from the
Oedipus
cycle of plays by
Sophocles

This page:

Oedipus Rex
Oedipus at Colonus
Antigone

Categories:

classical Greek writers

poetry

index pages:
authors
titles
categories
topics
translators

Oedipus Rex

translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald

from The Oedipus Cycle
Copyright © 1939, 1941, 1949 by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.

Scene I

Teiresias:

How dreadful knowledge of the truth can be

When there’s no help in truth!

Topic:

Truth

Scene II

Creon:

You do wrong

When you take good men for bad, bad men for good.

A true friend thrown aside—why, life itself

Is not more precious!

In time you will know this well:

For time, and time alone, will show the just man,

Though scoundrels are discovered in a day.

Ode II

Chorus:

[Strophe 2  

Haughtiness and the high hand of disdain

Tempt and outrage God’s holy law;

And any mortal who dares hold

No immortal Power in awe

Will be caught up in a net of pain:

The price for which his levity is sold.

Let each man take due earnings, then,

And keep his hands from holy things,

And from blasphemy stand apart—

Else the crackling blast of heaven

Blows on his head, and on his desperate heart;

Though fools will honor impious men,

In their cities no tragic poet sings.

[Antistrophe 2

Shall we lose faith in Delphi’s obscurities,

We who have heard the world’s core

Discredited, and the sacred wood

Of Zeus at Elis praised no more?

The deeds and the strange prophecies

Must make a pattern yet to be understood.

Zeus, if indeed you are lord of all,

Throned in light over night and day,

Mirror this in your endless mind:

Our masters call the oracle

Words on the wind, and the Delphic vision blind!

Their hearts no longer know Apollo,

And reverence for the gods has died away.

Topic:

Gods

Scene III

Iocaste:

Why should anyone in this world be afraid,

Since Fate rules us and nothing can be foreseen?

A man should live only for the present day.

Topic:

Fate

Éxodos

Chorus:

Let every man in mankind’s frailty

Consider his last day; and let none

Presume on his good fortune until he find

Life, at his death, a memory without pain.

text checked (see note) Jan 2005

top of page
Oedipus at Colonus

translated by Robert Fitzgerald

from The Oedipus Cycle
Copyright © 1939, 1941, 1949 by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.

Scene III

Oedipus:

Most gentle son of Aegeus! The immortal

Gods alone have neither age nor death!

All other things almighty Time disquiets.

Earth wastes away; the body wastes away;

Faith dies; distrust is born.

And imperceptibly the spirit changes

Between a man and his friend, or between two cities.

For some men soon, for others in later time,

Their pleasure sickens; or love comes again.

Topic:

Mortality

Theseus:

[...]

Angry men are liberal with threats

And bluster generally. When the mind.

Is master of itself, threats are no matter.

Scene IV

Oedipus:

[...]

Suppose that when you begged for something desperately

A man should neither grant it you nor give

Sympathy even; but later when you were glutted

With all your heart’s desire, should give it then,

When charity was no charity at all?

Would you not think the kindness somewhat hollow?

That is the sort of kindness you offer me:

Generous in words, but in reality evil.

Oedipus:

An agile wit! I know no honest man

Able to speak so well under all conditions!

Topic:

Insults

text checked (see note) Jan 2005

top of page
Antigone

translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald

from The Oedipus Cycle
Copyright © 1939, 1941, 1949 by Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.

Prologue

Antigone:

You may do as you like,

Since apparently the laws of the gods mean nothing to you.

Ismene:

They mean a great deal to me; but I have no strength

To break laws that were made for the public good.

Antigone:

That must be your excuse, I suppose. But as for me,

I will bury the brother I love.

Topic:

Law

Ismene:

But can you do it? I say that you cannot.

Antigone:

Very well: when my strength gives out, I shall do no more.

Ismene:

Impossible things should not be tried at all.

Scene II

Creon:

And yet you dared defy the law.

Antigone:

I dared.

It was not God’s proclamation. That final Justice

That rules the world below makes no such laws.

Your edict, King, was strong,

But all your strength is weakness itself against

The immortal unrecorded laws of God.

They are not merely now: they were, and shall be,

Operative for ever, beyond man utterly.

I knew I must die, even without your decree:

I am only mortal. And if I must die

Now, before it is my time to die,

Surely this is no hardship: can anyone

Living, as I live, with evil all about me,

Think Death less than a friend?

Heaney
translation

Topic:

Justice

Scene III

Haimon:

[...]

I beg you, do not be unchangeable:

Do not believe that you alone can be right.

The man who thinks that,

The man who maintains that only he has the power

To reason correctly, the gift to speak, the soul—

A man like that, when you know him, turns out empty.

It is not reason never to yield to reason!

Heaney
translation

Creon:

My voice is the one voice giving orders in this City!

Haimon:

It is no City if it takes orders from one voice.

Creon:

The State is the King!

Haimon:

Yes, if the State is a desert.

Topic:

Government

Scene V

Teiresias:

[...] Think: all men make mistakes,

But a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong,

And repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.

Heaney
translation

Éxodos

Messenger:

Dearest Lady,

I will tell you plainly all that I have seen.

I shall not try to comfort you: what is the use,

Since comfort could lie only in what is not true?

Creon:

[...]

I have neither life nor substance. Lead me in.

Choragos:

You are right, if there can be right in so much wrong.

The briefest way is best in a world of sorrow.

Creon:

Let it come,

Let death come quickly, and be kind to me.

I would not ever see the sun again.

Choragos:

All that will come when it will; but we, meanwhile,

Have much to do. Leave the future to itself.

Creon:

All my heart was in that prayer!

Choragos:

Then do not pray any more: the sky is deaf.

Creon:

[...]

Whatever my hands have touched has come to nothing.

Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust.

Choragos:

There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;

No wisdom but in submission to the gods.

Big words are always punished,

And proud men in old age learn to be wise.

text checked (see note) Jan 2005

top of page