From 'Oedipus at Colonus'

Here in our white Colonus, stranger guest,
Of all earth's lovely lands the loveliest,
Fine horses breed, and leaf-enfolded vales
Are thronged with sweetly-singing nightingales,
Screened in deep arbours, ivy, dark as wine,
And tangled bowers of berry-clustered vine;
To whose dark avenues and windless courts
The Grape-god with his nursing-nymphs resorts.

  Here, chosen crown of goddesses, the fair
Narcissus blooms, bathing his lustrous hair
In dews of morning; golden crocus gleams
Along Cephisus' slow meandering streams,
Whose fountains never fail; day after day
His limpid waters wander on their way
To fill with ripeness of abundant birth
The swelling bosom of our buxom earth.

  Here Aphrodite rides with golden reins;
The Muses have consort; and on these plains,
A glory greater than the Dorian land
Of Pelops owns, or Asiatic strand,
Our sweet grey foster-nurse, the olive, grows
Self-born, immortal, unafraid of foes;
Young knaves and old her ageless strength defies
Whom Zeus and Pallas guard with sleepless eyes.

And last, our Mother-city's chiefest pride
I yet must praise, all other gifts beside,
Poseidon's gift, which makes her still to be
Mistress of horses, mistress of the sea.
Here in these lanes wild horses first obeyed
The bit and bridle; here the smooth oar-blade
In slim and handy shape first learned to leap
And chase the fifty sea-maids through the deep.

    - from the E.F. Watling translation of 'Oedipus at Colonus' by Sophocles



Often, as an amusement, crewmen
Catch albatrosses, huge birds of the sea,
Who follow, indolent companions of the voyage,
The ship gliding over the salty deeps.

As soon as they have placed them on the deck,
These kings of the sky, awkward and ashamed,
Pitiably let their large white wings
Drag at their sides like oars.

This winged voyager, how gauche and weak he is!
Once so handsome, how comic and ugly he is!
One sailor irritates his beak with a pipestem,
Another mimes, as he limps, the invalid who once flew!

The Poet is like the prince of the clouds,
Who haunts the tempest and mocks the archer;
Exiled on the earth in the midst of derision,
His giant wings keep him from walking.


    My child, my sister,
    Think of the delight
Of going far off and living together!
    Of loving peacefully,
    Loving and dying
In the land that bears your resemblance!
    The wet suns
    Of those disheveled skies
Have for my spirit
    The mysterious charm
    Of your treacherous eyes
Shining through their tears.

There, all is order and beauty,
Richness, quiet and pleasure.

    Highly polished furniture,
    Made beautiful by time,
Would decorate our room;
    The rarest flowers
    Mingling their odours
With the vague fragrance of amber,
    Rich ceilings,
    Deep mirrors,
Eastern splendour,
    Everything there would speak
    In secret to the soul
Its sweet native tongue.

There, all is order and beauty,
Richness, quiet and pleasure.

    Behold sleeping
    On the canals those ships
Whose temperament is a wanderer's;
    It is to satisfy
    Your slightest desire
That they come from the ends of the world.
    - The setting sun
    Clothes the fields,
The canals, the entire city,
    With hyacinth and gold;
    The world goes to sleep
In a warm light.

There, all is order and beauty,
Richness, quiet and pleasure.

(The original:)

L'Invitation au voyage

    Mon enfant, ma soeur,
    Songe a la douceur
D'aller la-basivre ensemble!
    Aimer a loisir
    Aimer et mourir
Au pays qui te ressemble!
    Les soleils mouillés
    De ces ciels brouillés
Pour mon esprit ont les charmes
    Si mystérieux
    De tes traitres yeux,
Brillant a travers leurs larmes.

La, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

    Des meubles luisants
    Polis par les ans,
Decorerarient notre chambre;
    Les plus rares fleurs
    Melant leurs odeurs
Aux vagues senteurs de l'ambre,
    Les riches plafonds,
    Les miroirs profonds,
La splendeur orientale,
    Tout y parlerait
    A l'ame en secret
Sa douce langue natale.

La, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

    Vois sur ces canaux
    Dormir ces vaisseaux
Dont l'humeur est vagabonde;
    C'est pour assouvir
    Ton moindre désir
Qu'ils viennent do bout du monde.
    - Les soleils couchants
    Revetent les champs,
Les canaux, la ville entiere
    D'hyancinthe et d'or
    Le monde s'endort
Dans une chaude lumiere.

La, tout n'est qu'ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté.

    (translations by Wallace Fowlie, Dover Thrift Editions)