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A Series of Verse Translations of the Greek 

Dramatic Poets, with Commentaries and 

Explanatory Notes. 

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AESCHYLUS : The Orestean Trilogy. By Prof. 
G. C. WARR. With an Introduction on The 
Rise of Greek Tragedy, and 13 Illustrations. 
SOPHOCLES : CEdipus Tyrannus and Cohneus, 
and Antigone. By Prof. J. S. PHILLIMORE. 
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Translated into English Rhyming Verse, with 
Explanatory Notes, by Prof. GILBERT MURRAY. 

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ANDROMACHE : An'Ori^ial Play by Prof. 
GILBERT MURRAY [Tfara Impress! *. 






LL.D., D.LiTT., F.B.A. 



First published . . February 
Reprinted. . . January 19/2 

February 1912 


IF I have turned aside from Euripides for a moment 
and attempted a translation of the great stage master- 
piece of Sophocles, my excuse must be the fascination 
of this play, which has thrown its spell on me as on 
many other translators. Yet I may plead also that 
as a rule every diligent student of these great works 
can add something to the discoveries of his prede- 
cessors, and I think,! have been able to bring out 
a few new points in the old and much-studied 
Oedipus, chiefly points connected with the dramatic 
technique and the religious atmosphere. 

Mythologists tell us that Oedipus was originally 
a. daemon haunting Mount Kithairon, and Jocasta a 
form of that Earth-Mother who, as Aeschylus puts 
it, " bringeth all things to being, and when she hath 
reared them receiveth again their seed into her body " 
{Choephoriy 127 : cf. Crusius, Beltrage %. Gr. Myth, 
2l). That stage of the story lies very far behind 
the consciousness of Sophocles. But there does cling 
about both his hero and his heroine a great deal of 
very primitive atmosphere. There are traces in 
Oedipus of the pre-hellenic Medicine King, the 
JBasileus who is also a Theos, and can make rain or 
blue sky, pestilence or fertility. This explains many 
things in the Priest's first speech, in the attitude 
of the Chorus, and in Oedipus' own language after 


the discovery. It partly explains the hostility of 
Apollo, who is not a mere motiveless Destroyer but a 
true Olympian crushing his Earth-born rival. And 
in the same way the peculiar royalty of Jocasta, 
which makes Oedipus at times seem not the King 
but the Consort of the Queen, brings her near to 
that class of consecrated queens described in Dr. 
Frazer's Lectures on the Kingship, who are " honoured 
as no woman now living on the earth." 

The story itself, and the whole spirit in which 
Sophocles has treated it, belong not to the fifth cen- 
tury but to that terrible and romantic past from 
which the fifth century poets usually drew their 
material. The atmosphere of brooding dread, the 
pollution, the curses; the "insane and beastlike 
cruelty," as an ancient Greek commentator calls it, 
of piercing the exposed child's feet in order to ensure 
its death and yet avoid having actually murdered it 
(Schol. Eur. Phoen. y 26) ; the whole treatment of the 
parricide and incest, not as moral offences capable of 
being rationally judged or even excused as uninten- 
tional, but as monstrous and inhuman pollutions, the 
last limit of imaginable horror : all these things take 
us back to dark regions of pre-classical and even pre- 
homeric belief. We have no right to suppose that 
Sophocles thought of the involuntary parricide and 
metrogamy as the people in his play do. Indeed, con- 
sidering the general tone of his contemporaries and 
friends, we may safely assume that he did not. But 
at any rate he has allowed no breath of later en- 
lightenment to disturb the primaeval gloom of his 

Does this in any way make the tragedy insincere ? 


I think not. We know that people did feel and 
think about " pollution " in the way which Sophocles 
represents ; and if they so felt, then the tragedy was 

I think these considerations explain the remarkable 
absence from this play of any criticism of life or 
any definite moral judgment. I know that some 
commentators have found in it a "humble and un- 
questioning piety," but I cannot help suspecting that 
what they saw was only a reflection from their own 
pious and unquestioning minds. Man is indeed 
shown as a " plaything of Gods," but of Gods strangely 
and incomprehensibly malignant, whose ways there 
is no attempt to explain or justify. The original 
story, indeed, may have had one of its roots in a 
Theban " moral tale." Aelian (7 aria Historla^ 2, 7) 
tells us that the exposure of a child was forbidden by 
Theban Law. The state of feeling which produced 
this law K against the immensely strong conception 
of the patria potestas, may also have produced a folk- 
lore story telling how a boy once was exposed, in 
a peculiarly cruel way, by his wicked parents, and 
how Heaven preserved him to take upon both of 
them a vengeance which showed that the unnatural 
father had no longer a father's sanctity nor the un- 
natural mother a mother's. But, as far as Sophocles 
is concerned, if anything in the nature of a criticism 
of life has been admitted into the play at all, it 
seems to be only a flash or two of that profound and 
pessimistic arraignment of the ruling powers which 
in other plays also opens at times like a sudden abyss 
across the smooth surface of his art. 


There is not much philosophy in the Oedipus. 
There is not, in comparison with other Greek plays, 
much pure poetry. What there is, is drama ; drama 
of amazing grandeur and power. In respect of plot 
no Greek play comes near it. It contains no doubt 
a few points of unsophisticated technique such as 
can be found in all ancient and nearly all modern 
drama; for instance, the supposition that Oedipus 
has never inquired into the death of his predecessor 
on the throne. But such flaws are external, not 
essential. On the whole, I can only say that the 
work of translation has made me feel even more 
strongly than before the extraordinary grip and 
reality of the dialogue, the deftness of the construc- 
tion, and, except perhaps for a slight drop in the Creon 
scene, the unbroken crescendo of tragedy from the 
opening to the close. 

Where plot-interest is as strong as it is in the 
Oedipus, character-interest is apt to be comparatively 
weak. Yet in this play every character is interesting, 
vital, and distinct. Oedipus himself is selected by 
Aristotle as the most effective kind of tragic hero, 
because, first, he has been great and glorious, and 
secondly he has not been "pre-eminently virtuous 
or just." This is true in its way. Oedipus is too 
passionate to be just ; but he is at least noble in his 
impetuosity, his devotion, and his absolute truthful- 
ness. It is important to realise that at the beginning 
of the play he is prepared for an oracle commanding 
him to die for his people (pp. 6, 7). And he never 
thinks of refusing that " task " any more than he tries 
to elude the doom that actually comes, or to conceal 


any fact that tells against him. If Oedipus had been 
an ordinary man the play would have been a very 
different and a much poorer thing. 

Jocasta is a wonderful study. Euripides might 
have brought her character out more explicitly and 
more at length, but even he could not have made her 
more living or more tragic, or represented more subtly 
in her relation to Oedipus both the mother's protect- 
ing love and the mother's authority. As for her 
"impiety," of which the old commentaries used to 
speak with much disapproval, the essential fact in her 
life is that both her innocence and her happiness have, 
as she believes, been poisoned by the craft of priests. 
She and Laius both " believed a bad oracle " : her 
terror and her love for her husband made her consent 
to an infamous act of cruelty to her own child, an act 
of which the thought sickens her still, and about 
which she cannot, when she tries, speak the whole 
truth. (See note on p. 42.) And after all her crime 
was for |iothing ! The oracle proved to be a lie. 
Never again will she believe a priest. 

As to Tiresias, I wish to ask forgiveness for an un- 
intelligent criticism made twelve years ago in my 
Ancient Greek Literature, p. 240. I assumed then,' 
what I fancy was a common assumption, that Tiresias 
was a " sympathetic " prophet, compact of wisdom 
and sanctity and all the qualities which beseem that 
calling ; and I complained that he did not consistently 
act as such. I was quite wrong. Tiresias is not any- 
thing so insipid. He is a study of a real type, and a 
type which all the tragedians knew. The character 
of the professional seer or " man of God " has in the 
imagination of most ages fluctuated between two 


poles. At one extreme are sanctity and superhuman 
wisdom ; at the other fraud and mental disease, self- 
worship aping humility and personal malignity in the 
guise of obedience to God. There is a touch of all 
these qualities, good and bad alike, in Tiresias. He 
seems to me a most life-like as well as a most dra- 
matic figure. 

As to the Chorus, it generally plays a smaller part 
in Sophocles than in Euripides and Aeschylus, and 
the Oedipus forms no exception to that rule. It seems 
to me that Sophocles was feeling his way towards a 
technique which would have approached that of the 
New Comedy or even the Elizabethan stage, and 
would perhaps have done without a Chorus altogether. 
In Aeschylus Greek tragedy had been a thing of 
traditional forms and clear-cut divisions 5 the religious 
ritual showed through, and the visible gods and the 
disguised dancers were allowed their full value. And 
Euripides in the matter of outward formalism went 
back to the Aeschylean type and even beyond it : 
prologue, chorus, messenger, visible god, all the tradi- 
tional forms were left clear-cut and undisguised and 
all developed to full effectiveness on separate and 
specific lines. But Sophocles worked by blurring his 
structural outlines just as he blurs the ends of his 
verses. In him the traditional divisions are all made 
less distinct, all worked over in the direction of 
greater naturalness, at any rate in externals, This 
was a very great gain, but of course some price had to 
be paid for it. Part of the price was that Sophocles 
could never attempt the tremendous choric effects 
which Euripides achieves in such plays as the Sacchae 
and the Trojan Women. His lyrics, great as they 


sometimes are, move their wings less boldly. They 
seem somehow tied to their particular place in the 
tragedy, and they have not quite the strength to lift 
the whole drama bodily aloft with them, ... At 
least that is my feeling, But I realise that this may 
be only the complaint of an unskilful translator, blam- 
ing his material for his own defects of vision. 

In general, both in lyrics and in dialogue, I believe 
I have allowed myself rather less freedom than in 
translating Euripides, This is partly because the 
writing of Euripides, being less business-like and 
more penetrated by philosophic reflections and by 
subtleties of technique, actually needs more thorough 
re-casting to express it at all adequately ; partly be- 
cause there is in Sophocles, amid all his passion and 
all his naturalness, a certain severe and classic reticence, 
which, though impossible really to reproduce by any 
method, is less misrepresented by occasional insuf- 
ficiency than by habitual redundance. 

I have asked pardon for an ill deed done twelve 
years ago, I should like to end by speaking of a 
benefit older still, and express something of the grati- 
tude I feel to my old master, Francis Storr, whose 
teaching is still vivid in my mind and who first opened 
my eyes to the grandeur of the Oedipus. 



sometimes are, move their wings less boldly. They 
seem somehow tied to their particular place in the 
tragedy, and they have not quite the strength to lift 
the whole drama bodily aloft with them. ... At 
least that is my feeling. But I realise that this may 
be only the complaint of an unskilful translator, blam- 
ing his material for his own defects of vision. 

In general, both in lyrics and in dialogue, I believe 
I have allowed myself rather less freedom than in 
translating Euripides. This is partly because the 
writing of Euripides, being less business-like and 
more penetrated by philosophic reflections and by 
subtleties of technique, actually needs more thorough 
re-casting to express it at all adequately 5 partly be- 
cause there is in Sophocles, amid all his passion and 
all his naturalness, a certain severe and classic reticence, 
which, though impossible really to reproduce by any 
method, is less misrepresented by occasional insuf- 
ficiency than by habitual redundance. 

I have asked pardon for an ill deed done twelve 
years ago. I should like to end by speaking of a 
benefit older still, and express something of the grati- 
tude I feel to my old master, Francis Storr, whose 
teaching is still vivid in my mind and who first opened 
my eyes to the grandeur of the Oedipus. 

G. M. 


While Thebes was under the rule of LAIUS and JOCASTA 
there appeared a strange and monstrous creature, "the 
riddling Sphinx," "the She- Wolf of the woven song," who 
in some unexplained way sang riddles of death and slew 
the people of Thebes. LAITJS went to ask aid of the oracle 
of Delphi, but was slain mysteriously on the road. Soon 
afterwards there came to Thebes a young Prince of Corinth, 
OEDIPUS, who had left his home and was wandering. He 
faced the Sphinx and read her riddle, whereupon she flung 
herself from her rock and died. The throne being vacant 
was offered to OEDIPUS, and with it the hand of the Queen, 

Some ten or twelve years afterwards a pestilence has 
fallen on Thebes. At this point the play begins. 

The date of the first production of the play is not known^ but was 
probably about the year 425 B.C. 


SCENE. Before the Palace of OEDIPUS at Thebes. A 
crowd of suppliants of all ages are waiting by the 
altar in front and on the steps of the Palace; among 
them the PRIEST OF ZEUS. As the Palace door opens 
and OEDIPUS comes out all the suppliants with a cry 
move towards him in attitudes of prayer^ holding 
out their olive branches, and then become still again 
as he speaks. 


My children, fruit of Cadmus' ancient tree 
New springing, wherefore thus with bended knee 
Press ye upon us, laden all with wreaths 
And suppliant branches ? And the city breathes 
Heavy with incense, heavy with dim prayer 
And shrieks to affright the Slayer, Children, care 
For this so moves me, I have scorned withal 
Message or writing : seeing 'tis I ye call, 
Tis I am come, world-honoured Oedipus. 

Old Man, do thou declare the rest have thus 
Their champion in what mood stand ye so still, 
In dread or sure hope ? Know ye not, my will 
Is yours for aid 'gainst all ? Stern were indeed 
The heart that felt not for so dire a need, 

SOPHOCLES w, 15-39 


Oedipus, who boldest in thy hand 
My city, thou canst see what ages stand 
At these thine altars ; some whose little wing 
Scarce flieth yet, and some with long living 
O'erburdened ; priests, as I of Zeus am priest, 
And chosen youths : and wailing hath not ceased 
Of thousands in the market-place, and by 
Athena's two-fold temples and the dry 
Ash of Ismnus' portent-breathing shore. 

For all our ship, thou see'st, is weak and sore 
Shaken with storms, and no more Hghteneth 
Her head above the waves whose trough is death. 
She wasteth in the fruitless buds of earth, 
In parched herds and travail without birth 
Of dying women : yea, and midst of it 
A burning and a loathly god hath lit 
Sudden, and sweeps our land, this Plague of power ; 
Till Cadmus' house grows empty, hour by hour, 
And Hell's house rich with steam of tears and blood. 

King, not God indeed nor peer to God 
We deem thee, that we kneel before thine hearth, 
Children and old men, praying ; but of earth 
A thing consummate by thy star confessed 
Thou walkest and by converse with the blest ; 
Who came to Thebes so swift, and swept away 
The Sphinx's song, the tribute of dismay, 
That all were bowed beneath, and made us fiee. 
A stranger, thou, naught knowing more than we, 
Nor taught of any man, but by God's breath 
Filled, thou didst raise our life. So the world saith ; 
So we say. 


w. 4 o-6 9 OEDIPUS, KING Ol? THESES 

Therefore now, O Lord and Chief, 
We come to thee again ; we lay our grief 
On thy head, if thou find us not some aid. 
Perchance thou hast heard Gods talking in the shade 
Of night, or eke some man : to him that knows, 
Men say, each chance that falls, each wind that blows 
Hath life, when he seeks counsel. Up, O chief 
Of men, and lift thy city from its grief ; 
Face thine own peril ! All our land doth hold 
Thee still our saviour, for that help of old : 
Shall they that tell of thee hereafter tell 
" By him was Thebes raised up, and after fell ! " 
Nay, lift us till we slip no more. Oh, let 
That bird of old that made us fortunate 
Wing back ; be thou our Oedipus again. 
And let thy kingdom be a land of men, 
Not emptiness. Walls, towers, and ships, they all 
Are nothing with no men to keep the wall. 


My poor, poor children ! Surely long ago 
I have read your trouble. Stricken, well I know, 
Ye all are, stricken sore : yet verily 
Not one so stricken to the heart as I. 
Your grief, it cometh to each man apart 
For his own loss, none other's ; but this heart 
For thee and me and all of us doth weep. 
Wherefore it is not to one sunk in sleep 
Ye come with waking. Many tears these days 
For your sake I have wept, and many ways 
Have wandered on the beating wings of thought. 
And, finding but one hope, that I have sought 

SOPHOCLES w. 70-86 

And followed. I have sent Menoikeus' son, 
Creon, my own wife's brother, forth alone 
To Apollo's House in Delphi, there to ask 
What word, what deed of mine, what bitter task, 
May save my city. 

And the lapse of days 
Reckoned, I can but marvel what delays 
His journey. 'Tis beyond all thought that thus 
He comes not, beyond need. But when he does, 
Then call me false and traitor, if I flee 
Back from whatever task God sheweth me. 


At point of time thou speakest. Mark the cheer 
Yonder. Is that not Creon drawing near ? 

[They all crowd to gaze where CREON is 
approaching in the distance, 


Lord Apollo, help ! And be the star 
That guides him joyous as his secmings are ! 


Oh ! surely joyous ! How else should he bear 
That fruited laurel wreathed about his hair ? 


We soon shall know. 'Tis not too far for one 

(Shouting) Ho, brother! Prince! Menoikeus' son, 
What message from the God f 


CREON (from a distance). 

Message of joy ! 

Enter CREON 

I tell thee, what is now our worst annoy, 
If the right deed be done, shall turn to good. 

[The crowd, which has been full of excited 
hope y falls to doubt and disappointment. 


Nay, but what is the message ? For my blood 
Runs neither hot nor cold for words like those. 


Shall I speak now, with all these pressing close, 
Or pass within ? To me both ways are fair. 


Speak forth to all ! The grief that these men bear 
Is more than any fear for mine own death. 


I speak then what I heard from God. Thus saith 
Phoebus, our Lord and Seer, in clear command. 
An unclean thing there is, hid in our land, 
Eating the soil thereof : this ye shall cast 
Out, and not foster till all help be past. 


How cast it oiit 1 What was the evil deed ? 

SOPHOCLES t?. 100-113 


Hunt the men out from Thebes, or make them bleed 
Who slew. For blood it is that stirs to-day. 

Who was the man they killed ? Doth Phoebus say ? 


King, there was of old King Lams 

In Thebes, ere thou didst come to pilot us. 


1 know : not that I ever saw his face. 


'Twas he. And Loxias now bids us trace 
And smite the unknown workers of his fall. 


Where in God's earth are they ? Or how withal 
Find the blurred trail of such an ancient stain f 


In Thebes, he said. That which men seek amain 
They find. 'Tis things forgotten that go by. 


And where did Laius meet them ? Did he die 
In Thebes, or in the hills, or some far land ? 



To ask God's will in Delphi he had planned 
His journey. Started and returned no more. 


And came there nothing back ? No message, nor 
None of his company, that ye might hear ? 


They all were slain, save one man ; blind with fear 
He came, remembering naught or almost naught. 


And what was that ? One thing has often brought 
Others, could we but catch one little clue. 


'Twas not one man, 'twas robbers that he knew 
Who barred the road and slew him : a great band. 


Robbers? . . . What robber, save the work was 

By treason here, would dare a risk so plain ? 


So some men thought. But Lai'us lay slain, 
And none to avenge him in his evil day. 

SOPHOCLES mr.M*-i4* 


And what strange mischief, when your master lay 
Thus fallen, held you back from search and deed ? 

The dark-songed Sphinx was here. We had no 

Of distant sorrows, having death so near. 


It falls on me then. I will search and clear 

This darkness. Well hath Phoebus done, and thou 

Too, to recall that dead king, even now, 

And with you for the right I also stand, 

To obey the God and succour this dear land. 

Nor is it as for one that touches me 

Far off ; 'tis for mine own sake I must see 

This sin cast out. Whoe'er it was that slew 

Lalus, the same wild hand may seek me too : 

And caring thus for Lai'us, is but care 

For mine own blood. Up ! Leave this altar-stair, 

Children. Take from it every suppliant bough. 

Then call the folk of Thebes. Say, 'tis my vow 

To uphold them to the end. So God shall crown 

Our greatness, or for ever cast us ddwn. 

[He goes in to the Palace. 


My children, rise. The King most lovingly 
Hath promised all we came for. And may He 


Who sent this answer, Phoebus, come confessed } ^ 
Helper to Thebes, and strong to stay the pest. 

[The suppliants gather up their boughs arSfa 

stand at the side. The chorus of Theban 

elders enter. 


[They speak of the Oracle which they have not 
yet heard, and cry to APOLLO by his 
special cry I-e." 

A Voice, a Voice, that is borne on the Holy Way ! 
What art thou, O Heavenly One, O Word of the 

Houses of Gold ? 

Thebes is bright with thee, and my heart it leapeth 5 
yet is it cold, 
And my spirit faints as I pray. 

14 1 14 ! 

What task, Affrighter of Evil, what task shall thy 
people essay ? 
One new as our new-come affliction, 

Or an old toil returned with the years ? 
Unveil thee, thou dread benediction, 
Hope's daughter and Fear's. 

[They pray to ATHENA, ARTEMIS, and 


Zeus-Child that knowest not death, to thee I pray, 
O Pallas ; next to thy Sister, who calleth Thebes her 

Artemis, named of Fair Voices, who sitteth her orbed 


In the throng of the market way : 

SOPHOCLES w, 162-189 

AndR! W! 
Apollo, the Pure, the Far-smiter ; O Three that keep 

evil away, 
If of old for our city's desire, 

When the death-cloud hung close to her brow, 
Ye have banished the wound and the fire, 
Oh ! come to us now ! 

[They tell of the Pestilence. 

Wounds beyond telling ; my people sick unto death ; 
And where is the counsellor, where is the swor4 of 

thought ? 

And Holy Earth in her increase perisheth : 
The child dies and the mother awaketh not. 

We have seen them, one on another, gone as a bird is 


Souls that are flame ; yea, higher, 
Swifter they pass than fire, 
To the rocks of the dying Sun. 

[They end by a prayer to ATHENA, 
Their city wasteth unnumbered ; their children lie 
Where death hath cast them, unpitied, unwept 


The altars stand, as in seas of storm a high 
Rock standeth, and wives and mothers grey thereon 

Weep, weep and pray. 
Lo, joy-cries to fright the Destroyer ; a flash in the 

dark they rise, 

Then die by the sobs overladen. 
Send help, O heaven-born Maiden, 
Let us look on the light of her eyes ! 


[To ZEUS, that he drive out the Shyer, 

And Ares, the abhorred 

Slayer, who bears no sword, 
But shrieking, wrapped in fire, stands over me, 

Make that he turn, yea, fly 

Broken, wind-wasted, high 
Down the vexed hollow of the Vaster Sea ; 

Or back to his own Thrace, 

To harbour shelterless. 
Where Night hath spared, he bringeth end by day. 

Him, Him, O thou whose hand 

Beareth the lightning brand, 
O Father Zeus, now with thy thunder, slay and slay ! 

Where is thy gold-strung bow, 
O Wolf-god, where the flow 
Of living shafts unconquered, from all ills 
Our helpers ? Where the white 
Spears of thy Sister's light, 
Far-flashing as she walks the wolf-wild hills ? 
And thou, O Golden-crown, 
Theban and named our own, 
O Wine- gleam, Voice of Joy, for ever more 
Ringed with thy Maenads white, 
Bacchus, draw near and smite, 
Smite with thy glad-eyed flame the God whom Gods 
abhor. [During the last lines OEDIPUS has 

come out from the Palace. 


Thou prayest : but my words if tho^ wilt hear 
And bow thee to their judgement, strength is near 

SOPHOCLES TT, 218-245 

For help, and a great lightening of ill. 

Thereof I come to speak, a stranger still 

To all this tale, a stranger to the deed : 

(Else, save that I were clueless, little neec' 

Had I to cast my net so wide and far ;) 

Howbeit, I, being now as all ye are, 

A Theban, to all Thebans high and low 

Do make proclaim : if any here doth know 

By what man's hand died Lai'us, your King, 

Labdacus' son, I charge him that he bring 

To me his knowledge. Let him feel no fear 

If on a townsman's body he must clear 

Our guilt : the man shall suffer no great ill, 

But pass from Thebes, and live where else he will. 

[No answer. 

Is it some alien from an alien shore 
Ye know to have done the deed, screen him no 

more ! 

Good guerdon waits you now and a King's love 

Hah ! If still ye will not move 
But, fearing for yourselves or some near friend, 
Reject my charge, then hearken to what end 
Ye drive me. If in this place men there be 
Who know and speak not, lo, I make decree 
That, while in Thebes I bear the diadem, 
No man shall greet, no man shall shelter them, 
Nor give them water in their thirst, nor share 
In sacrifice nor shrift nor dying prayer, 
But thrust them from our doors, the thing they hide 
Being this land's curse. Thus hath the God replied 
This day to me from Delphi, and my sword 
I draw thus for the dead and for God's word. 


And lastly for the murderer, be it one 
Hiding alone or more in unison, 
I speak on him this curse : even as his soul 
Is foul within him let his days be foul, 
And life unfriended grind him till he die. 
More : if he ever tread my hearth and I 
Know it, be every curse upon my head 
That I have spoke this day. 

All I have said 

I charge ye strictly to fulfil and make 
Perfect, for my sake, for Apollo's sake, 
And this land's sake, deserted of her fruit 
And cast out from her gods. Nay, were all mute 
At Delphi, still 'twere strange to leave the thing 
Unfollowed, when a true man and a King 
Lay murdered. All should search. But I, as now 
Our fortunes fall his crown is on my brow, 
His wife lies in my arms, and common fate, 
Had but his issue been more fortunate, 
Might well have joined our children since this 


Chance hath so stamped its heel on Lams' head, 
I am his champion left, and, as I would 
For mine own father, choose for ill or good 
This quest, to find the man who slew of yore 
Labdacus' son, the son of Polydore, 
Son of great Cadmus whom Agenor old 
Begat, of Thebes first master. And, behold, 
For them that aid me not, I pray no root 
Nor seed in earth may bear them corn nor fruit, 
No wife bear children, but this present curse 
Cleave to them close and other woes yet worse. 

Enough : ye other people of the land, 

SOPHOCLES w. 274-289 

Whose will is one with mine, may Justice stand 
Your helper, and all gods for evermore, 

[The crowd disperses, 


O King, even while thy curse yet hovers o'er 
My head, I answer thee. I slew him not, 
Nor can I shew the slayer. But, God wot, 
If Phoebus sends this charge, let Phoebus read 
Its meaning and reveal who did the deed. 


Aye, that were just, if of his grace he would 
Reveal it. How shall man compel his God ? 

Second to that, methinks, 'twould help us most . . . 

Though it be third; speak ! Nothing should be lost, 


To our High Seer on earth vision is given 
Most like to that High Phoebus hath in heaven. 
Ask of Tiresias : he could tell thee true. 


That also have I thought for, Aye, and two 
Heralds have sent ere now. 'Twas Creon set 
Me on. I marvel that he comes not vet. 


Our other clues are weak, old signs and far. 

What signs ? I needs must question all that are. 

Some travellers slew him, the tale used to be. 

The tale, yes : but the witness, where is he ? 


The man hath heard thy curses. If he knows 
The taste of fear, he will not long stay close. 

He fear my words, who never feared the deed I 


Well, there is one shall find him. See, they lead 
Hither our Lord Tiresias, in whose mind 
All truth is born, alone of human kind. 

Enter TIRESIAS led by a young disciple. He is an old 
blind man in a prophet's robe^ dark) unkempt and 
sinister in appearance. 


Tiresias, thou whose mind divineth well 
All Truth, the spoken and the unspeakable, 

17 B 


The things of heaven and them that walk the earth 5 

Our city . . . thou canst see, for all thy dearth 

Of outward eyes, what clouds are over her. 

In which, O gracious Lord, no minister 

Of help, no champion, can we find at all 

Save thee. For Phoebus thou hast heard withal 

His message to our envoy hath decreed 

One only way of help in this great need : 

To find and smite with death or banishing, 

Him who smote Laius, our ancient King. 

Oh, grudge us nothing ! Question every cry 

Of birds, and all roads else of prophecy 

Thou knowest. Save our city : save thine own 

Greatness : save me ; save all that yet doth groan 

Under the dead man's wrong ! Lo, in thy hand 

We lay us. And, methinks, no work so grand 

Hath man yet compassed, as, with all he can 

Of chance or power, to help his fellow man. 

TIRESIAS (to himself). 

Ah me! 

A fearful thing is knowledge, when to know 
Helpeth no end. I knew this long ago, 
But crushed it dead. Else had I never come. 

What means this ? Comest thou so deep in gloom ? 


Let me go back ! Thy work shall weigh on thee 
The less, if thou consent, and mine on me. 



Prophet, this is not lawful ; nay, nor kind 

To Thebes, who feeds thee, thus to veil thy mind. 


*Tis that I like not thy mind, nor the way 
It goeth. Therefore, lest I also stray . . . 

[He moves to go of. OEDIPUS bars his road. 


Thou shalt not, knowing, turn and leave us ! See, 
We all implore thee, all, on bended knee. 


All without light ! And never light shall shine 
On this dark evil that is mine . . , and thine. 


What wilt thou? Know and speak not? In my 

Be false to me, and let thy city bleed ? 


I will not wound myself nor thee. Why seek 
To trap and question me ? I will not speak. 

Thou devil I 

[Movement of LEADER to check him. 
Nay ; the wrath of any stone 
Would rise at him. It lies with thee to have done 
And speak. Is there no melting in thine eyes 1 

SOPHOCLES *T. 337-35* 


Naught lies with me ! With thee, with thee there 

I warrant, what thou ne'er hast seen nor guessed. 

OEDIPUS (to LEADER, who tries to calm him}. 

How can I hear such talk ? he maketh jest 
Of the land's woe and keep mine anger dumb ? 


Howe'er I hold it back, 'twill come, 'twill come. 

The more shouldst thou declare it to thy King. 


I speak no more. For thee, if passioning 
Doth comfort thee, on, passion to thy fill ! 

[He moves to go. 


'Fore God, I am in wrath ; and speak I will, 
Nor stint what I see clear. 'Twas thou, 'twas thou, 
Didst plan this murder ; aye, and, save the blow, 
Wrought it. I know thou art blind; else I could 

Thou, and thou only, art the murderer. 

TIRESIAS (returning). 

So ? I command thee by thine own word's power, 
To stand accurst, and never from this hour 


Speak word to me, nor yet to these who ring 
Thy throne. Thou art thyself the unclean thing. 


Thou front of brass, to fling out injury 

So wild ! Dost think to bate me and go free ? 

I am free. The strong truth is in this heart. 

What prompted thee ? I swear 'twas not thine art. 

'Twas thou. I spoke not, save for thy command. 

Spoke what ? What was it ? Let me understand. 

Dost tempt me ? Were my words before not plain ! 

Scarce thy full meaning. Speak the words again. 

Thou seek'st this man of blood : Thyself art he. 


'Twill cost thee dear, twice to hare stabbed at me ! 

SOPHOCLES w, 364-377 


Shall I say more, to see thee rage again f 

Oh, take thy fill of speech : 'twill all be vain, 


Thou livest with those near to thee in shame 
Most deadly, seeing not thyself nor them. 


Thou think'st 'twill help thee, thus to speak and 
speak ? 


Surely, until the strength of Truth be weak. 


'Tis weak to none save thee. Thou hast no part 
In truth, thou blind man, blind eyes, ears and heart. 


More blind, more sad thy words of scorn, which none 
Who hears but shall cast back on thee : soon, soon. 


Thou spawn of Night, not I nor any free 
And seeing man would hurt a thing like thee. 


God is enough. 'Tis not my doom to fall 
By thee. He knows and shall accomplish all. 


OEDIPUS (with a fash of discovery). 
Ha ! Creon ! Is it his or thine, this plot ? 

Tis thyself hates thee. Creon hates thee not 


wealth and majesty, O conquering skill 
That carved life's rebel pathways to my will, 
What is your heart but bitterness, if now 

For this poor crown Thebes bound upon my brow, 
A gift, a thing I sought not for this crown 
Creon the stern and true, Creon mine own 
Comrade, comes creeping in the dark to ban 
And slay me ; sending first this magic-man 
And schemer, this false beggar-priest, whose eye 
Is bright for gold and blind for prophecy ? 
Speak, thou. When hast thou ever shown thee 


For aid ? The She- Wolf of the woven song 
Came, and thy art could find no word, no breath, 
To save thy people from her riddling death. 
'Twas scarce a secret, that, for common men 
To unravel. There was need of Seer-craft then. 
And thou faadst none to show. No fowl, no flame, 
No God revealed it thee. 'Twas I that came, 
Rude Oedipus, unlearned in wizard's lore, 
And read her secret, and she spoke no more. 
Whom now thou thinkest to hunt out, and stand 
Foremost in honour at King Creon's hand. 

1 think ye will be sorry, thou and he 

That shares thy sin-hunt. Thou dost look to me 

SOPHOCLES 403-424 

An old man ; else, I swear this day should bring 
On thee the death thou plottest for thy King. 


Lord Oedipus, these be but words of wrath, 
All thou hast spoke and all the Prophet hath. 
Which skills not. We must join, for ill or well, 
In search how best to obey God's oracle. 


King though thou art, thou needs must bear the right 

Of equal answer. Even in me is might 

For thus much, seeing I live no thrall of thine, 

But Lord Apollo's ; neither do I sign 

Where Creon bids me. 

I am blind, and thou 

Hast mocked my blindness. Yea, I will speak now. 
Eyes hast thou, but thy deeds thou canst not see 
Nor where thou art, nor what things dwell with thee. 
Whence art thou born ? Thou know'st not 5 and 


On quick and dead, on all that were thine own, 
Thou hast wrought hate. For that across thy path 
Rising, a mother's and a father's wrath, 
Two-handed, shod with fire, from the haunts of men 
Shall scourge thee, in thine eyes now light, but then 
Darkness. Aye, shriek ! What harbour of the sea, 
What wild Kithairon shall not cry to thee 
In answer, when thou hear'st what bridal song, 
What wind among the torches, bore thy strong 
Sail to its haven, not of peace but blood. 
Yea, ill things multitude on multitude 


Thou seest not, which so soon shall lay thee low, 
Low as thyself, low as thy children. Go, 
Heap scorn on Creon and my lips withal : 
For this I tell thee, never was there fall 
Of pride, nor shall be, like to thine this day. 


To brook such words from this thing ? Out, I say ! 
Out to perdition ! Aye, and quick, before . . . 

[The LEADER restrains him. 
Enough then ! Turn and get thee from my door. 

I had not come hadst thou not called me here. 


I knew thee not so dark a fool. I swear 
'Twere long before I called thee, had I known. 


Fool, say'st thou ? Am I truly such an one ? 
The two who gave thee birth, they held me wise. 


Birth ? . . . Stop ! Who were they ? Speak thy 

This day shall give thee birth and blot thee out. 

SOPHOCLES TV. 439-455 

Oh, riddles everywhere and words of doubt 1 

Aye. Thou wast their best reader long ago. 

Laugh on. I swear thou still shalt find me so. 

That makes thy pride and thy calamity. 

I have saved this land, and care not if I die, 

Then I will go. Give me thine arm, my child, 


Aye, help him quick. To see him there makes wild 
My heart. Once gone, he will not vex me more. 

TIRESIAS (turning again as he goes). 

I fear thee not ; nor will I go before 
That word be spoken which I came to speak. 
How canst thou ever touch me ? Thou dost seek 
With threats and loud proclaim the man whose hand 
Slew La'ius. Lo, I tell thee, he doth stand 
Here. He is called a stranger, but these days 
Shall prove him Theban true, nor shall he praise 
His birthright. Blind, who once had seeing eyes, 
Beggared, who once had riches, in strange guise^ 


His staff groping before him, he shall crawl 
O'er unknown earth, and voices round him call : 
" Behold the brother-father of his own 
Children, the seed, the sower and the sown, 
Shame to his mother's blood, and to his sire 
Son, murderer, incest-worker." 

Cool thine ire 

With thought of these, and if thou find that aught 
Faileth, then hold my craft a thing of naught. 

\He goes out. OEDIPUS returns to the Palace. 


[They sing of the unknown murder er y 
What man, what man is he whom the voice of 

Delphi's cell 

Hath named of the bloody hand, of the deed no 
tongue may tell ? 

Let him fly, fly, for his need 
Hath found him ; oh, where is the speed 
That flew with the winds of old, the team of North- 
Wind's spell ? 

For feet there be that follow. Yea, thunder-shod 
And girt with fire he cometh, the Child of God ; 
And with him are they that fail not, the Sin-Hounds 
risen from Hell. 

For the mountain hath spoken, a voice hath flashed 

from amid the snows, 

That the wrath of the world go seek for the man 
whom no man knows. 

Is he fled to the wild forest, 
To caves where the eagles nest ? 
angry bull of the rocks, cast out from thy herd- 
fellows I 


SOPHOCLES w. 479-5" 

Rage in his heart, and rage across his way, 
He toileth ever to beat from his ears away 
The word that floateth about him, living, where'er 
he goes. 

[And of the Prophet's strange accusation. 
Yet strange, passing strange, the wise augur and his 

And my heart it cannot speak; I deny not nor 


But float, float in wonder at things after and before ; 
Did there lie between their houses some old wrath 

That Corinth against Cadmus should do murder by 

the way ? 
No tale thereof they tell, nor no sign thereof they 

show ; 

Who dares to rise for vengeance and cast Oedipus away 
For a dark, dark death long ago ! 

Ah, Zeus knows, and Apollo, what is dark to mortal 

They are Gods. But a prophet, hath he vision 

more than mine ? 
Who hath seen ? Who can answer ? There be 

wise men and unwise. 

I will wait, I will wait, for the proving of the sign. 

But I list not nor hearken when they speak Oedipus ill. 

We saw his face of yore, when the riddling singer 

passed ; 

And we knew him that he loved us, and we saw him 
great in skill. 

Oh, my heart shall uphold him to the last J 


Enter CREON. 

Good brother citizens, a frantic word 
I hear is spoken by our chosen Lord 
Oedipus against me, and here am come 
Indignant. If he dreams, 'mid all this doom 
That weighs upon us, he hath had from me 
Or deed or lightest thought of injury, . . . 
'Fore God, I have no care to see the sun 
Longer with such a groaning name. Not one 
Wound is it, but a multitude, if now 
All Thebes must hold me guilty aye, and thou 
And all who loved me of a deed so foul. 


If words were spoken, it was scarce the soul 

That spoke them : 'twas some sudden burst of wrath. 


The charge was made, then, that Tiresias hath 
Made answer false, and that I bribed him, I ? 

It was perchance for jest. I know not why. 


His heart beat true, his eyes looked steadily 
And fell not, laying such a charge on me ? 


I know not. I have no eyes for the thing 
My masters do, But see, here comes the King. 

Enter OEDIPUS from the Palace. 


How now, assassin ? Walking at my gate 
With eye undimmed, thou plotter demonstrate 
Against this life, and robber of my crown ? 
God help thee ! Me ! What was it set me down 
Thy butt J So dull a brain hast found in me 
Aforetime, such a faint heart, not to see 
Thy work betimes, or seeing not to smite ? 
Art thou not rash, this once ! It needeth might 
Of friends, it needeth gold, to make a throne 
Thy quarry ; and I fear me thou hast none. 


One thing alone I ask thee. Let me speak 
As thou hast spoken ; then, with knowledge, wreak 
Thy judgement. I accept it without fear. 


More skill hast thou to speak than I to hear 
Thee. There is peril found in thee and hate. 

That one thing let me answer ere too late. 

One thing be sure of, that thy plots are known* 


The man who thinks that bitter pride alone 
Can guide him, without thought his mind is sick. 

tv.i-sfo OEDIPUS, KING OF THEfe 


Who thinks to slay his brother with a trick 
And suffer not himself, his eyes are blind. 


Thy words are more than just. But say what kind 
Of wrong thou fanciest I have done thee. Speak. 


Didst urge me, or didst urge me not, to seek 
A counsel from that man of prophecies f 

So judged I then, nor now judge otherwise. 


{Suddenly seeing a mode of attack. 
How many years have passed since Laius . . , 

[The words seem to choke him. 

Speak on. I cannot understand thee thus. 


[With an effort. 
Passed in that bloody tempest from men's sight ? 

Long years and old. I scarce can tell them right. 


At that time was this seer in Thebes, or how ? 

SOPHOCLES w. 563-57,1 

He was ; most wise and honoured, even as now. 

At that time did he ever speak my name ? 

No. To mine ear at least it never came. 

Held you no search for those who slew your King ? 

For sure we did, but found not anything. 

How came the all-knowing seer to leave it so J 

Ask him ! I speak not where I cannot know. 

One thing thou canst, with knowledge full, I wot. 

Speak it. If true, I will conceal it not. 


This : that until he talked with thee, the seer 
Ne'er spoke of me as Laius' murderer. 



I know not if he hath so spoken now. 
I heard him not. But let me ask and thou 
Answer me true, as I have answered thee. 

Ask, ask ! Thou shalt no murder find in me. 

My sister is thy wife this many a day ? 

That charge it is not in me to gainsay. 

Thou reignest, giving equal reign to her ? 

Always to her desire I minister. 

Were we not all as one, she thou and I f 

Yes, thou false friend ! There lies thy treachery. 


Not so ! Nay, do but follow me and scan 
Thine own charge close. Think'st thou that any 


Would rather rule and be afraid than rule 
And sleep untroubled ? Nay, where lives the fool 
33 c 

SOPHOCLES 590-613 

I know them not nor am I one of them 

Who careth more to bear a monarch's name 

Than do a monarch's deeds ? As now I stand 

All my desire I compass at thy hand. 

Were I the King, full half my deeds were done 

To obey the will of others, not mine own. 

Were that as sweet, when all the tale were told, 

As this calm griefless princedom that I hold 

And silent power ? Am I so blind of brain 

That ease with glory tires me, and I fain 

Must change them ? All men now give me God-speed, 

All smile to greet me. If a man hath need 

Of thee, 'tis rne he calleth to the gate, 

As knowing that on my word hangs the fate 

Of half he craves. Is life like mine a thing 

To cast aside and plot to be a King ? 

Doth a sane man turn villain in an hour ? 

For me, I never lusted thus for power 
Nor bore with any man who turned such lust 
To doing. But enough. I claim but just 
Question. Go first to Pytho ; find if well 
And true I did report God^s oracle. 
Next, seek in Thebes for any plots entwined 
Between this seer and me ; which if ye find, 
Then sei:&e and strike me dead. Myself that day 
Will sit with thee as judge and bid thee Slay ! 
But damn me not on one man's guess. 'Tis all 
Unjust : to call a traitor true, to call 
A true man traitor with no cause nor end ! 
And this I tell thee. He who plucks a friend 
Out from his heart hath lost a treasured thing 
Dear as his own dear life. 

But Time shall bring 


Truth back. 'Tis Time alone can make men know 
What hearts are true ; the false one day can show. 


To one that fears to fall his words are wise, 

O King ; in thought the swift win not the prize. 


When he is swift who steals against my reign 
With plots, then swift am I to plot again. 
Wait patient, and his work shall have prevailed 
Before I move, and mine for ever failed. 

How then ? To banish me is thy intent ? 

Death is the doom I choose, not banishment. 

Wilt never soften, never trust thy friend ? 

First I would see how traitors meet their end. 

I see thou wilt not think. 


I think to save 
My life. 


SOPHOCLES . 627-633 

Think, too, of mine. 


Thine, thou born knave ! 

Yes. . . . What, if thou art blind in everything ? 

The King must be obeyed. 


Not if the King 
Does evil. 

To your King ! Ho, Thebes, mine own I 


Thebes is my country, not the King's alone. 

[OEDIPUS has drawn his sward ; the Chorus 
show signs of breaking into two parties to 
fight for OEDIPUS or for CREON, when 
the door opens and JOCASTA appears on the 


Stay, Princes, stay ! See, on the Castle stair 
The Queen Jocasta standeth. Show to her 
Your strife. She will assuage it as is well. 



Vain men, what would ye with this angry swell 
Of words heart-blinded ? Is there in your eyes 
No pity, thus, when all our city lies 
Bleeding, to ply your privy hates ? . . . Alack, 
My lord, come in ! Thou, Creon, get thee back 
To thine own house. And stir not to such stress 
Of peril griefs that are but nothingness. 


Sister, it is the pleasure of thy lord, 

Our King, to do me deadly wrong. His word 

Is passed on me : 'tis banishment or death. 


I found him ... I deny not what he saith, 
My Queen . . . with craft and malice practising 
Against my life. 


Ye Gods, if such a thing 
Hath once been in my thoughts, may I no more 
See any health on earth, but, festered o'er 
With curses, die ! Have done. There is mine oath. 


In God's name, Oedipus, believe him, both 
For my sake, and for these whose hearts are all 
Thine own, and for my brother's oath withal. 

SOPHOCLES w. 649-664 

LEADER. [Strophe. 

Yield 5 consent ; think! My Lord, I conjure thee! 

What would ye have me do ? 


Reject not one who never failed his troth 
Of old and now is strong in his great oath. 

Dost know what this prayer means ? 


Yea, verily ! 

Say then the meaning true. 


I would not have thee cast to infamy 
Of guilt, where none is proved, 
One who hath sworn and whom thou once hast loved. 


Tis that ye seek ? For me, then . . . understand 
Well ... ye seek death or exile from the land. 


No, by the God of Gods, the all-seeing Sun I 
May he desert me here, and every friend 

With him, to death and utterest malison, 
If e'er my heart could dream of such an end ! 



But it bleedeth, it bleedeth sore, 

In a land half slain, 
If we join to the griefs of yore 

Griefs of you twain. 


Oh, let him go, though it be utterly 
My death, or flight from Thebes in beggary. 
'Tis thy sad lips, not his, that make me know 
Pity. Him I shall hate, where'er he go. 


I see thy mercy moving full of hate 
And slow 5 thy wrath came swift and desperate. 
Methinks, of all the pain that such a heart 
Spreadeth, itself doth bear the bitterest part. 

Oh, leave me and begone I 


I go, wronged sore 
By thee. These friends will trust me as before. 

[CREON goes. OEDIPUS stands apart lost in 
trouble of mind. 

LEADER. {Anttstrophe. 

Queen, wilt thou lead him to his house again ? 


I will, when I have heard. 

SOPHOCLES *. 681-696 


There fell some word, some blind imagining 
Between them. Things known foolish yet can sting. 

From both the twain it rose ? 


From both the twain. 

Aye, and what was the word F 


Surely there is enough of evil stirred, 

And Thebes heaves on the swell 
Of storm. Oh, leave this lying where it fell. 


So be it, thou wise counsellor ! Make slight 
My wrong, and blunt my purpose ere it smite. 


O King, not once I have answered. Visibly 

Mad were I, lost to all wise usages, 
To seek to cast thee from us. 'Twas from thee 
We saw of old blue sky and summer seas, 
When Thebes in the storm and rain 

Reeled, like to die. 
Oh, if thou canst, again 
Blue sky, blue sky ... I 



Husband, in God's name, say what hath ensued 
Of ill, that thou shouldst seek so dire a feud. 


I will, wife. I have more regard for thee 
Than these. Thy brother plots to murder me. 

Speak on. Make all thy charge. Only be clear. 

He says that I am Laius' murderer. 

Says it himself? Says he hath witnesses ? 


Nay, of himself he ventures nothing. 'Tis 
This priest, this hellish seer, makes all the tale. 


The seer ? Then tear thy terrors like a veil 
And take free breath. A seer ? No human thing 
Born on the earth hath power for conjuring 
Truth from the dark of God. 

Come, I will tell 

An old tale. There came once an oracle 
To Laius : I say not from the God 
Himself, but from the priests and seers who trod 
His sanctuary : if ever son were bred 
From him and me, by that son's hand, it said, 

SOPHOCLES vv. 714-7^ 

Lai'us must die. And he, the tale yet stays 
Among us, at the crossing of three ways 
Was slain by robbers, strangers. And my son 
God's mercy ! scarcely the third day was gone 
When Lai'us took, and by another's hand 
Out on the desert mountain, where the land 
Is rock, cast him to die. Through both his feet 
A blade of iron they drove. Thus did we cheat 
Apollo of his will. My child could slay 
No father, and the King could cast away 
The fear that dogged him, by his child to die 
Murdered. Behold the fruits of prophecy ! 
Which heed not thou ! God needs not that a seer 
Help him, when he would make his dark things clear. 


Woman, what turmoil hath thy story wrought 
Within me ! What up-stirring of old thought ! 

What thought P It turns thee like a frightened thing. 


'Twas at the crossing of three ways this King 
Was murdered ? So I heard or so I thought. 

That was the tale. It is not yet forgot. 


The crossing of three ways ! And in what land ? 



Phokis 'tis called. A road on either hand 
From Delphi comes and Daulia, in a glen. 

How many years and months have passed since then ? 


'Twas but a little time before proclaim 1 
Was made of thee for king, the tidings came. 

My God, what hast thou willed to do with me ? 

Oedipus, speak ! What is it troubles thee ? 


Ask me not yet. But say, what build, what height 
Had Laius ? Rode he full of youth and might ? 


Tall, with the white new gleaming on his brow 
He walked. In shape just such a man as thou. 


God help me ! I much fear that I have wrought 
A curse on mine own head, and knew it not. 


How sayst thou ? O my King, I look on thee 
And tremble. 


SOPHOCLES w. 747-760 

OEDIPUS (to himself). 

Horror, if the blind can see ! 
Answer but one thing and 'twill all be clear, 

Speak. I will answer though I shake with fear. 


Went he with scant array, or a great band 
Of armed followers, like a lord of land f 


Four men were with him, one a herald ; one 
Chariot there was, where Larus rode alone. 


Aye me ! Tis clear now. 

Woman, who could bring 
To Thebes the story of that manslaying ? 

A house-thrall, the one man they failed to slay. 

The one man . . , ? Is he in the house to-day ? 


Indeed no. When he came that day, and found 
Thee on the throne where once sat Lams crowned, 
He took my hand and prayed me earnestly 


To send him to the mountain heights, to be 

A herdsman, far from any sight or call 

Of Thebes. And there I sent him. 'Twas a thrall 

Good-hearted, worthy a far greater boon. 

Canst find him ? I would see this herd, and soon. 

'Tis easy. But what wouldst thou with the herd ? 


I fear mine own voice, lest it spoke a word 
Too much ; whereof this man must tell me true. 


The man shall come. My lord, methinks I too 
Should know what fear doth work thee this despite. 


Thou shalt. When I am tossed to such an height 
Of dark foreboding, woman, when my mind 
Faceth such straits as these, where should I find 
A mightier love than thine ? 

My father thus 

I tell thee the whole tale was Polybus, 
In Corinth King ; my mother Merope 1 
Of Dorian line. And I was held to be 
The proudest in Corinthia, till one day 
A thing befell : strange was it, but no way 
Meet for such wonder and such rage as mine. 
A feast it was, and some one flushed with wine 

SOPHOCLES ^780-807 

Cried out at me that I was no true son 

Of Polybus. Oh, I was wroth ! That one 

Day I kept silence, but the morrow morn 

I sought my parents, told that tale of scorn 

And claimed the truth ; and they rose in their 


And smote the mocker. . . . Aye, they satisfied 
All my desire ; yet still the cavil gnawed 
My heart, and still the story crept abroad. 
At last I rose my father knew not, nor 
My mother and went forth to Pytho's floor 
To ask. And God in that for which I came 
Rejected me, but round me, like a flame, 
His voice flashed other answers, things of woe, 
Terror, and desolation. I must know 
My mother's body and beget thereon 
A race no mortal eye durst look upon, 
And spill in murder mine own father's blood. 

I heard, and, hearing, straight from where I stood, 
No landmark but the stars to light my way, 
Fled, fled from the dark south- where Corinth lay, 
To lands far off, where never I might see 
My doom of scorn fulfilled. On bitterly 
I strode, and reached the region where, so saith 
Thy tale, that King of Thebes was struck to death. . , . 
Wife, I will tell thee true. As one in daze 
I walked, till, at the crossing of three ways, 
A herald, like thy tale, and o'er his head 
A man behind strong horses charioted 
Met me. And both would turn me from the path, 
He and a thrall in front. And I in wrath 
Smote him that pushed me 'twas a groom who led 
The horses. Not a word the master said, 


But watched, and as I passed him on the road 

Down on my head his iron-branched goad 

Stabbed. But, by heaven, he rued it ! in a 


I swung my staff and saw the old man crash 
Back from his car in blood. . . . Then all of them 
I slew. 

Oh, if" that man's unspoken name 
Had aught of Laius in him, in God's eye 
What man doth move more miserable than I, 
More dogged by the hate of heaven ! No man, 


Nor stranger, any more may take me in ; 
No man may greet me with a word, but all 
Cast me from out their houses. And withal 
'Twas mine own self that laid upon my life 
These curses. And I hold the dead man's wife 
In these polluting arms that spilt his soul. . . 
Am I a thing born evil ? Am I foul 
In every vein ? Thebes now doth banish me; r 
And never in this exile must I see 
Mine ancient folk of Corinth, never treaa 
The land that bore me ; else my mother's bed 
Shall be defiled, and Polybus, my good 
Father, who loved me well, be rolled in blood. 
If one should dream that such a world began 
In some slow devil's heart, that hated man, 
Who should deny him ? God, as thou art clean, 
Suffer not this, oh, suffer not this sin 
To be, that e'er I look on such a day ! 
Out of all vision of mankind away 
To darkness let me fall ere such a fate 
Touch me, so unclean and so desolate ! 

SOPHOCLES w, 829-850 


I tremble too, O King ; but till thou hear 
From him who saw, oh, let hope conquer fear. 


One shred of hope I still have, and therefore 
Will wait the herdsman's coming. 'Tis no more. 

He shall come. But what further dost thou seek ? 


This. If we mark him close and find him speak 
As thou hast, then I am lifted from my dread. 

What mean'st thou ? Was there something that I 

said . . ? 


Thou said'st he spoke of robbers, a great band, 
That slaughtered La'ius' men. If still he stand 
To the same tale, the guilt comes not my way. 
One cannot be a band. But if he say 
One lonely loin-girt man, then visibly 
This is God's finger pointing toward me. 


Be sure of this. He told the story so 
When first he came. All they that heard him know, 


Not only I. He cannot change again 

Now. And if change he should, O Lord of men, 

No change of his can make the prophecy 

Of Lams' death fall true. He was to die 

Slain by my son. So Loxias spake. . . . My son ! 

He slew no man, that poor deserted one 

That died. . . . And I will no more turn mine eyes 

This way nor that for all their prophecies. 


Woman, thou counsellest well. Yet let it not 
Escape thee. Send and have the herdsman brought. 


That will I. Come. Thou knowest I ne'er would 

Nor think of aught, save thou wouldst have it so. 

[ JOCASTA and OEDIPUS go together into the Palace. 


[They pray to be free from such great sins as 
they have just heard spoken of. 

Toward God's great mysteries, oh, let me move 

Unstained till I die 

In speech or doing j for the Laws thereof 
Are holy, walkers upon ways above, 
Born in the far blue sky ; 

Their father is Olympus uncreate ; 

No man hath made nor told 
Their being ; neither shall Oblivion set 

w. 870-893 

Sleep on their eyes, for in them lives a great 

Spirit and grows not old. [Antistrophe. 

[They wonder if these sins be all due to pride 
and if CREON has guilty ambitions ; 

'Tis Pride that breeds the tyrant 5 drunken deep 

With perilous things is she, 

Which bring not peace : up, reeling, steep on steep 
She climbs, till lo, the rock-edge, and the leap 

To that which needs must be, 

The land where the strong foot is no more strong ! 

Yet is there surely Pride 
That saves a city ; God preserve it long ! 
I judge not. Only through all maze of wrong 

Be God, not man, my guide. [Strophe. 

[Or zfTiRESiAS can really be a lying prophet with 
no fear of God ; they feel that all faith in 
oracles and the things of God is shaken. 

Is there a priest who moves amid the altars 

Ruthless in deed and word, 
Fears not the presence of his god, nor falters 

Lest Right at last be heard ? 
If such there be, oh, let some doom be given 

Meet for his ill-starred pride, 
Who will not gain his gain where Justice is, 
Who will not hold his lips from blasphemies, 
Who hurls rash hands amid the things of heaven 

From man's touch sanctified. 

In a world where such things be, 
What spirit hath shield or lance 


To ward him secretly 

From the arrow that slays askance ? 
If honour to such things be, 

Why should I dance my dance ? 

I go no more with prayers and adorations 

Xo Earth's deep Heart of Stone, 
Nor yet the Abantes' floor, nor where the nations 

Kneel at Olympiad throne, 
Till all this dark be lightened, for the finger 

Of man to touch and know. 
Thou that rulest if men rightly call 
Thy name on earth O Zeus, thou Lord of all 
And Strength undying, let not these things linger 

Unknown, tossed to and fro. 

For faint is the oracle, 
And they thrust it aside, away j 

And no more visible 
Apollo to save or slay ; 

And the things of God, they fail 
As mist on the wind away. 

[JocASTA comes out from the Palace followed 
by handmaids bearing incense and flowers. 


Lords ot the land, the ways my thought hath trod 
Lead me in worship to these shrines of God 
With flowers and incense flame. So dire a storm 
Doth shake the King, sin, dread and every form 
Of grief the world knows. 'Tis the wise man's way 
To judge the morrow by the yester day ; 

SOPHOCLES 1*917-933 

Which he doth never, but gives eye and ear 
To all who speak, will they but speak of fear. 

And seeing no word of mine hath power to heal 
His torment, therefore forth to thee I steal, 
Slayer of the Wolf, Lord of Light, 
Apollo : thou art near us, and of right 
Dost hold us thine : to thee in prayer I fall. 

[She kneels at the altar of Apollo Lukeios. 
Oh, show us still some path that is not all 
Unclean j for now our captain's eyes are dim 
With dread, and the whole ship must follow him. 

[While she prays a STRANGER has entered and 
begins to accost the Chorus. 


Good masters, is there one of you could bring 
My steps to the house of Oedipus, your King ? 
Or, better, to himself if that may be f 


This is the house and he within ; and she 
Thou seest, the mother of his royal seed. 

[JOCASTA rises, anxious, from her prayer \ 


Being wife to such a man, happy indeed 
And ringed with happy faces may she live I 


To one so fair of speech may the Gods give 
Like blessing, courteous stranger ; 'tis thy due. 
But say what leads thee hither. Can we do 
Thy wish in aught, or hast thou news to bring ? 


Good news, O Queen, for thee and for the King. 

What is it ? And from what prince comest thou ? 


I come from Corinth. And my tale, I trow, 
Will give thee joy, yet haply also pain. 

What news can have that twofold power ? Be plain, 


'Tis spoke in Corinth that the gathering 
Of folk will make thy lord our chosen King. 

How ? Is old Polybus in power no more ? 

Death has a greater power. His reign is o'er. 

What say'st thou ? Dead ? . . . Oedipus' fether dead I 

If I speak false, let me die in his stead. 


Ho, maiden ! To our master ! Hie thee fast 
And tell this tale. 

[The maiden goes, 
Where stand ye at the last 

SOPHOCLES TO. 948-961 

Ye oracles of God ? For many a year 
Oedipus fled before that man, in fear 
To slay him. And behold we find him thus 
Slain by a chance death, not by Oedipus. 

[OEDIPUS comes out from the Palace. 


wife, O face I love to look upon, 

Why calPst thou me from where I sat alone ? 


Give ear, and ponder from what this man tells 
How end these proud priests and their oracles. 

Whence conies he ? And what word hath he for us I 


From Corinth ; bearing news that Polybus 
Thy father is no more. He has found his death. 


How? Stranger, speak thyself. This that she 
saith , , . 

Is sure. If that is the first news ye crave, 

1 tell thee, Polybus lieth in his grave. 

Not murdered? . , . How? Some passing of disease 

A slight thing turns an old life to its peace, 



Poor father ! . . . Tis by sickness he is dead ? 

The growing years lay heavy on his head. 


wife, why then should man fear any more 
The voice of Pytho's dome, or cower before 
These birds that shriek above us ? They foretold 
Me for my father's murderer ; and behold, 

He lies in Corinth dead, and here am I 

And never touched the sword. . . . Or did he die 

In grief for me who left him ? In that way 

1 may have wrought his death, . . . But come what 


He sleepeth in his grave and with him all 
This deadly seercraft, of no worth at all. 

Dear Lord, long since did I not show thee clear . , . ? 

Indeed, yes. I was warped by mine own fear. 

Now thou wilt cast it from thee, and forget. 

Forget my mother ? ... It is not over yet. 


What should man do with fear, who hath but Chance 
Above him, and no sight nor governance 


SOPHOCLES w, 979-993 

Of things to be ? To live as life may run, 
No fear, no fret, were wisest 'neath the sun. 
And thou, fear not thy mother. Prophets deem 
A deed wrought that is wrought but in a dream. 
And he to whom these things are nothing, best 
Will bear his burden. 


All thou counsellest 

Were good, save that my mother liveth still. 
And, though thy words be wise, for good or ill 
Her I still fear. 


Think of thy father's tomb ! 
Like light across our darkness it hath come. 

Great light ; but while she lives I fly from her. 

What woman, Prince, doth fill thee so with fear ? 

MeropS, friend, who dwelt with Polybus. 

What in Queen Merop should fright thee thus ? 

A voice of God, stranger, of dire import. 

Meet for mine ears ? Or of some secret sort ? 




Nay, thou must hear, and Corinth. Long ago 
Apollo spake a doom, that I should know 
My mother's flesh, and with mine own hand spill 
My father's blood. 'Tis that, and no* my will, 
Hath kept me always far from Corinth. So ; 
Life hath dealt kindly with me, yet men know 
On earth no comfort like a mother's face. 

'Tis that, hath kept thee exiled in this place ? 

That, and the fear too of my father's blood. 


Then, surely, Lord . . . I came but for thy good . . , 
'Twere well if from that fear I set thee free. 

Ah, couldst thou ! There were rich reward for thee. 


To say truth, I had hoped to lead thee home 
Now, and myself to get some good therefrom. 

Nay ; where my parents are I will not go. 


My son, 'tis very clear thou dost not know 
What road thou goest. 


How ? In God's name, say ! 
How clear I 


SOPHOCLES w. 1010-1019 


'Tis this, keeps thee so long away 
From Corinth ? 


'Tis the fear lest that word break 
One day upon me true. 


Fear lest thou take 
Defilement from the two that gave thee birth ? 


'Tis that, old man, 'tis that doth fill the earth 
With terror. 


Then thy terror all hath been 
For nothing. 


How ? Were not your King and Queen 
My parents ? 


Polybus was naught to thee 
In blood. 

How ? He, my father ! 


That was he 
As much as I, but no more. 


Thou art naught j 
he begot me. 


'Twas not I begot 
Oedipus, neither was it he, 


What wild 
Fancy, then, made him name me for his child ? 


Thou wast his child by gift. Long years ago 
Mine own hand brought thee to him. 


Coming so, 
From a strange hand, he gave me that great love ? 


He had no child, and the desire thereof 
Held him, 


And thou didst find somewhere or buy 
A child for him ? 

I found it in a high 
Glen of Kithairon. 

[Movement of JOCASTA, who stands riveted 
with dread, unnoticed by the others, 


Yonder ? To what end 
Wast travelling in these parts ? 


I came to ten4 
The flocks here on the mountain. 

SOPHOCLES w. 1029-1037 


Thou wast one 
That wandered, tending sheep for hire ? 


My son, 
That day I was the saviour of a King, 


How saviour ? Was I in some suffering 
Or peril ? 

Thine own feet a tale could speak. 


Ah me ! What ancient pain stirs half awake 
Within me ! 


'Twas a spike through both thy feet. 
I set thee free. 


A strange scorn that, to greet 
A babe new on the earth ! 


From that they fain 
Must call thee Oedipus, a Who-walks-in-pain" 


Who called me so father or mother f Oh, 
In God's name, speak ! 

60 3 8-io 4 6 OEDIPUS, KING OP THEBES 


I know not. He should know 
Who brought thee. 


So : I was not found by thee. 
Thou hadst me rrom another ? 


Aye ; to me 

One of the shepherds gave the babe, to bear 
Far off. 


What shepherd ? Know'st thou not ? Declare 
All that thou knowest. 


By my memory, then, 
I think they called him one of Laius' men. 

That La'ius who was king in Thebes of old ? 

The same. My man did herding in his fold. 

Is he yet living ? Can I see his face ? 


[Turning to the Chorus. 

Ye will know that, being natives to the place. 


How ? Is there one of you within my pale 
Standing, that knows the shepherd of his tale ? 
Ye have seen him on the' hills ? Or in this town ? 
Speak I For the hour is come that all be known. 


I think 'twill be the Peasant Man, the same, 

Thou hast sought long time to see. His place and 

Our mistress, if she will, can tell most clear. 

QOCASTA remains as if she heard nothing. 


Thou hear'st him, wife. The herd whose presence here 
We craved for, is it he this man would say ? 


He saith . . . What of it ? Ask not ; only pray 
Not to remember. * . . Tales are vainly told. 


'Tis mine own birth. How can I, when I hold 
Such clues as these, refrain from knowing all ? 


For God's love, no ! Not if thou car'st at all 
For thine own life. . . . My anguish is enough. 

OEDIPUS (bitterly). 

Fear not ! ... Though I be thrice of slavish stuff 

From my third grand-dam down, it shames not thee. 


*v.io6 3 -to7s OEDIPUS, KING OF 


Ask no more. I beseech thee . . . Promise me ! 

To leave the Truth half-found ? J Tis not my mood 

I understand ; and tell thee what is good, 

Thy good doth weary me. 


O child of woe, 
I pray God, I pray God, thou never know ! 

OEDIPUS (turning from her). 
Go, fetch the herdsman straight ! This Queen of 

May walk alone to boast her royal line. 

[She twice draws in her breath through her 

teeth, as if in some sharp pain. 
Unhappy one, goodbye ! Goodbye before 
I go : this once, and never never more ! 

[She comes towards him as though TO take a last 
farewell^ then stops suddenly, turns, and 
rushes into the Palace. 


King, what was that ? She passed like one who flies 
In very anguish. Dread is o'er mine eyes 
Lest from this silence break some storm of wrong. 



Break what break will ! My mind abideth strong 
To know the roots, how low soe'er they be, 
Which grew to Oedipus. This woman, she 
Is proud, methinks, and fears my birth and name 
Will mar her nobleness. But I, no shame 
Can ever touch me. I am Fortune's child, 
Not man's ; her mother face hath ever smiled 
Above me, and my brethren of the sky, 
The changing Moons, have changed me low and 


There is my lineage true, which none shall wrest 
From me ; who then am I to fear this quest f 


[They sing 0/OEDIPUS as the foundling of their 
own Theban mountain, Kithairon y and 
doubtless of divine birth. 

If I, Kithairon, some vision can borrow 

From seercraft, if still there is wit in the old, 
Long, long, through the deep-orbd Moon of the 


So hear me, Olympus ! thy tale shall be told. 
O mountain of Thebes, a new Theban shall praise 


One born of thy bosom, one nursed at thy springs ; 
And the old men shall dance to thy glory, and raise 

To worship, O bearer of joy to my kings. 

And thou, we pray, 
Look down in peace, O Apollo 5 I-fi, I- 1 


What Oread mother, unaging, unweeping, 

Did bear thee, O Babe, to the Crag-walker Pan ; 
Or perchance to Apollo ? He lovetb the leaping 
Of herds on the rock-ways unhaunted of man. 
Or was it the lord of Cyllene\ who found thee, 
Or glad Dionysus, whose home is the height, 
Who knew thee his own on the mountain, as round 

The White Brides of Helicon laughed for delight ? 

'Tis there, 'tis there, 
The joy most liveth of all his dance and prayer. 


If I may judge, ye Elders, who have ne'er 
Seen him, methinks I see the shepherd there 
Whom we have sought so long. His weight of years 
Fits well with our Corinthian messenger's ; 
And, more, I know the men who guide his way, 
Bondsmen of mine own house. 

Thou, friend, wilt say 
Most surely, who hast known the man of old. 


I know him well. A shepherd of the fold 
Of Lams, one he trusted more than all. 

[The SHEPHERD comes in, led by two thralls. 
He is an old man and seems terrified. 


Thou first, our guest from Corinth : say withal 
Is this the man ? 

6s E 

SOPHOCLES ?. 1120-1130 

This is the man, King. 


[Addressing the SHEPHERD. 
Old man ! Look up, and answer everything 
I ask thee. Thou wast Lams' man of old f 

Born in his house I was, not bought with gold. 

What kind of work, what way of life, was thine ? 

Most of my days I tended sheep or kinc. 


What was thy camping ground at midsummer ? 

Sometimes Kithairon, sometimes mountains near. 

Saw'st ever there this man thou seSst now p 


There, Lord ? What doing ? What man meanest 
thou ? 


[Pointing to the STRANGER. 
Look ! Hath he ever crossed thy path before f 


I call him not to mind, I must think more. 


Small wonder that, O King ! But I will throw 
Light on his memories. Right well I know 
He knows the time when, all Kithairon through, 
I with one wandering herd and he with two, 
Three times we neighboured one another, clear 
From spring to autumn stars, a good half-year. 
At winter's fall we parted ; he drove down 
To his master's fold, and I back to mine own. . , . 
Dost call it back, friend ? Was it as I say f 

It was. It was. . . . 'Tis all so far away. 


Say then : thou gavest me once, there in the wild, 
A babe to rear far off as mine own child f 


[His terror returning. 
What does this mean I To what end askest thou ? 


[Pointing to OEDIPUS. 
That babe has grown, friend. 'Tis our master now. 

[He slowly understands, then stands for a 

moment horror-struck. 

No, in the name of death ! . . . Fool, hold thy peace, 
[He lifts his staff at the STRANGER, 

SOPHOCLES w. 1147-1157 

Ha, greybeard ! Wouldst thou strike him ? 'Tis not 

Offences, 'tis thine own we need to mend,. 

Most gentle master, how do I offend ? 

Whence came that babe whereof he questioned! ? 

He doth not know . . . 'tis folly . , . what he saith. 

Thou wilt not speak for love ; but pain maybe . . . 

I am very old. Ye would not torture me. 

Back with his arms, ye bondmen ! Hold him so. 

[The thralls drag back the SHEPHERD'S 
arms, ready for torture. 


Woe's me ! What have I done ? . . . What wouldst 
thou know ? 


Didst give this man the child, as he doth say ? 


I did. . . . Would God that I had died this day ! 
68 7 


'Fore heaven, thou shait yet, if thou speak not true. 

'Tis more than death and darker, if I do, 

This dog, it seems, will keep us waiting. 


I said at first I gave it. 


In what way 

Came it to thee ? Was it thine own child, or 
Another's ? 


Nay, it never crossed my door : 


Whose ? What man, what house, of these 
About thee ? 


In the name of God who sees, 
Ask me no more ! 


If once I ask again, 
Thou diest. 


From the folk of Laius, then, 
It came. 


A slave, or born of Laius* blood ? 

There comes the word I dread to speak, O God ! 

And I to hear : yet heard it needs must be. 


Know then, they said 'twas Lai us' child. But she 
Wkhin, thy wife, best knows its fathering, 

'Twas she that gave it ? 


It was she, King. 

And bade you . . what ? 


Destroy it. 


Her own child ? . . . 

Dark words of God had made her wild. 

What words ? 




The babe must slay his father ; so 
'Twas written. 


Why didst thou, then, let him go 
With this old man ? 


King, I pitied him. 

I thought the man would save him to some dim 
And distant land, beyond all fear. . . . And he, 
To worse than death, did save him ! . . . Verily, 
If thou art he whom this man telleth of, 
To sore affliction thou art born. 


Enough ! 

All, all, shall be fulfilled. . . . Oh, on these eyes 
Shed light no more, ye everlasting skies 
That know my sin ! I have sinned in birth and breath. 
I have sinned with Woman. I have sinned with Death. 
[He rushes into the Palace. The SHEPHERD 
is led away by the thralls. 



Nothingness, nothingness, 
Ye Children of Man, and less 

I count you, waking or dreaming ! 
And none among mortals, none, 
Seeking to live, hath won 
More than to seem, and to cease 
Again from his seeming. 


While ever before mine eyes 
One fate, one ensample, lies 
Thine, thine, O Oedipus, sore 

Of God oppressed 
What thing that is human more 

Dare I call blessed ? 


Straight his archery flew 
To the heart of living ; he knew 

Joy and the fulness of power, 
O Zeus, when the riddling breath 
Was stayed and the Maid of Death 
Slain, and we saw him through 

The death-cloud, a tower ! 

For that he was called my king ; 
Yea, every precious thing 
Wherewith men are honoured, down 

We cast before him, 
And great Thebes brought her crown 
And kneeled to adore him. 

But now, what man's story is such bitterness to 

speak ? 

What life hath Delusion so visited, and Pain, 
And swiftness of Disaster ? 
O great King, our master, 
How oped the one haven to the slayer and the 

slain I 
And the furrows of thy father, did they turn not nor 


Did they bear so long silent thy casting of the 
grain ? 


*v. tai3-i*35 OEDIPUS, KING OP THEBES 

'Tis Time, Time, desireless, hath shown thee what 

thou art; 

The long monstrous mating, it is judged and all its 

O child of him that sleepeth, 
Thy land weepeth, weepeth, 
Unfathered. . . . Would God, I had never seen 

thy face 1 

From thee in great peril fell peace upon my heart, 
In thee mine eye clouded and the dark is come 

\A MESSENGER rushes out from the Palace. 


O ye above this land in honour old 

Exalted, what a tale shall ye be told, 

What sights shall see, and tears of horror shed, 

If still your hearts be true to them that led 

Your sires ! There runs no river, well I ween, 

Not Phasis nor great Ister, shall wash clean 

This house of all within that hideth nay, 

Nor all that creepeth forth to front the day, 

Of purposed horror. And in misery 

That woundeth most which men have willed to be. 


No lack there was in what we knew before 

Of food for heaviness, What bring'st thou more ? 


One thing I bring thee first. . . . 'Tis quickly said. 
Jocasta, our anointed queen, is dead. 

Unhappy woman ! How came death to her ? 


By her own hand. . . . Oh, of what passed in there 
Ye have been spared the worst. Ye cannot see. 
Howbeit, with that which still is left in me 
Of mind and memory, ye shall hear her fate. 

Like one entranced with passion, through the gate 
She passed, the white hands flashing o'er her head, 
Like blades that tear, and fled, unswerving fled, 
Toward her old bridal room, and disappeared 
And the doors crashed behind her. But we heard 
Her voice within, crying to him of old, 
Her Lai'us, long dead ; and things untold 
Of the old kiss unforgotten, that should bring 
The lover's death and leave the loved a thing 
Of horror, yea, a field beneath the plough 
For sire and son : then wailing bitter-low 
Across that bed of births unreconciled, 
Husband from husband born and child from child. 
And, after that, I know not how her death 
Found her. For sudden, with a roar of wrath, 
Burst Oedipus upon us. Then, I ween, 
We marked no more what passion held the Queen, 
But him, as in the fury of his stride, 
" A sword ! A sword ! And show me here," he cried, 
"That wife, no wife, that field of bloodstained earth 
Where husband, father, sin on sin, had birth, 
Polluted generations ! " While he thus 
Raged on, some god for sure 'twas none of us 
Showed where she was ; and with a shout away, 
As though some hand had pointed to the prey, 

tnr.i26x-i286 OEDIPUS, KING OF THEBES 

He dashed him on the chamber door. The straight 
Door-bar of oak, it bent beneath his weight, 
Shook from its sockets free, and in he burst 
To the dark chamber. 

There we saw her first 

Hanged, swinging from a noose, like a dead bird* 
He fell back when he saw her. Then we heard 
A miserable groan, and straight he found 
And loosed the strangling knot, and on the ground 
Laid her. Ah, then the sight of horror came ! 
The pin of gold, broad-beaten like a flame, 
He tore from off her breast, and, left and right, 
Down on the shuddering orbits of his sight 
Dashed it : " Out ! Out ! Ye never more shall see 
Me nor the anguish nor the sins of me. 
Ye looked on lives whose like earth never bore, 
Ye knew not those my spirit thirsted for : 
Therefore be dark for ever ! " 

Like a song 

His voice rose, and again, again, the strong 
And stabbing hand fell, and the massacred 
And bleeding eyeballs streamed upon his beard, 
Wild rain, and gouts of hail amid the rain. 

Behold affliction, yea, afflictions twain 
From man and woman broken, now made one 
In downfall. All the riches yester sun 
Saw in this house were rich in verity. 
What call ye now our riches ? Agony, 
Delusion, Death, Shame, all that eye or ear 
Hath ever dreamed of misery, is here. 


And now how fares he ? Doth the storm abate ? 

SOPHOCLES w. 1287-1308 


He shouts for one to open wide the gate 
And lead him forth, and to all Thebes display 
His father's murderer, his mother's. . . . Nay, 
Such words I will not speak. And his intent 
Is set, to cast himself in banishment 
Out to the wild, not walk 'mid human breed 
Bearing the curse he bears. Yet sore his need 
Of strength and of some guiding hand. For sure 
He hath more burden now than man may endure. 

But see, the gates fall back, and that appears 
Which he who loathes shall pity yea, with tears. 

[OEDIPUS is led in y blinded and bleeding* The 

Old Men bow down and hide their faces ,- 

some of them weep. 

Oh, terrible! Oh, sight of all 

This life hath crossed, most terrible ! 

Thou man more wronged than tongue can tell, 
What madness took thee ? Do there crawl 

Live Things of Evil from the deep 

To leap on man ? Oh, what a leap 
Was His that flung thee to thy fall 1 

fallen, fallen in ghastly case, 

I dare not raise mine eyes to thee ; 

Fain would I look and ask and see, 
But shudder sickened from thy face. 


Oh, pain ; pain and woe ! 
Whither? Whither? 


They lead me and I go ; 

And my voice drifts on the air 

Far away. 

Where, Thing of Evil, where 
Endeth thy leaping hither ? 

In fearful ends, which none may hear nor say. 


Cloud of the dark, mine own [Strophe, 

For ever, horrible, 

Stealing, stealing, silent, unconquerable, 
Cloud that no wind, no summer can dispel ! 
Again, again I groan, 

As through my heart together crawl the strong 
Stabs of this pain and memories of old wrong. 


Yea, twofold hosts of torment hast thou there, 
The stain to think on and the pain to bear. 


O Friend, thou mine own [Antistrophe. 

Still faithful, minister 
Steadfast abiding alone of them that were, 
Dost bear with me and give the blind man 

care . ? 

Ah me ! Not all unknown 
Nor hid thou art. Deep in this dark a call 
Comes and I know thy voice in spite of all. 


O fearful sufferer, and could'st thou kill 
Thy living orbs ? What God made blind thy will ? 

SOPHOCLES 1329-1351 


Tis Apollo ; all is Apollo, [Strophe. 

ye that love me, 'tis he long time hath planned 
These things upon me evilly, evilly, 

Dark things and full of blood. 
I knew not ; I did but follow 
His way ; but mine the hand 
And mine the anguish. What were mine eyes to me 
When naught to be seen was good ? 

'Tis even so j and Truth doth speak in thee. 


To see, to endure, to hear words kindly spoken, 
Should I have joy in such ? 

Out, if ye love your breath, 
Cast me swift unto solitude, unbroken 
By word or touch. 
Am I not charged with death, 

Most charged and filled to the brim 
With curses ? And what man saith 
God hath so hated him ? 


Thy bitter will, thy hard calamity, 
Would I had never known nor looked on thee ! 


My curse, my curse upon him, [Antlstrophe. 

That man whom pity held in the wilderness, 
Who saved the feet alive from the blood-fetter 
And loosed the barb thereof I 



That babe what grace was done him, 
Had he died shelterless, 
He had not laid on himself this grief to bear, 
And all who gave him love. 

I, too, O Friend, I had been happier. 


Found not the way to his father's blood, nor shaken 
The world's scorn on his mother, 

The child and the groom withal ; 
But now, of murderers born, of God forsaken, 
Mine own sons' brother ; 
All this, and if aught can fall 

Upon man more perilous 
And elder in sin, lo, all 
Is the portion of Oedipus, 


How shall I hold this counsel of thy mind 
True ? Thou wert better dead than living blind. 


That this deed is not well and wisely wrought 
Thou shalt not show me ; therefore school me not. 
Think, with what eyes hereafter in the place 
Of shadows could I see my father's face, 
Or my poor mother's f Both of whom this hand 
Hath wronged too deep for man to understand, 
Or children born as mine were born, to see 
Their shapes should bring me joy ? Great God ! 
To me 


SOPHOCLES VY, 1378-1403 

There is no joy in city nor in tower 

Nor temple, from all whom, in this mine hour, 

I that was chief in Thebes alone, and ate 

The King's bread, I have made me separate 

For ever. Mine own lips have bid the land 

Cast from it one so evil, one whose hand 

To sin was dedicate, whom God hath shown 

Birth-branded . . . and my blood the dead King's own f 

All this myself have proved. And can I then 

Look with straight eyes into the eyes of men ? 

I trow not. Nay, if any stop there were 

To dam this fount that welleth in mine ear 

For hearing, I had never blenched nor stayed 

Till this vile shell were all one dungeon made, 

Dark, without sound. 'Tis thus the mind would fain 

Find peace, self-prisoned from a world of pain, 

O wild Kithairon, why was it thy will 
To save me ? Why not take me quick and kill, 
Kill, before ever I could make men know 
The thing I am, the thing from which I grow f 
Thou dead King, Polybus, thou city wall 
Of Corinth, thou old castle I did call 
My father's, what a life did ye begin, 
What splendour rotted by the worm within, 
When ye bred me ! O Crossing of the Roads, 
secret glen and dusk of crowding woods, 
O narrow footpath creeping to the brink 
Where meet the Three 1 I gave you blood to drink, 
Do ye remember ? 'Twas my life-blood, hot 
From mine own father's heart. Have ye forgot 
What deed I did among you, and what new 
And direr deed I fled from you to do ? 
O flesh, horror of flesh ! . . . 


But what is shame 

To do should not be spoken. In God's name, 
Take me somewhere far off and cover me 
From sight, or slay, or cast me to the sea 
Where never eye may see me any more. 

What ? Do ye fear to touch a man so sore 
Stricken I Nay, tremble not. My misery 
Is mine, and shall be borne by none but me. 


Lo, yonder comes for answer to thy prayer 
Creon, to do and to decree. The care 
Of all our land is his, now thou art weak. 


Alas, what word to Creon can I speak, 
How make him trust me more ? He hath seen of 

So vile a heart in me, so full of hate. 

Enter CREON. 


Not to make laughter, Oedipus, nor cast 
Against thee any evil of the past 
I seek thee, but ... Ah God ! ye ministers, 
Have ye no hearts ? Or if for man there stirs 
No pity in you, fear at least to call 
Stain on our Lord the Sun, who feedeth all ; 
Nor show in nakedness a horror such 
As this, which never mother Earth may touch, 
Nor God's clean rain nor sunlight. Quick within I 
Guide him. The ills that in a house have been 
They of the house alone should know or hear. 
Si F 


In God's name, since thou hast undone the fear 
Within me, coming thus, all nobleness, 
To one so vile, grant me one only grace. 
For thy sake more I crave it than mine own. 

Let me first hear what grace thou wouldst be shown. 

Cast me from Thebes". . . now, quick . * . where 

none may see 
My visage more, nor mingle words with me. 


That had I done, for sure, save that I still 
Tremble, and fain would ask Apollo's will. 


His will was clear enough, to stamp the unclean 
Thing out, the bloody hand, the heart of sin. 


'Twas thus he seemed to speak ; but in this sore 
Strait we must needs learn surer than before. 

Thou needs must trouble God for one so low ? 

Surely ; thyself will trust his answer now. 


I charge thee more . . . and, if thou fail, my sin 
Shall cleave to thee. . , . For her who lies within, 

v*.i44*-i4>a OEDIPUS, KING Ofr tftfcfcfcS 

Make as thou wilt her burial. 'Tis thy task 
To tend thine own. But me : let no man ask 
This ancient city of my sires to give 
Harbour in life to me. Set me to live 
On the wild hills and leave my name to those 
Deeps of Kithairon which my father chose, 
And mother, for my vast and living tomb. 
As they, my murderers, willed it, let my doom 
Find me. For this my very heart doth know, 
No sickness now, nor any mortal blow, 
Shall slay this body. Never had my breath 
Been thus kept burning in the midst of death, 
Save for some frightful end. So, let my way 
Go where it listeth. 

But my children Nay, 
Creon, my sons will ask thee for no care. 
Men are they, and can find them everywhere 
What life needs. But my two poor desolate 
Maidens. ^ . . There was no table ever set 
Apart for them, but whatso royal fare 
I tasted, they were with me and had share 
In all. . . . Creon, I pray, forget them not. 
And if it may be, go, bid them be brought, 

[CREON goes and presently returns with the 
two princesses. OEDIPUS thinks he is 
there all the time. 

That I may touch their faces, and so weep. * . . 
Go, Prince. Go, noble heart ! . , . 
If I might touch them, I should seem to keep 
And not to have lost them, now mine eyes are 

gone. . , . 
What say I ? 
In God's name, can it be I hear mine own 


SOPHOCLES . 1473-iSos 

Beloved ones sobbing ? Creon of his grace 
Hath brought my two, my dearest, to this place. 
Is it true ? 


'Tis true. I brought them, for in them I know 
Thy joy is, the same now as long ago. 


God bless thee, and in this hard journey give 
Some better guide than mine to help thee live. 

Children ! Where are ye ? Hither ; come to these 
Arms of your . . . brother, whose wild offices 
Have brought much darkness on the once bright eyes 
Of him who grew your garden ; who, nowise 
Seeing nor understanding, digged a ground 
The world shall shudder at. Children, my wound 
Is yours too, and I cannot meet your gaze 
Now, as I think me what remaining days 
Of bitter living the world hath for you. 
What dance of damsels shall ye gather to, 
What feast of Thebes, but quick ye shall turn home, 
All tears, or ere the feast or dancers come ? 
And, children, when ye reach the years of love, 
Who shall dare wed you, whose heart rise above 
The peril, to take on him all the shame 
That cleaves to my name and my children's name ? 
God knows, it is enough ! . . . 
My flowers, ye needs must die, waste things, bereft 
And fruitless. 

Creon, thou alone art left 
Their father now, since both of us are gone 
Who cared for them. Oh, leave them not alone 


To wander masterless, these thine own kin, 
And beggared. Neither think of them such sin 
As ye all know in me, but let their fate 
Touch thee. So young they are, so desolate 
Of all save thee. True man, give me thine hand, 
And promise. 

[OEDIPUS and CREON clasp hands. 
If your age could understand, 
Children, full many counsels I could give. 
But now I leave this one word : Pray to live 
As life may suffer you, and find a road 
To travel easier than your father trod. 


Enough thy heart hath poured its tears ; now back 
into thine house repair. 

I dread the house, yet go I must. 

^ " ison maketh all things fair. 

One oath then give me, and I go. 

Name it, and I will answer thee. 

To cast me from this land. 

SOPHOCLES w, 1519-15*3 

A gift not mine but God's thou askest me. 

I am a thing of God abhorred. 

The more,, then, will he grant thy prayer. 

Thou givest thine oath ? 

I see no light ; and, seeing not, I may not swear. 

Then take me hence. I care not. 

Go in peace, and give these children o'er. 


Ah no ! Take not away my daughters ! 

[They art taken from him. 


Seek not to be master more. 

Did not thy masteries of old forsake thee when the. 
end was near ? 



Ye citizens of Thebes, behold ; 'tis Oedipus that 

passeth here, 
Who read the riddle-word of Death, and mightiest 

stood of mortal men. 
And Fortune loved him, and the folk that saw hirr- 

turned and looked again. 
Lo, he is fallen, and around great storms and the 

outreaching sea ! 
Therefore, Man, beware, and look toward the end 

of things that be, 
The last of sights, 9 the Jast of days ; and no man's life 

account as gain 
Ere the full tale be finished and the darkness find him 

without pain. 

[OEDIPUS is led into the house and the doon 
close on him, 


P. 4, L 21, Dry Ash of IsmSnus.] Divination by 
burnt offerings was practised at an altar of Apollo by 
the river Ismenus in Thebes. 

Observe how many traits Oedipus retains of the 
primitive king, who was at once chief and medicine- 
man and god, The Priest thinks it necessary to state 
explicitly that he does not regard Oedipus as a god, 
but he is clearly not quite like other men. And it 
seems as if Oedipus himself realised in this scene that 
the oracle from Delphi might well demand the king's 
life, Cf. p. 6, " what deed of mine, what bitter task, 
May save my city " ; p. 7, " any fear for mine own 
death," This thought, present probably in more minds 
than his, greatly increases the tension of the scene. 
Cf. Anthropology and the Classics^ pp. 74-79. 

P. 7, L 87, Message of joy,] Creon says this for 
the sake of the omen. The first words uttered at 
such a crisis v/ould be ominous and tend to fulfil 

Pp. 13-16, 11. 216-275. The long cursing speech 
of Oedipus,]0bserve that this speech is broken into 
several divisions, Oedipus at each point expecting 
an answer and receiving none. Thus it is not mere 
declamation ; it involves action and reaction 


a speaker and a crowd. Every reader will notice 
how full it is of " tragic irony." Almost every para- 
graph carries with it some sinister meaning of which 
the speaker is unconscious. Cf. such phrases as <c if 
he tread my hearth," " had but his issue been more 
fortunate," "as I would for mine own father," and 
of course the whole situation. 

P. 25, 1. 437, Who were tne y ?] This momentary 
doubt of Oedipus, who of course regarded himself 
as the son of Polybus, King of Corinth, is explained 
later (p. 46, 1. 780). 

Pp. 29 ff. The Creon scene.] The only part of 
the play which could possibly be said to flag. Creon's 
defence, p. 34, " from probabilities," as the rhetoricians 
would have called it, seems less interesting to us than 
it probably did to the poet's contemporaries. It is 
remarkably like Hippolytus's defence (pp. 52 f. of my 
translation), and probably one was suggested by the 
other. We cannot be sure which was the earlier 

The scene serves at least to quicken the pace of 
the drama, to bring out the impetuous and somewhat 
tyrannical nature of Oedipus, and to prepare the 
magnificent entrance of Jocasta. 

P. 36, 1. 630, Thebes is my country.] It must 
be remembered that to the Chorus Creon is a real 
Theban, Oedipus a stranger from Corinth. 

P. 41, Conversation of Oedipus and Jocasta.] 
The technique of this wonderful scene, an intimate 
self-revealing conversation between husband and wife 
about the past, forming the pivot of the play, will 
remind a modern reader of Ibsen. 

P. 42, 1. 718.] Observe that Jocasta 4oes not 


tell the whole truth. It was she herself who gave 
the child to be killed (p. 70, 1. 1173). 

P. 42, 1. 730, Crossing of Three Ways.] Cross 
roads always had dark associations. This particular 
spot was well known to tradition and is still pointed 
out. "A bare isolated hillock of grey stone stands 
at the point where our road from Daulia meets the 
road to Delphi and a third road that stretches to 
the south. . . . The road runs up a frowning pass 
between Parnassus on the right hand and the spurs 
of the Helicon range on the left. Away to the south 
a wild and desolate valley opens, running up among 
the waste places of Helicon, a scene of inexpressible 
grandeur and desolation" (Jebb, abridged). 

P. 44, 1. 754, Who could bring, &c.] Oedipus of 
course thought he had killed them all. See his next 

P. $ i.] Observe the tragic effect of this prayer, 
Apollo means to destroy Jocasta, not to save her ; 
her prayer is broken across by the entry of the 
Corinthian Stranger, which seems like a deliverance 
but is really a link in the chain of destruction. 
There is a very similar effect in Sophocles' Ekctra y 
636-659, Clytaemnestra's prayer ; compare also the 
prayers to Cypris in Euripides* Hippolytus. 

P. 51, 1. 899.] Abac was an ancient oracular 
shrine in Boeotia ; Olympia in Elis was the seat of 
the Olympian Games and of a great Temple of Zeus. 

P. 52, 1, 918, O Slayer of the Wolf, O Lord of 
Light.] The names Lykeios, Lykios, &c., seem to 
have two roots, one meaning "Wolf" and the other 

P. 56, 1. 987, Thy father's tomb Like light acrpss 


our darkness.] This ghastly line does not show hard- 
ness of heart, it shows only the terrible position in 
which Oedipus and Jocasta are. Naturally Oedipus 
would give thanks if his father was dead. Compare 
his question above, p. 54, 1. 960, " Not murdered ? " 
He cannot get the thought of the fated murder out 
of his mind. 

P. 57, 1. 994.] Why does Oedipus tell the Corin- 
thian this oracle, which he has kept a secret even 
from his wife till to-day ? Perhaps because, if there 
is any thought of his going back to Corinth, his long 
voluntary exile must be explained. Perhaps, too, the 
secret possesses his mind so overpoweringly that it 
can hardly help coming out. 

Pp. 57, 58, 11. 1 000- 1 020.] It is natural that the 
Corinthian hesitates before telling a king that he is 
really not of royal birth. 

Pp. 64, 65, 11. 1086-1109.] This joyous Chorus 
strikes a curious note. Of course it forms a good 
contrast with what succeeds, but how can the Elders 
take such a serenely happy view of the discovery that 
Oedipus is a foundling just after they have been alarmed 
at the exit of Jocasta? It seems as if the last 
triumphant speech of Oedipus, "fey" and almost 
touched with megalomania as it was, had carried the 
feeling of the Chorus with it. 

P. 66, 1. 1 1 22.] Is there any part in any tragedy so 
short and yet so effective as that of this Shepherd ? 
'P. 75, 1. 1264, Like a dead bird.] The curious 
word, l/jwreTrXify/jKvqv, seems to be taken from Odyssey 
xxii. 469, where it is applied to birds caught in a snare. 
As to the motives of Oedipus, his first blind instinct 
was to kill Jocasta as a thing that polluted the 


earth; when he saw her already dead, a revulsion 

P. 76, II. 1305 ff.] Observe how a climax of 
physical horror is immediately veiled and made beauti- 
ful by lyrical poetry. Sophocles does not, however, 
carry this plan of simply flooding the scene with 
sudden beauty nearly so far as Euripides does, See 
Hippi p, 39 ; Trojan Wornm^ p. 51* 

P. 83, II. 1450 ff, Set me to live on the wild hills.] 
These lines serve to explain the conception, exist- 
ing in the poet's own time, of Oedipus as a daemon 
or ghost haunting Mount Kithairon, 

P, 86, 1 1520, Creon.] Amid all Creon's whole- 
hearted forgiveness of Oedipus and his ready kindness 
there are one or two lines of his which strike a 
modern reader as tactless if not harsh. Yet I do not 
think that Sophocles meant to produce that effect, 
At the present day it is not in the best manners to 
moralise over a man who is down, any more than 
it is the part of a comforter to expound and insist 
upon his friend's misfortunes, But it looks as if 
ancient manners expected, and even demanded, both. 
Cf. the attitude of Theseus to Adrastus in Eur,, 


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