My liege, I will not say that I come breathless from speed, or
that have plied a nimble foot; for often did my thoughts make me
pause, and wheel round in my path, to return. My mind was holding
large discourse with me; 'Fool, why goest thou to thy certain doom?'
'Wretch, tarrying again? And if Creon hears this from another, must
not thou smart for it?' So debating, I went on my way with lagging
steps, and thus a short road was made long. At last, however, it
carried the day that I should come hither-to thee; and, though my tale
be nought, yet will I tell it; for I come with a good grip on one
hope,-that I can suffer nothing but what is my fate.
And what is it that disquiets thee thus?
I wish to tell thee first about myself-I did not do the deed-I did
not see the doer-it were not right that I should come to any harm.
Thou hast a shrewd eye for thy mark; well dost thou fence
thyself round against the blame; clearly thou hast some strange
thing to tell.
Aye, truly; dread news makes one pause long.
Then tell it, wilt thou, and so get thee gone?
Well, this is it.-The corpse-some one hath just given it burial,
and gone away,-after sprinkling thirsty dust on the flesh, with such
other rites as piety enjoins.
What sayest thou? What living man hath dared this deed?
I know not; no stroke of pickaxe was seen there, no earth thrown
up by mattock; the ground was hard and dry, unbroken, without track of
wheels; the doer was one who had left no trace. And when the first
day-watchman showed it to us, sore wonder fell on all. The dead man
was veiled from us; not shut within a tomb, but lightly strewn with
dust, as by the hand of one who shunned a curse. And no sign met the
eye as though any beast of prey or any dog had come nigh to him, or
Then evil words flew fast and loud among us, guard accusing guard;
und it would e'en have come to blows at last, nor was there any to
hinder. Every man was the culprit, and no one was convicted, but all
disclaimed knowledge of the deed. And we were ready to take red-hot
iron in our hands;-to walk through fire;-to make oath by the gods that
we had not done the deed,-that we were not privy to the planning or
At last, when all our searching was fruitless, one spake, who made
us all bend our faces on the earth in fear; for we saw not how we
could gainsay him, or escape mischance if we obeyed. His counsel was
that this deed must be reported to thee, and not hidden. And this
seemed best; and the lot doomed my hapless self to win this prize.
So here I stand,-as unwelcome as unwilling, well I wot; for no man
delights in the bearer of bad news.
O king, my thoughts have long been whispering, can this deed,
perchance, be e'en the work of gods?
Cease, ere thy words fill me utterly with wrath, lest thou be
found at once an old man and foolish. For thou sayest what is not to
be borne, in saying that the gods have care for this corpse. Was it
for high reward of trusty service that they sought to hide his
nakedness, who came to burn their pillared shrines and sacred
treasures, to burn their land, and scatter its laws to the winds? Or
dost thou behold the gods honouring the wicked? It cannot be. No! From