The improbable figures and visions presented by the painters of the latter half of the nineteeth century are linked to some of the same sources that poets drew from, and have their origins in much of romantic art. The Swedenborgian vision that inspired William Blake in the latter half of the eighteenth century also influenced many others. In contrast to the civic, outwardly directed messages found in Spanish and Spanish American romanticism, modernismo, in its rediscovery of the romantics and the discovery of the symbolists, focused on human interiority, which is seen to be physiologically and spiritually connected to an outer reality.
In discussing the poets of modernismo Amado Nervo emphasizes the special nature of the poet and the role of introspection in learning to see the interrelationship of outward things:. Pero los sentidos de la especie, singularmente los sentidos del poeta, que es el ser representativo, por excelencia, de la humanidad, se han ido afinando y hemos empezado a ver "hacia dentro. But the species' senses, singularly the poet's senses—who is the representative being, par excellence, of humanity—have been refined and we have begun to look "within.
That, ultimately, all things have a special physiognomy, a soul, a very powerful life; that it is necessary, in the system of the spirit, to place one's ear to the vast breast of the earth to listen to the hundred thousand heartbeats of its hundred thousand hearts; and that to continue singing to the sea, to the mountain, to the sky in that way, in a rough manner, without contemplating their tenuous and infinite marvelous structures, their extremely varied modes of being, their innumerable shades and the miraculous intertwining of their secret affinities, is to offend the sky, the sea and the mountain.
Poetry is to be estranged from all other forms of writing, by virtue of not being used as a measure of exchange. The poet, by using as his material the world's form of exchange, enters into a problematic and paradoxical relationship to it. The poet deals with worldly materials but seeks to transcend them. On a certain level, this refusal to use words for their practical exchange value, or communicative usage, deprives the poet of an active participatory function in external reality.
Edgar Allan Poe is often quoted by the modernista poets in support of their poetic ideals. He stresses the nonreferential aspects of language, comparing poetry to music rather than to other denotative systems:. It is in Music, perhaps, that the soul most nearly attains the great end for which, when inspired by the Poetic Sentiment, it struggles—the. I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is Taste. With the intellect or with the Conscience it has only collateral relations. Unless incidentally it has no concern whatever either with Duty or with Truth.
Not only was Poe's poetry influential, but his theories of poetry were in wide circulation. Defined by Poe, poetry owes no acknowledgment to the outside world for its aims; as in romantic definitions, the role of the poet is bestowed by carpicious destiny. Unlike some romantic ideals, however, for Poe the poet's responsibility does not extend outward toward a greater public.
Baudelaire, whose work almost all the modernistas adapted and admired, emphasized the higher powers that are an attribute of the poet:. In the word, in the Word, there is something sacred that prevents making it into a game of chance. To handle a language wisely is to practice a type of evocative sorcery. Poetry is a sacred rite. Deriving from an inner source, its practice and message are not to be judged by utilitarian standards. To narrate, point out, even to describe is fine, and for exchanging human thought, perhaps it would be sufficient for each one to take or put a coin silently in the hand of another.
The elemental use of discourse communicates the universal reportage in which all genres of contemporary writings, with the exception of literature, participate. In contrast with an easy and representative numeric structure, as the masses treat it in the first place, speech, above all dream and song, recovers in the poet its virtuality, by the necessity of an art dedicated to fictions. Poetry is linked to problems of life and death: The art of poetry, of evocation, is a gift, a superior gift bestowed by grace, not by a set of circumstances or an application to cultivation of forms:.
No simplemente como signo, puesto que no hay antes nada que representar. Et verbum erat Deus. In the beginning is the word as sole representation. Not simply as a sign, since there is nothing beforehand to represent. In the beginning is the word as manifestation of infinite unity, yet already containing it. El verbum erat Deus. The word in itself is nothing more than a sign, or a combination of signs; yet it contains everything due to its demiurgic virtue. Poets such as Lugones and Her-.
They break with a world view profoundly influenced by romanticism and its artistic legacy. Lugones too points out the superior, sacred nature of language and its powers of symbolic expression. But it is its use-value that determines its sacred or profane powers, not its inherent qualities: But it is at the same time a vile instrument that beheads and poisons, when the spirit that moves it has descended into rage against the ideal".
For Lugones, language being an instrument, its use can be cultivated. A richly expressive language can be acquired not only by natural gifts but by incessant study. Verbal equivalents for all emotions may be found with proper application:. Una lengua rica, y sobre todo, una lengua propia. PL  in "Negro y oro". One must possess, above all, a rich language, superlatively rich, to such an extreme that no emotion remains without its real and true expression.
A rich language, and above all, one's own language. This emphasis on the necessary richness of poetic language, the belief in the possibility of extracting the exact expression to express any given emotion, best characterizes the nature of Lugones' poetry. It is also the quality in this verse that has attracted the attention of his most fervent admirers and critics. By directing attention to language as a technical instrument, Lugones initiates a dissonant trend in modern Spanish American poetry. The literary productions and public activities of Leopoldo Lugones are vast in scope.
He wrote eleven volumes of poetry, and his work in prose—novels, histories, biographies, short stories, journalistic prose, translations, and philological studies—is even more diverse. In addition to his writing career, he was a public school official and librarian. In politics he was active as a socialist in his youth, but he later moved from the left to fascism, defending an authoritarian state based on militarism culminating in his now infamous speech, "La hora de la espada.
An overview of the poetic works of Lugones produces amazement in many readers at such producitivity, virtuosity, and technical skill. At the same time there arises a certain distrust for the craftsman who could house so many different types of creation beneath one roof. Lugones' eager acceptance of other literary models, his frequent borrowings or copyings from other writers, and their displacement in different contexts combines to make his work seem willfully contrived.
In addition, the sometimes grudging acclaim accorded Lugones results not only from his multiple literary poses but also from his rapidly changing ideological stances. The diversity of the poetry of Lugones raises the question of the proper critical viewpoint. Is there a unifying personality behind the creative process, or is his work merely a succession of very skilled copyings and reworkings of the material offered to Lugones by his epoch? These questions have been posed ceaselessly by his critics since the first publication of his works.
Yet perhaps this is the wrong approach, that is, the concept of a single unifying presence of author throughout. These texts instead may be analyzed as the productions of a. Different codes are combined, transgressed, and transformed by a series of acceptances and rejections. The work of Lugones is best studied within the context of his epoch, by noting the reception of his work and the network of mutual influences.
For a writer such as Lugones, who delights in the mysterious aspects of poetry and who wholeheartedly accepts the daimonic powers attributed to its execution, the principles and practices of the code of modernismo are a garden of delights. Avidly striving to extend to its limits each convention he adopts, he manipulates modernismo 's varieties of symbols into a series of experiments within a hothouse atmosphere.
In his crossing of different strains of poetic inheritance, Lugones creates strange hybrids. Like the self-generating process of growth, Lugones' productions point back on themselves, reflecting not only their origins but their differences from their models. Among the new productions are creations of exceptional concision and beauty, as well as mutations that seem grotesque by their heightening of certain features, such as rhyme, to the exclusion of others.
In choosing model texts from different contexts and rearranging them within other contextual system, modernista poets did not adopt the total array of meanings associated with a particular sign. In the move from one language to another, from one culture to another, and from an immediate literary text to another, many associations clustered around a particular image or ideogram are lost or rearranged, and new ones emerge.
For example, certain groups of images in Lugones' early work function as automatic signs, signaling a previously established thematic function. These signs operate not only within his particular aesthetic system but relate as well to the conventions of a total cultural system. In tracing the sign system of Lugones to previous and coexisting ones, as well as tracing the pattern of perception and rearrangement of these sign systems, it must be remembered that certain signs may be emptied of their original content and forced to function as different signals in a different context.
It is the pattern of rearrangement and displacement of previously coded signs and not the continuous presence of the signs themselves that reveals con-. The presence of certain codes of imagery is not necessarily the mark of an organically evolving individual system. Always eager to create an impact with his writings, Lugones sought out culturally approved models, particularly foreign ones, on which to pattern his own productions. Exaggeration and elaboration of given patterns are his favored methods for achieving novelty, and he often seems to unwittingly destroy his own foundation by ranging too far from his starting point.
Rather than overt self-expression, one finds in Lugones' poetry a type of ritualized expression. Speaking from the vantage point of first one platform, then another, the succession of stances creates an aura of impersonality. Lugones' writings have provoked a body of criticism that is astounding in the extremes of its passionate acclaim or derision. Appraisals of his work reflect the contradictory impulses that led to his disconcerting mixture of all the models available to him.
Impersonality, virtuosity, and farce are the characteristics most often attributed to Lugones' work. Although his work has undeniably influenced many other writers, his readers have often labeled him as a gigantic misdirected talent. Giusti's review of Lunario sentimental in shows a negative reaction to the effort to achieve constant novelty: It is a difficult question to answer due to the simple fact that he lacks one".
Giusti speaks disparagingly of the heterogeneity of the work, singling out a trait that links Lugones to an important aspect of the modernista movement: There is not an artist whose soul is not dynastic, and for each one we can trace a genealogy; influences are mutual, they are shared, intertwined, joined together. Although we are influenced by one another, we continue to develop our own personality. Lugones' personality is powerful, the most powerful in our America. Why concur in the childish petulance of analyzing his readings? He has read it all; the outside influences, the variety of reminiscences, the trivial and intimate suggestions of sages, poets, anti artists clash in his soul with his own and diverse ideas.
Like Nervo, he considers Lugones' work as evidence of a new spirit in the young generation of Spanish America. The bonds of a mutually supportive fraternity of artists are as evident as his critical viewpoint when he records his first impressions of Lugones in He is one of the "modems", he is part of "Young America".
He and Ricardo Jaimes Freyre are the two most forceful talents to follow the new banners of the continent. He follows the banners due to his temperament of a pure artist, his violent and vibrant spirit, his evident and invincible vocation to suffer under the power of some Pilate of mediocrity. Many writers, however, have not seen these same traits united in Lugones' poetry.
Lugones has always been that way, denying unconsciously in his work the dominant and secret impulses of his soul. We see him change and contradict himself, but we never see him express himself with absolute sincerity. The fact that different generations see Lugones so differently has, obviously, much to do with his political activity and his polemics with other writers. Yet the different criteria applied are also reflections of a differing perception of the poetic function and a changing attitude toward the notion of individuality and the necessity of its expression in poetry.
For contemporaries of Lugones, his verbal excesses create an impact lost to later readers. Lust that is like a design at once detailed and integral in its purpose, like that in the fold of a skirt that lets one see a foot lightly covered by a stocking and through the stocking a rhythmic, serpentine vein on the instep. Winks, fluttering, eyelashes, twistings, postures. Our emotion is like a dark lantern that pierces, untimely, the cubic blackness of rooms. A novelesque instant, from a centripetal novel. There the development of gesture will be telescoped, the winks distorted to grimaces, and theatricality extended to farce and buffoonery.
In the poetic tradition of Argentina, Lugones has been no less polemical a figure. La aventura de 'Martin Fierro'": Y ambas opciones forman una estructura" "From Lugones one learns to write: And both options form a structure". In the vanguardia of the s: For the vanguardistas, Lugones' work served as a symbol of a more traditional aesthetic: A survey of the critical attitudes toward Lugones mirrors almost all the ideological and esthetic debates in Argentina throughout the century. Alfonsina Storni sums up the general attitude of her generation in discussing Lugones shortly after his death in Recognizing him as a rejected master of a generation of poets, parenthetically she lists the lesser attributes of which he also was undisputed master:.
Technical rhyme, restraint in his use of secrecy, insistent search for good language, adscription to the national theme, amatory lyricism of a sacramental order, eclectic influences and desires: Although they admired the ironic and iconoclastic tone of the Lunario and its inventiveness, they rejected what they saw as a narrow-minded attention to form and not to spirit. Criticizing the obvious copyings from Laforgue, they derided Lugones' self-conscious defense of the introduction of these images and forms into Spanish as useful innovation.
They labeled him as a master of style but a poet lacking in inspiration. Poets such as Leopoldo Marechal saw Lugones' adherence to rhyme and to dear formal definitions of poetry as evidence of the mind and spirit of a cataloguer of rhetorical tricks. Lugones is a cold architect of the word; he constructs uninhabitable shelters for the emotions, and his verses have the unhealthy odor of empty houses.
He once said that "rhyme is poetry's repose"; may I add that it is not only its repose but also its sleep and that poetry has fallen asleep forever in his rhymings. Lugones retains rhyme as poetry's last vestige of formalism, and often it dominates his poetry, drawing attention to the mechanics of his verse. Rhyme's presence in the Lunario sentimental illustrates the volume's importance as a bridge between earlier poetry in Spanish and the work of the vanguardistas, who sought to strip poetry of its formal aspects.
It illustrates the "strenuous work of traditional art forms when they work toward effects which later are effortlessly obtained by the new ones. The traces of formalism that defined a former type of poetry remain as a reminder of Lugones' directing principles in art.
Moving in Lunario sentimental toward a poetry whose subject matter defies previous notions of idealism and beauty, Lugones retains the marks of tradition for its form. Other poets, less intent on retaining for poetry its elevated nature, were able to develop fully some of the techniques of the Lunario sentimental. Jorge Luis Borges attributes the inclination to parody or caricature in Lugones' poetry to an overloading process. Cada adjetivo y cada verbo tiene que ser inesperado. Esto lo lleva a set barroco, y es bien sabido que lo barroco engendra su propia parodia.
Each adjective and each verb must be unexpected. This leads him to be baroque, and it is well known that the baroque creates its own parody. In an earlier article, the criticism is more explicit. Borges' statement from "Pala-. Le lengua es edificadora de realidades"  "The apparent world is a jumble of shuffled perceptions.
Language is the builder of realities". This reconciliation was to be followed by a reordering of other categories, thus creating new ways of viewing the world. The Lunario 's element of surprise, its devaluation and reevalution of previous poetic hierarchies, constituted its appeal for the new group of poets. What they refused in the Lunario, however, was its insistence on rhyme, an element they found unnecessary, just as they saw the definition of poetry as music as unnecessary.
Poetry did not have to fit into any formal patterns. It was to be an end in itself. After Lunario sentimental Lugones will cling to rhyme as the last remnant of an earlier order and will turn his back on the territories into which he has ventured. This time its path will be more closely circumscribed, and the glories of a more parochial world will be extolled. As Lugones draws back again to achieve panoramic balance, the colloquial phrases and prosaic moments will be integrated into an encompassing view of the "patria" or "homeland.
He will draw together disparate elements under the composition of a grand portrait. The harmonies will be justified by their approximation to song, this time of a more local cadence. Once an iconoclastic innovator, Lugones will become a rhymer, His poetic journey, at once the most rapid and widely ranging of any modernista poet, will end back at the doorstep, praising the "latinidad" the "Latinity" of a cultural order now undergoing radical upheaval. Avid experimentation becomes dogmatic adherence to rigid aesthetic principles in his later. Lugones' new paths met more success in prose than in poetry.
His poetic work now begins to be received as a rigid form, serving only as an opposing force rather than as an inspiration. Despite his rejection by younger poets, however, he is nonetheless seen as the master craftsman, the perfect stylist. Some of the comments recorded in a survey by the magazine Nosotros in illustrate his position as an influence, even a negative one.
Time and again Lugones is mentioned as an important influence, but is also constantly disparaged as a failed talent: Others speak of his "dudoso gusto" "questionable taste" and mention that, "Lugones, como poeta, no tiene personalidad, a pesar de su gran talento" "Lugones, as a poet, lacks personality, in spite of his great talent".
Lugones, in an effort to make his poetry resistant to a cursory reading, falls prey to a selfgenerating parody. In faithful adherence to his models, he overloads his productions, always walking a tightrope between the truly striking and the jangling contortions of sound and imagery systems. Jorge Luis Borges, once one of Lugones' sternest critics and more recently one of his defenders, never fails even in his most favorable statements to point out obliquely Lugones' failings. Borges has explained his debts to Lugones, his admiration for him, and even his dislike for him in diverse writings.
What seems to interest Borges most about Lugones is his personality and its reflection, or suppression, in his writings, as in the statement: Lugones, one could say, is somewhat distanced from his work; this is rarely the immediate voice of intimacy but an object elaborated by him. Instead of innocent expression we find a system of clever resources, a game of rhetorical skill. Rarely has a feeling been the point of departure for his work; he had the habit of imposing upon himself incidental themes and working them out through technical means.
Having followed a path similar to Lugones' up to a certain point—working within highly acclaimed distant models and theorizing about literature as a world of its own which provides directing force for other systems—Borges also exaggerated his own mannered style until it could no longer be controlled without a willed acceptance of its limitations.
Recognizing, unlike Lugones, that any literary system is but a manipulation of a certain set of devices, he concentrates on available energies and thus is able to move into new territories. An ironic stance allows Borges to begin again when the recognition comes that no more originality is to be found in the same source. When Lugones reaches this point, at the time of Lunario sentimental, the ironic self-knowledge of the poet as trickster and manipulator stops the process of renewals.
He turns back to accustomed territory and familiar ground, clinging to rhyme and to elaborately worked metaphors. Rather than leaving the earlier frameworks in shambles and going on to work through ambiguity about the poet's function, Lugones returns to recognizable, comfortable harmonies. In the collection of Borges' statements about Lugones, what begins to emerge is an ironic self-portrait of Borges himself. Borges comments on Lugones' successive use of masks along with his alienation.
For Borges, the fact that these poses or styles were sequential and not simultaneous points out Lugones'. Lugones' attempts to aestheticize and, at the same time, to caricature his own experience, avoid the demand for moral sincerity. Borges also repeatedly stresses Lugones' insistence on the use of language as a logical instrument in the same manner he stresses the use of logic in his essay "Quevedo" from Otras inquisiciones. In his statements on Lugones, Borges makes analogies between Lugones and himself as well as with his entire generation.
It is as if Borges presented Lugones as a prefiguration of himself, for both undergo a continual extinction and invention of new personalities in their roles as writers. Lugones, like Borges, was concerned with his standing as a poet in the eyes of future generations, and even the choice of prose or poetry for the two was not always clear.
Borges has accorded to Lugones a rather dubious distinction in the light of the century's teevaluations of poetry. It may not be impossible to think that critics of some remote future may judge today's poets as facets or hypostases of Lugones. Such a stance is in striking contrast to his earlier vehement criticism of Lugones, as in his introductory comments to an anthology of , where he proclaims the end of "rubenismo. Rubendarismo was our homesickness for Europe. It was a loose ribbon of nostalgia, thrown to the towers; it was a long goodbye, and it watered the Atlantic winds; it was a way for us to feel foreign, unhappy, and refined.
Few writers of his epoch were as vehement as Lugones in espousing the civilizing aims of art. His rigid adherence to poetry's most obvious mark of form, that of rhyme, set him up for a whole generation's parodies of his work. What is less obvious beneath so many of his exalted pronouncements, as in the preface to Lunario sentimental, is his steady undercutting of his own preachings. Willful twistings of rhyme, meter, and grotesque exaggerations of form in general mark much of his verse. In this sense, Lugones' work is one of the most dynamic productions of modernismo.
Although to many modern readers its overloading makes it inaccessible, if not unpleasant, some of his closer contemporaries saw his work through eyes trained otherwise. It was like an opening of new territory, one which took its standards not from the museums of Europe, but from the everyday scenery. They threaten to redirect our. At times the rhyme and the images appear to be going in opposite directions. Azure skies give way to disturbingly frenzied fireworks spectacles, and even its viewers are discordant elements.
They are just the lower middle class out for a treat, not the usual audiences of fine artistic productions. The urban element in Lugones' poetry is an exceedingly rich vein that later poets mined with greater clarity. Lugones wrote on the eve of great changes in his society. An order to which he eagerly was attaching himself found its foundations crumbling. While early on the provincial is used in his poetry as a fresh and often subtle contrast to scenes of purple passion, it later becomes a refuge of tradition, of the unchanging, a tribute to a more "natural" order than the dissolving and tumultuous rearranging of heirarchies in Buenos Aires.
Within modernismo the problem of"originality" presents fascinating perspectives. Lugones, in particular, with his self-avowed "modelings" on already consecrated writers Dante, Hugo, Whitman, to name three of his early heroes is often so startlingly obvious in his antecedents or literary fathers  that the question of literary propriety comes into play.
In search for a coherent system of symbolic systems or ideologies which would explain the changing nature of Lugones' writings, many critics have looked at his personal and public life as parallel activities that could explain the diversity of his writings. Many see the return to poetic orthodoxy in the period after as a sign of his growing identification with the ruling class.
In examining Lugones' poetry in reference to other writings in circulation at the time, it is clear, however, that Lugones always selected frameworks from highly prized models. There is no abrupt break from the revolutionary stance expounded in early journalistic writings and poetry, to the aggressive mockery in Lunario sentimental, and to the later publications such as Los horas doradas. As will be shown later, certain themes and poetic treatments as well as ideological stances recur with great regularity. Lugones was conscious of his models and their social and symbolic importance, as is evident in his method of grouping poems in collections.
His view of the poetic function, different from that of other modernistas, provides the link among different types of poetry. Highly conscious of the literary models in circulation, and of their relative importance, Lugones did not aim so much for originality of concept as for an artful reworking of given patterns. With an emphasis on poetry not as an alternate reality but as a pattern of perception transmittable to a public at large, the technical aspects of writing acquired even greater importance.
Since the stated intention was to affect a readership and to redirect its aims, the importance of personal experience as reflected in poetry was also to be diminished. Poetry's function was not to mirror interiority but to present a transpersonal vision. The different stages in Lugones' view of the function of poetry, as seen in his expository prose and in the poetry itself, may be termed an "evolution" in the sense that the changes in the theory and practice of poetry show a process of adaptation to model texts in circulation.
The process of evolution, a concept. Lugones often applied to the course of humanity in general and to poetry in particular, provided for him a rationalization of the ongoing process of assimilation and change, even though the changes might not seem to fit within a coherent personal viewpoint. Eclecticism, one of the traits of modernista poetry in general, was carried to extremes by Lugones.
The necessity of continuity was not valid for him, except in the larger sense of the function of literature. To view Lugones' poetic system as a strictly individual one, cutting it off from its historical context, would rob it of wider implications. Lugones did not produce his texts in a vacuum nor, on the other hand, can one establish a series of one-to-one correspondences between his work and that of his predecessors. These correspondences do, however, refer back to a pattern he will often subvert. The models of Lugones' early systems of imagery and their ideological associations are clearly apparent, partly because of similarity and partly because Lugones copiously cited his models, paying homage to his literary ancestors and, perhaps, attempting to elevate his own works by association with already canonized writers.
The identification of the many influences on his thought and poetry has already been accomplished. Yet the listing of these influences or models leads to little understanding of Lugones' production itself. The pattern of reception and assimilation of these influences is the key to understanding the synthesis that he created from many sources. One may, for example, look at the impact of Victor Hugo and Nietzsche on Lugones' system of aesthetics and political ideals.
Although those writers are widely separated chronologically and philosophically, Lugones studies them simultaneously, assimilating their ideas into a new amalgam, resolving their contradiction for his own purposes. Selections from Lugones' early prose writings help identify his methods in approaching his models. The writings to be examined present his appraisals of different texts no matter what their nature. A passage from an article of succinctly. Its description of the poetic function is a constant in Lugones' work.
When I mingled with other families I distinctly discerned how peculiarly fortunate my lot was, and gratitude assisted the development of filial love. My temper was sometimes violent, and my passions vehement; but by some law in my temperature they were turned not towards childish pursuits but to an eager desire to learn, and not to learn all things indiscriminately.
I confess that neither the structure of languages, nor the code of governments, nor the politics of various states possessed attractions for me. It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or in it highest sense, the physical secrets of the world. Meanwhile Clerval occupied himself, so to speak, with the moral relations of things. The busy stage of life, the virtues of heroes, and the actions of men were his theme; and his hope and his dream was to become one among those whose names are recorded in story as the gallant and adventurous benefactors of our Spanish adventurous: Mary Shelley 27 species.
The saintly soul of Elizabeth shone like a shrine-dedicated lamp in our peaceful home. Her sympathy was ours; her smile, her soft voice, the sweet glance of her celestial eyes, were ever there to bless and animate us. She was the living spirit of love to soften and attract; I might have become sullen in my study, through the ardour of my nature, but that she was there to subdue me to a semblance of her own gentleness.
And Clerval—could aught ill entrench on the noble spirit of Clerval? Yet he might not have been so perfectly humane, so thoughtful in his generosity, so full of kindness and tenderness amidst his passion for adventurous exploit, had she not unfolded to him the real loveliness of beneficence and made the doing good the end and aim of his soaring ambition.
Besides, in drawing the picture of my early days, I also record those events which led, by insensible steps, to my after tale of misery, for when I would account to myself for the birth of that passion which afterwards ruled my destiny I find it arise, like a mountain river, from ignoble and almost forgotten sources; but, swelling as it proceeded, it became the torrent which, in its course, has swept away all my hopes and joys.
Collected Works of Poe, Volume IV (Webster's Spanish Thesaurus Edition) - PDF Free Download
Natural philosophy is the genius that has regulated my fate; I desire, therefore, in this narration, to state those facts which led to my predilection for that science. When I was thirteen years of age we all went on a party of pleasure to the baths near Thonon; the inclemency of the weather obliged us to remain a day confined to the inn. In this house I chanced to find a volume of the works of Cornelius Agrippa. I opened it with apathy; the theory which he attempts to demonstrate and the wonderful facts which he relates soon changed this feeling into enthusiasm. A new light seemed to dawn upon my mind, and bounding with joy, I communicated my discovery to my father.
My dear Victor, do not waste your time upon this; it is sad trash. It is even possible that the train of my ideas would never have received the fatal impulse that led to my ruin. But the cursory glance my father had taken of my volume by no means assured me that he was acquainted with its contents, and I continued to read with the greatest avidity. When I returned home my first care was to procure the whole works of this author, and afterwards of Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus. I read and studied the wild fancies of these writers with delight; they appeared to me treasures known to few besides myself.
I have described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature. In spite of the intense labour and wonderful discoveries of modern philosophers, I always came from my studies discontented and unsatisfied. Sir Isaac Newton is said to have avowed that he felt like a child picking up shells beside the great and unexplored ocean of truth.
The untaught peasant beheld the elements around him and was acquainted with their practical uses. The most learned philosopher knew little more. He had partially unveiled the face of Nature, but her immortal lineaments were still a wonder and a mystery. He might dissect, anatomize, and give names; but, not to speak of a final cause, causes in their secondary and tertiary grades were utterly unknown to him.
I had gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly and ignorantly I had repined. But here were books, and here were men who had penetrated deeper and knew more. I took their word for all that they averred, and I became their Spanish anatomize: Mary Shelley 29 disciple.
Wealth was an inferior object, but what glory would attend the discovery if I could banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death! Nor were these my only visions.
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The raising of ghosts or devils was a promise liberally accorded by my favourite authors, the fulfillment of which I most eagerly sought; and if my incantations were always unsuccessful, I attributed the failure rather to my own inexperience and mistake than to a want of skill or fidelity in my instructors. And thus for a time I was occupied by exploded systems, mingling, like an unadept, a thousand contradictory theories and floundering desperately in a very slough of multifarious knowledge, guided by an ardent imagination and childish reasoning, till an accident again changed the current of my ideas.
When I was about fifteen years old we had retired to our house near Belrive, when we witnessed a most violent and terrible thunderstorm. It advanced from behind the mountains of Jura, and the thunder burst at once with frightful loudness from various quarters of the heavens. I remained, while the storm lasted, watching its progress with curiosity and delight.
As I stood at the door, on a sudden I beheld a stream of fire issue from an old and beautiful oak which stood about twenty yards from our house; and so soon as the dazzling light vanished, the oak had disappeared, and nothing remained but a blasted stump. When we visited it the next morning, we found the tree shattered in a singular manner.
It was not splintered by the shock, but entirely reduced to thin ribbons of wood. I never beheld anything so utterly destroyed. Before this I was not unacquainted with the more obvious laws of electricity. On this occasion a man of great research in natural philosophy was with us, and excited by this catastrophe, he entered on the explanation of a theory which he Spanish accorded: All that he said threw greatly into the shade Cornelius Agrippa, Albertus Magnus, and Paracelsus, the lords of my imagination; but by some fatality the overthrow of these men disinclined me to pursue my accustomed studies.
It seemed to me as if nothing would or could ever be known. All that had so long engaged my attention suddenly grew despicable. By one of those caprices of the mind which we are perhaps most subject to in early youth, I at once gave up my former occupations, set down natural history and all its progeny as a deformed and abortive creation, and entertained the greatest disdain for a would-be science which could never even step within the threshold of real knowledge.
In this mood of mind I betook myself to the mathematics and the branches of study appertaining to that science as being built upon secure foundations, and so worthy of my consideration. When I look back, it seems to me as if this almost miraculous change of inclination and will was the immediate suggestion of the guardian angel of my life—the last effort made by the spirit of preservation to avert the storm that was even then hanging in the stars and ready to envelop me.
Her victory was announced by an unusual tranquillity and gladness of soul which followed the relinquishing of my ancient and latterly tormenting studies. It was thus that I was to be taught to associate evil with their prosecution, happiness with their disregard. It was a strong effort of the spirit of good, but it was ineffectual.
Destiny was too potent, and her immutable laws had decreed my utter and terrible destruction. I had hitherto attended the schools of Geneva, but my father thought it necessary for the completion of my education that I should be made acquainted with other customs than those of my native country. My departure was therefore fixed at an early date, but before the day resolved upon could arrive, the first misfortune of my life occurred—an omen, as it were, of my future misery.
Elizabeth had caught the scarlet fever; her illness was severe, and she was in the greatest danger. During her illness many arguments had been urged to persuade my mother to refrain from attending upon her. She had at first yielded to our entreaties, but when she heard that the life of her favourite was menaced, she could no longer control her anxiety.
She attended her sickbed; her watchful attentions triumphed over the malignity of the distemper—Elizabeth was saved, but the consequences of this imprudence were fatal to her preserver. On the third day my mother sickened; her fever was accompanied by the most alarming symptoms, and the looks of her medical attendants prognosticated the worst event. On her deathbed the fortitude and benignity of this best of women did not desert her. She joined the hands of Elizabeth and myself. This expectation will now be the consolation of your father. Elizabeth, my love, you must supply Spanish alarming: I regret that I am taken from you; and, happy and beloved as I have been, is it not hard to quit you all?
But these are not thoughts befitting me; I will endeavour to resign myself cheerfully to death and will indulge a hope of meeting you in another world. I need not describe the feelings of those whose dearest ties are rent by that most irreparable evil, the void that presents itself to the soul, and the despair that is exhibited on the countenance.
It is so long before the mind can persuade itself that she whom we saw every day and whose very existence appeared a part of our own can have departed forever—that the brightness of a beloved eye can have been extinguished and the sound of a voice so familiar and dear to the ear can be hushed, never more to be heard. These are the reflections of the first days; but when the lapse of time proves the reality of the evil, then the actual bitterness of grief commences. Yet from whom has not that rude hand rent away some dear connection? And why should I describe a sorrow which all have felt, and must feel?
The time at length arrives when grief is rather an indulgence than a necessity; and the smile that plays upon the lips, although it may be deemed a sacrilege, is not banished. My mother was dead, but we had still duties which we ought to perform; we must continue our course with the rest and learn to think ourselves fortunate whilst one remains whom the spoiler has not seized.
My departure for Ingolstadt, which had been deferred by these events, was now again determined upon. I obtained from my father a respite of some weeks. It appeared to me sacrilege so soon to leave the repose, akin to death, of the house of mourning and to rush into the thick of life. I was new to sorrow, but it did not the less alarm me. I was unwilling to quit the sight of those that remained to me, and above all, I desired to see my sweet Elizabeth in some degree consoled.
She indeed veiled her grief and strove to act the comforter to us all. She looked steadily on life and assumed its duties with courage and zeal. She devoted herself to those whom she had been taught to call her uncle and cousins. Mary Shelley 33 Never was she so enchanting as at this time, when she recalled the sunshine of her smiles and spent them upon us.
The Dissonant Legacy of Modernismo
She forgot even her own regret in her endeavours to make us forget. Clerval spent the last evening with us. He had endeavoured to persuade his father to permit him to accompany me and to become my fellow student, but in vain. His father was a narrow-minded trader and saw idleness and ruin in the aspirations and ambition of his son. Henry deeply felt the misfortune of being debarred from a liberal education.
He said little, but when he spoke I read in his kindling eye and in his animated glance a restrained but firm resolve not to be chained to the miserable details of commerce. I threw myself into the chaise that was to convey me away and indulged in the most melancholy reflections. I, who had ever been surrounded by amiable companions, continually engaged in endeavouring to bestow mutual pleasure—I was now alone.
In the university whither I was going I must form my own friends and be my own protector. My life had hitherto been remarkably secluded and domestic, and this had given me invincible repugnance to new countenances. Such were my reflections as I commenced my journey; but as I proceeded, my spirits and hopes rose. I ardently desired the acquisition of knowledge.
I had often, when at home, thought it hard to remain during my youth cooped up in one place and had longed to enter the world and take my Spanish accompany: Now my desires were complied with, and it would, indeed, have been folly to repent. I had sufficient leisure for these and many other reflections during my journey to Ingolstadt, which was long and fatiguing. At length the high white steeple of the town met my eyes. I alighted and was conducted to my solitary apartment to spend the evening as I pleased.
Krempe, professor of natural philosophy. He was an uncouth man, but deeply imbued in the secrets of his science. He asked me several questions concerning my progress in the different branches of science appertaining to natural philosophy. I replied carelessly, and partly in contempt, mentioned the names of my alchemists as the principal authors I had studied.
You have burdened your memory with exploded systems and useless names. In what desert land have you lived, where no one was kind enough to inform you that these fancies which you have so greedily imbibed are a thousand years old and as musty as they are ancient? I little expected, in this enlightened and scientific age, to find a disciple of Albertus Magnus and Paracelsus. My dear sir, you must begin your studies entirely anew. Waldman, a fellow professor, would lecture upon chemistry the alternate days that he omitted. Krempe was a little squat man with a gruff voice and a repulsive countenance; the teacher, therefore, did not prepossess me in favour of his pursuits.
In rather a too philosophical and connected a strain, perhaps, I have given an account of the conclusions I had come to concerning them in my early years. As a child I had not been content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science. With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by my extreme youth and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time and exchanged the discoveries of recent inquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchemists.
Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different when the masters of the science sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand; but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the inquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded.
I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth. Such were my reflections during the first two or three days of my residence at Ingolstadt, which were chiefly spent in becoming acquainted with the localities and the principal residents in my new abode. But as the ensuing week commenced, I thought of the information which M. Krempe had given me concerning the lectures. And although I could not consent to go and hear that little conceited fellow deliver sentences out of a pulpit, I recollected what he had said of M. Waldman, whom I had never seen, as he had hitherto been out of town.
Partly from curiosity and partly from idleness, I went into the lecturing room, which M. Waldman entered shortly after. This professor was very unlike his colleague. He appeared about fifty years of age, but with an aspect expressive of the greatest benevolence; a few grey hairs covered his temples, but those at the back of his head were nearly black. His person was short but remarkably erect Spanish accounted: He began his lecture by a recapitulation of the history of chemistry and the various improvements made by different men of learning, pronouncing with fervour the names of the most distinguished discoverers.
He then took a cursory view of the present state of the science and explained many of its elementary terms. After having made a few preparatory experiments, he concluded with a panegyric upon modern chemistry, the terms of which I shall never forget: The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera but these philosophers, whose hands seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles.
They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They have acquired new and almost unlimited powers; they can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows. As he went on I felt as if my soul were grappling with a palpable enemy; one by one the various keys were touched which formed the mechanism of my being; chord after chord was sounded, and soon my mind was filled with one thought, one conception, one purpose.
So much has been done, exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation. I closed not my eyes that night.
My internal being was in a state of insurrection and turmoil; I felt that order would thence arise, but I had no power to produce it. There only remained a resolution to return to my ancient studies and to devote myself to a science for which I believed myself to possess a natural talent. On the same day I paid M. His manners in private were even more mild and attractive than in public, for there was a certain dignity in his mien during his lecture which in his own house was replaced by the greatest affability and kindness.
I gave him pretty nearly the same account of my former pursuits as I had given to his fellow professor. He heard with attention the little narration concerning my studies and smiled at the names of Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus, but without the contempt that M. They had left to us, as an easier task, to give new names and arrange in connected classifications the facts which they in a great degree had been the instruments of bringing to light. The labours of men of genius, however erroneously directed, scarcely ever fail in ultimately turning to the solid advantage of mankind.
I requested his advice concerning the books I ought to procure. Chemistry is that branch of natural philosophy in which the greatest improvements have been and may be made; it is on that account that I have made it my peculiar study; but at the same time, I have not neglected the other branches of science. A man would make but a very sorry chemist if he attended to that department of human knowledge alone. If your wish is to become really a man of science and not merely a petty experimentalist, I should advise you to apply to every branch of natural philosophy, including mathematics.
He also gave me the list of books which I had requested, and I took my leave. I read with ardour those works, so full of genius and discrimination, which modern inquirers have written on these subjects. I attended the lectures and cultivated the acquaintance of the men of science of the university, and I found even in M. Krempe a great deal of sound sense and real information, combined, it is true, with a repulsive physiognomy and manners, but not on that account the less valuable.
Waldman I found a true friend. His gentleness was never tinged by dogmatism, and his instructions were given with an air of frankness and good nature that banished every idea of pedantry. In a thousand ways he smoothed for me the path of knowledge and made the most abstruse inquiries clear and facile to my apprehension. My application was at first fluctuating and uncertain; it gained strength as I proceeded and soon became so ardent and eager that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.
As I applied so closely, it may be easily conceived that my progress was rapid. My ardour was indeed the astonishment of the students, and my proficiency that of the masters. Professor Krempe often asked me, with a sly smile, how Cornelius Agrippa went on, whilst M. Waldman expressed the most heartfelt exultation in my progress. Two years passed in this manner, during Spanish abstruse: None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder.
A mind of moderate capacity which closely pursues one study must infallibly arrive at great proficiency in that study; and I, who continually sought the attainment of one object of pursuit and was solely wrapped up in this, improved so rapidly that at the end of two years I made some discoveries in the improvement of some chemical instruments, which procured me great esteem and admiration at the university. When I had arrived at this point and had become as well acquainted with the theory and practice of natural philosophy as depended on the lessons of any of the professors at Ingolstadt, my residence there being no longer conducive to my improvements, I thought of returning to my friends and my native town, when an incident happened that protracted my stay.
Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of life proceed? It was a bold question, and one which has ever been considered as a mystery; yet with how many things are we upon the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries. I revolved these circumstances in my mind and determined thenceforth to apply myself more particularly to those branches of natural philosophy which relate to physiology. Unless I had been animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm, my application to this study would have been irksome and almost intolerable.
To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death. I became acquainted with the science of anatomy, but this was not sufficient; I must also observe the natural decay and corruption of the human body. In my education my father had taken the greatest precautions that my mind should be impressed with no supernatural horrors. I do not ever remember to have trembled at a tale of superstition or to have feared the apparition of a spirit. Darkness had no effect upon my fancy, and a Spanish anatomy: Mary Shelley 41 churchyard was to me merely the receptacle of bodies deprived of life, which, from being the seat of beauty and strength, had become food for the worm.
Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses. My attention was fixed upon every object the most insupportable to the delicacy of the human feelings. I saw how the fine form of man was degraded and wasted; I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.
The sun does not more certainly shine in the heavens than that which I now affirm is true. Some miracle might have produced it, yet the stages of the discovery were distinct and probable. After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter. The astonishment which I had at first experienced on this discovery soon gave place to delight and rapture.
After so much time spent in painful labour, to arrive at once at the summit of my desires was the most gratifying consummation of my toils. But this discovery was so great and overwhelming that all the steps by which I had been progressively led to it were obliterated, and I beheld only the result.
- Not So Forbidden Love?
- Curses, A Mobley Meadows Novel.
What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp. Not that, like a magic scene, it all opened upon me at once: I will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I then was, to your destruction and infallible misery. Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.
When I found so astonishing a power placed within my hands, I hesitated a long time concerning the manner in which I should employ it. Although I possessed the capacity of bestowing animation, yet to prepare a frame for the reception of it, with all its intricacies of fibres, muscles, and veins, still remained a work of inconceivable difficulty and labour. I doubted at first whether I should attempt the creation of a being like myself, or one of simpler organization; but my imagination was too much exalted by my first success to permit me to doubt of my ability to give life to an animal as complete and wonderful as man.
The materials at present within my command hardly appeared adequate to so arduous an undertaking, but I doubted not that I should ultimately succeed. I prepared myself for a multitude of reverses; my operations might be incessantly baffled, and at last my work be imperfect, yet when I considered the improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged to hope my present attempts would at least lay the foundations of future success.
Nor could I consider the magnitude and complexity of my plan as any argument of its impracticability. It was with these feelings that I began the creation of a human being. As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature, that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionably large. After having formed this determination and Spanish aided: Mary Shelley 43 having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began.
Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world. A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs.
Pursuing these reflections, I thought that if I could bestow animation upon lifeless matter, I might in process of time although I now found it impossible renew life where death had apparently devoted the body to corruption. These thoughts supported my spirits, while I pursued my undertaking with unremitting ardour. My cheek had grown pale with study, and my person had become emaciated with confinement. Sometimes, on the very brink of certainty, I failed; yet still I clung to the hope which the next day or the next hour might realize. One secret which I alone possessed was the hope to which I had dedicated myself; and the moon gazed on my midnight labours, while, with unrelaxed and breathless eagerness, I pursued nature to her hiding-places.
Who shall conceive the horrors of my secret toil as I dabbled among the unhallowed damps of the grave or tortured the living animal to animate the lifeless clay? My limbs now tremble, and my eyes swim with the remembrance; but then a resistless and almost frantic impulse urged me forward; I seemed to have lost all soul or sensation but for this one pursuit.
It was indeed but a passing trance, that only made me feel with renewed acuteness so soon as, the unnatural stimulus ceasing to operate, I had returned to my old habits. I collected bones from charnel- houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame. In a solitary chamber, or rather cell, at the top of the house, and separated from all the other apartments by a gallery and staircase, I kept my workshop of filthy creation; my eyeballs were starting from their sockets in attending to the details of my employment.
The dissecting room and the slaughter- house furnished many of my materials; and often did my human Spanish acuteness: It was a most beautiful season; never did the fields bestow a more plentiful harvest or the vines yield a more luxuriant vintage, but my eyes were insensible to the charms of nature. And the same feelings which made me neglect the scenes around me caused me also to forget those friends who were so many miles absent, and whom I had not seen for so long a time.
I knew my silence disquieted them, and I well remembered the words of my father: You must pardon me if I regard any interruption in your correspondence as a proof that your other duties are equally neglected. I wished, as it were, to procrastinate all that related to my feelings of affection until the great object, which swallowed up every habit of my nature, should be completed. I then thought that my father would be unjust if he ascribed my neglect to vice or faultiness on my part, but I am now convinced that he was justified in conceiving that I should not be altogether free from blame.
A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquillity. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind. If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquillity of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved, Caesar would have spared his country, America would have been Spanish alloy: Mary Shelley 45 discovered more gradually, and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.
My father made no reproach in his letters and only took notice of my science by inquiring into my occupations more particularly than before. Winter, spring, and summer passed away during my labours; but I did not watch the blossom or the expanding leaves—sights which before always yielded me supreme delight—so deeply was I engrossed in my occupation.
The leaves of that year had withered before my work drew near to a close, and now every day showed me more plainly how well I had succeeded. But my enthusiasm was checked by my anxiety, and I appeared rather like one doomed by slavery to toil in the mines, or any other unwholesome trade than an artist occupied by his favourite employment. Every night I was oppressed by a slow fever, and I became nervous to a most painful degree; the fall of a leaf startled me, and I shunned my fellow creatures as if I had been guilty of a crime.
Sometimes I grew alarmed at the wreck I perceived that I had become; the energy of my purpose alone sustained me: With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.
It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs. How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had Spanish accomplishment: Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep. At length lassitude succeeded to the tumult I had before endured, and I threw myself on the bed in my clothes, endeavouring to seek a few moments of forgetfulness.
But it was in vain; I slept, indeed, but I was disturbed by the wildest dreams. I thought I saw Elizabeth, in the bloom of health, walking in the streets of Ingolstadt. Delighted and surprised, I embraced her, but as I imprinted the first kiss on her lips, they became livid with the hue of death; her features appeared to change, and I thought that I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the graveworms crawling in the folds of the flannel. I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed; when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created.
He held up the curtain of the bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks. He might have spoken, but I did not hear; one hand was stretched out, seemingly to detain me, but I escaped and rushed downstairs.
I took refuge in the courtyard belonging to the house which I inhabited, where I remained during the rest of the night, walking up and down in the greatest agitation, listening attentively, catching and fearing each sound as if it were to announce the approach of the demoniacal corpse to which I had so miserably given life. No mortal could support the horror of that countenance.
A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived. I passed the night wretchedly. Sometimes my pulse beat so quickly and hardly that I felt the palpitation of every artery; at others, I nearly sank to the Spanish artery: Mingled with this horror, I felt the bitterness of disappointment; dreams that had been my food and pleasant rest for so long a space were now become a hell to me; and the change was so rapid, the overthrow so complete!
Morning, dismal and wet, at length dawned and discovered to my sleepless and aching eyes the church of Ingolstadt, its white steeple and clock, which indicated the sixth hour. The porter opened the gates of the court, which had that night been my asylum, and I issued into the streets, pacing them with quick steps, as if I sought to avoid the wretch whom I feared every turning of the street would present to my view.
I did not dare return to the apartment which I inhabited, but felt impelled to hurry on, although drenched by the rain which poured from a black and comfortless sky. I traversed the streets without any clear conception of where I was or what I was doing. My heart palpitated in the sickness of fear, and I hurried on with irregular steps, not daring to look about me: Like one who, on a lonely road, Doth walk in fear and dread, And, having once turned round, walks on, And turns no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread.
Continuing thus, I came at length opposite to the inn at which the various diligences and carriages usually stopped. Here I paused, I knew not why; but I remained some minutes with my eyes fixed on a coach that was coming towards me from the other end of the street. As it drew nearer I observed that it was the Swiss diligence; it stopped just where I was standing, and on the door being opened, I perceived Henry Clerval, who, on seeing me, instantly sprung out. I grasped his hand, and in a moment forgot my horror and misfortune; I felt suddenly, and for the first time during many months, calm and serene joy.
I welcomed my friend, therefore, in the most cordial manner, and we walked towards my college. We are far off, but sure our voice can reach. If aught thou wouldst beseech, Speak where 'tis right; till then refrain from speech. We must obey and do as here they do. Lead maiden, thou canst guide him where we will. In a strange land strange thou art; To her will incline thy heart; Honor whatso'er the State Honors, all she frowns on hate.
Sophocles 85 Counsel freely may exchange Nor with fate and fortune fight. Go no further than that rocky floor. Yes, advance no more. Move sideways towards the ledge, And sit thee crouching on the scarped edge. Thy steps to my steps, lean thine aged frame on mine. Wanderer, now thou art at rest, Tell me of thy birth and home, From what far country art thou come, Led on thy weary way, declare!
O forbear-- Spanish advance: What is it, old man, that thou wouldst conceal? Speak, for thou standest on the slippery verge. Come, Sir, why dally thus! Forth from our borders speed ye both! Heaven's justice never smites Him who ill with ill requites. But if guile with guile contend, Bane, not blessing, is the end. Arise, begone and take thee hence straightway, Lest on our land a heavier curse thou lay. O with a gracious nod Grant us the nigh despaired-of boon we crave?
Hear us, O hear, But all that ye hold dear, Wife, children, homestead, hearth and God! Where will you find one, search ye ne'er so well. Who 'scapes perdition if a god impel! Surely we pity thee and him alike Daughter of Oedipus, for your distress; But as we reverence the decrees of Heaven We cannot say aught other than we said. Are they not vanity?
For, look you, now Athens is held of States the most devout, Athens alone gives hospitality And shelters the vexed stranger, so men say. Have I found so? I whom ye dislodged First from my seat of rock and now would drive Forth from your land, dreading my name alone; For me you surely dread not, nor my deeds, Spanish aught: Yet am I then A villain born because in self-defense, Striken, I struck the striker back again?
E'en had I known, no villainy 'twould prove: But all unwitting whither I went, I went-To ruin; my destroyers knew it well, Wherefore, I pray you, sirs, in Heaven's name, Even as ye bade me quit my seat, defend me. O pay not a lip service to the gods And wrong them of their dues. Bethink ye well, The eye of Heaven beholds the just of men, And the unjust, nor ever in this world Has one sole godless sinner found escape. Stand then on Heaven's side and never blot Athens' fair scutcheon by abetting wrong. I came to you a suppliant, and you pledged Your honor; O preserve me to the end, O let not this marred visage do me wrong!
A holy and god-fearing man is here Whose coming purports comfort for your folk. And when your chief arrives, whoe'er he be, Then shall ye have my story and know all. Meanwhile I pray you do me no despite. The plea thou urgest, needs must give us pause, Set forth in weighty argument, but we Must leave the issue with the ruling powers. In his ancestral seat; a messenger, The same who sent us here, is gone for him. Aye, that he will, when once he learns thy name. The way is long, And many travelers pass to speed the news. Be sure he'll hear and hasten, never fear; So wide and far thy name is noised abroad, That, were he ne'er so spent and loth to move, He would bestir him when he hears of thee.
Who serves his neighbor serves himself. What can I say or think? I see a woman Riding upon a colt of Aetna's breed; She wears for headgear a Thessalian hat Spanish ancestral: Who can it be? She or a stranger? Do I wake or dream? Now her bright'ning glance Greets me with recognition, yes, 'tis she, Herself, Ismene! That I behold thy daughter and my sister, And thou wilt know her straightway by her voice. The thoughts and actions all Are framed and modeled on Egyptian ways.
For there the men sit at the loom indoors While the wives slave abroad for daily bread. So you, my children--those whom I behooved To bear the burden, stay at home like girls, Spanish abroad: The one Since first she grew from girlish feebleness To womanhood has been the old man's guide And shared my weary wandering, roaming oft Hungry and footsore through wild forest ways, In drenching rains and under scorching suns, Careless herself of home and ease, if so Her sire might have her tender ministry.
And thou, my child, whilom thou wentest forth, Eluding the Cadmeians' vigilance, To bring thy father all the oracles Concerning Oedipus, and didst make thyself My faithful lieger, when they banished me. And now what mission summons thee from home, What news, Ismene, hast thou for thy father? This much I know, thou com'st not empty-handed, Without a warning of some new alarm. ISMENE The toil and trouble, father, that I bore To find thy lodging-place and how thou faredst, I spare thee; surely 'twere a double pain To suffer, first in act and then in telling; 'Tis the misfortune of thine ill-starred sons I come to tell thee.
At the first they willed To leave the throne to Creon, minded well Thus to remove the inveterate curse of old, A canker that infected all thy race. But now some god and an infatuate soul Have stirred betwixt them a mad rivalry To grasp at sovereignty and kingly power. Today the hot-branded youth, the younger born, Spanish alarm: The banished brother so all Thebes reports Fled to the vale of Argos, and by help Of new alliance there and friends in arms, Swears he will stablish Argos straight as lord Of the Cadmeian land, or, if he fail, Exalt the victor to the stars of heaven.
This is no empty tale, but deadly truth, My father; and how long thy agony, Ere the gods pity thee, I cannot tell. What hath been uttered, child? OEDIPUS Then may the gods ne'er quench their fatal feud, And mine be the arbitrament of the fight, For which they now are arming, spear to spear; That neither he who holds the scepter now May keep this throne, nor he who fled the realm Return again. They never raised a hand, When I their sire was thrust from hearth and home, Spanish alike: Say you 'twas done at my desire, a grace Which the state, yielding to my wish, allowed?
Not so; for, mark you, on that very day When in the tempest of my soul I craved Death, even death by stoning, none appeared To further that wild longing, but anon, When time had numbed my anguish and I felt My wrath had all outrun those errors past, Then, then it was the city went about By force to oust me, respited for years; And then my sons, who should as sons have helped, Did nothing: These two maids Their sisters, girls, gave all their sex could give, Food and safe harborage and filial care; While their two brethren sacrificed their sire For lust of power and sceptred sovereignty.
Come Creon then, come all the mightiest In Thebes to seek me; for if ye my friends, Championed by those dread Powers indigenous, Espouse my cause; then for the State ye gain A great deliverer, for my foemen bane. Our pity, Oedipus, thou needs must move, Spanish banned: First make atonement to the deities, Whose grove by trespass thou didst first profane. Make a libation first of water fetched With undefiled hands from living spring.
With wool from fleece of yearling freshly shorn. Pour thy libation, turning to the dawn. Yea, in three streams; and be the last bowl drained To the last drop. With water and with honey; add no wine. Then lay upon it thrice nine olive sprays With both thy hands, and offer up this prayer. That, as we call them Gracious, they would deign To grant the suppliant their saving grace. So pray thyself or whoso pray for thee, In whispered accents, not with lifted voice; Then go and look back.
Do as I bid, And I shall then be bold to stand thy friend; Else, stranger, I should have my fears for thee. We listened, and attend thy bidding, father. So to your work with speed, but leave me not Untended; for this frame is all too week To move without the help of guiding hand. Beyond this grove; if thou hast need of aught, The guardian of the close will lend his aid. In a parent's cause Toil, if there be toil, is of no account. Thy tale of cruel suffering For which no cure was found, The fate that held thee bound. The tale is bruited far and near, And echoes still from ear to ear.
The truth, I fain would hear. Grant my request, I granted all to thee. Didst thou in sooth then share A bed incestuous with her that bare-- Spanish acts: Their father's very sister's too. And sinned-- Spanish boundless: What canst thou plead? Behold our sovereign, Theseus, Aegeus' son, Comes at thy summons to perform his part. All that I lately gathered on the way Made my conjecture doubly sure; and now Thy garb and that marred visage prove to me That thou art he. So pitying thine estate, Most ill-starred Oedipus, I fain would know What is the suit ye urge on me and Athens, Thou and the helpless maiden at thy side.
Declare it; dire indeed must be the tale Whereat I should recoil. I too was reared, Like thee, in exile, and in foreign lands Wrestled with many perils, no man more. Wherefore no alien in adversity Shall seek in vain my succor, nor shalt thou; I know myself a mortal, and my share In what the morrow brings no more than thine. Sophocles So without prologue I may utter now My brief petition, and the tale is told.
Earth's might decays, the might of men decays, Honor grows cold, dishonor flourishes, There is no constancy 'twixt friend and friend, Or city and city; be it soon or late, Sweet turns to bitter, hate once more to love. If now 'tis sunshine betwixt Thebes and thee And not a cloud, Time in his endless course Gives birth to endless days and nights, wherein The merest nothing shall suffice to cut With serried spears your bonds of amity.
Then shall my slumbering and buried corpse In its cold grave drink their warm life-blood up, If Zeus be Zeus and Phoebus still speak true. Enough if thou wilt keep thy plighted troth, Then shall thou ne'er complain that Oedipus Proved an unprofitable and thankless guest, Except the gods themselves shall play me false. The man, my lord, has from the very first Declared his power to offer to our land These and like benefits. First, he can claim the hospitality To which by mutual contract we stand pledged: Next, coming here, a suppliant to the gods, He pays full tribute to the State and me; His favors therefore never will I spurn, But grant him the full rights of citizen; And, if it suits the stranger here to bide, I place him in your charge, or if he please Rather to come with me--choose, Oedipus, Which of the two thou wilt.
Thy choice is mine. I shall not thwart thy wish. Such threats Vented in anger oft, are blusterers, An idle breath, forgot when sense returns. And for thy foemen, though their words were brave, Boasting to bring thee back, they are like to find The seas between us wide and hard to sail. Such my firm purpose, but in any case Spanish anger: My name, Though I be distant, warrants thee from harm. And never the sleepless fountains cease That feed Cephisus' stream, But they swell earth's bosom with quick increase, And their wave hath a crystal gleam. And the Muses' quire will never disdain To visit this heaven-favored plain, Nor the Cyprian queen of the golden rein.
Sophocles Terror to foemen's spear, A tree in Asian soil unnamed, By Pelops' Dorian isle unclaimed, Self-nurtured year by year; 'Tis the grey-leaved olive that feeds our boys; Nor youth nor withering age destroys The plant that the Olive Planter tends And the Grey-eyed Goddess herself defends. Oh land extolled above all lands, 'tis now For thee to make these glorious titles good.
Creon approaches with his company. Burghers, my noble friends, ye take alarm At my approach I read it in your eyes , Fear nothing and refrain from angry words. I come with no ill purpose; I am old, And know the city whither I am come, Without a peer amongst the powers of Greece. It was by reason of my years that I Was chosen to persuade your guest and bring Him back to Thebes; not the delegate Of one man, but commissioned by the State, Since of all Thebans I have most bewailed, Being his kinsman, his most grievous woes.
O listen to me, luckless Oedipus, Come home! The whole Cadmeian people claim With right to have thee back, I most of all, For most of all else were I vile indeed I mourn for thy misfortunes, seeing thee An aged outcast, wandering on and on, A beggar with one handmaid for thy stay.
Seems it not cruel this reproach I cast On thee and on myself and all the race? Aye, but an open shame cannot be hid. Hide it, O hide it, Oedipus, thou canst. O, by our fathers' gods, consent I pray; Spanish amongst: Sophocles Come back to Thebes, come to thy father's home, Bid Athens, as is meet, a fond farewell; Thebes thy old foster-mother claims thee first. In old days when by self-wrought woes distraught, I yearned for exile as a glad release, Thy will refused the favor then I craved.
But when my frenzied grief had spent its force, And I was fain to taste the sweets of home, Then thou wouldst thrust me from my country, then These ties of kindred were by thee ignored; And now again when thou behold'st this State And all its kindly people welcome me, Thou seek'st to part us, wrapping in soft words Hard thoughts. And yet what pleasure canst thou find In forcing friendship on unwilling foes? Suppose a man refused to grant some boon When you importuned him, and afterwards When you had got your heart's desire, consented, Granting a grace from which all grace had fled, Would not such favor seem an empty boon?
Yet such the boon thou profferest now to me, Fair in appearance, but when tested false. Yea, I will proved thee false, that these may hear; Thou art come to take me, not to take me home, But plant me on thy borders, that thy State May so escape annoyance from this land. That thou shalt never gain, but this instead-- Spanish advantage: Have not I more skill Than thou to draw the horoscope of Thebes? Are not my teachers surer guides than thine-Great Phoebus and the sire of Phoebus, Zeus? Thou art a messenger suborned, thy tongue Is sharper than a sword's edge, yet thy speech Will bring thee more defeats than victories.
Howbeit, I know I waste my words--begone, And leave me here; whate'er may be my lot, He lives not ill who lives withal content. Which loses in this parley, I o'erthrown By thee, or thou who overthrow'st thyself? Unhappy man, will years ne'er make thee wise?
Must thou live on to cast a slur on age? Not for a man indeed with wits like thine. I bid thee in these burghers' name, And prowl no longer round me to blockade My destined harbor. Though untaken thou shalt smart. One of thy daughters is already seized, The other I will carry off anon. This is but prelude to thy woes. And soon shall have the other. Chase this ungodly villain from your land. Hence, stranger, hence avaunt! Thou doest wrong In this, and wrong in all that thou hast done. Ah, woe is me! What would'st thou, stranger?
I meddle not with him, but her who is mine. Sir, thou dost wrong. I take but what is mine. What means this, sirrah? Not till thou forbear. Quick, unhand the maid! Command your minions; I am not your slave. Desist, I bid thee. To the rescue, one and all! Rally, neighbors to my call! See, the foe is at the gate! Rally to defend the State. Ah, woe is me, they drag me hence, O friends. Haled along by force. They will not let me, father.
So those two crutches shall no longer serve thee For further roaming. Since it pleaseth thee To triumph o'er thy country and thy friends Who mandate, though a prince, I here discharge, Enjoy thy triumph; soon or late thou'lt find Thou art an enemy to thyself, both now And in time past, when in despite of friends Thou gav'st the rein to passion, still thy bane. Hold there, sir stranger! Hands off, have a care. Restore the maidens, else thou goest not.
Then Thebes will take a dearer surety soon; I will lay hands on more than these two maids. What canst thou further? Carry off this man. And deeds forthwith shall make them good. Unless perchance our sovereign intervene. Would'st lay an hand on me? Silence, I bid thee! Wretch, now my eyes are gone thou hast torn away The helpless maiden who was eyes to me; For these to thee and all thy cursed race May the great Sun, whose eye is everywhere, Grant length of days and old age like to mine.
Listen, O men of Athens, mark ye this? Nothing shall curb my will; though I be old And single-handed, I will have this man. Thou art a bold man, stranger, if thou think'st To execute thy purpose. Then shall I deem this State no more a State. With a just quarrel weakness conquers might. Aye words, but not yet deeds, Zeus knoweth!
Zeus may haply know, not thou. Insolence that thou must bear. Haste ye princes, sound the alarm! Men of Athens, arm ye, arm! Quickly to the rescue come Ere the robbers get them home. On what errand have I hurried hither without stop or stay. He it is Hath robbed me of my all, my daughters twain. Command my liegemen leave the sacrifice And hurry, foot and horse, with rein unchecked, To where the paths that packmen use diverge, Lest the two maidens slip away, and I Become a mockery to this my guest, As one despoiled by force.
Quick, as I bid. As for this stranger, had I let my rage, Justly provoked, have play, he had not 'scaped Scathless and uncorrected at my hands. But now the laws to which himself appealed, These and none others shall adjudicate. Thou shalt not quit this land, till thou hast fetched Spanish accents: Thou hast offended both against myself And thine own race and country. Having come Unto a State that champions right and asks For every action warranty of law, Thou hast set aside the custom of the land, And like some freebooter art carrying off What plunder pleases thee, as if forsooth Thou thoughtest this a city without men, Or manned by slaves, and me a thing of naught.
Yet not from Thebes this villainy was learnt; Thebes is not wont to breed unrighteous sons, Nor would she praise thee, if she learnt that thou Wert robbing me--aye and the gods to boot, Haling by force their suppliants, poor maids. Were I on Theban soil, to prosecute The justest claim imaginable, I Would never wrest by violence my own Without sanction of your State or King; I should behave as fits an outlander Living amongst a foreign folk, but thou Shamest a city that deserves it not, Even thine own, and plentitude of years Have made of thee an old man and a fool.
Therefore again I charge thee as before, See that the maidens are restored at once, Unless thou would'st continue here by force And not by choice a sojourner; so much I tell thee home and what I say, I mean. Thy case is perilous; though by birth and race Thou should'st be just, thou plainly doest wrong. Nor would they harbor, so I stood assured, A godless parricide, a reprobate Convicted of incestuous marriage ties. For on her native hill of Ares here I knew your far-famed Areopagus Sits Justice, and permits not vagrant folk To stay within your borders.
In that faith I hunted down my quarry; and e'en then i had refrained but for the curses dire Wherewith he banned my kinsfolk and myself: Such wrong, methought, had warrant for my act. Anger has no old age but only death; The dead alone can feel no touch of spite. So thou must work thy will; my cause is just But weak without allies; yet will I try, Old as I am, to answer deeds with deeds. Murder and incest, deeds of horror, all Thou blurtest forth against me, all I have borne, No willing sinner; so it pleased the gods Wrath haply with my sinful race of old, Since thou could'st find no sin in me myself For which in retribution I was doomed To trespass thus against myself and mine.
And if When born to misery, as born I was, I met my sire, not knowing whom I met or what I did, and slew him, how canst thou With justice blame the all-unconscious hand? And for my mother, wretch, art not ashamed, Seeing she was thy sister, to extort From me the story of her marriage, such A marriage as I straightway will proclaim. For I will speak; thy lewd and impious speech Has broken all the bonds of reticence. She was, ah woe is me! But this at least I know Wittingly thou aspersest her and me; But I unwitting wed, unwilling speak. Nay neither in this marriage or this deed Which thou art ever casting in my teeth-A murdered sire--shall I be held to blame.
Come, answer me one question, if thou canst: If one should presently attempt thy life, Would'st thou, O man of justice, first inquire If the assassin was perchance thy sire, Or turn upon him? As thou lov'st thy life, On thy aggressor thou would'st turn, no stay Debating, if the law would bear thee out. Such was my case, and such the pass whereto Spanish aggressor: Sophocles The gods reduced me; and methinks my sire, Could he come back to life, would not dissent. Yet thou, for just thou art not, but a man Who sticks at nothing, if it serve his plea, Reproachest me with this before these men.
It serves thy turn to laud great Theseus' name, And Athens as a wisely governed State; Yet in thy flatteries one thing is to seek: If any land knows how to pay the gods Their proper rites, 'tis Athens most of all. This is the land whence thou wast fain to steal Their aged suppliant and hast carried off My daughters. Therefore to yon goddesses, I turn, adjure them and invoke their aid To champion my cause, that thou mayest learn What is the breed of men who guard this State.
An honest man, my liege, one sore bestead By fortune, and so worthy our support. What can I, a feeble man? THESEUS Show us the trail, and I'll attend thee too, That, if thou hast the maidens hereabouts, Thou mayest thyself discover them to me; But if thy guards outstrip us with their spoil, We may draw rein; for others speed, from whom They will not 'scape to thank the gods at home.
And look not for allies; I know indeed Such height of insolence was never reached Without abettors or accomplices; Thou hast some backer in thy bold essay, But I will search this matter home and see One man doth not prevail against the State. Dost take my drift, or seem these words as vain As seemed our warnings when the plot was hatched? Nothing thou sayest can I here dispute, But once at home I too shall act my part.
Thou, Oedipus, Stay here assured that nothing save my death Will stay my purpose to restore the maids. Sophocles Where the dread Queen and Maid Cherish the mystic rites, Rites they to none betray, Ere on his lips is laid Secrecy's golden key By their own acolytes, Priestly Eumolpidae. There I might chance behold Theseus our captain bold Meet with the robber band, Ere they have fled the land, Rescue by might and main Maidens, the captives twain.
They will be vanquished: Dread are our warriors, dread Theseus our chieftain's men. Flashes each bridle bright, Charges each gallant knight, All that our Queen adore, Pallas their patron, or Him whose wide floods enring Earth, the great Ocean-king Whom Rhea bore. Today, today Zeus worketh some great thing This day shall victory bring. O for the wings, the wings of a dove, To be borne with the speed of the gale, Up and still upwards to sail And gaze on the fray from the clouds above. Hear us, Zeus, and hear us, child Of Zeus, Athene undefiled, Hear, Apollo, hunter, hear, Huntress, sister of Apollo, Who the dappled swift-foot deer O'er the wooded glade dost follow; Help with your two-fold power Athens in danger's hour!
O wayfarer, thou wilt not have to tax The friends who watch for thee with false presage, For lo, an escort with the maids draws near. O father, father, Spanish behold: Sophocles Would that some god might grant thee eyes to see This best of men who brings us back again. Yes, saved By Theseus and his gallant followers. Thou askest what is doubly sweet to give.
We come together both. Fathers aye were fond. So sorrow sorrow props. Cling to me, press me close on either side, There rest ye from your dreary wayfaring. Here is our savior; thou should'st hear the tale From his own lips; so shall my part be brief. Full well I know the joy I have of them Is due to thee, to thee and no man else; Thou wast their sole deliverer, none else. The gods deal with thee after my desire, With thee and with this land!
I speak in gratitude of what I know, For all I have I owe to thee alone. Give me thy hand, O Prince, that I may touch it, And if thou wilt permit me, kiss thy cheek. Can I wish that thou should'st touch One fallen like me to utter wretchedness, Corrupt and tainted with a thousand ills? Oh no, I would not let thee if thou would'st. They only who have known calamity Can share it. Let me greet thee where thou art, And still befriend me as thou hast till now.
Sophocles I would be famous more by deeds than words. Of this, old friend, thou hast had proof; my oath I have fulfilled and brought thee back the maids Alive and nothing harmed for all those threats. And how the fight was won, 'twere waste of words To boast--thy daughters here will tell thee all. But of a matter that has lately chanced On my way hitherward, I fain would have Thy counsel--slight 'twould seem, yet worthy thought.
A wise man heeds all matters great or small. Of what thou askest I myself know naught. If a suppliant, something grave. If his suit offend, No need to grant it. Why so loth to hear him? Force me not to yield. O beware, And fail not in due reverence to the god. O heed me, father, though I am young in years. If what he urges tend not to thy good He cannot surely wrest perforce thy will.
To hear him then, what harm? By open words A scheme of villainy is soon bewrayed. Thou art his father, therefore canst not pay In kind a son's most impious outrages. O listen to him; other men like thee Have thankless children and are choleric, But yielding to persuasion's gentle spell They let their savage mood be exorcised. Look thou to the past, forget the present, think On all the woe thy sire and mother brought thee; Thence wilt thou draw this lesson without fail, Of evil passion evil is the end.
Thou hast, alas, to prick thy memory, Stern monitors, these ever-sightless orbs. O yield to us; just suitors should not need To be importunate, nor he that takes A favor lack the grace to make return. Let it be then; have your way Only if come he must, I beg thee, friend, Let none have power to dispose of me. It likes me not to boast, but be assured Spanish beg: For the long years heap up a grievous load, Scant pleasures, heavier pains, Till not one joy remains For him who lingers on life's weary road And come it slow or fast, One doom of fate Doth all await, For dance and marriage bell, The dirge and funeral knell.
Death the deliverer freeth all at last. For when youth passes with its giddy train, Troubles on troubles follow, toils on toils, Pain, pain for ever pain; And none escapes life's coils. Envy, sedition, strife, Carnage and war, make up the tale of life. Last comes the worst and most abhorred stage Of unregarded age, Joyless, companionless and slow, Spanish abhorred: Sophocles Of woes the crowning woe.
Some from Rhipean gloom of everlasting snow. Father, methinks I see the stranger coming, Alone he comes and weeping plenteous tears. The same that we surmised. All this too late I learn, wretch that I am, Spanish antic: I own it, and am proved most vile In my neglect of thee: But as almighty Zeus in all he doth Hath Mercy for co-partner of this throne, Let Mercy, father, also sit enthroned In thy heart likewise. For transgressions past May be amended, cannot be made worse.
Father, speak, nor turn away, Hast thou no word, wilt thou dismiss me then In mute disdain, nor tell me why thou art wrath? O ye his daughters, sisters mine, do ye This sullen, obstinate silence try to move. Let him not spurn, without a single word Of answer, me the suppliant of the god. Tell him thyself, unhappy one, thine errand; For large discourse may send a thrill of joy, Or stir a chord of wrath or tenderness, And to the tongue-tied somehow give a tongue. First will I call in aid the god himself, Poseidon, from whose altar I was raised, With warrant from the monarch of this land, To parley with you, and depart unscathed.
These pledges, strangers, I would see observed By you and by my sisters and my sire. Now, father, let me tell thee why I came. I have been banished from my native land Because by right of primogeniture Spanish almighty: So likewise hold the soothsayers, for when I came to Argos in the Dorian land And took the king Adrastus' child to wife, Under my standard I enlisted all The foremost captains of the Apian isle, To levy with their aid that sevenfold host Of spearmen against Thebes, determining To oust my foes or die in a just cause.
Why then, thou askest, am I here today? Father, I come a suppliant to thee Both for myself and my allies who now With squadrons seven beneath their seven spears Beleaguer all the plain that circles Thebes. Foremost the peerless warrior, peerless seer, Amphiaraiis with his lightning lance; Next an Aetolian, Tydeus, Oeneus' son; Eteoclus of Argive birth the third; The fourth Hippomedon, sent to the war By his sire Talaos; Capaneus, the fifth, Vaunts he will fire and raze the town; the sixth Parthenopaeus, an Arcadian born Named of that maid, longtime a maid and late Espoused, Atalanta's true-born child; Last I thy son, or thine at least in name, If but the bastard of an evil fate, Lead against Thebes the fearless Argive host.
For victory, if oracles speak true, Will fall to those who have thee for ally. So, by our fountains and familiar gods I pray thee, yield and hear; a beggar I And exile, thou an exile likewise; both Involved in one misfortune find a home As pensioners, while he, the lord of Thebes, O agony! I'll scatter with a breath the upstart's might, And bring thee home again and stablish thee, And stablish, having cast him out, myself.
This will thy goodwill I will undertake, Without it I can scare return alive. For the king's sake who sent him, Oedipus, Dismiss him not without a meet reply. Never again would he have heard my voice; But now he shall obtain this parting grace, An answer that will bring him little joy. O villain, when thou hadst the sovereignty That now thy brother holdeth in thy stead, Didst thou not drive me, thine own father, out, An exile, cityless, and make we wear This beggar's garb thou weepest to behold, Spanish adjure: Nothing is here for tears; it must be borne By me till death, and I shall think of thee As of my murderer; thou didst thrust me out; 'Tis thou hast made me conversant with woe, Through thee I beg my bread in a strange land; And had not these my daughters tended me I had been dead for aught of aid from thee.
They tend me, they preserve me, they are men Not women in true service to their sire; But ye are bastards, and no sons of mine. Therefore just Heaven hath an eye on thee; Howbeit not yet with aspect so austere As thou shalt soon experience, if indeed These banded hosts are moving against Thebes.
That city thou canst never storm, but first Shall fall, thou and thy brother, blood-imbrued. Such curse I lately launched against you twain, Such curse I now invoke to fight for me, That ye may learn to honor those who bear thee Nor flout a sightless father who begat Degenerate sons--these maidens did not so. Therefore my curse is stronger than thy "throne," Thy "suppliance," if by right of laws eterne Primeval Justice sits enthroned with Zeus.
Begone, abhorred, disowned, no son of mine, Thou vilest of the vile!
Sophocles' Oedipus Trilogy (Webster's Spanish Thesaurus Edition)
So I pray and call Spanish abhorred: Go now proclaim What thou hast heard to the Cadmeians all, Thy staunch confederates--this the heritage that Oedipus divideth to his sons. Thy errand, Polyneices, liked me not From the beginning; now go back with speed. Woe worth my comrades! What a desperate end To that glad march from Argos! I dare not whisper it to my allies Or turn them back, but mute must meet my doom. My sisters, ye his daughters, ye have heard The prayers of our stern father, if his curse Should come to pass and ye some day return To Thebes, O then disown me not, I pray, But grant me burial and due funeral rites.
So shall the praise your filial care now wins Be doubled for the service wrought for me. One boon, O Polyneices, let me crave. Turn back thy host to Argos with all speed, And ruin not thyself and Thebes as well.