Tragedies of Sophocles (Plumptre 1878)/Oedipus at Colonos

For other English-language translations of this work, see Oedipus at Colonus.
The Tragedies of Sophocles  (1878)  translated by Edward Hayes Plumptre
Œdipus at Colonos

This text is the heavily revised second edition of Plumptre's translation.

From the Preface: "I have indicated by brackets [] lines which are looked on by one or more critics of repute as spurious, and by an asterisk (*) the more prominent passages in which the text is so uncertain, or the construction so difficult, that the rendering must be looked on as, at best, somewhat uncertain." The line numbers at right refer to the Greek text, not to the translation.

See also the rhymed choral odes from this play in the Appendix



When Œdipus was no longer king, and would fain have left Thebes for ever, the people suffered him not, for so the Oracle bade them. And his children grew up—two sons, Polyneikes and Eteocles, and two daughters, Ismene and Antigone, under Creon's care, and when his sons came to man's estate, and Œdipus had grown calmer, and content to abide in Thebes, they and Creon thrust him forth, a wanderer on the earth, lest he should bring trouble to the city. And many months he journeyed with Antigone over Hellas, begging their bread; but Ismene, though she loved him, stayed at home. And the two brothers quarrelled, and Eteocles, the younger, drove forth Polyneikes, and made himself king. And Polyneikes betook himself to Argos, and took the king's daughter there in marriage, and gathered a great army wherewith to restore himself to the kingdom. And it chanced that Antigone and Œdipus came to Athens, where Theseus was then king, than whom no man in Hellas was braver or more just.

Dramatis Personæ.

Antigone, daughters of Œdipus.
Theseus, King of Athens.
Creon, Prince of Thebes.
Polyneikes, son of Œdipus.
Athenian Stranger.
Chorus of Old Men of Colonos.


SCENE—Near Athens. The Acropolis in the distance to the right. In the foreground, a grove, fenced by a low stone wall, and on the left an equestrian statue of Colonos.

Enter Œdipus and Antigone.

Œdip. Child of a blind old man, Antigone,
What country reach we? Whose the city near?
Who will receive the wanderer, Œdipus,
And give him, day by day, his scanty needs?
He asks but little; than that little, less
Most times receiving, finding that enough:
For I have learnt contentment; chance and change
Have taught me this, and the long course of time,
And the stout heart within me. But, my child,
If that thou see'st a place where I may sit,
On common ground, or by the groves of Gods, 10
There place me; prop me up, that we may learn
Where now we are. As strangers we have come,
To learn from those that dwell as townsmen here,
And what we hear, in all completeness do.

Antig. My father, woe-worn Œdipus! afar,
If I see right, are towers that shield a town:[2]
This spot is holy, one may clearly tell,
Full as it is of laurel, olive, vine,
And many a nightingale within sings sweetly.[3]
Rest thy limbs here upon this rough-hewn rock;
Long hast thou travelled, for thine age, to-day. 20

Œdip. Place me then here, and o'er the blind man watch.
[She leads him to the seat.

Antig. I do not need to learn that lesson now.

Œdip. And can'st thou tell me where we take our stand?

Antig. Athens, I know; but not this very spot.

Œdip. That every traveller told us, as we came.

Antig. But shall I go and ask what place it is?

Œdip. Do so, my child, if men inhabit it.

Antig. Inhabitants there are; and lo! I think
I need not go. One passes by our way.

Œdip. And is he coming this way, hastening here? 30

Antig. He is close by; and what thou deem'st it right
To speak in season, say. The man is here.

Enter Athenian Stranger.

Œdip. My friend, from this girl hearing, who for me
And for herself doth see, that thou art come
A well-timed guide, to tell us where we doubt. . . .

Ath. Str. Before thou speakest further leave thy seat,
For here thou hold'st a place man may not tread.

Œdip. What is the place? To what God consecrate?

Ath. Str. Man comes not here, nor dwells. The Goddesses,
Dread daughters of the Earth and Darkness, claim it.[4] 40

Œdip. What solemn name should I invoke them with?

Ath. Str. Eumenides, the Gentle Ones, all seeing,—
They call them here. It may be, other names
Befit them elsewhere.[5]

Œdip. May they then receive me,
Their suppliant, gently: thus I need not go,
Nor ever quit my station on their ground!

Ath. Str. What means this?

Œdip. 'Tis the omen of my fate.

Ath. Str. And I, too, dare not move thee from thy seat,
Without the state's command, before I tell
My tale, and learn what it is meet to do.

Œdip. By all the Gods, I charge thee scorn me not,
Poor wanderer though I be! But what I ask 50
I pray thee tell.

Ath. Str. Speak, then, thou shalt not meet,
As far as my will goes, with scorn or shame.

Œdip. And what, then, is this place to which we've come?

Ath. Str. All that I know thou too shalt hear and learn:
The ground all round is sacred, and the dread
Poseidon claims it, and the God of fire,
Titan Prometheus;[6] and the place thou tread'st on
Is called the brass-paved threshold of our land,
Bulwark of Athens. And the neighbouring fields
Boast they have yon Colonos on his horse
To be their patron; and they bear his name, 60
All called alike, in honour of their God.
Such, stranger, are our glories, not in words
Shown chiefly, but much more by full resort.

Œdip. And are there any who inhabit here?

Ath. Str. Ay, that there are, this God's great name who bear.

Œdip. Is there a chief, or do the people rule?

Ath. Str. Our city's king extends his sway to us.

Œdip. And who is this that rules in word and might?

Ath. Str. Theseus his name, the child of Ægeus old.

Œdip. Would one of you go fetch him here to me? 70

Ath. Str. Simply to tell, or show him why to come?

Œdip. That he, a little helping, much may gain.

Ath. Str. And what help comes there from a man that's blind?

Œdip. The words we speak will see with open eyes.

Ath. Str. Know'st thou, my friend, in what way not to err,—
Noble, as one may see, but for the fate
That Heaven has laid on thee? Do thou stay here,
Here where I saw thee, while I go and tell
The townsmen on this very spot, not there,
Up in the city. They shall come and judge
If thou should'st tarry, or go back again. [Exit. 80

Œdip. My child, and is the stranger gone from us?

Antig. He is gone, Ο my father. Thou may'st speak
In quiet all things; I alone am near.

Œdip. Ο dread and awful Beings, since to halt
On your ground first I bent my wearied limbs,
Be ye not harsh to Phœbos, and to me;
For He, when he proclaimed my many woes,
Told of this respite, after many years;
When I should reach the bourn of all my life,
That I should claim a stranger's place, and sit,
A suppliant at the shrine of dreaded Gods,[7] 90
And then should near the goal of woe-worn life,
To those who should receive me bringing gain;
To those who sent me—yea, who drove me—evil;
And that sure signs should give me pledge of this,
Earthquake, or thunder, or the flash of Zeus.
And now I know full well it cannot be
But faithful omen, sent to me by you,
To this grove brought me. Else I had not first,
Untasting wine, upon my way met you,
E'en you who loathe the wine-cup,[8] nor had sat 100
On this rough, hallowed seat. But, Ο ye Powers,
Grant me, according to Apollo's voice,
An issue and completion of my life;
Unless it chance I seem too low for this,
Of all mankind the most enslaved to ills.
Come, ye sweet daughters of the Darkness old,
Come, Ο thou city bearing Pallas' name,
Ο Athens, of all cities most renowned,
Have pity on this wasted, spectral form
That once was Œdipus. No longer now
Is this my carcase what it was of old. 110

Antig. Hush! for there come this way some reverend men,
To ask the meaning of thy sitting here.

Œdip. I will be silent, and do thou convey
My feet within the grove, till I shall hear
What words they utter; for in learning this
We gather caution in the things we do.

[Retires with Antigone into the grove.

Enter Chorus of Old Men of Colonos.

Stroph. I.[9]

Chor. Look then! Who was it? Where his hiding place?
Where has he fled and rushed,
Of all men boldest found? 120
Look, search, seek everywhere.
A stranger—yea, a stranger must he be.
No countryman of ours, that blind old man;
For never else had he
Approached the holy grove,
By foot of man untrod,
Where dwell the Virgin Ones invincible,
Whose names we fear to speak.
Yea, we pass by, and dare not raise our eyes, 130
Voiceless and speechless all,
Uttering the whispered sound
Of thought that fears to speak.
But now the rumour spreads
Of some one hither come,
Unmoved by touch of awe,
And yet around the precinct all in vain
I search, and fail to find
Where now his foot abides.

[Œdipus shows himself.

Œdip. I am the man; for by the voice I see,
As runs the adage.

Chor. Ah me! ah me! most dread to look upon, 140
Most dread to hear art thou.

Œdip. Do not, I pray you, deem me a transgressor.

Chor. Great Zeus, our shield, who may this old man be?

Œdip. Not one to highest place
Of fair good fortune born,
Ye rulers of the land.
This show I all too plain, or had not crept,
Trusting to others' eyes,
Nor, mighty once, had come to harbour here
With anchors poor and weak.

Antistroph. I.

Chor. Ah me! ah me! and wast thou born, alas!
With those poor, sightless eyes! 150
Worn out with many a woe,
And, as one well may guess,
Worn with age too; but for my part, at least,
Thou shalt not bring fresh curses on thyself;
Too far thou goest, too far.
But that thou rush not on
Through voiceless, grass-grown grove,
Where blends with rivulet of honeyed stream, 160
The cup of waters clear,
Of this beware, Ο man, weighed down with woe.
Bestir thyself, depart;
The distance hinders us.
Hear'st thou, Ο wanderer worn?
If thou my speech wilt heed,
Go forth from ground where man's foot may not go,
To where all walk alike.
Then speak; till then abstain.

Œdip. [To Antigone.] What turn should counsel take,
my child, in this?170

Antig. Ο father, we to citizens should give
Their due, and yield and hearken as is meet.

Œdip. Come, then, and touch me.

Antig. Here then is my hand.
[She leads him out of the grove.

Œdip. So then, my friends, I pray,
Let me not suffer wrong,
Trusting thy plighted word,
And moving from my place.

Chor. No one from henceforth, 'gainst thy will, old man,
Shall lead thee from this spot. [Pointing to a rock near them.

Œdip. Still farther on?180

Chor. Yet onward take thy course.

Œdip. What! farther still?

Chor. [To Antigone.] Lead him on, maiden, farther,
For thou discernest clear.

Antig. Follow then, follow, with thy sightless limbs,
My father, where I lead.

Chor. A stranger in a land that is not thine,
Endure, Ο suffering one,
Tο loathe whate'er our state doth hateful hold,
To reverence what it loves.

Œdip. Lead me then on, my child,
Where, on due reverence resting,
We may both speak and hear;190
Nor let us war with fate.

Chor. Stop here; nor farther bend thy foot
Beyond this platform hewn from out the rock.

Œdip. Shall it be thus?

Chor. Enough, as now thou hearest.

Œdip. And may I sit?

Chor. Just leaning sideways here,
On the rock's edge sit low and bend thy knees.

Antig. This, father, be my task. With gentle tread,
Step after step advance; [Œdipus groans.
Thy agèd frame to my fond hand confide.200

Œdip. Ah me! my weary fate!

Chor. Ο suffering one, since now thou givest way,
Speak. Who of mortals art thou?
Who art thou that art led thus miserable?
Thy country we would learn.

Œdip. I am an exile, friends; but no! not that——

Chor. And why, old man, why shrinkest thou from that?

Œdip. No! no! let no one ask me who I am:210
Search not, with over-curious, idle quest.

Chor. What means all this?

Œdip. My birth was terrible.

Chor. Yet tell it out!

Œdip. [To Antigone.] What must I say, my child?

Chor. Tell us, Ο stranger, of what race thou com'st?

Œdip. Woe! woe! What sorrow comes on me, my child!

Antig. Tell them, for thou art in a sore strait now.

Œdip. Yea, I will speak. No hiding-place is left.

Chor. Ye linger long; make haste to tell thy tale.

Œdip. Know ye of Laios' son?220

Chor. Ah woe! ah woe!

Œdip. The race of the Labdakidæ?

Chor. Ο Zeus!

Œdip. The wretched Œdipus?

Chor. And art thou he?

Œdip. Yet fear thou nothing, whatsoe'er I say.

Chor. Alas! alas!

Œdip. Ο miserable me!

Chor. Woe! woe!

Œdip. My daughter! what befalls us now?

Chor. Depart ye from our land!

Œdip. And wilt thou thus thy promise to us keep?

Chor. Vengeance comes not from Heaven on any man,
Avenging wrongs that men have done to him;230
But fraud on this side meeting fraud on that,
Repays with pain, not kindness. Go, I say,
From this spot too; forth from my land depart,
Lest on my city some fresh ill thou bring.

Antig. Ο strangers, kind and pitiful of heart,
Since ye could not endure
To hear my agèd father speak of crimes
Done most unwillingly;240
Have pity, I implore you, friends, on me,
Who for my lonely father supplicate—
Yea, supplicate, with eyes not blind and dark,
Gazing on thine eyes, as a maiden might,
Who common kindred claimed,
That at your hands this old man, woe-begone,
May find the pity that is born of awe.
On you, as on a god, we rest our fate;
But grant, oh, grant me this unlooked-for boon.
By all that is most dear, I supplicate,250
Thy child, thy wife, thy treasure, or thy God;
Search where thou wilt, thou ne'er wilt find a man
With strength to 'scape when God shall lead him on.

Chor. Know, child of Œdipus, we pity thee,
And him too, for your sad calamity;
But, fearing God, we may not dare to speak
One word beyond the orders thou hast heard.

Œdip. What profit is there then of noble fame,
Or fair report all idly floating on,260
If men can speak of Athens, most devout,
The one deliverer of the stranger-guest,
When wronged or injured, yea, his one support?
What is all this to me, whom ye did raise
From where I stood, and then drive out by force,
Fearing my name alone? It cannot be
Ye fear my presence or my deeds; for they
Were rather suffered by me than performed,
If I must tell thee what befell my parents,
On whose account thou dread'st me. This I know.
And yet how was I base and vile of heart?270
For I did but requite the wrongs I suffered,
So that, not even had I done the deed
With open eyes, should I be guilty found.
But, as it was, I, knowing nothing, went
Just where I went, while they who wronged me sought,
Well knowing it, my death. And therefore, friends,
I pray ye, by the Gods, as ye have raised me,
So now deliver, nor, with outward show
Honouring the Gods, then count the Gods as nought;
But think that they behold the godly soul,
Beholding too the godless: never yet
Was refuge found for impious child of man.280
And therefore shame not Athens, blest of God,
Lending thy hands to any impious deeds;
But, as thou did'st receive me as a suppliant,
And give me pledge of safety, free me now;
Free me and guard, and look not thou with scorn
On this grey head, so foul to look upon.
For I am come, as sacred, fearing God,
Bringing this people profit. And your lord,
When he shall come, whom ye your ruler call,290
Then thou shalt hear and know the whole. Meanwhile,
Be not thou found as base in anything.

Chor. I needs must feel some shrinking as I hear,
Old man, thy reasonings, for with no slight words
Have they been uttered. 'Tis enough for me
That they who rule us search the matter out.

Œdip. And where, my friends, is he who rules this land?

Chor. He keeps his father's city. But the scout
Who sent me here, is gone to summon him.

Œdip. And think ye he will any pity feel,
Or care for me, the blind one, and will come?300

Chor. Right sure am I, when once he hears thy name.

Œdip. And who is he that will report it to him?

Chor. The way is long; but market news is wont
To wander fast. And when he hears the news,
Be of good cheer, he 'll come. For know, old man,
Thy name has come to all men, and though slow
His speed at first, yet hearing, he will haste.

Œdip. And may he come with blessing to his country,
And to me also! Who that lives is found
Unfriendly to himself?

Antig. [Starting.] Zeus! What is this?
My father! whither shall I turn my thoughts?310

Œdip. What is 't, my child, Antigone?

[Ismene is seen in the distance.

Antig. I see
Advancing near us, mounted on a colt
Of Ætna's breed, a woman's form. Her head
Is shaded by a broad Thessalian hat.[10]
What shall I say? . . And can it be? . . 'Tis not.—
Does my mind cheat me? Now 'tis yes, now no,
And what to say, Ο wretched me! I know not.
And yet it is none else. With clear bright glance
Advancing she salutes me, and declares320
It is mine own Ismene, no one else.

Œdip. What say'st thou, daughter?

Antig. That I see thy child,
My sister; now her voice will bid thee know.

[Enter Ismene, followed by an Attendant.

Ismene. Ο dearest one. My father and my sister!
Of all names sweetest. Hard it was to find,
And now for sorrow it is hard to see.

Œdip. Art thou then come?

Ism. Not easy was the way.

Œdip. Touch me, my child.

Ism. I touch you both at once.

Œdip. Hast thou appeared?

Ism. Ο father, sad, most sad!

Œdip. Ο child, dear child!

Ism. Ο lives of two-fold woe!330

Œdip. Hers and mine, mean'st thou?

Isa. Yea, and mine the third!

Œdip. Why com'st thou, child?

Isa. In care for thee, my father!

Œdip. Did'st thou then yearn . . . . ?

Ism. I come to tell my tale,
With the one faithful servant that I had.

Œdip. Where are thy brothers, young and strong to work?

Ism. E'en as they are. A fearful fate is theirs.

Œdip. Oh, like in all things, both in nature's bent,
And mode of life, to Egypt's evil ways,
Where men indoors sit weaving at the loom,
And wives outdoors must earn their daily bread.340
Of you, my children, those who ought to toil,
Keep house at home, like maidens in their prime,
And ye, in their stead, wear yourselves to death,
For me and for my sorrows. She, since first
Her childhood's nurture ceased, and she grew strong,
Still wandering with me sadly evermore,
Leads the old man through many a wild wood's paths,
Hungry and footsore, threading on her way.
And many a storm and many a scorching sun350
Bravely she bears, and little recks of home,
So that her father find his daily bread.
And thou, my child, before did'st come to me
All oracles to tell me (those Cadmeians
Not knowing of thy errand) which were given
Touching this feeble frame; and thou wast still
A faithful guardian, when from out the land
They drove me. And what tidings bring'st thou now,
Ismene, to thy father? What has led
Thy steps from home? for that thou com'st not idly,
Nor without cause for fear, I know full well.360

Ism. The sufferings which I suffered, Ο my father,
Tracking thy life where thou may'st chance to dwell,
This I pass over, for I like not twice
To grieve my soul, first bearing pain itself,
And then relating. But I come to tell
The ills that now thy wretched sons befall:
Till now they were content to leave the throne
To Creon, nor defile their country's fame,
Bearing in mind the ancient taint of blood
Which cleaves to all thy miserable house:370
But now, an evil spirit from the Gods,
And their own mood of hate, have seized on them,
Thrice miserable, to grasp at sovereignty
And regal sway. And he, the youngest born,
His elder brother Polyneikes robs
Of kingly throne, and drives him from the land.
And he, (for so reports come thick and fast,)
An exile goes to Argos in the dale,
There forms new ties, and gains a friendly host
Of warriors round him, as if Argos meant,
Or to bring low the plain of Cadmos old380
In conquest, or exalt its fame to heaven.
These are no words, my father, no vain show,
But fearful deeds. And I as yet know not
What way the pity of the Gods will work.

Œdip. And had'st thou any hope the Gods would look
On me with pity, and deliverance give?

Ism. To me, at least, these oracles give hope.

Œdip. What oracles? And what has been revealed?

Ism. That the men there should seek to bring thee back,
Or dead or living, if they wish for safety.390

Œdip. And who from such as I could safety gain?

Ism. They say that all their power depends on thee.

Œdip. Am I a hero then, as good as dead?

Ism. The Gods did vex thee once, they prosper now.

Œdip. 'Tis vain to prosper in his age a man
In youth low fallen.

Ism. Know that Creon comes
On this account, ere many days be past.

Œdip. With what intent, my daughter? Make this clear.

Ism. That they may place thee near Cadmeian ground,
And keep thee, but the borders of the land400
Thou must not enter.

Œdip. And what help will come
From this my presence lying at their door?

Ism. Thy grave dishonoured brings disgrace on them.

Œdip. This one might know, without the voice of God.

Ism. On this account they wish to have thee near
Their country, not where thou may'st roam at will.

Œdip. And will they cover me with Theban dust?

Ism. Thy father's blood makes that impossible.

Œdip. Then never shall they have me in their power!

Ism. Great sorrow to the Thebans will this bring.

Œdip. What chance or change shall bring that end to pass?410

Ism. Thy wrath, when they shall gather round thy tomb.

Œdip. From whom heard'st thou, my child, the things thou tell'st?

Ism. From men who went to seek the Delphic shrine.

Œdip. Has Phœbos then declared these things of us?

Ism. So said the men who thence returned to Thebes.

Œdip. Did either of my sons hear this report?

Ism. Both heard alike, and knew its gist right well.

Œdip. And did those vile ones, knowing this, prefer
The pride of power to all their love for me?

Ism. 'Tis pain to hear such words, . . . and yet I bear them.420

Œdip. Ο that the Gods might never lull to rest
The destined strife between them, and would grant
To me the end of all the deadly war
For which they lift the spear! Then neither he
Who holds the sceptre and the throne should stay,
Nor he who now has left the city's gates
Return in peace. Lo! they would none of me,
Their father that begat them, helped me not,
Thus poor, dishonoured, exiled; but by them
I was sent forth an outlawed fugitive.430
But thou wilt say, it may be, at my wish
My country rightly gave this boon to me.
Not so, not so, for on that self-same day,
When yet my thoughts were hot, and all my wish,
My one desire, to perish, stoned to death,
No man came forward then to help that wish;
But later, when the sorrow had grown slack,
And I perceived my passion had outstripped
My former faults with lavish punishment,
Then did our state, for its part, drive me forth440
Full late to exile. And my sons that might
Have helped their father, would not stir to act;
And I, for lack of one small word, went roaming,
A beggar and a fugitive. And these,
Girls as they are, with such strength as they have,
Give me my daily food; from them I gain
Rest without fear, and every kindly help.
But those two brothers chose, instead of me
Their father, kingly thrones and sceptred sway,
To play their parts as sovereigns in the land.
But never shall they make me their ally,450
Nor from their rule o'er Thebes shall aught of good
For ever come. This know I, hearing both
The oracles she brings, and thinking o'er
Those older words that Phœbos brought on me.
Wherefore to seek me let them Creon send,
Or any man whose power the country owns.
For if ye will but stand, my friends, on guard,
With these thrice awful, dread Protectresses,[11]
Then for your country's welfare ye shall gain
A great Deliverer, trouble to its foes.460

Chor. Worthy of pity art thou, Œdipus;
Both thou and these thy daughters. But as thou
Dost of this land proclaim thyself the saviour,
I wish to give thee counsel for thy good.

Œdip. Help me, true friend, as willing to do all.

Chor. Make thine atonement to these Powers, to whom
Thou camest first, profaning this their soil.

Œdip. After what fashion? Tell me, Ο my friends.

Chor. First, offer from the ever-flowing stream
Libations sacred, lifting holy hands.[12]470

Œdip. And when I take this pure and stainless stream . . . . ?

Chor. Vases there are, the work of skilful hands;
Crown thou their rims and handles at the mouth.

Œdip. With fresh green boughs, or locks of wool, or how?

Chor. Around them twine a young lamb's snow-white locks.

Œdip. So be it. And what then remains to do?

Chor. Then pour libations turning to the East.

Œdip. And shall I pour with these same urns thou tell'st of?480

Chor. Pour three libations, all at once the last. . . .

Œdip. With what shall I fill this? Instruct me here.

Chor. Water and honey. Wine thou must not add.

Œdip. Why this, when vine-leaves shadow all the land?

Chor. Branches thrice nine of olive then place here,
On either hand; then offer up these prayers.

Œdip. I fain would hear them. Crown of all are they.

Chor. Eumenides, the Gentle Ones, we call them,
With gentle hearts receive and save your suppliant;
Pray, both thyself, and some one in thy stead,
In low voice speaking, not in lengthened cry;
Then, turning not, withdraw. If thou dost this,490
I will stand by thee boldly; else for thee,
Ο stranger friend, I should be full of fear.

Œdip. Hear ye, my children, what these townsmen say?

Antig. We hear. Do thou command us what is right.

Œdip. I may not go. Two evils press on me,
My failing strength and loss of power to see;
Let one of you go on and do these things.
For one soul working in the strength of love
Is mightier than ten thousand to atone;
But what ye do, do quickly. Only this500
I ask you, leave me not. This feeble frame,
Bereaved of you, unguided cannot creep.

Ism. I go to do thy bidding. But the place
Which it is mine to seek, I fain would learn.

Chor. Beyond this grove, Ο maiden. And if still
Thou lackest aught, our townsman here shall tell thee.

Ism. I would go forth to this. Antigone,
Guard thou our father. For a parent's sake,
Though one may toil, one should the toil forget. [Exit.

Chor. To stir the buried evil of the past,510
I know, is fearful; yet I fain would ask——

Œdip. Of what?

Chor. Of thy great sorrow, pitiful,
Grievous, perplexing, ever by thy side.

Œdip. By all thy ties of kindness, gentle friend,
Bid me not open deeds of foulest shame.

Chor. The wide-spread rumour growing evermore,
I fain would hear, my friend, the truth in all.

Œdip. Woe! woe!

Chor. Be patient, I beseech thee.

Œdip. Woe, woe is me!

Chor. Comply, as I have done with thy desire!520

*Œdip. Full evil fortune have I borne, my friends,
*But all against my will; for these, God knows,
Were none of them self-chosen.

Chor. How was this?

Œdip. In shameful wedlock did my country join me
Who nothing knew, yea, in accursèd marriage.

Chor. And did'st thou, as I hear, thy mother's bed
Take as thine own, in shame ineffable?

Œdip. Ah me! 'tis death to me to hear it said,
Ο stranger! And these children—they were born . . .530

Chor. What sayest thou?

Œdip. Two sorrows they were born . . . .

Chor. Ο Zeus!

Œdip. From the same womb to which I owed my birth.

Chor. Are they thy daughters?

Œdip. Yea, their father's sisters.

Chor. Ah woe!

Œdip. Ah woe ! ten thousand tangled ills . . .

Chor. Thou suffer'dst . . .

Œdip. Yes, I suffered fearful things.

Chor. And thou hast done . . .

Œdip. I have not done.

Chor. What then?

Œdip. I did but take as gift what I, poor wretch,540
Had, at my country's hands, not merited.

Chor. Poor sufferer, what but that? And didst thou kill . . . ?

Œdip. What say'st thou now? What wishest thou to learn?

Chor. Thy father?

Œdip. Ah, thou strikest blow on blow.

Chor. Did'st slay him?

Œdip. Yea, I slew him; but in this . . .

Chor. What sayest thou?

Œdip. I have some plea of right.

Chor. How so?

Œdip. I'll tell thee. Not with knowledge clear
I smote and slew him; but I did the deed,
By law, not guilty, ignorant of all.

Chor. Lo, Theseus comes! great Ægeus' son, our king,
At thy request, to hear thy message to him.550

Enter Theseus.

Thes. Hearing from many, in the years gone by,
(The bloody mischief thou did'st do thine eyes,)
I know thee, son of Laios, who thou art;
And hearing, as I came, fresh news, discern
Yet more; for thee, thy weeds and suffering face
Declare too plainly; and, with pitying heart,
I wish to ask, unhappy Œdipus,
Why thou sitt'st here, a suppliant to my state,
And to me also,—thou, and that poor girl
Who still attends thee? Tell me; dread indeed
The suffering thou should'st tell, for me to hold560
Myself aloof from it. Right well I know
That I myself was reared away from home,
As thou; and, more than most men, struggled through,[13]
In a strange land, full many a risk of life.
So from no stranger, coming as thou com'st,
Would I draw back, or fail to help and save;
I know that I am man, and I can count
No more than thou, on what the morrow brings.

Œdip. Theseus, thy noble heart, with fewest words,
Permits me too to answer thee in brief;570
For who I am, and of what father born,
And from what country come,—thou hast said all;
So that nought else remains but just to say
The things I wish for, and my tale is told.

Thes. Tell me then straightway, that I too may know.

Œdip. I come to give thee this poor feeble frame,
A sorry gift, uncomely to the sight.
But gain will come of it, that far outweighs
All outward beauty.

Thes. And what gain is this
Thou boastest that thou bring'st?

Œdip. In course of time
Thou shalt know all, but not this present hour.580

Thes. And when shall this, the gain thou bring'st, be clear?

Œdip. When I shall die, and thou shalt bury me.

Thes. Thou askest life's last care; what comes between
Thou dost forget, or make of no account.

Œdip. For me this goeth hand in hand with that.

Thes. 'Tis a small thing thou ask'st, this boon of thine.

Œdip. Look to it well. Not small the conflict here.

Thes. Mean'st thou a conflict of thy townsmen with me?

Œdip. Fain would they force me thither to return.

Thes. Against their will, it is not good to flee.590

Œdip. Nay, but they never gave me what I wished.

Thes. Ο fool, in troubles passion profits not.

Œdip. Hear first, then counsel. Till then, let me be.

Thes. Instruct me; unadvised I would not speak.

Œdip. Ο Theseus, I have suffered ills on ills.

Thes. Speak'st thou of that old sorrow of thy house?

Œdip. Not so. That sorrow all th' Hellenes know.

Thes. What more than human woe weighs sore on thee?

Œdip. Thus is it with me. I was driven away
By mine own sons; and never may I tread600
My country's soil, my father's murderer.

Thes. Why should they fetch thee then, apart to dwell?

Œdip. It is the voice of God constrains them to it.

Thes. What evil do the oracles forebode?

Œdip. That they are doomed in this thy land to fall.

Thes. And how should strife spring up 'twixt them and me?

Œdip. Ο son of Ægeus, unto Gods alone
Nor age can come, nor destined hour of death.
All else the almighty Ruler, Time, sweeps on.
Earth's strength shall wither, wither strength of limb,610
And trust decays, and mistrust grows apace;
And the same spirit lasts not among them
That once were friends, nor joineth state with state.
To these at once, to those in after years,
Sweet things grow bitter, then turn sweet again.
And what if now at Thebes all things run smooth
And well towards thee, Time, in myriad change,
A myriad nights and days brings forth; and thus
In these, for some slight cause, they yet may spurn
In battle, all their pledge of faithfulness.[14]620
And there this body, sleeping in the grave,
All cold and stiff, shall drink warm blood of men,
If Zeus be Zeus, and His son, Phœbos, true.
But, since it is ill done to speak of things
Best left unstirred, leave me where I began,
Thine own pledge keeping faithfully, and ne'er
Shalt thou have cause to say thou took'st me in,
Me, Œdipus, a guest unprofitable
To this thy land, unless the Gods deceive me.

Chor. Such words, my king, and others like to them,
Long since, this man has promised to perform.630

Thes. Who then were bold enough to cast aside
His kindly feeling for a man like this,
Who may claim, first, the ancient mutual ties,
The open hearth of men allied in arms;[15]
And next, has come a suppliant of the Gods,
And to my land and me full tribute pays?
These claims I reverence, and will not disown
My friendship for him; but will welcome him
In this our land. And if it please our guest
Here to remain, I charge thee o'er him watch;
But if to go with me shall please thee, Œdipus,640
I leave it thy choice to go or stay,
As thou think'st best, myself content with that.

Œdip. Ο Zeus! give blessings to such men as this!

Thes. What then desirest thou? To go with me?

Œdip. If it were lawful; . . . . But the place is here. . . . .

Thes. For what design? Speak! I will not oppose thee.

Œdip. Where I shall conquer those who cast me forth.

Thes. That were great boon for this thy stay with us.

Œdip. If what thou say'st abides with thee in act.

Thes. Fear not as touching me; I ne'er will fail thee.

Œdip. I bind thee not, like baser men, by oaths.650

Thes. No more by that thou'dst gain than from my word.

Œdip. How wilt thou act then?

Thes. What alarms thee most?

Œdip. Men will come here . . . .

Thes. Let these take charge of them.

Œdip. Beware, in leaving me . . . .

Thes. Nay, tell me not
What to beware.

Œdip. And yet I needs must, fearing . . . .

Thes. Fear my heart knows not.

Œdip. Thou know'st not their threats.

Thes. But this I know, that no man of them all
Shall drag thee off from hence against my will.
Full many men have uttered many a threat
In random wrath, but when their mind is calm,
The threatenings vanish and are seen no more.660
If they, perchance, waxed fierce, and spake big words
About thy going back, yet I know well
They 'll find the sea full wide and rough for them.
I bid thee, then, apart from my resolve,
Take heart, if it was Phœbos sent thee here:
And, even in my absence this I know,
My very name will guard thee from all harm. [Exit.

Stroph. I.[16]

Chor. Of all the land far famed for goodly steeds,
Thou com'st, Ο stranger, to the noblest spot,
Colonos, glistening bright,670
Where evermore, in thickets freshly green,
The clear-voiced nightingale
Still haunts, and pours her song,
By purpling ivy hid,
And the thick leafage sacred to the God,[17]
With all its myriad fruits,
By mortal's foot untouched,
By sun's hot ray unscathed,
Sheltered from every blast;
There wanders Dionysos evermore,
In full, wild revelry,
And waits upon the Nymphs who nursed his youth.680

Antistroph. I.

And there, beneath the gentle dews of heaven,
The fair narcissus with its clustered bells
Blooms ever, day by day,
Of old the wreath of mightiest Goddesses;[18]
And crocus golden-eyed;
And still unslumbering flow
Kephisos' wandering streams;[19]
They fail not from their spring, but evermore,
Swift-rushing into birth,
Over the plain they sweep,
The land of broad, full breast,
With clear and stainless wave.690
Nor do the Muses in their minstrel choirs,
Hold it in slight esteem,
Nor Aphrodite with her golden reins.[20]

Stroph. II.

And in it grows a marvel such as ne'er
On Asia's soil I heard,
Nor the great Dorian isle from Pelops named,[21]
A plant self-sown, that knows
No touch of withering age,
Terror of hostile swords,
Which here on this our ground
Its high perfection gains,700
The grey-green foliage of the olive-tree,[22]
Rearing a goodly race:
And never more shall man,
Or young, or bowed with years,
Give forth the fierce command,
And lay it low in dust.[23]
For lo! the eye of Zeus,
Zeus of our olive groves,
That sees eternally,
Casteth its glance thereon,
And she, Athena, with the clear, grey eyes.

Antistroph. II.

And yet another praise is mine to sing,710
Gift of the mighty God
To this our city, mother of us all,
Her greatest, noblest boast,
Famed for her goodly steeds,
Famed for her bounding colts,
Famed for her sparkling sea.
Poseidon, son of Kronos, Lord and King,[24]
To Thee this boast we owe,
For first in these our streets
Thou to the untamed horse
Did'st use the conquering bit:
And here the well-shaped oar,
By skilled hands deftly plied,
Still leapeth through the sea,
Following in wondrous guise,
The fair Nereids with their hundred feet.

Antig. O land, thus blest with praises that excel,720
'Tis now thy task to prove these glories true.

[Creon is seen approaching.

Œdip. What new thing happens, child?

Antig. Creon comes!
And comes, my father, not without an escort.

Œdip. Now, dear and honoured friends, of reverend age,
In you is my one goal of safety found.

Chor. Take heart! Thou {{sic||'lt find it; old although I be,
Our country's strength has not yet waxen old.

Enter Creon, attended by guards.

Creon. Ye worthy dwellers of this land, I see,
Your faces showing it, ye feel some fear
At this my sudden entry. Yet, I pray you,730
Shrink ye not from me, speak no evil words,
For I am come with no design to act,
Seeing I too am old, and know that I
Come to a city, great and powerful,
As any is in Hellas. I was sent,
Old as I am, this old man to persuade
To follow me to yon Cadmeian plain,
Not one man's envoy, but by all sent forth,
Because by kinship it is mine to mourn,
More than all others, this man's sufferings.
And thou, Ο woe-worn Œdipus, list to me,740
And homeward turn. The whole Cadmeian race
Invites thee heartily, I, most of all,
Since most, unless I were of all men basest,
I mourn, old man, for all thy many woes,
Beholding thee in all thy misery,
A stranger, and a wanderer evermore,
And wanting still the very means of life.
With one attendant, who, I never thought,
Would come to such a depth of ignominy,
As she, poor girl, has fallen to, who still,
Caring for thee, and that poor face of thine,750
In beggar's guise lives on,—at her age too,
Unsought in marriage, to the lust exposed
Of any passing stranger. Woe is me!
Is it not foul reproach of which I spake,
Reproaching thee, and me, and all thy race?
Yet, since 'tis vain to hide what all men see,
Do thou, by all my country's Gods, give ear,
And list to me, Ο Œdipus, and hide them,
As thou can'st do, if willing to return
To thine own city, and thy father's house,
To this state here a kindly farewell giving,
For it is worthy. But thine own that nursed
Thee long ago may claim yet more regard.760

Œdip. Ο shameless one, all daring! weaving still
Some crafty scheme from every righteous word,
Why triest thou again, and fain would'st take
Me prisoner, where I most should grieve to be?
For long ago, when I was mad with woe,
And I had joyed to leave the land for aye,
Thou would'st not grant this boon to me who asked;
But when my wrath was sated, saner grown,
And it was pleasant to abide at home,
Then did'st thou thrust me, drive me out by force,770
And kinship then had little weight with thee.
And now again, when thou dost see this state
Is friendly to me, it, and all its race,
Thou fain would'st drag me off, with glozing words
Hard purpose masking. But what profits it
To show thy love to men against their will?
Just as if one, when thou did'st seek and beg,
Should give thee nought, nor even wish to help,
And when thy soul was filled with all thy wish,
Should give, when favour little favour wins.780
Would'st thou not find this boon an empty show?
Yet such the thing that thou dost offer me,
Goodly in show, yet mischievous in act.
These too I 'll tell, that I may show thee base;
Thou com'st to take me, not to take me home,
But on the borders of thy land to place me,
That so thy state from troubles may be freed,
Untouched by any evil from this land.
That shall not be; but this shall be thy lot,
My stern Avenger dwelling with thee still;
And those my sons shall gain of that my land
Enough to die in, that and nothing more.790
Do not I wiser prove for Thebes than thou?
Yea, far, as I more clearly hear the voice
Of Phœbos, and of Zeus who calls Him son?
But here thy mouth has come with feignèd lips,
Speaking thy pointed words. Yet thou may'st reap
In this thy speech more evil far than good.
But since I know I move thee not, depart,
And leave us here in peace, for we should fare,
E'en as we are, not badly, being content.

Creon. Think'st thou I prosper less in what concerns thee,800
Than thou in what concerns thyself, in this?

Œdip. I am content, if thou dost not prevail,
Persuading me, or these my neighbours here.

Creon. Ο man ill-starred! shall time not make thee wise?
Wilt thou still bring to age such foul disgrace?

Œdip. Thy gift of speech is wondrous; but I know
None pleading well all causes, and yet just.

Creon. Much speech is one thing, well-timed speech another.

Œdip. Thy speech, of course, is brief and well-timed too.

Creon. Not so, to one whose wisdom is as thine.810

Œdip. Go thou thy way, for in the name of these
I say it, watch me not with ill intent,
To plan attack where I should dwell in peace.

Creon. Not thee, but these I take as witnesses
What words thou giv'st thy friends; should I seize thee . . .

Œdip. And who will seize me, spite of these allies?

Creon. Yet, without this, there's grief in store for thee.

Œdip. What act do these thy threatening words portend?

Creon. Of thy two daughters one but now I seized,
And sent her off; the other follows soon.

Œdip. Ah me!

Creon. Full soon thou wilt have more to groan for.820

Œdip. Hast thou my child?

Creon. And this one too ere long.

[Guards seize Antigone.

Œdip. Ho! friends, what do ye? Will ye thus betray me,
Nor drive this godless monster from your land?

Chor. Depart, Ο stranger, quickly! Wrong the deed
Thou doest now; wrong what thou did'st before.

Creon. [To his guards.] Now is your time, against her will to seize her,
If with her own free will she goeth not.

Antig. Ah, wretched me! And whither shall I fly?
What help from Gods or mortals shall I find?

Chor. What means this, stranger?

Creon. Him I will not touch,
But this girl 's mine.830

Œdip. Ο rulers of the land!

Chor. Not just, Ο stranger, are the deeds thou doest.

Creon. Nay, just are they.

Chor. How can'st thou call them just?

Creon. I carry off mine own.

Œdip. Ho! city! to the rescue!

Chor. What means this, stranger? Wilt not let her go?
Soon thou wilt force me to the test of strength.

[The Chorus try to rescue Antigone.

Creon. Keep off, I tell thee.

Chor. Not while thou attemp'st
Such things as these.

Creon. If thou dost injure me,
Thou with my state wilt have to wage thy war.

Œdip. Did not I tell thee this?

Chor. Let go thy hand
From off this maid!

Creon. Command not where thou 'rt weak.

Chor. [To one of Creon's troops.] I bid thee set her free.840

Creon. [To the same.] I bid thee go!

Chor. Come, neighbours, come! Come hither to our help:
Our state is injured, yes, our state. With might
Come hither, help!

Antig. Ah, friends! ah, friends! they drag me, wretched one!

Œdip. Where art thou, child?

Antig. Against my will I go.

Œdip. Stretch forth thine hands, my child.

Antig. No power have I.

Creon. [To the guards.] Will ye not lead her?

Œdip Woe is me! all woe.

[Guards carry off Antigone.

Creon. No longer, then, on these props leaning, thou
Shalt travel onward. But since thou wilt thwart
Thy country and thy friends, at whose behest850
I do these deeds, although myself a king,
Thwart us, if so it please thee. For, in time,
I know right well, thou 'lt learn to see thyself
As neither now consulting thine own good,
Nor in the time that's past, when thou did'st act
Against the counsel of thy friends, and yield
To that fierce wrath that plagues thee ceaselessly.

[Moves as if about to depart.

Chor. Hold there, my friend!

[Advances towards Creon.

Creon. I tell thee, touch me not.

Chor. Though robbed of these, I will not let thee go.

Creon. Thou 'lt make thy state a larger ransom pay,
For not on these alone I lay my hand.

Chor. What mean' st thou then?

Creon. Him also will I take!860

Chor. Thy words are big.

Creon. Yet it shall soon be done,
Unless the ruler of this land forbid me.

Œdip. Ο shameful threat! Shalt thou lay hands on me?

Creon. Silence, I charge thee!

Œdip. May these Goddess-Powers
Not smite me speechless till I speak my curse
On thee, thou vile one, robbing me by force
Of that last light, when other lights were quenched.
For this may yon bright Sun-god, scanning all,
Grant thee thyself, and all thy race with thee,
To wear thy life in dreary age like mine.870

Creon. See ye these things, ye dwellers in this land?

Œdip. They see both me and thee, and judge that I,
Wronged by thy deeds, by words defend myself.

Creon. I 'll check my wrath no more. Although alone,
And worn with age, I 'll lead him hence by force.

Œdip. Ah, wretched me!

Chor. Thy pride is great, my friend,
If that thou thinkest thus to work thy will.

Creon. And yet I think it.

Chor. Then our country 's lost.

Creon. In a just cause the weak o'erpowers the strong.

CEdip. Hear ye what things he utters?

Chor. Things which he880
Shall ne'er accomplish!

Creon. Zeus knows that, not thou!

Chor. And is not this an outrage?

Creon. Outrage! aye;
Still thou must bear it!

Chor. Ho! ye people, come!
Ye rulers of this land come quickly—haste!
These men are getting far upon their way.

Enter Theseus, followed by Athenians.

Thes. What means this cry? What do ye? What ill fearing
Have ye thus stopped me in the act of slaughter,
Even at the altar, to the God of Ocean,
Guardian of this Colonos? Tell your tale out,
That I may know why I have rushed in haste thus,
With greater speed than one would walk for pleasure.890

Œdip. Ο dearest friend!—for well I know thy voice—
At this man's hands I suffer fearful wrongs.

Thes. What are they? Who has injured thee? Speak on!

Œdip. This Creon, whom thou seest, has torn from me
The only pair that I as children claim.

Thes. How say'st thou?

Œdip. What I suffer thou hast heard.

Thes. Let some one, then, to yonder altars go
With utmost speed to summon all the people,
Both horse and foot, to hasten, tarrying not
For sacrifice, with loosened rein, and meet
Where the two paths of travellers converge,[25]900
Lest those two maidens slip from out our hands,
And I, outdone, become a laughing-stock
To him, this stranger. Go, I bid you, quickly.
And as for him, if I were wroth with him,
E'en as he merits, he should not depart
Unhurt from me; but with the self-same laws
With which he came shall he be recompensed,
Those and no others. [To Creon.] Never shalt thou stir
From out this land until before mine eyes910
Thou place those maidens. Thou dost grievous wrong
To thine own self, thy fathers, and thy country,
Who, coming to a state that loves the right,
And without law does nothing, sett'st at nought
The things it most reveres, and rushing in,
Tak'st what thou wilt, with deeds of violence.
Thou must have deemed my city void of men,
Slave-like, submissive, and myself as nought.
And yet it was not Thebes that made thee base:
'Tis not her wont to rear unrighteous men;920
Nor would'st thou win her praise, if she should hear
Thou tramplest on my rights, deftest Gods,
And rudely seizest these poor suppliants.
I truly, had I entered on thy land,
Although my cause were justest of the just,
Would not, without the ruler of the land,
Be he who may, have seized or led away;
But should have known what way I ought to live,
A stranger sojourning with citizens.
But thou dost shame a city which deserves
A better fate,—thine own; and time's full course,930
Making thee old, has robbed thee of thy mind.
I told thee this before, and tell thee now,
To bring the girls as quickly as thou can'st,
Unless thou fain would'st live an alien here,
By force, against thy will. And this I say,
With all my soul, as well as with my tongue.

Chor. See'st thou, Ο stranger, how the case doth stand?
Just by thy birth and fame, thy deeds are wrong.

Creon. Not that I count this city void of men,
(I use thy words, Ο son of Ægeus old,)940
Nor void of counsel, have I done this deed,
Well knowing that no zeal for those my kindred
Would ever lead it to receive them here
In spite of my commands. I also knew
Ye ne'er would shield a parricide impure,
Nor one whose marriage was an incest foul;
I knew that in this land a Council met
Upon the hill of Ares, wise and good,
Which suffers not such wanderers to dwell
Within their city. Trusting this report,
I ventured on this seizure. Yet e'en thus950
I had not done it, but he heaped his curse
On me and on my house, and, suffering thus,
I claimed the right of rendering ill for ill,
[For headstrong wrath knows no old age but death;
The dead are callous to the touch of pain.]
Wherefore do what thou wilt, for though I speak
With justice on my side, yet, being alone,
But little power is left me. Yet thy deeds
Old as I am I 'll strive to render back.

Œdip. Ο shameless soul! on which, think'st thou, thy scorn960
Will fall most heavily, my age or thine?
Who with thy lips dost tell the goodly tale,
Of murders, incests, sad calamities,
Which I, poor wretch, against my will endured;
For thus it pleased the Gods, incensed, perhaps,
Against my father's house for guilt of old.
For, as regards my life, thou could'st not find
One spot of guilt, in recompense for which
I sinned these sins against myself and mine.
Tell me, I pray, if God-sent oracles
Declared his son's hand should my father slay,970
How could'st thou justly heap reproach on me,
Who had no nurture at my father's hands,
Nor at my mother's, but, as one self-grown,
Rose then to manhood? Or, if once again,
Born, as I was, to misery and shame,
I with my father came to blows, and slew him,
Not knowing what I did, or unto whom;
How can'st thou rightly blame th' unconscious sin?
And thou, all shameless, blushest not to force
My lips to speak of marriage with my mother,
With her who was thy sister. I will speak
Of these things quickly, will not hold my peace,980
Since thou hast ventured on such hateful speech.
She bore me; yes, she bore me—(woe is me!)
Unknowing, bearing me who knew her not;
And having borne, to me she issue gave,
Her shame and her reproach. But this I know,
That thou of thy free will speak'st foulest words
Against her name and mine, while I, against
My will espoused her, and against my will
Now speak these things. And yet my name shall bear
No evil brand by reason of that marriage,
Nor for my father's death that thou still harp'st on,990
With bitter words of shame reproaching me.
Just answer then this question that I ask:
If one should seek to slay thee here and now,
Thee, the famed just one, would'st thou stay to ask
If 'twere thy father's hand that aimed the blow,
Or would'st thou straightway parry it? I think,
As thou lov'st life, thou would'st requite thy foe,
And would'st not look so narrowly at right;
Such ills, at any rate, were those I fell on,
The Gods still leading me; nor can I think
My father's soul, if it returned to life,
Would plead against me here. But thou think'st fit,—
Since just thou'rt not, as one who deems it right1000
To speak of all things, whether fit for speech
Or things which none may utter,—before these
To heap reproach on me. And Theseus' name
It suits thee well to flatter, and to speak
Of Athens, and her goodly polity;
And yet thus praising, thou forgettest this,
That she, if any land reveres the Gods,
In this excels; and yet from her thou dar'st
To steal a suppliant, grey and hoar with age,
And those two maidens hast already taken.
And for these deeds, these Goddess-Powers I call1010
And supplicate, and weary with my prayers,
To come as helpers and allies, that thou
May'st learn their mettle who this land defend.

Chor. The man, Ο king, speaks nobly, and his woes
Are grievous, and they call us to assist him.

Thes. Enough of words, for they who snatched their prey
Haste on, while we who suffer wrong stand still.

Creon. What orders giv'st thou to a man defenceless?

Thes. That thou should'st lead the way, and I should go
Thy escort, so that if thou hast his girls1020
Within our borders, thou may'st show them me;
But if they get beyond, we need not toil;
For there are others, hastening to pursue,
And those who flee shall never thank the Gods
As 'scaped from this our land: but lead thou on,
And know that thou who hold'st thy prey art held,
And chance has caught thee, hunter as thou art;
For gains, ill gotten by a fraud unjust,
Can never prosper. And another's help
Thou shalt not have in this, for well I know
Thou had'st not ventured on so great a wrong
Alone, unbacked, but there is some one else,1030
Trusting to whom thou did'st it. And for me,
I must look well to this: nor leave my state
By one man conquered, weak and powerless.
Regard'st thou aught of this, or seems it vain,
Both now, and when thou planned'st these thy schemes?

Creon. While thou speak'st here, I fault with nothing find;
When we reach home, we shall know what to do.

Thes. Go on and threaten. Thou, Ο Œdipus,
Stay here in peace and comfort, trusting me
That I, unless I die, will never rest,1040
Before I give thy children to thy hands.

Œdip. God bless thee, Theseus, for thy noble heart,
And all thy just and generous care for us.

[Exeunt Theseus and Athenians, with Creon
and his guards.

Stroph. I.

Chor. Ah! would that I were there[26]
Where onset fierce of men
Arrayed for fight shall join
In brazen-throated war;
Or at the Pythian fane,
Or by the torch-lit shores,[27]
Where awful Powers still watch,1050
O'er solemn rites for men of mortal race;
Whose golden key is set upon the lips
Of priests, Eumolpidæ, who tend their shrine.
There, so I deem, will meet
Our Theseus, brave in fight,
And those two sisters, proof
Against all toil and pain,
Will meet on this our land,
With cry, that uttereth all their hearts' desire.

Antistroph. I.

Or else, perchance, they cross
The side that westward slopes
Of yonder snow-crowned height,1060
On to Œatis' lawns,[28]
Speeding on goodly steeds,
Or race of chariots swift;
Yes, they will take their prey,
For terrible our townsmen's strength for war,
And terrible the might of Theseus's sons.
For every horse's curb is gleaming bright,
And all that sit their steeds
Rush forth with loosened reins,
Who at Athena's shrine,
Where on her steed she sits,1070
Bow down, or homage pay
To Rhea's son, the sea-God, ruling earth.

Stroph. II.

Strike they or do they linger? Shadowy hopes
Come on my soul, that he
Perchance surrenders now
The maiden who hath borne
Full many a grief, and many a wrong endured
At her own kinsmen's hands.
Yes, Zeus this day will work, will work His way;
Prophet of brave deeds I.1080
Ah would that I, a dove on pinions swift,
Might gain some cloud that floats in æther clear,
And glad my longing eyes
With sight of this fierce conflict of the brave.

Antistroph. II.

Ο Zeus! thou Lord omnipotent of Gods,
Who all on earth beholdest,
Grant that our country's chiefs,
With strength for victory,
May lay their ambush, and may seize their prey;
And thou, Ο child of Zeus,1090
Pallas, Athena; thou too huntsman-God,
Apollo, in thy strength,
And she, thy sister, following evermore
Swift-footed antelopes with dappled skin;
I pray you come and help
Doubly, this land, and its inhabitants.

[Theseus is seen approaching with Antigone
and Ismene.

Chor. O way-worn stranger, thou wilt not reproach
Thy watchman as false prophet, for I see
These maidens now approaching us once more.

Œdip. Where? where? How say'st thou?

Antig. [Rushing to Œdipus.] My father, Ο my father!
Oh! that some God would grant thee but to see1100
This best of men who brings us back to thee.

Œdip. Are you both here, my child?

Antig. Yes, Theseus' hands
And those of his dear comrades rescued us.

Œdip. My child, draw near thy father, give to me
To clasp the form I little hoped would come.

Antig. Thou shalt have what thou ask'st. That boon thou seek'st
Is what we yearn for.

Œdip. Where then, where are ye?

Antig. Together, close to thee.

Œdip. Ο dearest offspring!

Antig. Dear to a father is each child of his.

Œdip. Props of my age are ye!

Antig. Sad age, sad props.

Œdip. I have you then, ye dear ones, nor would death1110
Be wholly dreary, ye twain standing near.
Support me, then, on this side and on that,
Close clinging to your father. Rest awhile
From all the sad lone wanderings of the past,
And tell me briefly how the deed was done:
For at your age the fewest words are best.

Antig. Here is the man who saved us; hear thou him,
Whose is the deed, and then my task is light.

Œdip. [To Theseus.] Oh, wonder not, my friend, if I prolong
My tedious speech, now these, beyond my hopes,1120
Appear again; for well I know this joy
To me has come from no one else but thee;
For thou hast saved them, thou, and only thou;
And may the Gods grant all that I could wish
To thee and to thy land. For I have found
Here only among men the fear of God,
The mood of kindness, and the truthful word;
And knowing this, I pay it back with thanks;
For what I have, I have through thee alone.
And now, Ο prince, I pray, thy right hand give,1130
That I may grasp it, and, if that may be,
Kiss thy dear brow. And yet, how dare I ask?
Why should I wish, all foul and miserable,
To touch a man upon whose soul there dwells
No taint of evil? No! I will not ask,
I will not let thee do it. They alone
Can feel for mourners who themselves have mourned.
Farewell, then, where thou art; from henceforth care
For me as well as thou hast cared to-day.

Thes. Not though thy words were lengthened out yet more,
For joy of these thy daughters, should I marvel,1140
Nor if their words thou should'st prefer to mine.
[No pain or grievance touches me in this;]
For it is still my care to make my life,
Not by my words illustrious, but by deeds.
And thus I prove it: of the things I swore
In nothing have I failed; these girls I bring
Alive, unscathed by all the threatened harm.
And how the fight was won what need to boast
All idly, when their lips shall tell thee all?
But for the news that met me as I came,1150
Just now, take counsel. Short enough to tell,
It yet is passing strange. And one should learn,
Being man, to think no scorn of aught that is.

Œdip. What is this, son of Ægeus? Speak, I pray;
For I know nothing of the things thou ask'st.

Thes. They say that some one, near of kin to thee,
Yet not from Thebes, thy city, suppliant sits
Close by Poseidon's altar, where it chanced,
When summoned here, I offered sacrifice.

Œdip. What kind of man was he? and seeking what1160
By this his suppliant posture?

Thes. Nought I know
But this; he asks, they tell me, short discourse
With thee, no heavy burden.

Œdip. What is this?
Of no light import is this suppliant's prayer.

Thes. They say he asks to come and speak with thee,
And then return in safety as he came.

Œdip. Who can it be that asks a boon like this?

Thes. Think if at Argos any kinsman dwells
Who might desire to gain this boon from thee.

Œdip. Stop, dearest friend, I pray.

Thes. What aileth thee?

Œdip. Ask it not of me!

Thes. Ask not what? Say on.1170

Œdip. I know too well, from what these girls have told me,
Who this strange suppliant is.

Thes. And who is he,
That I should charge the man with any fault?

Œdip. My son, Ο prince, from whom of all that live,
I could least bear to hear the sound of speech.

Thes. Why so? Hast thou not power to hear, nor do
The things thou would'st not? Why should hearing pain thee?

Œdip. That voice is hateful to a father's ear;
I pray thee, prince, constrain me not to yield.

Thes. But if his rights as suppliant should constrain us,
Take heed that thou shew reverence for our God.1180

Antig. My father, be persuaded, though I speak
But a girl's counsel. Suffer thou this friend,
E'en as he wills, to do as conscience prompts,
And as his God demands. And grant to us
That this our brother come; for, take good heart,
He shall not draw thee on against thy judgment
With words which are not fitting. What the harm
To list to words? Yea, evil deeds and plots
By words disclose themselves. He is thy child;
And therefore, Ο my father, 'tis not right,
Although his deeds to thee be basest, vilest,1190
To render ill for ill. But let him come;
Others ere now have thankless offspring reared,
And bitter wrath have felt; but they, with spells
Of friends' good counsel, charmed their souls to peace.
Look not upon the present but the past,
Thy father's and thy mother's woes, and thou,
I know full well, wilt see that evil mood
An evil issue finds for evermore;
For strong the proofs thou hast within thyself,
In those poor sightless eyeballs. Nay, but yield—
Yield thou to us. It is not good to meet
With stiff denials those who ask for right;
Nor, having met with good at others' hands,
To fail in rendering good for good received.

Œdip. Your words prevail, my child, and yet your joy
To me is grievous. Be it as you will:
Only, my friend, if he should hither come,
Let no one get the mastery of my life.

Thes. I wish to hear those words but once, old friend,
Not twice renewed. I am not wont to boast;
But know thou 'rt safe, if any God saves me. [Exit.1210


Chor. He who seeks length of life,
Sighting the middle path,
Shall seem, to me at least,
As brooding o'er vain dreams.
Still the long days have brought
Griefs near, and nearer yet.
And joys—thou canst not see
One trace of what they were;
When a man passeth on
To length of days beyond the rightful bourne;
*But lo, the helper comes that comes to all,1220
*When doom of Hades looms upon his sight,
The bridegroom's joy all gone,
The lyre all silent now,
The choral music hushed,
Death comes at last.


Happiest beyond compare
Never to taste of life;
Happiest in order next,
Being born, with quickest speed
Thither again to turn
From whence we came.
When youth hath passed away,
With all its follies light,1230
What sorrow is not there?
*What trouble then is absent from our lot?
Murders, strifes, wars, and wrath, and jealousy,
And, closing life's long course, the last and worst,
An age of weak caprice,
Friendless, and hard of speech,
Where, met in union strange,
Dwell ills on ills.


And here this woe-worn one
(Not I alone) is found;
As some far northern shore,1240
Smitten by ceaseless waves,
Is lashed by every wind;
So ever-haunting woes,
Surging in billows fierce,
Lash him from crown to base;
Some from the westering sun,
Some from the eastern dawn,
These, from the noontide south,
Those, from the midnight of Rhipæan hills.[29]

Antig. And here, my father, so it seems, he comes,
The stranger, all alone, and, as he walks,1250
He sheds a flood of tears incessantly.

Œdip. Who is this man?

Antig. He, who this long time past
We thought and spoke of, Polyneikes, comes.

Enter Polyneikes.

Polyn. What shall I do, ah me! . . . mine ills bewail,
My sisters, or shed tears for what I see
My aged father suffering? I have found
Both him and you in strange land wandering;
And this his garb, whose time-worn squalidness
Matches the time-worn face, and makes the form1260
All foul to look on, and his uncombed hair,
Tossed by the breeze, falls o'er his sightless brow.
And she, my sister, as it seems, provides
For this poor life its daily sustenance.
All this I learn too late, me miserable!
And now, I bear my witness that I come,
As to thy keeping, basest of the base:
Learn not my faults from others. But since there,
Sharing the throne of Zeus, Compassion dwells,
Regarding all our deeds; so let it come
And dwell with thee, my father. For our faults
We shall find healing, more we cannot add.
Why art thou silent?——Speak, my father, speak;1270
Turn not away.——And wilt thou answer nought,
But send'st me back dishonoured?——Voiceless still?
Not speaking e'en the matter of thy wrath!
And ye, his children, ye, my sisters, strive
To ope your father's sealed and stubborn lips
That he reject me not, thus scorned and shamed,
(God's suppliant too) not one word answering.

Antig. Say, thou thyself, poor sufferer, what thou need'st,1280
For many words, or giving sense of joy,
Or stirring anger, or the touch of pity,
Have from the speechless drawn forth speech at last.

Polyn. Well, I will tell thee. Thou dost guide me well;
First, calling on the God to give me help,
Bowed at whose shrine, the ruler of this land
Raised me, and brought me hither, granting me
To speak and hear, and safely to depart:
And this I wish, my friends, from you to gain,
And from my sisters, and my father here.1290
And why I came, my father, now I 'll tell thee.
Behold me exiled from my fatherland,
Driven forth, because I claimed by right of age
To sit upon thy throne of sovereignty.
And so Eteocles, though younger born,
Hath thrust me forth, not baffling me in speech,
Nor coming to the test of strength and deed,
But winning o'er the state. Of this, I say,
Thy dread Erinnyes is the chiefest cause;
And next, I hear thus much by prophets told:1300
For when I came to Argos, Dorian named,
Making the daughter of Adrastos mine,
I gathered as confederates in my cause,
All who are chiefest in the Apian land,[30]
Renowned in battle, that this armament,
With seven great chiefs, might follow me to Thebes,
And I might either die a noble death,
Or drive to exile those who did me wrong.
Well then, what chance has brought me hitherward?
This, Ο my father. With a suppliant's prayers
Both for myself, and my allies, I come,1310
The seven great armies by seven captains led,
That gird the plain of Thebes. And first, there comes
Amphiaraos, wielding mighty spear,
Supreme in war, supreme in auguries;
Then next in order, the Ætolian son
Of Œneus, Tydeus named; and Argive born,
Eteoclos the third; Hippomedon,
By Talaos sent, the fourth; and Capaneus
The fifth, boasts loud that he with fiery blaze,
Will soon lay waste the citadel of Thebes,
And utterly destroy it. Sixth, there comes
Parthenopæos, the Arcadian, named1320
From his chaste mother, true and worthy son
Of Atalanta. And I, last, thy son,
Or if not thine, the child of evil Fate,
Yet known as thine, I lead the Argive host
Undaunted, against Thebes. And all of us,
By these thy children, and thy life, my father,
With one accord entreat thee, and implore
To let thy mood of wrath give way to him
Who stands before thee, hastening to chastise
The brother who deprived me of my home,
And robbed me of my country. This we ask,1330
For if there be aught true in oracles,
They say the side thou cleavest to will win;
Wherefore, by all the fountains of thy home,
And all thy household Gods, I pray thee yield.
Poor and in exile we, in exile thou,
And thou and I, the same ill fortune sharing,
Live, hangers-on on others, while, alas!
The despot lord at home, in pride of state
Mocks at us both; but I, if thou wilt join
Thy mind with mine, will scatter all his might,1340
Without much waste of trouble or of time,
And so will bring thee to thy home once more,
Stablish myself, and cast him out by force.
And this, if thou consent, 'tis mine to boast:
Without thee I've no strength to save myself.

Chor. For his sake, Œdipus, who sent him here,
Send the man back, with answer as seems fit.

Œdip. Were it not so, my friends, that he who rules
This land had sent him, Theseus, asking me
To let him hear my words, no voice of mine1350
His ears had heard. But now he shall go forth
Gaining his end, and hearing words from me
Which never shall bring gladness to his life.
For thou, thou vile one, having in thy hands
The thrones and sceptre which thy brother has,
Who rules in Thebes, did'st drive thy father forth,
And mad'st him homeless, wearing weeds like these,
Which now thou weep'st to look on, when in grief
Like mine thou too art fallen. These are things
I may not weep for: I must bear them still,1360
While life lasts, counting thee my murderer;
For thou wast he who plunged me in this woe;
Thou drov'st me into exile; by thy deed,
A wanderer through the world, I beg my bread,
And had I not these girls to care for me,
That too would fail, for aught that thou would'st do.
But now they save my life; they tend on me;
No women they, but men in will to toil:
But ye are not my sons; I own ye not.
As yet the God forbears to look on thee,1370
As soon He shall, if these thy armies move
Against the towers of Thebes. It may not be
That thou shalt ever lay that city waste,
But thou thyself shalt fall, with blood defiled;
And so shall fall thy brother. Once before
I breathed these curses deep upon you both,
And now I bid them come as my allies,
That ye may learn the reverence due from sons,
Nor, being what you are, think scorn of me,
Your blind old father; (these thou look'st on here
Have done far other deeds;) and therefore they,
Those Curses, sway thy prayers, thy sovereignty,1380
If still there dwells beside the throne of Zeus
The Eternal Right that rests on oldest laws;
And thou—may ruin seize thee, loathed and base!
I am no more thy father; take my curse
Which now I pour on thee, thy native land
Never by sword to conquer, nor again
Return to Argos in the dale, but die,
Slain by a brother's hand, and slaying him
Who drove thee forth to exile. So I curse
And call on that drear dark of Tartaros,
My father's home, to snatch thee from the earth,1390
And call on these dread Powers, and I invoke
Ares who stirred this fearful hate in you.
Hear this, and go thy way! And then proclaim
To all the race of Cadmos, and to those
Thy true allies, that Œdipus has left
To both his sons, such legacies as these.

Chor. I cannot wish thee joy of thy late journey,
Ο Polyneikes! and I bid thee turn
At once with fullest speed, thy backward way.

Polyn. Woe, then, for all my wandering, all my failure.
Woe, too, for all my friends. Is this the goal1400
For which from Argos starting, (wretched me!)
We hither came? an end I dare not tell
To any of my friends, nor turn them back;
But needs must meet my fate without a word.
But Ο my sisters, ye—for ye have heard
My father's bitter curse—I charge you both,
If these dire curses find fulfilment dread,
And it is given you homeward to return,
Do not ye scorn me: give me honours meet,
A seemly burial, decent funeral rites;1410
And this your praise, which now ye get from him
For whom ye labour, other praise shall bear,
No whit inferior, for your love to me.

Antig. I pray thee, Polyneikes, yield to me.

Polyn. In what, thou dear Antigone? Speak on.

Antig. Lead back thy host to Argos, slackening not,
Nor ruin both thy country and thyself.

Polyn. It may not be. How, known as coward once,
Could I again lead forth an armament?

Antig. And why, dear boy, need'st thou be wroth again?1420
What profit hast thou in thy country's fall?

Polyn. Retreat is base; and base that I, the elder,
Should thus be mocked and flouted by my brother.

Antig. And see'st thou then, how those his oracles
Thou leadest to fulfilment, that you both
Should meet your death, each from the other's hand?

Polyn. His wish begets the thought. We may not yield.

Antig. Ο wretched me! and who will follow thee,
Hearing the evils which his lips predict?

Polyn. These idle threats we tell not. Wise in war
Is he who speaks the better, not the worse.1430

Antig. And is thy mind, my brother, fixed and firm?

Polyn. Restrain me not. Sad counsel must I take,
For this my march, beforehand doomed to fail,
By him, my father, and the Erinnyes dread.
But you,—Zeus bless you, if to me in death
Ye grant the boon I asked for; for in life
Ye meet me not again. And now, release me.
Farewell! ye look upon my face no more.

Antig. Ah wretched me!

Polyn. Bemoan thou not for me!

Antig. And who could keep from wailing, brother dear,
For thee, thus rushing on an open grave?1440

Polyn. Well, I will die, if so I must.

Antig. Not so.
List thou to me.

Polyn. Persuade me not to wrong.

Antig. Ah, misery! to be bereaved of thee!

Polyn. These things depend on God, this way or that,
To be or not to be; but I for you
Will pray the Gods that ye may meet no harm,
Who, as all deem, no evil have deserved. [Exit.

[The sky grows dark, thunder is heard in the

Stroph. I.

Chor. Freshly they come on me,
Fresh ills, and burdens grievous to be borne,
From this blind wanderer, unless, perchance,
His destiny comes on him:1450
For what the Gods decree I cannot count
As done in vain. Time evermore looks on,
And sees these things, now overturning some,
And now, within a day, exalting them.
Ο Zeus, the high heaven thunders!

Œdip. My children, oh, that some one, present here,
Would call back Theseus, best and noblest, hither!

Antig. What is thy purpose, father, that thou call'st him?

Œdip. This wingèd thunder sent from Zeus, will lead me1460
Straightway to Hades. Make good speed to send.

[Peals of thunder are heard at intervals during
the remainder of the Choral Ode.

Antistroph. I.

Chor. So the loud thunder crashes,
Hurled forth from Zeus, with dread unspeakable,
And fear creeps up to every topmost hair.
I tremble in my soul:
For lo! the fire from heaven has blazed again.
What will the end be? Much I fear. In vain
It never comes, nor without issue dread.1470
Ο mighty heaven! Ο Zeus!

Œdip. My children! now the destined end of life
Is come to him who stands here: flight is none.

Antig. How know'st thou this? What token comes to thee?

Œdip. I know right well. But, oh, let some one fetch,
Losing no time, the ruler of the land!

Stroph. II.

Chor. Ah! ah! again the crash
Rolls piercingly around.
Be pitiful, Ο God, be pitiful,
If thou bring'st darkness on our mother-land;1480
And may I find thee gracious evermore,
Nor, looking on a man accursèd, reap
A boon that profits not.
King Zeus, I call on thee!

Œdip. Is your chief near? And will he find me, children,
Still living, still with wonted powers of mind?

Antig. What secret would'st thou to his soul confide?

Œdip. I would fain give the good I promised him,
Some poor return for all that I received.1490

Antistroph. II.

Chor. Come, come, my son, come quick,
*Though on the valley's edge
*Thou consecrat'st the hearth for sacrifice
To Ocean's lord, Poseidon, come thou quick;
For lo! the stranger fain would give to thee,
Thy city, and thy friends, just meed of thanks
For kind acts done. Come, haste,
Haste onward, Ο my king.

Enter Theseus.

Thes. What means this mingled din? For lo! full plain,1500
My subjects' voice, and clear the stranger's too.
Is it the thunderbolt of Zeus, or shower
Of hail bursts on you? When Heaven sends storm like this,
All wild conjectures seem most probable.

Œdip. Thou com'st, Ο prince, to one who much desires thee,
And 'tis a God that blest thy journey hither.

Thes. What new event, Ο son of Laios, moves thee?

Œdip. My life's scale turns i' the balance. I would fain
In death be true to thee and to thy State.

Thes. What token that the end is near hast thou?

Œdip. The Gods themselves are heralds of my doom,
Failing in nought of all the appointed signs.

Thes. What is't, old friend, makes these things clear to thee?1510

Œdip. These many thunder-claps, that still roar on,
These many flashes from the unconquered Hand.

Thes. I trust thy word, for I perceive thy soul
Divineth many things, and none are false;
And therefore tell me, what I needs must do.

Œdip. I will inform thee, son of Ægeus old,
Of things for thee and for thy city, free
From any touch of Time's consuming power:
And I myself, with none to guide my steps,
Will show the spot where I am doomed to die.1520
And this, I charge thee, tell to none on earth;
Nor where the grave, nor e'en the region, tell,
Whose fields enclose it. So shall he who speaks
Give greater strength to thee than many shields,
Or hireling force called in, 'gainst neighbouring lands;
And for the mystic words which none may speak,
Thyself shalt learn them, going there alone,
For I to none of these may utter them,
Nor even to my children, though I love them.
And thou, I charge thee, hide them evermore;[31]1530
And when thy death-hour comes, to one alone,
Thine eldest born, disclose them: and, in turn,
Let each reveal to those that follow him.
And so thou shalt establish this thy land,
By dragon's brood unhurt.[32] A thousand states,
Though governed well, have lightly waxed o'er-proud;
For, though the Gods see clearly, they are slow
In marking when a man, despising them,
Turns from their worship to the scorn of fools.
Far be such fate from thee, Ο Ægeus' son;
These things we teach thee, though thou knowest them.
And now, for still the promptings of the God1540
Press on me strongly, let us seek the spot,
Nor linger on in fear. My children, follow;
A new guide I for you, as ye have been
To me your father. Come ye. Touch me not;
But let me find the hallowed grave myself,
Where fate has fixed that he who speaks shall lay
His bones to rest in this fair land we tread.
Come hither,—hither,—this way. So He leads,
Hermes the guide, and She who reigns below.[33]
Ο Light! to me all dark, thou once wast mine,
And now this body feels thy ray's last touch,1550
Now, and no more; for now I grope my way,
To hide the dwindling remnant of my life
In Hades dark. And thou, of all friends dearest,
Live happy, thou, thy country, and thy servants;
And in your great good fortune, think of me
When I am gone, and ye are prosperous still.

[Exit Œdipus, followed, at some distance,
by Theseus, Antigone, and Ismene.


Chor. If rightly I may come with homage due
To Her whom none may see,
And thee, Ο King of those that dwell in night,
Aidoneus, Ο Aidoneus!1560
I supplicate thy aid; Ο grant that he,
The stranger, wend his way,
With no long agony,
No fate of many woes, to that dark land,
The home of all the dead,
Still wrapt in Stygian gloom.
For so, though many woes unmerited
Upon his life have come,
God, the All-just, shall raise him up again.


Ye Goddess Powers, who in the central dark[34]
Dwell evermore, and thou,
Dread form of mightiest monster, who, they say,
Still find'st thy lair by gates
That turn on well-worn hinge continually,1570
And from thy cavern growl'st,
Watchman of Hades dread;
Bid him, thou Son of Earth and Tartaros,
Bid him, I pray, withdraw,
Leaving an open path,
For him who travels to the fields below,
There where the dead abide:
Thee, I invoke, the Lord of endless sleep!

Enter a Messenger.

Mess. To tell my tale, in fewest words, good sirs,
I need but say that Œdipus is dead;1580
But what has passed, the deeds that there were done,
My tale, in short discourse, would fail to tell.

Chor. Is he then dead, ill-starred one?

Mess. Think of him
As having closed his weary course of life.

Chor. How? Was it by God-given, painless death?

Mess. Yea, these are things we well may wonder at;
For how he went from hence, thou knowest well,
(Thyself being present) no friend guiding him,
But he himself still led the way for all;
And when he neared the threshold's broken slope,1590
With steps of bronze fast rooted in the soil,
He stopped on one of paths that intersect,[35]
Close to the hollow urn where still are kept
The pledges true of Perithos and Theseus;[36]
And stopping at mid distance between it,
And the Thorikian rock, and hollow pear,
And the stone sepulchre, he sat him down,
And then put off his garments travel-stained,
And then he called his girls, and bade them fetch
Clear water from the stream, and bring to him
For cleansing and libation. And they went,
Both of them, to yon hill we look upon,
Owned by Demeter of the fair green corn,1600
And quickly did his bidding, bathed his limbs,
And clothed him in the garment that is meet.
And when he had his will in all they did,
And not one wish continued unfulfilled,
Zeus from the dark depths thundered, and the girls
Heard it, and shuddering, at their father's knees
Falling they wept: nor did they then forbear
Smiting their breasts, nor groanings lengthened out;
And when he heard their bitter cry, forthwith1610
Folding his arms around them, thus he spake:
"My children! on this day ye cease to have
A father. All my days are spent and gone;
And ye no more shall lead your wretched life,
Caring for me. Hard was it, that I know,
My children! yet one word is strong to loose,
Although alone, the burden of these toils,
For love in larger store ye could not have
From any than from him who standeth here,
Of whom bereaved ye now shall live your life."
So intertwined, all wept and sobbed: and when1620
They ended all their wailing, and the cry
No longer rose, there came a silence. Then
A voice from some one cried aloud to him,
And filled them all with fear, that made each hair
To stand on end. For, many a time, the God
From many a quarter calls to him. "Ho there!
Come, come, thou Œdipus, why stay we yet?
Long time thy footsteps linger on the way."
And he, when he perceived the God had called,
Bade Theseus come, the ruler of the land;1630
And when he came, he said, "Ah, dearest friend,
Give me thy hand's old pledge to these my girls;
And ye, give yours to him. And do thou swear,
Of thy free will never to give them up,
But ever to fulfil what thou shalt judge,
With clearest insight, best." And he, as one
Of noble nature, wept not, but did vow
With solemn oath to do his friend's behest.
And this being done, then straightway Œdipus
Clasping his children with his sightless hands,
Spake thus: "My children! Now ye need to show
Your tempers true and noble, and withdraw1640
From where ye stand, nor think it right to look
On things that best are hidden, nor to list
To those that speak; but ye, with utmost speed
Go forth. But Theseus, who may claim the right,
Let him remain, to learn the things that come."
So much we all together heard him speak,
And then, with tears fast flowing, groaning still
We followed with the maidens. Going on
A little space we turned. And lo! we saw
The man no more; but he, the king, was there,
Holding his hand to shade his eyes, as one1650
To whom there comes a vision drear and dread
He may not bear to look on. Yet awhile,
But little, and we see him bowed to earth,
Adoring it, and in the self-same prayer
Olympos, home of Gods. What form of death
He died, knows no man, but our Theseus only.
For neither was it thunderbolt from Zeus
With flashing fire that slew him, nor the blast
Of whirlwind sweeping o'er the sea that hour,1660
But either some one whom the Gods had sent,
To guide his steps, or else the abyss of earth
In friendly mood had opened wide its jaws
*Without one pang. And so the man was led
With nought to mourn for—did not leave the world
As worn with pain and sickness; but his end,
If any ever was, was wonderful.
And if I seem to any, saying this,
As one who dreams, I would not care to win
Their favour who as dreamier count of me.

Chor. Where are his daughters, and the friends that led them?

Mess. Not far are they. Their voices wailing loud
Give token clear that they are drawing nigh.

Enter Antigone and Ismene.


Antig. Ah me! 'tis ours to mourn,1670
All desolate and sad,
Not once or twice alone,
Our father's taint of blood,
For whom long time we bore our constant toil
In many a land, and now at last must tell,
Seeing and suffering both,
Woes strange and wonderful.

Chor. What is it then?

Antig. That, friends, ye well may guess.

Chor. Has he then gone?

Antig. As thou might'st wish to go:
How else? since he was one
Whom neither din of war,1680
Nor fell disease approached;
Whom, with, strange darkling fate
The land of shadows clasped,
So borne away from us;
And lo! upon our eyes
There falls the night of death!
For how, on some far land
Wandering, or ocean wave,
Shall we now live our life intolerable?

Ism. I know not that indeed!
But oh! that Hades dark and murderous1690
Would take me in my woe,
To die with him, my father, in his age!
Henceforth my life is more than I can live.

Chor. Ο children! noblest pair!
Ye ought to bear right well
That which bears God's intent.
Be not thus vexed in mood;
The path ye trod is one ye should not blame.


Antig. Even o'er grief long borne
We lingered with regret,
And that which erst we loved not,
Became the thing we loved;
So was it when I had him in my grasp.
My father, dearest one!1700
Ο thou, who now art wrapt
In that eternal darkness of the grave!
For never shall thy name, though thou art dead,
To her and me be anything but dear!

Chor. And did he fare . . . ?

Antig. He fared as he desired.

Chor. And how was that?

Antig. In strange land as he wished
He died, and sleeps beneath,
Where sweet, calm shadows brood for evermore;
Nor did he die unwept;
For still these eyes, my father, shed their tears,1710
Nor know I, in my woe,
How to suppress my grief, my grief for thee.
*Ah me! thou did'st desire
*In this strange land to die;
And yet thou thus hast died,
Alone, apart from me!

Ism. Ah me! ah misery!
What fate of loneliness,
What drear perplexity,
Awaits me now, and thee, Ο dearest one,
In this our orphaned lot?

Chor. Yet, maidens, since his life1720
With blessing now has closed;
Cease from your wailing drear;
No man escapes from woe.

Antig. Once more, dear sister, let us haste away.

Ism. With what intent?

Antig. A strong desire comes o'er me.

Ism. What is 't?

Antig. To see once more the holy ground.

Ism. Of whom?

Antig. My father. Woe is me! Ah, woe!

Ism. But how can this be right? And seest thou not . . . . ?

Antig. What means this chiding?

Ism. This too . . . . ?1730

Antig. This again?

Ism. He died unburied, none were by his side.

Antig. Lead me, and slay me o'er him.

Ism. Woe is me!
Where then shall I, abandoned and perplexed,
Drag on my weary life?

Chor. Fear nothing, maidens dear!

Antig. Where escape?

Chor. Yet one escape there was . . . .

Antig. Of what speak'st thou?

Chor. Of thine and hers, from chance of evil fate.1740

Antig. I think this o'er . . . .

Chor. O'er what then broodest thou?

Antig. How to return to what was once our home
I find not.

Chor. Seek it not.

Antig. Yet woes oppress.

Chor. Long since they crushed thee.

Antig. Desperate then; now worse.

Chor. A sea of troubles, then, has been your lot.

Antig. Yea, yea.

Chor. I own it too!

Antig. Ah me! ah me!
Whither to turn, Ο Zeus?
For still, e'en now, the God
Leads me to bodings strange.1750

Enter Theseus.

Thes. Cease from your weeping, maidens. Over those
For whom the night of death as blessing comes,
We may not mourn. Such grief the Gods chastise.

Antig. Ο son of Ægeus, at thy feet we fall.

Thes. What boon then seek ye, maidens?

Antig. We would see
With our own eyes our father's sepulchre.

Thes. It may not be: ye may not thither go.

Antig. How say'st thou, prince, of Athens lord and king?

Thes. Ο maidens, he forbade that mortal foot1760
Should e'er draw nigh this spot, or mortal voice
Invoke in prayer the holy burial-place
Where now he lies. And, doing this, he said
That I should rule a land unvexed by ills;
These things our God has heard, and that dread Power,
The Oath of Zeus, that ever heareth all.

Antig. This shall suffice, if this was what he willed.
But send thou us to Thebes of old renown,1770
That so, if it may be, we stop the death
That comes upon our brothers.

Thes. This will I
Accomplish for you, and whate'er is best
For you, and dear to him who sleeps below,
So lately gone, I may not weary in.

Chor. Refrain ye then from weeping, cease to mourn,
All this is fixed, and nought of all shall fail.1780

  1. According to the received tradition, (see Introd., p. lxiv.,) this tragedy takes its place as the poet's last work, and was not performed till his grandson, Sophocles, the son of Ariston, produced it after his death. On the conjectural grounds, (1.) that Theseus was intended to represent Pericles; and (2.) that the inroad of Creon upon Attic soil is the presage of war with Thebes, and pointed to the early events of the Peloponnesian war, the time of composition has been fixed at B.C. 431, or 420, while the passages, (919–937,) which speak in friendlier tones, have been looked upon as inserted after Thrasybulos had rescued Athens from the Thirty by the help of the Thebans.
  2. The towers of the Acropolis are, as has been said, visible from Colonos.
  3. The laurel indicated consecration to Apollo, the olive to Athena, the vine to Dionysos.
  4. The parentage thus assigned to the Erinnyes is significant as an instance of the tendency of Sophocles to drop the coarser forms of popular legends, such as we find as to their birth in the Theogony of Hesiod, (l. 185,) and to rise into loftier and purer thoughts.
  5. Historically the name Eumenides is said to have belonged to Sicyon, (Pausan. ii. 11, 4.) In Attica they were the Σεμναί, or Dread Ones. Appeased by the worship of the Athenians after the acquittal of Orestes, the avenging Erinnyes became the kindly, propitious Eumenides.
  6. Prometheus, as the guardian deity of the potters, and perhaps also of the iron-founders, of Athens and Colonos. Torch-races in his honour were run from his altar in the Academeia through the Kerameikos to the city.
  7. The Oracle had spoken vaguely, and till now Œdipus had not known who the "dreaded Gods" were. The chance words of the stranger, telling him of the "dread" daughters of the earth and darkness, give him a new ray of hope.
  8. The absence of wine from all libations made to the Erinnyes is presupposed as known even to the stranger, Œdipus. Later on, (481,) it comes prominently into the directions given him by the Chorus, but is received (with some slight inconsistency) with wonder.
  9. In the performance of the tragedy the eager cries, guesses, questionings of the Chorus were uttered by its members, not together, but speaking one by one.
  10. The "colt of Ætna's breed" was probably one of the mules for which Sicily was famous, and which were commonly used by women in travelling. The Thessalian hat, like the Roman petasus, was a low-crowned, broad-brimmed, "wide-awake," worn by peasants and travellers.
  11. The Protectresses are, of course, the Eumenides. The great Deliverer is Apollo, whose favour the men of Colonos will gain by sheltering Œdipus.
  12. The ritual described is obviously that with which the poet had been familiar from his boyhood, as practised in the sacred grove of his deme. See Introduction, p. lxxxiii. The vases are those which stood there for the use of all worshippers.
  13. Theseus, the Heracles of Attica, had been brought up, according to the myth, in Trœzen, and in returning to Athens across the Isthmus, had encountered many robbers and monsters.
  14. A possible reference to the political relations between Athens and Thebes at the commencement of the Peloponnesian war.
  15. Theseus acknowledges an old alliance between his own ancestors and the house of Labdacos, of which Œdipus, who had grown up at Corinth, naturally knows nothing.
  16. For the traditions which connect this Choral Ode with the poet's life, see Introduction, p. lxiv.
  17. The God to whom the ivy was sacred, is first indicated by this attribute, then named as Dionysos. The Nymphs are those of Nysa, who first nursed him in his childhood, and then accompanied him in his wanderings.
  18. The poet, himself initiated in the mysteries of Eleusis, between which and the worship of Dionysos, there was a close connexion, naturally sings of them. The "great Goddesses" are Demeter and Persephone. The narcissus and the crocus growing on the rocks were connected with the story of the capture of Persephone by Aidoneus, (Pluto,) who was said to have seized her as she was gathering these flowers, and therefore she and Demeter wore garlands of the ears of corn instead of wreaths of their blossoms.
  19. The streams of the Kephisos are still carried through many small channels, watering the fields and gardens of the peasants. And the local name (Νομαί) is all but identical with that by which Sophocles describes them.
  20. Here, also, there is a reference to local sanctuaries. In the Academeia there was an altar to the Muses; near its entrance one to Eros. It is permissible to trace something of a poet's serene complacency in the words which speak of the Muses as not slighting his own birth-place. The epithet "golden-reined" refers probably to some sculpture representing Aphrodite drawn by doves.
  21. The anachronism which makes Œdipus anticipate the Dorian migration may be pardoned by those who remember that Shakespeare puts a quotation from Aristotle into the mouth of Hector.
  22. The first olive-tree had sprung up, according to Attic legends, in the Acropolis at the bidding of Athena. From it came that which was planted in the Academeia, and from that the holy olives (μορίαι) which formed its groves, and were placed under the special guardianship of the Areopagos.
  23. Among the legends of the Persian invasion, one was, that the olive in the Acropolis, the day after it had been burnt in the capture of the city, sent out a new and sturdy shoot. The "young" invader is probably Xerxes, the "old" Archidamos or Mardonios.
  24. As in the Acropolis, Athena was represented as giving the olive, and Poseidon the sea to the city, so here the patriot poet brings the two together as the joint benefactors of his country.
  25. The two roads, one leading to Eleusis, the other the Pythian.
  26. As in the last ode, so here, the scenery of Attica is brought before us. Theseus had given orders that his troop should hasten to the meeting-point of the Eleusinian and Pythian roads, and the Chorus conjectures what may have happened on either of them. The "Pythain fane" was a temple of Apollo Pythios, in a pass of the Ægalean hills.
  27. The "torch-lit shores" are those of Eleusis, where night-festivals were held by torch-light to commemorate Demeter's search for Persephone. These two Goddesses are the "awful Powers," the "solemn rites" are the Eleusinian mysteries. The "golden key," as a symbol of silence, was laid by the priests of the house of Eumolpos, upon the lips of the initiated. Here the Eumolpidæ themselves are represented as sworn to secresy.
  28. The "snow-crowned height" is probably Mount Geraneia, between Megaris and Corinth. Ægaleos in Attica has been conjectured, but is less suitable.
  29. The Rhipæan hills, thought of as in the far north of Skythia, were to the Greeks as a region of clouds and thick darkness, sending forth the chilling blasts (ῥιπαὶ) of the North.
  30. Apian land, sc., the Peloponnesus, so named, mythically, from Apis, the son of Apollo, who freed it from wild beasts and monsters.
  31. The local tradition of Colonos apparently, while asserting that it was the resting-place of Œdipus, refrained from pointing out the precise position of his grave.
  32. "Dragon's brood"—sc. the Thebans, as descended from the men who sprung from the dragon's teeth sown by Cadmos.
  33. Hermes in his special function as guiding the souls of the dead to Hades. "She who reigns below" is, of course, Persephone.
  34. The invocation passes from Persephone and Aidoneus (Pluto) to the Erinnyes, daughters of Darkness and Kerberos, and finally to Death himself, the "Son of Earth and Tartaros."
  35. The indefiniteness of the description agrees with that of the local tradition, 1523.
  36. The pledges which the true heroes had given each other when they bound themselves to go down to Hades, were naturally kept near the spot from which they had descended. The Heroön dedicated to them stood at Colonos in the time of Pausanias, i. 18, 4.