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Tuesday 21 October 2014

Sophocles: Oedipus the King: On the shore of the god of evening (The chorus prays for deliverance from the epidemic)


#Ebola what get when 2b people live on < $2/day, wantonly destroy #rainforest as eat bushmeat, nations wage perma-war: image via Rainforest News @El_Rainforest, 19 October 2014


Now our afflictions have no end,
Now all our stricken host lies down
And no man fights off death with his mind,

The noble plowman bears no grain,
And groaning mothers cannot bear --

See, how our lives like birds take wing,
Like sparks that fly when a fire soars,
To the shore of the god of evening.

The plague burns on, it is pitiless
Though pallid children laden with death
Lie unwept in the stony ways,

And old grey women by every path
Flock to the strand about the altars

There to strike their breasts and cry
Worship of Phoibos in wailing prayers:
Be kind, God's golden child!

There are no swords in this attack by fire,
No shields, but we are ringed with cries.

Send the besieger plunging from our homes
Into the vast sea-room of the Atlantic
Or into the waves that foam eastward of Thrace --

For the day ravages what the night spares --

Destroy our enemy, lord of the thunder!
Let him be riven by lightning from heaven!

Phoibos Apollo, stretch the sun's bowstring,
That golden cord, until it sing for us,
Flashing arrows in heaven!
................................Artemis, Huntress,
Race with flaring lights upon our mountains!

O scarlet god, O golden-banded brow,
O Theban Bacchos in a swarm of Maenads, 
......................................................[enter Oedipus]
Whirl upon Death, that all the Undying hate!
Come with blinding torches, come in joy!

Sophocles (497/496 BCE-winter 406/5 BCE): Oedipus Tyrannus (premiered c. 229 BCE), ll. 169-215, translated by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald, in Sophocles, Oedipus Rex: An English Version (1951)

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Is Ecosystem Collapse, Need More Doctors & Quarantined Hospital Beds NOW. Alternatives to 2 billion w/ $1.50/day as 300 people as much wealth as half of planet: image via Ebola Newsfeed @El_Ebola, 19 October 2014

A lethal zoonotic epidemic that raged through Athens in 430 BC, recorded by Thucydides as occurring not long before the time that Sophocles’ work appeared, and in the work displaced by the dramatist to Thebes, seems to have provided the historical basis of the "plague theme" which serves as a backscreen for plot development in the play.

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#Ebola is brutal reminder consequences ignoring scientific truths ecology, public health, poverty, over-population: image via Rainforest News @El_Rainforest, 19 October 2014

Faced with the devastating outbreak -- from the symptoms described or hinted at in the poetic drama the disease seems to be a form of cattle zoonosis, hemorrhagic in nature, highly contagious, and with an extremely high mortality rate -- Oedipus, true to the pattern of a responsible head of state, appears to react quickly enough.

Global biosphere collapses and dies as perma-war, inequity, #rainforest loss & over-population lead to #Ebola & death: image via Rainforest News @El_Rainforest, 19 October 2014

We learn through his opening dialogue with the priest that he has already dispatched his brother-in-law Creon to the oracle at Delphi to request a deliverance plan.

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 #Ebola yet another indicator of biosphere collapse as overpopulation, poverty, war & inequity overrun last ecosystems: image via Rainforest News @El_Rainforest, 19 October 2014

The oracle discloses that the epidemic is the result of a "miasma" -- a sweeping religious/cultural/environmental pollution or contamination.

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Expect more #Ebola type crises as #poverty, #war, #climate, #deforestation overwhelm biosphere: image via Rainforest News @El_Rainforest, 19 October 2014

On orders of the god Apollo the miasma must be removed from Thebes, says the oracle.

Inequity contributes to #Ebola. Alternatives to 2 billion w/ $1.50/day as 300 people as much wealth as half of planet: image via Rainforest News @El_Rainforest, 19 October 2014 

The Chorus mistakenly supposes that the evil at the root of the epidemic is coming from Ares, the god of war, who's always working the room. 

W Africa population 317 million people growing 2.35% annually has destroyed 90% forests causing poverty, war & #Ebola: image via Sustainable Ag NewsRainforest News @El_SustianAg, 20 October 2014

Searching further for the source of contamination, Oedipus turns to the blind prophet Tiresias, who reveals to him that he himself is the source -- Patient Zero, in today's epidemiological terminology.

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  Global emergency #Ebola infections W Africa double every 20 days, kills 70% infected. Threat global #pandemic is real: image via EcoInternet @EcoInternet, 20 October 2014


TC said...

Rozzy & Markmuday: Life Goes On (one day at a time)

Vicky Fornah: Dis Wol (our day will come)

Buku Talk

Hazen said...

Beyond The Pale will be our journal of the plague year(s). Make that plural on both counts. Except it won’t be fiction. History repeats, whether we pay attention or not.

Those figures in hazmat gear are a ghostly chorus, and a symbol of the times.

TC said...


Can it be that Sophocles' intuition that a systemic corruption expresses itself on many levels (including the environmental as well as the political) might actually prove more pertinent at this point than generalized media anxiety concerning how a disease outbreak might affect mood levels around the mall during Halloween marketing season, the ups and downs of the stock market or the upcoming mock elections (our several dwarf-grand American tragedies of the moment)?

But then, I suppose he would have to represent that old kind of boring pre-selfie poet, who addressed, rather than attempted to distract attention from, the larger truths hidden beneath the bewildering surfaces of things.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Wonderful music coming from a people who have been systematically exploited for years first by colonialists and later by their own corrupt leaders who led them into a civil war which left over 50,00 people dead and about 2 million displaced and living in other countries. The outbreak of Ebola is another tragedy in a long line of seemingly endless ones.

BTW—according to the Online Free Dictionary—the name Sophocles (“that old kind of boring pre-selfie poet”) is formed from sophos, "wise" (as in philosophy, "love of wisdom"), and -kl s, "glorious, famous," and thus means "having wise fame, famous for wisdom." It seems such qualities as wisdom are no longer prerequisites for attending Poetry Writing Workshop 101.

TC said...

Thanks very much, Vassilis, and great that you enjoy the music: the resilience and capacity for joy, as though everything were not being taken and had not always been taken away...