Enter Tiresias

Heaney, Seamus, 1939Callaloo, Volume 28, Number 1, Winter 2005, pp. 55-59 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/cal.2005.0018

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you venerable man: What’s the news you have for me this time? TIRESIAS News that you would be as well to heed. and there’s cold wind blowing. for Derek Enter TIRESIAS. We have been going the roads. from THE BURIAL AT THEBES. a version of Sophocles’ ANTIGONE Callaloo 28. blind. led by A BOY TIRESIAS My lord. The man that’s blinded always needs a guide. I know it. In my bones.1 (2005) 55–59 55 . CREON Tiresias. my countrymen. I know you’re there. Going by the one same pair of eyes. TIRESIAS Then know this: where you are standing now Is a cliff edge.CALLALOO ENTER TIRESIAS by Seamus Heaney He saw all with his ears. heed you? TIRESIAS And isn’t that why your ship has stayed on course? CREON You kept me right. the pair of us. CREON When did I not. prophetic father.

Everywhere there was this spattered gall From the burst gall bladder. It had no meaning to it. Don’t stab a ghost. Consider well. Slurry. . spreading reek and rot On every altar stone and temple step. All men make mistakes. Slime was what I got instead of flame. Some deep fault caused that.CALLALOO CREON Why do you always put that shiver through me? TIRESIAS Because I have the power to see and warn. . The boy here saw it And I rely on him as you on me . . I never heard Screaming the like of what I heard this day. But in all my years as augur. But mistakes don’t have to be forever. That body lying out there decomposing Is where the contagion starts. smoke and dirt . my son. They’re feeding on his flesh. I know things once I sit in that stone chair And the birds begin to skirl above my head. That’s why my birds in flight Are meaningless. That’s why we have this plague. 56 . The fat stayed raw and wept into the ash. and the gods Are revolted. The easiest thing for you would be to take it. and have good advice. The rite had failed. . Because of you. It wouldn’t take And none of the bits would burn. Pull back. I was afraid. I knew by the whirl of wings And the rips and spits of blood the birds were mad. Yield to the dead. There was no sign to be read. Matter oozing out from near the bone. You and your headstrongness. They can be admitted and atoned for. The dogs and birds Are at it day and night. This vile pollution. What can you win when you only wound a corpse? I have your good at heart. Creon. so once the blaze was lit On the altar stone I brought my offerings But the fire had no effect. Slime. It’s the overbearing man who is to blame.

Tiresias. TIRESIAS Rulers too have a name for being corrupt. CREON You seers are all the same. Not even that would put me back on my word. None of your pollution talk scares me. Does nobody realize— CREON Does nobody realize what? TIRESIAS That the greatest boon Is trustworthy advice. Corrupts himself the minute he takes bribes And starts delivering fake truths on demand. old man. Creon. But even the wisest on the earth. It is your problem. Whoever wants can cross your palm with silver But they still won’t get that body under ground. TIRESIAS As you should know. CREON And witlessness Has to be the greatest threat. You have your price. CREON I don’t want to trade insults with a prophet. You and your whole fortune-telling tribe Have bled me white. 57 . Not if Zeus himself were to send his eagle To scavenge on that flesh and shit it down. TIRESIAS This is bad. TIRESIAS It’s an insult to imply I am a fake. Nothing done on earth can defile the gods.CALLALOO CREON Why am I standing out here like a target? Why is every arrow aimed at me? You. But not any more.

there lie in wait for you The inexorable ones. CREON The decisions that I take aren’t up for sale. but don’t expect a bribe. no god in upper air Exerts authority over the dead. and the crows Defiled themselves in the filth and would fly back To foul each city with droppings of its dead. Henceforth. This is what you’ll get for thrusting down A daughter of the sunlight to the shades. And tell me it again When enemy cities rise to avenge each corpse You left dishonoured on the battlefield. 58 . Tell me I’ve been bribed. CREON Scare me then.CALLALOO CREON You realize you are talking to your king? TIRESIAS A king my words once helped to save this city. No earthly power. One who belongs by right to the gods below. When woman-wail and man-howl rake your walls. and listen carefully. the furies who destroy. therefore. You have buried her alive. when the lamentation starts. CREON Your second sight has been well warped since then. You have violated their prerogatives. They turned to filth. TIRESIAS My second sight scares me and should scare you. The sun won’t ride his chariot round the sky Very much longer before flesh of your flesh Answers for your enactments. corpse for corpse. TIRESIAS Talk of bribes won’t shield you from the truth. remember. TIRESIAS Then listen. Creon. and among the living You have forbidden the burial of one dead. Then tell me.

take me home. and learn to control His tongue. My shafts are tipped with truth and they stick deep. I am the archer. Exit TIRESIAS and BOY 59 . and see things in truer light. Come boy.CALLALOO I am not the target. Let him affront Somebody younger now.

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