Oedipus at Colonus
Queen infernal, and thou fell
Watch-dog of the gates of hell,
Who, as legends tell, dost glare,
Gnarling in thy cavernous lair
At all comers, let him go
Scathless to the fields below.
For thy master orders thus,
The son of earth and Tartarus;
In his den the monster keep,
Giver of eternal sleep. (Enter MESSENGER)
MESSENGER Friends, countrymen, my tidings are in sum
That Oedipus is gone, but the event
Was not so brief, nor can the tale be brief.
CHORUS What, has he gone, the unhappy man?
MESSENGER Know well That he has passed away from life to death.
CHORUS How? By a god-sent, painless doom, poor soul?
MESSENGER Thy question hits the marvel of the tale.
How he moved hence, you saw him and must know;
Without a friend to lead the way, himself
Guiding us all. So having reached the abrupt
Earth-rooted Threshold with its brazen stairs,
He paused at one of the converging paths, Hard by the rocky basin
which records The pact of Theseus and Peirithous.
Betwixt that rift and the Thorician rock,
The hollow pear-tree and the marble tomb,
Midway he sat and loosed his beggar's weeds;
Then calling to his daughters bade them fetch
Of running water, both to wash withal
And make libation; so they clomb the steep;
And in brief space brought what their father bade,
Then laved and dressed him with observance due.
But when he had his will in everything,
And no desire was left unsatisfied,
It thundered from the netherworld; the maids
Shivered, and crouching at their father's knees
Wept, beat their breast and uttered a long wail.
He, as he heard their sudden bitter cry,
Folded his arms about them both and said,
«My children, ye will lose your sire today,
For all of me has perished, and no more
Have ye to bear your long, long ministry;
A heavy load, I know, and yet one word
Wipes out all score of tribulations-love.
And love from me ye had-from no man more;
But now must live without me all your days.»
So clinging to each other sobbed and wept
Father and daughters both, but when at last
Their mourning had an end and no wail rose,
A moment there was silence; suddenly
A voice that summoned him; with sudden dread
The hair of all stood up and all were 'mazed;
For the call came, now loud, now low, and oft.
«Oedipus, Oedipus, why tarry we?
Too long, too long thy passing is delayed.»
But when he heard the summons of the god,
He prayed that Theseus might be brought, and when
The Prince came nearer: «O my friend,» he cried,
«Pledge ye my daughters, giving thy right hand-
And, daughters, give him yours-and promise me
Thou never wilt forsake them, but do all
That time and friendship prompt in their behoof.»