855 Well, rest assured, his tale ran thus at first,
856 Nor can he now retract what then he said;
857 Not I alone but all our townsfolk heard it.
858 E'en should he vary somewhat in his story,
859 He cannot make the death of Laius
860 In any wise jump with the oracle.
861 For Loxias said expressly he was doomed
862 To die by my child's hand, but he, poor babe,
863 He shed no blood, but perished first himself.
864 So much for divination. Henceforth I
865 Will look for signs neither to right nor left.
866 Thou reasonest well. Still I would have thee send
867 And fetch the bondsman hither. See to it.
868 That will I straightway. Come, let us within.
869 I would do nothing that my lord mislikes.
870 Exeunt OEDIPUS and JOCASTA
871 My lot be still to lead
872 The life of innocence and fly
873 Irreverence in word or deed,
874 To follow still those laws ordained on high
875 Whose birthplace is the bright ethereal sky
876 No mortal birth they own,
877 Olympus their progenitor alone:
878 Ne'er shall they slumber in oblivion cold,
879 The god in them is strong and grows not old.
880 Of insolence is bred
881 The tyrant; insolence full blown,
882 With empty riches surfeited,
883 Scales the precipitous height and grasps the throne.
884 Then topples o'er and lies in ruin prone;
885 No foothold on that dizzy steep.
886 But O may Heaven the true patriot keep
887 Who burns with emulous zeal to serve the State.
888 God is my help and hope, on him I wait.
889 But the proud sinner, or in word or deed,
890 That will not Justice heed,
891 Nor reverence the shrine
892 Of images divine,
893 Perdition seize his vain imaginings,
894 If, urged by greed profane,
895 He grasps at ill-got gain,
896 And lays an impious hand on holiest things.
897 Who when such deeds are done
898 Can hope heaven's bolts to shun?
899 If sin like this to honor can aspire,
900 Why dance I still and lead the sacred choir?
901 No more I'll seek earth's central oracle,
902 Or Abae's hallowed cell,
903 Nor to Olympia bring
904 My votive offering.
905 If before all God's truth be not bade plain.
906 O Zeus, reveal thy might,
907 King, if thou'rt named aright
908 Omnipotent, all-seeing, as of old;
909 For Laius is forgot;
910 His weird, men heed it not;
911 Apollo is forsook and faith grows cold.
912 Enter JOCASTA.
913 My lords, ye look amazed to see your queen
914 With wreaths and gifts of incense in her hands.
915 I had a mind to visit the high shrines,
916 For Oedipus is overwrought, alarmed
917 With terrors manifold. He will not use
918 His past experience, like a man of sense,
919 To judge the present need, but lends an ear
920 To any croaker if he augurs ill.
921 Since then my counsels naught avail, I turn
922 To thee, our present help in time of trouble,
923 Apollo, Lord Lycean, and to thee
924 My prayers and supplications here I bring.
925 Lighten us, lord, and cleanse us from this curse!
926 For now we all are cowed like mariners
927 Who see their helmsman dumbstruck in the storm.
928 Enter Corinthian MESSENGER.
929 My masters, tell me where the palace is
930 Of Oedipus; or better, where's the king.
931 Here is the palace and he bides within;
932 This is his queen the mother of his children.
933 All happiness attend her and the house,
934 Blessed is her husband and her marriage-bed.
935 My greetings to thee, stranger; thy fair words
936 Deserve a like response. But tell me why
937 Thou comest--what thy need or what thy news.
938 Good for thy consort and the royal house.
939 What may it be? Whose messenger art thou?
940 The Isthmian commons have resolved to make
941 Thy husband king--so 'twas reported there.
942 What! is not aged Polybus still king?
943 No, verily; he's dead and in his grave.
944 What! is he dead, the sire of Oedipus?
945 If I speak falsely, may I die myself.
946 Quick, maiden, bear these tidings to my lord.
947 Ye god-sent oracles, where stand ye now!
948 This is the man whom Oedipus long shunned,
949 In dread to prove his murderer; and now
950 He dies in nature's course, not by his hand.
951 Enter OEDIPUS.
952 My wife, my queen, Jocasta, why hast thou
953 Summoned me from my palace?
Hear this man,
954 And as thou hearest judge what has become
955 Of all those awe-inspiring oracles.
956 Who is this man, and what his news for me?
957 He comes from Corinth and his message this:
958 Thy father Polybus hath passed away.
959 What? let me have it, stranger, from thy mouth.
960 If I must first make plain beyond a doubt
961 My message, know that Polybus is dead.
962 By treachery, or by sickness visited?
963 One touch will send an old man to his rest.
964 So of some malady he died, poor man.
965 Yes, having measured the full span of years.
966 Out on it, lady! why should one regard
967 The Pythian hearth or birds that scream i' the air?
968 Did they not point at me as doomed to slay
969 My father? but he's dead and in his grave
970 And here am I who ne'er unsheathed a sword;
971 Unless the longing for his absent son
972 Killed him and so I slew him in a sense.
973 But, as they stand, the oracles are dead--
974 Dust, ashes, nothing, dead as Polybus.
975 Say, did not I foretell this long ago?
976 Thou didst: but I was misled by my fear.
977 Then let I no more weigh upon thy soul.
978 Must I not fear my mother's marriage bed.
979 Why should a mortal man, the sport of chance,
980 With no assured foreknowledge, be afraid?
981 Best live a careless life from hand to mouth.
982 This wedlock with thy mother fear not thou.
983 How oft it chances that in dreams a man
984 Has wed his mother! He who least regards
985 Such brainsick phantasies lives most at ease.
986 I should have shared in full thy confidence,
987 Were not my mother living; since she lives
988 Though half convinced I still must live in dread.
989 And yet thy sire's death lights out darkness much.
990 Much, but my fear is touching her who lives.
991 Who may this woman be whom thus you fear?
992 Merope, stranger, wife of Polybus.
993 And what of her can cause you any fear?
994 A heaven-sent oracle of dread import.
995 A mystery, or may a stranger hear it?
996 Aye, 'tis no secret. Loxias once foretold
997 That I should mate with mine own mother, and shed
998 With my own hands the blood of my own sire.
999 Hence Corinth was for many a year to me
1000 A home distant; and I trove abroad,
1001 But missed the sweetest sight, my parents' face.
1002 Was this the fear that exiled thee from home?
1003 Yea, and the dread of slaying my own sire.
1004 Why, since I came to give thee pleasure, King,
1005 Have I not rid thee of this second fear?
1006 Well, thou shalt have due guerdon for thy pains.
1007 Well, I confess what chiefly made me come
1008 Was hope to profit by thy coming home.
1009 Nay, I will ne'er go near my parents more.
1010 My son, 'tis plain, thou know'st not what thou doest.
1011 How so, old man? For heaven's sake tell me all.
1012 If this is why thou dreadest to return.
1013 Yea, lest the god's word be fulfilled in me.
1014 Lest through thy parents thou shouldst be accursed?
1015 This and none other is my constant dread.
1016 Dost thou not know thy fears are baseless all?
1017 How baseless, if I am their very son?
1018 Since Polybus was naught to thee in blood.
1019 What say'st thou? was not Polybus my sire?
1020 As much thy sire as I am, and no more.
1021 My sire no more to me than one who is naught?
1022 Since I begat thee not, no more did he.
1023 What reason had he then to call me son?
1024 Know that he took thee from my hands, a gift.
1025 Yet, if no child of his, he loved me well.
1026 A childless man till then, he warmed to thee.
1027 A foundling or a purchased slave, this child?
1028 I found thee in Cithaeron's wooded glens.
1029 What led thee to explore those upland glades?
1030 My business was to tend the mountain flocks.
1031 A vagrant shepherd journeying for hire?
1032 True, but thy savior in that hour, my son.
1033 My savior? from what harm? what ailed me then?
1034 Those ankle joints are evidence enow.
1035 Ah, why remind me of that ancient sore?
1036 I loosed the pin that riveted thy feet.
1037 Yes, from my cradle that dread brand I bore.
1038 Whence thou deriv'st the name that still is thine.
1039 Who did it? I adjure thee, tell me who
1040 Say, was it father, mother?
I know not.
1041 The man from whom I had thee may know more.
1042 What, did another find me, not thyself?
1043 Not I; another shepherd gave thee me.
1044 Who was he? Would'st thou know again the man?
1045 He passed indeed for one of Laius' house.
1046 The king who ruled the country long ago?
1047 The same: he was a herdsman of the king.
1048 And is he living still for me to see him?
1049 His fellow-countrymen should best know that.
1050 Doth any bystander among you know
1051 The herd he speaks of, or by seeing him
1052 Afield or in the city? answer straight!
1053 The hour hath come to clear this business up.
1054 Methinks he means none other than the hind
1055 Whom thou anon wert fain to see; but that
1056 Our queen Jocasta best of all could tell.
1057 Madam, dost know the man we sent to fetch?
1058 Is the same of whom the stranger speaks?
1059 Who is the man? What matter? Let it be.
1060 'Twere waste of thought to weigh such idle words.
1061 No, with such guiding clues I cannot fail
1062 To bring to light the secret of my birth.
1063 Oh, as thou carest for thy life, give o'er
1064 This quest. Enough the anguish I endure.
1065 Be of good cheer; though I be proved the son
1066 Of a bondwoman, aye, through three descents
1067 Triply a slave, thy honor is unsmirched.
1068 Yet humor me, I pray thee; do not this.
1069 I cannot; I must probe this matter home.
1070 'Tis for thy sake I advise thee for the best.
1071 I grow impatient of this best advice.
1072 Ah mayst thou ne'er discover who thou art!
1073 Go, fetch me here the herd, and leave yon woman
1074 To glory in her pride of ancestry.
1075 O woe is thee, poor wretch! With that last word
1076 I leave thee, henceforth silent evermore.
1077 Exit JOCASTA
1078 Why, Oedipus, why stung with passionate grief
1079 Hath the queen thus departed? Much I fear
1080 From this dead calm will burst a storm of woes.
1081 Let the storm burst, my fixed resolve still holds,
1082 To learn my lineage, be it ne'er so low.
1083 It may be she with all a woman's pride
1084 Thinks scorn of my base parentage. But I
1085 Who rank myself as Fortune's favorite child,
1086 The giver of good gifts, shall not be shamed.
1087 She is my mother and the changing moons
1088 My brethren, and with them I wax and wane.
1089 Thus sprung why should I fear to trace my birth?
1090 Nothing can make me other than I am.
1091 If my soul prophetic err not, if my wisdom aught avail,
1092 Thee, Cithaeron, I shall hail,
1093 As the nurse and foster-mother of our Oedipus shall greet
1094 Ere tomorrow's full moon rises, and exalt thee as is meet.
1095 Dance and song shall hymn thy praises, lover of our royal race.
1096 Phoebus, may my words find grace!
1097 Child, who bare thee, nymph or goddess? sure thy sure was more than man,
1098 Haply the hill-roamer Pan.
1099 Of did Loxias beget thee, for he haunts the upland wold;
1100 Or Cyllene's lord, or Bacchus, dweller on the hilltops cold?
1101 Did some Heliconian Oread give him thee, a new-born joy?
1102 Nymphs with whom he love to toy?
1103 Elders, if I, who never yet before
1104 Have met the man, may make a guess, methinks
1105 I see the herdsman who we long have sought;
1106 His time-worn aspect matches with the years
1107 Of yonder aged messenger; besides
1108 I seem to recognize the men who bring him
1109 As servants of my own. But you, perchance,
1110 Having in past days known or seen the herd,
1111 May better by sure knowledge my surmise.
1112 I recognize him; one of Laius' house;
1113 A simple hind, but true as any man.
1114 Enter HERDSMAN.
1115 Corinthian, stranger, I address thee first,
1116 Is this the man thou meanest!
This is he.
1117 And now old man, look up and answer all
1118 I ask thee. Wast thou once of Laius' house?
1119 I was, a thrall, not purchased but home-bred.
1120 What was thy business? how wast thou employed?
1121 The best part of my life I tended sheep.
1122 What were the pastures thou didst most frequent?
1123 Cithaeron and the neighboring alps.
1124 Thou must have known yon man, at least by fame?
1125 Yon man? in what way? what man dost thou mean?
1126 The man here, having met him in past times...
1127 Off-hand I cannot call him well to mind.
1128 No wonder, master. But I will revive
1129 His blunted memories. Sure he can recall
1130 What time together both we drove our flocks,
1131 He two, I one, on the Cithaeron range,
1132 For three long summers; I his mate from spring
1133 Till rose Arcturus; then in winter time
1134 I led mine home, he his to Laius' folds.
1135 Did these things happen as I say, or no?
1136 'Tis long ago, but all thou say'st is true.
1137 Well, thou mast then remember giving me
1138 A child to rear as my own foster-son?
1139 Why dost thou ask this question? What of that?
1140 Friend, he that stands before thee was that child.
1141 A plague upon thee! Hold thy wanton tongue!
1142 Softly, old man, rebuke him not; thy words
1143 Are more deserving chastisement than his.
1144 O best of masters, what is my offense?
1145 Not answering what he asks about the child.
1146 He speaks at random, babbles like a fool.
1147 If thou lack'st grace to speak, I'll loose thy tongue.
1148 For mercy's sake abuse not an old man.
1149 Arrest the villain, seize and pinion him!
1150 Alack, alack!
1151 What have I done? what wouldst thou further learn?
1152 Didst give this man the child of whom he asks?
1153 I did; and would that I had died that day!
1154 And die thou shalt unless thou tell the truth.
1155 But, if I tell it, I am doubly lost.
1156 The knave methinks will still prevaricate.
1157 Nay, I confessed I gave it long ago.
1158 Whence came it? was it thine, or given to thee?
1159 I had it from another, 'twas not mine.
1160 From whom of these our townsmen, and what house?
1161 Forbear for God's sake, master, ask no more.
1162 If I must question thee again, thou'rt lost.
1163 Well then--it was a child of Laius' house.
1164 Slave-born or one of Laius' own race?
1165 Ah me!
1166 I stand upon the perilous edge of speech.
1167 And I of hearing, but I still must hear.
1168 Know then the child was by repute his own,
1169 But she within, thy consort best could tell.