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The Phoenissae   


prevail, never give Polyneices' corpse a grave in Theban soil, and
if so be some friend should bury him, let death reward the man. Thus
far to thee; and to my servants thus, bring forth my arms and coat
of mail, that I may start at once for the appointed combat, with right
to lead to victory. To save our city we will pray to Caution, the
best goddess to serve our end. (ETEOCLES and his retinue go out.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe)
O Ares, god of toil and trouble! why, why art thou possessed by love
of blood and death, out of harmony with the festivals of Bromius?
'Tis for no crowns of dancers fair that thou dost toss thy youthful
curls to the breeze, singing the while to the lute's soft breath a
strain to charm the dancers' feet; but with warriors clad in mail
thou dost lead thy sombre revelry, breathing into Argive breasts lust
for Theban blood; with no wild waving of the thyrsus, clad in fawnskin
thou dancest, but with chariots and bitted steeds wheelest thy charger
strong of hoof. O'er the waters of Ismenus in wild career thou art
urging thy horses, inspiring Argive breasts with hate of the earth-born
race, arraying in brazen harness against these stone-built walls a
host of warriors armed with shields. Truly Strife is a goddess to
fear, who devised these troubles for the princes of this land, for
the much-enduring sons of Labdacus.
(antistrophe)
O Cithaeron, apple of the eye of Artemis, holy vale of leaves, amid
whose snows full many a beast lies couched, would thou hadst never
reared the child exposed to die, Oedipus the fruit of Jocasta's womb,
when as a babe he was cast forth from his home, marked with golden
brooch; and would the Sphinx, that winged maid, fell monster from
the hills, had never come to curse our land with inharmonious strains;
she that erst drew nigh our walls and snatched the sons of Cadmus
away in her taloned feet to the pathless fields of light, a fiend
sent by Hades from hell to plague the men of Thebes; once more unhappy
strife is bursting out between the sons of Oedipus in city and home.
For never can wrong be right, nor children of unnatural parentage
come as a glory to the mother that bears them, but as a stain on the
marriage of him who is father and brother at once.
(epode)
O earth, thou once didst bear,-so long ago I heard the story told
by foreigners in my own home,-a race which sprang of the teeth of
a snake with blood-red crest, that fed on beasts, to be the glory
and reproach of Thebes. In days gone by the sons of heaven came to
the wedding of Harmonia, and the walls of Thebes arose to the sound
of the lyre and her towers stood up as Amphion played, in the midst
between the double streams of Dirce, that watereth the green meadows
fronting the Ismenus; and Io, our horned ancestress was mother of
the kings of Thebes; thus our city through an endless succession of
divers blessings has set herself upon the highest pinnacle of martial
glory. (TEIRESIAS enters, led by his daughter. They are accompanied
by MENOECEUS.)

TEIRESIAS Lead on, my daughter; for thou art as an eye to my blind
feet, as certain as a star to mariners; lead my steps on to level
ground; then go before, that we stumble not, for thy father has no
strength; keep safe for me in thy maiden hand the auguries I took
in the days I observed the flight and cries of birds seated in my
holy prophet's chair. Tell me, young Menoeceus, son of Creon, how
much further toward the city is it ere reach thy father? for my knees
grow weary, and I can scarce keep up this hurried pace.
CREON Take heart, Teiresias, for thou hast reached thy moorings and
art near thy friends; take him by the hand, my child; for just as
every carriage has to wait for outside help to steady it, so too hath
the step of age.
TEIRESIAS Enough; I have arrived; why, Creon, dost thou summon me
so urgently?
CREON I have not forgotten that; but first collect thyself and regain
breath, shaking off the fatigue of thy journey.

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