JOCASTA

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.

 

OEDIPUS

866 Thou reasonest well. Still I would have thee send

867 And fetch the bondsman hither. See to it.

 

JOCASTA

868 That will I straightway. Come, let us within.

869 I would do nothing that my lord mislikes.

870 Exeunt OEDIPUS and JOCASTA

CHORUS

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:

Page 81

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?

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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.

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.

 

MESSENGER

929 My masters, tell me where the palace is

930 Of Oedipus; or better, where's the king.

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CHORUS

931 Here is the palace and he bides within;

932 This is his queen the mother of his children.

 

MESSENGER

933 All happiness attend her and the house,

934 Blessed is her husband and her marriage-bed.

 

JOCASTA

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.

MESSENGER

938 Good for thy consort and the royal house.

JOCASTA

939 What may it be? Whose messenger art thou?

MESSENGER

940 The Isthmian commons have resolved to make

941 Thy husband king--so 'twas reported there.

JOCASTA

942 What! is not aged Polybus still king?

MESSENGER

943 No, verily; he's dead and in his grave.

JOCASTA

944 What! is he dead, the sire of Oedipus?

MESSENGER

945 If I speak falsely, may I die myself.

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JOCASTA

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.

 

OEDIPUS

952 My wife, my queen, Jocasta, why hast thou

953 Summoned me from my palace?

 

JOCASTA

Hear this man,

954 And as thou hearest judge what has become

955 Of all those awe-inspiring oracles.

 

OEDIPUS

956 Who is this man, and what his news for me?

 

JOCASTA

957 He comes from Corinth and his message this:

958 Thy father Polybus hath passed away.

 

OEDIPUS

959 What? let me have it, stranger, from thy mouth.

 

MESSENGER

960 If I must first make plain beyond a doubt

961 My message, know that Polybus is dead.

OEDIPUS

962 By treachery, or by sickness visited?

 

MESSENGER

963 One touch will send an old man to his rest.

 

OEDIPUS

964 So of some malady he died, poor man.

MESSENGER

965 Yes, having measured the full span of years.

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OEDIPUS

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.

 

JOCASTA

975 Say, did not I foretell this long ago?

 

OEDIPUS

976 Thou didst: but I was misled by my fear.

JOCASTA

977 Then let I no more weigh upon thy soul.

 

OEDIPUS

978 Must I not fear my mother's marriage bed.

 

JOCASTA

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.

 

OEDIPUS

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.

 

JOCASTA

989 And yet thy sire's death lights out darkness much.

Page 91

 

OEDIPUS

990 Much, but my fear is touching her who lives.

 

MESSENGER

991 Who may this woman be whom thus you fear?

OEDIPUS

992 Merope, stranger, wife of Polybus.

MESSENGER

993 And what of her can cause you any fear?

OEDIPUS

994 A heaven-sent oracle of dread import.

MESSENGER

995 A mystery, or may a stranger hear it?

OEDIPUS

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.

MESSENGER

1002 Was this the fear that exiled thee from home?

 

OEDIPUS

1003 Yea, and the dread of slaying my own sire.

MESSENGER

1004 Why, since I came to give thee pleasure, King,

1005 Have I not rid thee of this second fear?

 

OEDIPUS

1006 Well, thou shalt have due guerdon for thy pains.

 

MESSENGER

1007 Well, I confess what chiefly made me come

1008 Was hope to profit by thy coming home.

Page 93

OEDIPUS

1009 Nay, I will ne'er go near my parents more.

MESSENGER

1010 My son, 'tis plain, thou know'st not what thou doest.

OEDIPUS

1011 How so, old man? For heaven's sake tell me all.

MESSENGER

1012 If this is why thou dreadest to return.

OEDIPUS

1013 Yea, lest the god's word be fulfilled in me.

 

MESSENGER

1014 Lest through thy parents thou shouldst be accursed?

OEDIPUS

1015 This and none other is my constant dread.

MESSENGER

1016 Dost thou not know thy fears are baseless all?

 

OEDIPUS

1017 How baseless, if I am their very son?

MESSENGER

1018 Since Polybus was naught to thee in blood.

 

OEDIPUS

1019 What say'st thou? was not Polybus my sire?

 

MESSENGER

1020 As much thy sire as I am, and no more.

 

OEDIPUS

1021 My sire no more to me than one who is naught?

 

MESSENGER

1022 Since I begat thee not, no more did he.

 

OEDIPUS

1023 What reason had he then to call me son?

Page 95

MESSENGER

1024 Know that he took thee from my hands, a gift.

OEDIPUS

1025 Yet, if no child of his, he loved me well.

 

MESSENGER

1026 A childless man till then, he warmed to thee.

 

OEDIPUS

1027 A foundling or a purchased slave, this child?

 

MESSENGER

1028 I found thee in Cithaeron's wooded glens.

OEDIPUS

1029 What led thee to explore those upland glades?

MESSENGER

1030 My business was to tend the mountain flocks.

OEDIPUS

1031 A vagrant shepherd journeying for hire?

MESSENGER

1032 True, but thy savior in that hour, my son.

OEDIPUS

1033 My savior? from what harm? what ailed me then?

MESSENGER

1034 Those ankle joints are evidence enow.

 

OEDIPUS

1035 Ah, why remind me of that ancient sore?

 

MESSENGER

1036 I loosed the pin that riveted thy feet.

 

OEDIPUS

1037 Yes, from my cradle that dread brand I bore.

 

MESSENGER

1038 Whence thou deriv'st the name that still is thine.

Page 97

OEDIPUS

1039 Who did it? I adjure thee, tell me who

1040 Say, was it father, mother?

 

MESSENGER

I know not.

1041 The man from whom I had thee may know more.

OEDIPUS

1042 What, did another find me, not thyself?

MESSENGER

1043 Not I; another shepherd gave thee me.

 

OEDIPUS

1044 Who was he? Would'st thou know again the man?

 

MESSENGER

1045 He passed indeed for one of Laius' house.

 

OEDIPUS

1046 The king who ruled the country long ago?

 

MESSENGER

1047 The same: he was a herdsman of the king.

OEDIPUS

1048 And is he living still for me to see him?

 

MESSENGER

1049 His fellow-countrymen should best know that.

 

OEDIPUS

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.

 

CHORUS

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.

Page 99

OEDIPUS

1057 Madam, dost know the man we sent to fetch?

1058 Is the same of whom the stranger speaks?

 

JOCASTA

1059 Who is the man? What matter? Let it be.

1060 'Twere waste of thought to weigh such idle words.

OEDIPUS

1061 No, with such guiding clues I cannot fail

1062 To bring to light the secret of my birth.

JOCASTA

1063 Oh, as thou carest for thy life, give o'er

1064 This quest. Enough the anguish I endure.

 

OEDIPUS

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.

 

JOCASTA

1068 Yet humor me, I pray thee; do not this.

 

OEDIPUS

1069 I cannot; I must probe this matter home.

 

JOCASTA

1070 'Tis for thy sake I advise thee for the best.

 

OEDIPUS

1071 I grow impatient of this best advice.

 

JOCASTA

1072 Ah mayst thou ne'er discover who thou art!

 

OEDIPUS

1073 Go, fetch me here the herd, and leave yon woman

1074 To glory in her pride of ancestry.

Page 101

JOCASTA

1075 O woe is thee, poor wretch! With that last word

1076 I leave thee, henceforth silent evermore.

1077 Exit JOCASTA

 

CHORUS

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.

OEDIPUS

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.

 

CHORUS

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!

Page 103

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?

OEDIPUS

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.

 

CHORUS

1112 I recognize him; one of Laius' house;

1113 A simple hind, but true as any man.

1114 Enter HERDSMAN.

OEDIPUS

1115 Corinthian, stranger, I address thee first,

1116 Is this the man thou meanest!

 

MESSENGER

This is he.

Page 105

OEDIPUS

1117 And now old man, look up and answer all

1118 I ask thee. Wast thou once of Laius' house?

HERDSMAN

1119 I was, a thrall, not purchased but home-bred.

OEDIPUS

1120 What was thy business? how wast thou employed?

HERDSMAN

1121 The best part of my life I tended sheep.

OEDIPUS

1122 What were the pastures thou didst most frequent?

HERDSMAN

1123 Cithaeron and the neighboring alps.

 

OEDIPUS

Then there

1124 Thou must have known yon man, at least by fame?

 

HERDSMAN

1125 Yon man? in what way? what man dost thou mean?

OEDIPUS

1126 The man here, having met him in past times...

HERDSMAN

1127 Off-hand I cannot call him well to mind.

MESSENGER

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?

Page 107

HERDSMAN

1136 'Tis long ago, but all thou say'st is true.

MESSENGER

1137 Well, thou mast then remember giving me

1138 A child to rear as my own foster-son?

 

HERDSMAN

1139 Why dost thou ask this question? What of that?

MESSENGER

1140 Friend, he that stands before thee was that child.

HERDSMAN

1141 A plague upon thee! Hold thy wanton tongue!

OEDIPUS

1142 Softly, old man, rebuke him not; thy words

1143 Are more deserving chastisement than his.

HERDSMAN

1144 O best of masters, what is my offense?

OEDIPUS

1145 Not answering what he asks about the child.

HERDSMAN

1146 He speaks at random, babbles like a fool.

OEDIPUS

1147 If thou lack'st grace to speak, I'll loose thy tongue.

HERDSMAN

1148 For mercy's sake abuse not an old man.

OEDIPUS

1149 Arrest the villain, seize and pinion him!

HERDSMAN

1150 Alack, alack!

1151 What have I done? what wouldst thou further learn?

OEDIPUS

1152 Didst give this man the child of whom he asks?

Page 109

HERDSMAN

1153 I did; and would that I had died that day!

OEDIPUS

1154 And die thou shalt unless thou tell the truth.

 

HERDSMAN

1155 But, if I tell it, I am doubly lost.

 

OEDIPUS

1156 The knave methinks will still prevaricate.

 

HERDSMAN

1157 Nay, I confessed I gave it long ago.

OEDIPUS

1158 Whence came it? was it thine, or given to thee?

HERDSMAN

1159 I had it from another, 'twas not mine.

 

OEDIPUS

1160 From whom of these our townsmen, and what house?

 

HERDSMAN

1161 Forbear for God's sake, master, ask no more.

 

OEDIPUS

1162 If I must question thee again, thou'rt lost.

 

HERDSMAN

1163 Well then--it was a child of Laius' house.

 

OEDIPUS

1164 Slave-born or one of Laius' own race?

HERDSMAN

1165 Ah me!

1166 I stand upon the perilous edge of speech.

OEDIPUS

1167 And I of hearing, but I still must hear.

HERDSMAN

1168 Know then the child was by repute his own,

1169 But she within, thy consort best could tell.

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