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Heracles

Heracles
[1340] Alas! this is quite beside the question of my troubles. For my part, I do not believe that the gods indulge in unholy unions; and as for putting bonds on hands, I have never thought that worthy of belief, nor will I now be so persuaded, nor again that one god is naturally lord and master of another. [1345] For the deity, if he be really such, has no wants; these are miserable tales of the poets. But I, for all my piteous plight, reflected whether I should let myself be branded as a coward for giving up my life. For whoever does not withstand disasters [1350] will never be able to withstand even a man's weapon. I will be steadfast in living; I will go to your city, with grateful thanks for all you offer me. He weeps. But I have tasted of countless troubles, as is well known; never yet did I faint at any or shed a single tear; no, nor did I ever think [1355] that I should come to this, to let the tear-drop fall. But now, it seems, I must be fortune's slave.

Well, let it pass; my old father, you see me go forth to exile, and in me you see my own children's murderer. [1360] Give them burial, and lay them out in death with the tribute of a tear, for the law forbids my doing so. Rest their heads upon their mother's bosom and fold them in her arms, sad fellowship, which I, alas! unwittingly did slay. And when you have buried these dead, [1365] live on here still, in bitterness maybe, but still constrain your soul to share my sorrows. O children! he who begot you, your own father, has been your destroyer, and you have had no profit of my triumphs, all my restless toil to win for you by force [1370] a fair name, a glorious advantage from a father. You too, unhappy wife, this hand has slain, a poor return to make you for preserving the honor of my bed so safely, for all the weary watch you long have kept within my house. Alas for you, my wife, my sons! alas for me, [1375] how sad my lot, cut off from wife and child! Ah! these kisses, bitter-sweet! these weapons which it is pain to own! I am not sure whether to keep or let them go; dangling at my side they thus will say, [1380] “With us you destroyed children and wife; we are your children's slayers, and you keep us.” Shall I carry them after that? what answer can I make? Yet, am I to strip myself of these weapons, the comrades of my glorious career in Hellas, and put myself in the power of my foes, to die a death of shame? [1385] No! I must not let them go, but keep them, though it grieves me. In one thing, Theseus, help my misery; come to Argos and help me to manage the conveyance of the wretched dog; lest, if I go all alone, my sorrow for my sons may do me some hurt.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 628
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