city of Pelasgia! I dread thy prowess and the vengeance Heaven sends;
for he who cometh against our home in full panoply is entering the
lists with justice on his side. (POLYNEICES enters alone.)
POLYNEICES Those who kept watch and ward at the gate admitted me
so readily within the walls that my only fear is, that now they have
caught me in their toils, they will not let me out unscathed; so I
must turn my eye in every direction, hither and thither, to guard
against all treachery. Armed with this sword, I shall inspire myself
with the trust that is born of boldness. (Starting) What ho! who
goes there? or is it an idle sound I fear? Everything seems a danger
to venturous spirits, when their feet begin to tread an enemy's country.
Still I trust my mother, and at the same time mistrust her for persuading
me to come hither under truce. Well, there is help at hand, for the
altar's hearth is close and there are people in the palace. Come,
let me sheath my sword in its dark scabbard and ask these maidens
standing near the house, who they are.
Ladies of another land, tell me from what country ye come to the halls
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Phoenicia is my native land where I was born
and bred; and Agenor's children's children sent me hither as a first-fruits
of the spoils of war foy Phoebus; but when the noble son of Oedipus
was about to escort me to the hallowed oracle and the altars of Loxias,
came Argives meantime against his city. Now tell me in return who
thou art that comes to this fortress of the Theban realm with its
POLYNEICES My father was Oedipus, the son of Laius; my mother Jocasta,
daughter of Menoeceus; and I am called Polyneices by the folk of Thebes.
CHORUS (chanting) O kinsman of Agenor's race, my royal masters who
sent me hither at thy feet, prince, I throw myself, according to the
custom of my home. At last art thou come to thy native land; at last!
Hail to thee! all hail! Come forth, my honoured mistress, open wide
the doors. Dost hear, O mother of this chief? Why art thou delaying
to leave the sheltering roof to fold thy son in thy embrace? (JOCASTA
enters from the palace.)
JOCASTA (chanting) Maidens, I hear you call in your Phoenician tongue,
and my old feet drag their tottering steps to meet my son. O my son,
my son, at last after many a long day I see thee face to face; throw
thy arms about thy mother's bosom; reach hither thy cheek to me and
thy dark locks of clustering hair, o'ershadowing my neck therewith.
Hail to thee! all hail! scarce now restored to thy mother's arms,
when hope and expectation both were dead. What can I say to thee?
how recall in every way, by word, by deed, the bliss of days long
past, expressing my joy in the mazy measures of the dance? Ah! my
son, thou didst leave thy father's halls desolate, when thy brother's
despite drove thee thence in exile. Truly thou wert missed alike by
thy friends and Thebes. This was why I cut off my silvered locks and
let them fall for grief with many a tear, not clad in robes of white,
my son, but instead thereof taking for my wear these sorry sable tatters;
while within the palace that aged one with sightless orbs, ever nursing
the sorrow of a double regret for the pair of brethren estranged from
their home, rushed to lay hands upon himself with the sword or by
the noose suspended o'er his chamber-roof, moaning his curses on his
sons; and now he buries himself in darkness, weeping ever and lamenting.
And thou, my child,-I hear thou hast taken an alien to wife and art
begetting children to thy joy in thy home; they tell me thou art courting
a foreign alliance, a ceaseless woe to me thy mother and to Laius
thy ancestor, to have this woeful marriage foisted on us. 'Twas no
hand of mine that lit for thee the marriage-torch, as custom ordains
and as a happy mother ought; no part had Ismenus at thy wedding in
supplying the luxurious bath; and there was silence through the streets
of Thebes, what time thy young bride entered her home. Curses on them!
whether it be the sword or strife or thy sire that is to blame, or
heaven's visitation that hath burst so riotously upon the house of
Oedipus; for on me is come all the anguish of these troubles.