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Title: Oedipus King of Thebes - Translated into English Rhyming Verse with Explanatory Notes
Author: Sophocles, 495? BC-406 BC
Language: English
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OEDIPUS

KING OF THEBES

BY

SOPHOCLES


TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH RHYMING VERSE

 WITH EXPLANATORY NOTES BY

GILBERT MURRAY

LL.D., D.LITT., F.B.A.

REGIUS PROFESSOR OF GREEK IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD


FOURTEENTH THOUSAND


 LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.
 RUSKIN HOUSE 40 MUSEUM STREET, W.C.1



 _First published_      _February 1911_
 _Reprinted_            _January  1912_
     "                  _   "     1912_
     "                  _February 1912_
     "                  _July     1917_



PREFACE


If I have turned aside from Euripides for a moment and attempted a
translation of the great stage masterpiece of Sophocles, my excuse must
be the fascination of this play, which has thrown its spell on me as on
many other translators. Yet I may plead also that as a rule every
diligent student of these great works can add something to the
discoveries of his predecessors, and I think I have been able to bring
out a few new points in the old and much-studied _Oedipus_, chiefly
points connected with the dramatic technique and the religious
atmosphere.

Mythologists tell us that Oedipus was originally a daemon haunting Mount
Kithairon, and Jocasta a form of that Earth-Mother who, as Aeschylus
puts it, "bringeth all things to being, and when she hath reared them
receiveth again their seed into her body" (_Choephori_, 127: cf.
Crusius, _Beiträge z. Gr. Myth_, 21). That stage of the story lies very
far behind the consciousness of Sophocles. But there does cling about
both his hero and his heroine a great deal of very primitive atmosphere.
There are traces in Oedipus of the pre-hellenic Medicine King, the
_Basileus_ who is also a _Theos_, and can make rain or blue sky,
pestilence or fertility. This explains many things in the Priest's first
speech, in the attitude of the Chorus, and in Oedipus' own language
after the discovery. It partly explains the hostility of Apollo, who is
not a mere motiveless Destroyer but a true Olympian crushing his
Earth-born rival. And in the same way the peculiar royalty of Jocasta,
which makes Oedipus at times seem not the King but the Consort of the
Queen, brings her near to that class of consecrated queens described in
Dr. Frazer's _Lectures on the Kingship_, who are "honoured as no woman
now living on the earth."

The story itself, and the whole spirit in which Sophocles has treated
it, belong not to the fifth century but to that terrible and romantic
past from which the fifth century poets usually drew their material. The
atmosphere of brooding dread, the pollution, the curses; the "insane and
beastlike cruelty," as an ancient Greek commentator calls it, of
piercing the exposed child's feet in order to ensure its death and yet
avoid having actually murdered it (_Schol. Eur. Phoen._, 26); the whole
treatment of the parricide and incest, not as moral offences capable of
being rationally judged or even excused as unintentional, but as
monstrous and inhuman pollutions, the last limit of imaginable horror:
all these things take us back to dark regions of pre-classical and even
pre-homeric belief. We have no right to suppose that Sophocles thought
of the involuntary parricide and metrogamy as the people in his play do.
Indeed, considering the general tone of his contemporaries and friends,
we may safely assume that he did not. But at any rate he has allowed no
breath of later enlightenment to disturb the primaeval gloom of his
atmosphere.

Does this in any way make the tragedy insincere? I think not. We know
that people did feel and think about "pollution" in the way which
Sophocles represents; and if they so felt, then the tragedy was there.

       *       *       *       *       *

I think these considerations explain the remarkable absence from this
play of any criticism of life or any definite moral judgment. I know
that some commentators have found in it a "humble and unquestioning
piety," but I cannot help suspecting that what they saw was only a
reflection from their own pious and unquestioning minds. Man is indeed
shown as a "plaything of Gods," but of Gods strangely and
incomprehensibly malignant, whose ways there is no attempt to explain or
justify. The original story, indeed, may have had one of its roots in a
Theban "moral tale." Aelian (_Varia Historia_, 2, 7) tells us that the
exposure of a child was forbidden by Theban Law. The state of feeling
which produced this law, against the immensely strong conception of the
_patria potestas_, may also have produced a folklore story telling how a
boy once was exposed, in a peculiarly cruel way, by his wicked parents,
and how Heaven preserved him to take upon both of them a vengeance which
showed that the unnatural father had no longer a father's sanctity nor
the unnatural mother a mother's. But, as far as Sophocles is concerned,
if anything in the nature of a criticism of life has been admitted into
the play at all, it seems to be only a flash or two of that profound and
pessimistic arraignment of the ruling powers which in other plays also
opens at times like a sudden abyss across the smooth surface of his art.

There is not much philosophy in the _Oedipus_. There is not, in
comparison with other Greek plays, much pure poetry. What there is, is
drama; drama of amazing grandeur and power. In respect of plot no Greek
play comes near it. It contains no doubt a few points of unsophisticated
technique such as can be found in all ancient and nearly all modern
drama; for instance, the supposition that Oedipus has never inquired
into the death of his predecessor on the throne. But such flaws are
external, not essential. On the whole, I can only say that the work of
translation has made me feel even more strongly than before the
extraordinary grip and reality of the dialogue, the deftness of the
construction, and, except perhaps for a slight drop in the Creon scene,
the unbroken crescendo of tragedy from the opening to the close.

       *       *       *       *       *

Where plot-interest is as strong as it is in the _Oedipus_,
character-interest is apt to be comparatively weak. Yet in this play
every character is interesting, vital, and distinct. Oedipus himself is
selected by Aristotle as the most effective kind of tragic hero,
because, first, he has been great and glorious, and secondly he has not
been "pre-eminently virtuous or just." This is true in its way. Oedipus
is too passionate to be just; but he is at least noble in his
impetuosity, his devotion, and his absolute truthfulness. It is
important to realise that at the beginning of the play he is prepared
for an oracle commanding him to die for his people (pp. 6, 7). And he
never thinks of refusing that "task" any more than he tries to elude the
doom that actually comes, or to conceal any fact that tells against him.
If Oedipus had been an ordinary man the play would have been a very
different and a much poorer thing.

Jocasta is a wonderful study. Euripides might have brought her character
out more explicitly and more at length, but even he could not have made
her more living or more tragic, or represented more subtly in her
relation to Oedipus both the mother's protecting love and the mother's
authority. As for her "impiety," of which the old commentaries used to
speak with much disapproval, the essential fact in her life is that both
her innocence and her happiness have, as she believes, been poisoned by
the craft of priests. She and Laïus both "believed a bad oracle": her
terror and her love for her husband made her consent to an infamous act
of cruelty to her own child, an act of which the thought sickens her
still, and about which she cannot, when she tries, speak the whole
truth. (See note on p. 42.) And after all her crime was for nothing! The
oracle proved to be a lie. Never again will she believe a priest.

As to Tiresias, I wish to ask forgiveness for an unintelligent criticism
made twelve years ago in my _Ancient Greek Literature_, p. 240. I
assumed then, what I fancy was a common assumption, that Tiresias was a
"sympathetic" prophet, compact of wisdom and sanctity and all the
qualities which beseem that calling; and I complained that he did not
consistently act as such. I was quite wrong. Tiresias is not anything so
insipid. He is a study of a real type, and a type which all the
tragedians knew. The character of the professional seer or "man of God"
has in the imagination of most ages fluctuated between two poles. At one
extreme are sanctity and superhuman wisdom; at the other fraud and
mental disease, self-worship aping humility and personal malignity in
the guise of obedience to God. There is a touch of all these qualities,
good and bad alike, in Tiresias. He seems to me a most life-like as well
as a most dramatic figure.

As to the Chorus, it generally plays a smaller part in Sophocles than in
Euripides and Aeschylus, and the _Oedipus_ forms no exception to that
rule. It seems to me that Sophocles was feeling his way towards a
technique which would have approached that of the New Comedy or even the
Elizabethan stage, and would perhaps have done without a Chorus
altogether. In Aeschylus Greek tragedy had been a thing of traditional
forms and clear-cut divisions; the religious ritual showed through, and
the visible gods and the disguised dancers were allowed their full
value. And Euripides in the matter of outward formalism went back to the
Aeschylean type and even beyond it: prologue, chorus, messenger, visible
god, all the traditional forms were left clear-cut and undisguised and
all developed to full effectiveness on separate and specific lines. But
Sophocles worked by blurring his structural outlines just as he blurs
the ends of his verses. In him the traditional divisions are all made
less distinct, all worked over in the direction of greater naturalness,
at any rate in externals. This was a very great gain, but of course some
price had to be paid for it. Part of the price was that Sophocles could
never attempt the tremendous choric effects which Euripides achieves in
such plays as the _Bacchae_ and the _Trojan Women_. His lyrics, great as
they sometimes are, move their wings less boldly. They seem somehow tied
to their particular place in the tragedy, and they have not quite the
strength to lift the whole drama bodily aloft with them.... At least
that is my feeling. But I realise that this may be only the complaint of
an unskilful translator, blaming his material for his own defects of
vision.

In general, both in lyrics and in dialogue, I believe I have allowed
myself rather less freedom than in translating Euripides. This is partly
because the writing of Euripides, being less business-like and more
penetrated by philosophic reflections and by subtleties of technique,
actually needs more thorough re-casting to express it at all adequately;
partly because there is in Sophocles, amid all his passion and all his
naturalness, a certain severe and classic reticence, which, though
impossible really to reproduce by any method, is less misrepresented by
occasional insufficiency than by habitual redundance.

I have asked pardon for an ill deed done twelve years ago. I should like
to end by speaking of a benefit older still, and express something of
the gratitude I feel to my old master, Francis Storr, whose teaching is
still vivid in my mind and who first opened my eyes to the grandeur of
the _Oedipus_.

G. M.



 CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY


 OEDIPUS, _supposed son of Polybus, King of Corinth; now elected King of
   Thebes._

 JOCASTA, _Queen of Thebes; widow of Laïus, the late King, and now wife
   to Oedipus._

 CREON, _a Prince of Thebes, brother to Jocasta._

 TIRESIAS, _an old blind seer._

 PRIEST OF ZEUS.

 A STRANGER _from Corinth._

 A SHEPHERD _of King Laïus._

 A MESSENGER _from the Palace._

 CHORUS of the Elders of Thebes.

 A Crowd of Suppliants, men, women, and children.


 The following do not appear in the play but are frequently mentioned:--

 LAÏUS (_pronounced as three syllables, Lá-i-us_), _the last King of Thebes
   before Oedipus._

 CADMUS, _the founder of Thebes; son of Agênor, King of Sidon._

 POLYBUS AND MEROPÊ, _King and Queen of Corinth, supposed to be the
   father and mother of Oedipus._

 APOLLO, _the God specially presiding over the oracle of Delphi and the
   island Delos: he is also called_ PHOEBUS, _the pure;_ LOXIAS,
   _supposed to mean "He of the Crooked Words"; and_ LYKEIOS, _supposed
   to mean "Wolf-God." He is also the great Averter of Evil, and has
   names from the cries "I-ê" (pronounced "Ee-ay") and "Paian," cries
   for healing or for the frightening away of evil influences._

 KITHAIRON, _a mass of wild mountain south-west of Thebes._



ARGUMENT

While Thebes was under the rule of LAÏUS and JOCASTA there appeared a
strange and monstrous creature, "the riddling Sphinx," "the She-Wolf of
the woven song," who in some unexplained way sang riddles of death and
slew the people of Thebes. LAÏUS went to ask aid of the oracle of
Delphi, but was slain mysteriously on the road. Soon afterwards there
came to Thebes a young Prince of Corinth, OEDIPUS, who had left his home
and was wandering. He faced the Sphinx and read her riddle, whereupon
she flung herself from her rock and died. The throne being vacant was
offered to OEDIPUS, and with it the hand of the Queen, JOCASTA.

Some ten or twelve years afterwards a pestilence has fallen on Thebes.
At this point the play begins.


_The date of the first production of the play is not known, but was
probably about the year 425 B.C._



OEDIPUS, KING OF THEBES


SCENE.--_Before the Palace of_ OEDIPUS _at Thebes. A crowd of suppliants
of all ages are waiting by the altar in front and on the steps of the
Palace; among them the_ PRIEST OF ZEUS. _As the Palace door opens and_
OEDIPUS _comes out all the suppliants with a cry move towards him in
attitudes of prayer, holding out their olive branches, and then become
still again as he speaks._


OEDIPUS.

  My children, fruit of Cadmus' ancient tree
  New springing, wherefore thus with bended knee
  Press ye upon us, laden all with wreaths
  And suppliant branches? And the city breathes
  Heavy with incense, heavy with dim prayer
  And shrieks to affright the Slayer.--Children, care
  For this so moves me, I have scorned withal
  Message or writing: seeing 'tis I ye call,
  'Tis I am come, world-honoured Oedipus.
    Old Man, do thou declare--the rest have thus
  Their champion--in what mood stand ye so still,
  In dread or sure hope? Know ye not, my will
  Is yours for aid 'gainst all? Stern were indeed
  The heart that felt not for so dire a need.

[Sidenote: vv. 15-39]

PRIEST.

  O Oedipus, who holdest in thy hand
  My city, thou canst see what ages stand
  At these thine altars; some whose little wing
  Scarce flieth yet, and some with long living
  O'erburdened; priests, as I of Zeus am priest,
  And chosen youths: and wailing hath not ceased
  Of thousands in the market-place, and by
  Athena's two-fold temples and the dry
  Ash of Ismênus' portent-breathing shore.
    For all our ship, thou see'st, is weak and sore
  Shaken with storms, and no more lighteneth
  Her head above the waves whose trough is death.
  She wasteth in the fruitless buds of earth,
  In parchèd herds and travail without birth
  Of dying women: yea, and midst of it
  A burning and a loathly god hath lit
  Sudden, and sweeps our land, this Plague of power;
  Till Cadmus' house grows empty, hour by hour,
  And Hell's house rich with steam of tears and blood.
    O King, not God indeed nor peer to God
  We deem thee, that we kneel before thine hearth,
  Children and old men, praying; but of earth
  A thing consummate by thy star confessed
  Thou walkest and by converse with the blest;
  Who came to Thebes so swift, and swept away
  The Sphinx's song, the tribute of dismay,
  That all were bowed beneath, and made us free.
  A stranger, thou, naught knowing more than we,
  Nor taught of any man, but by God's breath
  Filled, thou didst raise our life. So the world saith;
  So we say.

[Sidenote: vv. 40-69]

             Therefore now, O Lord and Chief,
  We come to thee again; we lay our grief
  On thy head, if thou find us not some aid.
  Perchance thou hast heard Gods talking in the shade
  Of night, or eke some man: to him that knows,
  Men say, each chance that falls, each wind that blows
  Hath life, when he seeks counsel. Up, O chief
  Of men, and lift thy city from its grief;
  Face thine own peril! All our land doth hold
  Thee still our saviour, for that help of old:
  Shall they that tell of thee hereafter tell
  "By him was Thebes raised up, and after fell!"
  Nay, lift us till we slip no more. Oh, let
  That bird of old that made us fortunate
  Wing back; be thou our Oedipus again.
  And let thy kingdom be a land of men,
  Not emptiness. Walls, towers, and ships, they all
  Are nothing with no men to keep the wall.

OEDIPUS.

  My poor, poor children! Surely long ago
  I have read your trouble. Stricken, well I know,
  Ye all are, stricken sore: yet verily
  Not one so stricken to the heart as I.
  Your grief, it cometh to each man apart
  For his own loss, none other's; but this heart
  For thee and me and all of us doth weep.
  Wherefore it is not to one sunk in sleep
  Ye come with waking. Many tears these days
  For your sake I have wept, and many ways
  Have wandered on the beating wings of thought.
  And, finding but one hope, that I have sought

[Sidenote: vv. 70-86]

  And followed. I have sent Menoikeus' son,
  Creon, my own wife's brother, forth alone
  To Apollo's House in Delphi, there to ask
  What word, what deed of mine, what bitter task,
  May save my city.
                    And the lapse of days
  Reckoned, I can but marvel what delays
  His journey. 'Tis beyond all thought that thus
  He comes not, beyond need. But when he does,
  Then call me false and traitor, if I flee
  Back from whatever task God sheweth me.

PRIEST.

  At point of time thou speakest. Mark the cheer
  Yonder. Is that not Creon drawing near?

    [_They all crowd to gaze where_ CREON _is
        approaching in the distance._

OEDIPUS.

  O Lord Apollo, help! And be the star
  That guides him joyous as his seemings are!

  PRIEST.

  Oh! surely joyous! How else should he bear
  That fruited laurel wreathed about his hair?

  OEDIPUS.

  We soon shall know.--'Tis not too far for one
  Clear-voiced.

    (_Shouting_) Ho, brother! Prince! Menoikeus' son,
  What message from the God?

[Sidenote: vv. 87-99]

CREON (from a distance).

                               Message of joy!

_Enter_ CREON

  I tell thee, what is now our worst annoy,
  If the right deed be done, shall turn to good.

    [_The crowd, which has been full of excited
        hope, falls to doubt and disappointment._

OEDIPUS.

  Nay, but what is the message? For my blood
  Runs neither hot nor cold for words like those.

CREON.

  Shall I speak now, with all these pressing close,
  Or pass within?--To me both ways are fair.

OEDIPUS.

  Speak forth to all! The grief that these men bear
  Is more than any fear for mine own death.

CREON.

  I speak then what I heard from God.--Thus saith
  Phoebus, our Lord and Seer, in clear command.
  An unclean thing there is, hid in our land,
  Eating the soil thereof: this ye shall cast
  Out, and not foster till all help be past.

OEDIPUS.

  How cast it out? What was the evil deed?

[Sidenote: vv. 100-113]

CREON.

  Hunt the men out from Thebes, or make them bleed
  Who slew. For blood it is that stirs to-day.

OEDIPUS.

  Who was the man they killed? Doth Phoebus say?

CREON.

  O King, there was of old King Laïus
  In Thebes, ere thou didst come to pilot us.

OEDIPUS.

  I know: not that I ever saw his face.

CREON.

 'Twas he. And Loxias now bids us trace
  And smite the unknown workers of his fall.

OEDIPUS.

  Where in God's earth are they? Or how withal
  Find the blurred trail of such an ancient stain?

CREON.

  In Thebes, he said.--That which men seek amain
  They find. 'Tis things forgotten that go by.

OEDIPUS.

  And where did Laïus meet them? Did he die
  In Thebes, or in the hills, or some far land?

[Sidenote: vv. 114-127]

CREON.

  To ask God's will in Delphi he had planned
  His journey. Started and returned no more.

OEDIPUS.

  And came there nothing back? No message, nor
  None of his company, that ye might hear?

CREON.

  They all were slain, save one man; blind with fear
  He came, remembering naught--or almost naught.

OEDIPUS.

  And what was that? One thing has often brought
  Others, could we but catch one little clue.

CREON.

 'Twas not one man, 'twas robbers--that he knew--
  Who barred the road and slew him: a great band.

OEDIPUS.

  Robbers?... What robber, save the work was planned
  By treason here, would dare a risk so plain?

CREON.

  So some men thought. But Laïus lay slain,
  And none to avenge him in his evil day.

[Sidenote: vv. 128-148]

OEDIPUS.

  And what strange mischief, when your master lay
  Thus fallen, held you back from search and deed?

CREON.

  The dark-songed Sphinx was here. We had no heed
  Of distant sorrows, having death so near.

OEDIPUS.

  It falls on me then. I will search and clear
  This darkness.--Well hath Phoebus done, and thou
  Too, to recall that dead king, even now,
  And with you for the right I also stand,
  To obey the God and succour this dear land.
  Nor is it as for one that touches me
  Far off; 'tis for mine own sake I must see
  This sin cast out. Whoe'er it was that slew
  Laïus, the same wild hand may seek me too:
  And caring thus for Laïus, is but care
  For mine own blood.--Up! Leave this altar-stair,
  Children. Take from it every suppliant bough.
  Then call the folk of Thebes. Say, 'tis my vow
  To uphold them to the end. So God shall crown
  Our greatness, or for ever cast us down.

    [_He goes in to the Palace._

PRIEST.

  My children, rise.--The King most lovingly
  Hath promised all we came for. And may He

[Sidenote: vv. 149-161]

  Who sent this answer, Phoebus, come confessed
  Helper to Thebes, and strong to stay the pest.

    [_The suppliants gather up their boughs and
        stand at the side. The chorus of Theban
        elders enter._

CHORUS.

    [_They speak of the Oracle which they have not
        yet heard, and cry to_ APOLLO _by his
        special cry "I-ê."_

    A Voice, a Voice, that is borne on the Holy Way!
  What art thou, O Heavenly One, O Word of the Houses of Gold?
  Thebes is bright with thee, and my heart it leapeth; yet is it cold,
        And my spirit faints as I pray.
            I-ê! I-ê!
  What task, O Affrighter of Evil, what task shall thy people essay?
        One new as our new-come affliction,
          Or an old toil returned with the years?
        Unveil thee, thou dread benediction,
          Hope's daughter and Fear's.

    [_They pray to_ ATHENA, ARTEMIS, _and_
        APOLLO.

    Zeus-Child that knowest not death, to thee I pray,
  O Pallas; next to thy Sister, who calleth Thebes her own,
  Artemis, named of Fair Voices, who sitteth her orbèd throne
      In the throng of the market way:

[Sidenote: vv. 162-189]

            And I-ê! I-ê!
  Apollo, the Pure, the Far-smiter; O Three that keep evil away,
      If of old for our city's desire,
        When the death-cloud hung close to her brow,
      Ye have banished the wound and the fire,
        Oh! come to us now!

    [_They tell of the Pestilence._

  Wounds beyond telling; my people sick unto death;
    And where is the counsellor, where is the sword of thought?
  And Holy Earth in her increase perisheth:
    The child dies and the mother awaketh not.
            I-ê! I-ê!
  We have seen them, one on another, gone as a bird is gone,
    Souls that are flame; yea, higher,
    Swifter they pass than fire,
      To the rocks of the dying Sun.

    [_They end by a prayer to_ ATHENA,

  Their city wasteth unnumbered; their children lie
    Where death hath cast them, unpitied, unwept upon.
  The altars stand, as in seas of storm a high
    Rock standeth, and wives and mothers grey thereon
            Weep, weep and pray.
  Lo, joy-cries to fright the Destroyer; a flash in the dark they rise,
      Then die by the sobs overladen.
      Send help, O heaven-born Maiden,
        Let us look on the light of her eyes!

[Sidenote: vv. 190-217]

    [_To_ ZEUS, _that he drive out the Slayer,_

      And Ares, the abhorred
      Slayer, who bears no sword,
  But shrieking, wrapped in fire, stands over me,
      Make that he turn, yea, fly
      Broken, wind-wasted, high
  Down the vexed hollow of the Vaster Sea;
      Or back to his own Thrace,
      To harbour shelterless.
  Where Night hath spared, he bringeth end by day.
      Him, Him, O thou whose hand
      Beareth the lightning brand,
  O Father Zeus, now with thy thunder, slay and slay!

    [_To_ APOLLO, ARTEMIS, _and_ DIONYSUS.

      Where is thy gold-strung bow,
      O Wolf-god, where the flow
  Of living shafts unconquered, from all ills
      Our helpers? Where the white
      Spears of thy Sister's light,
  Far-flashing as she walks the wolf-wild hills?
      And thou, O Golden-crown,
      Theban and named our own,
  O Wine-gleam, Voice of Joy, for ever more
    Ringed with thy Maenads white,
    Bacchus, draw near and smite,
  Smite with thy glad-eyed flame the God whom Gods abhor.

    [_During the last lines_ OEDIPUS _has
        come out from the Palace._

OEDIPUS.

  Thou prayest: but my words if thou wilt hear
  And bow thee to their judgement, strength is near

[Sidenote: vv. 218-245]

  For help, and a great lightening of ill.
  Thereof I come to speak, a stranger still
  To all this tale, a stranger to the deed:
  (Else, save that I were clueless, little need
  Had I to cast my net so wide and far:)
  Howbeit, I, being now as all ye are,
  A Theban, to all Thebans high and low
  Do make proclaim: if any here doth know
  By what man's hand died Laïus, your King,
  Labdacus' son, I charge him that he bring
  To me his knowledge. Let him feel no fear
  If on a townsman's body he must clear
  Our guilt: the man shall suffer no great ill,
  But pass from Thebes, and live where else he will.

    [_No answer._

  Is it some alien from an alien shore
  Ye know to have done the deed, screen him no more!
  Good guerdon waits you now and a King's love
  Hereafter.
             Hah! If still ye will not move
  But, fearing for yourselves or some near friend,
  Reject my charge, then hearken to what end
  Ye drive me.--If in this place men there be
  Who know and speak not, lo, I make decree
  That, while in Thebes I bear the diadem,
  No man shall greet, no man shall shelter them,
  Nor give them water in their thirst, nor share
  In sacrifice nor shrift nor dying prayer,
  But thrust them from our doors, the thing they hide
  Being this land's curse. Thus hath the God replied
  This day to me from Delphi, and my sword
  I draw thus for the dead and for God's word.

[Sidenote: vv. 246-273]

    And lastly for the murderer, be it one
  Hiding alone or more in unison,
  I speak on him this curse: even as his soul
  Is foul within him let his days be foul,
  And life unfriended grind him till he die.
  More: if he ever tread my hearth and I
  Know it, be every curse upon my head
  That I have spoke this day.
                              All I have said
  I charge ye strictly to fulfil and make
  Perfect, for my sake, for Apollo's sake,
  And this land's sake, deserted of her fruit
  And cast out from her gods. Nay, were all mute
  At Delphi, still 'twere strange to leave the thing
  Unfollowed, when a true man and a King
  Lay murdered. All should search. But I, as now
  Our fortunes fall--his crown is on my brow,
  His wife lies in my arms, and common fate,
  Had but his issue been more fortunate,
  Might well have joined our children--since this red
  Chance hath so stamped its heel on Laïus' head,
  I am his champion left, and, as I would
  For mine own father, choose for ill or good
  This quest, to find the man who slew of yore
  Labdacus' son, the son of Polydore,
  Son of great Cadmus whom Agenor old
  Begat, of Thebes first master. And, behold,
  For them that aid me not, I pray no root
  Nor seed in earth may bear them corn nor fruit,
  No wife bear children, but this present curse
  Cleave to them close and other woes yet worse.
    Enough: ye other people of the land,

[Sidenote: vv. 274-289]

  Whose will is one with mine, may Justice stand
  Your helper, and all gods for evermore.

    [_The crowd disperses._

LEADER.

  O King, even while thy curse yet hovers o'er
  My head, I answer thee. I slew him not,
  Nor can I shew the slayer. But, God wot,
  If Phoebus sends this charge, let Phoebus read
  Its meaning and reveal who did the deed.

OEDIPUS.

  Aye, that were just, if of his grace he would
  Reveal it. How shall man compel his God?

LEADER.

  Second to that, methinks, 'twould help us most ...

OEDIPUS.

  Though it be third, speak! Nothing should be lost.

LEADER.

  To our High Seer on earth vision is given
  Most like to that High Phoebus hath in heaven.
  Ask of Tiresias: he could tell thee true.

OEDIPUS.

  That also have I thought for. Aye, and two
  Heralds have sent ere now. 'Twas Creon set
  Me on.--I marvel that he comes not yet.

[Sidenote: vv. 290-301]

LEADER.

  Our other clues are weak, old signs and far.

OEDIPUS.

  What signs? I needs must question all that are.

LEADER.

  Some travellers slew him, the tale used to be.

OEDIPUS.

  The tale, yes: but the witness, where is he?

LEADER.

  The man hath heard thy curses. If he knows
  The taste of fear, he will not long stay close.

OEDIPUS.

  He fear my words, who never feared the deed?

LEADER.

  Well, there is one shall find him.--See, they lead
  Hither our Lord Tiresias, in whose mind
  All truth is born, alone of human kind.

   [_Enter_ TIRESIAS _led by a young disciple. He is an old
      blind man in a prophet's robe, dark, unkempt and
      sinister in appearance._

OEDIPUS.

  Tiresias, thou whose mind divineth well
  All Truth, the spoken and the unspeakable,

[Sidenote: vv. 302-321]

  The things of heaven and them that walk the earth;
  Our city ... thou canst see, for all thy dearth
  Of outward eyes, what clouds are over her.
  In which, O gracious Lord, no minister
  Of help, no champion, can we find at all
  Save thee. For Phoebus--thou hast heard withal
  His message--to our envoy hath decreed
  One only way of help in this great need:
  To find and smite with death or banishing,
  Him who smote Laïus, our ancient King.
  Oh, grudge us nothing! Question every cry
  Of birds, and all roads else of prophecy
  Thou knowest. Save our city: save thine own
  Greatness: save me; save all that yet doth groan
  Under the dead man's wrong! Lo, in thy hand
  We lay us. And, methinks, no work so grand
  Hath man yet compassed, as, with all he can
  Of chance or power, to help his fellow man.

TIRESIAS (_to himself_).

  Ah me!
  A fearful thing is knowledge, when to know
  Helpeth no end. I knew this long ago,
  But crushed it dead. Else had I never come.

OEDIPUS.

  What means this? Comest thou so deep in gloom?

TIRESIAS.

  Let me go back! Thy work shall weigh on thee
  The less, if thou consent, and mine on me.

[Sidenote: vv. 322-336]

OEDIPUS.

  Prophet, this is not lawful; nay, nor kind
  To Thebes, who feeds thee, thus to veil thy mind.

TIRESIAS.

  'Tis that I like not thy mind, nor the way
  It goeth. Therefore, lest I also stray....

    [_He moves to go off._ OEDIPUS _bars his road._

OEDIPUS.

  Thou shalt not, knowing, turn and leave us! See,
  We all implore thee, all, on bended knee.

TIRESIAS.

  All without light!--And never light shall shine
  On this dark evil that is mine ... and thine.

OEDIPUS.

  What wilt thou? Know and speak not? In my need
  Be false to me, and let thy city bleed?

TIRESIAS.

  I will not wound myself nor thee. Why seek
  To trap and question me? I will not speak.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou devil!

    [_Movement of_ LEADER _to check him._

               Nay; the wrath of any stone
  Would rise at him. It lies with thee to have done
  And speak. Is there no melting in thine eyes!

[Sidenote: vv. 337-351]

TIRESIAS.

  Naught lies with me! With thee, with thee there lies,
  I warrant, what thou ne'er hast seen nor guessed.

OEDIPUS (_to_ LEADER, _who tries to calm him._)

  How can I hear such talk?--he maketh jest
  Of the land's woe--and keep mine anger dumb?

TIRESIAS.

  Howe'er I hold it back, 'twill come, 'twill come.

OEDIPUS.

  The more shouldst thou declare it to thy King.

TIRESIAS.

  I speak no more. For thee, if passioning
  Doth comfort thee, on, passion to thy fill!

    [_He moves to go._

OEDIPUS.

  'Fore God, I am in wrath; and speak I will,
  Nor stint what I see clear. 'Twas thou, 'twas thou,
  Didst plan this murder; aye, and, save the blow,
  Wrought it.--I know thou art blind; else I could swear
  Thou, and thou only, art the murderer.

TIRESIAS (_returning_).

  So?--I command thee by thine own word's power,
  To stand accurst, and never from this hour

[Sidenote: vv. 352-363]

  Speak word to me, nor yet to these who ring
  Thy throne. Thou art thyself the unclean thing.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou front of brass, to fling out injury
  So wild! Dost think to bate me and go free?

TIRESIAS.

  I am free. The strong truth is in this heart.

OEDIPUS.

  What prompted thee? I swear 'twas not thine art.

TIRESIAS.

  'Twas thou. I spoke not, save for thy command.

OEDIPUS.

  Spoke what? What was it? Let me understand.

TIRESIAS.

  Dost tempt me? Were my words before not plain!

OEDIPUS.

  Scarce thy full meaning. Speak the words again.

TIRESIAS.

  Thou seek'st this man of blood: Thyself art he.

OEDIPUS.

  'Twill cost thee dear, twice to have stabbed at me!

[Sidenote: vv. 364-377]

TIRESIAS.

  Shall I say more, to see thee rage again?

OEDIPUS.

  Oh, take thy fill of speech: 'twill all be vain.

TIRESIAS.

  Thou livest with those near to thee in shame
  Most deadly, seeing not thyself nor them.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou think'st 'twill help thee, thus to speak and speak?

TIRESIAS.

  Surely, until the strength of Truth be weak.

OEDIPUS.

 'Tis weak to none save thee. Thou hast no part
  In truth, thou blind man, blind eyes, ears and heart.

TIRESIAS.

  More blind, more sad thy words of scorn, which none
  Who hears but shall cast back on thee: soon, soon.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou spawn of Night, not I nor any free
  And seeing man would hurt a thing like thee.

TIRESIAS.

  God is enough.--'Tis not my doom to fall
  By thee. He knows and shall accomplish all.

[Sidenote: vv. 378-402]

OEDIPUS (_with a flash of discovery_).

  Ha! Creon!--Is it his or thine, this plot?

TIRESIAS.

 'Tis thyself hates thee. Creon hates thee not.

OEDIPUS.

  O wealth and majesty, O conquering skill
  That carved life's rebel pathways to my will,
  What is your heart but bitterness, if now
  For this poor crown Thebes bound upon my brow,
  A gift, a thing I sought not--for this crown
  Creon the stern and true, Creon mine own
  Comrade, comes creeping in the dark to ban
  And slay me; sending first this magic-man
  And schemer, this false beggar-priest, whose eye
  Is bright for gold and blind for prophecy?
  Speak, thou. When hast thou ever shown thee strong
  For aid? The She-Wolf of the woven song
  Came, and thy art could find no word, no breath,
  To save thy people from her riddling death.
  'Twas scarce a secret, that, for common men
  To unravel. There was need of Seer-craft then.
  And thou hadst none to show. No fowl, no flame,
  No God revealed it thee. 'Twas I that came,
  Rude Oedipus, unlearned in wizard's lore,
  And read her secret, and she spoke no more.
  Whom now thou thinkest to hunt out, and stand
  Foremost in honour at King Creon's hand.
  I think ye will be sorry, thou and he
  That shares thy sin-hunt. Thou dost look to me

[Sidenote: vv. 403-424]

  An old man; else, I swear this day should bring
  On thee the death thou plottest for thy King.

LEADER.

  Lord Oedipus, these be but words of wrath,
  All thou hast spoke and all the Prophet hath.
  Which skills not. We must join, for ill or well,
  In search how best to obey God's oracle.

TIRESIAS.

  King though thou art, thou needs must bear the right
  Of equal answer. Even in me is might
  For thus much, seeing I live no thrall of thine,
  But Lord Apollo's; neither do I sign
  Where Creon bids me.
                          I am blind, and thou
  Hast mocked my blindness. Yea, I will speak now.
  Eyes hast thou, but thy deeds thou canst not see
  Nor where thou art, nor what things dwell with thee.
  Whence art thou born? Thou know'st not; and unknown,
  On quick and dead, on all that were thine own,
  Thou hast wrought hate. For that across thy path
  Rising, a mother's and a father's wrath,
  Two-handed, shod with fire, from the haunts of men
  Shall scourge thee, in thine eyes now light, but then
  Darkness. Aye, shriek! What harbour of the sea,
  What wild Kithairon shall not cry to thee
  In answer, when thou hear'st what bridal song,
  What wind among the torches, bore thy strong
  Sail to its haven, not of peace but blood.
  Yea, ill things multitude on multitude

[Sidenote: vv. 425-438]

  Thou seest not, which so soon shall lay thee low,
  Low as thyself, low as thy children.--Go,
  Heap scorn on Creon and my lips withal:
  For this I tell thee, never was there fall
  Of pride, nor shall be, like to thine this day.

OEDIPUS.

  To brook such words from this thing? Out, I say!
  Out to perdition! Aye, and quick, before ...

  [_The_ LEADER _restrains him_.

  Enough then!--Turn and get thee from my door.

TIRESIAS.

  I had not come hadst thou not called me here.

OEDIPUS.

  I knew thee not so dark a fool. I swear
 'Twere long before I called thee, had I known.

TIRESIAS.

  Fool, say'st thou? Am I truly such an one?
  The two who gave thee birth, they held me wise.

OEDIPUS.

  Birth?... Stop! Who were they? Speak thy prophecies.

TIRESIAS.

  This day shall give thee birth and blot thee out.

[Sidenote: vv. 439-455]

OEDIPUS.

  Oh, riddles everywhere and words of doubt!

TIRESIAS.

  Aye. Thou wast their best reader long ago.

OEDIPUS.

  Laugh on. I swear thou still shalt find me so.

TIRESIAS.

  That makes thy pride and thy calamity.

OEDIPUS.

  I have saved this land, and care not if I die.

TIRESIAS.

  Then I will go.--Give me thine arm, my child.

OEDIPUS.

  Aye, help him quick.--To see him there makes wild
  My heart. Once gone, he will not vex me more.

TIRESIAS (_turning again as he goes_).

 I fear thee not; nor will I go before
 That word be spoken which I came to speak.
 How canst thou ever touch me?--Thou dost seek
 With threats and loud proclaim the man whose hand
 Slew Laïus. Lo, I tell thee, he doth stand
 Here. He is called a stranger, but these days
 Shall prove him Theban true, nor shall he praise
 His birthright. Blind, who once had seeing eyes,
 Beggared, who once had riches, in strange guise,

[Sidenote: vv. 456-478]

  His staff groping before him, he shall crawl
  O'er unknown earth, and voices round him call:
  "Behold the brother-father of his own
  Children, the seed, the sower and the sown,
  Shame to his mother's blood, and to his sire
  Son, murderer, incest-worker."
                                  Cool thine ire
  With thought of these, and if thou find that aught
  Faileth, then hold my craft a thing of naught.

    [_He goes out._ OEDIPUS _returns to the Palace._

CHORUS.

    [_They sing of the unknown murderer,_

  What man, what man is he whom the voice of Delphi's cell
  Hath named of the bloody hand, of the deed no tongue may tell?
          Let him fly, fly, for his need
          Hath found him; oh, where is the speed
  That flew with the winds of old, the team of North-Wind's spell?
    For feet there be that follow. Yea, thunder-shod
    And girt with fire he cometh, the Child of God;
  And with him are they that fail not, the Sin-Hounds risen from Hell.

  For the mountain hath spoken, a voice hath flashed from amid the snows,
  That the wrath of the world go seek for the man whom no man knows.
          Is he fled to the wild forest,
          To caves where the eagles nest?
  O angry bull of the rocks, cast out from thy herd-fellows!

[Sidenote: vv. 479-512]

    Rage in his heart, and rage across his way,
    He toileth ever to beat from his ears away
  The word that floateth about him, living, where'er he goes.

    [_And of the Prophet's strange accusation._

  Yet strange, passing strange, the wise augur and his lore;
    And my heart it cannot speak; I deny not nor assent,
  But float, float in wonder at things after and before;
    Did there lie between their houses some old wrath unspent,
  That Corinth against Cadmus should do murder by the way?
    No tale thereof they tell, nor no sign thereof they show;
  Who dares to rise for vengeance and cast Oedipus away
      For a dark, dark death long ago!

  Ah, Zeus knows, and Apollo, what is dark to mortal eyes;
    They are Gods. But a prophet, hath he vision more than mine?
  Who hath seen? Who can answer? There be wise men and unwise.
    I will wait, I will wait, for the proving of the sign.
  But I list not nor hearken when they speak Oedipus ill.
    We saw his face of yore, when the riddling singer passed;
  And we knew him that he loved us, and we saw him great in skill.
      Oh, my heart shall uphold him to the last!

[Sidenote: vv. 513-531]

_Enter_ CREON.

CREON.

  Good brother citizens, a frantic word
  I hear is spoken by our chosen Lord
  Oedipus against me, and here am come
  Indignant. If he dreams, 'mid all this doom
  That weighs upon us, he hath had from me
  Or deed or lightest thought of injury, ...
  'Fore God, I have no care to see the sun
  Longer with such a groaning name. Not one
  Wound is it, but a multitude, if now
  All Thebes must hold me guilty--aye, and thou
  And all who loved me--of a deed so foul.

LEADER.

  If words were spoken, it was scarce the soul
  That spoke them: 'twas some sudden burst of wrath.

CREON.

  The charge was made, then, that Tiresias hath
  Made answer false, and that I bribed him, I?

LEADER.

  It was--perchance for jest. I know not why.

CREON.

  His heart beat true, his eyes looked steadily
  And fell not, laying such a charge on me?

LEADER.

  I know not. I have no eyes for the thing
  My masters do.--But see, here comes the King.

[Sidenote: vv. 532-550]

_Enter_ OEDIPUS _from the Palace._

OEDIPUS.

  How now, assassin? Walking at my gate
  With eye undimmed, thou plotter demonstrate
  Against this life, and robber of my crown?
  God help thee! Me! What was it set me down
  Thy butt? So dull a brain hast found in me
  Aforetime, such a faint heart, not to see
  Thy work betimes, or seeing not to smite?
  Art thou not rash, this once! It needeth might
  Of friends, it needeth gold, to make a throne
  Thy quarry; and I fear me thou hast none.

CREON.

  One thing alone I ask thee. Let me speak
  As thou hast spoken; then, with knowledge, wreak
  Thy judgement. I accept it without fear.

OEDIPUS.

  More skill hast thou to speak than I to hear
  Thee. There is peril found in thee and hate.

CREON.

  That one thing let me answer ere too late.

OEDIPUS.

  One thing be sure of, that thy plots are known.

CREON.

  The man who thinks that bitter pride alone
  Can guide him, without thought--his mind is sick.

[Sidenote: vv. 551-562]

OEDIPUS.

  Who thinks to slay his brother with a trick
  And suffer not himself, his eyes are blind.

CREON.

  Thy words are more than just. But say what kind
  Of wrong thou fanciest I have done thee. Speak.

OEDIPUS.

  Didst urge me, or didst urge me not, to seek
  A counsel from that man of prophecies?

CREON.

  So judged I then, nor now judge otherwise.

OEDIPUS.

   [_Suddenly seeing a mode of attack._

  How many years have passed since Laïus ...

    [_The words seem to choke him._

CREON.

  Speak on. I cannot understand thee thus.

OEDIPUS.

    [_With an effort._

  Passed in that bloody tempest from men's sight?

CREON.

  Long years and old. I scarce can tell them right.

OEDIPUS.

  At that time was this seer in Thebes, or how?

[Sidenote: vv. 563-573]

CREON.

  He was; most wise and honoured, even as now.

OEDIPUS.

  At that time did he ever speak my name?

CREON.

  No. To mine ear at least it never came.

OEDIPUS.

  Held you no search for those who slew your King?

CREON.

  For sure we did, but found not anything.

OEDIPUS.

  How came the all-knowing seer to leave it so?

CREON.

  Ask him! I speak not where I cannot know.

OEDIPUS.

  One thing thou canst, with knowledge full, I wot.

CREON.

  Speak it. If true, I will conceal it not.

OEDIPUS.

  This: that until he talked with thee, the seer
  Ne'er spoke of me as Laïus' murderer.

[Sidenote: vv. 574-589]

CREON.

  I know not if he hath so spoken now.
  I heard him not.--But let me ask and thou
  Answer me true, as I have answered thee.

OEDIPUS.

  Ask, ask! Thou shalt no murder find in me.

CREON.

  My sister is thy wife this many a day?

OEDIPUS.

  That charge it is not in me to gainsay.

CREON.

  Thou reignest, giving equal reign to her?

OEDIPUS.

  Always to her desire I minister.

CREON.

  Were we not all as one, she thou and I?

OEDIPUS.

  Yes, thou false friend! There lies thy treachery.

CREON.

  Not so! Nay, do but follow me and scan
  Thine own charge close. Think'st thou that any man
  Would rather rule and be afraid than rule
  And sleep untroubled? Nay, where lives the fool--

[Sidenote: vv. 590-613]

  I know them not nor am I one of them--
  Who careth more to bear a monarch's name
  Than do a monarch's deeds? As now I stand
  All my desire I compass at thy hand.
  Were I the King, full half my deeds were done
  To obey the will of others, not mine own.
  Were that as sweet, when all the tale were told,
  As this calm griefless princedom that I hold
  And silent power? Am I so blind of brain
  That ease with glory tires me, and I fain
  Must change them? All men now give me God-speed,
  All smile to greet me. If a man hath need
  Of thee, 'tis me he calleth to the gate,
  As knowing that on my word hangs the fate
  Of half he craves. Is life like mine a thing
  To cast aside and plot to be a King?
  Doth a sane man turn villain in an hour?
    For me, I never lusted thus for power
  Nor bore with any man who turned such lust
  To doing.--But enough. I claim but just
  Question. Go first to Pytho; find if well
  And true I did report God's oracle.
  Next, seek in Thebes for any plots entwined
  Between this seer and me; which if ye find,
  Then seize and strike me dead. Myself that day
  Will sit with thee as judge and bid thee Slay!
  But damn me not on one man's guess.--'Tis all
  Unjust: to call a traitor true, to call
  A true man traitor with no cause nor end!
  And this I tell thee. He who plucks a friend
  Out from his heart hath lost a treasured thing
  Dear as his own dear life.
                               But Time shall bring

[Sidenote: vv. 614-626]

  Truth back. 'Tis Time alone can make men know
  What hearts are true; the false one day can show.

LEADER.

  To one that fears to fall his words are wise,
  O King; in thought the swift win not the prize.

OEDIPUS.

  When he is swift who steals against my reign
  With plots, then swift am I to plot again.
  Wait patient, and his work shall have prevailed
  Before I move, and mine for ever failed.

CREON.

  How then? To banish me is thy intent?

OEDIPUS.

  Death is the doom I choose, not banishment.

CREON.

  Wilt never soften, never trust thy friend?

OEDIPUS.

  First I would see how traitors meet their end.

CREON.

  I see thou wilt not think.

OEDIPUS.

                            I think to save
  My life.

[Sidenote: vv. 627-633]

CREON.

            Think, too, of mine.

OEDIPUS.

                            Thine, thou born knave!

CREON.

  Yes.... What, if thou art blind in everything?

OEDIPUS.

  The King must be obeyed.

CREON.

                             Not if the King
  Does evil.

OEDIPUS.

              To your King! Ho, Thebes, mine own!

CREON.

  Thebes is my country, not the King's alone.

    [OEDIPUS _has drawn his sword; the Chorus
       show signs of breaking into two parties to
       fight for_ OEDIPUS _or for_ CREON, _when
       the door opens and_ JOCASTA _appears on the
       steps._

LEADER.

   Stay, Princes, stay! See, on the Castle stair
   The Queen Jocasta standeth. Show to her
   Your strife. She will assuage it as is well.

[Sidenote: vv. 634-648]

JOCASTA.

  Vain men, what would ye with this angry swell
  Of words heart-blinded? Is there in your eyes
  No pity, thus, when all our city lies
  Bleeding, to ply your privy hates?... Alack,
  My lord, come in!--Thou, Creon, get thee back
  To thine own house. And stir not to such stress
  Of peril griefs that are but nothingness.

CREON.

  Sister, it is the pleasure of thy lord,
  Our King, to do me deadly wrong. His word
  Is passed on me: 'tis banishment or death.

OEDIPUS.

  I found him ... I deny not what he saith,
  My Queen ... with craft and malice practising
  Against my life.

CREON.

                   Ye Gods, if such a thing
  Hath once been in my thoughts, may I no more
  See any health on earth, but, festered o'er
  With curses, die!--Have done. There is mine oath.

JOCASTA.

  In God's name, Oedipus, believe him, both
  For my sake, and for these whose hearts are all
  Thine own, and for my brother's oath withal.

[Sidenote: vv. 649-664]

LEADER. [_Strophe._

  Yield; consent; think! My Lord, I conjure thee!

OEDIPUS.

           What would ye have me do?

LEADER.

  Reject not one who never failed his troth
  Of old and now is strong in his great oath.

OEDIPUS.

  Dost know what this prayer means?

LEADER.

                                   Yea, verily!

OEDIPUS.

           Say then the meaning true.

LEADER.

      I would not have thee cast to infamy
           Of guilt, where none is proved,
  One who hath sworn and whom thou once hast loved.

OEDIPUS.

 'Tis that ye seek? For me, then ... understand
  Well ... ye seek death or exile from the land.

LEADER.

  No, by the God of Gods, the all-seeing Sun!
    May he desert me here, and every friend
  With him, to death and utterest malison,
    If e'er my heart could dream of such an end!

[Sidenote: vv. 665-680]

          But it bleedeth, it bleedeth sore,
            In a land half slain,
          If we join to the griefs of yore
            Griefs of you twain.

OEDIPUS.

  Oh, let him go, though it be utterly
  My death, or flight from Thebes in beggary.
  'Tis thy sad lips, not his, that make me know
  Pity. Him I shall hate, where'er he go.

CREON.

  I see thy mercy moving full of hate
  And slow; thy wrath came swift and desperate.
  Methinks, of all the pain that such a heart
  Spreadeth, itself doth bear the bitterest part.

OEDIPUS.

  Oh, leave me and begone!

CREON.

                          I go, wronged sore
  By thee. These friends will trust me as before.

    [CREON _goes._ OEDIPUS _stands apart lost in
       trouble of mind._

LEADER.   [_Antistrophe._

  Queen, wilt thou lead him to his house again?

JOCASTA.

              I will, when I have heard.

[Sidenote: vv. 681-696]

LEADER.

  There fell some word, some blind imagining
  Between them. Things known foolish yet can sting.

JOCASTA.

  From both the twain it rose?

LEADER.

                                 From both the twain.

JOCASTA.

           Aye, and what was the word?

LEADER.

    Surely there is enough of evil stirred,
          And Thebes heaves on the swell
  Of storm.--Oh, leave this lying where it fell.

OEDIPUS.

  So be it, thou wise counsellor! Make slight
  My wrong, and blunt my purpose ere it smite.

LEADER.

  O King, not once I have answered. Visibly
    Mad were I, lost to all wise usages,
  To seek to cast thee from us. 'Twas from thee
    We saw of old blue sky and summer seas,
      When Thebes in the storm and rain
        Reeled, like to die.
      Oh, if thou canst, again
        Blue sky, blue sky...!

[Sidenote: vv. 697-713]

JOCASTA.

  Husband, in God's name, say what hath ensued
  Of ill, that thou shouldst seek so dire a feud.

OEDIPUS.

  I will, wife. I have more regard for thee
  Than these.--Thy brother plots to murder me.

JOCASTA.

  Speak on. Make all thy charge. Only be clear.

OEDIPUS.

  He says that I am Laïus' murderer.

JOCASTA.

  Says it himself? Says he hath witnesses?

OEDIPUS.

  Nay, of himself he ventures nothing. 'Tis
  This priest, this hellish seer, makes all the tale.

JOCASTA.

  The seer?--Then tear thy terrors like a veil
  And take free breath. A seer? No human thing
  Born on the earth hath power for conjuring
  Truth from the dark of God.
                               Come, I will tell
  An old tale. There came once an oracle
  To Laïus: I say not from the God
  Himself, but from the priests and seers who trod
  His sanctuary: if ever son were bred
  From him and me, by that son's hand, it said,

[Sidenote: vv. 714-732]

  Laïus must die. And he, the tale yet stays
  Among us, at the crossing of three ways
  Was slain by robbers, strangers. And my son--
  God's mercy!--scarcely the third day was gone
  When Laïus took, and by another's hand
  Out on the desert mountain, where the land
  Is rock, cast him to die. Through both his feet
  A blade of iron they drove. Thus did we cheat
  Apollo of his will. My child could slay
  No father, and the King could cast away
  The fear that dogged him, by his child to die
  Murdered.--Behold the fruits of prophecy!
  Which heed not thou! God needs not that a seer
  Help him, when he would make his dark things clear.

OEDIPUS.

  Woman, what turmoil hath thy story wrought
  Within me! What up-stirring of old thought!

JOCASTA.

  What thought? It turns thee like a frightened thing.

OEDIPUS.

 'Twas at the crossing of three ways this King
  Was murdered? So I heard or so I thought.

JOCASTA.

  That was the tale. It is not yet forgot.

OEDIPUS.

  The crossing of three ways! And in what land?

[Sidenote: vv. 733-746]

JOCASTA.

  Phokis 'tis called. A road on either hand
  From Delphi comes and Daulia, in a glen.

OEDIPUS.

How many years and months have passed since then?

JOCASTA.

 'Twas but a little time before proclaim
  Was made of thee for king, the tidings came.

OEDIPUS.

  My God, what hast thou willed to do with me?

JOCASTA.

  Oedipus, speak! What is it troubles thee?

OEDIPUS.

  Ask me not yet. But say, what build, what height
  Had Laïus? Rode he full of youth and might?

JOCASTA.

  Tall, with the white new gleaming on his brow
  He walked. In shape just such a man as thou.

OEDIPUS.

  God help me! I much fear that I have wrought
  A curse on mine own head, and knew it not.

JOCASTA.

  How sayst thou? O my King, I look on thee
  And tremble.

[Sidenote: vv. 747-760]

OEDIPUS (_to himself_).

            Horror, if the blind can see!
  Answer but one thing and 'twill all be clear.

JOCASTA.

  Speak. I will answer though I shake with fear.

OEDIPUS.

  Went he with scant array, or a great band
  Of armèd followers, like a lord of land?

JOCASTA.

  Four men were with him, one a herald; one
  Chariot there was, where Laïus rode alone.

OEDIPUS.

  Aye me! Tis clear now.
                         Woman, who could bring
  To Thebes the story of that manslaying?

JOCASTA.

  A house-thrall, the one man they failed to slay.

OEDIPUS.

  The one man...? Is he in the house to-day?

JOCASTA.

  Indeed no. When he came that day, and found
  Thee on the throne where once sat Laïus crowned,
  He took my hand and prayed me earnestly

[Sidenote: vv. 761-779]

  To send him to the mountain heights, to be
  A herdsman, far from any sight or call
  Of Thebes. And there I sent him. 'Twas a thrall
  Good-hearted, worthy a far greater boon.

OEDIPUS.

  Canst find him? I would see this herd, and soon.

JOCASTA.

 'Tis easy. But what wouldst thou with the herd?

OEDIPUS.

  I fear mine own voice, lest it spoke a word
  Too much; whereof this man must tell me true.

JOCASTA.

  The man shall come.--My lord, methinks I too
  Should know what fear doth work thee this despite.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou shalt. When I am tossed to such an height
  Of dark foreboding, woman, when my mind
  Faceth such straits as these, where should I find
  A mightier love than thine?
                               My father--thus
  I tell thee the whole tale--was Polybus,
  In Corinth King; my mother Meropê
  Of Dorian line. And I was held to be
  The proudest in Corinthia, till one day
  A thing befell: strange was it, but no way
  Meet for such wonder and such rage as mine.
  A feast it was, and some one flushed with wine

[Sidenote: vv. 780-807]

  Cried out at me that I was no true son
  Of Polybus. Oh, I was wroth! That one
  Day I kept silence, but the morrow morn
  I sought my parents, told that tale of scorn
  And claimed the truth; and they rose in their pride
  And smote the mocker.... Aye, they satisfied
  All my desire; yet still the cavil gnawed
  My heart, and still the story crept abroad.
    At last I rose--my father knew not, nor
  My mother--and went forth to Pytho's floor
  To ask. And God in that for which I came
  Rejected me, but round me, like a flame,
  His voice flashed other answers, things of woe,
  Terror, and desolation. I must know
  My mother's body and beget thereon
  A race no mortal eye durst look upon,
  And spill in murder mine own father's blood.
    I heard, and, hearing, straight from where I stood,
  No landmark but the stars to light my way,
  Fled, fled from the dark south where Corinth lay,
  To lands far off, where never I might see
  My doom of scorn fulfilled. On bitterly
  I strode, and reached the region where, so saith
  Thy tale, that King of Thebes was struck to death....
  Wife, I will tell thee true. As one in daze
  I walked, till, at the crossing of three ways,
  A herald, like thy tale, and o'er his head
  A man behind strong horses charioted
  Met me. And both would turn me from the path,
  He and a thrall in front. And I in wrath
  Smote him that pushed me--'twas a groom who led
  The horses. Not a word the master said,

[Sidenote: vv. 808-828]

  But watched, and as I passed him on the road
  Down on my head his iron-branchèd goad
  Stabbed. But, by heaven, he rued it! In a flash
  I swung my staff and saw the old man crash
  Back from his car in blood.... Then all of them
  I slew.
           Oh, if that man's unspoken name
  Had aught of Laïus in him, in God's eye
  What man doth move more miserable than I,
  More dogged by the hate of heaven! No man, kin
  Nor stranger, any more may take me in;
  No man may greet me with a word, but all
  Cast me from out their houses. And withal
  'Twas mine own self that laid upon my life
  These curses.--And I hold the dead man's wife
  In these polluting arms that spilt his soul....
  Am I a thing born evil? Am I foul
  In every vein? Thebes now doth banish me,
  And never in this exile must I see
  Mine ancient folk of Corinth, never tread
  The land that bore me; else my mother's bed
  Shall be defiled, and Polybus, my good
  Father, who loved me well, be rolled in blood.
  If one should dream that such a world began
  In some slow devil's heart, that hated man,
  Who should deny him?--God, as thou art clean,
  Suffer not this, oh, suffer not this sin
  To be, that e'er I look on such a day!
  Out of all vision of mankind away
  To darkness let me fall ere such a fate
  Touch me, so unclean and so desolate!

[Sidenote: vv. 829-850]

LEADER.

  I tremble too, O King; but till thou hear
  From him who saw, oh, let hope conquer fear.

OEDIPUS.

  One shred of hope I still have, and therefore
  Will wait the herdsman's coming. 'Tis no more.

JOCASTA.

  He shall come. But what further dost thou seek?

OEDIPUS.

  This. If we mark him close and find him speak
  As thou hast, then I am lifted from my dread.

JOCASTA.

  What mean'st thou? Was there something that I said...?

OEDIPUS.

  Thou said'st he spoke of robbers, a great band,
  That slaughtered Laïus' men. If still he stand
  To the same tale, the guilt comes not my way.
  One cannot be a band. But if he say
  One lonely loin-girt man, then visibly
  This is God's finger pointing toward me.

JOCASTA.

  Be sure of this. He told the story so
  When first he came. All they that heard him know,

[Sidenote: vv. 850-870]

  Not only I. He cannot change again
  Now. And if change he should, O Lord of men,
  No change of his can make the prophecy
  Of Laïus' death fall true. He was to die
  Slain by my son. So Loxias spake.... My son!
  He slew no man, that poor deserted one
  That died.... And I will no more turn mine eyes
  This way nor that for all their prophecies.

OEDIPUS.

  Woman, thou counsellest well. Yet let it not
  Escape thee. Send and have the herdsman brought.

JOCASTA.

  That will I.--Come. Thou knowest I ne'er would do
  Nor think of aught, save thou wouldst have it so.

    [JOCASTA _and_ OEDIPUS _go together into the Palace._

CHORUS.

    [_They pray to be free from such great sins as
     they have just heard spoken of._

    [_Strophe._

  Toward God's great mysteries, oh, let me move
      Unstainèd till I die
  In speech or doing; for the Laws thereof
  Are holy, walkers upon ways above,
      Born in the far blue sky;

  Their father is Olympus uncreate;
      No man hath made nor told
  Their being; neither shall Oblivion set

[Sidenote: vv. 870-893]

  Sleep on their eyes, for in them lives a great
    Spirit and grows not old. [_Antistrophe._

   [_They wonder if these sins be all due to pride
      and if_ CREON _has guilty ambitions;_

  'Tis Pride that breeds the tyrant; drunken deep
      With perilous things is she,
  Which bring not peace: up, reeling, steep on steep
  She climbs, till lo, the rock-edge, and the leap
      To that which needs must be,

  The land where the strong foot is no more strong!
      Yet is there surely Pride
  That saves a city; God preserve it long!
  I judge not. Only through all maze of wrong
      Be God, not man, my guide. [_Strophe._

    [_Or if_ TIRESIAS _can really be a lying prophet with
        no fear of God; they feel that all faith in
        oracles and the things of God is shaken._

  Is there a priest who moves amid the altars
      Ruthless in deed and word,
  Fears not the presence of his god, nor falters
      Lest Right at last be heard?
  If such there be, oh, let some doom be given
      Meet for his ill-starred pride,
  Who will not gain his gain where Justice is,
  Who will not hold his lips from blasphemies,
  Who hurls rash hands amid the things of heaven
      From man's touch sanctified.

    In a world where such things be,
      What spirit hath shield or lance

[Sidenote: vv. 893-916]

        To ward him secretly
          From the arrow that slays askance?
        If honour to such things be,
          Why should I dance my dance?

    [_Antistrophe._

  I go no more with prayers and adorations
      To Earth's deep Heart of Stone,
  Nor yet the Abantes' floor, nor where the nations
      Kneel at Olympia's throne,
  Till all this dark be lightened, for the finger
      Of man to touch and know.
  O Thou that rulest--if men rightly call
  Thy name on earth--O Zeus, thou Lord of all
  And Strength undying, let not these things linger
      Unknown, tossed to and fro.

            For faint is the oracle,
              And they thrust it aside, away;
            And no more visible
              Apollo to save or slay;
            And the things of God, they fail
              As mist on the wind away.

    [JOCASTA _comes out from the Palace followed
       by handmaids bearing incense and flowers._

JOCASTA.

  Lords of the land, the ways my thought hath trod
  Lead me in worship to these shrines of God
  With flowers and incense flame. So dire a storm
  Doth shake the King, sin, dread and every form
  Of grief the world knows. 'Tis the wise man's way
  To judge the morrow by the yester day;

[Sidenote: vv. 917-933]

  Which he doth never, but gives eye and ear
  To all who speak, will they but speak of fear.
    And seeing no word of mine hath power to heal
  His torment, therefore forth to thee I steal,
  O Slayer of the Wolf, O Lord of Light,
  Apollo: thou art near us, and of right
  Dost hold us thine: to thee in prayer I fall.

    [_She kneels at the altar of Apollo Lukeios._

  Oh, show us still some path that is not all
  Unclean; for now our captain's eyes are dim
  With dread, and the whole ship must follow him.

    [_While she prays a_ STRANGER _has entered and
        begins to accost the Chorus._

STRANGER.

  Good masters, is there one of you could bring
  My steps to the house of Oedipus, your King?
  Or, better, to himself if that may be?

LEADER.

  This is the house and he within; and she
  Thou seest, the mother of his royal seed.

    [JOCASTA _rises, anxious, from her prayer._

STRANGER.

  Being wife to such a man, happy indeed
  And ringed with happy faces may she live!

JOCASTA.

  To one so fair of speech may the Gods give
  Like blessing, courteous stranger; 'tis thy due.
  But say what leads thee hither. Can we do
  Thy wish in aught, or hast thou news to bring?

[Sidenote: vv. 934-947]

STRANGER.

  Good news, O Queen, for thee and for the King.

JOCASTA.

  What is it? And from what prince comest thou?

STRANGER.

  I come from Corinth.--And my tale, I trow,
  Will give thee joy, yet haply also pain.

JOCASTA.

  What news can have that twofold power? Be plain.

STRANGER.

 'Tis spoke in Corinth that the gathering
  Of folk will make thy lord our chosen King.

JOCASTA.

  How? Is old Polybus in power no more?

STRANGER.

  Death has a greater power. His reign is o'er.

JOCASTA.

  What say'st thou? Dead?... Oedipus' father dead?

STRANGER.

  If I speak false, let me die in his stead.

JOCASTA.

  Ho, maiden! To our master! Hie thee fast
  And tell this tale.

    [_The maiden goes._

                    Where stand ye at the last

[Sidenote: vv. 948-961]

  Ye oracles of God? For many a year
  Oedipus fled before that man, in fear
  To slay him. And behold we find him thus
  Slain by a chance death, not by Oedipus.

    [OEDIPUS _comes out from the Palace._

OEDIPUS.

  O wife, O face I love to look upon,
  Why call'st thou me from where I sat alone?

JOCASTA.

  Give ear, and ponder from what this man tells
  How end these proud priests and their oracles.

OEDIPUS.

  Whence comes he? And what word hath he for us?

JOCASTA.

  From Corinth; bearing news that Polybus
  Thy father is no more. He has found his death.

OEDIPUS.

  How?--Stranger, speak thyself. This that she saith ...

STRANGER.

  Is sure. If that is the first news ye crave,
  I tell thee, Polybus lieth in his grave.

OEDIPUS.

  Not murdered?... How? Some passing of disease?

STRANGER.

  A slight thing turns an old life to its peace.

[Sidenote: vv. 962-978]

OEDIPUS.

  Poor father!... 'Tis by sickness he is dead?

STRANGER.

  The growing years lay heavy on his head.

OEDIPUS.

  O wife, why then should man fear any more
  The voice of Pytho's dome, or cower before
  These birds that shriek above us? They foretold
  Me for my father's murderer; and behold,
  He lies in Corinth dead, and here am I
  And never touched the sword.... Or did he die
  In grief for me who left him? In that way
  I may have wrought his death.... But come what may,
  He sleepeth in his grave and with him all
  This deadly seercraft, of no worth at all.

JOCASTA.

  Dear Lord, long since did I not show thee clear...?

OEDIPUS.

  Indeed, yes. I was warped by mine own fear.

JOCASTA.

  Now thou wilt cast it from thee, and forget.

OEDIPUS.

  Forget my mother?... It is not over yet.

JOCASTA.

  What should man do with fear, who hath but Chance
  Above him, and no sight nor governance

[Sidenote: vv. 979-993]

  Of things to be? To live as life may run,
  No fear, no fret, were wisest 'neath the sun.
  And thou, fear not thy mother. Prophets deem
  A deed wrought that is wrought but in a dream.
  And he to whom these things are nothing, best
  Will bear his burden.

OEDIPUS.

                        All thou counsellest
  Were good, save that my mother liveth still.
  And, though thy words be wise, for good or ill
  Her I still fear.

JOCASTA.

                    Think of thy father's tomb!
  Like light across our darkness it hath come.

OEDIPUS.

  Great light; but while she lives I fly from her.

STRANGER.

  What woman, Prince, doth fill thee so with fear?

OEDIPUS.

  Meropê, friend, who dwelt with Polybus.

STRANGER.

  What in Queen Meropê should fright thee thus?

OEDIPUS.

  A voice of God, stranger, of dire import.

STRANGER.

  Meet for mine ears? Or of some secret sort?

[Sidenote: vv. 994-1009]

OEDIPUS.

  Nay, thou must hear, and Corinth. Long ago
  Apollo spake a doom, that I should know
  My mother's flesh, and with mine own hand spill
  My father's blood.--'Tis that, and not my will,
  Hath kept me always far from Corinth. So;
  Life hath dealt kindly with me, yet men know
  On earth no comfort like a mother's face.

STRANGER.

 'Tis that, hath kept thee exiled in this place?

OEDIPUS.

  That, and the fear too of my father's blood.

STRANGER.

  Then, surely, Lord ... I came but for thy good ...
 'Twere well if from that fear I set thee free.

OEDIPUS.

  Ah, couldst thou! There were rich reward for thee.

STRANGER.

  To say truth, I had hoped to lead thee home
  Now, and myself to get some good therefrom.

OEDIPUS.

  Nay; where my parents are I will not go.

STRANGER.

  My son, 'tis very clear thou dost not know
  What road thou goest.

OEDIPUS.

              How? In God's name, say!
  How clear?

[Sidenote: vv. 1010-1019]

STRANGER.

              'Tis this, keeps thee so long away
  From Corinth?

OEDIPUS.

                  'Tis the fear lest that word break
  One day upon me true.

STRANGER.

                          Fear lest thou take
  Defilement from the two that gave thee birth?

OEDIPUS.

 'Tis that, old man, 'tis that doth fill the earth
  With terror.

STRANGER.

                Then thy terror all hath been
  For nothing.

OEDIPUS.

                How? Were not your King and Queen
  My parents?

STRANGER.

              Polybus was naught to thee
  In blood.

OEDIPUS.

            How? He, my father!

STRANGER.

                                That was he
  As much as I, but no more.

OEDIPUS.

                              Thou art naught;
 'Twas he begot me.

[Sidenote: vv. 1020-1028]

STRANGER.

                         'Twas not I begot
  Oedipus, neither was it he.

OEDIPUS.

                              What wild
  Fancy, then, made him name me for his child?

STRANGER.

  Thou wast his child--by gift. Long years ago
  Mine own hand brought thee to him.

OEDIPUS.

                                     Coming so,
  From a strange hand, he gave me that great love?

STRANGER.

  He had no child, and the desire thereof
  Held him.

OEDIPUS.

            And thou didst find somewhere--or buy--
  A child for him?

STRANGER.

                   I found it in a high
  Glen of Kithairon.

    [_Movement of_ JOCASTA, _who stands riveted
        with dread, unnoticed by the others._

OEDIPUS.

                     Yonder? To what end
  Wast travelling in these parts?

STRANGER.

                                  I came to tend
  The flocks here on the mountain.

[Sidenote: vv. 1029-1037]

OEDIPUS.

                                     Thou wast one
  That wandered, tending sheep for hire?

STRANGER.

                                         My son,
  That day I was the saviour of a King.

OEDIPUS.

  How saviour? Was I in some suffering
  Or peril?

STRANGER.

            Thine own feet a tale could speak.

OEDIPUS.

  Ah me! What ancient pain stirs half awake
  Within me!

STRANGER.

              'Twas a spike through both thy feet.
  I set thee free.

OEDIPUS.

                    A strange scorn that, to greet
  A babe new on the earth!

STRANGER.

                            From that they fain
  Must call thee Oedipus, "_Who-walks-in-pain_."

OEDIPUS.

  Who called me so--father or mother? Oh,
  In God's name, speak!

[Sidenote: vv. 1038-1046]

STRANGER.

                     I know not. He should know
  Who brought thee.

OEDIPUS.

                    So: I was not found by thee.
  Thou hadst me from another?

STRANGER.

                              Aye; to me
  One of the shepherds gave the babe, to bear
  Far off.

OEDIPUS.

      What shepherd? Know'st thou not? Declare
  All that thou knowest.

STRANGER.

                         By my memory, then,
  I think they called him one of Laïus' men.

OEDIPUS.

  That Laïus who was king in Thebes of old?

STRANGER.

  The same. My man did herding in his fold.

OEDIPUS.

  Is he yet living? Can I see his face?

STRANGER.

    [_Turning to the Chorus._

  Ye will know that, being natives to the place.

[Sidenote: vv. 1047-1062]

OEDIPUS.

  How?--Is there one of you within my pale
  Standing, that knows the shepherd of his tale?
  Ye have seen him on the hills? Or in this town?
  Speak! For the hour is come that all be known.

LEADER.

  I think 'twill be the Peasant Man, the same,
  Thou hast sought long time to see.--His place and name
  Our mistress, if she will, can tell most clear.

    [JOCASTA _remains as if she heard nothing._

OEDIPUS.

  Thou hear'st him, wife. The herd whose presence here
  We craved for, is it he this man would say?

JOCASTA.

  He saith ... What of it? Ask not; only pray
  Not to remember.... Tales are vainly told.

OEDIPUS.

 'Tis mine own birth. How can I, when I hold
  Such clues as these, refrain from knowing all?

JOCASTA.

  For God's love, no! Not if thou car'st at all
  For thine own life.... My anguish is enough.

OEDIPUS (_bitterly_).

  Fear not!... Though I be thrice of slavish stuff
  From my third grand-dam down, it shames not thee.

[Sidenote: vv. 1063-1075]

JOCASTA.

  Ask no more. I beseech thee.... Promise me!

OEDIPUS.

  To leave the Truth half-found? 'Tis not my mood.

JOCASTA.

  I understand; and tell thee what is good.

OEDIPUS.

  Thy good doth weary me.

JOCASTA.

                          O child of woe,
  I pray God, I pray God, thou never know!

OEDIPUS (_turning from her_).

  Go, fetch the herdsman straight!--This Queen of mine
  May walk alone to boast her royal line.

JOCASTA.

    [_She twice draws in her breath through her
        teeth, as if in some sharp pain._

  Unhappy one, goodbye! Goodbye before
  I go: this once, and never never more!

    [_She comes towards him as though to take a last
        farewell, then stops suddenly, turns, and
        rushes into the Palace._

LEADER.

  King, what was that? She passed like one who flies
  In very anguish. Dread is o'er mine eyes
  Lest from this silence break some storm of wrong.

[Sidenote: vv. 1076-1097]

OEDIPUS.

  Break what break will! My mind abideth strong
  To know the roots, how low soe'er they be,
  Which grew to Oedipus. This woman, she
  Is proud, methinks, and fears my birth and name
  Will mar her nobleness. But I, no shame
  Can ever touch me. I am Fortune's child,
  Not man's; her mother face hath ever smiled
  Above me, and my brethren of the sky,
  The changing Moons, have changed me low and high.
  There is my lineage true, which none shall wrest
  From me; who then am I to fear this quest?

CHORUS.

    [_They sing_ OEDIPUS _as the foundling of their
        own Theban mountain, Kithairon, and
        doubtless of divine birth._

    [_Strophe._

  If I, O Kithairon, some vision can borrow
    From seercraft, if still there is wit in the old,
  Long, long, through the deep-orbèd Moon of the morrow--
    So hear me, Olympus!--thy tale shall be told.
  O mountain of Thebes, a new Theban shall praise thee,
    One born of thy bosom, one nursed at thy springs;
  And the old men shall dance to thy glory, and raise thee
    To worship, O bearer of joy to my kings.
            And thou, we pray,
  Look down in peace, O Apollo; I-ê, I-ê!

[Sidenote: vv. 1098-1120]

    [_Antistrophe._

  What Oread mother, unaging, unweeping,
    Did bear thee, O Babe, to the Crag-walker Pan;
  Or perchance to Apollo? He loveth the leaping
    Of herds on the rock-ways unhaunted of man.
  Or was it the lord of Cyllênê, who found thee,
    Or glad Dionysus, whose home is the height,
  Who knew thee his own on the mountain, as round thee
    The White Brides of Helicon laughed for delight?
                  'Tis there, 'tis there,
  The joy most liveth of all his dance and prayer.


OEDIPUS.

  If I may judge, ye Elders, who have ne'er
  Seen him, methinks I see the shepherd there
  Whom we have sought so long. His weight of years
  Fits well with our Corinthian messenger's;
  And, more, I know the men who guide his way,
  Bondsmen of mine own house.
                              Thou, friend, wilt say
  Most surely, who hast known the man of old.

LEADER.

  I know him well. A shepherd of the fold
  Of Laïus, one he trusted more than all.

    [_The_ SHEPHERD _comes in, led by two thralls.
        He is an old man and seems terrified._

OEDIPUS.

  Thou first, our guest from Corinth: say withal
  Is this the man?

[Sidenote: vv. 1120-1130]

STRANGER.

           This is the man, O King.

OEDIPUS.

    [_Addressing the_ SHEPHERD.

  Old man! Look up, and answer everything
  I ask thee.--Thou wast Laïus' man of old?

SHEPHERD.

  Born in his house I was, not bought with gold.

OEDIPUS.

  What kind of work, what way of life, was thine?

SHEPHERD.

  Most of my days I tended sheep or kine.

OEDIPUS.

  What was thy camping ground at midsummer?

SHEPHERD.

  Sometimes Kithairon, sometimes mountains near.

OEDIPUS.

  Saw'st ever there this man thou seëst now?

SHEPHERD.

  There, Lord? What doing?--What man meanest thou?

OEDIPUS.

    [_Pointing to the_ STRANGER.

  Look! Hath he ever crossed thy path before?

[Sidenote: vv. 1131-1146]

SHEPHERD.

  I call him not to mind, I must think more.

STRANGER.

  Small wonder that, O King! But I will throw
  Light on his memories.--Right well I know
  He knows the time when, all Kithairon through,
  I with one wandering herd and he with two,
  Three times we neighboured one another, clear
  From spring to autumn stars, a good half-year.
  At winter's fall we parted; he drove down
  To his master's fold, and I back to mine own....
  Dost call it back, friend? Was it as I say?

SHEPHERD.

  It was. It was.... 'Tis all so far away.

STRANGER.

  Say then: thou gavest me once, there in the wild,
  A babe to rear far off as mine own child?

SHEPHERD.

    [_His terror returning._

  What does this mean? To what end askest thou?

STRANGER.

    [_Pointing to_ OEDIPUS.

  That babe has grown, friend. 'Tis our master now.

SHEPHERD.

    [_He slowly understands, then stands for a moment horror-struck._

  No, in the name of death!... Fool, hold thy peace.

    [_He lifts his staff at the_ STRANGER.

[Sidenote: vv. 1147-1157]

OEDIPUS.

  Ha, greybeard! Wouldst thou strike him?--'Tis not his
  Offences, 'tis thine own we need to mend.

SHEPHERD.

  Most gentle master, how do I offend?

OEDIPUS.

  Whence came that babe whereof he questioneth?

SHEPHERD.

  He doth not know ... 'tis folly ... what he saith.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou wilt not speak for love; but pain maybe ...

SHEPHERD.

  I am very old. Ye would not torture me.

OEDIPUS.

  Back with his arms, ye bondmen! Hold him so.

    [_The thralls drag back the_ SHEPHERD'S
       _arms, ready for torture._

SHEPHERD.

  Woe's me! What have I done?... What wouldst thou know?

OEDIPUS.

  Didst give this man the child, as he doth say?

SHEPHERD.

  I did.... Would God that I had died this day!

[Sidenote: vv. 1158-1167]

OEDIPUS.

 'Fore heaven, thou shalt yet, if thou speak not true.

SHEPHERD.

 'Tis more than death and darker, if I do.

OEDIPUS.

  This dog, it seems, will keep us waiting.

SHEPHERD.

                                       Nay,
  I said at first I gave it.

OEDIPUS.

                               In what way
  Came it to thee? Was it thine own child, or
  Another's?

SHEPHERD.

             Nay, it never crossed my door:
  Another's.

OEDIPUS.

             Whose? What man, what house, of these
  About thee?

SHEPHERD.

              In the name of God who sees,
  Ask me no more!

OEDIPUS.

                  If once I ask again,
  Thou diest.

SHEPHERD.

              From the folk of Laïus, then,
  It came.

[Sidenote: vv. 1168-1176]

OEDIPUS.

          A slave, or born of Laïus' blood?

SHEPHERD.

  There comes the word I dread to speak, O God!

OEDIPUS.

  And I to hear: yet heard it needs must be.

SHEPHERD.

  Know then, they said 'twas Laïus' child. But she
  Within, thy wife, best knows its fathering.

OEDIPUS.

 'Twas she that gave it?

SHEPHERD.

                          It was she, O King.

OEDIPUS.

  And bade you ... what?

SHEPHERD.

                         Destroy it.

OEDIPUS.
                            Her own child?...
  Cruel!

SHEPHERD.

          Dark words of God had made her wild.

OEDIPUS.

  What words?

[Sidenote: vv. 1176-1192]

SHEPHERD.

                 The babe must slay his father; so
  'Twas written.

OEDIPUS.

                 Why didst thou, then, let him go
  With this old man?

SHEPHERD.

                           O King, I pitied him.
  I thought the man would save him to some dim
  And distant land, beyond all fear.... And he,
  To worse than death, did save him!... Verily,
  If thou art he whom this man telleth of,
  To sore affliction thou art born.

OEDIPUS.

                                     Enough!
  All, all, shall be fulfilled.... Oh, on these eyes
  Shed light no more, ye everlasting skies
  That know my sin! I have sinned in birth and breath.
  I have sinned with Woman. I have sinned with Death.

    [_He rushes into the Palace. The_ SHEPHERD
        _is led away by the thralls._

CHORUS.

    [_Strophe._

         Nothingness, nothingness,
         Ye Children of Man, and less
           I count you, waking or dreaming!
         And none among mortals, none,
         Seeking to live, hath won
         More than to seem, and to cease
             Again from his seeming.

[Sidenote: vv. 1193-1212]

        While ever before mine eyes
        One fate, one ensample, lies--
        Thine, thine, O Oedipus, sore
            Of God oppressèd--
        What thing that is human more
            Dare I call blessèd?

    [_Antistrophe._

        Straight his archery flew
        To the heart of living; he knew
            Joy and the fulness of power,
        O Zeus, when the riddling breath
        Was stayed and the Maid of Death
        Slain, and we saw him through
            The death-cloud, a tower!

        For that he was called my king;
        Yea, every precious thing
        Wherewith men are honoured, down
            We cast before him,
        And great Thebes brought her crown
            And kneeled to adore him.

    [_Strophe._

  But now, what man's story is such bitterness to speak?
    What life hath Delusion so visited, and Pain,
                And swiftness of Disaster?
                O great King, our master,
    How oped the one haven to the slayer and the slain?
  And the furrows of thy father, did they turn not nor shriek,
    Did they bear so long silent thy casting of the grain?

[Sidenote: vv. 1213-1235]

    [_Antistrophe._

 'Tis Time, Time, desireless, hath shown thee what thou art;
    The long monstrous mating, it is judged and all its race.
            O child of him that sleepeth,
            Thy land weepeth, weepeth,
    Unfathered.... Would God, I had never seen thy face!
  From thee in great peril fell peace upon my heart,
    In thee mine eye clouded and the dark is come apace.

    [_A_ MESSENGER _rushes out from the Palace._

MESSENGER.

  O ye above this land in honour old
  Exalted, what a tale shall ye be told,
  What sights shall see, and tears of horror shed,
  If still your hearts be true to them that led
  Your sires! There runs no river, well I ween,
  Not Phasis nor great Ister, shall wash clean
  This house of all within that hideth--nay,
  Nor all that creepeth forth to front the day,
  Of purposed horror. And in misery
  That woundeth most which men have willed to be.

LEADER.

  No lack there was in what we knew before
  Of food for heaviness. What bring'st thou more?

MESSENGER.

  One thing I bring thee first.... 'Tis quickly said.
  Jocasta, our anointed queen, is dead.

[Sidenote: vv. 1236-1260]

LEADER.

  Unhappy woman! How came death to her?

MESSENGER.

  By her own hand.... Oh, of what passed in there
  Ye have been spared the worst. Ye cannot see.
  Howbeit, with that which still is left in me
  Of mind and memory, ye shall hear her fate.
    Like one entranced with passion, through the gate
  She passed, the white hands flashing o'er her head,
  Like blades that tear, and fled, unswerving fled,
  Toward her old bridal room, and disappeared
  And the doors crashed behind her. But we heard
  Her voice within, crying to him of old,
  Her Laïus, long dead; and things untold
  Of the old kiss unforgotten, that should bring
  The lover's death and leave the loved a thing
  Of horror, yea, a field beneath the plough
  For sire and son: then wailing bitter-low
  Across that bed of births unreconciled,
  Husband from husband born and child from child.
  And, after that, I know not how her death
  Found her. For sudden, with a roar of wrath,
  Burst Oedipus upon us. Then, I ween,
  We marked no more what passion held the Queen,
  But him, as in the fury of his stride,
  "A sword! A sword! And show me here," he cried,
  "That wife, no wife, that field of bloodstained earth
  Where husband, father, sin on sin, had birth,
  Polluted generations!" While he thus
  Raged on, some god--for sure 'twas none of us--
  Showed where she was; and with a shout away,
  As though some hand had pointed to the prey,

[Sidenote: vv. 1261-1286]

  He dashed him on the chamber door. The straight
  Door-bar of oak, it bent beneath his weight,
  Shook from its sockets free, and in he burst
  To the dark chamber.
                       There we saw her first
  Hanged, swinging from a noose, like a dead bird.
  He fell back when he saw her. Then we heard
  A miserable groan, and straight he found
  And loosed the strangling knot, and on the ground
  Laid her.--Ah, then the sight of horror came!
  The pin of gold, broad-beaten like a flame,
  He tore from off her breast, and, left and right,
  Down on the shuddering orbits of his sight
  Dashed it: "Out! Out! Ye never more shall see
  Me nor the anguish nor the sins of me.
  Ye looked on lives whose like earth never bore,
  Ye knew not those my spirit thirsted for:
  Therefore be dark for ever!"
                               Like a song
  His voice rose, and again, again, the strong
  And stabbing hand fell, and the massacred
  And bleeding eyeballs streamed upon his beard,
  Wild rain, and gouts of hail amid the rain.
    Behold affliction, yea, afflictions twain
  From man and woman broken, now made one
  In downfall. All the riches yester sun
  Saw in this house were rich in verity.
  What call ye now our riches? Agony,
  Delusion, Death, Shame, all that eye or ear
  Hath ever dreamed of misery, is here.

LEADER.

  And now how fares he? Doth the storm abate?

[Sidenote: vv. 1287-1308]

MESSENGER.

  He shouts for one to open wide the gate
  And lead him forth, and to all Thebes display
  His father's murderer, his mother's.... Nay,
  Such words I will not speak. And his intent
  Is set, to cast himself in banishment
  Out to the wild, not walk 'mid human breed
  Bearing the curse he bears. Yet sore his need
  Of strength and of some guiding hand. For sure
  He hath more burden now than man may endure.
    But see, the gates fall back, and that appears
  Which he who loathes shall pity--yea, with tears.

    [OEDIPUS _is led in, blinded and bleeding. The
       Old Men bow down and hide their faces;
       some of them weep._

CHORUS.

  Oh, terrible! Oh, sight of all
      This life hath crossed, most terrible!
      Thou man more wronged than tongue can tell,
  What madness took thee? Do there crawl
      Live Things of Evil from the deep
      To leap on man? Oh, what a leap
  Was His that flung thee to thy fall!

LEADER.

  O fallen, fallen in ghastly case,
      I dare not raise mine eyes to thee;
      Fain would I look and ask and see,
  But shudder sickened from thy face.

OEDIPUS.

          Oh, pain; pain and woe!
              Whither? Whither?

[Sidenote: vv. 1308-1328]

          They lead me and I go;
            And my voice drifts on the air
                  Far away.
            Where, Thing of Evil, where
              Endeth thy leaping hither?

LEADER.

  In fearful ends, which none may hear nor say.

OEDIPUS.

    [_Strophe._

      Cloud of the dark, mine own
          For ever, horrible,
          Stealing, stealing, silent, unconquerable,
          Cloud that no wind, no summer can dispel!
      Again, again I groan,
  As through my heart together crawl the strong
  Stabs of this pain and memories of old wrong.

LEADER.

  Yea, twofold hosts of torment hast thou there,
  The stain to think on and the pain to bear.

OEDIPUS.

    [_Antistrophe._

      O Friend, thou mine own
           Still faithful, minister
           Steadfast abiding alone of them that were,
           Dost bear with me and give the blind man care?
      Ah me! Not all unknown
  Nor hid thou art. Deep in this dark a call
  Comes and I know thy voice in spite of all.

LEADER.

  O fearful sufferer, and could'st thou kill
  Thy living orbs? What God made blind thy will?

[Sidenote: vv. 1329-1351]

OEDIPUS.

    [_Strophe._

 'Tis Apollo; all is Apollo,
    O ye that love me, 'tis he long time hath planned
      These things upon me evilly, evilly,
        Dark things and full of blood.
  I knew not; I did but follow
    His way; but mine the hand
      And mine the anguish. What were mine eyes to me
        When naught to be seen was good?

LEADER.

 'Tis even so; and Truth doth speak in thee.

OEDIPUS.

  To see, to endure, to hear words kindly spoken,
    Should I have joy in such?
      Out, if ye love your breath,
  Cast me swift unto solitude, unbroken
    By word or touch.
      Am I not charged with death,
        Most charged and filled to the brim
      With curses? And what man saith
        God hath so hated him?

LEADER.

  Thy bitter will, thy hard calamity,
  Would I had never known nor looked on thee!

OEDIPUS.

    [_Antistrophe._

  My curse, my curse upon him,
    That man whom pity held in the wilderness,
      Who saved the feet alive from the blood-fetter
        And loosed the barb thereof!

[Sidenote: vv. 1351-1377]

  That babe--what grace was done him,
    Had he died shelterless,
      He had not laid on himself this grief to bear,
        And all who gave him love.

LEADER.

  I, too, O Friend, I had been happier.

OEDIPUS.

  Found not the way to his father's blood, nor shaken
        The world's scorn on his mother,
          The child and the groom withal;
  But now, of murderers born, of God forsaken,
        Mine own sons' brother;
          All this, and if aught can fall
            Upon man more perilous
          And elder in sin, lo, all
            Is the portion of Oedipus.

LEADER.

  How shall I hold this counsel of thy mind
  True? Thou wert better dead than living blind.

OEDIPUS.

  That this deed is not well and wisely wrought
  Thou shalt not show me; therefore school me not.
  Think, with what eyes hereafter in the place
  Of shadows could I see my father's face,
  Or my poor mother's? Both of whom this hand
  Hath wronged too deep for man to understand.
  Or children--born as mine were born, to see
  Their shapes should bring me joy? Great God!
      To me

[Sidenote: vv. 1378-1403]

  There is no joy in city nor in tower
  Nor temple, from all whom, in this mine hour,
  I that was chief in Thebes alone, and ate
  The King's bread, I have made me separate
  For ever. Mine own lips have bid the land
  Cast from it one so evil, one whose hand
  To sin was dedicate, whom God hath shown
  Birth-branded ... and my blood the dead King's own!
  All this myself have proved. And can I then
  Look with straight eyes into the eyes of men?
  I trow not. Nay, if any stop there were
  To dam this fount that welleth in mine ear
  For hearing, I had never blenched nor stayed
  Till this vile shell were all one dungeon made,
  Dark, without sound. 'Tis thus the mind would fain
  Find peace, self-prisoned from a world of pain.
    O wild Kithairon, why was it thy will
  To save me? Why not take me quick and kill,
  Kill, before ever I could make men know
  The thing I am, the thing from which I grow?
  Thou dead King, Polybus, thou city wall
  Of Corinth, thou old castle I did call
  My father's, what a life did ye begin,
  What splendour rotted by the worm within,
  When ye bred me! O Crossing of the Roads,
  O secret glen and dusk of crowding woods,
  O narrow footpath creeping to the brink
  Where meet the Three! I gave you blood to drink.
  Do ye remember? 'Twas my life-blood, hot
  From mine own father's heart. Have ye forgot
  What deed I did among you, and what new
  And direr deed I fled from you to do?
  O flesh, horror of flesh!...

[Sidenote: vv. 1409-1431]

                              But what is shame
  To do should not be spoken. In God's name,
  Take me somewhere far off and cover me
  From sight, or slay, or cast me to the sea
  Where never eye may see me any more.
    What? Do ye fear to touch a man so sore
  Stricken? Nay, tremble not. My misery
  Is mine, and shall be borne by none but me.

LEADER.

  Lo, yonder comes for answer to thy prayer
  Creon, to do and to decree. The care
  Of all our land is his, now thou art weak.

OEDIPUS.

  Alas, what word to Creon can I speak,
  How make him trust me more? He hath seen of late
  So vile a heart in me, so full of hate.

_Enter_ CREON.

CREON.

  Not to make laughter, Oedipus, nor cast
  Against thee any evil of the past
  I seek thee, but ... Ah God! ye ministers,
  Have ye no hearts? Or if for man there stirs
  No pity in you, fear at least to call
  Stain on our Lord the Sun, who feedeth all;
  Nor show in nakedness a horror such
  As this, which never mother Earth may touch,
  Nor God's clean rain nor sunlight. Quick within!
  Guide him.--The ills that in a house have been
  They of the house alone should know or hear.

[Sidenote: vv. 1432-1447]

OEDIPUS.

  In God's name, since thou hast undone the fear
  Within me, coming thus, all nobleness,
  To one so vile, grant me one only grace.
  For thy sake more I crave it than mine own.

CREON.

  Let me first hear what grace thou wouldst be shown.

OEDIPUS.

  Cast me from Thebes ... now, quick ... where none may see
  My visage more, nor mingle words with me.

CREON.

  That had I done, for sure, save that I still
  Tremble, and fain would ask Apollo's will.

OEDIPUS.

  His will was clear enough, to stamp the unclean
  Thing out, the bloody hand, the heart of sin.

CREON.

 'Twas thus he seemed to speak; but in this sore
  Strait we must needs learn surer than before.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou needs must trouble God for one so low?

CREON.

  Surely; thyself will trust his answer now.

OEDIPUS.

  I charge thee more ... and, if thou fail, my sin
  Shall cleave to thee.... For her who lies within,

[Sidenote: vv. 1448-1472]

  Make as thou wilt her burial. 'Tis thy task
  To tend thine own. But me: let no man ask
  This ancient city of my sires to give
  Harbour in life to me. Set me to live
  On the wild hills and leave my name to those
  Deeps of Kithairon which my father chose,
  And mother, for my vast and living tomb.
  As they, my murderers, willed it, let my doom
  Find me. For this my very heart doth know,
  No sickness now, nor any mortal blow,
  Shall slay this body. Never had my breath
  Been thus kept burning in the midst of death,
  Save for some frightful end. So, let my way
  Go where it listeth.
                       But my children--Nay,
  Creon, my sons will ask thee for no care.
  Men are they, and can find them everywhere
  What life needs. But my two poor desolate
  Maidens.... There was no table ever set
  Apart for them, but whatso royal fare
  I tasted, they were with me and had share
  In all.... Creon, I pray, forget them not.
  And if it may be, go, bid them be brought,

    [CREON _goes and presently returns with the
       two princesses._ OEDIPUS _thinks he is
       there all the time._

  That I may touch their faces, and so weep....
  Go, Prince. Go, noble heart!...
  If I might touch them, I should seem to keep
  And not to have lost them, now mine eyes are gone....
  What say I?
  In God's name, can it be I hear mine own

[Sidenote: vv. 1473-1505]

  Beloved ones sobbing? Creon of his grace
  Hath brought my two, my dearest, to this place.
  Is it true?

CREON.

 'Tis true. I brought them, for in them I know
  Thy joy is, the same now as long ago.

OEDIPUS.

  God bless thee, and in this hard journey give
  Some better guide than mine to help thee live.
    Children! Where are ye? Hither; come to these
  Arms of your ... brother, whose wild offices
  Have brought much darkness on the once bright eyes
  Of him who grew your garden; who, nowise
  Seeing nor understanding, digged a ground
  The world shall shudder at. Children, my wound
  Is yours too, and I cannot meet your gaze
  Now, as I think me what remaining days
  Of bitter living the world hath for you.
  What dance of damsels shall ye gather to,
  What feast of Thebes, but quick ye shall turn home,
  All tears, or ere the feast or dancers come?
  And, children, when ye reach the years of love,
  Who shall dare wed you, whose heart rise above
  The peril, to take on him all the shame
  That cleaves to my name and my children's name?
  God knows, it is enough!...
  My flowers, ye needs must die, waste things, bereft
  And fruitless.
                 Creon, thou alone art left
  Their father now, since both of us are gone
  Who cared for them. Oh, leave them not alone

[Sidenote: vv. 1505-1518]

  To wander masterless, these thine own kin,
  And beggared. Neither think of them such sin
  As ye all know in me, but let their fate
  Touch thee. So young they are, so desolate--
  Of all save thee. True man, give me thine hand,
  And promise.

    [OEDIPUS _and_ CREON _clasp hands._

                If your age could understand,
  Children, full many counsels I could give.
  But now I leave this one word: Pray to live
  As life may suffer you, and find a road
  To travel easier than your father trod.

CREON.

  Enough thy heart hath poured its tears; now back into
  thine house repair.

OEDIPUS.

I dread the house, yet go I must.

CREON.

              Fair season maketh all things fair.

OEDIPUS.

  One oath then give me, and I go.

CREON.

              Name it, and I will answer thee.

OEDIPUS.

  To cast me from this land.

[Sidenote: vv. 1519-1523]

CREON.

             A gift not mine but God's thou askest me.

OEDIPUS.

  I am a thing of God abhorred.

CREON.

            The more, then, will he grant thy prayer.

OEDIPUS.

  Thou givest thine oath?

CREON.

    I see no light; and, seeing not, I may not swear.

OEDIPUS.

  Then take me hence. I care not.

CREON.

          Go in peace, and give these children o'er.

OEDIPUS.

  Ah no! Take not away my daughters!

    [_They are taken from him._

CREON.

                     Seek not to be master more. Did not thy
    masteries of old forsake thee when the end was near?

[Sidenote: vv. 1524-1530]

CHORUS.

  Ye citizens of Thebes, behold; 'tis Oedipus that passeth here,
  Who read the riddle-word of Death, and mightiest stood of mortal
    men,
  And Fortune loved him, and the folk that saw him turned and looked
    again.
  Lo, he is fallen, and around great storms and the outreaching sea!
  Therefore, O Man, beware, and look toward the end of things that be,
  The last of sights, the last of days; and no man's life account as gain
  Ere the full tale be finished and the darkness find him without pain.

    [OEDIPUS _is led into the house and the doors
       close on him._



                              NOTES TO

                       OEDIPUS, KING OF THEBES


P. 4, l. 21: Dry Ash of Ismênus.]--Divination by burnt offerings was
practised at an altar of Apollo by the river Ismenus in Thebes.

Observe how many traits Oedipus retains of the primitive king, who was
at once chief and medicine-man and god. The Priest thinks it necessary
to state explicitly that he does not regard Oedipus as a god, but he is
clearly not quite like other men. And it seems as if Oedipus himself
realised in this scene that the oracle from Delphi might well demand the
king's life. Cf. p. 6, "what deed of mine, what bitter task, May save my
city"; p. 7, "any fear for mine own death." This thought, present
probably in more minds than his, greatly increases the tension of the
scene. Cf. _Anthropology and the Classics_, pp. 74-79.]

P. 7, l. 87, Message of joy.]--Creon says this for the sake of the omen.
The first words uttered at such a crisis would be ominous and tend to
fulfil themselves.]

Pp. 13-16, ll. 216-275. The long cursing speech of Oedipus.]--Observe
that this speech is broken into several divisions, Oedipus at each point
expecting an answer and receiving none. Thus it is not mere declamation;
it involves action and reaction between a speaker and a crowd.--Every
reader will notice how full it is of "tragic irony." Almost every
paragraph carries with it some sinister meaning of which the speaker is
unconscious. Cf. such phrases as "if he tread my hearth," "had but his
issue been more fortunate," "as I would for mine own father," and of
course the whole situation.

P. 25, l. 437, Who were they?]--This momentary doubt of Oedipus, who of
course regarded himself as the son of Polybus, King of Corinth, is
explained later (p. 46, l. 780).

Pp. 29 ff. The Creon scene.]--The only part of the play which could
possibly be said to flag. Creon's defence, p. 34, "from probabilities,"
as the rhetoricians would have called it, seems less interesting to us
than it probably did to the poet's contemporaries. It is remarkably like
Hippolytus's defence (pp. 52 f. of my translation), and probably one was
suggested by the other. We cannot be sure which was the earlier play.

The scene serves at least to quicken the pace of the drama, to bring out
the impetuous and somewhat tyrannical nature of Oedipus, and to prepare
the magnificent entrance of Jocasta.

P. 36, l. 630, Thebes is my country.]--It must be remembered that to the
Chorus Creon is a real Theban, Oedipus a stranger from Corinth.

P. 41, Conversation of Oedipus and Jocasta.]--The technique of this
wonderful scene, an intimate self-revealing conversation between husband
and wife about the past, forming the pivot of the play, will remind a
modern reader of Ibsen.

P. 42, l. 718.]--Observe that Jocasta does not tell the whole truth. It
was she herself who gave the child to be killed (p. 70, l. 1173).

P. 42, l. 730, Crossing of Three Ways.]--Cross roads always had dark
associations. This particular spot was well known to tradition and is
still pointed out. "A bare isolated hillock of grey stone stands at the
point where our road from Daulia meets the road to Delphi and a third
road that stretches to the south.... The road runs up a frowning pass
between Parnassus on the right hand and the spurs of the Helicon range
on the left. Away to the south a wild and desolate valley opens, running
up among the waste places of Helicon, a scene of inexpressible grandeur
and desolation" (Jebb, abridged).

P. 44, l. 754, Who could bring, &c.]--Oedipus of course thought he had
killed them all. See his next speech.

P. 51.]--Observe the tragic effect of this prayer. Apollo means to
destroy Jocasta, not to save her; her prayer is broken across by the
entry of the Corinthian Stranger, which seems like a deliverance but is
really a link in the chain of destruction. There is a very similar
effect in Sophocles' _Electra_, 636-659, Clytaemnestra's prayer; compare
also the prayers to Cypris in Euripides' _Hippolytus_.

P. 51, l. 899.]--Abae was an ancient oracular shrine in Boeotia; Olympia
in Elis was the seat of the Olympian Games and of a great Temple of
Zeus.

P. 52, l. 918, O Slayer of the Wolf, O Lord of Light.]--The names
Lykeios, Lykios, &c., seem to have two roots, one meaning "Wolf" and the
other "Light."

P. 56, l. 987, Thy father's tomb Like light across our darkness.]--This
ghastly line does not show hardness of heart, it shows only the terrible
position in which Oedipus and Jocasta are. Naturally Oedipus would give
thanks if his father was dead. Compare his question above, p. 54, l.
960, "Not murdered?"--He cannot get the thought of the fated murder out
of his mind.

P. 57, l. 994.]--Why does Oedipus tell the Corinthian this oracle, which
he has kept a secret even from his wife till to-day?--Perhaps because,
if there is any thought of his going back to Corinth, his long voluntary
exile must be explained. Perhaps, too, the secret possesses his mind so
overpoweringly that it can hardly help coming out.

Pp. 57, 58, ll. 1000-1020.]--It is natural that the Corinthian hesitates
before telling a king that he is really not of royal birth.

Pp. 64, 65, ll. 1086-1109.]--This joyous Chorus strikes a curious note.
Of course it forms a good contrast with what succeeds, but how can the
Elders take such a serenely happy view of the discovery that Oedipus is
a foundling just after they have been alarmed at the exit of Jocasta? It
seems as if the last triumphant speech of Oedipus, "fey" and almost
touched with megalomania as it was, had carried the feeling of the
Chorus with it.

P. 66, l. 1122.]--Is there any part in any tragedy so short and yet so
effective as that of this Shepherd?

P. 75, l. 1264, Like a dead bird.]--The curious word, [Greek:
empeplêgmenên], seems to be taken from Odyssey xxii. 469, where it is
applied to birds caught in a snare. As to the motives of Oedipus, his
first blind instinct to kill Jocasta as a thing that polluted the earth;
when he saw her already dead, a revulsion came.

P. 76, ll. 1305 ff.]--Observe how a climax of physical horror is
immediately veiled and made beautiful by lyrical poetry. Sophocles does
not, however, carry this plan of simply flooding the scene with sudden
beauty nearly so far as Euripides does. See _Hipp._, p. 39; _Trojan
Women_, p. 51.

P. 83, ll. 1450 ff., Set me to live on the wild hills.]--These lines
serve to explain the conception, existing in the poet's own time, of
Oedipus as a daemon or ghost haunting Mount Kithairon.

P. 86, l. 1520, Creon.]--Amid all Creon's whole-hearted forgiveness of
Oedipus and his ready kindness there are one or two lines of his which
strike a modern reader as tactless if not harsh. Yet I do not think that
Sophocles meant to produce that effect. At the present day it is not in
the best manners to moralise over a man who is down, any more than it is
the part of a comforter to expound and insist upon his friend's
misfortunes. But it looks as if ancient manners expected, and even
demanded, both. Cf. the attitude of Theseus to Adrastus in Eur.,
_Suppliants_.





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