Oedipus at Colonus
And he of his nobility repressed
His tears and swore to be their constant friend.
This promise given, Oedipus put forth
Blind hands and laid them on his children, saying,
«O children, prove your true nobility
And hence depart nor seek to witness sights
Unlawful or to hear unlawful words.
Nay, go with speed; let none but Theseus stay,
Our ruler, to behold what next shall hap.»
So we all heard him speak, and weeping sore
We companied the maidens on their way.
After brief space we looked again, and lo
The man was gone, evanished from our eyes;
Only the king we saw with upraised hand
Shading his eyes as from some awful sight,
That no man might endure to look upon.
A moment later, and we saw him bend
In prayer to Earth and prayer to Heaven at once.
But by what doom the stranger met his end
No man save Theseus knoweth. For there fell
No fiery bold that reft him in that hour,
Nor whirlwind from the sea, but he was taken.
It was a messenger from heaven, or else
Some gentle, painless cleaving of earth's base;
For without wailing or disease or pain
He passed away-and end most marvelous.
And if to some my tale seems foolishness
I am content that such could count me fool.
CHORUS Where are the maids and their attendant friends?
MESSENGER They cannot be far off; the approaching sound
Of lamentation tells they come this way. (Enter ANTIGONE and ISMENE)
ANTIGONE (strophe 1)
Woe, woe! on this sad day
We sisters of one blasted stock must bow beneath the shock,
Must weep and weep the curse that lay
On him our sire, for whom
In life, a life-long world of care
'Twas ours to bear,
In death must face the gloom
That wraps his tomb.
What tongue can tell
That sight ineffable?
CHORUS What mean ye, maidens?
ANTIGONE All is but surmise.
CHORUS Is he then gone?
ANTIGONE Gone as ye most might wish.
Not in battle or sea storm,
But reft from sight,
By hands invisible borne
To viewless fields of night.
Ah me! on us too night has come,
The night of mourning. Wither roam
O'er land or sea in our distress
Eating the bread of bitterness?
ISMENE I know not. O that Death
Might nip my breath,
And let me share my aged father's fate.
I cannot live a life thus desolate.
CHORUS Best of daughters, worthy pair,
What heaven brings ye needs must bear,