Second messenger chorus of theban elders shepherd of laios

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Child by Laios doomed to die,

Then doomed to lose that fortunate little death,

Would God you never took breath in this air

That with my wailing lips I take to cry:

For I weep the world's outcast.

I was blind, and now I can tell why:

Asleep, for you had given ease of breath

To Thebes, while the false years went by.

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Enter, from the palace, SECOND MESSENGER


Elders of Thebes, most honored in this land,

What horrors are yours to see and hear, what weight

Of sorrow to be endured, if, true to your birth,

You venerate the line of Labdakos!

I think neither Istros nor Phasis, those great rivers,

Could purify this place of the corruption

It shelters now, or soon must bring to light--

Evil not done unconsciously, but willed.

The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves.


Surely, friend, we have grief enough already:

What new sorrow do you mean?


The Queen is dead.


Iocaste? Dead? But at whose hand?


Her own.

The. full horror of what happened you can not know,

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For you did not see it; but I, who did, will tell you

As clearly as I can how she met her death.

When she had left us,

In passionate silence, passing through the court,

She ran to her apartment in the house,

Her hair clutched by the fingers of both hands.

She closed the doors behind her; then, by that bed

Where long ago the fatal son was conceived—

That son who should bring about his father's death--

We heard her call upon Faros, dead so many years,

And heard her wail for the double fruit of her marriage,

A husband by her husband, children by her child.

Exactly how she died I do not know:

For Oedipus burst in moaning and would not let us

Keep vigil to the end: it was by him

As he stormed about the room that our eyes were caught.

From one to another of us he went, begging a sword,

Cursing the wife who was not his wife, the mother

Whose womb had carried his own children and himself.

I do not know: it was none of us aided him,

But surely one of the gods was in control!

For with a dreadful cry

He hurled his weight, as though wrenched out of himself,

At the twin doors: the bolts gave, and he rushed in.

And there we saw her hanging, her body swaying

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From the cruel cord she had noosed about her neck.

A great sob broke from him, heartbreaking to hear,

As he loosed the rope and lowered her to the ground.

I would blot out from my mind what happened next!

For the King ripped from her gown the golden brooches

That were her ornament, and raised them, and

plunged them down

Straight into his own eyeballs, crying, "No more.

No more shall you look on the misery about me,

The horrors of my own doing! Too long you have known

The faces of those whom I should never have seen,

Too long been blind to those fin whom I was searching!

From this hour, go in darkness!" And as he spoke.

He struck at his eyes—not once, but many times;

And the blood spattered his beard.

Bursting from his ruined sockets like red hail.

So from the unhappiness of two this evil has sprung.

A curse on the man and woman alike. The old

Happiness of the house of Labdakos

Was happiness enough: where is it today?

It is all wailing and ruin, disgrace, death—all

The misery of mankind that has a name—

And it is wholly and for ever theirs.

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Is he in agony still? Is there no rest for him?


He is calling for someone to lead him to the gates

So that all the children of Kadmos may look upon

His father's murderer, his mother's—no,

I can not say it!

And then he will leave Thebes,

Self-exiled, in order that the curse

Which he himself pronounced may depart from the house.

He is weak, and there is none to lead him,

So terrible is his suffering.

But you will see:

Look, the doors are opening; in a moment

You will see a thing that would crush a heart of stone.

[The central door is opened; OEDIPUS, blinded, is led in


Dreadful indeed for men to see.

Never have my own eyes

Looked on a sight so full of fear.


What madness came upon you, what daemon

Leaped on your life with heavier

Punishment than a mortal man can bear?

No: I can not even

Look at you, poor ruined one.

And I would speak, question, ponder,


If I were able. No.

You make me shudder.


God. God.

Is there a sorrow greater?

Where shall I find harbor in this world?

My voice is hurled far on a dark wind.

What has God done to me?


Too terrible to think of, or to see.


O cloud of night, [STROPHE I

Never to be turned away: night coming on,

I can not tell how: night like a shroud!

My fair winds brought me here.

O God. Again

The pain of the spikes where I had sight,

The flooding pain

Of memory, never to be gouged out.


This is not strange.

You suffer it all twice over, remorse in pain,

Pain in remorse.



Ah dear friend

Are you faithful even yet, you alone?

Are you still standing near me, will you stay here,

Patient, to care for the blind?

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The blind man!

Yet even blind I know who it is attends me,

By the voice's tone--

Though my new darkness hide the comforter.


Oh fearful act!

What god was it drove you to rake black

Night across your eyes?


Apollo. Apollo. Dear [STROPHE 2

Children, the god was Apollo.

He brought my sick, sick fate upon me.

But the blinding hand was my own!

How could I bear to see

When all my sight was horror everywhere?


Everywhere; that is true.


And now what is left?

Images? Love? A greeting even,

Sweet to the senses? Is there anything?

Ah, no, friends: lead me away.

Lead me away from Thebes.

Lead the great wreck

And hell of Oedipus, whom the gods hate.


Your fate is clear, you are not blind to that.

Would God you had never found it out!

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Death take the man who unbound

My feet on that hillside

And delivered me from death to life! What life?

If only I had died,

This weight of monstrous doom

Could not have dragged me and my darlings down.


I would have wished the same.


Oh never to have come here

With my father's blood upon me! Never

To have been the man they call his mother's


Oh accurst! Oh child of evil,

To have entered that wretched bed--

the selfsame one!

More primal than sin itself, this fell to me.


I do not know how I can answer you.

You were better dead than alive and blind.


Do not counsel me any more. This punishment

That I have laid upon myself is just.

If I had eyes,

I do not know how I could bear the sight

Of my father, when I came to the house of Death,

Or my mother: for I have sinned against them both

So vilely that I could not make my peace

By strangling my own life.

Or do you think my children,

Born as they were born, would be sweet to my eyes?

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Ah never, never! Nor this town with its high walls,

Nor the holy images of the gods.

For I,

Thrice miserable!--Oedipus, noblest of all the line

Of Kadmos, have condemned myself to enjoy

These things no more, by my own malediction

Expelling that man whom the gods declared

To be a defilement in the house of Laws.

After exposing the rankness of my own guilt,

How could I look men frankly in the eyes?

No, I swear it,

If I could have stifled my hearing at its source,

I would have done it and made all this body

A tight cell of misery, blank to light and sound:

So I should have been safe in a dark agony

Beyond all recollection.

Ah Kithairon!

Why did you shelter me? When I was cast upon you,

Why did I not die? Then I should never

Have shown the world my execrable birth.

Ah Polybos! Corinth, city that I believed

The ancient seat of my ancestors: how fair

I seemed, your child! And all the while this evil

Was cancerous within me!

For I am sick

In my daily life, sick in my origin.

O three roads, dark ravine, woodland and way

Where three roads met: you, drinking my father's


My own blood, spilled by my own hand: can you


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The unspeakable things I did there, and the things

I went on from there to do?

O marriage, marriage!

The act that engendered me, and again the act

Performed by the son in the same bed--

Ah, the net

Of incest, mingling fathers, brothers, sons,

With brides, wives, mothers. the last evil

That can be known by men: no tongue can say

How evil!

No. For the love of God, conceal me

Somewhere far from Thebes; or kill me; or hurl me

Into the sea, away from men's eyes for ever.

Come, lead me. You need not fear to touch me.

Of all men, I alone can bear this guilt.

[Enter CREON


We are not the ones to decide; but Creon here

May fitly judge of what you ask. He only

Is left to protect the city in your place.


Alas, how can I speak to him? What right have I

To beg his courtesy whom I have deeply wronged?


I have not come to mock you, Oedipus,

Or to reproach you, either.


—You, standing there:

If you have lost all respect for man's dignity.

At least respect the flame of Lord Helios:

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Do not allow this pollution to show itself

Openly here, an affront to the earth

And Heaven's rain and the light of day. No, take him

Into the house as quickly as you can.

For it is proper

That only the dose kindred see his grief.


I pray you in God's name, since your courtesy

Ignores my dark expectation, visiting

With mercy this man of all men most execrable:

Give me what I ask—for your good, not for mine.


And what is it that you would have me do?


Drive me out of this country as quickly as may be

To a place where no human voice can ever greet me.


I should have done that before now—only.

God's will had not been wholly revealed to me.


But his command is plain: the parricide

Must be destroyed. I am that evil man.


That is the sense of it, yes; but as things are,

We had best discover clearly what is to be done.


You would learn more about a man like me?


You are ready now to listen to the god.

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I will listen. But it is to you

That I must turn for help. I beg you, hear me.

The woman in there

Give her whatever funeral you think proper:

She is your sister.

--But let me go, Creon!

Let me purge my father's Thebes of the pollution

Of my living here, and go out to the wild hilts,

To Kithairon, that has won such fame with me,

The tomb my mother and father appointed for me,

And let me die there, as they willed I should.

And yet I know

Death will not ever come to me through sickness

Or in any natural way: I have been preserved

For some unthinkable fate. But let that be.

As for my sons, you need not care for them.

They are men, they will Find some way to live.

But my poor daughters, who have shared my table,

Who never before have been parted from their


Take care of them, Creon: do this for me.

And will you let me touch them with my hands

A last time, and let us weep together?

Be kind, my lord,

Great prince, be kind!

Could I but touch them,

They would be mine again, as when I had my eyes.

[Enter ANTIGONE and ISMENE, attended

Ah, God!

Is it my dearest children I hear weeping?

Has Creon pitied me and sent my daughters?

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Yes, Oedipus: I knew that they were dear to you

In the old days, and know you must love them still.


May God bless you for this—and be a friendlier

Guardian to you than he has been to me!

Children, where are you?

Come quickly to my hands: they are your


Hands that have brought your father's once clear eyes

To this way of seeing--

Ah dearest ones,

I had neither sight nor knowledge then, your father

By the woman who was the source of his own life!

And I weep for you—having no strength to see you,

I weep for you when I think of the bitterness

That men will visit upon you all your lives.

What homes, what festivals can you attend

Without being forced to depart again in tears?

And when you come to marriageable age,

Where is the man, my daughters, who would dare

Risk the bane that lies on all my children?

Is there any evil wanting? Your father killed

His father; sowed the womb of her who bore him;

Engendered you at the fount of his own existence.

That is what they will say of you.

Then, whom

Can you ever marry? There are no bridegrooms for you,

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And your lives must wither away in sterile dreaming.

O Creon, son of Menoikeus!

You are the only father my daughters have,

Since we, their parents, are both of us gone for ever.

They are your own blood: you will not let them

Fall into beggary and loneliness;

You will keep them from the miseries that are mine!

Take pity on them; see, they are only children,

Friendless except for you. Promise me this,

Great Prince, and give me your hand in token of it.

[CREON clasps his tight hand


could say much, if you could understand me.

But as it is, I have only this prayer for you:

Live where you can, be as happy as you can—

Happier, please God, than God has made your father!


Enough. You have wept enough. Now go within.


I must; but it is hard.


Time eases all things.


But you must promise--


Say what you desire.

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Send me from Thebes!


God grant that I may!


But since God hates me ...


No, he will grant your wish.


You promise?


I can not speak beyond my knowledge.


Then lead me in.


Come now, and leave your children.


No! Do not take them from me!


Think no longer

That you are in command here, but rather think

How, when you were, you served your own destruction.

[Exeunt into the house all but the CHORUS; the

CHORAGOS chants directly to the audience:


Men of Thebes: look upon Oedipus.

This is the king who solved the famous riddle

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And towered up, most powerful of men.

No mortal eyes bur looked on him with envy,

Yet in the end ruin swept over him.

Let every man in mankind's frailty

Consider his last day; and let none

Presume on his good fortune until he find

Life, at his death, a memory without pain.
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