Second messenger chorus of theban elders shepherd of laios



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I am not your servant, but Apollo's.

I have no need of Creon to speak for me.

Listen to me. You mock my blindness, do you?

But I say that you, with both your eves, are blind:

You can not see the wretchedness of your life,

Nor in whose house you live no, nor with whom.

Who are your father and mother? Can you tell me?

You do not even know the blind wrongs

That you have done them, on earth and in the world below.

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But the double lash of your parents' curse will whip you



Out of this land some day, with only night

Upon your precious eves

Your cries then—where will they not be heard?

What fastness of Kithairon will not echo them?

And that bridal-descant of yours—you'll know it then,

The song they sang when you came here to Thebes

And found your misguided berthing.

All this, and more, that you can not guess at now,

Will bring you to yourself among your children.

Be angry, then. Curse Croon. Curse my words.

I tell you. no man that walks upon the earth

Shall be rooted out more horribly than you.

OEDIPUS:

Am I to bear this from him?—Damnation

Take you! Out of this place! Out of my sight!

TEIRESIAS:

I would not have come at all if you had not asked me.

OEDIPUS:


Could I have told that you'd talk nonsense, that

You'd come here to make a fool of yourself. and of me?

TEIRESIAS:

A fool? Your parents thought me sane enough.

OEDIPUS:

My parents again!—Wait: who were my parents?

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TEIRESIAS:



This day will give you a father, and break your heart.

OEDIPUS:


Your infantile riddles! Your damned abracadabra!

TEIRESIAS:

You were a great man once at solving riddles.

OEDIPUS:


Mock me with that if you like; You will find it true.

TEIRESIAS:

It was true enough. It brought about your ruin.

OEDIPUS:


But if it saved this town?

TEIRESIAS:

[To the PAGE:

Boy, give me your hand.

OEDIPUS:

Yes, boy: lead him away.

—While you are here

We can do nothing. Go; leave us in peace.

TEIRESIAS:

I will go when I have said what I have to say.

How can you hurt me? And I tell you again:

The man you have been looking for all this time,

The damned man, the murderer of Laos,

That man is in Thebes. To your mind he is foreign-

born,

But it will soon be shown that he is a Theban,



A revelation that will fail to please.

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A blind man,

Who has his eyes now; a penniless man, who is rich now;

And he will go tapping the strange earth with his staff

To the children with whom he lives now he will be

Brother and father—the very same; to her

Who bore him, son and husband—the very same

Who came to his father's bed, wet with his father's blood.

Enough. Go think that over.

If later you find error in what I have said,

You may say that I have no skill in prophecy.

[Exit TEIRESIAS, led by his PAGE. OEDIPUS goes

into the palace.

ODE I

CHORUS:


The Delphic stone of prophecies [STROPHE I

Remembers ancient regicide

And a still bloody hand.

That killer's hour of flight has come.

He must be stronger than riderless

Coursers of untiring wind,

For the son of Zeus armed with his father's thunder

Leaps in lightning after him;

And the Furies follow him, the sad Furies.

Holy Parnassos' peak of snow [ANTISTROPHE I

Flashes and blinds that secret man,

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That all shall hunt him down:

Though he may roam the forest shade

like a bull gone wild from pasture

To rage through gluons of stone.

Doom conies down on him; flight will not avail him;

For the world's heart calls him desolate,

And the immortal Furies follow, for ever follow.

But now a wilder thing is heard [STROPHE 2

From the old man skilled at hearing Pate in the

wingbeat of a bird.

Bewildered as a blown bird, my soul hovers and

can not find

Foothold in this debate, or any reason or rest of mind.

But no man ever brought--none can bring

Proof of strife between Thebes' royal house,

Labdakos' line, and the son of Polybos;

And never until now has any man brought word

Of Laios' dark death staining Oedipus the King.

Divine Zeus and Apollo hold [ANTISTROPHE 2

Perfect intelligence alone of all tales ever told;

And well though this diviner works, he works in

his own night;

No man can judge that rough unknown or trust

in second sight,

For wisdom changes hands among the wise.

Shall I believe my great lord criminal

At a raging word that a blind old man let fall?

I saw him, when the carrion woman faced him of old,

Prove his heroic mind! These evil words are lies.

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SCENE II

CREON:


Men of Thebes:

I am told that heavy accusations

Have been brought against me by King Oedipus.

I am not the kind of man to hear this tamely.

If in these present difficulties

He holds me accountable for any harm to him

Through anything I have said or done—why, then,

1 do not value life in this dishonor.

It is not as though this rumor touched upon

Some private indiscretion. The matter is grave.

The fact is that I am being called disloyal

To the State, to my fellow citizens, to my friends.

CHORAGOS:

He may have spoken in anger, not from his mind.

CREON:

But did you not hear him say f was the one



Who seduced the old prophet into lying?

CHORAGOS:

The thing was said; I do not know how seriously.

CREON:


But you were watching him! Were his eyes steady?

Did he look like a man in his right mind?

CHORAGOS:

I do not know.

I can not judge the behavior of great men.

But here is the King himself.

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Enter OEDIPUS



OEDIPUS:

So you dared come back.

Why? How brazen of you to come to my house,

You murderer!

Do you think I do not know

That you plotted to kill me, plotted to steal my throne?

Tell me, in God's name: am 1 coward, a fool,

That you should dream you could accomplish this?

A fool who could not see your slippery game?

A coward, not to fight back when I saw it?

You are the fool, Creon, are you not? hoping

Without support or friends to get a throne?

Thrones may be won or bought: you could do neither.

CREON:


Now listen to me. You have talked: let me talk, too.

You can not judge unless you know the facts.

OEDIPUS:

You speak well: there is one fact; but f find it hard

To learn from the deadliest enemy 1 have.

CREON:


That above all I must dispute with you.

OEDIPUS:


That above all I will not hear you deny.

CREON:


If you think there is anything good in being stubborn

Against all reason, then I say you are wrong.

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OEDIPUS:


If you think a man can sin against his own kind

And not be punished for it, I say you are mad.

CREON:

I agree. But tell me: what have I done to you?



OEDIPUS:

You advised me to send for that wizard, did you not?

CREON:

I did. I should do it again.



OEDIPUS:

Very well. Now tell me:

How long has it been since Laios--

CREON:


What of Laios?

OEDIPUS:


Since he vanished in that onset by the road?

CREON:


It was long ago, a long time.

OEDIPUS:


And this prophet,

Was he practicing here then?

CREON:

He was; and with honor, as now.



OEDIPUS:

Did he speak of me at that time?

CREON:

He never did;



At least, not when I was present.

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OEDIPUS:

But ... the enquiry?

I suppose you held one?

CREON:


We did, but we learned nothing.

OEDIPUS:


Why did the prophet not speak against me then?

CREON:


I do not know; and I am the kind of man

Who holds his tongue when he has no facts to go on.

OEDIPUS:

There's one fact that you know, and you could tell it.

CREON:

What fact is that? If I know it, you shall have it.



OEDIPUS:

If he were not involved with you, he could not say

That it was I who murdered Laios.

CREON:


If he says that, you are the one that knows it!--

But now it is my turn to question you.

OEDIPUS:

Put your questions. I am no murderer.

CREON:

First, then: You married my sister?



OEDIPUS:

I married your sister.

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CREON:


And you rule the kingdom equally with her?

OEDIPUS:


Everything that she wants she has from me.

CREON:


And I am the third, equal to both of you?

OEDIPUS:


That is why I call you a bad friend.

CREON:


No. Reason it out, as I have done.

Think of this first: Would any sane man prefer

Power, with all a king's anxieties,

To that same power and the grace of sleep?

Certainly not I.

I have never longed for the king's power—only his rights.

Would any wise man differ from me in this?

As matters stand, 1 have my way in everything

With your consent, and no responsibilities.

If I were king, I should be a slave to policy.

How could I desire a scepter more

Than what is now mine—untroubled influence:

No, I have not gone mad; I need no honors,

Except those with the perquisites I have now.

I am welcome everywhere; every man salutes me,

And those who want your favor seek my ear,

Since I know how to manage what they ask.

Should I exchange this ease for that anxiety?

Besides, no sober mind is treasonable.

I hate anarchy

And never would deal with any man who likes it.

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Test what I have said. Go to the priestess

At Delphi, ask if I quoted her correctly.

And as for this other thing: if I am found

Guilty of treason with Teiresias,

Then sentence me to death! You have my word

It is a sentence I should cast my vote for—

But not without evidence!

You do wrong

When you take good men for had, bad men for good.

A true friend thrown aside—why, life itself

Is not more precious!

In time you will know this well:

For time, and time alone, will show the just man,

Though scoundrels are discovered in a day.

CHORAGOS:

This is well said, and a prudent man would ponder it.

Judgments too quickly formed are dangerous.

OEDIPUS:


But is he not quick in his duplicity?

And shall I not be quick to parry him?

Would you have me stand still, hold my peace, and let

This man win everything, through my inaction?

CREON:

And you want—what is it, then? To banish me?



OEDIPUS:

No, not exile. It is your death I want,

So that all the world may see what treason means.

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CREON:

You will persist, then? You will not believe me?

OEDIPUS:

How can I believe you?

CREON:

Then you are a fool.



OEDIPUS:

To save myself?

CREON:

In justice, think of me.



OEDIPUS:

You are evil incarnate.

CREON:

But suppose that you are wrong?



OEDIPUS:

Still I must rule.

CREON:

But not if you rule badly.



OEDIPUS:

O city, city!

CREON:

It is my city, too!



CHORAGOS:

Now, my lords, be still. I see the Queen,

Iocaste, coming from her palace chambers;

And it is time she came, for the sake of you both.

This dreadful quarrel can be resolved through her.

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[Enter IOCASTE

IOCASTE:


Poor foolish men, what wicked din is this?

With Thebes sick to death, is it not shameful

That you should rake some private quarrel up?

[To OEDIPUS:

Come into the house.

—And you, Creon, go now:

Let us have no more of this tumult over nothing.

CREON:


Nothing? No, sister: what your husband plans for me

Is one of two great evils: exile or death.

OEDIPUS:

He is right.

Why, woman I have caught him squarely

Plotting against my life.

CREON:

No! Let me die



Accurst if ever I have wished you harm!

IOCASTE:


Ah, believe it, Oedipus!

In the name of the gods, respect this oath of his

For my sake, for the sake of these people here!

CHORAGOS: [STROPHE 1

Open your mind to her, my lord. Be ruled by her,

I beg you!

OEDIPUS:

What would you have me do?

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CHORAGOS:



Respect Creon's word. He has never spoken like a fool,

And now he has sworn an oath.

OEDIPUS:

You know what you ask?

CHORAGOS:

I do.


OEDIPUS:

Speak on, then.

CHORAGOS:

A friend so sworn should not be baited so,

In blind malice, and without final proof.

OEDIPUS:


You are aware, I hope, that what you say

Means death for me, or exile at the least.

CHORAGOS: [STROPHE 2

No, I swear by Helios, first in Heaven!

May I die friendless and accurst,

The worst of deaths, if ever I meant that!

It is the withering fields

That hurt my sick heart:

Must we bear all these ills,

And now your bad blood as well?

OEDIPUS:

Then let him go. And let me die, if I must,

Or be driven by him in shame from the land of Thebes.

It is your unhappiness, and not his talk,

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That touches me.



As for him--

Wherever he goes, hatred will follow him.

CREON:

Ugly in yielding, as you were ugly in rage!



Natures like yours chiefly torment themselves.

OEDIPUS:


Can you not go? Can you not leave me?

CREON:


I can.

You do not know me; but the city knows me,

And in its eyes I am just, if not in yours.

[Exit CREON

CHORAGOS:

[ANTISTROPHE 1

Lady Iocaste, did you not ask the King to go to his chambers?

IOCASTE:


First tell me what has happened.

CHORAGOS:

There was suspicion without evidence; yet it rankled

As even false charges will.

IOCASTE:

On both sides?

CHORAGOS:

On both.

IOCASTE:

But what was said?

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CHORAGOS:



Oh let it rest, let it be done with!

Have we not suffered enough?

OEDIPUS:

You see to what your decency has brought you,

You have made difficulties where my heart saw none.

CHORAGOS:

[ANTISTROPHE 2

Oedipus, it is not once only I have told you--

You must know I should count myself unwise

To the point of madness, should I now forsake you--

You, under whose hand,

In the storm of another time,

Our dear land sailed out free.

But now stand fast at the helm!

IOCASTE:

In God's name, Oedipus, inform your wife as well:

Why are you so set in this hard anger?

OEDIPUS:


I will tell you, for none of these men deserves

My confidence as you do. It is Creon's work,

His treachery, his plotting against me.

IOCASTE:


Go on, if you can make this clear to me.

OEDIPUS:


He charges me with the murder of Laios.

IOCASTE:


Has he some knowledge? Or does he speak from hearsay?

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OEDIPUS:

He would not commit himself to such a charge,

But he has brought in that damnable soothsayer

To tell his story.

IOCASTE:

Set your mind at rest.

If it is a question of soothsayers, I tell you

That you will find no man whose craft gives knowledge

Of the unknowable.

Here is my proof:

An oracle was reported to Laios once

(I will not say iron, Phoibos himself, but from

His appointed ministers, at any rate)

That his doom would be death at the hands of his own son

His son, born of his flesh and of mine!

Now. you remember the story: Laios was killed

By marauding strangers where three highways meet;

But his child had not been three days in this world

Before the King had pierced the baby's ankles

And left him to die on a lonely mountainside.

Thus, Apollo never caused that child

To kill his father, and it was not Laios' fate

To die at the hands of his son, as he had feared.

This is what prophets and prophecies are worth!

Have no dread of them.

It is God himself

Who can show us what he wills, in his own way.

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OEDIPUS:

How strange a shadowy memory crossed my mind,

Just now while you were speaking; it chilled my heart.

IOCASTE:


What do you mean? What memory do you speak of?

OEDIPUS:


If I understand you, Laios was killed

At a place where three roads meet.

IOCASTE:

So it was said;

We have no later story.

OEDIPUS:


Where did it happen?

IOCASTE:


Phokis, it is called: at a place where the Theban Way

Divides into the roads toward Delphi and Daulia.

OEDIPUS:

When?


IOCASTE:

We had the news not long before you came

And proved the right to your succession here.

OEDIPUS:


Ah, what net has God been weaving for me?

IOCASTE:


Oedipus! Why does this trouble you?

OEDIPUS:


Do not ask me yet.

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First, tell me how Laos looked, and tell me

How old he was.

IOCASTE:

He was tall, his hair just touched

With white; his form was not unlike your own.

OEDIPUS:


I think that I myself may be accurst

By my own ignorant edict.

IOCASTE:

You speak strangely.

It makes me tremble to look at you, my King.

OEDIPUS:


I am not sure that the blind man can not see.

But I should know better if you were to tell me

IOCASTE:

Anything—though I dread to hear you ask it.

OEDIPUS:

Was the King lightly escorted, or did he ride

With a large company, as a ruler should?

IOCASTE:


There were five men with him in all. one was a herald,

And a single chariot, which he was driving.

OEDIPUS:

Alas, that makes it plain enough!

But who—

Who-- told you how it happened?

IOCASTE:

A household servant,

The only one to escape.

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OEDIPUS:

And is he still

A servant of ours?

IOCASTE:


No; for when he came back at last

And found you enthroned in the place of the dead king,

He came to me, touched my hand with his, and begged

That I would send him away to the frontier district

Where only the shepherds go--

As far away from the city as I could send him.

I granted his prayer; for although the man was a slave,

He had earned more than this favor at my hands.

OEDIPUS:

Can he be called back quickly?

IOCASTE:

Easily.

But why?

OEDIPUS:


I have taken too much upon myself

Without enquiry; therefore I wish to consult him.

IOCASTE:

Then he shall come.

But am I not one also

To whom you might confide these fears of yours?

OEDIPUS:

That is your right; it will not be denied you,

Now least of all; for I have reached a pitch

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Of wild foreboding. Is there anyone

To whom I should sooner speak?

Polybos of Corinth is my father.

My mother is a Dorian: Merope.

I grew up chief among the men of Corinth

Until a strange thing happened--

Not worth my passion, it may be but strange.

At a feast, a drunken man maundering in his cups

Cries out that I am not my father's son!

I contained myself that night, though I felt anger

And a sinking heart. The next day I visited

My father and mother, and questioned them. They stormed,

Calling it all the slanderous rant of a fool;

And this relieved me. Yet the suspicion

Remained always aching in my mind;

I knew there was talk; I could not rest;

And finally, saving nothing to my parents,

I went to the shrine at Delphi.

The god dismissed my question without reply;

He spoke of other things.

Some were clear,

Full of wretchedness, dreadful, unbearable:

As, that I should lie with my own mother, breed

Children from whom all men would turn their eyes;

And that I should be my father's murderer.

I heard all this, and fled. And from that day

Corinth to me was only in the stars

Descending in that quarter of the sky,

As I wandered farther and farther on my way

To a land where I should never see the evil

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Sung by the oracle. And I came to this country



Where, so you say. King Labs was killed.

I will tell you all that happened there, my lady.

There were three highways

Coming together at a place I passed;

And there a herald came towards me, and a chariot

Drawn by horses, with a man such as you describe

Seated in it. The groom leading the horses

Forced me off the road at his lord's command;

But as this charioteer lurched over towards me

I struck him in my rage. The old man saw me

And brought his double goad down upon my head

As I came abreast.

He was paid back, and more!

Swinging my club in this right hand I knocked him

Out of his car, and he rolled on the ground.

I killed him.

I killed them all.

Now if that stranger and Laios were—kin,

Where is a man more miserable than P

More hated by the gods? Citizen and alien alike

Must never shelter me or speak to me

I must be shunned by all.

And I myself

Pronounced this malediction upon myself!

Think of it: I have touched you with these hands,

These hands that killed your husband. What defilement!

Am I all evil, then? It must be so,

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