Oedipus at Colonus
Have stirred betwixt them a mad rivalry
To grasp at sovereignty and kingly power.
Today the hot-branded youth, the younger born,
Is keeping Polyneices from the throne,
His elder, and has thrust him from the land.
The banished brother (so all Thebes reports)
Fled to the vale of Argos, and by help
Of new alliance there and friends in arms,
Swears he will stablish Argos straight as lord
Of the Cadmeian land, or, if he fail,
Exalt the victor to the stars of heaven. This is no
empty tale, but deadly truth, My father; and how long thy agony, Ere the gods pity thee, I cannot tell.
OEDIPUS Hast thou indeed then entertained a hope
The gods at last will turn and rescue me?
ISMENE Yea, so I read these latest oracles.
OEDIPUS What oracles? What hath been uttered, child?
ISMENE Thy country (so it runs) shall yearn in time
To have thee for their weal alive or dead.
OEDIPUS And who could gain by such a one as I?
ISMENE On thee, 'tis said, their sovereignty depends.
OEDIPUS So, when I cease to be, my worth begins.
ISMENE The gods, who once abased, uplift thee now.
OEDIPUS Poor help to raise an old man fallen in youth.
ISMENE Howe'er that be, 'tis for this cause alone
That Creon comes to thee-and comes anon.
OEDIPUS With what intent, my daughter? Tell me plainly.
ISMENE To plant thee near the Theban land, and so
Keep thee within their grasp, yet now allow
Thy foot to pass beyond their boundaries.
OEDIPUS What gain they, if I lay outside?
OEDIPUS Thy tomb, If disappointed, brings on them a curse.
OEDIPUS It needs no god to tell what's plain to sense.
ISMENE Therefore they fain would have thee close at hand,
Not where thou wouldst be master of thyself.
OEDIPUS Mean they to shroud my bones in Theban dust?
ISMENE Nay, father, guilt of kinsman's blood forbids.
OEDIPUS Then never shall they be my masters, never!
ISMENE Thebes, thou shalt rue this bitterly some day!
OEDIPUS When what conjunction comes to pass, my child?
ISMENE Thy angry wraith, when at thy tomb they stand.
OEDIPUS And who hath told thee what thou tell'st me, child?
ISMENE Envoys who visited the Delphic hearth.
OEDIPUS Hath Phoebus spoken thus concerning me?
ISMENE So say the envoys who returned to Thebes.
OEDIPUS And can a son of mine have heard of this?
ISMENE Yea, both alike, and know its import well.
OEDIPUS They knew it, yet the ignoble greed of rule
Outweighed all longing for their sire's return.
ISMENE Grievous thy words, yet I must own them true.
OEDIPUS Then may the gods ne'er quench their fatal feud,
And mine be the arbitrament of the fight,
For which they now are arming, spear to spear;
That neither he who holds the scepter now
May keep this throne, nor he who fled the realm
Return again. They never raised a hand,
When I their sire was thrust from hearth and home,
When I was banned and banished, what recked they?
Say you 'twas done at my desire, a grace
Which the state, yielding to my wish, allowed?
Not so; for, mark you, on that very day
When in the tempest of my soul I craved
Death, even death by stoning, none appeared
To further that wild longing, but anon,
When time had numbed my anguish and I felt