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. Father, there are tidings of sorrow for you to bear; no longer do your sons see the light, or your wife, who would always labor to tend your blind footsteps as with a staff.
  2. Alas for you, my father!
  1. Alas for my sorrows! I may well groan and cry. Three lives! Tell me, child, by what fate they left the light.
  1. I do not say this to reproach or mock you, but in sadness: your own avenging curse, with all its load of swords and fire and ruthless war, came on your sons. Alas for you, my father!
  1. Ah me!
  1. Why that groan?
  1. My sons!
  1. You are in pain; but if you could look towards the sun-god’s four-horse chariot and turn the light of your eyes on these corpses—
  1. The evil fate of my sons is clear; but she, my poor wife, tell me, daughter, by what fate did she die?
  1. All saw her weep and heard her moan, as she rushed forth to carry to her sons her last appeal, a mother’s breast.
  2. But the mother found her sons at the Electran gate, in a meadow where the lotus blooms, fighting out their duel with spears, like lions in their lair, eager to wound each other,
  3. a murderous libation of blood already cold, owed to Hades, poured out by Ares. Then, taking from the dead a sword of hammered bronze, she plunged it in her flesh, and in sorrow for her sons fell with her arms around them. So the god who fulfills these sorrows has brought them all together on this day,
  4. father, for our house.
Chorus Leader
  1. Today is the beginning of many troubles to the house of Oedipus; may he live to be more fortunate!
  1. Cease now your lamentations; it is time we thought of
  2. their burial. Hear what I have to say, Oedipus. Eteocles, your son, left me to rule this land, by giving it as a dowry to Haemon with his marriage to your daughter Antigone. Therefore I will no longer allow you to dwell in this land;
  3. for Teiresias clearly said that the city would never prosper as long as you made your home here. So begone! And I say this not in insult, nor because I am your enemy, but from fear that some calamity will come upon the land, through those avenging fiends of yours.
  1. O destiny! From the beginning, how you have created me wretched and unhappy, if any mortal ever was; for before I had left my mother’s womb and seen the light, Apollo foretold to Laius that I, then unborn, should become my father’s murderer; alas for me!
  2. So, as soon as I was born, the father who begot me tried to kill me, thinking me his enemy, for it was fated he should die at my hand; so he sent me unweaned to make a pitiful meal for beasts; I escaped from that— would that Cithaeron
  3. had sunk into hell’s yawning abyss, because it did not destroy me, but . . . Fate made me a slave in the service of Polybus. And I, poor wretch, after slaying my own father came to my mother’s bed, to her sorrow,