OEDIPUS

O shameless railer, think’st thou this abuse 
Defames my grey hairs rather than thine own? 
Murder and incest, deeds of horror, all 
Thou blurtest forth against me, all I have borne, 
No willing sinner; so it pleased the gods 
Wrath haply with my sinful race of old, 
Since thou could’st find no sin in me myself 
For which in retribution I was doomed 
To trespass thus against myself and mine. 
Answer me now, if by some oracle 
My sire was destined to a bloody end 
By a son’s hand, can this reflect on me, 
Me then unborn, begotten by no sire, 
Conceived in no mother’s womb? And if 
When born to misery, as born I was, 
I met my sire, not knowing whom I met or what I did, and slew him, how canst thou 
With justice blame the all-unconscious hand? 
And for my mother, wretch, art not ashamed, 
Seeing she was thy sister, to extort 
From me the story of her marriage, such 
A marriage as I straightway will proclaim. 
For I will speak; thy lewd and impious speech 
Has broken all the bonds of reticence. 
She was, ah woe is me! she was my mother; 
I knew it not, nor she; and she my mother 
Bare children to the son whom she had borne, 
A birth of shame. But this at least I know 
Wittingly thou aspersest her and me; 
But I unwitting wed, unwilling speak. 
Nay neither in this marriage or this deed 
Which thou art ever casting in my teeth– 
A murdered sire–shall I be held to blame. 
Come, answer me one question, if thou canst: 
If one should presently attempt thy life, 
Would’st thou, O man of justice, first inquire 
If the assassin was perchance thy sire, 
Or turn upon him? As thou lov’st thy life, 
On thy aggressor thou would’st turn, no stay 
Debating, if the law would bear thee out. 
Such was my case, and such the pass whereto 
The gods reduced me; and methinks my sire, 
Could he come back to life, would not dissent. 
Yet thou, for just thou art not, but a man 
Who sticks at nothing, if it serve his plea, 
Reproachest me with this before these men. 
It serves thy turn to laud great Theseus’ name, 
And Athens as a wisely governed State; 
Yet in thy flatteries one thing is to seek: 
If any land knows how to pay the gods 
Their proper rites, ’tis Athens most of all. 
This is the land whence thou wast fain to steal 
Their aged suppliant and hast carried off 
My daughters. Therefore to yon goddesses, 
I turn, adjure them and invoke their aid 
To champion my cause, that thou mayest learn 
What is the breed of men who guard this State.

CHORUS

An honest man, my liege, one sore bestead 
By fortune, and so worthy our support.

THESEUS

Enough of words; the captors speed amain, 
While we the victims stand debating here.

CREON

What would’st thou? What can I, a feeble man?

THESEUS

Show us the trail, and I’ll attend thee too, 
That, if thou hast the maidens hereabouts, 
Thou mayest thyself discover them to me; 
But if thy guards outstrip us with their spoil, 
We may draw rein; for others speed, from whom 
They will not ‘scape to thank the gods at home. 
Lead on, I say, the captor’s caught, and fate 
Hath ta’en the fowler in the toils he spread; 
So soon are lost gains gotten by deceit. 
And look not for allies; I know indeed 
Such height of insolence was never reached 
Without abettors or accomplices; 
Thou hast some backer in thy bold essay, 
But I will search this matter home and see 
One man doth not prevail against the State. 
Dost take my drift, or seem these words as vain 
As seemed our warnings when the plot was hatched?

CREON

Nothing thou sayest can I here dispute, 
But once at home I too shall act my part.

THESEUS

Threaten us and–begone! Thou, Oedipus, 
Stay here assured that nothing save my death 
Will stay my purpose to restore the maids.

OEDIPUS

Heaven bless thee, Theseus, for thy nobleness 
And all thy loving care in my behalf.

Exeunt THESEUS and CREON


CHORUS

strophe 1

O when the flying foe, 
Turning at last to bay, 
Soon will give blow for blow, 
Might I behold the fray; 
Hear the loud battle roar 
Swell, on the Pythian shore, 
Or by the torch-lit bay, 
Where the dread Queen and Maid 
Cherish the mystic rites, 
Rites they to none betray, 
Ere on his lips is laid 
Secrecy’s golden key 
By their own acolytes, 
Priestly Eumolpidae. 

There I might chance behold 
Theseus our captain bold 
Meet with the robber band, 
Ere they have fled the land, 
Rescue by might and main 
Maidens, the captives twain.

antistrophe 1

Haply on swiftest steed, 
Or in the flying car, 
Now they approach the glen, 
West of white Oea’s scaur. 
They will be vanquished: 
Dread are our warriors, dread 
Theseus our chieftain’s men. 
Flashes each bridle bright, 
Charges each gallant knight, 
All that our Queen adore, 
Pallas their patron, or 
Him whose wide floods enring 
Earth, the great Ocean-king 
Whom Rhea bore.

strophe 2

Fight they or now prepare 
To fight? a vision rare 
Tells me that soon again 
I shall behold the twain 
Maidens so ill bestead, 
By their kin buffeted. 
Today, today Zeus worketh some great thing 
This day shall victory bring. 
O for the wings, the wings of a dove, 
To be borne with the speed of the gale, 
Up and still upwards to sail 
And gaze on the fray from the clouds above.

antistrophe 2

All-seeing Zeus, O lord of heaven, 
To our guardian host be given 
Might triumphant to surprise 
Flying foes and win their prize. 
Hear us, Zeus, and hear us, child 
Of Zeus, Athene undefiled, 
Hear, Apollo, hunter, hear, 
Huntress, sister of Apollo, 
Who the dappled swift-foot deer 
O’er the wooded glade dost follow; 
Help with your two-fold power 
Athens in danger’s hour! 
O wayfarer, thou wilt not have to tax 
The friends who watch for thee with false presage, 
For lo, an escort with the maids draws near.

Enter ANTIGONE and ISMENE with THESEUS


OEDIPUS

Where, where? what sayest thou?

ANTIGONE

O father, father, 
Would that some god might grant thee eyes to see 
This best of men who brings us back again.

OEDIPUS

My child! and are ye back indeed!

ANTIGONE

Yes, saved By Theseus and his gallant followers.

OEDIPUS

Come to your father’s arms, O let me feel 
A child’s embrace I never hoped for more.

ANTIGONE

Thou askest what is doubly sweet to give.

OEDIPUS

Where are ye then?

ANTIGONE

We come together both.

OEDIPUS

My precious nurslings!

ANTIGONE

Fathers aye were fond.

OEDIPUS

Props of my age!

ANTIGONE

So sorrow sorrow props.

OEDIPUS

I have my darlings, and if death should come, 
Death were not wholly bitter with you near. 
Cling to me, press me close on either side, 
There rest ye from your dreary wayfaring. 
Now tell me of your ventures, but in brief; 
Brief speech suffices for young maids like you.

Oedipus at Colonus