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OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles, Part 10


ANTIGONE
Oh land extolled above all lands, 'tis now
For thee to make these glorious titles good.

OEDIPUS
Why this appeal, my daughter?

ANTIGONE
Father, lo! Creon approaches with his company.

OEDIPUS
Fear not, it shall be so; if we are old,
This country's vigor has no touch of age.
Enter CREON with attendants

CREON
Burghers, my noble friends, ye take alarm
At my approach (I read it in your eyes),
Fear nothing and refrain from angry words.
I come with no ill purpose; I am old,
And know the city whither I am come,
Without a peer amongst the powers of Greece.
It was by reason of my years that I
Was chosen to persuade your guest and bring
Him back to Thebes; not the delegate
Of one man, but commissioned by the State,
Since of all Thebans I have most bewailed,
Being his kinsman, his most grievous woes.
O listen to me, luckless Oedipus,
Come home! The whole Cadmeian people claim
With right to have thee back, I most of all,
For most of all (else were I vile indeed)
I mourn for thy misfortunes, seeing thee
An aged outcast, wandering on and on,
A beggar with one handmaid for thy stay.
Ah! who had e'er imagined she could fall
To such a depth of misery as this,
To tend in penury thy stricken frame,
A virgin ripe for wedlock, but unwed,
A prey for any wanton ravisher?
Seems it not cruel this reproach I cast
On thee and on myself and all the race?
Aye, but an open shame cannot be hid.
Hide it, O hide it, Oedipus, thou canst.
O, by our fathers' gods, consent I pray;
Come back to Thebes, come to thy father's home,
Bid Athens, as is meet, a fond farewell;
Thebes thy old foster-mother claims thee first.

OEDIPUS
O front of brass, thy subtle tongue would twist
To thy advantage every plea of right
Why try thy arts on me, why spread again
Toils where 'twould gall me sorest to be snared?
In old days when by self-wrought woes distraught,
I yearned for exile as a glad release,
Thy will refused the favor then I craved.
But when my frenzied grief had spent its force,
And I was fain to taste the sweets of home,
Then thou wouldst thrust me from my country, then
These ties of kindred were by thee ignored;
And now again when thou behold'st this State
And all its kindly people welcome me,
Thou seek'st to part us, wrapping in soft words
Hard thoughts. And yet what pleasure canst thou find
In forcing friendship on unwilling foes?
Suppose a man refused to grant some boon
When you importuned him, and afterwards
When you had got your heart's desire, consented,
Granting a grace from which all grace had fled,
Would not such favor seem an empty boon?
Yet such the boon thou profferest now to me,
Fair in appearance, but when tested false.
Yea, I will proved thee false, that these may hear;
Thou art come to take me, not to take me home,
But plant me on thy borders, that thy State
May so escape annoyance from this land.
That thou shalt never gain, but this instead--
My ghost to haunt thy country without end;
And for my sons, this heritage--no more--
Just room to die in. Have not I more skill
Than thou to draw the horoscope of Thebes?
Are not my teachers surer guides than thine--
Great Phoebus and the sire of Phoebus, Zeus?
Thou art a messenger suborned, thy tongue
Is sharper than a sword's edge, yet thy speech
Will bring thee more defeats than victories.
Howbeit, I know I waste my words--begone,
And leave me here; whate'er may be my lot,
He lives not ill who lives withal content.

CREON
Which loses in this parley, I o'erthrown
By thee, or thou who overthrow'st thyself?

OEDIPUS
I shall be well contented if thy suit
Fails with these strangers, as it has with me.

CREON
Unhappy man, will years ne'er make thee wise?
Must thou live on to cast a slur on age?

OEDIPUS
Thou hast a glib tongue, but no honest man,
Methinks, can argue well on any side.

CREON
'Tis one thing to speak much, another well.

OEDIPUS
Thy words, forsooth, are few and all well aimed!

CREON
Not for a man indeed with wits like thine.

OEDIPUS
Depart! I bid thee in these burghers' name,
And prowl no longer round me to blockade
My destined harbor.

CREON
I protest to these,
Not thee, and for thine answer to thy kin,
If e'er I take thee--

OEDIPUS
Who against their will Could take me?

CREON
Though untaken thou shalt smart.

OEDIPUS
What power hast thou to execute this threat?

CREON
One of thy daughters is already seized,
The other I will carry off anon.

OEDIPUS
Woe, woe!

CREON
This is but prelude to thy woes.

 

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