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OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles, Part 05


ISMENE
I give a hand to both.

OEDIPUS
O children--sisters!

ISMENE
O disastrous plight!

OEDIPUS
Her plight and mine?

ISMENE
Aye, and my own no less.

OEDIPUS
What brought thee, daughter?

ISMENE
Father, care for thee.

OEDIPUS
A daughter's yearning?

ISMENE
Yes, and I had news
I would myself deliver, so I came
With the one thrall who yet is true to me.

OEDIPUS
Thy valiant brothers, where are they at need?

ISMENE
They are--enough, 'tis now their darkest hour.

OEDIPUS
Out on the twain! The thoughts and actions all
Are framed and modeled on Egyptian ways.
For there the men sit at the loom indoors
While the wives slave abroad for daily bread.
So you, my children--those whom I behooved
To bear the burden, stay at home like girls,
While in their stead my daughters moil and drudge,
Lightening their father's misery. The one
Since first she grew from girlish feebleness
To womanhood has been the old man's guide
And shared my weary wandering, roaming oft
Hungry and footsore through wild forest ways,
In drenching rains and under scorching suns,
Careless herself of home and ease, if so
Her sire might have her tender ministry.
And thou, my child, whilom thou wentest forth,
Eluding the Cadmeians' vigilance,
To bring thy father all the oracles
Concerning Oedipus, and didst make thyself
My faithful lieger, when they banished me.
And now what mission summons thee from home,
What news, Ismene, hast thou for thy father?
This much I know, thou com'st not empty-handed,
Without a warning of some new alarm.

ISMENE
The toil and trouble, father, that I bore
To find thy lodging-place and how thou faredst,
I spare thee; surely 'twere a double pain
To suffer, first in act and then in telling;
'Tis the misfortune of thine ill-starred sons
I come to tell thee. At the first they willed
To leave the throne to Creon, minded well
Thus to remove the inveterate curse of old,
A canker that infected all thy race.
But now some god and an infatuate soul
Have stirred betwixt them a mad rivalry
To grasp at sovereignty and kingly power.
Today the hot-branded youth, the younger born,
Is keeping Polyneices from the throne,
His elder, and has thrust him from the land.
The banished brother (so all Thebes reports)
Fled to the vale of Argos, and by help
Of new alliance there and friends in arms,
Swears he will stablish Argos straight as lord
Of the Cadmeian land, or, if he fail,
Exalt the victor to the stars of heaven.
This is no empty tale, but deadly truth,
My father; and how long thy agony,
Ere the gods pity thee, I cannot tell.

OEDIPUS
Hast thou indeed then entertained a hope
The gods at last will turn and rescue me?

ISMENE
Yea, so I read these latest oracles.

OEDIPUS
What oracles? What hath been uttered, child?

ISMENE
Thy country (so it runs) shall yearn in time
To have thee for their weal alive or dead.

OEDIPUS
And who could gain by such a one as I?

ISMENE
On thee, 'tis said, their sovereignty depends.

OEDIPUS
So, when I cease to be, my worth begins.

ISMENE
The gods, who once abased, uplift thee now.

OEDIPUS
Poor help to raise an old man fallen in youth.

ISMENE
Howe'er that be, 'tis for this cause alone
That Creon comes to thee--and comes anon.

OEDIPUS
With what intent, my daughter? Tell me plainly.

ISMENE
To plant thee near the Theban land, and so
Keep thee within their grasp, yet now allow
Thy foot to pass beyond their boundaries.

OEDIPUS
What gain they, if I lay outside?

OEDIPUS
Thy tomb, If disappointed, brings on them a curse.

OEDIPUS
It needs no god to tell what's plain to sense.

ISMENE
Therefore they fain would have thee close at hand,
Not where thou wouldst be master of thyself.

OEDIPUS
Mean they to shroud my bones in Theban dust?

ISMENE
Nay, father, guilt of kinsman's blood forbids.

OEDIPUS
Then never shall they be my masters, never!

 

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