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The Phoenissae   


of gloom. (During the lament, ANTIGONE enters, followed by servants
who hear the bodies Of JOCASTA, ETEOCLES, and POLYNEICES.)

ANTIGONE (chanting) No veil I draw o'er my tender cheek shaded with
its clustering curls; no shame I feel from maiden modesty at the hot
blood mantling 'neath my eyes, the blush upon my face, as I hurry
wildly on in death's train, casting from my hair its tire and letting
my delicate robe of saffron hue fly loose, a tearful escort to the
dead. Ah me!
Woe to thee, Polyneices! rightly named, I trow; woe to thee, Thebes!
no mere strife to end in strife was thine; but murder completed by
murder hath brought the house of Oedipus to ruin with bloodshed dire
and grim. O my home, my home! what minstrel can I summon from the
dead to chant a fitting dirge o'er my tearful fate, as I bear these
three corpses of my kin, my mother and her sons, welcome sight to
the avenging fiend that destroyed the house of Oedipus, root and branch,
in the hour that his shrewdness solved the Sphinx's riddling rhyme
and slew that savage songstress. Woe is me! my father! what other
Hellene or barbarian, what noble soul among the bygone tribes of man's
poor mortal race ever endured the anguish of such visible afflictions?
Ah! poor maid, how piteous is thy plaint! What bird from its covert
'mid the leafy oak or soaring pine-tree's branch will come to mourn
with me, the maid left motherless, with cries of woe, lamenting, ere
it comes, the piteous lonely life, that henceforth must be always
mine with tears that ever stream? On which of these corpses shall
I throw my offerings first, plucking the hair from my head? on the
breast of the mother that suckled me, or beside the ghastly death-wounds
of my brothers' corpses? Woe to thee, Oedipus, my aged sire with sightless
orbs, leave thy roof, disclose the misery of thy life, thou that draggest
out a weary existence within the house, having cast a mist of darkness
o'er thine eyes. Dost hear, thou whose aged step now gropes its way
across the court, now seeks repose on wretched pallet couch? (OEDIPUS
enters from the palace. He chants the following lines responsively
with ANTIGONE.)

OEDIPUS Why, daughter, hast thou dragged me to the light, supporting
my blind footsteps from the gloom of my chamber, where I lie upon
my bed and make piteous moan, a hoary sufferer, invisible as a phantom
of the air, or as a spirit from the pit, or as a dream that flies?
ANTIGONE Father, there are tidings of sorrow for thee to bear; no
more thy sons behold the light, or thy wife who ever would toil to
tend thy blind footsteps as with a staff. Alas for thee, my sire!
OEDIPUS Ah me, the sorrows I endure! I may well say that. Tell me,
child, what fate o'ertook those three, and how they left the light.
ANTIGONE Not to reproach or mock thee say I this, but in all sadness;
'tis thy own avenging curse, with all its load of slaughter, fire,
and ruthless war, that is fallen on thy sons. Alas for thee, my sire!
OEDIPUS Ah me!
ANTIGONE Why dost thou groan?
OEDIPUS 'Tis for my sons.
ANTIGONE Couldst thou have looked towards yon sun-god's four-horsed
car and turned the light of thine eyes on these corpses, it would
have been agony to thee.
OEDIPUS 'Tis clear enough how their evil fate o'ertook my sons; but
she, my poor wife tell me, daughter, how she came to die.
ANTIGONE All saw her weep and heard her moan, as she rushed forth
to carry to her sons her last appeal, a mother's breast. But the mother
found her sons at the Electran gate, in a meadow where the lotus blooms,
fighting out their duel like lions in their lair, eager to wound each
other with spears, their blood already congealed, a murderous libation
to the Death-god poured out by Ares. Then, snatching from corpse a
sword of hammered bronze, she plunged it in her flesh, and in sorrow
for her sons fell with her arms around them. So to-day, father, the
god, whose'er this issue is, has gathered to a head the sum of suffering
for our house.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS To-day is the beginning of many troubles to

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