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.
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,
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
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.
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.
286 Well argued; but no living man can hope
287 To force the gods to speak against their will.
288 May I then say what seems next best to me?
289 Aye, if there be a third best, tell it too.
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.
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.
297 I mind me too of rumors long ago--
298 Mere gossip.
Tell them, I would fain know all.
299 'Twas said he fell by travelers.
So I heard,
300 But none has seen the man who saw him fall.
301 Well, if he knows what fear is, he will quail
302 And flee before the terror of thy curse.
303 Words scare not him who blenches not at deeds.
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.
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
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.
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.
329 What ails thee? Why this melancholy mood?
330 Let me go home; prevent me not; 'twere best
331 That thou shouldst bear thy burden and I mine.
332 For shame! no true-born Theban patriot
333 Would thus withhold the word of prophecy.
334 Thy words, O king, are wide of the mark, and I
335 For fear lest I too trip like thee...
336 Withhold not, I adjure thee, if thou know'st,
337 Thy knowledge. We are all thy suppliants.
338 Aye, for ye all are witless, but my voice
339 Will ne'er reveal my miseries--or thine.
340 What then, thou knowest, and yet willst not speak!
341 Wouldst thou betray us and destroy the State?
342 I will not vex myself nor thee. Why ask
343 Thus idly what from me thou shalt not learn?
344 Monster! thy silence would incense a flint.
345 Will nothing loose thy tongue? Can nothing melt thee,
346 Or shake thy dogged taciturnity?
347 Thou blam'st my mood and seest not thine own
348 Wherewith thou art mated; no, thou taxest me.
349 And who could stay his choler when he heard
350 How insolently thou dost flout the State?
351 Well, it will come what will, though I be mute.
352 Since come it must, thy duty is to tell me.
353 I have no more to say; storm as thou willst,
354 And give the rein to all thy pent-up rage.
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.
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.
365 Vile slanderer, thou blurtest forth these taunts,
366 And think'st forsooth as seer to go scot free.
367 Yea, I am free, strong in the strength of truth.
368 Who was thy teacher? not methinks thy art.
369 Thou, goading me against my will to speak.
370 What speech? repeat it and resolve my doubt.
371 Didst miss my sense wouldst thou goad me on?
372 I but half caught thy meaning; say it again.
373 I say thou art the murderer of the man
374 Whose murderer thou pursuest.
Thou shalt rue it
375 Twice to repeat so gross a calumny.
376 Must I say more to aggravate thy rage?
377 Say all thou wilt; it will be but waste of breath.
378 I say thou livest with thy nearest kin
379 In infamy, unwitting in thy shame.
380 Think'st thou for aye unscathed to wag thy tongue?
381 Yea, if the might of truth can aught prevail.
383 With other men, but not with thee, for thou
384 In ear, wit, eye, in everything art blind.
385 Poor fool to utter gibes at me which all
386 Here present will cast back on thee ere long.
387 Offspring of endless Night, thou hast no power
388 O'er me or any man who sees the sun.
389 No, for thy weird is not to fall by me.
390 I leave to Apollo what concerns the god.
391 Is this a plot of Creon, or thine own?
392 Not Creon, thou thyself art thine own bane.
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.
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.
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.
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.
449 I ne'er had come hadst thou not bidden me.
450 I know not thou wouldst utter folly, else
451 Long hadst thou waited to be summoned here.
452 Such am I--as it seems to thee a fool,
453 But to the parents who begat thee, wise.
454 What sayest thou--"parents"? Who begat me, speak?
455 This day shall be thy birth-day, and thy grave.
456 Thou lov'st to speak in riddles and dark words.
457 In reading riddles who so skilled as thou?
458 Twit me with that wherein my greatness lies.
459 And yet this very greatness proved thy bane.
460 No matter if I saved the commonwealth.
461 'Tis time I left thee. Come, boy, take me home.
462 Aye, take him quickly, for his presence irks
463 And lets me; gone, thou canst not plague me more.
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,
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
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.
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?
515 Friends, countrymen, I learn King Oedipus
516 Hath laid against me a most grievous charge,
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.
525 This taunt, it well may be, was blurted out
526 In petulance, not spoken advisedly.
527 Did any dare pretend that it was I
528 Prompted the seer to utter a forged charge?
529 Such things were said; with what intent I know not.
530 Were not his wits and vision all astray
531 When upon me he fixed this monstrous charge?
532 I know not; to my sovereign's acts I am blind.
533 But lo, he comes to answer for himself.
534 Enter 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,