A monologue from the play by Sophocles
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904.
Father, the gods implant reason in men, the highest of all things that we call our own. Not mine the skill–far from me be the quest!–
to say wherein thou speakest not aright; and yet another man, too, might have some useful thought. At least,
it is my natural office to watch, on thy behalf, all that men say, or do, or find to blame. For the dread of thy frown
forbids the citizen to speak such words as would offend thine ear; but I can hear these murmurs in the dark,
these moanings of the city for this maiden; “No woman,” they say, “ever merited her doom less–none ever was to die so shamefully
for deeds so glorious as hers; who, when her own brother had fallen in bloody strife, would not leave him unburied,
to be devoured by carrion dogs, or by any bird:–deserves not she the meed of golden honour?” Such is the darkling rumour that spreads in secret.
For me, my father, no treasure is so precious as thy welfare. What, indeed, is a nobler ornament for children than a prospering sire’s fair fame, or for sire than son’s?
Wear not, then, one mood only in thyself; think not that thy word, and thine alone, must be right. For if any man thinks that he alone is wise–that in speech,
or in mind, he hath no peer–such a soul, when laid open, is ever found empty. No, though a man be wise, ’tis no shame for him to learn many things,
and to bend in season. Seest thou, beside the wintry torrent’s course, how the trees that yield to it save every twig, while the stiff-necked perish root and branch?
And even thus he who keeps the sheet of his sail taut, and never slackens it, upsets the boat, and finishes his voyage with keel uppermost.
Nay, forego thy wrath; permit thyself to change. For if I, a younger man, may offer my thought, it were far best,
I ween, that men should be all-wise by nature; but, otherwise–and oft the scale inclines not so–’tis good also to learn from those who speak aright.