OEDIPUS

O son of Aegeus, for this state will I
Unfold a treasure age cannot corrupt.
Myself anon without a guiding hand
Will take thee to the spot where I must end.
This secret ne’er reveal to mortal man,
Neither the spot nor whereabouts it lies,
So shall it ever serve thee for defense
Better than native shields and near allies.
But those dread mysteries speech may not profane
Thyself shalt gather coming there alone;
Since not to any of thy subjects, nor
To my own children, though I love them dearly,
Can I reveal what thou must guard alone,
And whisper to thy chosen heir alone,
So to be handed down from heir to heir.
Thus shalt thou hold this land inviolate
From the dread Dragon’s brood. The justest State
By countless wanton neighbors may be wronged,
For the gods, though they tarry, mark for doom
The godless sinner in his mad career.
Far from thee, son of Aegeus, be such fate!
But to the spot–the god within me goads–
Let us set forth no longer hesitate.
Follow me, daughters, this way. Strange that I
Whom you have led so long should lead you now.
Oh, touch me not, but let me all alone
Find out the sepulcher that destiny
Appoints me in this land. Hither, this way,
For this way Hermes leads, the spirit guide,
And Persephassa, empress of the dead.
O light, no light to me, but mine erewhile,
Now the last time I feel thee palpable,
For I am drawing near the final gloom
Of Hades. Blessing on thee, dearest friend,
On thee and on thy land and followers!
Live prosperous and in your happy state
Still for your welfare think on me, the dead.

(Exit THESEUS followed by ANTIGONE and ISMENE)

CHORUS

(strophe)

If mortal prayers are heard in hell,
Hear, Goddess dread, invisible!
Monarch of the regions drear,
Aidoneus, hear, O hear!
By a gentle, tearless doom
Speed this stranger to the gloom,
(Let him enter without pain)
The all-shrouding Stygian plain.
Wrongfully in life oppressed,
Be he now by Justice blessed.

(antistrophe)

Queen infernal, and thou fell
Watch-dog of the gates of hell,
Who, as legends tell, dost glare,
Gnarling in thy cavernous lair
At all comers, let him go
Scathless to the fields below.
For thy master orders thus,
The son of earth and Tartarus;
In his den the monster keep,
Giver of eternal sleep.

(Enter MESSENGER)

MESSENGER

Friends, countrymen, my tidings are in sum
That Oedipus is gone, but the event
Was not so brief, nor can the tale be brief.

CHORUS

What, has he gone, the unhappy man?

MESSENGER

Know well That he has passed away from life to death.

CHORUS

How? By a god-sent, painless doom, poor soul?

MESSENGER

Thy question hits the marvel of the tale.
How he moved hence, you saw him and must know;
Without a friend to lead the way, himself
Guiding us all. So having reached the abrupt
Earth-rooted Threshold with its brazen stairs,
He paused at one of the converging paths,
Hard by the rocky basin which records
The pact of Theseus and Peirithous.
Betwixt that rift and the Thorician rock,
The hollow pear-tree and the marble tomb,
Midway he sat and loosed his beggar’s weeds;
Then calling to his daughters bade them fetch
Of running water, both to wash withal
And make libation; so they clomb the steep;
And in brief space brought what their father bade,
Then laved and dressed him with observance due.
But when he had his will in everything,
And no desire was left unsatisfied,
It thundered from the netherworld; the maids
Shivered, and crouching at their father’s knees
Wept, beat their breast and uttered a long wail.
He, as he heard their sudden bitter cry,
Folded his arms about them both and said,
“My children, ye will lose your sire today,
For all of me has perished, and no more
Have ye to bear your long, long ministry;
A heavy load, I know, and yet one word
Wipes out all score of tribulations–love.
And love from me ye had–from no man more;
But now must live without me all your days.”
So clinging to each other sobbed and wept
Father and daughters both, but when at last
Their mourning had an end and no wail rose,
A moment there was silence; suddenly
A voice that summoned him; with sudden dread
The hair of all stood up and all were ‘mazed;
For the call came, now loud, now low, and oft.
“Oedipus, Oedipus, why tarry we?
Too long, too long thy passing is delayed.”
But when he heard the summons of the god,
He prayed that Theseus might be brought, and when
The Prince came nearer: “O my friend,” he cried,
“Pledge ye my daughters, giving thy right hand–
And, daughters, give him yours–and promise me
Thou never wilt forsake them, but do all
That time and friendship prompt in their behoof.”
And he of his nobility repressed
His tears and swore to be their constant friend.
This promise given, Oedipus put forth
Blind hands and laid them on his children, saying,
“O children, prove your true nobility
And hence depart nor seek to witness sights
Unlawful or to hear unlawful words.
Nay, go with speed; let none but Theseus stay,
Our ruler, to behold what next shall hap.”
So we all heard him speak, and weeping sore
We companied the maidens on their way.
After brief space we looked again, and lo
The man was gone, evanished from our eyes;
Only the king we saw with upraised hand
Shading his eyes as from some awful sight,
That no man might endure to look upon.
A moment later, and we saw him bend
In prayer to Earth and prayer to Heaven at once.
But by what doom the stranger met his end
No man save Theseus knoweth. For there fell
No fiery bold that reft him in that hour,
Nor whirlwind from the sea, but he was taken.
It was a messenger from heaven, or else
Some gentle, painless cleaving of earth’s base;
For without wailing or disease or pain
He passed away–and end most marvelous.
And if to some my tale seems foolishness
I am content that such could count me fool.

CHORUS

Where are the maids and their attendant friends?

MESSENGER

They cannot be far off; the approaching sound
Of lamentation tells they come this way.

(Enter ANTIGONE and ISMENE)

ANTIGONE

(strophe 1)

Woe, woe! on this sad day
We sisters of one blasted stock must bow beneath the shock,

Must weep and weep the curse that lay
On him our sire, for whom
In life, a life-long world of care
‘Twas ours to bear,
In death must face the gloom
That wraps his tomb.
What tongue can tell
That sight ineffable?

CHORUS

What mean ye, maidens?

ANTIGONE

All is but surmise.

CHORUS

Is he then gone?

ANTIGONE

Gone as ye most might wish.
Not in battle or sea storm,
But reft from sight,
By hands invisible borne
To viewless fields of night.
Ah me! on us too night has come,
The night of mourning. Wither roam
O’er land or sea in our distress
Eating the bread of bitterness?

ISMENE

I know not. O that Death
Might nip my breath,
And let me share my aged father’s fate.
I cannot live a life thus desolate.

CHORUS

Best of daughters, worthy pair,
What heaven brings ye needs must bear,
Fret no more ‘gainst Heaven’s will;
Fate hath dealt with you not ill.

ANTIGONE

(antistrophe 1)

Love can turn past pain to bliss,
What seemed bitter now is sweet.
Ah me! that happy toil is sweet.
The guidance of those dear blind feet.
Dear father, wrapt for aye in nether gloom,
E’en in the tomb
Never shalt thou lack of love repine,
Her love and mine.

CHORUS

His fate–

ANTIGONE

Is even as he planned.

CHORUS

How so?

ANTIGONE

He died, so willed he, in a foreign land.
Lapped in kind earth he sleeps his long last sleep,
And o’er his grave friends weep.
How great our lost these streaming eyes can tell,
This sorrow naught can quell.
Thou hadst thy wish ‘mid strangers thus to die,
But I, ah me, not by.

ISMENE

Alas, my sister, what new fate
Befalls us orphans desolate?

CHORUS

His end was blessed; therefore, children, stay
Your sorrow. Man is born to fate a prey.

ANTIGONE

(strophe 2)

Sister, let us back again.

ISMENE

Why return?

ANTIGONE

My soul is fain–

ISMENE

Is fain?

ANTIGONE

To see the earthy bed.

ISMENE

Sayest thou?

ANTIGONE

Where our sire is laid.

ISMENE

Nay, thou can’st not, dost not see–

ANTIGONE

Sister, wherefore wroth with me?

ISMENE

Know’st not–beside–

ANTIGONE

More must I hear?

ISMENE

Tombless he died, none near.

ANTIGONE

Lead me thither; slay me there.

ISMENE

How shall I unhappy fare,
Friendless, helpless, how drag on
A life of misery alone?

CHORUS

(antistrophe 2)

Fear not, maids–

ANTIGONE

Ah, whither flee?

CHORUS

Refuge hath been found.

ANTIGONE

For me?

CHORUS

Where thou shalt be safe from harm.

ANTIGONE

I know it.

CHORUS

Why then this alarm?

ANTIGONE

How again to get us home
I know not.

CHORUS

Why then this roam?

ANTIGONE

Troubles whelm us–

CHORUS

As of yore.

ANTIGONE

Worse than what was worse before.

CHORUS

Sure ye are driven on the breakers’ surge.

ANTIGONE

Alas! we are.

CHORUS

Alas! ’tis so.

ANTIGONE

Ah whither turn, O Zeus? No ray
Of hope to cheer the way
Whereon the fates our desperate voyage urge.

(Enter THESEUS)

THESEUS

Dry your tears; when grace is shed
On the quick and on the dead
By dark Powers beneficent,
Over-grief they would resent.

ANTIGONE

Aegeus’ child, to thee we pray.

THESEUS

What the boon, my children, say.

ANTIGONE

With our own eyes we fain would see
Our father’s tomb.

THESEUS

That may not be.

ANTIGONE

What say’st thou, King?

THESEUS

My children, he
Charged me straitly that no moral
Should approach the sacred portal,
Or greet with funeral litanies
The hidden tomb wherein he lies;
Saying, “If thou keep’st my hest
Thou shalt hold thy realm at rest.”
The God of Oaths this promise heard,
And to Zeus I pledged my word.

ANTIGONE

Well, if he would have it so,
We must yield. Then let us go
Back to Thebes, if yet we may
Heal this mortal feud and stay
The self-wrought doom
That drives our brothers to their tomb.

THESEUS

Go in peace; nor will I spare
Ought of toil and zealous care,
But on all your needs attend,
Gladdening in his grave my friend.

CHORUS

Wail no more, let sorrow rest,
All is ordered for the best.

THE END

Sourced from: http://classics.mit.edu/Sophocles/colonus.pl.txt