"With the gods rests the balance of our fate;
But thee, at least - oh never upon thee
May evil fall! Thou art too good for sorrow!"
The chorus resume their strains, when suddenly thunder is heard, and Oedipus hails the sign that heralds him to the shades. Nothing can be conceived more appalling than this omen. It seems as if Oedipus had been spared but to curse his children and to die. He summons Theseus, tells him that his fate is at hand, and that without a guide he himself will point out the spot where he shall rest. Never may that spot be told - that secret and solemn grave shall be the charm of the land and a defence against its foes. Oedipus then turns round, and the instinct within guides him as he gropes along. His daughters and Theseus follow the blind man, amazed and awed. "Hither," he says,
"Hither - by this way come - for this way leads
The unseen conductor of the dead  - and she
Whom shadows call their queen!  Oh light, sweet light,
Rayless to me - mine once, and even now
I feel thee palpable, round this worn form,
Clinging in last embrace - I go to shroud
The waning life in the eternal Hades!"
Thus the stage is left to the chorus, and the mysterious fate of Oedipus is recited by the Nuntius, in verses which Longinus has not extolled too highly. Oedipus had led the way to a cavern, well known in legendary lore as the spot where Perithous and Theseus had pledged their faith, by the brazen steps which make one of the entrances to the infernal realms;
"Between which place and the Thorician stone -
The hollow thorn, and the sepulchral pile
He sat him down."
And when he had performed libations from the stream, and laved, and decked himself in the funeral robes, Jove thundered beneath the earth, and the old man's daughters, aghast with horror, fell at his knees with sobs and groans.
"Then o'er them as they wept, his hands he clasped,
And 'Oh my children,' said he, 'from this day
Ye have no more a father - all of me
Withers away - the burden and the toil
Of mine old age fall on ye nevermore.
Sad travail have ye home for me, and yet
Let one thought breathe a balm when I am gone -
The thought that none upon the desolate world
Loved you as I did; and in death I leave
A happier life to you!'
With clinging arms and passionate sobs, the three
Wept out aloud, until the sorrow grew
Into a deadly hush - nor cry nor wail
Starts the drear silence of the solitude.
Then suddenly a bodiless voice is heard
And fear came cold on all. They shook with awe,
And horror, like a wind, stirred up their hair.
Again, the voice - again - 'Ho! Oedipus, Why linger we so long?
Come - hither - come.'"
Oedipus then solemnly consigns his children to Theseus, dismisses them, and Theseus alone is left with the old man.