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The Phoenissae   

for the royal house.
CREON What is this? I was paying the last honours to my dead son,
and so am late in learning this fresh sorrow.
LEADER 'Tis some time, Creon, since thy sister's departure, and I
expect the struggle for life and death is already decided by the sons
of Oedipus.
CREON Alas! I see an omen there, the gloomy look and clouded brow
of yonder messenger coming to tell us the whole matter. (The SECOND
MESSENGER enters.)

MESSENGER Ah, woe is me! what language can I find to tell my tale?
CREON Our fate is sealed; thy opening words do naught to reassure
MESSENGER Ah, woe is me! I do repeat; for beside the scenes of woe
already enacted I bring tidings of new horror.
CREON What is thy tale?
MESSENGER Thy sister's sons are now no more, Creon.
CREON Alas! thou hast a heavy tale of woe for me and Thebes
LEADER O house of Oedipus, hast thou heard these tidings?
CREON Of sons slain by the self-same fate.
LEADER A tale to make it weep, were it endowed with sense.
CREON Oh! most grievous stroke of fate! woe is me for my sorrows!
MESSENGER Woe indeed! didst thou but know the sorrows still to tell.
CREON How can they be more hard to bear than these?
MESSENGER With her two sons thy sister has sought her death.
CHORUS (chanting) Loudly, loudly raise the wail, and with white
hands smite upon your heads!
CREON Ah! woe is thee, Jocasta! what an end to life and marriage
hast thou found the riddling of the Sphinx! But tell me how her two
sons wrought the bloody deed, the struggle caused by the curse of
MESSENGER Of our successes before the towers thou knowest, for the
walls are not so far away as to prevent thy learning each event as
it occurred. Now when they, the sons of aged Oedipus, had donned their
brazen mail, they went and took their stand betwixt the hosts, chieftains
both and generals too, to decide the day by single combat. Then Polyneices,
turning his eyes towards Argos, lifted up a prayer; "O Hera, awful
queens-for thy servant I am, since I have wedded the daughter of Adrastus
and dwell in his land,-grant that I may slay my brother, and stain
my lifted hand with the blood of my conquered foe. A shameful prize
it is I ask, my own brother's blood." And to many an eye the tear
would rise at their sad fate, and men looked at one another, casting
their glances round.
But Eteocles, looking towards the temple of Pallas with the golden
shield, prayed thus, "Daughter of Zeus, grant that this right arm
may launch the spear of victory against my brother's breast and slay
him who hath come to sack my country." Soon as the Tuscan trumpet
blew, the signal for the bloody fray, like the torch that falls,'
they darted wildly at one another and, like boars whetting their savage
tusks, began the fray, their beards wet with foam; and they kept shooting
out their spears, but each crouched beneath his shield to let the
steel glance idly off; but if either saw the other's face above the
rim, he would aim his lance thereat, eager to outwit him.
But both kept such careful outlook through the spy-holes in their
shields, that their weapons found naught to do; while from the on-lookers
far more than the combatants trickled the sweat caused by terror for
their friends. Suddenly Eteocles, in kicking aside a stone that rolled
beneath his tread, exposed a limb outside his shield, and Polyneices
seeing a chance of dealing him a blow, aimed a dart at it, and the
Argive shaft went through his leg; whereat the Danai, one and all,
cried out for joy. But the wounded man, seeing a shoulder unguarded
in this effort, plunged his spear with all his might into the breast
of Polyneices, restoring gladness to the citizens of Thebes, though
he brake off the spear-head; and so, at a loss for a weapon, he retreated

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