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The Phoenissae   


TEIRESIAS I am indeed worn out, having arrived here only yesterday
from the court of the Erechtheidae; for they too were at war, fighting
with Eumolpus, in which contest I insured the victory of Cecrops'
sons; and I received the golden crown, which thou seest me wearing,
as first-fruits of the enemy's spoil.
CREON I take thy crown of victory as an omen. We, as thou knowest,
are exposed to the billows of an Argive war, and great is the struggle
for Thebes. Eteocles, our king, is already gone in full harness to
meet Mycenae's champions, and hath bidden me inquire of thee our best
course to save the city.
TEIRESIAS For Eteocles I would have closed my lips and refrained
from all response, but to thee I will speak, since 'tis thy wish to
learn. This country, Creon, has been long afflicted, ever since Laius
became a father in heaven's despite, begetting hapless Oedipus to
be his own mother's husband. That bloody outrage on his eyes was planned
by heaven as an ensample to Hellas; and the sons of Oedipus made a
gross mistake in wishing to throw over it the veil of time, as if
forsooth they could outrun the gods' decree; for by robbing their
father of his due honour and allowing him no freedom, they enraged
their luckless sire; so he, stung by suffering and disgrace as well,
vented awful curses against them; and I, because I left nothing undone
or unsaid to prevent this, incurred the hatred of the sons of Oedipus.
But death inflicted by each other's hands awaits them, Creon; and
the many heaps of slain, some from Argive, some from Theban missiles,
shall cause bitter lamentation in the land of Thebes. Alas! for thee,
poor city, thou art being involved in their ruin, unless I can persuade
one man. The best course was to prevent any child of Oedipus becoming
either citizen or king in this land, since they were under a ban and
would overthrow the city. But as evil has the mastery of good, there
is still one other way of safety; but this it were unsafe for me to
tell, and painful too for those whose high fortune it is to supply
their city witb the saving cure. Farewell! I will away; amongst the
rest must I endure my doom, if need be; for what will become of me?
CREON Stay here, old man.
TEIRESIAS Hold me not.
CREON Abide, why dost thou seek to fly?
TEIRESIAS 'Tis thy fortune that flies thee, not I.
CREON Tell me what can save Thebes and her citizens.
TEIRESIAS Though this be now thy wish, it will soon cease to be.
CREON Not wish to save my country? how can that be?
TEIRESIAS Art thou still eager to be told?
CREON Yea; for wherein should I show greater zeal?
TEIRESIAS Then straightway shalt thou hear my words prophetic. But
first would fain know for certain where Menoeceus is, who led me hither.
CREON Here, not far away, but at thy side.
TEIRESIAS Let him retire far from my prophetic voice.
CREON He is my own son and will preserve due silence.
TEIRESIAS Wilt thou then that I tell thee in his presence?
CREON Yea, for he will rejoice to hear the means of safety.
TEIRESIAS Then hear the purport of my oracle, the which if ye observe
ye shall save the city of Cadmus. Thou must sacrifice Menoeceus thy
son here for thy country, since thine own lips demand the voice of
fate.
CREON What mean'st thou? what is this thou hast said, old man?
TEIRESIAS To that which is to be thou also must conform.
CREON O the eternity of woe thy minute's tale proclaims!
TEIRESIAS Yes to thee, but to thy country great salvation.
CREON I shut my ears; I never listened; to city now farewell!
TEIRESIAS Ha! the man is changed; he is drawing back.
CREON Go in peace; it is not thy prophecy I need.
TEIRESIAS Is truth dead, because thou art curst with woe?
CREON By thy knees and honoured locks I implore thee!
TEIRESIAS Why implore me? thou art craving a calamity hard to guard
against.

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