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Sophocles Index


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OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles, Part 02


OEDIPUS
Ruled by a king or by the general voice?

STRANGER
The lord of Athens is our over-lord.

OEDIPUS
Who is this monarch, great in word and might?

STRANGER
Theseus, the son of Aegeus our late king.

OEDIPUS
Might one be sent from you to summon him?

STRANGER
Wherefore? To tell him aught or urge his coming?

OEDIPUS
Say a slight service may avail him much.

STRANGER
How can he profit from a sightless man?

OEDIPUS
The blind man's words will be instinct with sight.

STRANGER
Heed then; I fain would see thee out of harm;
For by the looks, marred though they be by fate,
I judge thee noble; tarry where thou art,
While I go seek the burghers--those at hand,
Not in the city. They will soon decide
Whether thou art to rest or go thy way.
Exit STRANGER

OEDIPUS
Tell me, my daughter, has the stranger gone?

ANTIGONE
Yes, he has gone; now we are all alone,
And thou may'st speak, dear father, without fear.

OEDIPUS
Stern-visaged queens, since coming to this land
First in your sanctuary I bent the knee,
Frown not on me or Phoebus, who, when erst
He told me all my miseries to come,
Spake of this respite after many years,
Some haven in a far-off land, a rest
Vouchsafed at last by dread divinities.
"There," said he, "shalt thou round thy weary life,
A blessing to the land wherein thou dwell'st,
But to the land that cast thee forth, a curse."
And of my weird he promised signs should come,
Earthquake, or thunderclap, or lightning flash.
And now I recognize as yours the sign
That led my wanderings to this your grove;
Else had I never lighted on you first,
A wineless man on your seat of native rock.
O goddesses, fulfill Apollo's word,
Grant me some consummation of my life,
If haply I appear not all too vile,
A thrall to sorrow worse than any slave.
Hear, gentle daughters of primeval Night,
Hear, namesake of great Pallas; Athens, first
Of cities, pity this dishonored shade,
The ghost of him who once was Oedipus.

ANTIGONE
Hush! for I see some grey-beards on their way,
Their errand to spy out our resting-place.

OEDIPUS
I will be mute, and thou shalt guide my steps
Into the covert from the public road,
Till I have learned their drift. A prudent man
Will ever shape his course by what he learns.
Enter CHORUS

CHORUS
strophe 1

Ha! Where is he? Look around!
Every nook and corner scan!
He the all-presumptuous man,
Whither vanished? search the ground!
A wayfarer, I ween,
A wayfarer, no countryman of ours,
That old man must have been;
Never had native dared to tempt the Powers,
Or enter their demesne,
The Maids in awe of whom each mortal cowers,
Whose name no voice betrays nor cry,
And as we pass them with averted eye,
We move hushed lips in reverent piety.
But now some godless man,
'Tis rumored, here abides;
The precincts through I scan,
Yet wot not where he hides,
The wretch profane!
I search and search in vain.

OEDIPUS
I am that man; I know you near
Ears to the blind, they say, are eyes.

CHORUS
O dread to see and dread to hear!

OEDIPUS
Oh sirs, I am no outlaw under ban.

CHORUS
Who can he be--Zeus save us!--this old man?

OEDIPUS
No favorite of fate,
That ye should envy his estate,
O, Sirs, would any happy mortal, say,
Grope by the light of other eyes his way,
Or face the storm upon so frail a stay?

CHORUS
antistrophe 1

Wast thou then sightless from thy birth?
Evil, methinks, and long
Thy pilgrimage on earth.
Yet add not curse to curse and wrong to wrong.
I warn thee, trespass not
Within this hallowed spot,
Lest thou shouldst find the silent grassy glade
Where offerings are laid,
Bowls of spring water mingled with sweet mead.
Thou must not stay,
Come, come away,
Tired wanderer, dost thou heed?
(We are far off, but sure our voice can reach.)
If aught thou wouldst beseech,
Speak where 'tis right; till then refrain from speech.

OEDIPUS
Daughter, what counsel should we now pursue?

ANTIGONE
We must obey and do as here they do.

OEDIPUS
Thy hand then!

 

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