The Phoenician Women


Euripides. The Plays of Euripides, Translated into English Prose from the Text of Paley. Vol. II. Coleridge, Edward P., translator. London: George Bell and Sons, 1891.

  1. Meanwhile Antigone crept away from the army. They rushed to their weapons, but by some lucky forethought the people of Cadmus had sat down under arms; and by a sudden attack we surprised the Argive army before it was fully equipped.
  2. Not one withstood our onset, and they filled the plain with fugitives, while blood was streaming from the countless dead our spears had slain. When victory had crowned our warfare, some set up an image of Zeus as a trophy, others were stripping the Argive dead of their shields
  3. and sending their spoils inside the battlements; and others with Antigone are bringing the dead here for their friends to mourn. So for the city, the result of this struggle hovers between the two extremes of good and evil fortune. Exit Messenger.
  1. No longer do the misfortunes of this house extend to hearsay only; three corpses of the slain lie here at the palace for all to see; by one common death they have drawn their lot, a life of darkness.
  1. I do not veil my tender cheek shaded with curls, nor do I feel shame, from maiden modesty, at the dark red beneath my eyes, the blush upon my face, as I hurry on, in bacchic revelry for the dead,
  2. casting from my hair its mantle and letting my delicate saffron robe fly loose, a tearful escort to the dead. Ah me!
  3. Oh, Polyneices! you were rightly named, after all; woe to you, Thebes!
  4. Your strife—not strife, but murder on murder— has brought the house of Oedipus to ruin with dire and grim bloodshed. What harmonious or tuneful wailing can I summon,
  5. for my tears, my tears, oh, my home! oh, my home! as I bear these three kindred bodies, my mother and her sons, a welcome sight to the Fury? She destroyed the house of Oedipus, root and branch,
  6. when his shrewdness solved the Sphinx’s unsolvable song and killed that savage singer. Alas for you, father! What other Hellene or barbarian,
  7. what mortal from a noble line ever endured the anguish of such visible afflictions?
  8. Ah! poor girl, how piteous is your cry!
  9. What bird, perched on the high-leaved branches of oak or pine, will come to mourn with me, left motherless? With cries of woe,
  10. I lament before it comes the piteous lonely life, that I shall live for the rest of time, in streaming tears. On which of these
  11. shall I throw my offerings first, plucking the hair from my head? on the breast of the mother that suckled me, or beside the ghastly death-wounds of my brothers’ corpses?
  12. Oh, oh! Oedipus, my old father with sightless eyes, leave your house, reveal the misery of your life, you who have cast a mist of darkness over your eyes and
  13. draw out a weary existence within the house. Do you hear, you who are wandering with old step across the court, or sleeping on your wretched pallet couch?
  1. Why, daughter,
  2. have you dragged me to the light by your piteous tears, supporting my blind footsteps, from the gloom of my bed-chamber, gray-haired, invisible as a phantom of the air, or as a spirit from the world below, or
  3. as a dream that flies?