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OEDIPUS AT COLONUS by Sophocles, Part 12


CREON
Listen, O men of Athens, mark ye this?

OEDIPUS
They mark us both and understand that I
Wronged by the deeds defend myself with words.

CREON
Nothing shall curb my will; though I be old
And single-handed, I will have this man.

OEDIPUS
O woe is me!

CHORUS
Thou art a bold man, stranger, if thou think'st
To execute thy purpose.

CREON
So I do.

CHORUS
Then shall I deem this State no more a State.

CREON
With a just quarrel weakness conquers might.

OEDIPUS
Ye hear his words?

CHORUS
Aye words, but not yet deeds,
Zeus knoweth!

CREON
Zeus may haply know, not thou.

CHORUS
Insolence!

CREON
Insolence that thou must bear.

CHORUS
Haste ye princes, sound the alarm!
Men of Athens, arm ye, arm!
Quickly to the rescue come
Ere the robbers get them home.
Enter Theseus

Theseus
Why this outcry? What is forward? wherefore was I called away
From the altar of Poseidon, lord of your Colonus? Say!
On what errand have I hurried hither without stop or stay.

OEDIPUS
Dear friend--those accents tell me who thou art--
Yon man but now hath done me a foul wrong.

Theseus
What is this wrong and who hath wrought it? Speak.

OEDIPUS
Creon who stands before thee. He it is
Hath robbed me of my all, my daughters twain.

Theseus
What means this?

OEDIPUS
Thou hast heard my tale of wrongs.

Theseus
Ho! hasten to the altars, one of you.
Command my liegemen leave the sacrifice
And hurry, foot and horse, with rein unchecked,
To where the paths that packmen use diverge,
Lest the two maidens slip away, and I
Become a mockery to this my guest,
As one despoiled by force. Quick, as I bid.
As for this stranger, had I let my rage,
Justly provoked, have play, he had not 'scaped
Scathless and uncorrected at my hands.
But now the laws to which himself appealed,
These and none others shall adjudicate.
Thou shalt not quit this land, till thou hast fetched
The maidens and produced them in my sight.
Thou hast offended both against myself
And thine own race and country. Having come
Unto a State that champions right and asks
For every action warranty of law,
Thou hast set aside the custom of the land,
And like some freebooter art carrying off
What plunder pleases thee, as if forsooth
Thou thoughtest this a city without men,
Or manned by slaves, and me a thing of naught.
Yet not from Thebes this villainy was learnt;
Thebes is not wont to breed unrighteous sons,
Nor would she praise thee, if she learnt that thou
Wert robbing me--aye and the gods to boot,
Haling by force their suppliants, poor maids.
Were I on Theban soil, to prosecute
The justest claim imaginable, I
Would never wrest by violence my own
Without sanction of your State or King;
I should behave as fits an outlander
Living amongst a foreign folk, but thou
Shamest a city that deserves it not,
Even thine own, and plentitude of years
Have made of thee an old man and a fool.
Therefore again I charge thee as before,
See that the maidens are restored at once,
Unless thou would'st continue here by force
And not by choice a sojourner; so much
I tell thee home and what I say, I mean.

CHORUS
Thy case is perilous; though by birth and race
Thou should'st be just, thou plainly doest wrong.

CREON
Not deeming this city void of men
Or counsel, son of Aegeus, as thou say'st
I did what I have done; rather I thought
Your people were not like to set such store by kin of mine and keep them 'gainst my will.
Nor would they harbor, so I stood assured,
A godless parricide, a reprobate
Convicted of incestuous marriage ties.
For on her native hill of Ares here
(I knew your far-famed Areopagus)
Sits Justice, and permits not vagrant folk
To stay within your borders. In that faith
I hunted down my quarry; and e'en then i had refrained but for the curses dire
Wherewith he banned my kinsfolk and myself:
Such wrong, methought, had warrant for my act.
Anger has no old age but only death;
The dead alone can feel no touch of spite.
So thou must work thy will; my cause is just
But weak without allies; yet will I try,
Old as I am, to answer deeds with deeds.

 

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