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OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles, Part 06

Thebes, thou shalt rue this bitterly some day!

When what conjunction comes to pass, my child?

Thy angry wraith, when at thy tomb they stand.

And who hath told thee what thou tell'st me, child?

Envoys who visited the Delphic hearth.

Hath Phoebus spoken thus concerning me?

So say the envoys who returned to Thebes.

And can a son of mine have heard of this?

Yea, both alike, and know its import well.

They knew it, yet the ignoble greed of rule
Outweighed all longing for their sire's return.

Grievous thy words, yet I must own them true.

Then may the gods ne'er quench their fatal feud,
And mine be the arbitrament of the fight,
For which they now are arming, spear to spear;
That neither he who holds the scepter now
May keep this throne, nor he who fled the realm
Return again. They never raised a hand,
When I their sire was thrust from hearth and home,
When I was banned and banished, what recked they?
Say you 'twas done at my desire, a grace
Which the state, yielding to my wish, allowed?
Not so; for, mark you, on that very day
When in the tempest of my soul I craved
Death, even death by stoning, none appeared
To further that wild longing, but anon,
When time had numbed my anguish and I felt
My wrath had all outrun those errors past,
Then, then it was the city went about
By force to oust me, respited for years;
And then my sons, who should as sons have helped,
Did nothing: and, one little word from them
Was all I needed, and they spoke no word,
But let me wander on for evermore,
A banished man, a beggar. These two maids
Their sisters, girls, gave all their sex could give,
Food and safe harborage and filial care;
While their two brethren sacrificed their sire
For lust of power and sceptred sovereignty.
No! me they ne'er shall win for an ally,
Nor will this Theban kingship bring them gain;
That know I from this maiden's oracles,
And those old prophecies concerning me,
Which Phoebus now at length has brought to pass.
Come Creon then, come all the mightiest
In Thebes to seek me; for if ye my friends,
Championed by those dread Powers indigenous,
Espouse my cause; then for the State ye gain
A great deliverer, for my foemen bane.

Our pity, Oedipus, thou needs must move,
Thou and these maidens; and the stronger plea
Thou urgest, as the savior of our land,
Disposes me to counsel for thy weal.

Aid me, kind sirs; I will do all you bid.

First make atonement to the deities,
Whose grove by trespass thou didst first profane.

After what manner, stranger? Teach me, pray.

Make a libation first of water fetched
With undefiled hands from living spring.

And after I have gotten this pure draught?

Bowls thou wilt find, the carver's handiwork;
Crown thou the rims and both the handles crown--

With olive shoots or blocks of wool, or how?

With wool from fleece of yearling freshly shorn.

What next? how must I end the ritual?

Pour thy libation, turning to the dawn.

Pouring it from the urns whereof ye spake?

Yea, in three streams; and be the last bowl drained
To the last drop.

And wherewith shall I fill it,
Ere in its place I set it? This too tell.

With water and with honey; add no wine.

And when the embowered earth hath drunk thereof?

Then lay upon it thrice nine olive sprays
With both thy hands, and offer up this prayer.

I fain would hear it; that imports the most.

That, as we call them Gracious, they would deign
To grant the suppliant their saving grace.
So pray thyself or whoso pray for thee,
In whispered accents, not with lifted voice;
Then go and look back. Do as I bid,
And I shall then be bold to stand thy friend;
Else, stranger, I should have my fears for thee.

Hear ye, my daughters, what these strangers say?


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