Through pity, master, for the babe. I thought He’d take it to the country whence he came; But he preserved it for the worst of woes. For if thou art in sooth what this man saith, God pity thee! thou wast to misery born.
Races of mortal man
Whose life is but a span,
I count ye but the shadow of a shade! For he who most doth know
Of bliss, hath but the show;
A moment, and the visions pale and fade. Thy fall, O Oedipus, thy piteous fall
Warns me none born of women blest to call.
For he of marksmen best,
O Zeus, outshot the rest,
And won the prize supreme of wealth and power. By him the vulture maid
Was quelled, her witchery laid; He rose our savior and the land’s strong tower. We hailed thee king and from that day adored Of mighty Thebes the universal lord.
O heavy hand of fate!
Who now more desolate,
Whose tale more sad than thine, whose lot more dire? O Oedipus, discrowned head,
Thy cradle was thy marriage bed; One harborage sufficed for son and sire. How could the soil thy father eared so long Endure to bear in silence such a wrong?
All-seeing Time hath caught
Guilt, and to justice brought
The son and sire commingled in one bed. O child of Laius’ ill-starred race
Would I had ne’er beheld thy face; I raise for thee a dirge as o’er the dead. Yet, sooth to say, through thee I drew new breath, And now through thee I feel a second death. [Enter SECOND MESSENGER.]
Most grave and reverend senators of Thebes, What Deeds ye soon must hear, what sights behold How will ye mourn, if, true-born patriots, Ye reverence still the race of Labdacus! Not Ister nor all Phasis’ flood, I ween, Could wash away the blood-stains from this house, The ills it shrouds or soon will bring to light, Ills wrought of malice, not unwittingly. The worst to bear are self-inflicted wounds.
By her own hand. And all the horror of it, Not having seen, yet cannot comprehend.
Nathless, as far as my poor memory serves, I will relate the unhappy lady’s woe.
When in her frenzy she had passed inside The vestibule, she hurried straight to win The bridal-chamber, clutching at her hair With both her hands, and, once within the room, She shut the doors behind her with a crash. “Laius,” she cried, and called her husband dead Long, long ago; her thought was of that child By him begot, the son by whom the sire
Was murdered and the mother left to breed With her own seed, a monstrous progeny.
Then she bewailed the marriage bed whereon Poor wretch, she had conceived a double brood, Husband by husband, children by her child. What happened after that I cannot tell,
Nor how the end befell, for with a shriek Burst on us Oedipus; all eyes were fixed On Oedipus, as up and down he strode,
Nor could we mark her agony to the end. For stalking to and fro “A sword!” he cried, “Where is the wife, no wife, the teeming womb That bore a double harvest, me and mine?” And in his frenzy some supernal power
(No mortal, surely, none of us who watched him) Guided his footsteps; with a terrible shriek, As though one beckoned him, he crashed against The folding doors, and from their staples forced The wrenched bolts and hurled himself within. Then we beheld the woman hanging there,
A running noose entwined about her neck. But when he saw her, with a maddened roar He loosed the cord; and when her wretched corpse Lay stretched on earth, what followed–O ’twas dread! He tore the golden brooches that upheld
Her queenly robes, upraised them high and smote Full on his eye-balls, uttering words like these: “No more shall ye behold such sights of woe, Deeds I have suffered and myself have wrought; Henceforward quenched in darkness shall ye see Those ye should ne’er have seen; now blind to those Whom, when I saw, I vainly yearned to know.” Such was the burden of his moan, whereto, Not once but oft, he struck with his hand uplift His eyes, and at each stroke the ensanguined orbs Bedewed his beard, not oozing drop by drop, But one black gory downpour, thick as hail. Such evils, issuing from the double source, Have whelmed them both, confounding man and wife. Till now the storied fortune of this house Was fortunate indeed; but from this day
Woe, lamentation, ruin, death, disgrace, All ills that can be named, all, all are theirs.
He cries, “Unbar the doors and let all Thebes Behold the slayer of his sire, his mother’s–” That shameful word my lips may not repeat. He vows to fly self-banished from the land, Nor stay to bring upon his house the curse Himself had uttered; but he has no strength Nor one to guide him, and his torture’s more Than man can suffer, as yourselves will see. For lo, the palace portals are unbarred, And soon ye shall behold a sight so sad
That he who must abhorred would pity it. [Enter OEDIPUS blinded.]
Woeful sight! more woeful none These sad eyes have looked upon.
Whence this madness? None can tell Who did cast on thee his spell,
prowling all thy life around,
Leaping with a demon bound.
Hapless wretch! how can I brook On thy misery to look?
Though to gaze on thee I yearn, Much to question, much to learn,
Horror-struck away I turn.
Apollo, friend, Apollo, he it was
That brought these ills to pass; But the right hand that dealt the blow
Was mine, none other. How,
How, could I longer see when sight
Brought no delight?
Say, friends, can any look or voice Or touch of love henceforth my heart rejoice? Haste, friends, no fond delay,
Take the twice cursed away
Far from all ken,
The man abhorred of gods, accursed of men.
Then had I never come to shed
My father’s blood nor climbed my mother’s bed; The monstrous offspring of a womb defiled, Co-mate of him who gendered me, and child. Was ever man before afflicted thus,
What’s done was well done. Thou canst never shake My firm belief. A truce to argument.
For, had I sight, I know not with what eyes I could have met my father in the shades, Or my poor mother, since against the twain I sinned, a sin no gallows could atone.
Aye, but, ye say, the sight of children joys A parent’s eyes. What, born as mine were born? No, such a sight could never bring me joy; Nor this fair city with its battlements, Its temples and the statues of its gods, Sights from which I, now wretchedst of all, Once ranked the foremost Theban in all Thebes, By my own sentence am cut off, condemned By my own proclamation ‘gainst the wretch, The miscreant by heaven itself declared
Unclean–and of the race of Laius.
Thus branded as a felon by myself,
How had I dared to look you in the face? Nay, had I known a way to choke the springs Of hearing, I had never shrunk to make
A dungeon of this miserable frame,
Cut off from sight and hearing; for ’tis bliss to bide in regions sorrow cannot reach.
Why didst thou harbor me, Cithaeron, why Didst thou not take and slay me? Then I never Had shown to men the secret of my birth. O Polybus, O Corinth, O my home,
Home of my ancestors (so wast thou called) How fair a nursling then I seemed, how foul The canker that lay festering in the bud! Now is the blight revealed of root and fruit. Ye triple high-roads, and thou hidden glen, Coppice, and pass where meet the three-branched ways, Ye drank my blood, the life-blood these hands spilt, My father’s; do ye call to mind perchance Those deeds of mine ye witnessed and the work I wrought thereafter when I came to Thebes? O fatal wedlock, thou didst give me birth, And, having borne me, sowed again my seed, Mingling the blood of fathers, brothers, children, Brides, wives and mothers, an incestuous brood, All horrors that are wrought beneath the sun, Horrors so foul to name them were unmeet. O, I adjure you, hide me anywhere
Far from this land, or slay me straight, or cast me Down to the depths of ocean out of sight. Come hither, deign to touch an abject wretch; Draw near and fear not; I myself must bear The load of guilt that none but I can share. [Enter CREON.]
Not in derision, Oedipus, I come
Nor to upbraid thee with thy past misdeeds. (To BYSTANDERS)
But shame upon you! if ye feel no sense Of human decencies, at least revere
The Sun whose light beholds and nurtures all. Leave not thus nakedly for all to gaze at A horror neither earth nor rain from heaven Nor light will suffer. Lead him straight within, For it is seemly that a kinsman’s woes
Be heard by kin and seen by kin alone.
Aye, and on thee in all humility
I lay this charge: let her who lies within Receive such burial as thou shalt ordain; Such rites ’tis thine, as brother, to perform. But for myself, O never let my Thebes,
The city of my sires, be doomed to bear The burden of my presence while I live.
No, let me be a dweller on the hills, On yonder mount Cithaeron, famed as mine, My tomb predestined for me by my sire
And mother, while they lived, that I may die Slain as they sought to slay me, when alive. This much I know full surely, nor disease Shall end my days, nor any common chance; For I had ne’er been snatched from death, unless I was predestined to some awful doom.
So be it. I reck not how Fate deals with me But my unhappy children–for my sons
Be not concerned, O Creon, they are men, And for themselves, where’er they be, can fend. But for my daughters twain, poor innocent maids, Who ever sat beside me at the board
Sharing my viands, drinking of my cup, For them, I pray thee, care, and, if thou willst, O might I feel their touch and make my moan. Hear me, O prince, my noble-hearted prince! Could I but blindly touch them with my hands I’d think they still were mine, as when I saw. [ANTIGONE and ISMENE are led in.]
What say I? can it be my pretty ones Whose sobs I hear? Has Creon pitied me
And sent me my two darlings? Can this be?
God speed thee! and as meed for bringing them May Providence deal with thee kindlier
Than it has dealt with me! O children mine, Where are ye? Let me clasp you with these hands, A brother’s hands, a father’s; hands that made Lack-luster sockets of his once bright eyes; Hands of a man who blindly, recklessly,
Became your sire by her from whom he sprang. Though I cannot behold you, I must weep
In thinking of the evil days to come, The slights and wrongs that men will put upon you. Where’er ye go to feast or festival,
No merrymaking will it prove for you, But oft abashed in tears ye will return. And when ye come to marriageable years,
Where’s the bold wooers who will jeopardize To take unto himself such disrepute
As to my children’s children still must cling, For what of infamy is lacking here?
“Their father slew his father, sowed the seed Where he himself was gendered, and begat These maidens at the source wherefrom he sprang.” Such are the gibes that men will cast at you. Who then will wed you? None, I ween, but ye Must pine, poor maids, in single barrenness. O Prince, Menoeceus’ son, to thee, I turn, With the it rests to father them, for we Their natural parents, both of us, are lost. O leave them not to wander poor, unwed,
Thy kin, nor let them share my low estate. O pity them so young, and but for thee
All destitute. Thy hand upon it, Prince. To you, my children I had much to say,
Were ye but ripe to hear. Let this suffice: Pray ye may find some home and live content, And may your lot prove happier than your sire’s.
Look ye, countrymen and Thebans, this is Oedipus the great, He who knew the Sphinx’s riddle and was mightiest in our state. Who of all our townsmen gazed not on his fame with envious eyes? Now, in what a sea of troubles sunk and overwhelmed he lies! Therefore wait to see life’s ending ere thou count one mortal blest; Wait till free from pain and sorrow he has gained his final rest.
Translation by F. Storr, BA Formerly Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge From the Loeb Library Edition
Originally published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA and
William Heinemann Ltd, London
Oedipus, the blind and banished King of Thebes, has come in his wanderings to Colonus, a deme of Athens, led by his daughter Antigone. He sits to rest on a rock just within a sacred grove of the Furies and is bidden depart by a passing native. But Oedipus, instructed by an oracle that he had reached his final resting-place, refuses to stir, and the stranger consents to go and consult the Elders of Colonus (the Chorus of the Play). Conducted to the spot they pity at first the blind beggar and his daughter, but on learning his name they are horror-striken and order him to quit the land. He appeals to the world-famed hospitality of Athens and hints at the blessings that his coming will confer on the State. They agree to await the decision of King Theseus. From Theseus Oedipus craves protection in life and burial in Attic soil; the benefits that will accrue shall be told later. Theseus departs having promised to aid and befriend him. No sooner has he gone than Creon enters with an armed guard who seize Antigone and carry her off (Ismene, the other sister, they have already captured) and he is about to lay hands on Oedipus, when Theseus, who has heard the tumult, hurries up and, upbraiding Creon for his lawless act, threatens to detain him till he has shown where the captives are and restored them. In the next scene Theseus returns bringing with him the rescued maidens. He informs Oedipus that a stranger who has taken sanctuary at the altar of Poseidon wishes to see him. It is Polyneices who has come to crave his father’s forgiveness and blessing, knowing by an oracle that victory will fall to the side that Oedipus espouses. But Oedipus spurns the hypocrite, and invokes a dire curse on both his unnatural sons. A sudden clap of thunder is heard, and as peal follows peal, Oedipus is aware that his hour is come and bids Antigone summon Theseus. Self-guided he leads the way to the spot where death should overtake him, attended by Theseus and his daughters. Halfway he bids his daughters farewell, and what followed none but Theseus knew. He was not (so the Messenger reports) for the gods took him.
OEDIPUS, banished King of Thebes.
ANTIGONE, his daughter.
ISMENE, his daughter.
THESEUS, King of Athens.
CREON, brother of Jocasta, now reigning at Thebes. POLYNEICES, elder son of Oedipus.
STRANGER, a native of Colonus.
MESSENGER, an attendant of Theseus. CHORUS, citizens of Colonus.
Child of an old blind sire, Antigone, What region, say, whose city have we reached? Who will provide today with scanted dole This wanderer? ‘Tis little that he craves, And less obtains–that less enough for me; For I am taught by suffering to endure,
And the long years that have grown old with me, And last not least, by true nobility.
My daughter, if thou seest a resting place On common ground or by some sacred grove, Stay me and set me down. Let us discover Where we have come, for strangers must inquire Of denizens, and do as they are bid.
Long-suffering father, Oedipus, the towers That fence the city still are faint and far; But where we stand is surely holy ground; A wilderness of laurel, olive, vine;
Within a choir or songster nightingales Are warbling. On this native seat of rock Rest; for an old man thou hast traveled far.
Whate’er I know thou too shalt know; the place Is all to great Poseidon consecrate.
Hard by, the Titan, he who bears the torch, Prometheus, has his worship; but the spot Thou treadest, the Brass-footed Threshold named, Is Athens’ bastion, and the neighboring lands Claim as their chief and patron yonder knight Colonus, and in common bear his name.
Such, stranger, is the spot, to fame unknown, But dear to us its native worshipers.
Heed then; I fain would see thee out of harm; For by the looks, marred though they be by fate, I judge thee noble; tarry where thou art, While I go seek the burghers–those at hand, Not in the city. They will soon decide
Whether thou art to rest or go thy way. [Exit STRANGER]
Stern-visaged queens, since coming to this land First in your sanctuary I bent the knee, Frown not on me or Phoebus, who, when erst He told me all my miseries to come,
Spake of this respite after many years, Some haven in a far-off land, a rest
Vouchsafed at last by dread divinities. “There,” said he, “shalt thou round thy weary life, A blessing to the land wherein thou dwell’st, But to the land that cast thee forth, a curse.” And of my weird he promised signs should come, Earthquake, or thunderclap, or lightning flash. And now I recognize as yours the sign
That led my wanderings to this your grove; Else had I never lighted on you first,
A wineless man on your seat of native rock. O goddesses, fulfill Apollo’s word,
Grant me some consummation of my life, If haply I appear not all too vile,
A thrall to sorrow worse than any slave. Hear, gentle daughters of primeval Night, Hear, namesake of great Pallas; Athens, first Of cities, pity this dishonored shade,
The ghost of him who once was Oedipus.
Ha! Where is he? Look around!
Every nook and corner scan!
He the all-presumptuous man,
Whither vanished? search the ground! A wayfarer, I ween,
A wayfarer, no countryman of ours,
That old man must have been;
Never had native dared to tempt the Powers, Or enter their demesne,
The Maids in awe of whom each mortal cowers, Whose name no voice betrays nor cry, And as we pass them with averted eye, We move hushed lips in reverent piety.
But now some godless man,
‘Tis rumored, here abides;
The precincts through I scan,
Yet wot not where he hides, The wretch profane!
I search and search in vain.
Wast thou then sightless from thy birth? Evil, methinks, and long
Thy pilgrimage on earth.
Yet add not curse to curse and wrong to wrong. I warn thee, trespass not
Within this hallowed spot,
Lest thou shouldst find the silent grassy glade Where offerings are laid,
Bowls of spring water mingled with sweet mead. Thou must not stay,
Come, come away,
Tired wanderer, dost thou heed? (We are far off, but sure our voice can reach.) If aught thou wouldst beseech,
Speak where ’tis right; till then refrain from speech.
Heaven’s justice never smites
Him who ill with ill requites.
But if guile with guile contend,
Bane, not blessing, is the end.
Arise, begone and take thee hence straightway, Lest on our land a heavier curse thou lay.
O sirs! ye suffered not my father blind, Albeit gracious and to ruth inclined, Knowing the deeds he wrought, not innocent, But with no ill intent;
Yet heed a maiden’s moan
Who pleads for him alone;
My eyes, not reft of sight,
Plead with you as a daughter’s might You are our providence,
O make us not go hence!
O with a gracious nod
Grant us the nigh despaired-of boon we crave? Hear us, O hear,
But all that ye hold dear,
Wife, children, homestead, hearth and God! Where will you find one, search ye ne’er so well. Who ‘scapes perdition if a god impel!
O what avails renown or fair repute? Are they not vanity? For, look you, now
Athens is held of States the most devout, Athens alone gives hospitality
And shelters the vexed stranger, so men say. Have I found so? I whom ye dislodged
First from my seat of rock and now would drive Forth from your land, dreading my name alone; For me you surely dread not, nor my deeds, Deeds of a man more sinned against than sinning, As I might well convince you, were it meet To tell my mother’s story and my sire’s, The cause of this your fear. Yet am I then A villain born because in self-defense,
Striken, I struck the striker back again? E’en had I known, no villainy ‘twould prove: But all unwitting whither I went, I went– To ruin; my destroyers knew it well,
Wherefore, I pray you, sirs, in Heaven’s name, Even as ye bade me quit my seat, defend me. O pay not a lip service to the gods
And wrong them of their dues. Bethink ye well, The eye of Heaven beholds the just of men, And the unjust, nor ever in this world
Has one sole godless sinner found escape. Stand then on Heaven’s side and never blot Athens’ fair scutcheon by abetting wrong. I came to you a suppliant, and you pledged Your honor; O preserve me to the end,
O let not this marred visage do me wrong! A holy and god-fearing man is here
Whose coming purports comfort for your folk. And when your chief arrives, whoe’er he be, Then shall ye have my story and know all. Meanwhile I pray you do me no despite.
The way is long,
And many travelers pass to speed the news. Be sure he’ll hear and hasten, never fear; So wide and far thy name is noised abroad, That, were he ne’er so spent and loth to move, He would bestir him when he hears of thee.
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!
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.
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.
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.
That, as we call them Gracious, they would deign To grant the suppliant their saving grace. So pray thyself or whoso pray for thee,
In whispered accents, not with lifted voice; Then go and look back. Do as I bid,
And I shall then be bold to stand thy friend; Else, stranger, I should have my fears for thee.
I cannot go, disabled as I am
Doubly, by lack of strength and lack of sight; But one of you may do it in my stead;
For one, I trow, may pay the sacrifice Of thousands, if his heart be leal and true. So to your work with speed, but leave me not Untended; for this frame is all too week To move without the help of guiding hand.
Oft had I heard of thee in times gone by– The bloody mutilation of thine eyes–
And therefore know thee, son of Laius. All that I lately gathered on the way
Made my conjecture doubly sure; and now Thy garb and that marred visage prove to me That thou art he. So pitying thine estate, Most ill-starred Oedipus, I fain would know What is the suit ye urge on me and Athens, Thou and the helpless maiden at thy side. Declare it; dire indeed must be the tale Whereat _I_ should recoil. I too was reared, Like thee, in exile, and in foreign lands Wrestled with many perils, no man more.
Wherefore no alien in adversity
Shall seek in vain my succor, nor shalt thou; I know myself a mortal, and my share
In what the morrow brings no more than thine.
Theseus, thy words so apt, so generous So comfortable, need no long reply
Both who I am and of what lineage sprung, And from what land I came, thou hast declared. So without prologue I may utter now
My brief petition, and the tale is told.
Dear son of Aegeus, to the gods alone Is given immunity from eld and death;
But nothing else escapes all-ruinous time. Earth’s might decays, the might of men decays, Honor grows cold, dishonor flourishes,
There is no constancy ‘twixt friend and friend, Or city and city; be it soon or late,
Sweet turns to bitter, hate once more to love. If now ’tis sunshine betwixt Thebes and thee And not a cloud, Time in his endless course Gives birth to endless days and nights, wherein The merest nothing shall suffice to cut
With serried spears your bonds of amity. Then shall my slumbering and buried corpse In its cold grave drink their warm life-blood up, If Zeus be Zeus and Phoebus still speak true. No more: ’tis ill to tear aside the veil Of mysteries; let me cease as I began:
Enough if thou wilt keep thy plighted troth, Then shall thou ne’er complain that Oedipus Proved an unprofitable and thankless guest, Except the gods themselves shall play me false.
Who could reject
The proffered amity of such a friend? First, he can claim the hospitality
To which by mutual contract we stand pledged: Next, coming here, a suppliant to the gods, He pays full tribute to the State and me; His favors therefore never will I spurn, But grant him the full rights of citizen; And, if it suits the stranger here to bide, I place him in your charge, or if he please Rather to come with me–choose, Oedipus, Which of the two thou wilt. Thy choice is mine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,