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Or my unhappy mother ; &r to them

Crimes dark as mine not death can e*er atone. — (1371-4)

Oedipus is now, morally and politically, dead. . The throne
is, ipso facto^ vacated, as palpably, as immediately, as if the
king had deceased ; and the wronged and suspected Creon
succeeds to the sovereignty. Of him, who comes not to in-
sult the fallen monarch, but to remove him to the palace
from the public gaze, and from the light of the sun, Oedipus
asks but one boon — exile. Taught, by his predecessor's fall,
to respett the oracle, Oeon replies, that he must first ask the
pleasure of the god. Oedipus now bethinks him of his daugh-
ters, commends them to the care of Creon, and,when suffered to
place his hands upon them, blesses Creon for the privilege, and
breathes out his love and sorrow — sorrow for their inherit-
ance of shame — in tones of disinterested and pathetic ten-
derness, which melt the heart of the spectator. Yielding to
necessity, he now retires within the palace, to await the dis-
posal of the ruhng powers on earth and in heaven ; and the
chorus express the moral of the tragedy in these concluding
words, addressed to their fellow citizens :

Sons of Thebes, my native city, this great Oedipus surrey.
Who resolved the famed enigma, who for virtue far renowned,

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1861.] The Theology of Sophocles. 75

Noagbt of fikTor recked or fortune, with transcendent glory crowned.
Mark him now dismayed, degraded, tost on wayes of wildest woe.
Think on this, short-sighted mortal, and till life's deciding close,
Dare not pronounce thy fellow truly happy, truly blest,
Till, the bounds of life passed over, yet unharmed, he sinks to rest

Grod alone is happy, God alone is wise, God alone is great,
Grod alone is good This seems to be the moral and religious
lesson, expressed in the language of Christian piety which
the Oedipus is intended to inculcate : Not only is human
power weakness, and human wisdom folly, but all human
good is evil in comparison with the divine standard. Oedi-
pus is an object of felicitation and envy in the eyes of men.
He is the wise man of his age. But when he sets himself in
opposition to the oracles of Apollo and strives to defeat the
plans and purposes of heaven, we are astonished at the blind-
Dess and infatuation which mark his course. He is a good
man in the view of the world. His people love and honor
him as a good king ; but, in his mysterious providence, the
deity ^ plunges him in the ditch, and his own clothes abhor
him." He finds himself stained with involuntary crimes, and
loathes himself for his imputed guilt. To-day, like Job, he
sits on the throne, the greatest of all the kings and princes of
the age ; to-morrow, like Job, he sits in ashes, bereft of his
power and forsaken by his friends, pitied if not despised by all
who were wont to do him reverence, . In the Oedipus at Colo-
nus, we shaU see whether, like Job, he in the end receives the
double of all his former prosperity. Certainly, in his terrible
faS, we see the same apparently blind, all-controlling, irresisti-
ble power, which men call destiny, and which even Christians
call mysterious and inscrutable providence.

Oedipus (U Colonus.

With our sympathies thus enlisted in the fate of Oedipus,
we are now prepared to follow him to the last scene of his
life at Colonus. An interval of some years has passed away ;
his sons have grown up ; the younger is in possession of his
throde ; the older, at the head of confederate armies, is march-
ing to possess himself, by force, of the birthright which has

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76 The Theology of Sophocles. [Jan.

been wrested from him ; his daughters, also, have arrived at
maturity, and, while both serve as props of his declining years,
and eyes for him in his blindness, Antigone already manifests
that peculiar fervor of feeling and strength, which are more
conspicuously displayed in the drama bearing her name, and
which have rendered that name immortal. The Oedipus Co-
loneus is a natural sequel to the Oedipus Tyrannus. But
there is more of contrast than of resemblance in the inci-
dents, and in the situation of the leading character who gives
name to both. The one is the compensation of the other.
If fortune, or the fates, or the gods, or the laws of the uni-
verse (different names, in Greek, for essentially the same
thing), or, to use an expression of our author, which harmo-
nizes and combines them all, if the god in them {iv rovToi<; S^eo?,
Oed. Tyr. 871) has heretofore dealt hardly with Oedipus, he
is now to receive his compensation. If the sins of his ances-
tors have involved him, more through ignorance and neces-
sity than of his own free will, in an unequal controversy with
>higher powers, he is now reconciled and blessed with a de-
parture from these scenes of earthly conflict, amid supernat-
ural tokens of divine favor. If Creon and his own sons have
treated him selfishly and cruelly, in the days of his humilia-
tion, the sceptre of more than regal power is now in his hands ;
and it is now their turn to solicit and plead in vain. If his
native city, Thebes, has too soon forgotten his services, and
ungratefully banished him from the realm, she now suppli-
cates in vain, and endeavors to compel his return ; while
Athens, which grants him an asylum in his apparent help-
lessness, has thus, unconsciously, reared for herself a bulwark
in her suburbs, which her enemies shall never pass.

The Oedipus Coloneus of Sophocles brings us to the same
asylum of human law, and the sanctuary of the same divini-
ties, as the Eumenides of Aeschylus. Oedipus in the for-
mer, like Orestes in the latter, comes to the sanctuary of the
Furies at Athens for rest from his weary wanderings, for ex-
piation of his involuntary crimes, for reconciliation to the re-
tributive and avenging powers. Orestes is welcomed and
protected by Athena, the patron-goddess of the city; Oedipus,

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1861.] The Theology of Sophocles. 77

by Tbesens, its demigod hero and king. Athena summons
the elders of her people to a court and council, and so insti-
tutes the Areopagus. Theseus takes counsel of the priests
and at the altars of the gods. In both poets, the proceeding
is partly civil and partly religious. In both, the human and
the divine, the powers of earth and the powers of heaven con-
spire to effect a reconciliation. In Aeschylus, the furies ap-
pear, in person, in that fiendlike form which we always asso-
ciate with the name, pursue their victim like hounds hunt-
ing their prey, dance in chorus around him, and howl their
curses on his head. In Sophocles, in accordance with the
advancing refinement of the age, and under the guidance of
his own cultivated genius, they are invisible, and their dread-
ful power is only shadowed forth by the suppressed breath
with which their name is mentioned, and the shuddering
horror with which the beholders see Oedipus unwittingly
invade their sanctuary. But in both, the vengeful powers
are appeased, the Erinyes are transformed into iheEfumenideSy
the wrathful deities into the gracious ones. And, as in the
Eumenides of Aeschylus, they are conducted to their sanctu-
ary with songs and rejoicings, by the magistrates and the
whole people ; so, in the Oedipus Coloneus, all nature sym-
pathizes with the calm and sweet peace which lias succeeded
to the storm : the olive and the vine spring up, in unwonted
beauty about the sanctuary of the appeased Furies, and the
nightingale sings perpetually in the branches. Of course,
neither the spectators in the ancient theatre, nor the poet
himself, saw, in these conceptions, all the breadth and depth
of meaning, which we find in them. They were " unconscious
prophecies " — " shadows of good things," which could be
fally understood only when the Substance had come, and the
Trae Light shone upon the world. But we cannot but see,
in them, ideas, or germs of ideas, of profound moral and spir-
itual significance. Perhaps the primary aim of the poet was,
in the language of Schlegel,^ " to confer glory on Athens, as
the sacred abode of law and humanity, where the crimes of
the illustrious families of other countries might, by a higher



> Xtectores on Dramatic Literature, Lee. IV.
7*



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78 The Theology of Sophocles. [Jan.

mediation, be at last propitiated ; and iience an enduring
prosperity was predicted to the Athenian people." But, as
Schlegel himself confesses, " when the rancor of these god-
desses of rage is exhausted, it seems as if the whole human
race were redeemed from their power."

At the opening of the drama, Oedipus is seen, aged and
blind, leaning on the arm of Antigone, and entering the sub-
urbs of Athens. The scene is thus described by her who is
at once the staff and the eyes of her father :

O Oedipus,
My much afflicted father, the high towers
Which girt the city, rise in distant view ;
The spot on which we stand, I deem, is holy.
Where laurels, olives, vines, in one green shade,
Are close inwoven ; and within tiie grove,
The nightingales make frequent melody.
Best, now, thy faltering limbs on this rude stone.
Such lengthened wanderings ill befit thine age. — (14-20)

Scarcely has he taken bis seat, when he is warned to re-
move his feet, for it is holy ground, and must not be pro-
faned by mortal footsteps :

"E^cA^'j ^€ts yap xwpov ovk clyi^v Trarciv. — (37)
From mortal touch and mortal dwelling pure,^
Is that mysterious grove ; (he awful Powers,*
Daughters of Earth and Darkness, dwell within.

Oed. By what most holy name should I invoke them ?

Athen. We call them, in this land, th' Eumenides,
The all-beholding Powers ; * in other lands,
By various lofty title men adore them. — (89-43)

In answer to further questions, he is informed that the
whole suburb is sacred to Poseidon, Prometheus, and Colo-
nus, whose name it bears. When the Athenian with whom
he holds this conversation withdraws to apprise the king,
Oedipus addresses his prayers to the august powers, of dread-
ful aspect {iroTvun Seiv&ire^, 84) and entreats them to receive
him propitiously, in accordance with the oracle of Phoebus,

1 i^iKTOs oif^ oiKnr6s. * td Hfupofioi ^tal, 39. ' wdy^* 6pwras»

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1861.] T%e Theology of Sophocles. 79

which had predicted that his days should at length come to
a peaceful end at the hospitable abode of the venerable god-
desses (^€0)]/ S^fiv&v ISpav KctX ^€v6<nounvy 90), amid thunder-
ings, lightnings, and earthquakes, as signs from heaven (o-iy-
ima).

As the company of aged men draw near, who constitute
the chorus, Oedipus screens himself in the thickest of the
grove ; and they, as they search for him, sing with trembling
voice :

Who, who 10 this sad, aged wanderer ?

Doubtless of foreign land, or his rash foot

Had never trod the grove

Of those unconquered virgin Powers,*

Whose name we tremble but to breathe,

Whose mystic shrine we pass

With far-averted eje.

And pondering, silent and devout,

On happier omens there. — (117-34)

Oedipus comes forth at their call. With shuddering, they
bid him beware, lest he bring upon himself a more dreadful
cnrse than his present blindness ; and, not daring to tread
where he stands, they guide him with words, as he with-
draws, step by step, and seats himself, again, on the sloping
verge of the rocky pavement As, in obedience to their de-
mand, he discloses his name and race, they are still more ap-
palled, and bid him quit the land forever. Antigone inter-
cedes for her father, pleading for that peculiar respect due to
the miserable, which we call pity, but which the Greek tra-
gedians call alSm.^ They reply :

Know, child of Oedipus, we pity thee.

Nor gaze, relentless, on thy woe-worn sire ;

But we revere the gods, nor dare rescind

The firm decision of our former mandate. (264-7)

Oedipus responds by appealing to the far-famed piety' and

^ iftaif i aK ^Tgy xopw.

* 247. Cf. Aesch. Sup. 577 ZoKpimv trivbifiov al5« : tears of sorrow and pity
(respect).
' T^ y *P^vas ^wrX ^€0<r€fit<rrdTa5 that, 260. So below, 1006, Oedipus says, if



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80 The neology of Sophocies. [Jan.

humanity of Athens : vain boast, if a stranger is to be thus
inhumanly banished for a name; palliates his crimes as
committed in retaMaiion and in ignorance, and adjures them
by the gods, whom they profess to venerate, to spare him now
that, in obedience to their will, he has withdrawn himself
from the inn^ sanctuary of the Eumenides. Overcome at
length by entreaties, and overawed by something supernat-
ural in the air and words of the mysterious stranger, they
consent to wait the final sentence of their king.

Meanwhile Ismene, Antigone's gentle sister, arrives from
Thebes,bringing news of the furious war which her brothers are
waging for the throne ; of a recent oracle which declared that
he (Oedipus) whose downfall the gods had formerly willed,
but whom now they purpose to exalt, holds in his hands the
balance of power and victory ; and that, for this reason Creon
is already on his way to bear him back to the borders of the
State, that they may hold this now powerful arbiter in their
possession, though they are still resolved that his tomb shall
not defile Theban grounds The indignation of Oedipus is
roused by this new insult, added to the long neglect and in-
jury with which he has been treated by his sons ; and he im-
precates destruction on them both, while he promises lasting
benefit to Athens, if her citizens, with her tutelary gods, will
now stand forth for his protection. Drawn towards him now
by patriotism as well as compassion, the chorus instruct him
how to propitiate {^icr^oA tca^apfiovj 466) the Eumenides :
first, with three libations of honey and pure water, without
wine^ poured out upon the ground towards the rising sun ;
then, with thrice nine olive branches, fresh-plucked and
planted on the spot which drank the libations ; and then, to
offer this prayer :

Propitious, so we call t^m, that, inih minds
Propitioos, they their votary would receive
And save. — (486-7)

any land knows how to honor and worship the gods, Athens excels in this. This
explains the 9€i<ri^aifioiK<rT4povs in Paul's address to the Athenians on Mars' Hill.
Acts 17:22. Xenophon (Cyrop. III. 3, 58) uses Zturi^cdfxoyes as a synonym
with dco<rc/3€is.

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1861.] The Theology of Sophocles. 81

Too blind and infirm to perform these rites himself, hfe de-
volves the duty on Ismene.

While the chorus are extracting from his reluctant lip?
some further confession of his calamities and involuntary
crimes, Theseus arrives, and without waiting for petitions or
any address, assures at once the anxious heart of the suppli-
ant stranger with these comforting words :

Unfold thy wish : and arduous were th* emprise,
When thou sbould^st ask my utmost aid in yain.
I, too, was nurtured in a foreign land,
As thou art now ; an exile's woes, to me,
An exile's perils, are familiar all.
Then never, never, from the stranger's prayer.
Who comes like thee, relentless wiU I turn,
Or needful lud withhold. — - (660-6)

With the humility and yet the majesty befitting the double
consciousness of what he is and what the gods intend to
make him, Oedipus answers :

I come to offer thee this withered frame,

A gift to sight unseemly ; yet endowed

With costlier treasures than the loveliest form ; — (576-8)

adding, that the value of the boon will be understood only
when he is dead, and Theseus has attended to his burial.
Previous to that, he has nothing to ask but protection against
his unnatural sons and his ungrateful countrymen, who would
fain bear him back by force, where once he would gladly have
remained ; but where, now, he is resolved never more to re-
turn. Theseus expostulates with him on the folly of such re-
sentment, in such wretchedness. But Oedipus is unrelent-
ing. Athens is now his home and country ; and when war
shall arise, between Athens and Thebes, as war will rise in
the changeful course of human destiny, though now all is
peace:

Then this cold body, in the sleep of death
Entombed, shall drink their ^ warm and vital blood,
If Jove be mightiest still, and Jove-bom Phoebus
Betain his truth unbroken.
Et Zcvs h-i Zeus, xw Atos ^oipo^ (ra<^^?. — (623)

* Of the Thebans.

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82 The Theology of Sophocks. [Jan.

Theseus pledges him protection, ofTering him an asytnm
here, or in the palace, as he chooses. " Would to heaven "
he answers:

Would to heaven

I might attend thee, hut the spot is here. — (644)

And when his fears return and agitate him, Theseus reas-
sures him. declaring that his word is as sacred as his oath ;
that his name, alone, will suffice to protect him from insult ;
and, moreover :

If Phoebus hither was indeed thy guide^

Without my feebler lud, his arm can save thee. — (664-5)

The choral song, which follows (668 — 719), celebrates the
beauty of Colonus in strains of poetry and eloquence, which
betray the poet's love and admiration for his birth-place;
and which, at the same time, remind the Christian reader of
the glowing language in which the Hebrew prophets de-
scribe rejoicing nature under the reign of the coming Mes-
siah.^ We will not mar it by translation or synopsis. It is
a glorification of Athens, which the patriotic and tasteful
Athenians might well reward, as they did reward it, when he
read it before his judges, by an instant acquittal and a more
than regal triumph. But it seems to be also something more :
piety joins with patriotism in celebrating Colonus, as not
only the sanctuary of the Eumenides, but the favorite haunt
of Aphrodite and the Muses (691-2), and the sacred abode
of Athena, Poseidon, and Zeus:

Moiian ' Jore, with guardian care,
Watches, ever wakeful, th^re ;
And Athena's eye of blue
Guards her own loved olive too.

Antigone breaks in upon the concluding strains of this
magnificent song, by saying, that now the might and glory of
Athens are to be put to the test Creon approaches with his

1 Is. 85 :v. 2; 85 : 12—13, etc, etc

' That is, guardian of the fMopieu, or sacred Olives.



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1861.] The Theology of Sophocles. 83

body-gaard. He addresses the aged citizens of the country
with respect ; says he comes only to restore the wretched
outcast to his native land ; and then turns his intreaties, not
unmixed with compassion, to the unhappy Oedipus. Oedi-
pus scorns his pity, withheld when it would have been
gladly received, and extended only when it was no longer
needed. He charges Creon not only with cruelty in times
past, but with false pretences now, since it was not his in-
tention to restore him to his home, but only to take him to
the border. His body shall not go there ; but his spirit shall
ever dwell there as an avenging demon of the land (^w/oa?
aKcurrtop 6u^to9, 788), and his sons shall inherit of his king-
dom only soil enough to die on :

Is not m7 presage of the doom of Thebes,

More sure than thine ; yea, tis e'en trebly sure,

As drawn from tmer prophets, Phoebus' self.

And his dread sire, the all-<^ntrolling Jove. — (791-3)

Unable otherwise to bow his stubborn soul, Creon informs
him that he has already seized one of his daughters (Ismene,
who had gone away to prepare the offerings), and proceeds
to take, by force, his only remaining support and solace. He
even threatens to drag Oedipus himself from his asylum ; and
Oedipus defends himself by frightful curses. Summoned from
the altar near by, where he had been offering a bullock to
Poseidon, Theseus interposes, arrests Creon, sends forces,
at once, for the recovery of the daughters, and censures, with
dignified severity, the double crime, against the country and
the gods, of forcing a suppliant from its altars. Creon en-
deavors to justify himself by expatiating on the crimes of
Oedipus, which have forfeited even the right of asylum.
This rouses Oedipus. He replies at much length . He confess-
es his criraesjbut casts the responsibility on the gods (S^eot? 7^^
^ ovTd} <l>!Xovy 964), angry, perchance, at his race aforetime ;
and he exculpates himself as only a foredoomed and involun-
tary murderer. How can I reasonably be held responsible
for a deed which was involuntary :

Hois ySof TO y Sxov irpayf/L &y cikotcds ij/fyois* — (977)

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84 The Theology of Sophocles. [Jan.

and not only involuntary, but decreed and predicted before I
was born or even conceived (973) ? questions going to the
root of human accountability, which have always been asked
in the world, and never fully answered.

While the king and his attendants are executing the man-
dates of justice, the chorus express their wish to join in the
pursuit and offer prayers for the right to Phoebus, Athena,
and Zeus :

Jove, Jove to-day will idd the right,

And I forbode a prosperous fight — (1079-80)

Thou of the all-pervading eye,

In heaven by subject-gods adored,^

Jove ! from thy radiant throne on high.

Send might and joy and victory

To grace my country's lord !

Daughter of Jove, Athena, hear ;

Thou Phoebus, lift thy fatal spear, etc. — (1085-91)

The daughters are soon brought back, and Oedipus clasps
them to his bosom. Theseus informs him, that some person,
kindred to him, is sitting at the altar of Poseidon, who begs
the privilege of a few words with Oedipus. From the de-
scription, Oedipus recognizes his son Polynices, and at first
refuses to see him. But the remonstrances of Theseus and
the intreaties of Antigone, pleading not only the ties of na-
ture but reverence for the gods, prevail to win his reluctant
consent. Polynices enters, alone, and in tears, deploring the
misery he sees, confessing the wrong of which he has been
guilty, and pleading for forgiveness :

By the throne

Of mighty Jove, associate of his sway.

Sits gentle Mercy, judge of human deeds ;

Let her be present to thy soul, my father.

*AAA', loTt yap Kou Zi;vt {Tvv^aKO^ Spovtav
Ai8ta)9 hr Ipyom irauri, koX Trpos o-oi, irarcp,
napaoTo^i^wS — (1266-9).

1 li» ^tciy Tcurrdpxa Z€w Tayr6irrti, k, t. A. 1085.

* See what is said of ai8<6t (mercy, pity) above, p. 79. Here she is personified,
or rather regarded as a goddess, the sharer of the throne of the supreme ; just
ts Justice is represented below, 1382.



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1861.] The Theology of Sophocles. 85

Oedipas maintains an awful silence. But Antigone en-
ooorages her brother at least to make known his wishes ;
and he proceeds. He has been deprived of the throne, his
rightful inheritance, by his younger brother. The fell cause
of all their feud was th^. avenging curse of their father. He
has married the daughter of the king of Argos and rallied, to-
gether with him, six other chiefs, a seven-fold force in all, for
the recovery of his inheritance. And now he solicits his fa-
ther's presence and blessing, since :

If faith be due to heaven's prophetic voice,

Whom thou shalt succor, them must victory grace. — (1831,2)

For a long time, Oedipus deigns no answer. But at length
his resentment and indignation burst forth in reproaches and
cnrses too frightful to repeat, too dreadful for a son to hear
from a father's lips. Neither of his sons shall possess his
throne. The blood of both shall stain the plain of Thebes.
Such were the curses which he pronounced upon them before;
and now he invokes, again, the Curses to come as his allies,
and teach his sons not to dishonor their parents. Thei/ there-
fore (the CurseSj ^ApcU) shall occupy the throne, which else
had been his sons*, if ancient Justice sits associate with Zeus
and guardian of primeval laws :

EiTTcp ioriv rj '7raXauf>aT€)q
Alio; ^uyc3pos^ Zrjvo^ ap\aioui v6fJLOi^, — (1381,2)

Thus I curse thee, he concludes in language more dreadful
than the curses of king Lear, thus I curse thee; and I invoke the
gloomy paternal darkness of Tartarus,^ to remove thee hence

* Qaite another sharer of Jove's throne from the Mercy (AlSc&r), to whom
Poljniees makes bis appeal (1268, see p. 84.) The epithet iraAa(farof is ap-
plied especially to Justice, as here ; to Oracles, 454 ; and to Providence Trach.
825 : Tos roXo/^arov irpoyolas, and means literally spoken long ago. The primeval
ktw especially intended in this connection mast be that of honor to parents. Of.
Tbeol. of Aescb. pp. 860—384. Bib. Sac. April, 1859.

' rov Tuprdpov vrvyvhw ircerp^ow'^ptfios. The meaning of xcerp^oy, paternal, is
doobt/ol, some understanding Erebus to be represented as the father or guardian



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