Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OEDIPUS REX [TYRANNUS][OR, OEDIPUS THE KING]: IN TIME OF PESTILENCE, by SOPHOCLES



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OEDIPUS REX [TYRANNUS][OR, OEDIPUS THE KING]: IN TIME OF PESTILENCE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Glad message of the voice of zeus
Last Line: Blazing for us, strike at the god cursed among gods, and save!
Subject(s): Epidemics


CHORUS
I
Glad Message of the voice of Zeus,
From golden Pytho travelling to splendid Thebes, what burden bringest thou?
Eager, am I, afraid, heart-shaken with fear of thee --
(Healer, Apollo of Delos, God of the Cry, give ear!)
Shaken with reverent fear. Is it some new task to be done?
Or is it some ancient debt thou wilt sweep in the fulness of time to the
payment?
Tell me thy secret, Oracle deathless, Daughter of golden Hope!
First call we on the child of Zeus,
Deathless Athene; then on her that guards our land, her Sister, Artemis,
Lady of Good Report, whose throne is our market place;
Aye, and Apollo! I cry thee, Shooter of Arrows, hear!
Three that are strong to deliver, appear! Great fighters of Death,
Now, if in ancient times, when calamity threatened, ye came to help us,
Sweeping afar the flame of affliction, -- strike, as of old, to-day!

II
Alas! Alas! Beyond all reckoning
My myriad sorrows!
All my people sick to death, yet in my mind
No shaft of wit, no weapon to fight the death.
The fruits of the mighty mother Earth increase not.
Women from their tempest of cries and travail-pangs
Struggle in vain . . . no birth-joy followeth.
As a bird on the wing, to the west, to the coast of the sunset god
Look! 'tis the soul of the dead that flies to the dark, nay, soul upon soul,
Rushing, rushing, swifter and stronger in flight than the race of implacable
fire,
Myriads, alas, beyond all reckoning, -- A city dying!
None has pity. On the ground they lie, unwept,
Spreading contagious death; and among them wives
That wail, but not for them, aye, and grey mothers
Flocking the altar with cries, now here, now there,
Shrilling their scream of prayer . . . for their own lives.
And a shout goeth up to the Healer; and, cleaving the air like fire,
Flashes the Paean, above those voices that wail in a piping tune.
Rescue! Rescue! Golden One! Send us the light of thy rescuing, Daughter of
Zeus!

III
Turn to flight that savage War-God, warring not with shield and spear,
But with fire he burneth when his battlecry is loud,
Turn him back and drive him with a rushing into flight,
Far away, to exile, far, far away from Thebes,
To the great sea-palace of Amphitrite,
Perchance to the waves of the Thracian sea and his own barbaric shore.
He spareth us not. Is there aught that the night has left?
Lo! Day cometh up to destroy.
King and Lord, O Zeus, of the lightning fires,
Father of all! Thine is the Might. Take up the bolt and slay!
Phoebus, King Lycean, I would see thee string thy golden bow,
Raining on the monster for our succour and defence
Shafts unconquered. I would see the flashing of the fires
From the torch of Artemis, that blazeth on the hills
When she scours her mountains of Lycia.
And another I call, the Golden-Crowned, and his name is a name of Thebes;
He is ruddy with wine, and his cry is the triumph cry,
And his train are the Maenades; --
Come, great Bacchus, come! With a splendour of light,
Blazing for us, strike at the god cursed among gods, and save!





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