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When led with nuptial fire !
Ah! how could'st thou so long remain
The furrower of thy father's field,
Borne patiently and unrevealed ?

Crimes from thyself concealed
All-searching time hath opened to the day,

And shown thee with clear ray,
Long while, in hideous bond, spouse, father, child.

O Laius' fatal son,
Would I had ne'er thee known !
My heart cries loud for thee

In tones of agony,
And frenzied exclamation wild.
For, to speak sooth, thou didst restore my life,
And gav'st my soul sweet respite after strife.

Something meantime--that is, during the choric chanthas been passing behind the scenes. A second messenger comes forward to announce the suicide of the queen. Edipus himself, raging through the palace, found her hanging by the neck apparently already dead. He undid the noose, but from this point let Sophocles, through the messenger, tell the tale :

'Twas terrible
To see what followed-for he tore away
The brooch-pins that had fastened her attire,
And, lifting, smote his eyeballs to the root,
Saying, Henceforth they should not see the evil
Suffered or done by him in the past time,
But evermore in darkness now should scan
The features he ought never to have seen,
And not discern the souls he longed to know.
Thus crying aloud, not once but oftentimes
He dashed the points into his eyes; and soon
The bleeding pupils moistened all his beard,
Nor stinted the dark flood, but all at once
The ruddy hail poured down in plenteous shower.
Thus from two springs, from man and wife together,
Burst the joint evil that is now o’erflowing.
And the old happiness in that past day

Was truly happy, but the present hour
Hath groaning, death, disaster, shame, all ill
Without exemption, that hath e'er been named.

"A hateful sight, yet one thou needs must pity," is the form of announcement with which the second messenger, having closed his story, ushers now the blinded Edipus upon the stage. The chorus exclaim at sight of him, with mingled pity and horror. Edipus himself bursts out (we use for this next extract the extraordinarily fine rendering of Mr. Whitelaw):

O thou thick cloud of darkness,
That on my life hast settled
Abominable, unutterable,
Indomitable,
By pitiless winds swept hitherward on me ;
Alas!
And yet again, alas, and woe is me!
Such maddening pain
Of those sharp daggers at my eyes,
Blent with remembrance of my misery,

Pierces my inmost soul.
The chorus reply with non-committal sympathy (Mr.
Whitelaw for translator this once again):

No marvel if, in such extremity,

Thy grief is twofold, as thy suffering is. Edipus, nevertheless, is touched with even such a token of kindness, and answers gratefully. To the inquiry what power impelled him to put out his own eyes, “ Apollo, O my friends, Apollo,” is his answer. It is but lukewarm friendliness that the chorus show the king, in the dialogue which follows. Poor Edipus, however, in his low estate, is fain to be thankful for scant measure of human sympathy now.

The crisis of the tragic interest past, it is, henceforward to the close of the poem, the poet's problem to let down the high-wrought emotions of the spectators, by smooth and easy cadence, to a calm mood of suitable ethic or religious awe. With what skill the tension is gradually relaxed! Bad art it would have been in Sophocles either to close at the climax or to permit a sudden violent descent.

The just limits of our space forbid us to display all this at full. We plunge into the prolonged lamentations of Edipus, at the point where he refers to his children:

Thou Creon, shalt provide. As for my sons,
I pray thee burden not thyself with them.
They ne'er will lack subsistence—they are men.
But my poor maidens, hapless and forlorn,
Who never had a meal apart from mine,
But ever shared my table, yea, for them
Take heedful care ; and grant me, though but once,
Yea, I beseech thee, with these hands to feel,
Thou noble heart ! the forms I love so well.
And weep with them our common misery.
O, if my arms were round them, I might seem
To have them as of old when I could see. -
What ? Am I fooled once more, or do I hear
My dear ones weeping? And hath Creon sent,
Pitying my sorrows, mine own children to me

Whom most I love? Can this be truth I utter?
Creon. Yea, I have done it. For I knew the joy

Thou ever hadst in this, thy comfort now.
Ed. Fair be thy fortune, and, for this last deed,

May Heaven protect thee better far than me!
Where are ye, O my children? Come, draw near
To these my hands of brother blood with you,
Hands that have made so piteous to your sight
The spectacle of his once brilliant eyes,
Who all in blindness, with no thought of ill,
Became your father at that fount of life,
Where he himself had being! O! for you
I weep, not seeing you, when I take thought
Of all the bitter passages of fate
That must attend you among men.

For where
Can ye find fellowship, what civic throng
Shall ye resort unto, what festival,

From whence, instead of sights or sounds enjoyed,
Ye will not come in tears unto your home?
And when ye reach the marriageable bloom,
My daughters, who will be the man to cast
His lot with the unfortunate, and take
All those reproaches on his name,
So sorely on my parents and on you?

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And who will marry you ? No man, my daughters ;
But ye must wither, childless and unwed.

But look with pity upon their youth, thus left
Forlorn of all protection save from thee.
Noble one, seal this promise with thy hand !
For you, my children, were ye of an age
To ponder speech, I would have counseled you
Full carefully. Now I would have you pray
To dwell where 'tis convenient, that your life

May find more blessing than your father knew.
Cr. Thou hast had enough of weeping. Close thee in thy

chamber walls.
@d. I must yield, though sore against me.
Cr.

Yea, for strong occasion calls,
Ed. Know'st thou on what terms I yield it?
Cr.

Tell me, let us hear and know.
Ed. That ye send me from the country.
Cr.

God alone can let thee go.
Ed. But the gods long since abhor me.
Cr.

Thou wilt sooner gain that boon.
(Ed. Then consent.
Cr. 'Tis not my wont to venture promises too soon.
Ed. Lead me now within the palace.
Cr.

Come, but leave thy children.
Ed.

Nay!
Tear not these from my embraces !
Cr.

Think not all things to command.
Ed. Of the good thou hadst beforetime much hath fleeted from

thy hand.

CHORUS. Dwellers in our native Thebe, fix on (Edipus your eyes, Who resolved the dark enigma, noblest champion and most wise.

Glorious, like a sun he mounted, envied of the popular throng; Now he sinks in seas of anguish, plunged the lashing waves among. Therefore, with the old-world sages, waiting for the final day, I will call no mortal happy, while he holds his house of clay, Till without one pang of sorrow, all his hours have passed away. Sophocles himself almost fulfilled, in the happy closing of his long career, the hard requirement that his chorus, "with the old-world sages," here repeats.

IX.

EURIPIDES.

The third member of the great tragical triumvirate of Greece was Euripides. The great tragical triumvirate, we say—but it ought not to be forgotten that, besides Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, who alone survive to us in their productions, there flourished in Athens, at the same time with these, other tragedians then scarcely less famous than they.

Euripides was born, an Athenian (480 B. C.), in the year, perhaps on the day, of the battle of Salamis. He had a long career; but, though born some years after, he died a few months before, his generous, more prosperous, but not more popular rival-Sophocles. It was one of those graceful acts which so well became the genius and the character of the latter, that he signalized his sorrow over the death of his peer, by causing the actors in his own next play to appear in mourning for the loss of Euripides. Aristophanes, on the contrary, persecuted Euripides, even in his grave.

Of one play of Euripides we are fortunate in possessing a version from no less a master than Mr. Robert Browning. It happily chances, too, that this play is precisely the one which, of all the extant works of Euripides, we should in any case have wished to present to our readers. It is the Alcestis.

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