OEDIPUS

My foes will come–

THESEUS

Our friends will look to that.

OEDIPUS

But if thou leave me?

THESEUS

Teach me not my duty.

OEDIPUS

‘Tis fear constrains me.

THESEUS

My soul knows no fear!

OEDIPUS

Thou knowest not what threats–

THESEUS

I know that none 
Shall hale thee hence in my despite. Such threats 
Vented in anger oft, are blusterers, 
An idle breath, forgot when sense returns. 
And for thy foemen, though their words were brave, 
Boasting to bring thee back, they are like to find 
The seas between us wide and hard to sail. 
Such my firm purpose, but in any case 
Take heart, since Phoebus sent thee here. My name, 
Though I be distant, warrants thee from harm.

CHORUS

strophe 1

Thou hast come to a steed-famed land for rest, 
O stranger worn with toil, 
To a land of all lands the goodliest 
Colonus’ glistening soil. 
‘Tis the haunt of the clear-voiced nightingale, 
Who hid in her bower, among 
The wine-dark ivy that wreathes the vale, 
Trilleth her ceaseless song; 
And she loves, where the clustering berries nod 
O’er a sunless, windless glade, 
The spot by no mortal footstep trod, 
The pleasance kept for the Bacchic god, 
Where he holds each night his revels wild 
With the nymphs who fostered the lusty child.

antistrophe 1

And fed each morn by the pearly dew 
The starred narcissi shine, 
And a wreath with the crocus’ golden hue 
For the Mother and Daughter twine. 
And never the sleepless fountains cease 
That feed Cephisus’ stream, 
But they swell earth’s bosom with quick increase, 
And their wave hath a crystal gleam. 
And the Muses’ quire will never disdain 
To visit this heaven-favored plain, 
Nor the Cyprian queen of the golden rein.

strophe 2

And here there grows, unpruned, untamed, 
Terror to foemen’s spear, 
A tree in Asian soil unnamed, 
By Pelops’ Dorian isle unclaimed, 
Self-nurtured year by year; 
‘Tis the grey-leaved olive that feeds our boys; 
Nor youth nor withering age destroys 
The plant that the Olive Planter tends 
And the Grey-eyed Goddess herself defends.

antistrophe 2

Yet another gift, of all gifts the most 
Prized by our fatherland, we boast– 
The might of the horse, the might of the sea; 
Our fame, Poseidon, we owe to thee, 
Son of Kronos, our king divine, 
Who in these highways first didst fit 
For the mouth of horses the iron bit; 
Thou too hast taught us to fashion meet 
For the arm of the rower the oar-blade fleet, 
Swift as the Nereids’ hundred feet 
As they dance along the brine.

ANTIGONE

Oh land extolled above all lands, ’tis now 
For thee to make these glorious titles good.

OEDIPUS

Why this appeal, my daughter?

ANTIGONE

Father, lo! Creon approaches with his company.

OEDIPUS

Fear not, it shall be so; if we are old, 
This country’s vigor has no touch of age.

Enter CREON with attendants


CREON

Burghers, my noble friends, ye take alarm 
At my approach (I read it in your eyes), 
Fear nothing and refrain from angry words. 
I come with no ill purpose; I am old, 
And know the city whither I am come, 
Without a peer amongst the powers of Greece. 
It was by reason of my years that I 
Was chosen to persuade your guest and bring 
Him back to Thebes; not the delegate 
Of one man, but commissioned by the State, 
Since of all Thebans I have most bewailed, 
Being his kinsman, his most grievous woes. 
O listen to me, luckless Oedipus, 
Come home! The whole Cadmeian people claim 
With right to have thee back, I most of all, 
For most of all (else were I vile indeed) 
I mourn for thy misfortunes, seeing thee 
An aged outcast, wandering on and on, 
A beggar with one handmaid for thy stay. 
Ah! who had e’er imagined she could fall 
To such a depth of misery as this, 
To tend in penury thy stricken frame, 
A virgin ripe for wedlock, but unwed, 
A prey for any wanton ravisher? 
Seems it not cruel this reproach I cast 
On thee and on myself and all the race? 
Aye, but an open shame cannot be hid. 
Hide it, O hide it, Oedipus, thou canst. 
O, by our fathers’ gods, consent I pray; 
Come back to Thebes, come to thy father’s home, 
Bid Athens, as is meet, a fond farewell; 
Thebes thy old foster-mother claims thee first.

OEDIPUS

O front of brass, thy subtle tongue would twist 
To thy advantage every plea of right 
Why try thy arts on me, why spread again 
Toils where ‘twould gall me sorest to be snared? 
In old days when by self-wrought woes distraught, 
I yearned for exile as a glad release, 
Thy will refused the favor then I craved. 
But when my frenzied grief had spent its force, 
And I was fain to taste the sweets of home, 
Then thou wouldst thrust me from my country, then 
These ties of kindred were by thee ignored; 
And now again when thou behold’st this State 
And all its kindly people welcome me, 
Thou seek’st to part us, wrapping in soft words 
Hard thoughts. And yet what pleasure canst thou find 
In forcing friendship on unwilling foes? 
Suppose a man refused to grant some boon 
When you importuned him, and afterwards 
When you had got your heart’s desire, consented, 
Granting a grace from which all grace had fled, 
Would not such favor seem an empty boon? 
Yet such the boon thou profferest now to me, 
Fair in appearance, but when tested false. 
Yea, I will proved thee false, that these may hear; 
Thou art come to take me, not to take me home, 
But plant me on thy borders, that thy State 
May so escape annoyance from this land. 
That thou shalt never gain, but this instead– 
My ghost to haunt thy country without end; 
And for my sons, this heritage–no more– 
Just room to die in. Have not I more skill 
Than thou to draw the horoscope of Thebes? 
Are not my teachers surer guides than thine– 
Great Phoebus and the sire of Phoebus, Zeus? 
Thou art a messenger suborned, thy tongue 
Is sharper than a sword’s edge, yet thy speech 
Will bring thee more defeats than victories. 
Howbeit, I know I waste my words–begone, 
And leave me here; whate’er may be my lot, 
He lives not ill who lives withal content.

CREON

Which loses in this parley, I o’erthrown 
By thee, or thou who overthrow’st thyself?

OEDIPUS

I shall be well contented if thy suit 
Fails with these strangers, as it has with me.

CREON

Unhappy man, will years ne’er make thee wise? 
Must thou live on to cast a slur on age?

OEDIPUS

Thou hast a glib tongue, but no honest man, 
Methinks, can argue well on any side.

CREON

‘Tis one thing to speak much, another well.

OEDIPUS

Thy words, forsooth, are few and all well aimed!

CREON

Not for a man indeed with wits like thine.

OEDIPUS

Depart! I bid thee in these burghers’ name, 
And prowl no longer round me to blockade 
My destined harbor.

CREON

I protest to these, 
Not thee, and for thine answer to thy kin, 
If e’er I take thee–

OEDIPUS

Who against their will Could take me?

CREON

Though untaken thou shalt smart.

OEDIPUS

What power hast thou to execute this threat?

CREON

One of thy daughters is already seized, 
The other I will carry off anon.

OEDIPUS

Woe, woe!

CREON

This is but prelude to thy woes.

OEDIPUS

Hast thou my child?

CREON

And soon shall have the other.

OEDIPUS

Ho, friends! ye will not surely play me false? 
Chase this ungodly villain from your land.

CHORUS

Hence, stranger, hence avaunt! Thou doest wrong 
In this, and wrong in all that thou hast done.

CREON to his guards

‘Tis time by force to carry off the girl, 
If she refuse of her free will to go.

ANTIGONE

Ah, woe is me! where shall I fly, where find 
Succor from gods or men?

CHORUS

What would’st thou, stranger?

CREON

I meddle not with him, but her who is mine.

OEDIPUS

O princes of the land!

CHORUS

Sir, thou dost wrong.

CREON

Nay, right.

CHORUS

How right?

CREON

I take but what is mine.

OEDIPUS

Help, Athens!

CHORUS

What means this, sirrah? quick unhand her, or 
We’ll fight it out.

Oedipus at Colonus