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The Phoenissae   


CREON Keep silence; tell not the city thy news.
TEIRESIAS Thou biddest me act unjustly; I will not hold my peace.
CREON What wilt thou then do to me? slay my child?
TEIRESIAS That is for others to decide; I have but to speak.
CREON Whence came this curse on me and my son?
TEIRESIAS Thou dost right to ask me and to test what I have said.
In yonder lair, where the earth-born dragon kept watch and ward o'er
Dirce's springs, must this youth be offered and shed his life-blood
on the ground by reason of Ares' ancient grudge against Cadmus, who
thus avenges the slaughter of his earth-born snake. If ye do this,
ye shall win Ares as an ally; and if the earth receive crop for crop
and human blood for blood, ye shall find her kind again, that erst
to your sorrow reared from that dragon's seed a crop of warriors with
golden casques; for needs must one sprung from the dragon's teeth
be slain. Now thou art our only survivor of the seed of that sown
race, whose lineage is pure alike on mother's and on father's side,
thou and these thy sons. Haemon's marriage debars him from being the
victim, for he is no longer single; for even if he have not consummated
his marriage, yet is he betrothed; but this tender youth, consecrated
to the city's service, might by dying rescue his country; and bitter
will he make the return of Adrastus and his Argives, flinging o'er
their eyes death's dark pall, and will glorify Thebes. Choose thee
one of these alternatives; either save the city or thy son.
Now hast thou all I have to say. Daughter, lead me home. A fool, the
man who practises the diviner's art; for if he should announce an
adverse answer, he makes himself disliked by those who seek to him;
while, if from pity he deceives those who are consulting him, he sins
against Heaven. Phoebus should have been man's only prophet, for he
fears no man. (His daughter leads TEIRESIAS out.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Why so silent, Creon, why are thy lips hushed
and dumb? I too am no less stricken with dismay.
CREON Why, what could one say? 'Tis clear what my words must be.
For will never plunge myself so deeply into misfortune as to devote
my son to death for the city; for love of children binds all men to
life, and none would resign his own son to die. Let no man praise
me into slaying my children. I am ready to die myself-for I am ripe
in years-to set my country free. But thou, my son, ere the whole city
learn this, up and fly with all haste away from this land, regardless
of these prophets' unbridled utterances; for he will go to the seven
gates and the captains there and tell all this to our governors and
leaders; now if we can forestall him, thou mayst be saved, but if
thou art too late, we are undone and thou wilt die.
MENOECEUS Whither can I fly? to what city? to which of our guest-friends?
CREON Fly where thou wilt be furthest removed from this land.
MENOECEUS 'Tis for thee to name a place, for me to carry out thy
bidding.
CREON After passing Delphi-
MENOECEUS Whither must I go, father?
CREON To Aetolia.
MENOECEUS Whither thence?
CREON To the land of Thesprotia.
MENOECEUS To Dodona's hallowed threshold?
CREON Thou followest me.
MENOECEUS What protection shall I find me there?
CREON The god will send thee on thy way.
MENOECEUS How shall I find the means?
CREON I will supply thee with money.
MENOECEUS A good plan of thine, father. So go; for I will to thy
sister, Jocasta, at whose breast I was suckled as a babe when reft
of my mother and left a lonely orphan, to give her kindly greeting
and then will I seek my safety. Come, come! be going, that there be
no hindrance on thy part. (CREON departs.) How cleverly, ladies,
I banished my father's fears by crafty words to gain my end; for he
is trying to convey me hence, depriving the city of its chance and

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