The seven against thebes
Potent in prophecy, but mated here
With men of sin, too boastful to be wise!
Long is their road, and they return no more,
And, at their taking-off, by hard of Zeus,
The prophet too shall take the downward way.
He will not-so I deem-assail the gate-
Not as through cowardice or feeble will,
But as one knowing to what end shall be
Their struggle in the battle, if indeed
Fruit of fulfilment lie in Loxias' word.
He speaketh not, unless to speak avails!
Yet, for more surety, we will post a man,
Strong Lasthenes, as warder of the gate,
Stern to the foeman; he hath age's skill,
Mated with youthful vigour, and an eye
Forward, alert; swift too his hand, to catch
The fenceless interval 'twixt shield and spear!
Yet man's good fortune lies in hand of Heaven.
LASTHENES goes out.
Unto our loyal cry, ye gods, give ear!
Save, save the city! turn away the spear,
Send on the foemen fear!
Outside the rampart fall they, rent and riven
Beneath the bolt of heaven!
Last, let me name yon seventh antagonist,
Thy brother's self, at the seventh portal set-
Hear with what wrath he imprecates our doom,
Vowing to mount the wall, though banished hence,
And peal aloud the wild exulting cry-
The town is ta'en-then clash his sword with thine,
Giving and taking death in close embrace,
Or, if thou 'scapest, flinging upon thee,
As robber of his honour and his home,
The doom of exile such as he has borne.
So clamours he and so invokes the gods
Who guard his race and home, to hear and heed
The curse that sounds in Polyneices' name!
He bears a round shield, fresh from forge and fire,
And wrought upon it is a twofold sign-
For lo, a woman leads decorously
The figure of a warrior wrought in gold;
And thus the legend runs-I Justice am,
And I will bring the hero home again,
To hold once more his place within this town,
Once more to pace his sire's ancestral hall.
Such are the symbols, by our foemen shown-
Now make thine own decision, whom to send
Against this last opponent! I have said-
Nor canst thou in my tidings find a flaw-
Thine is it, now, to steer the course aright.
Ah me, the madman, and the curse of Heaven
And woe for us, the lamentable line
Of Oedipus, and woe that in this house
Our father's curse must find accomplishment!
But now, a truce to tears and loud lament,
Lest they should breed a still more rueful wail!
As for this Polyneices, named too well,
Soon shall we know how this device shall end-
Whether the gold-wrought symbols on his shield,
In their mad vaunting and bewildered pride,