OEDIPUS

Well, may he come with blessing to his State 
And me! Who serves his neighbor serves himself.

ANTIGONE

Zeus! What is this? What can I say or think?

OEDIPUS

What now, Antigone?

ANTIGONE

I see a woman 
Riding upon a colt of Aetna’s breed; 
She wears for headgear a Thessalian hat 
To shade her from the sun. Who can it be? 
She or a stranger? Do I wake or dream? 
‘This she; ’tis not–I cannot tell, alack; 
It is no other! Now her bright’ning glance 
Greets me with recognition, yes, ’tis she, 
Herself, Ismene!

OEDIPUS

Ha! what say ye, child?

ANTIGONE

That I behold thy daughter and my sister, 
And thou wilt know her straightway by her voice.

Enter ISMENE
ISMENE

Father and sister, names to me most sweet, 
How hardly have I found you, hardly now 
When found at last can see you through my tears!

OEDIPUS

Art come, my child?

ISMENE

O father, sad thy plight!

OEDIPUS

Child, thou art here?

ISMENE

Yes, ’twas a weary way.

OEDIPUS

Touch me, my child.

ISMENE

I give a hand to both.

OEDIPUS

O children–sisters!

ISMENE

O disastrous plight!

OEDIPUS

Her plight and mine?

ISMENE

Aye, and my own no less.

OEDIPUS

What brought thee, daughter?

ISMENE

Father, care for thee.

OEDIPUS

A daughter’s yearning?

ISMENE

Yes, and I had news 
I would myself deliver, so I came 
With the one thrall who yet is true to me.

OEDIPUS

Thy valiant brothers, where are they at need?

ISMENE

They are–enough, ’tis now their darkest hour.

OEDIPUS

Out on the twain! The thoughts and actions all 
Are framed and modeled on Egyptian ways. 
For there the men sit at the loom indoors 
While the wives slave abroad for daily bread. 
So you, my children–those whom I behooved 
To bear the burden, stay at home like girls, 
While in their stead my daughters moil and drudge, 
Lightening their father’s misery. The one 
Since first she grew from girlish feebleness 
To womanhood has been the old man’s guide 
And shared my weary wandering, roaming oft 
Hungry and footsore through wild forest ways, 
In drenching rains and under scorching suns, 
Careless herself of home and ease, if so 
Her sire might have her tender ministry. 
And thou, my child, whilom thou wentest forth, 
Eluding the Cadmeians’ vigilance, 
To bring thy father all the oracles 
Concerning Oedipus, and didst make thyself 
My faithful lieger, when they banished me. 
And now what mission summons thee from home, 
What news, Ismene, hast thou for thy father? 
This much I know, thou com’st not empty-handed, 
Without a warning of some new alarm.

ISMENE

The toil and trouble, father, that I bore 
To find thy lodging-place and how thou faredst, 
I spare thee; surely ’twere a double pain 
To suffer, first in act and then in telling; 
‘Tis the misfortune of thine ill-starred sons 
I come to tell thee. At the first they willed 
To leave the throne to Creon, minded well 
Thus to remove the inveterate curse of old, 
A canker that infected all thy race. 
But now some god and an infatuate soul 
Have stirred betwixt them a mad rivalry 
To grasp at sovereignty and kingly power. 
Today the hot-branded youth, the younger born, 
Is keeping Polyneices from the throne, 
His elder, and has thrust him from the land. 
The banished brother (so all Thebes reports) 
Fled to the vale of Argos, and by help 
Of new alliance there and friends in arms, 
Swears he will stablish Argos straight as lord 
Of the Cadmeian land, or, if he fail, 
Exalt the victor to the stars of heaven. 
This is no empty tale, but deadly truth, 
My father; and how long thy agony, 
Ere the gods pity thee, I cannot tell.

OEDIPUS

Hast thou indeed then entertained a hope 
The gods at last will turn and rescue me?

ISMENE

Yea, so I read these latest oracles.

OEDIPUS

What oracles? What hath been uttered, child?

ISMENE

Thy country (so it runs) shall yearn in time 
To have thee for their weal alive or dead.

OEDIPUS

And who could gain by such a one as I?

ISMENE

On thee, ’tis said, their sovereignty depends.

OEDIPUS

So, when I cease to be, my worth begins.

ISMENE

The gods, who once abased, uplift thee now.

OEDIPUS

Poor help to raise an old man fallen in youth.

ISMENE

Howe’er that be, ’tis for this cause alone 
That Creon comes to thee–and comes anon.

OEDIPUS

With what intent, my daughter? Tell me plainly.

ISMENE

To plant thee near the Theban land, and so 
Keep thee within their grasp, yet now allow 
Thy foot to pass beyond their boundaries.

OEDIPUS

What gain they, if I lay outside?

OEDIPUS

Thy tomb, If disappointed, brings on them a curse.

OEDIPUS

It needs no god to tell what’s plain to sense.

ISMENE

Therefore they fain would have thee close at hand, 
Not where thou wouldst be master of thyself.

OEDIPUS

Mean they to shroud my bones in Theban dust?

ISMENE

Nay, father, guilt of kinsman’s blood forbids.

OEDIPUS

Then never shall they be my masters, never!

ISMENE

Thebes, thou shalt rue this bitterly some day!

OEDIPUS

When what conjunction comes to pass, my child?

ISMENE

Thy angry wraith, when at thy tomb they stand.

OEDIPUS

And who hath told thee what thou tell’st me, child?

ISMENE

Envoys who visited the Delphic hearth.

OEDIPUS

Hath Phoebus spoken thus concerning me?

ISMENE

So say the envoys who returned to Thebes.

OEDIPUS

And can a son of mine have heard of this?

ISMENE

Yea, both alike, and know its import well.

OEDIPUS

They knew it, yet the ignoble greed of rule 
Outweighed all longing for their sire’s return.

ISMENE

Grievous thy words, yet I must own them true.

OEDIPUS

Then may the gods ne’er quench their fatal feud, 
And mine be the arbitrament of the fight, 
For which they now are arming, spear to spear; 
That neither he who holds the scepter now 
May keep this throne, nor he who fled the realm 
Return again. They never raised a hand, 
When I their sire was thrust from hearth and home, 
When I was banned and banished, what recked they? 
Say you ’twas done at my desire, a grace 
Which the state, yielding to my wish, allowed? 
Not so; for, mark you, on that very day 
When in the tempest of my soul I craved 
Death, even death by stoning, none appeared 
To further that wild longing, but anon, 
When time had numbed my anguish and I felt 
My wrath had all outrun those errors past, 
Then, then it was the city went about 
By force to oust me, respited for years; 
And then my sons, who should as sons have helped, 
Did nothing: and, one little word from them 
Was all I needed, and they spoke no word, 
But let me wander on for evermore, 
A banished man, a beggar. These two maids 
Their sisters, girls, gave all their sex could give, 
Food and safe harborage and filial care; 
While their two brethren sacrificed their sire 
For lust of power and sceptred sovereignty. 
No! me they ne’er shall win for an ally, 
Nor will this Theban kingship bring them gain; 
That know I from this maiden’s oracles, 
And those old prophecies concerning me, 
Which Phoebus now at length has brought to pass. 
Come Creon then, come all the mightiest 
In Thebes to seek me; for if ye my friends, 
Championed by those dread Powers indigenous, 
Espouse my cause; then for the State ye gain 
A great deliverer, for my foemen bane.

Oedipus at Colonus