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205 O that thine arrows too, Lycean King,

206 From that taut bow's gold string,

207 Might fly abroad, the champions of our rights;

208 Yea, and the flashing lights

209 Of Artemis, wherewith the huntress sweeps

210 Across the Lycian steeps.

211 Thee too I call with golden-snooded hair,

212 Whose name our land doth bear,

213 Bacchus to whom thy Maenads Evoe shout;

214 Come with thy bright torch, rout,

215 Blithe god whom we adore,

216 The god whom gods abhor.

217 enter OEDIPUS.

OEDIPUS

218 Ye pray; 'tis well, but would ye hear my words

219 And heed them and apply the remedy,

220 Ye might perchance find comfort and relief.

221 Mind you, I speak as one who comes a stranger

222 To this report, no less than to the crime;

223 For how unaided could I track it far

224 Without a clue? Which lacking (for too late

225 Was I enrolled a citizen of Thebes)

226 This proclamation I address to all:--

227 Thebans, if any knows the man by whom

228 Laius, son of Labdacus, was slain,

229 I summon him to make clean shrift to me.

230 And if he shrinks, let him reflect that thus

231 Confessing he shall 'scape the capital charge;

232 For the worst penalty that shall befall him

233 Is banishment--unscathed he shall depart.

234 But if an alien from a foreign land

235 Be known to any as the murderer,

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236 Let him who knows speak out, and he shall have

237 Due recompense from me and thanks to boot.

238 But if ye still keep silence, if through fear

239 For self or friends ye disregard my hest,

240 Hear what I then resolve; I lay my ban

241 On the assassin whosoe'er he be.

242 Let no man in this land, whereof I hold

243 The sovereign rule, harbor or speak to him;

244 Give him no part in prayer or sacrifice

245 Or lustral rites, but hound him from your homes.

246 For this is our defilement, so the god

247 Hath lately shown to me by oracles.

248 Thus as their champion I maintain the cause

249 Both of the god and of the murdered King.

250 And on the murderer this curse I lay

251 (On him and all the partners in his guilt):--

252 Wretch, may he pine in utter wretchedness!

253 And for myself, if with my privity

254 He gain admittance to my hearth, I pray

255 The curse I laid on others fall on me.

256 See that ye give effect to all my hest,

257 For my sake and the god's and for our land,

258 A desert blasted by the wrath of heaven.

259 For, let alone the god's express command,

260 It were a scandal ye should leave unpurged

261 The murder of a great man and your king,

262 Nor track it home. And now that I am lord,

263 Successor to his throne, his bed, his wife,

264 (And had he not been frustrate in the hope

265 Of issue, common children of one womb

266 Had forced a closer bond twixt him and me,

267 But Fate swooped down upon him), therefore I

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268 His blood-avenger will maintain his cause

269 As though he were my sire, and leave no stone

270 Unturned to track the assassin or avenge

271 The son of Labdacus, of Polydore,

272 Of Cadmus, and Agenor first of the race.

273 And for the disobedient thus I pray:

274 May the gods send them neither timely fruits

275 Of earth, nor teeming increase of the womb,

276 But may they waste and pine, as now they waste,

277 Aye and worse stricken; but to all of you,

278 My loyal subjects who approve my acts,

279 May Justice, our ally, and all the gods

280 Be gracious and attend you evermore.

 

CHORUS

281 The oath thou profferest, sire, I take and swear.

282 I slew him not myself, nor can I name

283 The slayer. For the quest, 'twere well, methinks

284 That Phoebus, who proposed the riddle, himself

285 Should give the answer--who the murderer was.

 

OEDIPUS

286 Well argued; but no living man can hope

287 To force the gods to speak against their will.

 

CHORUS

288 May I then say what seems next best to me?

 

OEDIPUS

289 Aye, if there be a third best, tell it too.

 

CHORUS

290 My liege, if any man sees eye to eye

291 With our lord Phoebus, 'tis our prophet, lord

292 Teiresias; he of all men best might guide

293 A searcher of this matter to the light.

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OEDIPUS

294 Here too my zeal has nothing lagged, for twice

295 At Creon's instance have I sent to fetch him,

296 And long I marvel why he is not here.

CHORUS

297 I mind me too of rumors long ago--

298 Mere gossip.

OEDIPUS

Tell them, I would fain know all.

CHORUS

299 'Twas said he fell by travelers.

OEDIPUS

So I heard,

300 But none has seen the man who saw him fall.

CHORUS

301 Well, if he knows what fear is, he will quail

302 And flee before the terror of thy curse.

OEDIPUS

303 Words scare not him who blenches not at deeds.

CHORUS

304 But here is one to arraign him. Lo, at length

305 They bring the god-inspired seer in whom

306 Above all other men is truth inborn.

307 Enter TEIRESIAS, led by a boy.

OEDIPUS

308 Teiresias, seer who comprehendest all,

309 Lore of the wise and hidden mysteries,

310 High things of heaven and low things of the earth,

311 Thou knowest, though thy blinded eyes see naught,

312 What plague infects our city; and we turn

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313 To thee, O seer, our one defense and shield.

314 The purport of the answer that the God

315 Returned to us who sought his oracle,

316 The messengers have doubtless told thee--how

317 One course alone could rid us of the pest,

318 To find the murderers of Laius,

319 And slay them or expel them from the land.

320 Therefore begrudging neither augury

321 Nor other divination that is thine,

322 O save thyself, thy country, and thy king,

323 Save all from this defilement of blood shed.

324 On thee we rest. This is man's highest end,

325 To others' service all his powers to lend.

 

TEIRESIAS

326 Alas, alas, what misery to be wise

327 When wisdom profits nothing! This old lore

328 I had forgotten; else I were not here.

 

OEDIPUS

329 What ails thee? Why this melancholy mood?

 

TEIRESIAS

330 Let me go home; prevent me not; 'twere best

331 That thou shouldst bear thy burden and I mine.

 

OEDIPUS

332 For shame! no true-born Theban patriot

333 Would thus withhold the word of prophecy.

 

TEIRESIAS

334 Thy words, O king, are wide of the mark, and I

335 For fear lest I too trip like thee...

 

OEDIPUS

Oh speak,

336 Withhold not, I adjure thee, if thou know'st,

337 Thy knowledge. We are all thy suppliants.

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TEIRESIAS

338 Aye, for ye all are witless, but my voice

339 Will ne'er reveal my miseries--or thine.

OEDIPUS

340 What then, thou knowest, and yet willst not speak!

341 Wouldst thou betray us and destroy the State?

 

TEIRESIAS

342 I will not vex myself nor thee. Why ask

343 Thus idly what from me thou shalt not learn?

OEDIPUS

344 Monster! thy silence would incense a flint.

345 Will nothing loose thy tongue? Can nothing melt thee,

346 Or shake thy dogged taciturnity?

TEIRESIAS

347 Thou blam'st my mood and seest not thine own

348 Wherewith thou art mated; no, thou taxest me.

OEDIPUS

349 And who could stay his choler when he heard

350 How insolently thou dost flout the State?

 

TEIRESIAS

351 Well, it will come what will, though I be mute.

 

OEDIPUS

352 Since come it must, thy duty is to tell me.

 

TEIRESIAS

353 I have no more to say; storm as thou willst,

354 And give the rein to all thy pent-up rage.

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OEDIPUS

355 Yea, I am wroth, and will not stint my words,

356 But speak my whole mind. Thou methinks thou art he,

357 Who planned the crime, aye, and performed it too,

358 All save the assassination; and if thou

359 Hadst not been blind, I had been sworn to boot

360 That thou alone didst do the bloody deed.

 

TEIRESIAS

361 Is it so? Then I charge thee to abide

362 By thine own proclamation; from this day

363 Speak not to these or me. Thou art the man,

364 Thou the accursed polluter of this land.

 

OEDIPUS

365 Vile slanderer, thou blurtest forth these taunts,

366 And think'st forsooth as seer to go scot free.

 

TEIRESIAS

367 Yea, I am free, strong in the strength of truth.

 

OEDIPUS

368 Who was thy teacher? not methinks thy art.

 

TEIRESIAS

369 Thou, goading me against my will to speak.

 

OEDIPUS

370 What speech? repeat it and resolve my doubt.

TEIRESIAS

371 Didst miss my sense wouldst thou goad me on?

OEDIPUS

372 I but half caught thy meaning; say it again.

TEIRESIAS

373 I say thou art the murderer of the man

374 Whose murderer thou pursuest.

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OEDIPUS

Thou shalt rue it

375 Twice to repeat so gross a calumny.

 

TEIRESIAS

376 Must I say more to aggravate thy rage?

 

OEDIPUS

377 Say all thou wilt; it will be but waste of breath.

 

TEIRESIAS

378 I say thou livest with thy nearest kin

379 In infamy, unwitting in thy shame.

 

OEDIPUS

380 Think'st thou for aye unscathed to wag thy tongue?

 

TEIRESIAS

381 Yea, if the might of truth can aught prevail.

382 OEDIPUS

383 With other men, but not with thee, for thou

384 In ear, wit, eye, in everything art blind.

 

TEIRESIAS

385 Poor fool to utter gibes at me which all

386 Here present will cast back on thee ere long.

 

OEDIPUS

387 Offspring of endless Night, thou hast no power

388 O'er me or any man who sees the sun.

 

TEIRESIAS

389 No, for thy weird is not to fall by me.

390 I leave to Apollo what concerns the god.

 

OEDIPUS

391 Is this a plot of Creon, or thine own?

 

TEIRESIAS

392 Not Creon, thou thyself art thine own bane.

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OEDIPUS

393 O wealth and empiry and skill by skill

394 Outwitted in the battlefield of life,

395 What spite and envy follow in your train!

396 See, for this crown the State conferred on me.

397 A gift, a thing I sought not, for this crown

398 The trusty Creon, my familiar friend,

399 Hath lain in wait to oust me and suborned

400 This mountebank, this juggling charlatan,

401 This tricksy beggar-priest, for gain alone

402 Keen-eyed, but in his proper art stone-blind.

403 Say, sirrah, hast thou ever proved thyself

404 A prophet? When the riddling Sphinx was here

405 Why hadst thou no deliverance for this folk?

406 And yet the riddle was not to be solved

407 By guess-work but required the prophet's art;

408 Wherein thou wast found lacking; neither birds

409 Nor sign from heaven helped thee, but I came,

410 The simple Oedipus; I stopped her mouth

411 By mother wit, untaught of auguries.

412 This is the man whom thou wouldst undermine,

413 In hope to reign with Creon in my stead.

414 Methinks that thou and thine abettor soon

415 Will rue your plot to drive the scapegoat out.

416 Thank thy grey hairs that thou hast still to learn

417 What chastisement such arrogance deserves.

 

CHORUS

418 To us it seems that both the seer and thou,

419 O Oedipus, have spoken angry words.

420 This is no time to wrangle but consult

421 How best we may fulfill the oracle.

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TEIRESIAS

422 King as thou art, free speech at least is mine

423 To make reply; in this I am thy peer.

424 I own no lord but Loxias; him I serve

425 And ne'er can stand enrolled as Creon's man.

426 Thus then I answer: since thou hast not spared

427 To twit me with my blindness--thou hast eyes,

428 Yet see'st not in what misery thou art fallen,

429 Nor where thou dwellest nor with whom for mate.

430 Dost know thy lineage? Nay, thou know'st it not,

431 And all unwitting art a double foe

432 To thine own kin, the living and the dead;

433 Aye and the dogging curse of mother and sire

434 One day shall drive thee, like a two-edged sword,

435 Beyond our borders, and the eyes that now

436 See clear shall henceforward endless night.

437 Ah whither shall thy bitter cry not reach,

438 What crag in all Cithaeron but shall then

439 Reverberate thy wail, when thou hast found

440 With what a hymeneal thou wast borne

441 Home, but to no fair haven, on the gale!

442 Aye, and a flood of ills thou guessest not

443 Shall set thyself and children in one line.

444 Flout then both Creon and my words, for none

445 Of mortals shall be striken worse than thou.

 

OEDIPUS

446 Must I endure this fellow's insolence?

447 A murrain on thee! Get thee hence! Begone

448 Avaunt! and never cross my threshold more.

 

TEIRESIAS

449 I ne'er had come hadst thou not bidden me.

 

OEDIPUS

450 I know not thou wouldst utter folly, else

451 Long hadst thou waited to be summoned here.

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TEIRESIAS

452 Such am I--as it seems to thee a fool,

453 But to the parents who begat thee, wise.

 

OEDIPUS

454 What sayest thou--"parents"? Who begat me, speak?

 

TEIRESIAS

455 This day shall be thy birth-day, and thy grave.

 

OEDIPUS

456 Thou lov'st to speak in riddles and dark words.

 

TEIRESIAS

457 In reading riddles who so skilled as thou?

 

OEDIPUS

458 Twit me with that wherein my greatness lies.

 

TEIRESIAS

459 And yet this very greatness proved thy bane.

 

OEDIPUS

460 No matter if I saved the commonwealth.

 

TEIRESIAS

461 'Tis time I left thee. Come, boy, take me home.

 

OEDIPUS

462 Aye, take him quickly, for his presence irks

463 And lets me; gone, thou canst not plague me more.

 

TEIRESIAS

464 I go, but first will tell thee why I came.

465 Thy frown I dread not, for thou canst not harm me.

466 Hear then: this man whom thou hast sought to arrest

467 With threats and warrants this long while, the wretch

468 Who murdered Laius--that man is here.

469 He passes for an alien in the land

470 But soon shall prove a Theban, native born.

471 And yet his fortune brings him little joy;

472 For blind of seeing, clad in beggar's weeds,

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473 For purple robes, and leaning on his staff,

474 To a strange land he soon shall grope his way.

475 And of the children, inmates of his home,

476 He shall be proved the brother and the sire,

477 Of her who bare him son and husband both,

478 Co-partner, and assassin of his sire.

479 Go in and ponder this, and if thou find

480 That I have missed the mark, henceforth declare

481 I have no wit nor skill in prophecy.

482 Exeunt TEIRESIAS and OEDIPUS

 

 

CHORUS

483 Who is he by voice immortal named from Pythia's rocky cell,

484 Doer of foul deeds of bloodshed, horrors that no tongue can tell?

485 A foot for flight he needs

486 Fleeter than storm-swift steeds,

487 For on his heels doth follow,

488 Armed with the lightnings of his Sire, Apollo.

489 Like sleuth-hounds too

490 The Fates pursue.

491 Yea, but now flashed forth the summons from Parnassus' snowy peak,

492 "Near and far the undiscovered doer of this murder seek!"

493 Now like a sullen bull he roves

494 Through forest brakes and upland groves,

495 And vainly seeks to fly

496 The doom that ever nigh

497 Flits o'er his head,

498 Still by the avenging Phoebus sped,

499 The voice divine,

500 From Earth's mid shrine.

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501 Sore perplexed am I by the words of the master seer.

502 Are they true, are they false? I know not and bridle my tongue for fear,

503 Fluttered with vague surmise; nor present nor future is clear.

504 Quarrel of ancient date or in days still near know I none

505 Twixt the Labdacidan house and our ruler, Polybus' son.

506 Proof is there none: how then can I challenge our King's good name,

507 How in a blood-feud join for an untracked deed of shame?

508 All wise are Zeus and Apollo, and nothing is hid from their ken;

509 They are gods; and in wits a man may surpass his fellow men;

510 But that a mortal seer knows more than I know--where

511 Hath this been proven? Or how without sign assured, can I blame

512 Him who saved our State when the winged songstress came,

513 Tested and tried in the light of us all, like gold assayed?

514 How can I now assent when a crime is on Oedipus laid?

 

 

CREON

515 Friends, countrymen, I learn King Oedipus

516 Hath laid against me a most grievous charge,

Page 49

 

517 And come to you protesting. If he deems

518 That I have harmed or injured him in aught

519 By word or deed in this our present trouble,

520 I care not to prolong the span of life,

521 Thus ill-reputed; for the calumny

522 Hits not a single blot, but blasts my name,

523 If by the general voice I am denounced

524 False to the State and false by you my friends.

 

CHORUS

525 This taunt, it well may be, was blurted out

526 In petulance, not spoken advisedly.

 

CREON

527 Did any dare pretend that it was I

528 Prompted the seer to utter a forged charge?

 

CHORUS

529 Such things were said; with what intent I know not.

 

CREON

530 Were not his wits and vision all astray

531 When upon me he fixed this monstrous charge?

 

CHORUS

532 I know not; to my sovereign's acts I am blind.

533 But lo, he comes to answer for himself.

534 Enter OEDIPUS.

 

 

OEDIPUS

535 Sirrah, what mak'st thou here? Dost thou presume

536 To approach my doors, thou brazen-faced rogue,

537 My murderer and the filcher of my crown?

538 Come, answer this, didst thou detect in me

539 Some touch of cowardice or witlessness,

540 That made thee undertake this enterprise?

541 I seemed forsooth too simple to perceive

542 The serpent stealing on me in the dark,

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