim of heaven.

ISMENE.

I lack not piety, but lack the force To fly in face of public ordinance.

ANTIGONE.

Cling to thy specious pretext while I go To heap the earth upon a brother's grave.

ISMENE.

Too daring sister, how I quake for thee.

ANTIGONE.

Quake not for me, steer thine own course aright.

ISMENE.

At least disclose to none this thy design; I too will keep it locked within my breast.

ANTIGONE.

Avaunt! reveal it! I shall hate thee more If thou dost not proclaim it to the world.

ISMENE.

Hot is thy blood, but chill thy enterprise.

ANTIGONE.

I shall please those whom I am bound to please.

ISMENE.

Hadst thou the power, but desperate is thy aim.

ANTIGONE.

When my power fails I have but to desist.

ISMENE.

Where we must fail, not to attempt is wise.

ANTIGONE.

Such talk will make thee hateful unto me, And by the dead man righteously abhorred. Then leave me with my folly to endure This dreadful penalty. Come what come may, Nothing will rob me of a noble death.

ISMENE.

Art thou resolved? Go, then, and be assured That though misguided thou art well beloved.

* * * * *

SISTERLY LOVE DEFIES THE LAW.

Antigone is caught by the guard paying funeral rites to the corpse of Polynices, and is brought before Creon.

LINES 384-581.

GUARD.

Behold the guilty one, caught in the act Of burial. Where is Creon to be found?

CHORUS.

Hither he comes returning from the house.

CREON (entering).

What makes my presence here so opportune?

GUARD.

My prince, let mortal man nothing forswear, For resolution yields to afterthought. Little I looked hither to come again, So pelted with the hailstorm of thy threats. But the good fortune that surpasses hope Is of all pleasant things the pleasantest; And so I come in spite of all my oaths, And bring with me this maiden, who was caught Decking the grave. This time no lot was cast; The prize is mine of right, and mine alone. And now, my prince, take and examine her Thyself, as seems thee good. I claim my due, From all these troubles to be let go free.

CREON.

Where, in what manner, was your prisoner found?

GUARD.

'Twas she that gave him burial; all is told.

CREON.

Art thou assured of that thou dost report?

GUARD. I saw this maiden burying the corpse Which thou forbad'st to bury. Is that plain?

CREON.

By whom was she espied, and how entrapped?

GUARD.

Thus did it happen: When we reached our post, Confounded by thy dreadful menaces, We swept away with care each particle Of dust, and having laid the carcase bare, Then sat us down beneath the sheltering slope Of a hillside, where we escaped the stench, Each stirring up his fellow to the task, And cursing him who should be slack in it. So went we on until the sun's bright orb Had reached the mid-arch of the firmament, And its full heat was felt, when suddenly A whirlwind, raising swirls of dust heaven-high, Swept o'er the plain, stripping the wood of leaves, Wherewith it filled the air. We with closed eyes And lips sat bowing to the wrath of heaven. When this had passed away, after some time, Appeared this maiden, uttering piercing wails; Like to the plaintive notes of a lorn bird, That finds her nest robbed of its callow brood, Her wailings were, when she beheld the corpse Once more uncovered; and right bitterly Cursed she the man whose hand had done the deed. Straightway a handful of dry dust she brings, Then thrice uplifting high a brazen urn, Pours a three-fold libation on the corpse. We at the sight, start up and quickly seize The maiden, who was not a whit dismayed. We charged her with what she before had done, And what was doing. Nor denied she aught, But made me feel sorrow and joy at once. Oneself to have escaped calamity Is cause for joy; to bring a friend to harm Fills one with sorrow. But in my account Of all things mine own safety is the first.

CREON.

(To ANTIGONE.)

Thou, that dost stand with eyes bent on the ground, Dost thou plead guilty or deny the fact?

ANTIGONE.

Deny I do not, but avow my deed.

CREON.

(To the GUARD.)

Thou standst acquitted of a heinous charge, And mayest betake thee hence whither thou wilt.

(To ANTIGONE.)

But thou, answer, and briefly, didst thou know The proclamation made against this act?

ANTIGONE.

I did; how should I not? The words were plain.

CREON.

Yet didst thou dare to violate the law?

ANTIGONE.

The proclamation went not forth from Zeus, Or Justice, partner of the gods below, Who had ordained these canons for mankind; Nor deemed I proclamations had such power That thereby mortal man could contravene Heaven's law unwritten and unchangeable. That law was not the child of yesterday, Nor knoweth man the source from which it came. I was not minded for what men might say To break that law and brave the wrath divine. That death would come I know, as come it must Without thy proclamation, and to die Before my hour I count it so much gain. For when a life is full of wretchedness As mine has been, is it not gain to die? Little I care if I such doom must meet; But I care much not uninterred to leave His corpse that was of the same mother born. One pains me sore, the other pains me not; And if to thee I seem to play the fool To me it seems that to a fool I play it.

CHORUS.

She shows the savage spirit of her sire, And to misfortune is untaught to bend.

CREON.

Know that the most self-willed most often fall. Iron that hath been tempered by the fire To a surpassing hardness, when it breaks, We often see shattered most thoroughly; And a small bit suffices to subdue The fiery steed. High thoughts beseem not those Who owe subjection to another's will. This maid before displayed her insolence In overstepping what the laws ordained; And now again displays it, glorying And laughing in our face over her crime. It is not I that am the man, but she If she can thus usurp and go unscathed. Be she my sister's child or child of one Nearer in blood than all around our hearth, She shall not the last penalty escape, Nor shall her sister. For she, too, I hold, Conspired to bring about this burial. Summon her hither. Just now in the house I saw her raving like a maid possessed. When wickedness is gendered in the dark The heart is apt its secret to betray. But not less hateful is the shamelessness Which, of foul acts convicted, calls them fair.

ANTIGONE.

To lead me to my death, is that enough?

CREON.

It is enough. This done, I ask no more.

ANTIGONE.

Then why delay, when of thy words to me Not one gives pleasure or will ever give? Nor are mine less displeasing unto thee. And yet what greater glory could be mine, Than, burying my own brother, I have won? Well know I, all here present would applaud But that their tongues by fear of thee are tied. Sovereigns in many things are fortunate, And they alone are free in act and speech.

CREON.

So thinkest thou; of other Thebans, none.

ANTIGONE.

So think they too, but they must cringe to thee.

CREON.

Art not ashamed to brave the public voice?

ANTIGONE.

It is no shame to pay our kin their due.

CREON.

Was not he kin that fell upon our side?

ANTIGONE.

His father and his mother both were mine.

CREON.

How then do service which offends his shade?

ANTIGONE.

The dead man will not second thy complaint.

CREON.

He will if he is levell'd with the vile.

ANTIGONE.

It was a brother, not a slave, that fell.

CREON.

Assailing what the other died to save.

ANTIGONE.

The powers below ask these observances.

CREON.

The good ask not like treatment with the bad.

ANTIGONE.

Who knows but this may be deemed right below?

CREON.

Hatred expires not when the hated dies.

ANTIGONE.

Not hate but love to share my nature is.

CREON.

Go, then, below and love, if love thou wilt, But while I live no woman shall reign here.

CHORUS.

(ISMENE entering)

Ismene, lo! before the gate appears, A sister's grief o'erflowing in her tears; The cloud of sorrow gathered on her face Bedews her roseate cheek and mars its grace.

CREON.

(To ISMENE.)

And thou, too, in my home a lurking snake? Didst drain my heart's blood, while I little thought That I was cherishing two traitress fiends? Wast thou a party to this burial, Or wilt thou swear that thou art innocent?

ISMENE.

I did take part, if she will say I did, And am content to bear my share of blame.

ANTIGONE.

That equity forbids; neither wert thou Willing to act, nor I to act with thee.

ISMENE.

Yet would I not refuse mid thy distress, Sister, to sail in the same barque with thee.

ANTIGONE.

Whose was the deed, the dead and Hades know. I love not one whose friendship ends in words.

ISMENE.

Sister, deny me not the privilege Of sharing both thy piety and death.

ANTIGONE.

Share not my death, nor claim the work in which Thou hadst no hand; that I die is enough.

ISMENE.

What can life be to me, bereft of thee?

ANTIGONE.

Ask Creon, he is nearest thee in love.

ISMENE.

Why dost thou gird at me thus fruitlessly?

ANTIGONE.

My laugh is bitter when I laugh at thee.

ISMENE.

What can I do to aid thee even now?

ANTIGONE.

What, save thyself! I grudge not thy escape.

ISMENE.

Alack! and must I let thee die alone?

ANTIGONE.

Yes; for thy choice was life, and mine was death.

ISMENE.

But not unspoken was my mind to thee.

ANTIGONE.

Thy course was here approved, but mine below.

ISMENE.

Yet was the fault of both of us the same.

ANTIGONE.

Be of good cheer, thou livest; but my soul Is with the dead, to whom my care is due.

CREON.

Of these two sisters, one, it seems to me, Has lost her wits, and one was witless born.

ISMENE.

O Prince, the reason that is born in us Abides not in the wretched, but departs.

CREON.

From thee it fled when thou didst share her crime.

ISMENE.

Without this maiden what can life be worth?

CREON.

Say not "this maiden," for she is no more.

ISMENE.

Wilt thou slay her that is thy son's betrothed?

CREON.

We shall find other fields enough to plough,

ISMENE.

Thou wilt not find such unison of hearts.

CREON.

I do not want a bad wife for my son.

ANTIGONE.

Dear Haemon, how thy father slights thy love.

CREON.

Thou and thy marriage are a weariness.

ISMENE.

Wilt thou bereave thy child of his betrothed?

CREON.

Hades it is that shall these nuptials bar.

ISMENE.

It is resolved, it seems, that she shall die.

CREON.

There I agree with thee. No more delay. Slaves, take her in, and henceforth let these maids Be women, and no more be left at large. The stoutest hearts are apt to think of flight, When they perceive that death is drawing near.

* * * * *

THE CONTEST BETWEEN LOVE AND FILIAL DUTY.

LINES 631-780.

CREON.

Soon shall we know, my son, past prophecy Whether, apprised of that our fixed decree, Thou com'st in wrath upon thy bride's account Or all we do is pleasing unto thee.

HAEMON.

My father, I am thine; thy wisdom guides My steps aright and I will follow it; No marriage can be dearer to my heart Than is the blessing of thy governance.

CREON.

Be this, my son, implanted in thy breast, Still to thy father's judgment to defer. This is the reason for which men desire To rear obedient offspring in their homes, Who may confront their father's enemy, And with him render service to his friends. The father of unprofitable sons— What does he else but for himself beget Trouble and exultation for his foes? Never, my Haemon, for a woman's love Let go thy better judgment. Thou must know That cold and comfortless is the embrace Of a bad partner in the marriage bed. What sore is worse than ill-requited love? Then cast away this maiden from thy heart, And let her nuptial bower in Hades be, Since I have openly convicted her Of breaking law, by all beside obeyed. My public act I will not falsify,

The maid shall die; howe'er she may descant On sacred kinship. If at home I give Disorder license, where will order reign? Whoever governs his own house aright Will be a worthy member of the State. The bold transgressor that defies the law, Or thinks to override authority, Need look for no encouragement from me The lawful ruler's word must be obeyed, Just or unjust, in great things and in small. Who does this, I will warrant him a man Fit to command alike and to obey, And one who in the battle's storm will stand Bravely and staunchly at his comrade's side. There is no greater curse than anarchy; It works the overthrow of commonwealths, Lays homes in ruin, in the battle-field Puts armies to the rout, while victory And safety are the meed of discipline. So must we stand by that which is decreed, And not to an usurping woman yield. Fall if we must, a man shall deal the blow: 'Twere shame to think a woman vanquished us.

CHORUS.

If age our judgment dims not, thou hast dealt Rightly with all things which thy speech concerns.

HAEMON.

Father, the favour of the gods bestows Wisdom, most precious of all precious gifts. That thou hast not the right upon thy side I cannot, if I could I would not, show. Yet may another's argument be fair. Nature hath set me to keep watch for thee Over the words, acts, censures of the world. The common man, awed by thy presence, shrinks From uttering what he knows will please thee not. I hear beneath the cloud of secrecy How the whole city for this maiden mourns. She, who the least deserves it, dies, they say, A cruel death for a most noble deed, The rescue of her brother's mangled corpse From being left unburied on the field, A prey to ravening dogs and carrion birds. Has she not merited a crown of gold? Such murmurs darkling spread among the crowd. Father, I hold no treasure half so dear As thy well-being; greater joy or pride Is none than sons have in an honoured sire, Or than a sire has in an honoured son. Keep not one changeless temper in thy breast, Nor fancy that thou art infallible. Whoever dreams that he alone is wise, Or is in speech or spirit singular, Will, when unmasked, betray his emptiness. Wise though a man may be, it is no shame To have an open mind and flexible. Thou seest by the winter torrent's side The trees that bend go with their limbs unscathed, While those that bend not perish root and branch. And so the sailor who keeps taut the sheet, And stiffly battles with the tempest's force, Is apt thenceforth to float keel uppermost. Bend, then, and give thy spirit room to change. If from the lips of a young counsellor Wisdom can come, I say it were far best If we could all be born omniscient, But as omniscience is not given to man, 'Tis well to good advisers to give ear.

CHORUS.

Prince, it beseems ye both, if either says Aught apt, to listen; both have argued well.

CREON.

And shall our hoary hairs be put to school, And shall we take instruction from this boy?

HAEMON.

In naught that is not right. Young as I am, Thou shouldst my reasons weigh, not count my years.

CREON.

Does reason bid thee second anarchy?

HAEMON.

I would not ask e'en justice for the bad.

CREON.

Is not yon maiden sick of that disease?

HAEMON.

Not so avers the common voice of Thebes.

CREON.

Shall I my duty from the commons learn?

HAEMON.

Seest thou how youthful is that sentiment?

CREON.

Am I to govern by another's will?

HAEMON.

That is no state which owns one man for lord.

CREON.

Is not the state the ruler's property?

HAEMON.

Thou wouldst reign well over a desert land.

CREON.

The boy, it seems, will fight for yonder maid.

HAEMON.

If thou'rt the maid; it is for thee I care.

CREON.

Villain, why art thou wrangling with thy sire?

HAEMON.

Because thou errest from the path of right.

CREON.

Err I in claiming reverence for my state?

HAEMON

Reverence upon religion tramples not.

CREON.

O caitiff soul, thrall of a woman's face!

HAEMON

Thou wilt not see me by aught base enthralled.

CREON.

Yet is thy whole discourse a plea for her.

HAEMON.

For thee and me, and for the gods below.

CREON.

This maid shall never be thy living bride.

HAEMON.

Then will she die, and will not die alone.

CREON.

Hast thou the effrontery thus to threaten me?

HAEMON.

To gainsay folly, call'st thou that a threat?

CREON.

Thou'lt rue thy preaching, void thyself of sense.

HAEMON.

I'd say thou dotest, wert thou not my sire.

CREON.

Slave of a woman, do not gird at me!

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