"Call No Man Fortunate That Is Not Dead"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The tragic story of Oedipus is one of the most familiar from Greek mythology. To his parents, Laius and Jocasta, King and Queen of Thebes, it had been prophesied that their son would kill his father and marry his mother. To avert this doom, the couple left the child to die, but he was rescued by a shepherd and brought up by Polybus and Merope, King and Queen of Corinth. In a roadside quarrel, he later unknowingly killed his father Laius, and having solved the riddle of the Sphinx, married the widowed Queen Jocasta, thus fulfilling the prophecy. A plague having fallen upon Thebes, Oedipus, now King, is told by an oracle that the city is defiled by the presence of a murderer, the long-sought slayer of Laius. Because of his stubbornness and pride, Oedipus will not at first believe that he himself is the murderer. Convinced at length of the truth of the accusations, he blinds himself, while his wife and mother, Jocasta, commits suicide. Brooding upon the downfall of this once great man, the chorus comments upon all human happiness in a phrase that seems to have been a traditional maxim among the Greeks. It has been translated many times. Yeats version of the final chorus is

Make way for Oedipus. All people said,
'That is a fortunate man';
And now what storms are beating on his head!
'That is a fortunate man';
Call no man fortunate that is not dead.
The dead are free from pain.