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Excerpt 2


I will yield,
but prepare yourself, Oedipus.


Outside the city there is a dark ilex grove.
In the center overshadowing the entire wood stands a mammoth cypress
Next to it lay two ancient oaks gnarled and crumbled with the scars of
The blackberry laurel grows there.
Through this undergrowth flows a freezing stream
still untouched by the surrounding plague.
Here the sun never shines.
Adjacent to this flowing stream is a stinking slime pit slowly oozing
its putrid contents
into a muddy swamp not far away.
It is to this secluded spot that Tiresias, Manto and the other priests
brought me.
As soon as we arrived the incantations began,
because here it is always dark.

A pit was dug and a funeral pyre securely placed within.
Then Tiresias donned his black funereal robe
and wreathed his snow-white hair with the poisonous yew.
Black oxen and black sheep were driven live into the searing flames.
The screams those animals made still sound in my ears.
With horrific tones he called upon the spirits of the dead
while pouring blood on the fire as it consumed the burning beasts.
Then wine and milk he added to these libations.

His sightless eyes fixed steadily on the ground.
Once more he called upon the earth to vomit up its buried dead.
A tremor shook the ground beneath our feet.
Trees began to bow,
trunks suddenly split apart,
and the whole forest seemed to quake.

'They hear me,' the old man shouted.
And with that,
the ground cracked open beneath the funeral pyre,
and those charred, sacrificial beasts disappeared into some bottomless
some empty sickly void,
and in their place stood the viper's brood.
A horrible roar rose up from what seemed to be the very bowels of Hades
as if Cerberus, that triple-headed hound of Hell,
had angered at our intrusion.

I saw Plague, the killer of us all.
Then the dreadful shrieks of Horror and blind Fury filled the air.
There Grief stood, tearing at her hair.
Disease, hardly able to stand at all,
stumbled forward.
bowed under its own small burden,
looked around for a place to hide from Fear,
menacing us with its frightful form.
I saw each wretched creature.
The blood stopped still in my veins,
and like a spike stuck into the earth,
I could not move.
Even Manto was stunned despite her knowledge of his divinations.
Tiresias showed no fear.
His blindness gave him bravery.
He continued to invoke the insubstantial shapes of those departed.

And they came,
shivering and crowding in the shelter of our grove.
First to emerge was mighty Zethus with Amphion his despised twin.
Amphion was still holding the very lyre whose music charmed the stones
of Thebes. Behind him was his wife Niobe turned to stone,
but somehow moving, trying vainly to gather up her children dead around
Next came mad Agave,
followed by the rout who tore their king to pieces.
Pentheus was with them too,
form no longer human, but arrogant as ever.
One creature tried to remain unseen,
but Tiresias pressed on,
and many times summoned up that hidden specter
until its face looked up and it was Laius.
It was an awful sight!
still gushing
from his limbs,
his hair matted with filth.
And then,
like one deranged,
he cursed this house.
This is what he said:

'Murderous house of Cadmus,
you will never stop slaughtering each other
until the last of you is dead.
It is not because the gods are angry that you are dying.
You bring it on yourselves.
Your plague has not been brought by the south wind's noxious scourge,
but by a king who claims a throne as recompense for murder.
But the worst crime of all is hers.
Her belly swollen with unholy issue gotten there by incestuous rape!
My country rots because this pretended king defiles his father's
Violates the very womb that gave him birth.
Begets from his own mother his own brothers and sisters.
I shall destroy his house.
I shall bring Erinys to this incestuous bond,
And she will crack her whip and split this royal house of shame.
I shall overturn and crumble it to dust.
Set the sons to slaughtering each other
Until not one of the blasphemous lineage remains.'

There is more. Perhaps you've heard enough.