LONG LIFE NOT TO BE DESIRED (from "Oedipus at Colonus")

by: Sophocles

      HO, loving life, hath sought
      To outrun the appointed span,
      Shall be arraigned before my thought
      For an infatuate man.
      Since the added years entail
      Much that is bitter; -- joy
      Flies out of ken, desire doth fail,
      The wished-for moments cloy.
      But when the troublous life,
      Be it less or more, is past,
      With power to end the strife
      Comes rescuing Death at last.
      Lo! the dark bridegroom waits! No festal choir
      Shall grace his destined hour, no dance, no lyre!
      Far best were ne'er to be;
      But, once he hath seen the day,
      Next best by far for each to flee
      As swiftly as each may,
      Yonder from whence he came;
      For let but Youth be there
      With her light fooleries, who shall name
      The unnumbered brood of Care?
      No trial spared, no fall!
      Feuds, battles, murders, rage,
      Envy, and last of all,
      Despised, dim, friendless age!
      Ay, there all evils, crowded in one room.
      Each at his worst of ill, augments of gloom.
      Such lot is mine, and round this man of woe,
      As some gray headland of a northward shore
      Bears buffets of all wintry winds that blow,
      Fresh storms of Fate are bursting evermore
      In thunderous billows, borne
      Some from the waning light,
      Some through mid-noon, some from the rising morn,
      Some from the stars of Night.

This English translation, by Lewis Campbell, of 'Long Life Not to be Desired' is reprinted from Greek Poets in English Verse. Ed. William Hyde Appleton. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1893.




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