LEADER OF THE CHORUS

Heed women’s voices, though thou love them not!

ETEOCLES

Say aught that may avail, but stint thy words.

LEADER

Go not thou forth to guard the seventh gate!

ETEOCLES

Words shall not blunt the edge of my resolve.

LEADER

Yet the god loves to let the weak prevail.

ETEOCLES

That to a swordsman, is no welcome word!

LEADER

Shall thine own brother’s blood be victory’s palm?

ETEOCLES

Ill which the gods have sent thou canst no-shun!

ETEOCLES goes out.
CHORUS singing

strophe 1

I shudder in dread of the power, abhorred by the gods of high heaven, 
The ruinous curse of the home till roof-tree and rafter be riven! 
Too true are the visions of ill, too true the fulfilment they bring 
To the curse that was spoken of old by the frenzy and wrath of the king! 
Her will is the doom of the children, and Discord is kindled amain, 

antistrophe 1

And strange is the Lord of Division, who cleaveth the birthright in twain,- 
The edged thing, born of the north, the steel that is ruthless and keen, 
Dividing in bitter division the lot of the children of teen! 
Not the wide lowland around, the realm of their sire, shall they have, 
Yet enough for the dead to inherit, the pitiful space of a grave!

strophe 2

Ah, but when kin meets kin, when sire and child, 
Unknowing, are defiled 
By shedding common blood, and when the pit 
Of death devoureth it, 
Drinking the clotted stain, the gory dye- 
Who, who can purify? 
Who cleanse pollution, where the ancient bane 
Rises and reeks again?

antistrophe 2

Whilome in olden days the sin was wrought, 
And swift requital brought- 
Yea on the children of the child came still 
New heritage of ill! 
For thrice Apollo spoke this word divine, 
From Delphi’s central shrine, 
To Laius-Die thou childless! thus alone 
Can the land’s weal be won!

strophe 3

But vainly with his wife’s desire he strove, 
And gave himself to love, 
Begetting Oedipus, by whom he died, 
The fateful parricide! 
The sacred seed-plot, his own mother’s womb, 
He sowed, his house’s doom, 
A root of blood! by frenzy lured, they came 
Unto their wedded shame.

antistrophe 3

And now the waxing surge, the wave of fate, 
Rolls on them, triply great- 
One billow sinks, the next towers, high and dark, 
Above our city’s bark- 
Only the narrow barrier of the wal 
Totters, as soon to fall; 
And, if our chieftains in the storm go down, 
What chance can save the town?

strophe 4

Curses, inherited from long ago, 
Bring heavy freight of woe: 
Rich stores of merchandise o’erload the deck, 
Near, nearer comes the wreck- 
And all is lost, cast out upon the wave, 
Floating, with none to save!

antistrophe 4

Whom did the gods, whom did the chief of men, 
Whom did each citizen 
In crowded concourse, in such honour hold, 
As Oedipus of old, 
When the grim fiend, that fed on human prey, 
He took from us away?

strophe 5

But when, in the fulness of days, he knew of his bridal unblest, 
A twofold horror he wrought, in the frenzied despair of his breast- 
Debarred from the grace of the banquet, the service of goblets of gold 
He flung on his children a curse for the splendour they dared to withhold. 

antistrophe 5

A curse prophetic and bitter-The glory of wealth and of pride, 
With iron, not gold, in your hands, ye shall come, at the last, to divide! 
Behold, how a shudder runs through me, lest now, in the fulness of time, 
The house-fiend awake and return, to mete out the measure of crime!

THE SPY enters.
THE SPY

Take heart, ye daughters whom your mothers’ milk 
Made milky-hearted! lo, our city stands, 
Saved from the yoke of servitude: the vaunts 
Of overweening men are silent now, 
And the State sails beneath a sky serene, 
Nor in the manifold and battering waves 
Hath shipped a single surge, and solid stands 
The rampart, and the gates are made secure, 
Each with a single champion’s trusty guard. 
So in the main and at six gates we hold 
A victory assured; but, at the seventh, 
The god that on the seventh day was born, 
Royal Apollo, hath ta’en up his rest 
To wreak upon the sons of Oedipus 
Their grandsire’s wilfulness of long ago.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

What further woefulness besets our home?

THE SPY

The home stands safe-but ah, the princes twain-

LEADER

Who? what of them? I am distraught with fear.

THE SPY

Hear now, and mark! the sons of Oedipus-

LEADER

Ah, my prophetic soul! I feel their doom.

THE SPY

Have done with questions!-with I-with their lives crushed out-

LEADER

Lie they out yonder? the full horror speak! 
Did hands meet hands more close than brotherly? 
Came fate on each. and in the selfsame hour?

THE SPY

Yea, blotting out the lineage ill-starred! 
Now mix your exultation and your tears, 
Over a city saved, the while its lords, 
Twin leaders of the fight, have parcelled out 
With forged arbitrament of Scythian steel 
The full division of their fatherland, 
And, as their father’s imprecation bade, 
Shall have their due of land, a twofold grave. 
So is the city saved; the earth has drunk 
Blood of twin princes, by each other slain.

CHORUS chanting

O mighty Zeus and guardian powers, 
The strength and stay of Cadmus’ towers! 
Shall I send forth a joyous cry, 
Hail to the lord of weal renewed? 
Or weep the misbegotten twain, 
Born to a fatal destiny 
Each numbered now among the slain, 
Each dying in ill fortitude, 
Each truly named, each child of feud? 
O dark and all-prevailing ill, 
That broods o’er Oedipus and all his line, 
Numbing my heart with mortal chill! 
Ah me, this song of mine, 
Which, Thyad-like, I woke, now falleth still, 
Or only tells of doom, 
And echoes round a tomb! 
Dead are they, dead! in their own blood they lie 
Ill-omened the concent that hails our victory! 
The curse a father on his children spake 
Hath faltered not, nor failed! 
Nought, Laius! thy stubborn choice availed- 
First to beget, then, in the after day 
And for the city’s sake, 
The child to slay! 
For nought can blunt nor mar 
The speech oracular! 
Children of teen! by disbelief ye erred- 
Yet in wild weeping came fulfilment of the word!

The Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus