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The Poet at Colonus: Nightingales in Sophocles

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image of Mnemosyne

The presence of the nightingales in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus evokes associations of a long mythico-poetic tradition in which the nightingale is known not only for her sweet song, but also for her association with lament, arising from the tragic myth of Procne and Tereus. These associations make the nightingale an important symbol of tragic poetry and its transformative function, and their presence at Colonus reminds us that Sophocles himself was born there.


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