Saturday, October 31, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

50 A Floating Dead Fish (II)

The photos are of the "harvesting" of forests about 6 km from Riga on A2, the highway to Pleskava. The many gaps, some most likely hundreds of hectares, are clearly visible from the road.

(Continued from blog 49)

How did a people teaching themselves and those around them through their language a culture of endearment (a form of blessing everything that they came in contact with) become crushed by the gears of the ‘more-equal-than-others’ machine?

The answer is as simple as its history is lost: militant strangers coming from the west  , which put their faith in the sword and (in the case of today) the nuclear bomb, occupied the lands of the Balts and the Slavs. The Evangelist (re: Yang-elist), imbedded in the language and life-style of the arch-Christians through the endearing word (and, therefore, the very opposite of a militant manner of proselytizing “faith” was turned into a passive agent through the aggressiveness of neo-Christian evangelism. The faith of the culture of endearment that it would survive through abiding cultural consensus is, if not dead, then certainly critically challenged.

I noted in earlier blogs that the college of neo-Christians engineered the cultural shift when its members removed Jesus—once an arch-Christian priest of the college of Johns—to Heaven. Jesus went to Heaven because it makes a better prison. The princes and barons needed no Johns in Latvia or elsewhere in Europe blessing the people, making them into trusted members of Visums or Viss (Allness or All, respectively) or the Day (whence the name of Dievs/God) which included all Johns. Those “more-equal-than-others” needed their own God, even if he was to be put forward and defended with violence.

Visums as such was never God among Latvians, because it was taken for granted. Indeed, the inhabitants of Visums so reverenced and endeared it to themselves that endearment was embedded in the social fabric. Many will recall the fairy-tale about the ‘table’ (‘galds’ in Latvian) that become a ‘dear table’ (galdinsh). It is the same table or tablecloth (galdautiņš) that magically spread itself before a hungry saime and food drops out of the sky to fill everyone’s empty stomachs. The reverence for life and all that Visums contains attaches itself to all objects as another (a second) way of naming it: dear bread (maize = maizīte), dear honey (medus = medutiņš), dear butter (sviests = sviestiņš), dear roast (cepetis = cepetītis), etc. In other words, the endearing word is a word of prayer and hope that comes from a hidden but self-assured resident in us all.

Alas, this used to be true, but is no longer. Today no one knows what the Heaven that Jesus is supposed to be a resident of is like. Is it an abode of love as neo-Christian proselytizers claim? The answer does not really matter as long as Jesus and Heaven are beyond human reach. This state of affairs is a God given opportunity for the ‘more-equal-than-others’ economic class. To remain “more-equal-than-others”, the class needs to but keep preaching “love”. Which is why “love” in our times has assumed a persona of sexuality, the Madonna the pop singer.  To speak of love in the sense of agape, with the endearing word being a synonym, is not the wont of our times as its near total absence from the Latvian public media attests.

No doubt, the disappearance of the Latvian community as an entity capable of critical thought is an ideal situation for business. Fortunately, ideals are seldom realized, which is why perhaps not all is lost. Even so, the communities (not only of Latvians) are sufficiently demoralized to have forgotten themselves and—though actors with a role to play—did not and still do not know they fall through a trapdoor they do not suspect.

As noted in a previous blog, Latvians had their “singing revolution” (1987-1990), but because this revolution did not establish a nation of heterogeneous “people” except in government rhetoric, Latvians are now having a “subdued revolution”. The subdued revolution gathers the middle aged and elderly (hopefully at least about 10,000 in number for the demonstration to be respectable) for a quiet demonstration, which includes entertainment provided by countryside choruses singing folk-pop songs. The demonstration lasts for about an hour or so with everyone standing in the rain under their umbrellas. After the middle aged and elderly ‘people’, go home, the alienated segment of the younger set goes on an angry rampage and throw cobblestones through the windows of the Parliament building.

In the aftermath of the outburst, the public media talks mostly about how much it costs the government to reestablish order. As for the government itself, it accuses the people of listening to populists—apparently the worst possible element among the public. Thus, for ‘the people’ it is a quick slide from being the object of worship during the “singing revolution” to taking a toboggan to nowhere with a “subdued revolution”. Clearly, the latter has no power of persuasion vis a vis the government.

Nevertheless, challenged by the “more-equal-than-others”, mostly neo-liberals ensconced as government, populism—its sovereign rights usurped by partidocratic democracy—may be about to reawaken.
These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and

Thursday, October 29, 2009

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49 A Floating Dead Fish (I)
[The photos are of scenes not infrequent along Latvia's roads. Next blog photos of deforestation near Riga.]

It was W.C. Fields, the humorist, who had the line that a dead fish can float down river, but only a live one can swim upstream. The humorist also knew, as the photo at the link shows, that the way to get any government to spit out the ping-pong ball stuck in its mouth is to whack it on the back of the head with a ping-pong paddle.  In this instance, the ping-pong ball stands for Latvia, which—one hopes—has turned out to be not to be quite as thin-shelled and crushable as the oligarchs first imagined, but a teeth-cracking stone egg instead.

No ‘normal’ Latvian would whack the head of a ‘live and normal’ Latvian government, of course. Nevertheless, given that the current government of Latvia can easily be recognized by the smell of corruption, a ‘normal’ Latvian (whoever he-she may be) may be turning to populism for help. Populism, like ancestor Gods, generally comes with a dozen heads or more.  The heads are what in the language of political theory is known as ‘equivalences’. Equivalences are interests, who while generally going their own way, come together—align themselves as a single force—when some other group presumes to threaten their interests, maybe even existence.

The question of whether the heads of the Hydra can agree on who is their nemesis and focus their antagonism on the real target, is at this time an unknown. Unfortunately, up to now the government of Latvia has been able to distract the many heads of populism with money, alcohol, and Bear-jawbreaker medals. Come Johns’ Eve, the night of the Summer solstice—the festival that no Latvian named John ever missed even if he were to die soon after getting there from exhaustion—many now celebrate this holy day by consuming enough alcohol they are sure to fall or drive into a ditch.

The sorry state of the government of Latvia notwithstanding, the institution has the power to act as the surrogate for the banking industry and clean the bones of what is left. After the forests turn into logs measured by the cubic meter and are sold when commodity prices are at their lows, nothing but the memory of a people who parted their hair in the middle of their heads will be left of Latvians.

It is unfortunate that such an end awaits a people who once upon a time were present at the founding of a culture that transmitted its values not by sermonizing, but through a ubiquitous genre of words known as the ‘endearing word’ and a unique form of households called ‘saime’. Anthropologists call these proto-Europeans—Indo-Europeans. This is not to say that the Indo-Europeans were a collective of tribes inverted upon themselves. That is what Nazi Germany tried to make of them. Rather, the Europeans had and perhaps still have a unique way of expressing and cultivating their spiritual and moral sensibility. I am of course referring not to European governments, but to the people of Europe, the mothers, relatives, and friends of who never call John John when they can endear him by calling him Johnny. Of course, we know or ought to know that the ‘endearing’ word is censured from all European media, the Latvian government and Riga media being only the latest to rework their country’s language from one with a lyrical tilt from the countryside (wood, farm, village, and small town) into a cobblestone lilac lacking endearing qualities thanks to bureaucratic Riga.

Because the people who were to become known as Latvians grew to maturity in times that were economically stable, they were able to imbed their moral and cultural sensibility in a) its proto-language (some call it Sanscrit, some Balto-Slavic), and b) a now lost social structure, the household known as ‘saime’ in Latvian. The ‘endearing word’ and ‘saime’ (a word that stands for a household and signifies a household’s greater priority over that of a family among arch-Christians) are at the root of Latvian consciousness as surely as they had forebears. However, both the genre of endearing words and the economic self-sufficiency of households are not only no longer in use, but stand in radical opposition to a consumer culture on warfare footing at their mere mention.

The war consumerism wages is against all who stand opposed to blatant promotion of a civilization where some are presumed to have the right be economically ‘more-equal-than-others’. Since the current Latvian government is the very embodiment of this exclusionary philosophy, it is for some time no longer the guarantor of the survival of Latvians as a people in their own right. It has become instead a brutal agent-teacher (yet another!) to better diminish what little is left of the people’s spiritual self-consciousness.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and  

Saturday, October 24, 2009

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48 Latvians demand

As we see from “Tiresias’ Revenge” (blogs 40-47), Oedipus is the main personage in a play-story about the whence of political authority. The mother and son relationship that is featured so prominently in the West because the relationship includes a sexual relationship as well, is but to illustrate that in a spectrum of relationships this is also possible. More important, however, is the fact that when Anyone (in this instance Oedipus) is born into a cultural space that allows anyone to become President, the consequences will be catastrophic unless the President in return for his privilege to office, sacrifices his-her life to secure for the next President the trust necessary to govern the country (Thebes-Latvia).

Oedipus’ failure to understand the reasons for the plague that is haunting Thebes brings on the plague with increasing intensity, particularly in his own extended family relationships. Because of Oedipus failure to risk sacrifice and as a result of ignoring arguments that claim the indispensability of self-sacrifice, twelve deaths take place. The deaths are of

1. the baby who is left in place of Oedipus on Mt. Citheron;
2. King Laius, unknowingly killed by Oedipus, but the clash most likely arranged by Iocaste, wife and mother;
3. King Laius’ bodyguard who witnessed the King’s killing—murdered arranged by Iocaste;
4. the king of Corinth, probably poisoned by Merope, his wife, upon her concurrence with Iocaste’s suggestion;
5. Tiresias, the seer, probably killed by Iocaste’s hirelings;
6-7. Otus and Ephialtes, the sons of Iocasta and Oedipus, twins, dead by each other’s hand;
8-9. Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter, and Haemon, son of Creon, poisoned by Creon;
10. Creon’s wife and Haemon’s mother, Eridike;
11. Iocaste, Oedipus’ mother and wife;
12. Oedipus.

The story can be further restructured after these deaths, by having the new king, Creon, marry the surviving queen of Corinth, Merope. The reemergence of Ismene, the one survivor of the clan, can only occur after Creon and Merope are dead, too. Ismene, of course, symbolizes the ‘people’—whatever it is they emerge as after their continued exploitation (think of the sacrifice of children) by the Sphinx who contrary to impression never went away.

In blog 39, I wrote on the failure of the “more equal than others” group to lead society successfully, because though our civilization originated in an assumption that all human beings are economically equal, the group would remain more equal among the members of its club than outsiders would want it to become. Since perfect economic equality is an assumption that cannot be realized in society (outside the family circle) without self-sacrifice, that is to say, without a maturing of the individual into one who takes charge of his life including his death, society cannot be created except through violence. This is to explain why the “more-equal-than-others” group rules through violence.

Just a few days ago, I saw the following statement appear on a site on the internet: “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity and opportunity for all,” said Brian Griffiths of Goldman Sachs. As tolerated as this truism may be when the balance is guaranteed by a self-sacrificial Sacred King, the Latvian government has sent the majority of the people of Latvia into poverty by having put the leadership of the country into the hands of corporations. Thus, we arrive at a unique period for Latvia: a time when the people may again experience themselves as a “people”. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will happen, but in a way this experience is overdue, because the Latvians sacrificed themselves last during the “freedom fights” (brīvības cīņas) at its foundation in the last days of WW1. (Alas, the sacrifices by Latvian legionnaires in WW2 are tainted because of an possible association with the Waffen SS of Hitler’s Germany.)

The post-Soviet “reconstituted” Latvia arrived for the Latvians on a silver platter in what we know as “the singing revolution”. The sentimentality of this positivist slogan is but one propaganda tool that the “more-equal-than-others” economic group holds over the public. With all due respect to the several people who were killed by Omon and all those who participated in the “days of the barricades” (1991), theirs was an affirmative ritual, but in retrospect of insufficient awesomeness to assure that Latvia become a heterogeneous society except by way of government advertisement.

The corruption of government is so extensive and destructive of Latvia as a place that is more than a geographical location, flags warning of cultural disintegration are appearing everywhere. While the government keeps talking of Latvia as a place for and of a people, the people hear the rhetoric, but feel a lack of commitment on the part of government (no lack of evidence of this), which, in turn, creates the feeling of a lack of “something”, a lack of fullness, a lack of an identity. Because the government is not able to find for itself another definition than a surrogate of business corporations (very understandable given who controls the government) and business is now suffering from financial shock (lack of business and money), the possibility of the population discovering or rediscovering or redefining its identity may be in the offing.

As professor of political theory Ernesto Laclau writes in his book “On Populist Reason”: “…the notion of the non-fulfillment of the demand [for ‘fulness’], which confronts it [Latvia] with an existing status-quo [as corporate control]… makes possible the triggering of equivalential logics leading to the emergence of a ‘people’.” [Everything within brackets is of this author.]

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

f you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and ttp://    
© Eso Antons Benjamins

47 Tiresias Revenge (VII)

This blog continues a play called “Tiresias Revenge”.

The play runs from blog 40 through 47. I wrote it many years ago using various sources for the text of King Oedipus, all scholarly books as I remember. Who would read this stuff? Yech! Nevertheless, I hope you read it. The people of Latvia and their descendants abroad should find it interesting and pertaining to them. For blogs discussing populism, go to blog 40 or before and following 47.

Scene Five (Continued)

(Tiresias crawls forward.)

Tiresias: Do you, King Oedipus,
really believe that a man untested by fate
has an eye for truth and is worthy to be King?
You may pretend,
but unless you offer
yourself in self-sacrifice,
Latvia will lose respect for truth
and live in a world out of touch.
A plague plagues Latvia,
because of you, King Oedipus.
You killed not only our Gods,
but King Laius, your father, to top it.
To cleanse the world of your crime,
you must offer your life in payment.
You have not done so.

King Oedipus: I rescued Latvia’s children from the Sphinx.
All Latvians are grateful to me.
What do you mean, I killed my father?

Tiresias: You were born,
King Oedipus, son to a king
to be his heir if you had accepted
the sacrificial role of a God.
This is how cities are made and people bonded.
We, even I whose eyes you destroyed—
welcomed and welcome still
your rescue of our children.
But you refused further responsibility.
You have not kept your promises
to keep Latvia a country
that serves its people.
You have no authority over us,
but such as you may coerce from us.
You are no living memorial to your forebears.
I am come to call you
unworthy of such great glory.

King Oedipus: Monster theologian!

Tiresias: Had you survived on the mountaintop,
you would have had claim
to become King Laius’ heir.
Instead, your mother feared for you.
When I carried you to the mountain,
she screamed as one who had near lost her mind.

King Oedipus: You took me to be sacrificed?

Tiresias: As tradition required and
as your father asked me to do.
Your mother insisted I let her watch over you.
I agreed—if she sat naked
and offered herself to the Sphinx
if the Sphinx came and found her pleasing.

King Oedipus: What else?

Tiresias: Queen Iocasta agreed.
There was a storm.
While I dozed, your mother caught you up
and ran to hide in the goatherd’s shack.
She let that buck, then ten bucks strong,
dance his cock over her
not to waken me.
Then they left a dead babe,
whether stillborn or not, I do not know,
in your place.

King Oedipus: What fantasy the blind possess!

Tiresias: The goatherd agreed to pass you on
to this man, the messenger from Lithuania.
He took you to your aunt and her husband,
the King and Queen of Lithuania.

King Oedipus: What is Creon paying you
to invent this story?

Tiresias: When you were twenty,
your mother visited you disguised as a witch.
She had a plan that would
regain for you the throne of Latvia.
You were still young and innocent.
You could not imagine killing your father
and taking your mother to bed.
That is why you fled Kaunas.
Your mother, in Riga,
was overjoyed when she heard.
The two sisters-whores would have
your kingdom for among themselves.

King Oedipus: I do not believe any of this.

Tiresias: After you destroyed the Sphinx’s temple,
you were welcomed to Riga as a hero.

King Oedipus: I killed no man.

Tiresias: You met your father at the crossroad
before you met the Sphinx. Remember?

King Oedipus: Was that King Laius?
That was not my father.
That man had come to trade children.
My trusty guards, not I killed him.

Tiresias: How little you know,
King Oedipus. Listen!
Your mother when young was a courtesan
at an inn in Kaunas.
She knew of many babes whose bodies
were buried under the floors of the whorehouse.
When her sister, Merope, a courtesan, too,
had luck and married King Polybus,
she introduced Iocasta to King Laius.
Merope was infertile—the result of her trade.
But Iocasta bore King Laius a son.
When King Laius wanted to honor Oedipus
and open the way for him to become his heir
by exposing him to the will of our Gods,
Iocasta was horrified.
Perhaps she had babes of her own
under the whorehouse floor.

King Oedipus: You mean to tell me
that failing to take the test cursed me
to kill my father
and marry my mother?

Tiresias: You want to know
what became of the golden wire?
Your mother gave it to you
on the day you married her.
She had it reworked into the very necklace
you wear around your neck this moment.

King Oedipus: Oh horror! Dear Gods!

Tiresias: Before I go to sleep,
I often exclaim:
‘Oh Gods, oh Gods, oh Gods.’

(Tiresias dies. Enter Princess Ismene’s nurse, Iananna. We met the latter when she came screaming for help to prevent Polynices and Eteokles from killing each other. She did not succeed.)

Iananna: The Queen is dead.

King Oedipus: No!

Strophe: Polynices and Eteokles are dead, too.
Creon turned them against each other.
Neither of the twins was tested
on Mt. Cytheron.

Antistrophe: After Queen Iocasta died,
Prince Creon, seized the throne,
declared himself King of Latvia
and married Merope, Queen of Lithuania!
Messengers ran through both kingdoms and
announced King Oedipus mad.
King Creon threw Polynices’ body to the dogs.
This very moment, Antigone, his sister,
is burying what remains of him.

Strophe: I fear for Antigone’s life.

Antistrophe: Fear no longer.
Antigone and Haemon, Creon’s son,
both imprisoned as examples of the sacrifice
Creon was capable of
have taken poison.

Strophe: Eridike, Creon’s wife, is dead.
She took her life to hasten the wrath
of the Gods against her long ago lover.

Chorus: King Oedipus has put out his eyes.
But nothing will bring back those
who died because of him.

(Enter Princess Ismene, the youngest daughter of King Oedipus and Queen Iocasta, with her nurse, Iananna. Princess Ismene is still a child at this point.)

Iananna: You are responsible
for the death of twelve.
Start with the babe to replace you on the mountain.
Your stepfather in Kaunas, too.
He agreed to die (or someone poisoned him),
because he understood
that you had no other exit,
no other way to escape from Riga—
unless you went to attend a funeral.
Will you also sacrifice Gans and Ismene
and make it number fourteen?

King Oedipus: Do not be afraid
of such talk, dearest Ismene.
I am not now nor ever was a monster.
You know the path, Ismene dear,
to the peak of Mt. Citheron.
Let us go there.

Princess Ismene: Yes, father.

King Oedipus: I want you to lead me up that mountain.
We will wait out the night under the stars there.
They say you can see
all of All from there.

(Exit everyone but the chorus and Queen Ismene. The latter—hidden behind a pillar—has been standing stage right from the beginning of Scene 1.)

Strophe: Only life comes easy;
death takes much to do.

Antistrophe: So many dead!
How could it happen?
A mother promised her son more. He got less.
No mother wants her children to call her a liar.
What went amiss?

Strophe: Before Queen Iocasta returned from Lithuania
and threw her witch’s mask in the ditch,
she persuaded her sister, Queen Merope of Kaunas,
to let Prince Oedipus visit Latvia.
The sisters hired armed men for Oedipus’ escorts.
The captain of the guard was in both sisters’ hire.
Iocasta did not tell King Laius of her plans,
but arranged for him to meet her son at the crossroads.
Then the queen told the king (as if an aside):
‘King Laius, I forgot to mention,
I bought some whorehouse children
as sacrifices for state occasions.
A caravan of them is due tomorrow.
Be so good, take ten sacks of grain,
and go to the crossroad to receive them.’

Strophe: King Laius was killed
when he asked for the delivery.

Queen Ismene: I remember the King
covering me with a blanket.
It was a cold night on Mt. Citheron.
In the morning, when I saw my father dead,
I ran terrified to nanny Iananna.
She—as true as the Sun’s warm shadow—
hid me until Creon and Merope died.
I have not visited Mt. Citheron since.
But now the story is told,
you must know—lest plagues come again—
I go there this very hour.
Yahn will keep me company,
come there and come back.

–End of Play—
Finis! Amen!
May the Dearest Goddess be with us.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and

Friday, October 23, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

46 Tiresias Revenge (VI)

This blog continues a play called “Tiresias Revenge”.

The play runs from blog 40 through 47. I wrote it many years ago using various sources for the text of King Oedipus, all scholarly books as I remember. Who would read this stuff? Nevertheless, I hope you read it. The people of Latvia and their descendants abroad should find it interesting and pertaining to them. For blogs discussing populism, go to blog 40 or before, then return read from #40 on up.

Scene Five

(The stage as before. Enter guards with goatherd.)

Guard: King Oedipus, here is your man.

King Oedipus: An old bony goat, is he not?
No matter. All I need is pluck his memory.

Strophe: We sacrificed our children,
then built Riga to their memory.
The city was sacred to us.
But sacrifice has ended now.
The Gods are offered a goat instead.
Poor goat! Betrayed Gods!

Antistrophe: Death comes when it will.
We die unknowing into unknowing.
We leave behind yet more unknowing.

King Oedipus: You, messenger from Lithuania!
Is this the man you spoke of?

Messenger: It is.

King Oedipus: Old man, what is your name?
Were you a goatherd working for King Laius?

Goatherd: My name is Gans.
Some call me Yahn. I was.

King Oedipus: Where did you herd the goats?

Gans: It was some distance from here,
near Latvia’s border with Lithuania,
in the dales of Mt. Citheron.

King Oedipus: Yahn, did you ever meet the man
standing next to me?

Yahn: I don’t know.
I don’t remember.

Messenger: King, it happened a long time ago.
The man is old. But he knows the mountains well.
He had two herds of goats. I had one.
We herded in adjacent valleys for three years
from summer until autumn.
When winter came,
he drove his herd to King Laius’ barns.
Was that not so, old friend?

Yahn: Yes, now that you remind me of it.

Messenger: Do you remember the time, Yahn,
when you handed me a child
and asked me to bring it to Kaunas?

Yahn (the other name of John, the herder):
What makes you ask?

Messenger: Old friend, here he is.
Here is the king who was that child.

Yahn: Death take you!
As John is my undertaker,
I do not believe it.

King Oedipus: Do you fault me for being your king?

Yahn: Best of kings, it was but an expression.

King Oedipus: It evaded an answer.

Yahn: King, what do you expect?
My friend knows nothing.
When he was a boy,
I was fifty or more.

King Oedipus: Do you know pain, Yahn?

Yahn: King, don’t do me ill.
I am a faithful citizen of Latvia.
Why else would King Laius have
trusted me with his herds?

King Oedipus: Guards!
Bend the man’s arm.

Yahn: All, help me!

King Oedipus: You handed this man a child,
who was a boy, me, is that not so?

Yahn: Gods! Riga! Would I have died that day.

King Oedipus: I can arrange for it yet.

Yahn: If kings refuse to die,
I refuse to do better.

King Oedipus: This bag of skin is a stubborn Billy.

Yahn: I am a citizen of Latvia
born in my own house.
I gave you my answer:
I was already in years,
when he was but getting to nine.

King Oedipus: Where did you find the child?
Who gave the child to you?
Did a twig or a wire of gold bind my ankles?

Yahn: There was a gold wire.
I sold it double its price.

King Oedipus: Whose child was I?

Yahn: You were not mine.
I only passed you to another.

King Oedipus: Who was it?
Was it someone standing here?

Yahn: The way you ask questions,
upsets me, King.

King Oedipus: If you delay answering,
consider yourself dead.

Yahn: If you kill me,
will your authority over yourself
continue to be as great as now?

King Oedipus: You are suicidal.

Yahn: Once you were a king’s son.
I am not sure who you are now.

King Oedipus: How come you know so much?

Yahn: I know it from her, King Oedipus.

King Oedipus: Her? Who is ‘her’?

(Tiresias appears at the back of the stage. He crawls on all fours, obviously mortally wounded. His face and dress are splotched with blood. The Chorus makes a half turn as if to wait for the goatherd’s answer, but sees Tiresias instead. The Chorus gasps. Even so, the goatherd drowns out the chorus.)

Yahn: Your mother and wife!

King Oedipus: What?! How dare you!

Yahn: I dare you to threaten me more.
In your first years of life,
your mother often visited you.
Perhaps you have not been told,
but the Queen of Lithuania, Merope, is your aunt.
She and your stepfather, King Polybus, were
a man and a woman without children of their own.
They needed a gift from the Gods.
They took you in and raised you as their own.

King Oedipus: How muddled can old age get!
The mind grows hairy. How awful!

Yahn: King Laius put you up for sacrifice to the Gods
as was the custom for princes since King Cadmus.
Had you survived the night,
you would have proven yourself
a worthy heir. But your mother feared
you might die.
She did not believe death was a thing
her son should risk.
There was snow in the mountains.
She begged King Laius to leave
a straw doll in your place.

King Oedipus (pointing at Tiresias, but not reacting to the fact the old priest is bleeding):
Look! There crawls your twin in fate.

Chorus: Dear Gods!

Scene Five continues on next blog.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and

Thursday, October 22, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

45 Tiresias Revenge (V)

This blog continues a play called “Tiresias Revenge”.

The play runs from blog 40 through 47. I wrote it many years ago using various sources for the text of King Oedipus, all scholarly books as I remember. Who would read this stuff? Nevertheless, I hope you read it. The people of Latvia and their descendants abroad should find it interesting and pertaining to them. For blogs discussing populism, go to blog 40 or before and following 47.

Scene Four

(The stage remains unchanged. Enter messenger from Corinth.)

Messenger: Good day, dear people.
Is this Latvia?
Is this where King Oedipus lives?

Chorus: Welcome to Latvia stranger.
The king is with us.

Messenger: Will someone ask him to receive me?
I have important news concerning his father.

Chorus (obviously surprised): Already! Gods!
We have been waiting for you.
Who are you? Where are you from?

Messenger: I’m from Lithuania.

Chorus: Guards! Call King Oedipus!
There is important news from Lithuania.

(Enter King Oedipus.)

King Oedipus: News from Kaunas is always welcome.
How are its King and Queen?

Messenger: King Oedipus!
May children love you to the end of time.
Humankind will not forget your deeds.
May forget-me-nots bloom in your remembrance.
I beg your forgiveness.
I bring news of sorrow.

King Oedipus: I already have plenty of sorrows.
Do you not have something better?

Messenger: Yes, of course.
When the Sun shines behind the clouds,
it rings its fleece with gold.

King Oedipus: It is a fair sight.
But is it more than speech?

Messenger: Yes, King Oedipus!
The citizens of Lithuania want
you to be their king.
I’ve been sent in the hope
I will return with news you accept.

King Oedipus: What has happened to the king?

Messenger: King Oedipus, this part of the message
will bring you sadness:
The King of Lithuania, your father, is dead.

King Oedipus: Gods! What did he die of?

Messenger: When one is old,
even a small matter may cause death.

Chorus (interrupting): King Oedipus, excuse me!
If the news is painful, it is also good.
Your kingdom is doubled!
Latvia will be twice the size it is presently.
This is the answer to our prayers from the Gods.

King Oedipus: Guards, go call the Queen!
Messenger, your news is good indeed.
No disrespect, I love my father,
but the cloud is indeed gold edged.
You will surely get your share of it.

(Enter Queen Iocasta.)

Queen Iocasta, the King of Lithuania,
my father, has died.

Queen Iocasta: I sorrow for him and you.

King Oedipus: The citizens of Lithuania
want me to be their king.

Queen Iocasta: Did I not say all will be well?

King Oedipus (suddenly crestfallen):
I almost forgot.
How could I forget!
I mean, the other half of the witch’s story.
Messenger! Go back where you came from.
Thank your people for their trust in me,
but I cannot accept their offer.

Queen Iocasta: Oedipus, forget stories told by witches.
The witches are gone with the Sphinx.

King Oedipus: It is well only
if my mother were dead, too.

Chorus: King, think what you say.

Queen Iocasta: I thought you called me to hear good news.

King Oedipus: I had forgotten the curse.

Messenger: King Oedipus,
I do not understand.
Did you mention your mother?
What curse?

King Oedipus: Yes, my mother.
Yes, a curse.

Messenger: What makes you fear your mother?
She always speaks kindly of you.

King Oedipus: I fear an old curse.
Your visit brings it to mind.

Messenger: I beg a thousand forgivenesses.
But if it is not a secret,
what is the curse?

King Oedipus: A long time ago a witch came
with a prophecy
that I would bed my mother
and spill my father’s blood.

Queen Iocasta: The message from Kaunas
proves the curse has no weight.
You are soon king of two kingdoms.
As for sleeping with your mother,
many sons taken from their mother’s breast too soon,
dream bedding with her as grown men.

Messenger: Is that what you fear?

King Oedipus: I did not want to kill my father.
I did not want to bed my mother.
That is why I sought my fortune
elsewhere than Lithuania.

Messenger: Great King, let me ease your mind.

King Oedipus: Do if you can.
Else I will never come near Kaunas.

Messenger: King, you have been told lies.
Your fears have no basis.

King Oedipus: How can that be?
Dare you contradict me?

Messenger: The King and Queen of Lithuania
were not your real parents.
Though you are their heir,
you are their stepson by a mother unknown.

King Oedipus: I just promised you gold
and you are already betting your neck.

Messenger: I swear this is true.
The King and Queen of Lithuania
had no children of their own.
Then the Gods put you in my arms.
And I put you in theirs.

King Oedipus: What is this?
You put me in their arms?
Who put me in yours?

Messenger: A friend of mine,
a goatherd.
He found you on the mountain ridge
of Mt. Citheron,
between Riga and Shauliai.
I took you and carried you to our city.

King Oedipus: How did I, how did you
happen on the mountain?

Messenger: When I was young, I was a goatherd, too.
You were left in the mountains
as an offering to the Sphinx.
My friend found you and withdrew the loop
that bound your ankles.

King Oedipus: Who did such a thing?

Messenger: Child sacrifice was not uncommon then.
Such offerings were made by many
to summon favor from the Gods.
People in despair did it.
So did kings—to test the favor of their Gods
and so the people would know.

King Oedipus: Is your friend still alive?

Messenger: He was a goatherd working for King Laius.
The people of Riga can better tell where he lives.
There must be people who remember him.

King Oedipus: Iocasta, do you remember?
Did you know of such a goatherd?

Queen Iocasta: Since when, King Oedipus,
do you have messengers tell you what to do?
Leave be.
You know how rumor undermines our city.

King Oedipus: But if the goatherd is alive,
I will learn the truth.
He may still have the loop
that bound my ankles.

Queen Iocasta: Oedipus, be serious.
Leave be.

King Oedipus: I must learn
whether I am the son of a whore or a king.

Queen Iocasta: Oedipus, do not continue this.

King Oedipus: Messenger, was the loop made of gold
or was it a twig of a willow branch?

Messenger: I did not see or think to ask.

Queen Iocasta: King Oedipus,
I wish only the best.
Leave this matter be.

King Oedipus: I have not asked
for your advice on this.

Queen Iocasta: A king in too much of a hurry
may leave the Gods behind
and discover himself beset by doubt.

King Oedipus: You, guards,
go find the goatherd.
If he lives, bring him to me.

Queen Iocasta: Oedipus, why don’t you listen?
Why do you stick your head
in the maw of the Sphinx?

Chorus (aside): Did I not save you from it once already?

King Oedipus (in mock tones recites a childrens’ ditty):
When a goatherd dies,
the billy climbs up,
up into the clouds
to asks the Gods, please
return me my master—
else I, too, must die.
The Gods tell the billy:
Away! Away! Billy,
you have no beard of gold .
You’re but a goat.

(Exit Queen Iocasta in obvious distress.)

Chorus: Something unpleasant will come of this.

King Oedipus: I will learn of my past.
The children of whores were bought for sacrifice.
But perhaps I wore a golden wire.
Perhaps I was of royal blood.

Strophe: Who bore you, child?

Antistrophe: Who was your mother?
Was she a virgin surprised by a goatherd?
Was it the night?
Was the goatherd seduced by a whore?
Was your mother taken by a king?

Chorus: Why did the king not take the queen’s advice?
It was she who made him king.
She was a queen before he was a king.
It was she who agreed to marry him
and make him king.

[Enter Iananna, the nurse of Princess Ismene (see Prologue)].
She runs, screams.]

Iananna: O Gods! O Gods!
How terrible! The horror!
Polynices and Eteokles stalk each other
with spears in hand.
Where is the King?
Oedipus, your sons, your twins!
Where is the Queen?
Iocasta, your twins!
Hurry! Help!

Scene Five next.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

© Eso Antons Benjamins

44 Tiresias Revenge (IV)

This blog continues a play called “Tiresias Revenge”.

The play has a few blogs to run 4-47). I wrote it many years ago using various sources for the text of King Oedipus, all scholarly books as I remember. Who else would read this stuff. Yech! Nevertheless, I hope you read it. The people of Latvia and their descendants abroad should find it interesting and pertaining to them--perhaps.

Scene Three

(Scene as before. Enter Prince Creon.)

Prince Creon: I don’t believe it!
The king threatens my life.
My lovers are leaving me.
What am I guilty of?
Do you, too, believe that I’m betraying Latvia?

Chorus: Our king is overcome by anger.
Tiresias set it off.
He blamed the king over Latvia’s troubles.
We do not know what to make of it.
The blind man’s words were strange.
King Oedipus has done Latvia much good.
He says it was you, Prince Creon, not he,
who suggested going to Tiresias for consultation.

Prince Creon: The king accuses me and Tiresias,
both, of plotting against him.

Chorus: That is what he believes.

Prince Creon: Is he in his right mind?

Chorus: I do not always understand
the court’s reasoning.
But here comes King Oedipus.
He apparently is in control of himself.

(Enter King Oedipus.)

King Oedipus: Well, well, Creon!
The man who will seduce the Queen of Fate herself.
Do not look so surprised to see me.
Yes, I know you are against me.
Do not say it is not so.
It was you who persuaded me to send you
after that murderer of children,
that empty-socketed soothsayer.
It was you who told him
what was to be in his report.

Prince Creon: You are making this up.

King Oedipus: You are sending Tiresias about Riga
to mutter a falsehood. Worse!
Falsehoods against me!

Prince Creon: King Oedipus, let me speak.

King Oedipus: Do not say you are not guilty.

Prince Creon: I am not guilty.

King Oedipus: You are wrong if you think
you will escape punishment
because you are Queen Iocasta’s brother.

Prince Creon: Punishment will be earned
only if you prove my guilt.

King Oedipus: You are the one who brought Tiresias to Latvia.

Prince Creon: So? Everyone is in awe of him.
What is more, you agreed to it.

King Oedipus: You tricked me into it.
I now regret the day I took pity
and removed from him his eyes only.
For how many years has he now spun
his web of deceits?

Prince Creon: It is twenty years since King Laius died.

King Oedipus: You have counted those years, haven’t you?
It is the same number that you plot.

Prince Creon: What makes you say so?

King Oedipus: It is as clear to me as anything is.
You murdered King Laius.
You did it to gain the throne.
Tiresias was to vouch for you
with more child offerings.
But I thwarted your plans.
The truth is, Creon—the Gods do not
stand by either you or Tiresias.
You are finished.

Prince Creon: I cannot speak for Tiresias.
As for me, I deny your accusations.
You do not know what you are talking about.

King Oedipus: You never made an effort
to look for Yahn’s killer.

Prince Creon: I can say the same about you.
You’re the one who became king, not me.
You’re the one who had no curiosity
about your predecessor.
Why pretend to revive him now?

King Oedipus: Tiresias did not divine
where King Yahn lies buried, did he?

Prince Creon: You can see with his eyes.
You know where you buried him.

King Oedipus: Is that how you answer a king?

Prince Creon: You are the one who says
you heard what Tiresias said.
I was not present when you and he,
and the Sphinx met.

King Oedipus: It was no time for talk.
It was a time to get on with life or die.

Prince Creon: I hope your innocence is proved
with the same certainty
as you are the husband of my sister.
But tell me something.
You rule over Latvia and give
like rights to Queen Iocasta, don’t you?

King Oedipus: All the queen desires, she gets.

Prince Creon: Then tell me,
is she not with me
one of the three legs of the cauldron
on which Thebes stands?
I have like rights to yours even if I—
like the queen—
defer to you and let you rule.
If you die, the queen will rule next.
If you die and the queen dies, I rule.
Why should I wish to kill my sister or you?
Why do you try to tip the altar by exiling me
(which is what I presume you want to do)
and unbalance our Latvia?

King Oedipus: So, you want Queen Iocasta and me dead?

Prince Creon: If you believe that,
you will believe anything.
Why should I wish to rule and live in fear
when life is meant for easy sleeping?
I do like to sleep easy.
You have no understanding of life.
I was not born with the desire to become king—
though if need be I will take on the responsibility.
I do not wish to give up my present way of life
for the sake of the throne. I do not deny
that I wish to live like a king.
But why should I be king
if a king’s privileges are mine without effort?
Because of our existential relationship
I have become rich.
I am grateful for your generosity to me
regarding the building of public monuments.
You get your share, and I am satisfied with mine.
Why should I let this slip from my hands?
If you believe I have worked against you
and can prove it, kill me.
However, do not accuse me of being a traitor

before you have proof of it.
Chorus: King Oedipus, step back.
Peace is paramount.

King Oedipus: When an enemy works against me in secret,
I have no time to waste.
If I wait, I lose.

Prince Creon: Do you want me to leave Latvia then?

King Oedipus: I want your head.

Prince Creon: You are not right in the mind.

King Oedipus: What parent of Latvia agrees with you?

Prince Creon: You are being reckless.
You began the accusations.

King Oedipus: It is I who rule.

Prince Creon: Do you wish the cauldron
to stand on two legs?

King Oedipus: How long must I be patient!?

Prince Creon: You have no right to presume
your decision is final if I contest it.
Queen Iocasta, too, must be consulted.

Chorus: Is this dispute a family matter?
King Oedipus, your accusations are without proof.
Prince Creon, you claim to be a leg of the holy tripod,
but your words pretend to authority greater than the king’s.
Do you know something we do not?
Look! Here comes Queen Iocasta.
May she establish peace.

(Enter Queen Iocasta.)

Queen Iocasta: King Oedipus, Prince Creon, I’m aghast.
Your pettiness should embarrass you both,
especially now when Latvia suffers from uncertain times.
Oedipus, it is time for you to go back into the castle.
Creon, do not air your disagreements before the public.

Prince Creon: I will go, but not before you know that
King Oedipus, your husband, believes
only he has a say in Latvia.
He believes he only has to say his wish
and he has my head.
Did he sleep on the Holy Mountain, Mt. Citheron,
the day after he was born? Damned well, no!

King Oedipus: You do all you can, don’t you, Creon,
to make the plague worse?

Prince Creon: May the Gods curse me!
May I die if your accusation is true.

King Oedipus: Liar! You sent Tiresias
to spread rumors that I am to blame
for Latvia’s troubles.

Queen Iocasta: Is that true, Creon?

Prince Creon: No.

King Oedipus: Don’t believe him.

Prince Creon: I swear.

Queen Iocasta: Oedipus, accept Creon’s oath.
Do it for the sake of Latvia.

Chorus: Be peace loving, King Oedipus.
Prince Creon’s oath is believable.
To kill him will spread into a contagion of plagues.
Spare him.

King Oedipus: Do you know what you are asking?

Chorus: May the Sun forgive me.
May I die without her blessings and without friends
if what I wish for is not for the best.
You yourself, King Oedipus, said
that without our support Creon has no chance.

Queen Iocasta: King Oedipus, we stand witness to
and respect your authority.

King Oedipus: Though you request mercy for him,
Creon himself has not asked for it.

Prince Creon: That’s because your mercy is reluctant.

King Oedipus: What magic protects you?
None, but your sister. So, go your way.

Prince Creon: I’m going, but note:
the citizens of Latvia do not say I am guilty.

(Exit Creon.)

Chorus: Let there be silence for a space.

King Oedipus (suddenly clutching his head):
Shame is me! What a fool!
Why did I give in? I should have
taken the head of Tiresias and Creon, both,
with a nod to the guards.

(The Chorus turns its back to the audience as if to absent itself.)

Queen Iocasta: Oedipus, don’t take this so seriously.
Creon is not destined to be king.

(The Chorus appears to have second thoughts and turns toward the audience again.)

Chorus: King Oedipus, we are with you.
You freed us from the Sphinx.
You brought happiness to children and parents, all.

(The Chorus turns away again.)

Queen Iocasta: What angered you so?

King Oedipus: It was Creon’s lies.
Because of him there are those who now don’t know
whether to support me or him.

Queen Iocasta: What are the lies?

King Oedipus: Creon got Tiresias to say
that I murdered King Laius.
His own tongue, though, remains innocent.
He only delicately hints.

Queen Iocasta: I understand.
Nevertheless, leave the matter be.
I will take care of Tiresias.
Creon will fall in line.

King Oedipus: I am not sure that he will.
I fear he has laid a curse on me.

Queen Iocasta: What? What curse?

King Oedipus: I have not told you the story.

Queen Iocasta: What story?
What have you not told me?
What bullshit are you giving me?

King Oedipus: Well, you know of course that
my parents are the King and Queen of Lithuania.
I have a throne to inherit
in Lithuania someday.

Queen Iocasta: Yes. It is the King and
the Queen of Lithuania
who remember you often with kind gifts.

King Oedipus: So why do I live here, not there?
Listen. This is true. This is what I know.
Fifteen years ago when I came of age
and Lithuania was to make me its citizen,
I was visited by a witch, a fortune teller.
She said she came from Riga to tell my fate.
We sat under an old oak,
its branches heavy with acorns.
She laid upon the grass a linen sheet
and waited for a finch to alight on a branch.
Then she hit that branch with her stick so hard,
the acorns fell from their cups.
She looked at the lay of the seeds and foretold
that I would soon kill my father
and lie in bed with my mother.
I was horrified, but the witch
assured me that all would be well if I left Lithuania,
killed the child-eating Sphinx at Šauliai,
leveled the Sphinx’ temple, blinded its priest,
and took up residence in Riga.

(Enter Eteokles, a son of King Oedipus and Queen Iocasta.)

Eteokles: Father, uncle Creon says
you killed my grandfather.

King Oedipus: The viper speaks!

Queen Iocasta: How did uncle Creon say he knows all this?

Eteokles: He says Tiresias told him.
He says Tiresias is to be believed more than father.
He says he will support Polynices
as king of Latvia. He says that
I will die if I do not leave.

Queen Iocasta: Listen, son, your father is right.
It happens. Uncle Creon, a man who loves tulips,
has been bit by a viper.

(Exit Queen Iocasta, King Oedipus, and Prince Eteokles. The Chorus turns to face the audience, perhaps one of Latvians.)

Chorus: I defer to fate
ruled by laws that mortals have not yet
understood and may never.

Antistrophe: Our king a murderer?
But because of him
thousands of children live today.

Strophe: People twist what they hear
and as the story changes so does truth.

Antistrophe: My thoughts are like the wind,
here, there, everywhere.
What will become of Riga?
Is ruin our future?
Is the sacred cauldron to spill
its sacred content for the dogs?

Chorus: May Gods allow the serpent
of wrath to catch its tail.
Let good prevail.

Scene Four next.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and  /
© Eso Antons Benjamins

43 Tiresias Revenge (III)

This blog continues a play called Tiresias Revenge.
It has a few blogs to run Blog 40-47).
I wrote the play many years ago using various sources for the text of King Oedipus, all scholarly books as I remember. Who else would read this stuff. Yech! Nevertheless, I hope you read it.
Scene Two

(Scene as before. Enter King Oedipus.
The ‘people’ he addresses are actually the Chorus of Scene 1.)

King Oedipus: I’m losing my patience.
Dear people, do not listen to rumor.
If you don’t know, don’t guess,
and do not credit the opinions of Riga’s kitchen maids.
I am not responsible for the plague of Thebes.
I was not born among you.
I have no loyalties born of childhood in me
that tear me hither and thither.
As your king, I call on everyone
to come forward and tell me what you know
about the death of King Yahn.
Nothing bad will come to you.
I will even reward you.
Of course, those who hide from me
what they know, when I discover it,
I will deny them the right to live in Thebes.
Worse, any Theban worthy of his name
will spit you in the face.
Curse the murderer.
May his life be pain and suffering,
so much so that he seeks death.
A king’s death cannot remain a mystery.
Since I share my bed with Queen Iocasta,
once King Laius’ wife,
if she and King Laius had had descendants,
we would be as one family.
Indeed, I wish to discover King Laius’ murderer
as if Laius were my own father.

Chorus: IWe do not know who killed King Laius.
May the Sun help discover the guilty one.

King Oedipus: I hope the Sun is listening to you.

Chorus: May we add something
to all that has been said?

King Oedipus: Speak!

Chorus: Tiresias, the man who long ago
accompanied children to the Sphinx’s temple
has eyes that pierce the dark.
You should seek him out.
Discover his thoughts.
King Oedipus: I’ve thought of that.
I’ve already sent Prince Creon
to visit the Sun’s temple,
where Tiresias now dwells.

Chorus: One more thing.

King Oedipus: Yes?

Chorus: Perhaps the killers of King Laius bragged.
Violence brags about its deeds.

Else it cannot be justified.
At the same time, killers threaten violence
if their violence is revealed.
You must offer protection to those who tell the truth.

King Oedipus: Yes, of course.

(Enter Tiresias. He is led by a youth and followed by a guard.)

King Oedipus: Tiresias! Great friend of Latvia!
A finch tells me you’ve made good use of my mercies,
and your nether eyes have discovered
new secrets of the night.
People seek out your touch.
They let you touch their bodies for signs of illness.
You’ve grown fat healing their fears.
Be that as it may, I’m happy to see you.
You no doubt have heard the daughters of the Sun sing
that Thebes will not be free of its troubles
until we discover who killed King Yahn.
Do not hold back from us what you know.
Tell us what’s hid in the crevices
and holes where the snakes and bats live.

Tiresias: Gods, if you only knew
how heavy wisdom lies on a man
if it earns him no profit.
King Oedipus, let me go.

King Oedipus: You speak as one who has no respect
for either Riga or its king.
Are you refusing to tell what you know?

Tiresias: Do you wish to condemn me already?

King Oedipus: If you know something, tell it.

Tiresias: Promise me Riga.
Else I say nothing.

King Oedipus: I don’t believe it!
You know something, but refuse to tell?

Tiresias: Promise me Riga.

King Oedipus: Guards! Pick up this fool by his hair.

Tiresias: You’re forcing me to have pity
for neither myself nor you.

King Oedipus: I, not you, lead Latvia!
Speak! Don’t stand dumb.
I’ll show you your piece of gold.

Tiresias: I’m blind, not deaf and dumb.
Even so, I see better than you.
Let me have your necklace instead.

King Oedipus: Outrageous man!
Do you want Riga to once again
sacrifice her children?

Chorus (screams!): No!

Tiresias: King Oedipus, you swing as a door,
but see neither the past nor future.
But matters discover themselves
even if kings hide them.
I don’t wish to own Thebes.
I seek reward only because your
demand for truth is unduly impatient.
The fate of Thebes will be
decided by the Gods whom you, not I, deny.

King Oedipus: You say truth is on its way?
Why not tell it sooner than later.

Tiresias: I hold my tongue.
King Oedipus: Let me see!
I already took your eyes from you.
I will now tell what I think of you.
I think you are among those
who conspired against Yahn.
As a former servant of the Sphinx
murder comes naturally to you.

Tiresias: Let me remind you, King Oedipus,
of the promise you made to
King Yahn’s murderer. You said he
would be allowed to speak to no one.
You said he would be chased from Riga and worse.
I’ll tell you who deserves such a fate.
You, King Oedipus,
because you’re the misfortune of Latvia.

King Oedipus: By what magic
do you hope to escape punishment?

Tiresias: Truth will save me.

King Oedipus: Who taught you the truth?

Tiresias: You forced me to speak against my will.

King Oedipus: You spoke the truth?

Tiresias: Did you hear what I said?

King Oedipus: Your words are like a squid’s ink.
Alright, I’ll hear you once more
if you bear in mind that should you lie,
I’ll throw you down the same cliff
from which the Sphinx threw the children of Riga.

Chorus: Oh Dearest Goddesses!
Laima, Mahra!

Tiresias: You’re looking for yourself.
It’s you who murdered King Yahn.

Chorus: Oh Dearest Goddesses!

King Oedipus: You’ll not speak like that for long.

Tiresias: You live in shame with those you love.
Ask your wife!

King Oedipus: How dare you?!

Tiresias: You provoked me to it.

King Oedipus: Oh, now I understand. Traitor!
You’re doing the work of that fart, Creon.

Tiresias: You are playing into Creon’s hands.

King Oedipus: It’s clear now (oh Gods!)
that Creon is using this blind charlatan
to make himself king.
How very clever, indeed!
Tell me, Tiresias, why,
when the stomach of the Sphinx hungered,
you didn’t save Latvia?
It was I who understood the madness
of child sacrifice, not you,
nor King Laius, nor Prince Creon.
I see now! I see now how you plan
to surrender Riga to Creon.
Neither he nor you will spare Latvia’s children
if child sacrifice is what brings you power.

Chorus: Listen, both!
Your words reach beyond anger.
But we need words that make sense.
Think of us, King Oedipus!

Tiresias: I’m slave to no one, but the truth.
Even if Oedipus kills me,
the truth will come to light.

King Oedipus: The plot against me could not be plainer.

Tiresias: Is that so?
Then listen to what even a shadow sees.
You say your parents live in Kaunas, Lithuania?
It’s not true. You tell everyone
you solved the riddle of the Sphinx.
You say the answer is “three legs—
an old man resting on his cane.”
The answer satisfies but schoolchildren.
The legs are not legs, but three people
holding the cauldron of Latvia’s holy waters.
You, one of the legs, are a clubfoot.
You, not I, tilt the throne in Riga.

King Oedipus: May the people of Thebes
stone you to death.

Tiresias: I wouldn’t have come had you not called.

King Oedipus: I didn’t know I’d be talking to an arse.
(Exit Tiresias, then King Oedipus.)

Antistrophe: King Oedipus, be careful.
Your anger treads on your heels.

Strophe: Your anger is like a snake snatching its tail.

Antistrophe: We think that Tiresias knows the story.
He’s egging it on.
There was a time when the Dearest Goddess was angry.
A lesser spirit—its name now forgotten—
challenged her wisdom.
The universe shook from the Dearest Goddess’ wrath.
The spirit took fright and died.

Strophe: Where then did the Goddess’ wrath go?

Antistrophe: It turned into a dragon, a beast.
Fire, smoke, and sulfur wrapped its skin.
It understood but one word: Revenge!
It seized its tail and devoured itself to its face.
From the forehead of the beast grew two horns,
from tooth to tusk through the brain to the head.
As the horns grew the Dearest Goddess’ wrath
birthed naked twins, but armed with spears.
The twins threw their spears
at each other. The spears hit them and
passed through them to their hearts.
Such is the mercy of our Dearest Goddess.

Scene Three next.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and
© Eso Antons Benjamins

42 Tiresias Revenge (II)

This blog continues a play called Tiresias Revenge.

The play commences with blog 40 and has a few blogs (through 47) to run. I wrote the play some years ago using various sources for the text of King Oedipus, all scholarly books as I remember. Who would read this stuff except a student of literature? Yech! Nevertheless, I hope you read it. It actually is one of the best stories ever.

Chorus (as it turns the palms of its hands up in a gesture of receiving):


We want to be healed.
Every year at the summer solstice we gather
to hear you tell why the sun sets
and why tomorrow it may rise again.
As we wait for the sun,
hearing the story may bring us hope.

Queen Ismene: The story speaks.
It speaks again and again. It tells itself.
It tells us what we must do to be Latvians.
It’s not an easy story to hear.
Indeed, as it comes to mind,
tears come to my eyes—for us all,
myself and you also.

Chorus: On the landscape of time,
Latvia unfolded like a fern in spring.
It moved us all to sing in jubilation.
Then the scroll stopped unfurling
as if the sap was cut.
Queen Ismene, tell us what happened.
You were there.

Queen Ismene (points to a young man among the listeners):
I will tell the story.
But we must not look to the past only.
Look, here is Prince Yahn.
Tomorrow my son begins his turn
as guardian of the story and Thebes.
After tomorrow it is he
whose blood will turn into the balm
that heals our city.

Chorus: Prince Yahn, we are most grateful.
May you tell the story
as your mother now does
when your turn comes.

Queen Ismene: Let the story begin.
It begins with my mother’s
love for her son, my father, Oedipus.
Let us witness our forebears’ bitter learning
and the wisdom that this moment
brought them.
I was too young to understand the story
when it caught me up.
I was not born when it began.
But my nanny, Iananna, witnessed it.
Through your parents, you know it, too.
It is in our bones.
The story tells us what we must do
to become and ever be Thebans.

Scene One

King Oedipus enters center stage through the castle gate. He approaches the altar, the priest, his daughter Ismene, and those gathered around her.

King Oedipus: Children, my sons and daughters,
citizens of Thebes, why have you come
to listen to a priest mumble words
that only darken and bring dissention?
What’s depressing you?
I come to hear what’s wrong.

(The king turns to the priest.)

You—I don’t know your name—
You’ve aired air long enough.
Speak to me, your king.
Speak for those not used to addressing a king.
What do they fear? What do they need?

Priest: King of Thebes, King Oedipus!
You see us all, young and old,
all proud Thebans, bent around this altar,
looking at our bread, cheese, and fruit offerings,
waiting for one or all Gods to come,
waiting to see them reach for butter, for honey.
But neither God nor Gods come,
and we cannot wait longer.
There are murmurings, King Oedipus,
that God wants blood, perhaps
from one of our children—as of old.
Thus, we are immobilized and sit and wait.
Incense rises, but curls not
as when a spirit is present in it.
Despair is getting the better of us.
King Oedipus, do not belittle our prayers.
Our prayers reflect the reality of Thebes
overcome by a mysterious plague.
King Oedipus, king Yahnis, call the Gods,
call on our ancestor Cadmus,
raise your hands to the Sun who makes the day.
Long ago you came promising Latvia better days.
You freed us from the Sphinx and its temple
where we took our babes and prayed
for the Gods to accept them as our offerings.
Our children no longer swing their arms
and wing across the abyss
to acknowledge the Sphinx’s promise.
The vultures no longer pick their bones below.
King Yahn, though you saved our children,
we have not recovered our will.
This is why we pray for you to speak
and use the powers that saved us once before.
Do not hold back your healing power.
Do not allow anyone to say
you promised us light,
but we continue to be under a shadow.

King Oedipus (Yahn): Children, I delight in your hope.
No one feels as badly as I over all this.
I know every one of you is suffering,
but surely I suffer more.
I suffer my own misfortunes
and the misfortunes of all Thebes and Thebans.
Even so, I’ve given the matter thought.
And I’ve discovered a place
where the answer may be found.
I’ve sent Prince Creon, the brother of Queen Iocasta,
to visit the holy sites of Thebes and consult with
the daughters of the Sun, the priestesses there.
Let them throw acorns struck from the tree by lightning
and read what we must do to save Latvia.

Priest: We thank you, King Oedipus, for your words.
Yes, look! Look there! The guard tower is signaling
that Creon has returned.

King Oedipus: May the Sun send us good news.

Priest: The news is good. Else Creon
would not carry a green wreath in hia hand.

King Oedipus: We will soon know. Here he is.
Greetings, Prince Creon!

(Enter Prince Creon.)

Prince Creon: Hail, King Oedipus.
I am back and have a message.
Let us go into the castle.
(It is not for everyone’s ears.)

King Oedipus: What do you mean?
Why speak out of the public’s ear?
Is there something in the news we should fear?

Prince Creon: The Sun asks for deeds not words.
The revelation may move some
to rash conclusions and rash deeds.

King Oedipus: What revelations, what deeds?

Prince Creon: Do you want me to tell before all?

King Oedipus: Tell what you know to all.
All of Latvia suffers the same pain.

Prince Creon: Very well. Remember though
that what you hear is not of my making,
but told by the daughters of the Sun
on behalf of the Sun.
With their ears cleaned by tongues of holy snakes,
the maids speak what they are told.
So, this is what the Sun said. It said:
Go weed the weed before it sinks its root
to depths beyond undigging.

King Oedipus: What weeds are you talking about?
Harvest time is almost upon us.
The time to weed is past.

Prince Creon: The weed, King Yahn, is a man.
We must find and remove from our midst a man.
The Sun declined to reveal his name.
The name is for us to discover.
The man must be discovered and removed,
else Thebes will be in debt to a murderer.

King Oedipus: A murderer? Of whom?

Prince Creon: King Oedipus, before you
picked up the reins of Thebes,
we were under the reign of King Laius.
He was son of King Cadmus, Thebes’ founder.

King Oedipus: I never met King Laius.
Prince Creon: The Sun’s daughters say that
Laius’ murderer must be found.

King Oedipus: Where are we to look for him?
Where are his footprints?

Prince Creon: We must look in our own land.
We must look behind mere words, at deeds.

King Oedipus: Did King Laius die in the castle?
I remember hearing that he died
abroad while traveling.

Prince Creon: The king had an appointment with certain men
bringing him secrets from a neighboring kingdom.
The king never returned.
All his bodyguards but one were killed.

King Oedipus: Secret meetings carry risks.
But what said the survivor?
Did he say who did it?

Creon Prince: The man gave us no clear answer.
He did say he buried our king
and could lead us to his grave.
Unfortunately, the guard was poisoned
before he could lead us there.

King Oedipus: Surely that means
the murderers have a friend among us.
Did the poisoned man have a wife?
We need some clue.

Prince Creon: The man had no wife.
He left no descendants.
He worked as a hand at the king’s stable.

King Oedipus: What else do we know?

Prince Creon: We followed the murderers’ tracks,
but not for long.
The horses’ hooves were sheathed in rags.

King Oedipus: I am grateful to the Sun for the advice.
I am thankful to you, too, Creon, for the news.
My children, take your garlands and
go call a meeting of the council of elders.
Tell them I want to meet with them.
The men who killed King Laius are a threat to us all.
I will do everything I can to discover them.

Priest: Rise, Thebans.
Our prayers have been heard.
King Oedipus has interceded.

(Exit King Oedipus et al. Only the chorus remains.)

Strophe: Goddess of Hope!
Tell us the golden words,
the magic that will guard Latvia.
Help us our disbelief!
Healer, our hearts are uneasy.
It is well we no longer have to sacrifice children.
(We did not know how to rid ourselves of that curse.)
King Oedipus did us a great service.
Perhaps he will do so again.

Antistrophe: It was said that when the Sphinx died
men and women would have to sacrifice
themselves in place of their children.
Remember what King Cadmus said?

Strophe: “I cannot do alone what we must together.
To bring Thebes about, I give you my life.
Perhaps you will think upon my sacrifice
and temper your differences because of it.
Let us have a history worth blessing.”

Antistrophe: Ha! Spare us!
Our children run to foreign lands.
They delight in losing themselves in crowds.
They have no responsibilities,
and act with boldness that asks
no accounting of itself.
They have no need of a past or future.

Strophe: Burnt feathers are our incense.
We summon we know not who or what.
Our teeth chatter like the beaks of storks.
We fear the other side of the moon
is crisscrossed by rivers of blood.

Scene Two next blog.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and
© Eso Antons Benjamins

41 Tiresias’ Revenge (I)

How did the seed of The “more-equal-than-others” men’s lodge gain the upper hand over the seed of the populists? Various scenarios are possible. What follows is my attempt to see the elements of society, stiffened in limb and brain already in Sophocles’ time by unhealthy traditions and pretensions of the ruling class, deal with the problem. The unhealthy elements crystallize around the figure of Oedipus, a name I sometime convert to Jahnis-John. The events take at a place in classic Thebes, but are flexible enough to allow allusions to Latvia and Riga of today.

Tiresias’ Revenge
© Eso Anton Benjamins, 2009
A play based on Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex”

Five Acts

Introduction Tiresias’ Revenge is a rewrite of Sophocles play “Oedipus King”. It shows that there is more than meets the eye to the play and the riddle it poses.

An actor friend who read my version of the story of Oedipus did not comment on the interpretation of the play (the theme of human sacrifice is, after all, a formidable subject), but commented on the rapid sequence of deaths in the last act. The actor wondered how a director would present to the audience the death of ten people in a succession that makes one want to say “Enough already with dying!” I understand. But these ten deaths (and perhaps more) are the children of one father, three deaths for his own children, the rest scattered about relatives and relations. All for one reason: Oedipus does not risk his life when he is not yet responsible for it, and self-sacrifice does not occur to him when he is old enough to think about it.

It is for the reader to decide if my thesis of what lies behind Sophocles’ intentions is the traditional uninteresting riddle (the Sphinx and all that), or whether the riddle is a clever way of disguising what the ruling orthodoxy considers essential to suppress, but the populists believe must be preserved at all cost.

Prologue The event, the telling of the story (by way of speech, body movement, sound, and spectacle) takes place before the castle of Thebes, perhaps the castle (pils) of Riga. To the right of the stage, close to an altar, near a high-standing, three-legged cauldron, stands a priest murmuring silent prayers. To the left of the stage sits Queen Ismene. The queen is very old. Before her stand or sit citizens of Thebes-Latvia.

Chorus (as it turns the palms of its hands up in a gesture of receiving):

Dearest Queen Ismene,
we are impatient to hear the story.
Tell us what ails Latvia.
We want to be healed.

These blogs tend to be a continuum of an idea or thought, which is why—if you are interested in what you have read—you are encouraged to consider reading the previous blog and the blog hereafter.

If you copy this blog for your own files, or to be forwarded, or its content is otherwise mentioned, please credit the author and