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Sophocles - Oedipus in Colonus

Bron: perseus.tufts.edu

Sophocles. The Oedipus at Colonus of Sophocles. Edited with introduction and notes by Sir Richard Jebb. Sir Richard Jebb. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 1889.

Betoog

Het toneelstuk speelt zich af in de periode nadat Oedipus uit Thebe is verstoten. Samen met zijn dochter Ismene, die de blinde Oedipus geleidt, zwerven zij door Griekenland en komen uiteindelijk aan in Colonus, een klein dorp in de buurt van Athene, waar dit stuk begint.

Personages

Oedipus, voormalig koning van Thebe
Antigone, dochter van Oedipus
Vreemdeling
Ismene, dochter van Oedipus
Theseus, koning van Athene
Creon, zwager van Oedipus
Polynices, zoon van Oedipus
Bode
Koor

Scene

Het toneel stelt Colonus voor, een klein dorp in de buurt van Athene. Op de achtergrond staat het heilige bos van de Eumeniden. Oedipus komt armoedig gekleed op terwij hij door zijn dochter Antigone wordt begeleidt.

01. Proloog; regel 1-117

Oedipus
Child of a blind old man, Antigone, to what region have we come, or to what city of men? Who will entertain the wandering Oedipus today with scanty gifts? Little do I crave, and obtain still less than that little, and with that I am content. For patience is the lesson of suffering, and of the long years upon me, and lastly of a noble mind. My child, if you see any resting-place, either on profane ground or by groves of the gods, stop me and set me down, so that we may inquire where we are. We have come to learn as foreigners from the townsmen, and to bring to completion whatever we hear.

Antigone
Father, toil-worn Oedipus, the towers that ring the city, to judge by sight, are far off; and this place is sacred, to judge from its appearance: laurel, olive, and vine grow thick-set; and a feathered crowd of nightingales makes music within. So sit here on this unshaped stone; you have travelled a long way for an old man.

Oedipus
Seat me, then, and watch over the blind.

Antigone
If time can teach, I need not learn that.

Oedipus
Can you tell me, now, where we have arrived?

Antigone
Athens I know, but not this place.

Oedipus
Yes, so much every traveller told us.

Antigone
Well, shall I go and learn what the spot is called?

Oedipus
Yes, child, if indeed it is inhabited.

Antigone
It surely is inhabited. But I think there is no need—I see a man nearby.

Oedipus
Setting off and coming toward us?

Antigone
He is at our side already. Speak whatever seems timely to you, for the man is here.

Oedipus
Stranger, hearing from this maiden, who has sight both for herself and for me, that you have arrived as a scout of good fortune for the solving of our doubts—

Enter a stranger, a man of Colonus.

Stranger
Now, before you question me at length, leave this seat. You occupy ground which is unholy to tread upon.

Oedipus
And what is this ground? To which of the gods is it sacred?

Stranger
Ground inviolable, on which no one may dwell. The dread goddesses hold it, the daughters of Earth and Darkness.

Oedipus
Who are they? Whose awful name might I hear and invoke in prayer?

Stranger
The all-seeing Eumenides the people here would call them: but other names please elsewhere.

Oedipus
Then graciously may they receive their suppliant! Nevermore will I depart from my seat in this land.

Stranger
What does this mean?

Oedipus
The watchword of my fate.

Stranger
I dare not remove you without warrant from the city, until I report what I am doing.

Oedipus
Now by the gods, stranger, do not deny me, hapless wanderer as you see, the honor of the knowledge for which I beg you.

Stranger
Tell me, and you will not be without honor from me.

Oedipus
What, then, is the place that we have entered?

Stranger
All that I myself know, you will hear and learn. This whole place is sacred; august Poseidon holds it, and in it lives the fire-bearing god, the Titan Prometheus. But as for the spot on which you tread, it is called the bronze threshold of this land, the support of Athens. And the neighboring fields claim Colonus, the horse-rider, for their ancient ruler; and all the people bear his name in common as their own. Such, you see, stranger, are these haunts. They receive their honor not through story, but rather through our living with them.

Oedipus
Are there indeed dwellers in this region?

Stranger
Yes indeed, the namesakes of that god there (Colonus).

Oedipus
Have they a king? Or does speaking (in assembly) rest with the masses?

Stranger
These parts are ruled by the king in the city.

Oedipus
And who is he that is sovereign in counsel and in might?

Stranger
Theseus he is called, son of Aegeus who was before him.

Oedipus
Could a messenger go to him from among you?

Stranger
With what aim? To speak, or to prepare his coming?

Oedipus
So that by a small service he may find a great gain.

Stranger
And what help can come from one who cannot see?

Oedipus
In all that I speak there will be vision. Stranger
Take care now, stranger, that you come to no harm; for you are noble, if I may judge by your looks, leaving your ill-fortune aside. Stay here, where I found you, until I go and tell these things to the people of this district—not in the city. They will decide for you whether you should stay or go back.

Stranger exits.

Oedipus
My child, has the stranger left us?

Antigone
He is gone, and so you can speak what you wish, father, fully at ease, knowing that I alone am near.

Oedipus
Ladies of dread aspect, since your seat is the first in this land at which I have bent my knee, show yourselves not ungracious to Phoebus or to myself; who, when he proclaimed that doom of many woes, spoke to me of this rest after long years: on reaching my goal in a land where I should find a seat of the Awful Goddesses and a shelter for foreigners, there I should close my weary life, with profit, through my having fixed my abode there, for those who received me, but ruin for those who sent me forth, who drove me away. And he went on to warn me that signs of these things would come, in earthquake, or in thunder, or in the lightning of Zeus. Now I perceive that in this journey some trusty omen from you has surely led me home to this grove; never otherwise could I have met with you, first of all, in my wanderings—I, in my sobriety, with you who touch no wine, —or taken this august seat not shaped by men. Then, goddesses, according to the word of Apollo, give me at last some way to accomplish and close my course—unless, perhaps, I seem too lowly, enslaved as I am evermore to woes the sorest on the earth. Hear, sweet daughters of primeval Darkness! Hear, you that are called the city of great Pallas, Athens, given most honor of all cities! Pity this poor ghost of the man Oedipus! For in truth it is the former living body no more.

Antigone
Hush! Here come some aged men to spy out your resting-place.

Oedipus
I will be mute. But hide me in the grove, apart from the road, till I learn how these men will speak. For in learning is the safeguard of our course.

They exit.

02. Eerste samenzang; regel 118-253

The Chorus of elders of Colonus enters the orchestra.

Chorus
Look! Who was he, then? Where is he staying? Where has he rushed from this place, man most insatiate of all who live? Scan the ground, look well, press the search everywhere. A wanderer that old man must have been, a wanderer, not a dweller in the land; otherwise he never would have advanced into this untrodden grove of the maidens with whom none may strive. Their name we tremble to speak; we pass them by with eyes turned away, moving our lips, without sound or word, in still devotion. But now it is said that one has come who reveres them not at all; and him I cannot yet discern, though I look round all the holy place, nor do I know where to find his lodging.

Oedipus steps forward with Antigone.

Oedipus
Behold the man you seek! In sound is my sight, as the saying goes.

Chorus
Oh! Oh! Fearful he is to see, and fearful to hear!

Oedipus
Do not regard me, I beg you, as a lawless man.

Chorus
Zeus defend us! Who may this old man be?

Oedipus
Not so wholly of the best fate that you would call him fortunate, guardians of this land! It is plain; otherwise I would not be creeping, as you see, by the eyes of others, and buoying my strength upon weakness.

Chorus
Alas! Were you sightless even from birth? Evil have been your days, and many, it appears. But at least if I can help it, you shall not add this curse to your lot. You go too far—too far! That your rash steps may intrude on the field of this voiceless, grassy glade, where the waters of the mixing bowl blend their stream with the flow of honied offerings, beware, unhappiest of strangers. Retire! Withdraw! Let a wide space part us. Do you hear, toil-worn wanderer? If you have anything to say in converse with us, leave forbidden ground, and speak where it is lawful for all; but, till then, refrain.

Oedipus
Daughter, to what counsel shall we incline?

Antigone
My father, we must behave just as the townspeople do, listening and giving way where it is necessary.

Oedipus
Then give me your hand.

Antigone
I lay it in yours.

Oedipus
Strangers, let me not suffer wrong when I have trusted in you, and have passed from my refuge!

Chorus
Never, old man, never will anyone remove you from your resting-place here against your will.

Oedipus begins to move forward.

Oedipus
Further, then?

Chorus
Come still further.

Oedipus
Further?

Chorus
Lead him onward, maiden, for you hear us and obey.

Antigone
(lost text)

Oedipus
(lost text)

Antigone
Come, follow this way with your dark steps, father, as I lead you.

Oedipus
(lost text)

Chorus
Stranger in a foreign land, poor man, have the courage to detest what the city steadfastly holds as not dear, and to reverence what it holds dear!

Oedipus
Lead me, then, child, to a spot where I may speak and listen within piety's domain, and let us not wage war with necessity.

Chorus
There! Do not incline your steps beyond that ledge of bedrock.

Oedipus
This far?

Chorus
Enough, I say

Oedipus
Shall I sit down?

Chorus
Yes, move sideways, and crouch low on the edge of the rock.

Antigone
Father, this is my task: calmly to—

Oedipus
Ah me! ah me!

Antigone
—fit step to step, and lean your aged frame upon my dear arm.

Oedipus
Alas for my sad destruction!

Antigone seats him on the rock.

Chorus
Ah, poor man, since now you are at ease, speak! What is your lineage among mortals? With what name are you led on your weary path? What fatherland can you tell us of?

Oedipus
Strangers, I am without a city, but do not—

Chorus
What is this that you forbid, old man?

Oedipus
do not, do not ask me who I am! Do not seek or probe further!

Chorus
What does this mean?

Oedipus
Horrid the birth—

Chorus
Speak!

Oedipus
My child—ah, me!—what shall I say?

Chorus
What is your lineage, stranger? Speak! And who is your father?

Oedipus
Woe is me! What will become of me, my child?

Antigone
Speak, for you are driven to the verge.

Oedipus
Then speak I will. I have no way to hide it.

Chorus
You two make a long delay. Come, hasten!

Oedipus
Do you know of a son of Laius?

Chorus
Oh!

Oedipus
—And the race of the Labdacidae?

Chorus
O Zeus!

Oedipus
—and the pitiful Oedipus?

Chorus
You are he?

Oedipus
Have no fear of any words that I speak—

Chorus
Ah, no, no!

Oedipus
Unhappy that I am!

Chorus
Oh, oh!

Oedipus
Daughter, what is about to happen?

Chorus
Out with you! Go forth from the land!

Oedipus
And your promise—to what fulfillment will you bring it?

Chorus
No man is visited by the punishment of fate if he requites deeds which were first done to himself. Deceit on the one part matches deceits on the other, and gives pain instead of pleasure for reward. And you—back with you! Out from your seat! Away from my land with all speed, that you may not fasten some heavier burden on my city!

Antigone
Reverent strangers, since you have not endured my aged father—knowing, as you do, the rumor of his unintended deeds—pity at least my poor self, I implore you, who supplicate you for my father alone. I beg you with eyes that can still look on your own, like one sprung from your own blood, that this sufferer may meet with reverent treatment. On you, as on a god, we depend in our misery. But come, grant the favor for which we hardly dare hope! I implore you by everything that you hold dear at home: by child, by wife, or treasure, or god! Look well and you will not find the mortal who, if a god should lead him on, could escape.

03. Eerste akte; regel 254-509

Chorus
Feel sure, daughter of Oedipus, that we pity you and him alike for your misfortune; but dreading the punishment of the gods, we could not say anything beyond what we have now said to you.

Oedipus
What help comes, then, of repute or fair fame, if it ends in idle breath; seeing that Athens, as men say, is god-fearing beyond all, and alone has the power to shelter the outraged stranger, and alone the power to help him? And where are these things for me, when, after making me rise up from this rocky seat, you then drive me from the land, afraid of my name alone? Not, surely, afraid of my person or of my acts; since my acts, at least, have been in suffering rather than doing—if I must mention the tale of my mother and my father, because of which you fear me. That know I full well. And yet how was I innately evil? I, who was merely requiting a wrong, so that, had I been acting with knowledge, even then I could not be accounted evil. But, as it was, all unknowing I went where I went—while they who wronged me knowingly sought my ruin. Therefore, strangers, I beseech you by the gods: just as you made me leave my seat, so protect me, and do not, while you render honor to the gods, consider those gods to be fools. But rather consider that they look on the god-fearing man and on the godless, and that never yet has an impious man found escape. With the help of those gods, do not becloud the prosperity of Athens by paying service to unholy deeds. As you have received the suppliant under your pledge, rescue me and guard me to the end; nor dishonor me when you look on this face unlovely to behold, for I have come to you as one sacred and pious, bearing comfort for this people. But when the master has come, whoever is your leader, then you will hear and know all; meanwhile show yourselves in no way evil.

Chorus
The thoughts you urge, old man, must move awe; they have been set forth in grave words. But I am content that the rulers of our country should judge in this case.

Oedipus
And where, strangers, is the lord of this realm?

Chorus
He is at the city of his fathers in our land. The messenger who sent us here has gone to fetch him.

Oedipus
Do you think that he will have any regard or care for the blind man, so as to come here himself?

Chorus
Yes, surely, as soon as he learns of your name.

Oedipus
Who is there to bring him that word?

Chorus
The way is long, and many words from travellers often wander about. When he hears them, he will soon be with us, never fear. For your name, old man, has been loudly trumpeted through all lands, so that even if he is taking his ease, and slow to move, when he hears of you he will swiftly arrive.

Oedipus
Well, may he come with good fortune both for his own city and for me! What noble man is not his own friend?

Antigone
O Zeus! What shall I say? What shall I think, my father?

Oedipus
What is it, Antigone, my child?

Antigone
I see a woman coming towards us, mounted on a colt of Etna; she wears a Thessalian bonnet to screen her face from the sun. What shall I say? Is it she, or is it not? Does my judgment err? Yes—no—I cannot tell—ah, me! It is no other, yes! She greets me with bright glances as she draws near, and makes a signal. Here is Ismene, clearly, and no other before me.

Oedipus
What is that you say, my child?

Antigone
That I see your daughter, my sister. By her voice right away you can know her.

Ismene
Father and sister, names most sweet to me! How hard it was to find you! And how hard now to look upon you for my tears!

Oedipus
My child, have you come?

Ismene
Father, your fate is sad to see!

Oedipus
Are you with us, my child?

Ismene
Not without toil, indeed, for myself.

Oedipus
Touch me, my daughter!

Ismene
I give a hand to each at once.

Oedipus
Ah my children, my sisters!

Ismene
Alas, twice-wretched life!

Oedipus
Her life and mine?

Ismene
And mine, wretched me, makes a third.

Oedipus
Child, why have you come?

Ismene
Through concern for you, father.

Oedipus
Through longing to see me?

Ismene
Yes, and to bring you news by my own mouth, with the only faithful servant that I had.

Oedipus
And where are the young men, your brothers, in our need?

Ismene
They are where they are; their circumstances now are terrible.

Oedipus
True image of the ways of Egypt that they show in their spirit and their life! For there the men sit weaving in the house, but the wives go forth to win the daily bread. And in your case, my daughters, those to whom these toils belonged keep the house at home like maidens, while you two, in their place, bear your poor father's woes. The one, from the time when her youth was past and she came into her strength, has always been this old man's guide in weary wanderings, often roaming, hungry and barefoot, through the wild woods, often battered by rains and scorching sun. And the comforts of home, poor girl, she holds in the second place, so long as her father should have her care. And you, my child, in former days came forth, bringing your father, unknown to the Cadmeans, all the oracles that had been given concerning Oedipus. You became a faithful guardian on my behalf, when I was being driven from the land. Now, in turn, what new tidings have you brought your father, Ismene? On what mission have you set forth from home? For you do not come empty-handed, I know well, or without some cause of fear for me.

Ismene
The sufferings that I bore, father, in seeking where you dwelt, I will pass by; I would not renew the pain in the recital. But the evils that now beset your ill-fated sons—it is of these that I have come to tell. At first it was their decision that the throne should be left to Creon, and the city spared pollution, when they thought calmly about the ancient blight on our race, and how it has clung to your unfortunate house. But now, moved by some god and by sinful heart, an evil strife has seized them—thrice-deluded!—to grasp at rule and the power of a tyrant. And the younger son has stripped the elder, Polyneices, of the throne, and has driven him from his fatherland. But he, as the widespread rumor says among us, has gone to the valley of Argos as an exile, and is taking to himself a new marriage connection, and warriors for his friends, intending that Argos soon get hold of the Cadmean land, or send its praises to the sky. These are not empty words, my father, but terrible deeds; and where the gods will have pity on your grief, I cannot tell.

Oedipus
What, had you come to hope that the gods would ever have concern enough for me to give me rescue?

Ismene
Yes, that is my hope, father, from the present oracles.

Oedipus
What are they? What has been prophesied, my child?

Ismene
That you will be desired some day, in life and death, by the men of that land, for their safety's sake.

Oedipus
And who could profit from such a one as I?

Ismene
Their power, it is said, proves to be in your hands.

Oedipus
When I no longer exist, then I am a man?

Ismene
Yes, for the gods now raise you up; but before they worked your ruin.

Oedipus
It is a paltry thing to raise up age, when youth was ruined.

Ismene
Well, know at least that Creon will come to you on this account—and soon, not late.

Oedipus
With what purpose, daughter? Interpret that to me.

Ismene
To plant you near the Cadmean land, so that they may have you in their power, while you may not set foot within their borders.

Oedipus
And how can I profit them while I rest beyond their gates?

Ismene
Your tomb contains a curse for them, if it should suffer misfortune.

Oedipus
I need no god to help my wits so far.

Ismene
For this reason, therefore, they wish to get you as their neighbor; but in a place where they will have you at their mercy.

Oedipus
Will they really cover me in Theban dust?

Ismene
No, the guilt of related blood forbids you, father.

Oedipus
Then never will they become my masters.

Ismene
Someday then this will be a grief for the Cadmeans.

Oedipus
In what conjunction of events, my child?

Ismene
Under the power of your anger, when they stand at your tomb.

Oedipus
And who has told you this, my child?

Ismene
Sacred envoys, from the Delphian hearth.

Oedipus
And has Phoebus indeed spoken this concerning me?

Ismene
So say the men who have come back to Thebes.

Oedipus
Has either of my sons heard this?

Ismene
Yes, both have heard it, and know it well.

Oedipus
And then those most evil of sons, aware of this, preferred the kingship to the wish of recalling me?

Ismene
It grieves me to hear this, but I must bear it.

Oedipus
Then may the gods not quench their fated strife, and may it fall to me to decide this war on which they are now setting their hands, raising spear against spear! For then neither would he who now holds the scepter and the throne survive, nor would the exile ever return; seeing that when I, their father, was being thrust without honor from my country, they did not stop or defend me. No, they saw me sent forth homeless, and heard the crier proclaim my sentence of exile. Perhaps you will say that that was my own wish then, and that the city fittingly granted me that gift. Not so! For on that first day, when my heart seethed, and my sweetest wish was for death—indeed, death by stoning—no one was found to help me in that desire. But after a time, when all my anguish was now softened, and when I began to feel that my heart had been excessive in punishing those past errors, then it was that the city set about to drive me by force from the land, after all that time. And my sons, when they had the strength to bring help—sons to their own father—they would not do it. For lack of one little word from them, I was left to wander, an outcast and a beggar forever. Instead, it is from these, maidens as they are, insofar as nature enables them, that I obtain my daily food, and a shelter in the land, and the aid of family. Their brothers have bartered their father for the throne, the scepter of power, and the rule of the realm. No, never will they win Oedipus for an ally, nor will good ever come to them from this reign at Thebes; that I know, when I hear this maiden's oracles and reflect on the old prophecies stored in my own mind, which Phoebus has fulfilled for me at last. Therefore let them send Creon to seek me—or whoever else is mighty in Thebes. For if you, strangers, with the help of the dread goddesses who reign among your district, are willing to defend me, you will obtain a great savior for this city, and troubles for my enemies.

Chorus
You are worthy of compassion, Oedipus, both you and these maidens. And since to this plea you append your power to save our land, I wish to advise you for your advantage.

Oedipus
Dearest friends, be my patrons, and I will bring everything to completion.

Chorus
Then make atonement to these divinities, to whom you have come first, and on whose ground you have trespassed.

Oedipus
With what rites? Instruct me, strangers.

Chorus
First, from an ever-flowing spring bring sacred drink-offerings, borne in ritually pure hands.

Oedipus
And when I have gotten this unmixed draught?

Chorus
There are bowls, the work of a skilled craftsman; crown their edges and the handles at either side.

Oedipus
With olive branches, or woollen cloths, or in what way?

Chorus
Take the freshly-shorn wool of a ewe-lamb.

Oedipus
Good; and then to what last rite shall I proceed?

Chorus
Pour the drink-offerings, with your face to the dawn.

Oedipus
Shall I pour them with these vessels of which you speak?

Chorus
Yes, in three streams; but the last vessel—

Oedipus
With what shall I fill this, before I set it down? Teach me this also.

Chorus
With water and honey; but add no wine.

Oedipus
And when the ground under the dark shade has drunk these?

Chorus
Three times lay on it nine branches of olive with both your hands, and meanwhile make this prayer.

Oedipus
I wish to hear this prayer; it is the most important part.

Chorus
We call them Eumenides, so that with well-wishing power they may receive the suppliant as his saviors. Let this be your prayer, or of whoever prays for you. Speak inaudibly, and do not lift up your voice; then depart, without looking behind. If you should do this, I would be bold enough to come to your aid; but otherwise, stranger, I would fear for you.

Oedipus
Daughters, do you hear these strangers who dwell nearby?

Antigone
We have listened. Tell us what to do.

Oedipus
I cannot make the trip; for I am disabled by lack of strength and lack of sight, twin evils. But let one of you two go and do these things. For I think that one soul suffices to pay this debt for ten thousand, if it comes with good will. Act, then, with speed. But do not abandon me, for my body would not have the strength to move, without help or a guiding hand.

Ismene
Then I will go to perform the rite; but where I am to find the place—this I wish to learn.

Chorus
On the further side of this grove, stranger. And if you have need of anything, there is a guardian of the place. He will direct you.

Ismene
Off to my task. But you, Antigone, watch our father here. In the case of parents, if we toil, we must not keep a memory of it.

Ismene exits.

04. Tweede samenzang; regel 510-548

Chorus
Terrible it is, stranger, to arouse the old woe that has for so long been laid to rest: and yet I yearn to hear—

Oedipus
What now?

Chorus
—Of that grief-filled anguish, cureless, with which you have wrestled.

Oedipus
By your hospitality, do not uncover the shame that I have suffered!

Chorus
Seeing that the tale is wide-spread and in no way weakens, I wish, friend, to hear it straight.

Oedipus
Ah me!

Chorus
Grant the favor, I beg!

Oedipus
Alas, alas!

Chorus
Grant my wish, as I have granted yours to the full.

Oedipus
I have suffered the greatest misery, strangers—suffered it through unintended deeds—may the god know it! No part was of my own choice.

Chorus
But in what way?

Oedipus
In an evil marriage, the city bound me, unknowing, to ruin.

Chorus
Is it true, as I hear, that you made your mother the partner of your bed, to its infamy?

Oedipus
Ah, me! These words, strangers, are like death to my ears. And those two maidens of mine—

Chorus
What will you say?

Oedipus
—Two daughters—two curses—

Chorus
O Zeus!

Oedipus
—of mine, sprung from the travail of the womb that bore me too.

Chorus
These, then, are at once your daughters, and—

Oedipus
—Sisters, indeed, of their father.

Chorus
Oh!

Oedipus
Indeed, woes untold sweep back upon my soul!

Chorus
You have suffered—

Oedipus
I have suffered woes grievous to bear.

Chorus
You have performed—

Oedipus
I have not performed!

Chorus
How?

Oedipus
A gift was given to me—O, wretched that I am, if only I had never won from the city that gift for my services!

Chorus
Cursed man! What of this? Did you commit the murder—

Oedipus
What now? What would you learn?

Chorus
—Of your father?

Oedipus
Oh! oh! a second stab—wound on wound!

Chorus
You killed—

Oedipus
I killed—yet I have a plea—

Chorus
What can you plead?

Oedipus
—A plea of justice.

Chorus
What?

Oedipus
I will tell you: I killed in ignorance and perished utterly. Pure before the law, without knowledge of my act, I have come to this!

05. Tweede akte; regel 549-667

Chorus
Look, there comes our lord, Theseus son of Aegeus, at the sound of your voice, to do that for which he was summoned. Enter Theseus. Theseus
Through hearing from many in the past about the bloody marring of your sight, I recognized it was you, son of Laius; and now on coming here, through sight I am more fully certain. For your clothing and that heart-rending face alike assure me that it is you. And in all compassion I ask you, ill-fated Oedipus, with what petition to the city and to me have you taken your place here, you and the poor maiden at your side. Declare it. Dire indeed must be the fortune which you tell, for me to stand aloof from it; since I know that I myself also was reared in exile, just as you, and that in foreign lands I wrestled with perils to my life, like no other man. Never, then, would I turn aside from a stranger, such as you are now, or refuse to help in his deliverance. For I know well that I am a man, and that my portion of tomorrow is no greater than yours.

Oedipus
Theseus, in a few words your nobleness has come to such a point that I need make only a brief reply. You have said who I am, from what father I am sprung, and from what land I have come; and so nothing else remains for me but to speak my wish, and the tale is told.

Theseus
Then inform me of this very thing, so that I may learn it.

Oedipus
I come to offer you my care-worn body as a gift—not one fine to look on, but the gains from it are better than beauty.

Theseus
And what gain do you claim to have brought?

Oedipus
Later you may learn it—but not yet.

Theseus
At what time, then, will the benefit become clear?

Oedipus
When I am dead, and you have given me burial.

Theseus
You crave life's last service; but for all between you have no memory, or no care.

Oedipus
Indeed, for by that service I gather in all the rest.

Theseus
Well then, this favor you crave from me is brief indeed.

Oedipus
Yet take care; the struggle here is no light one. No, indeed.

Theseus
Do you mean in respect to your sons, or to me?

Oedipus
They will compel you to convey me there to Thebes.

Theseus
But if you are willing, then exile is not becoming.

Oedipus
No, when I was willing, they refused.

Theseus
Foolish man, anger amidst woes is not suitable.

Oedipus
When you have heard my story, admonish; till then, forbear.

Theseus
Speak. I must not pronounce without knowledge.

Oedipus
I have suffered, Theseus, terrible woes upon woes.

Theseus
Will you speak of the ancient trouble of your race?

Oedipus
No, indeed; all Greeks speak of that.

Theseus
How, then, do you suffer beyond what is mortal?

Oedipus
The circumstance is this: from my country I have been driven by my own sons; and I may not return, since I am guilty of a father's blood.

Theseus
Why would they have you brought back, if you must dwell apart?

Oedipus
The word of the god will compel them.

Theseus
What suffering do they fear from the oracles?

Oedipus
That they must be struck down in this land.

Theseus
And how should bitterness come between them and me?

Oedipus
Dearest son of Aegeus, to the gods alone old age and death never come, but everything else sinks into chaos from time which overpowers all. Earth's strength decays, and so too the strength of the body; trust dies; distrust is born; and the same spirit is never steadfast among friends, or between city and city. For some now, for others tomorrow, sweet feelings turn to bitter, and then once more to being dear. And if now the sun shines brightly between Thebes and you, yet time in his course gives birth to days and nights untold, in which from a small cause they will scatter with the spear today's pledges of concord. Then one day my slumbering and buried corpse, cold in death, will drink their warm blood, if Zeus is still Zeus, and Phoebus, the son of Zeus, speaks clear. But, since I would not break silence concerning words that must not spoken, allow me to cease where I began. Only keep your own pledge good, and never will you say that in vain you welcomed Oedipus to dwell in this land—if indeed the gods do not deceive me.

Chorus
Lord, from the first this man has shown a will to bring these words, or similar ones, to completion for our land.

Theseus
Who, then, would reject the goodwill of such a one? To whom, first, the hearth of a spear-friend is always available on our side, by reciprocal right; then too he has come as a suppliant to our gods, paying no small recompense to this land and to me. In reverence for these claims, I will never spurn his favor, and I will establish a dwelling for him as a citizen in the land. And if it is the pleasure of the stranger to remain here, I will command you to protect him; or, if it pleases him, to come with me. This choice or that, Oedipus, you may take; your desire will be mine.

Oedipus
O Zeus, may you be good to men such as these!

Theseus
What is your wish, then? Will you come to my house?

Oedipus
Yes, I would, if it were right. But this is the place—

Theseus
What will you do here? Speak, for I will not hinder you.

Oedipus
—Where I will conquer those who cast me out.

Theseus
The promised gift of your presence would be great.

Oedipus
It shall be, if you keep your pledge with me.

Theseus
Have courage concerning me; never will I betray you.

Oedipus
I will not bind you with an oath as if an evil man.

Theseus
Well, you would win nothing more than by my word.

Oedipus
What will you do, then?

Theseus
What is it that you fear?

Oedipus
Men will come—

Theseus
But these men here will see to that.

Oedipus
Beware that if you leave me—

Theseus
Do not instruct me in my duties.

Oedipus
Fear constrains me—

Theseus
My heart feels no fear.

Oedipus
You do not know the threats—

Theseus
I know that none will lead you from here against my will. Often threats have blustered in men's hearts with words loud and vain; but when the mind comes to itself once more, the threats have vanished. For those men, too, perhaps—yes, even if in boldness they have spoken dreadful things of bringing you back, the voyage here will prove long and hard to sail. Now I exhort you, apart from any decision of mine, to take heart, if indeed Phoebus has been your escort here. Even if I am not present, still my name, I know, will shield you from harm.

06. Eerste koorlied; regel 668-719

Chorus strofe
Stranger, in this land of fine horses you have come to earth's fairest home, the shining Colonus. Here the nightingale, a constant guest, trills her clear note under the trees of green glades, dwelling amid the wine-dark ivy and the god's inviolate foliage, rich in berries and fruit, unvisited by sun, unvexed by the wind of any storm. Here the reveller Dionysus ever walks the ground, companion of the nymphs that nursed him.

Chorus antistrofe
And, fed on heavenly dew, the narcissus blooms day by day with its fair clusters; it is the ancient crown of the Great Goddesses. And the crocus blooms with a golden gleam. Nor do the ever-flowing springs diminish, from which the waters of Cephisus wander, and each day with pure current it moves over the plains of the land's swelling bosom, bringing fertility. Nor have the dancing Muses shunned this place, nor Aphrodite of the golden rein.

Chorus strofe
And there is a thing such as I have not heard of on Asian ground, nor as ever yet born in the great Dorian isle of Pelops: a plant unconquered, self-renewing, causing terror to destroying enemies. It greatly flourishes in this land—the gray-leafed olive, nurturer of children. Youth cannot harm it by the ravages of his hand, nor can any who lives with old age. For the sleepless eye of Zeus Morios watches over it, and gray-eyed Athena.

Chorus antistrofe
And I have more praise for this city our mother, the gift of a great divinity, a glory most great: the might of horses, the might of colts, and the might of the sea. For you, son of Cronus, lord Poseidon, have set her on the throne of this pride, by establishing first in our roads the bit that cures the rage of horses. And the shapely oar, well-fitted for the sea, in flying past the land leaps to follow the hundred-footed Nereids.

07. Derde akte; regel 720-1043

Antigone
Land that is praised above all lands, now it is your task to make those bright praises seen in deeds!

Oedipus
What strange new thing has happened, my daughter?

Antigone
Creon there draws near us, and not without followers, father.

Oedipus
Ah, dearest old men, now give me the final proof of my salvation!

Chorus
Courage! It will be yours. For even if I am aged, this country's strength has not grown old.

Enter Creon, with attendants.

Creon
Gentlemen, noble dwellers in this land, I see from your eyes that a sudden fear has troubled you at my coming; but do not shrink back from me, and let no evil word escape you. I am here with no thought of force; I am old, and I know that the city to which I have come is mighty, if any in Hellas has might. No, I have been sent, aged as I am, to plead with this man to return with me to the land of Cadmus. I am not one man's envoy, but have a mandate from all our people; since it belonged to me, by family, beyond all other Thebans to mourn his woes. Unhappy Oedipus, hear us, and come home! Justly are you summoned by all the Cadmeans, and most of all by me, since I—unless I am the worst of all men born—feel most sorrow for your woes, old man, when I see you, unhappy as you are, a stranger and a wanderer evermore, roaming in beggary, with one handmaid for your support. Ah, me, I had not thought that she could fall to such a depth of misery as that to which she has fallen— this poor girl!—as she tends forever your dark life amid poverty; in ripe youth, but unwed: a prize for the first passerby to seize. Is it not a cruel reproach—alas!—that I have cast at you, and me, and all our race? But indeed an open shame cannot be hidden. Oedipus, in the name of your ancestral gods, listen to me! Hide it, and consent to return to the city and the house of your ancestors, after bidding a kind farewell to this city. Athens is worthy; yet your own city has the first claim on your reverence, since it was Thebes that nurtured you long ago.

Oedipus
You who will dare anything, who from any just plea would derive a crafty trick, why do you make this attempt on me, and seek once more to snare me in your trap where I would feel most grief? Long ago, when I labored under the sickness of my self-made evils, and I yearned to be cast out of the land, you refused to grant the favor. But when my fierce anger had spent its force, and seclusion in the house was sweet to me, it was then that you thrust me from the house and cast me from the land. And this common race that you mention—that was not at all dear to you then. Now, in turn, when you see that I have a kindly welcome from this city and all its race, you try to pluck me away, wrapping your cruel thoughts in soft words. And yet what pleasure do you find in this, in treating me as dear against my will? As if a man should refuse you a gift, bring you no aid, when you continually begged for it; but after your heart was sated with your desires, he should grant it then, when the favor could bring no joy —would you not find your delight in this empty? Yet such is the nature of your own offers to me: noble in appearance, but in substance base. And I will declare it to these men too, to show you up as base. You have come to get me, not to bring me home, but to plant me near your borders, so that your city might escape uninjured by evils from this land. That fate is not for you, but this one: the brooding of my vengeful spirit on your land forever; and for my sons, this heirloom: just so much soil in my realm in which to die. Am I not wiser than you in the fortunes of Thebes? Yes, far wiser, by as much as the sources of my knowledge are truer: Phoebus I mean, and his father, Zeus himself. But you have come here with fraud on your lips, yes, and with a tongue keener than the edge of a sword; yet by their use you may well reap more sorrow than salvation. Still, since I know that I cannot persuade you of this, go! Allow us to live on here; for even in this plight our life would not be bad, if we should be content with it.

Creon
Which of us, do you think, suffers more in this exchange—I by your action, or you by your own?

Oedipus
For me, it is enough if your pleading fails both with me and with these men nearby.

Creon
Unhappy man, will you let everyone see that even in your years you have gained no sense? Must you live on to disgrace your old age?

Oedipus
You have a clever tongue, but I know no just man who can produce from every side a pretty speech.

Creon
Words may be many, and yet not to the point.

Oedipus
As if yours, indeed, were few, but on the mark.

Creon
They cannot be, not for one whose mind is such as yours.

Oedipus
Begone! I will say it for these men too. And do not besiege me with a jealous watch where I am destined to remain.

Creon
I call these men, and not you, to witness the tenor of your words to your friends. And if I ever catch you—

Oedipus
And who could catch me against the will of these allies?

Creon
I promise you, soon you will be pained even without that.

Oedipus
Where is the deed which backs that threatening word?

Creon
One of your two daughters I have myself just seized and sent away. The other I will drag off immediately.

Oedipus
Oh, no!

Creon
You will soon find more to weep about.

Oedipus
You have my child?

Creon
And I will have this one in no long time.

Oedipus
Oh! Strangers, what will you do? Will you betray me? Will you not drive the godless man from this land?

Chorus
Depart, stranger! Quick! Your present deed is not just, nor the deed which you have done.

Creon
To his attendants. It is time for you to drag this girl off against her will, if she will not go freely.

Antigone
Wretched that I am! Where can I flee? Where find help from gods or men?

Chorus
What are you doing, stranger?

Creon
I will not touch this man, but her who is mine.

Oedipus
Lords of the land!

Chorus
Stranger, you are acting unjustly.

Creon
Justly.

Chorus
How?

Creon
I take my own.

He lays his hand on Antigone.

Oedipus
Oh, city !

Chorus
What are you doing, stranger? Release her! Your strength and ours will soon come to the test.

Creon
Stand back!

Chorus
Not while this is your purpose.

Creon
There will be war with Thebes for you, if you harm me.

Oedipus
Did I not say so?

Chorus
Unhand the girl at once!

Creon
Do not make commands where you are not the master.

Chorus
Let go, I tell you!

Creon
To his guards, who seize Antigone. And I tell you: be off!

Chorus
Help, men of Colonus, bring help! The city, our city, is attacked by force! Come to our aid!

Antigone
I am being dragged away in misery. Strangers, strangers!

Oedipus
My child, where are you?

Antigone
I am led off by force.

Oedipus
Give me your hand, my child!

Antigone
I am helpless.

Creon
Away with you!

Oedipus
I am wretched, wretched!

The guards exit with Antigone.

Creon
So those two staffs will never again support your path. But since you wish to overcome your country and your friends, whose will I, though tyrant as well, am here discharging, then I wish you victory. For in time, I am sure, you will come to recognize all this, that now too as in time past, it is you who have done yourself no good, by indulging your anger despite your friends. This has always been your ruin.

Chorus
Stop there, stranger!

Creon
Hands off, I say!

Chorus
I will not let go, unless you give back the maidens.

Creon
Then you will soon give the city a more valuable prize, for I will lay hands on more than those two girls.

Chorus
What! What do you intend?

Creon
This man here will be my captive.

Chorus
A valiant threat!

Creon
Straightaway it will be done.

Chorus
Indeed, unless the ruler of this realm prevents you.

Oedipus
Voice of shamelessness! Will you really lay hands on me?

Creon
Shut up, I say!

Oedipus
No! May the powers of this place grant me to utter this further curse! Most evil of men, when these eyes were dark, you wrenched from me the helpless one who was my eyesight and made off with her by force. Therefore to you and to your race may the Sun, the god who sees all things, grant in time an old age such as mine!

Creon
Do you see this, people of the land?

Oedipus
They see both you and me. They know that I have suffered in deeds, and my defense is mere words.

Creon
I will not check my anger. Though I am alone and slow with age, I will take this man by force.

Oedipus
Ah, my wretchedness!

Chorus
What arrogance you have come with, stranger, if you think you will achieve this!

Creon
I will.

Chorus
Then I think this city no longer exists.

Creon
For men who are just, you see, the weak vanquishes the strong.

Oedipus
Do you hear his words?

Chorus
Yes, but he will not achieve them.

Creon
Zeus knows perhaps, but you do not.

Chorus
This is an outrage!

Creon
An outrage which you must bear.

Chorus
Hear people, hear rulers of the land! Come quickly, come! These men are on their way to cross our borders!

Enter Theseus.

Theseus
What is this shout? What is the trouble? What fear has moved you to stop my sacrifice at the altar to the sea-god, the lord of your Colonus? Speak, so that I may know the situation; for that is why I have sped here more swiftly than was pleasant.

Oedipus
Dearest of men! I know your voice. Terrible are the things I have just suffered at the hands of this man here.

Theseus
What things are these? And who has pained you? Speak!

Oedipus
Creon, whom you see here, has torn from me my children—my only two.

Theseus
What is that you say?

Oedipus
You have heard my wrongs.

Theseus
Hurry, one of you attendants, to the altars there, and order the people to leave the sacrifice and race on foot and by horse full speed, to the region where the two highways meet, so that the maidens may not pass, and I not become a mockery to this stranger as one worsted by force. Quick, I say, away with you! As for this man, if my anger went as far as he deserves, I would not let him go uninjured from my hand. But now, just such law as he himself has brought will be the rule for his correction. You will never leave this land until you bring those maidens and produce them in my sight. For your action is a disgrace to me, and to your own ancestors, and to your country. You have come to a city that practices justice and sanctions nothing without law, yet you have spurned her lawful authorities and made this violent assault. You are taking captives at will and subjugating them by force, as if you believed that my city was void of men, or manned by slaves, and that I counted for nothing. Yet it was not Thebes that trained you to be evil. Thebes is not accustomed to rearing unjust men;— nor would she praise you, if she learned that you are despoiling me, and despoiling the gods, when by force you drive off their unfortunate suppliants. If my foot were upon your land, never would I drag off or lead away someone without permission from the ruler of the land, whoever he might be—no, even if my claim were the most just of all. I would know how a stranger ought to live among citizens. But you are disgracing a city that does not deserve it: your own, and your years, despite their fullness, bring you an old age barren of sense. Now, I have said before, and I say it once again: let the maidens be brought here speedily, unless you wish to be an unwilling immigrant to this country by force. These are the words of my lips; my mind is in accord.

Chorus
Do you see your plight, stranger? You are judged to be just by where you are from, but your deeds are found to be evil.

Creon
It is not because I thought this city void of men, son of Aegeus, or of counsel, as you say, that I have done this deed; but because I judged that its people could never be so zealous for my relatives as to support them against my will. And I knew that this people would not receive a parricide and a polluted man, a man whose unholy marriage—a marriage with children—had been found out. Such wisdom, I knew, was immemorial on the Areopagus, which does not allow such wanderers to dwell within this city. Trusting in that, I sought to take this prize. And I would not have done so, had he not been calling down bitter curses on me and on my race. As I was wronged in this way, I judged that I had a right to this requital. For anger knows no old age, until death comes; the dead alone feel no galling pain. In response to this, you will do what pleases you; for, though my case is just, the lack of aid makes me weak. Yet in the face of your actions, despite my age, I will endeavor to pay you back.

Oedipus
Shameless arrogance, where do you think this outrage falls—on my old age, or on your own? Bloodshed, incest, misery—all this your tongue has launched against me, and all this I have borne in my wretchedness by no choice of mine. For this was dear to the gods, who were angry, perhaps, with my race from of old. Taking me alone, you could not find a reproach for any crime, in retribution for which I was driven to commit these sins against myself and against my kin. Tell me now: if, by the voice of an oracle, some divine doom was coming on my father, that he should die by a son's hand, how could you justly reproach me with this, when I was then unborn, when no father had yet begotten me, no mother's womb conceived me? But if, having been born to misery—as I was born—I came to blows with my father and slew him, ignorant of what I was doing and to whom, how could you reasonably blame the unwitting deed? And my mother—wretch, do you feel no shame in forcing me to speak of her marriage, when she was your sister, and when it was such as I will now tell? For I will not be silent, when you have gone so far in impious speech. Yes, she was my mother, yes—alas, for my miseries! I did not know it, nor did she, and to her shame she bore children to the son whom she had borne. But one thing, at least, I know: that you willingly revile her and me, but I did not willingly marry her, and I do not willingly speak now. No, I will not be called evil on account of this marriage, nor in the slaying of my father, which you charge me with again and again in bitter insult. Answer just one thing of those I ask. If, here and now, someone should come up and try to murder you—you, the just one—would you ask if the murderer was your father, or would you revenge yourself on him straightaway? I think that if your life is dear to you, you would requite the criminal, and not look around for a justification. Such then were the evils into which I came, led by the gods; and in this, I think, my father's soul, could it come back to life, would not contradict me. But you are not just; you are one who considers it a fine thing to utter every sort of word, both those which are sanctioned and those which are forbidden—such are your taunts against me in the presence of these men. And to you it seems a fine thing to flatter the renowned Theseus, and Athens, saying how well it is governed. Yet while giving such generous praise, you forget that if any land knows how to worship the gods with honors, this land excels in that. It is from her that you had planned to steal me, a suppliant and an old man, and tried to seize me, having already carried off my daughters. Therefore I now call on the goddesses here, I supplicate them, I beseech them with prayers, to bring me help and to fight on my behalf, that you may learn well what kind of men this city is guarded by.

Chorus
The stranger is a good man, lord. His fate has been accursed, but it is worthy of our aid.

Theseus
Enough of words. The doers of the deed are in flight, while we, the sufferers, stand still.

Creon
What order, then, do you have for a powerless man?

Theseus
Guide the way on the path to them while I escort you, in order that if you are keeping the maidens whom we seek in these lands, you yourself may reveal them to me. But if your men are fleeing with the spoils in their grasp, we may spare our trouble; the chase is for others, from whom they will never escape out of this land to thank their gods. Come, lead the way! And know that the captor has been captured; fate has seized you as you hunted. Gains unjustly got by guile are soon lost. And you will have no ally in your purpose; for I well know that it is not without accomplice or resource that you have come to such outrage, from the daring mood which has inspired you here. There was someone you were trusting in when you did these deeds. This I must consider, and I must not make this city weaker than one man. Do you take my drift? Or do these words seem as empty as the warnings given when you were laying your plans?

Creon
Say what you wish while you are here; I will not object. But at home I too will know how to act.

Theseus
Make your threats, then, but go forward. As for you, Oedipus, stay here in peace with my pledge that, unless I die beforehand, I will not cease until I put you in possession of your children.

Oedipus
Thanks to you, Theseus, for your nobleness and your righteous care for me!

Theseus exits with attendants and Creon.

08. Tweede koorlied; regel 1044-1095

Chorus
Oh, to be where the enemy, turned to fight, will soon join in Ares' clash of bronze, by the shores of Apollo, perhaps, or by that torch-lit beach where the Great Goddesses maintain awful rites for mortals on whose lips the ministering Eumolpidae have laid the golden seal of silence. There, I think, the war-rousing Theseus and the two maiden sisters will soon meet within our borders, amid the war-cry of resisting men!

Chorus
Or perhaps they will soon draw near to the pastures on the west of Oea's snowy rock, fleeing on young horses or in chariots racing full speed. He will be caught! Terrible is the neighboring Ares, terrible the might of the followers of Theseus. Yes, the steel of every bridle flashes, and against their opponents charges forward our whole cavalry, who honor horse-riding Athena, and the earth-girdling Sea-god, the dear son of Rhea.

Chorus
Is the battle now or yet to be? For somehow my mind presages to me that soon I will meet the maidens who have suffered fearfully, who have found fearful suffering at the hands of a kinsman. Today Zeus will bring something to completion. I predict noble struggles. Oh, to be a dove with the strength and swiftness of a whirlwind, that I might reach an airy cloud, and hang my gaze above the fight!

Chorus
Hear, all-ruling lord of the gods, all-seeing Zeus! Grant to the guardians of this land to achieve with triumphant might the capture that gives the prize into their hands! And may your daughter grant it too, dread Pallas Athena! And Apollo, the hunter, and his sister, who follows the spotted, swift-footed deer—I wish that they would come, a double help to this land and to its people.

Chorus
Wandering stranger, you will not say your watcher was a false prophet, for I see your daughters once again drawing near.

09. Vierde akte; regel 1096-1210

Oedipus
Where? Where? What is that? What do you mean?

Enter Antigone and Ismene, with Theseus and his attendants.

Antigone
Father, father, I wish some god would grant that your eyes might see this excellent man, who has brought us here to you!

Oedipus
My child, are you really here?

Antigone
Yes, for these strong arms have saved us—Theseus and his dearest followers.

Oedipus
Come here, my children, to your father! Grant me your embrace—restored beyond all hope!

Antigone
We shall grant your wish, for we crave the favor we bestow.

Oedipus
Where, then, where are you?

Antigone
Here we are, approaching you together.

Oedipus
Dearest offspring!

Antigone
Everything is dear to its parent.

Oedipus
Supports of a man—

Antigone
Ill-fated as he is ill-fated.

Oedipus
I hold my dearest. Now, if I should die, I would not be wholly wretched, since you have come to me. Press close to me on either side, children, cling to your father, and rest from your wandering, so desolate, so grievous! And tell me what has happened as briefly as you can, since brief speech suffices for young maidens.

Antigone
Here is our savior: you should hear the story from him, father, since the deed was his. So short will by part be.

Oedipus
Stranger, do not be amazed at my persistence, if I prolong my words to my children, found again beyond my hope. I well know that my present joy in them has come to me from you, and you alone, for you—and not any other mortal—have rescued them. May the gods grant to you my wish, both to you yourself and to this land; for among you, above all mankind, I have found piety, the spirit of decency, and lips that tell no lie. I know these things, and I repay them with these words; for what I have, I have through you, and no one else. Stretch out to me your right hand, lord, that I may touch it; and if it is right, let me kiss your cheek. But what am I saying? Wretched as I have become, how could I wish you to touch a man in whom every stain of evils has made its dwelling? I will not touch you—nor will I allow it, if you do consent. They alone, who know them, can share these burdens. Receive my greeting where you stand, and in the future too give me your righteous care, as you have given it up to this hour.

Theseus
I feel no amazement, if you have had a lengthy conversation from joy in these children, or if your first concern has been for their words rather than for me. Indeed, there is nothing to vex me in that. Not with words so much as with deeds would I add luster to my life. You have this proof: I have cheated you in none of my sworn promises, old man. Here am I, with the maidens living, uninjured by those threats. As to how the struggle was won, what need have I vainly to boast of what you will learn from these two when you are together? But there is a matter that has just presented itself to me, as I came here. Give me your counsel regarding it; for, though it is small, it is food for wonder. And mortal man must consider nothing beneath his concern.

Oedipus
What is it, son of Aegeus? Tell me; I myself know nothing of what you inquire.

Theseus
They say a man—not from your city, yet of your race—has somehow thrown himself down, as a suppliant, at our altar of Poseidon, where I was sacrificing when I first set out here.

Oedipus
What land does he come form? What does he desire by his supplication?

Theseus
I know one thing only: they tell me he asks to speak briefly with you, a thing of no great burden.

Oedipus
On what topic? That suppliant state is of no small account.

Theseus
He asks, they say, no more than that he may confer with you, and return unharmed from his journey here.

Oedipus
Who can he be that implores the god in this way?

Theseus
Consider whether there is anyone in your race at Argos, who might desire this favor from you.

Oedipus
Dearest friend, say no more!

Theseus
What is wrong?

Oedipus
Do not ask me for—

Theseus
For what? Speak!

Oedipus
From hearing these things I know who the suppliant is.

Theseus
And who can he be, that I should have an objection to him?

Oedipus
My son, lord, a hated son whose words would vex my ear like the words of no man besides.

Theseus
What? Can you not listen, without doing what you do not wish to do? Why does it pain you to hear him?

Oedipus
Lord, that voice has become most hateful to his father. Do not constrain me to yield in this.

Theseus
But consider whether his suppliant state constrains you; what if you have a duty of respect for the god?

Antigone
Father, listen to me; I will offer counsel though I am young. Allow this man here to gratify his own feelings and the god as he wishes, and for your daughters' sake allow our brother to come. He will not tear you by force from your resolve—never fear—with such words as will not be for your good. What harm can there be in listening to words? Deeds wickedly devised, as you know, are betrayed by speech. You sired him, so, even if he wrongs you with the most impious of wrongs, father, it is not right for you to wrong him in return. Let him come! Other men too have evil offspring and a sharp anger, but they hear advice and are charmed from their mood by the gentle spells of friends. Look to the past, away from the present; consider all the pains that you have suffered through your father and mother. If you consider those things, I know well that you will perceive that what results from an evil anger is evil. Your reasons to reflect on this are not trivial, bereft of your unseeing eyes. Yield to us! It is not a fine thing for those seeking justice to keep asking; nor is it good that a man should be treated well, and thereafter not know how to requite it.

Oedipus
My child, by your pleading you overcome me; but your pleasure here is my grief. Still, let it be as is dear to you. Only, if that man is to come here, stranger, let no one ever become master over my soul.

Theseus
Once only do I need hear such words, and no more, old man. I do not want to boast, but you may feel sure that your life is safe, while any of the gods preserves mine.

Theseus exits.

10. Derde koorlied; regel 1211-1248

Chorus
Whoever craves the longer length of life, not content to desire a moderate span, him I will judge with no uncertainty: he clings to folly. For the long years lay in deposit many things nearer to pain than joy; but as for your delights, you will find them nowhere, when someone's life has fallen beyond the fitting period. The Helper comes at last to all alike, when the fate of Hades is suddenly revealed, without marriage-song, or lyre, or dance: Death at the end.

Chorus
Not to be born is, beyond all estimation, best; but when a man has seen the light of day, this is next best by far, that with utmost speed he should go back from where he came. For when he has seen youth go by, with its easy merry-making, what hard affliction is foreign to him, what suffering does he not know? Envy, factions, strife, battles, and murders. Last of all falls to his lot old age, blamed, weak, unsociable, friendless, wherein dwells every misery among miseries.

Chorus
In such years is this poor man here, not I alone. Like some cape that fronts the north which is lashed on every side by the waves of winter, so he also is fiercely lashed evermore by the dread disasters that break on him like the surf, some from the region of the setting sun, some from that of its rising, some in the realm of its noon-time rays, some from the gloom-wrapped hills of the North.

11. Vijfde akte; regel 1249-1446

Antigone
Look, the stranger, it seems, is coming here to us. Yes, without attendants, father, with tears streaming from his eyes.

Oedipus
Who is he?

Antigone
The very man who was in our thoughts from the first. Polyneices has come to us.

Enter Polyneices.

Polyneices
Ah, me, what should I do? Should I weep first for my own woes, sisters, or for those of my father here, in his old age? I have found him in a foreign land, here with you two as an exile, clad in such garments as these. Their unfriendly filth has resided with the old man for long, wasting his flesh; while above the sightless eyes the unkempt hair flutters in the breeze; and matching with these things, it seems, is the food that he carries, sustenance for his poor stomach. Wretch that I am! I learn all this too late. And I bear witness that I have proved the worst of men in all that concerns care for you; from my own lips hear what I am. But seeing that Zeus himself in all his actions has Shame beside him to share his throne, may she come to your aid too, father. For the sins committed can be healed, but can never be made worse. Why are you silent? Speak, father. Do not turn away from me. Do you not have any answer at all for me? Will you dismiss me without a word, dishonored, and not tell me why you are angry? Seed of this man, my sisters, you at least must try to move our father's implacable, inexorable silence, so that he may not send me away like this, dishonored and with no word in return, when I am the suppliant of the god.

Antigone
Tell him yourself, unhappy man, what you have come to seek. When words flow, you know, they may give joy, or incite anger or pity, and so they may give a voice to the mute.

Polyneices
Then I will speak boldly, for you give me excellent guidance, first claiming the help of the god himself, from whose altar the king of this land raised me to come to you, with a guarantee to speak and hear, and go my way unharmed. And I wish these pledges, strangers, to be kept with me by you, and by my sisters here, and by my father. But now I want to tell you, father, why I came. I have been driven as an exile from my fatherland, because, as eldest-born, I thought it right to sit on your sovereign throne. Therefore Eteocles, though the younger, thrust me from the land, when he had neither defeated me by an argument of law, nor made a trial of might and deed. He brought over the city by persuasion. The cause of this, I claim, is most of all the curse on your house; I also hear this from soothsayers. For when I came to Dorian Argos, I made Adrastus my father-in-law. And I bound to me by oath all men of the Apian land who are foremost in their renown for war, so that with their aid I might collect the seven armies of spearmen against Thebes, and die in a just cause, or drive the doers of this wrong from the land. All right then, why have I come to you now? Bearing prayers of supplication, father, in person to you, my own prayers and those of my allies, who now with seven armies behind their seven spears have set their blockade around the plain of Thebes. One such is swift-speared Amphiaraus, a matchless warrior, and a matchless diviner; then comes the son of Oeneus, Aetolian Tydeus; Eteoclus is third, of Argive birth; the fourth, Hippomedon, is sent by Talaos, his father; while Capaneus, the fifth, boasts that he will burn Thebes to the ground with fire; and sixth, Arcadian Parthenopaeus rushes to the war. He is named for that virgin of long ago from whose marriage in later time he was born, the trusty son of Atalanta. Last come I, your son—or if not yours, then the offspring of an evil fate, but yours at least in name— leading the fearless army of Argos to Thebes. It is we who implore you, father, every one of us, by your daughters here and by your soul, begging you to forgo your fierce anger against me, as I go forth to punish my brother, who has expelled me and robbed me of my fatherland. For if anything trustworthy comes from oracles, they said that whoever you join with in alliance will have victorious strength. Then, by the streams of water and gods of our race, I ask you to listen and to yield. I am a beggar and a stranger, as you are yourself; by paying court to others both you and I have a home, obtaining by lot the same fortune. But he is tyrant at home—wretched me!—and in his pride laughs at you and me alike. But if you join as ally to my purpose, with little trouble or time I will scatter his strength to the winds, so that I will bring you home and set you in your own house, and set me in mine, when I have cast him out by force. If you are with me, then I can make this boast; but without you I cannot even return alive.

Chorus
For the sake of him who has sent this man, Oedipus, speak what seems good to you, before you send him away.

Oedipus
Guardians of this land, if it were not Theseus who had sent him here to me, thinking it just that he should hear my response, then never would he have heard my voice of prophecy. But now he will be graced with it, before he goes, and hear from me such words as never will gladden his life. Worst of men, when you had the scepter and the throne, which now your brother has in Thebes, you drove me, your own father, into exile; and by making me an exile you caused me to wear this clothing at whose sight you weep, now that you have come to the same state of misery as I. The time for tears is past. I must bear this burden as long as I live, and keep you before my mind as a murderer. For it is you that have made me subject to this anguish; it is you that have thrust me out, and because of you I wander, begging my daily bread from strangers. And had these daughters not been born to me to be my comfort, in truth I would be dead, for lack of help from you. But now these girls preserve me; they are my nurses; they are men, not women, in sharing my toil. But you are from another and are no sons of mine. Therefore the divinity looks upon you—not yet as he soon will look, if indeed those armies of yours are moving against Thebes. There is no way in which you can ever overthrow that city. Before that you will fall, polluted by bloodshed, and so too your brother. Such curses as my heart before now sent up against you both, I now invoke to fight for me, in order that you may think it fit to revere your parents and not to dishonor your father utterly, because he who begot such sons is blind. For my daughters here did not act in this way. This supplication of yours, and this throne of yours, will lie in the power of my curses, if indeed Justice, revealed long ago, sits beside Zeus, to share his throne through sanction of primordial laws. But off to damnation with you, abhorred by me and disowned! Take these curses which I call down on you, most evil of evil men: may you never defeat your native land, and may you never return to the valley of Argos; I pray that you die by a related hand, and slay him by whom you have been driven out. This is my prayer. And I call on the hateful darkness of Tartarus that your father shares, to take you into another home; and I call on the divinities of this place, and I call on the god of war, who has set dreadful hatred in you both. Go with these words in your ear; go and announce to all the Cadmeans, and to your own faithful allies, that Oedipus has distributed such portions to his sons.

Chorus
Polyneices
, in your past travels I take no joy. Now go back with speed.

Polyneices
Alas, for my journey and my failed attempt! Alas, for my companions! Such is the end of the road on which we set out from Argos—wretched me!—such an end, that I cannot even mention it to any of my companions or turn them back, but must go in silence to meet this fate. But you, daughters of this man and my sisters, since you hear these hard curses of a father, do not—if this father's curses be fulfilled and you find some way of return to Thebes—do not, I beg you by the gods, leave me dishonored, but give me burial and due funeral rites. So the praise which you now win from this man here for your labors will be increased by another praise no less, through your care for me.

Antigone
Polyneices, I beseech you, hear me in one thing!

Polyneices
What is it, dearest Antigone? Speak!

Antigone
Turn your force back to Argos as quickly as may be, and do not destroy both yourself and your city.

Polyneices
No, it is not possible. For how could I lead the same force again, when once I had shrunk back?

Antigone
But why, my brother, must your anger rise again? What profit will come to you from destroying your native land?

Polyneices
It is shameful to be in exile, and to be mocked in this way by my brother, when I am eldest-born.

Antigone
Do you see to what sure fulfillment the prophecies of this man are leading, who declares mutual death for you two?

Polyneices
Yes, for he wishes it. But I must not yield.

Antigone
Ah, wretched me! But who will dare follow you, when he hears what prophecies this man has uttered?

Polyneices
I will not report ill-tidings; a good leader should tell the better news, and not the worse.

Antigone
Is this then your fixed decision, my brother?

Polyneices
Yes, and do not detain me. This path now will be my destiny, ill-fated and evil, because of my father here and his Furies. But as for you two, may Zeus grant you good things, if you bring these things to completion for me when I am dead, since in life you will see me no more. Now release me, and farewell; for nevermore will you behold me living.

Antigone
Ah, wretched that I am!

Polyneices
Do not mourn for me.

Antigone
And who would not mourn you, brother, when you are hurrying off to a death foreseen?

Polyneices
If it is fated, then I must die.

Antigone
No, no, listen to my prayer!

Polyneices
Do not plead for what must not be.

Antigone
Then I, indeed, am utterly wretched, if I must lose you!

Polyneices
It rests with the divinity, this way or that. But as for you two, I pray to the gods that you may never meet with evil; for in all men's eyes you do not deserve to suffer.

Polyneices exits.

12. Derde samenzang; regel 1447-1504

Chorus
Behold, new ills of heavy fate have newly come from the blind stranger, unless, perhaps, fate is finding its goal. I cannot say that a purpose of the divinities is ever vain. Time sees all things forever, and raises up some things, then on the next day raises others back up again. The sky resounds! Zeus!

Thunder.

Oedipus
Children, children! If there is any man still here, send him forth to bring back Theseus, excellent in all respects.

Antigone
And what, father, is the purpose of your summons?

Oedipus
This winged thunder of Zeus will soon lead me to Hades. So send someone with speed.

Thunder.

Chorus
Listen! With a louder noise this one crashes down unspeakably, hurled by Zeus! The hair of my head stands up for fear, my soul is dismayed; for again the lightning flashes in the sky. What end will it release? I fear it, for never does it fly forth in vain, or without serious results. O great Sky! O Zeus!

Oedipus
Children, the appointed end of life has reached this man; he can turn from it no more.

Antigone
How do you know? By what means do you understand this?

Oedipus
I know it well. But let some one go, I pray you, as quickly as he can, and bring back the lord of this land.

Thunder.

Chorus
Look! Look! Once again the piercing din is around us! Be merciful, divinity, be merciful, if you are bringing anything of gloom for the land which is our mother! May I find you well disposed, and may I not, because I have cared for a man accursed, somehow obtain a favor without profit! Lord Zeus, to you I cry!

Oedipus
Is the man near? Will he find me still alive, children, and master of my senses?

Antigone
And what is the pledge that you would like to have firm in your mind?

Oedipus
In return for his benefits, I would grant him the fulfillment of the favor that I promised.

Chorus
Hurry, my son, come to us! If you chance to be in the glade sacrificing an ox to the sea-god Poseidon, then come! For the stranger thinks you worthy, you and your city and your friends, to receive just return for benefits. Hasten quickly, lord!

13. Zesde akte; regel 1505-1555

Enter Theseus.

Theseus
What din is this that once more rings forth from you all, from my people as clearly as from the stranger? Can a thunderbolt from Zeus be the cause, or rushing hail in its fierce onset? When the god sends such a storm, forebodings of every sort may find a place.

Oedipus
Lord, you have appeared at my desire, and to you some god granted noble fortune at this coming.

Theseus
And what new thing has now occurred, son of Laius?

Oedipus
My life hangs in the balance; and I wish to die without cheating you and this city of the promises I made.

Theseus
And what is the proof of your fate that you depend on?

Oedipus
The gods themselves herald the news to me, nor do they cheat me of any of the appointed signs.

Theseus
What makes these things clear? Tell me, old man.

Oedipus
The thunder, crash after crash; the lightning, flash after flash, hurled from the unconquered hand.

Theseus
I am persuaded, for in much I find you a prophet whose voice is not false. Then say what must be done.

Oedipus
I will expound myself, son of Aegeus, the treasures which will be laid up for this city, such as age can never hurt. Immediately, with no hand to guide me, I will lead to the place where I must die. But as to that place, never reveal it to another man, neither where it is hidden, nor in what region it lies, so that it may be an eternal defence for you, better than many shields, better than the spear of neighbors which brings relief. But as for mysteries which speech may not profane, you will learn them yourself when you come to that place alone, since I cannot declare them either to any of these people, or even to my own children, though I love them. Reserve them always to yourself, and when you reach the end of life, reveal them to your eldest son alone, and let him reveal them to his successor in turn forever. In this way you will keep this city unscathed by the men born of the Dragon's teeth. Countless cities commit outrage even though their neighbor commits no sin. For the gods are slow to punish, yet they are sure, when men scorn holiness and turn to frenzy. Do not desire this, son of Aegeus! But you know such things as these without my teaching. Let us now set forth to that place—the divine summons urges me—and hesitate no longer. Children, follow me. For now in turn it is I that shine forth wondrously as a leader for you, as you were your father's. Onward. Do not touch me, but allow me unaided to find the sacred tomb where it is my fate to be buried in this land. This way, here—come this way! Hermes the Conductor and the goddess of the dead lead me in this direction. Light of day, no light to me, once you were mine, but now my body feels you for the last time! For now I go to hide the end of my life in the house of Hades. But you, dearest of strangers, may you yourself be prosperous, and this land, and your followers. In your prosperity, remember me in my death, and be fortunate evermore.

He exits, followed by his daughters, Theseus, and attendants.

14. Vierde koorlied; regel 1556-1578

Chorus
If it is right for me with prayer to adore the Unseen Goddess and you, Lord of the Dead, then hear me, Aidoneus, Aidoneus! Grant that without pain, without a fate arousing heavy grief, the stranger may pass to the all-concealing fields of the dead below, and to the Stygian house. Many were the sorrows that came to him without cause, but a just divinity will lift him up again.

Chorus
Goddesses of the nether world and unconquered beast whose lair lies in the gates of many guests, you untamable Watcher of Hades, snarling from the cavern's jaws, as rumor has always told! Hear me, Death, son of Earth and Tartarus! May that Watcher leave a clear path for the stranger on his way to the nether fields of the dead! To you I call, giver of the eternal sleep.

15. Uitvaart; regel 1579-1669

Messenger
Citizens, my news might be summed up most briefly thus: Oedipus is dead. But the story of the happening cannot be told in brief words, as the deeds done there were not brief.

Chorus
Is he gone, the unfortunate man?

Messenger
You may be sure that he has left this life.

Chorus
How? By a fate divine and painless, the poor man?

Messenger
In that you touch upon what is indeed worthy of wonder. How he departed from here, you yourself must know since you were here: with no one of his friends as guide, but rather with himself leading the way for us all. When he had come to the Descending Way, which is bound by steps of bronze to earth's deep roots, he paused at one of the many branching paths near the basin in the rock, where the faithful covenant of Theseus and Peirithous has its memorial. He stood midway between that basin and the Leaping stone, and between the hollow pear-tree and the marble tomb; then he sat down and loosened his filthy clothing. And then he called his daughters, and asked them to bring water from some flowing source, so that he might wash and make a drink-offering. They went to the hill which was in view, the hill of Demeter who guards the tender plants, and in a short time brought what their father had commanded. Then they washed him and dressed him, as is the custom. But when all his desire was fulfilled, and nothing that he required was still undone, then Zeus of the Underworld sent forth his thunder, and the maidens shuddered as they heard. They fell weeping at their father's knees, and did not cease from beating their breast, and from wailing loud. When he heard their sudden bitter cry, he put his arms around them and said: “My children, on this day your father no longer exists. Now I have perished utterly, and no longer will you bear the burden of tending me, which was no light one, I well know, my children. Yet just one word turns all those toils to nothing: you have been treated as friends by no one more than by this man; and now you will have me with you no longer, through all your days to come.” In this way, clinging close to one another, the father and his daughters sobbed and wept. But when they came to the end of their crying, and the sound of wailing went forth no more, there was a silence; suddenly a voice called aloud to him, so that everyone felt hair rising from the sudden terror. The god called him again and again: “Oedipus, Oedipus, why do you delay our going? Too long you have been lingering.” And when he perceived that he was called by the god, he asked that lord Theseus should come to him; and when he did, he said: “Friend, give me the sworn pledge of your right hand for my children; and you, my daughters, for him. Promise never to betray them by your own free will, but always to accomplish whatever you think for their benefit.” And he, as a man of noble spirit, without lamentation swore to keep that promise to the stranger. When Theseus had done this, straightway Oedipus felt for his children with blind hands, and said: “Children, you must bear up nobly in your hearts and depart from this place; do not consider it just to look upon what is not right, or to hear such speech as you may not hear. Go in haste; let only Theseus be entitled to remain to learn of those things which will be done.” So he spoke, and everyone of us listened; with streaming tears and mourning we followed the maidens away. But when we had gone off, very soon we looked back and saw that Oedipus was nowhere any more and our lord was alone, holding his hand in front of his face to screen his eyes, as if he had seen some terrifying sight, one that no one could endure to behold. And then after a short time, we saw him adore together the earth and Olympus of the gods in the same prayer. But by what fate Oedipus perished, no man can tell, except Theseus alone. It was no fiery thunderbolt of the god that removed him, nor any rising of whirlwind from the sea; it was either an escort from the gods, or else the dark world of the dead kindly split open to receive him. The man passed away without lamentation or sickness or suffering, and beyond all mortal men he was wondrous. And if in anyone's eyes I seem to speak senselessly, I would not try to win his belief when he counts me senseless.

Chorus
Where are his daughters and the escort of their friends?

Messenger
Not far away; the sounds of mourning show plainly that they are approaching.

16. Slotzang; regel 1670-1750

Antigone
Ah, me, ah, me! Now, indeed, is it for us to bewail in full the curse on our blood—ill-fated sisters as we are—deriving from our father! In former time we bore the long toil without pause, and now at the last we bring to tell a sight and experience that baffle reason.

Chorus
What is it?

Antigone
It is possible to conjecture, friends.

Chorus
He is gone?

Antigone
Precisely in the way you could most wish for: indeed, in a way in which neither Ares took him, nor the sea, but instead he was snatched away to the fields which no one may see, by some swift, strange doom. Wretched me! For us a night like death has descended on our eyes; how shall we find our hard livelihood, roaming to some far land, or on the waves of the sea?

Ismene
I do not know. If only murderous Hades would join me in death to my aged father! Wretched me! I cannot live the life that must be mine.

Chorus
Best of daughters, you both must bear the will of the gods. Do not be inflamed with too much grief; what you have encountered is not to be blamed.

Antigone
There is longing even for woes. What was in no way dear was dear, so long as I held him in my embrace. Father, Dear, clothed in the darkness of the underworld forever! Never in your absence will you not be dear to me and to my sister here.

Chorus
He fared—

Antigone
He fared as he desired.

Chorus
In what way?

Antigone
He died on the foreign ground that he desired; he has his well-shaded bed beneath the ground for ever; and he did not leave behind unwept sorrow. With these weeping eyes, father, I lament you; nor do I know how in my wretchedness I must still my grief for you that is so immense. Alas! You wanted to die in a foreign land, but you died without me near.

Ismene
Wretched me! What fate awaits you and me, dear, orphaned as we are of our father?

Chorus
Cease from your grief, dear girls, since his end is blessed. No one is beyond the reach of evil.

Antigone
Dear, let us hasten back.

Ismene
To do what deed?

Antigone
A longing fills my soul—

Ismene
For what?

Antigone
To see the netherworld home.

Ismene
Of whom?

Antigone
Wretched me! Of our father.

Ismene
And how can this be right? Surely you understand?

Antigone
Why this rebuke?

Ismene
And surely you know this, too—

Antigone
What more would you tell me?

Ismene
That he perished without a tomb, apart from everyone.

Antigone
Lead me there, and then kill me, too.

Ismene
Unhappy me! Abandoned and helpless, where am I now to live my wretched life?

Chorus
Dear girls, do not be afraid.

Antigone
But where shall I flee?

Chorus
Already a refuge has been found—

Antigone
What do you mean?

Chorus
—That no harm befall you.

Antigone
I feel—

Chorus
What do you think?

Antigone
How we are to go home, I cannot tell.

Chorus
Do not seek to go.

Antigone
Trouble surrounds us.

Chorus
And previously it bore heavily.

Antigone
Then it was desperate, but now even crueler.

Chorus
Vast, then, is the sea of your troubles.

Antigone
Alas, alas! Zeus, where shall we turn? To what last hope does the divinity now drive us?

17. Slotakte; regel 1751-1779

Enter Theseus.

Theseus
Cease your lament, children! Where the favor of the nether night is stored up, there is no room for sorrow; divine retribution would follow.

Antigone
Son of Aegeus, we supplicate you!

Theseus
To obtain what desire, my children?

Antigone
We want look with our own eyes upon our father's tomb.

Theseus
It is not right to go there.

Antigone
What do you mean, lord, ruler of Athens?

Theseus
Children, he told me that no one should draw near that place, or approach with prayer the sacred tomb in which he sleeps. He said that, so long as I saw to this, I would always keep the country free from pain. The divinity heard me say these things, as did the all-seeing Oath of Zeus.

Antigone
If this is his intention, we must be content with it. Send us to ancient Thebes, in case we may somehow stop the bloodshed that threatens our brothers.

Theseus
I will do both this and whatever other favorable service I can, for you and for the newly-departed under the earth, according to the gratitude I owe. I am bound to spare no pains.

Chorus
Cease; raise up the lamentation no further. These things are established firm and fixed.

2018 Maarten Hendriksz