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OEDIPUS THE KING by Sophocles, Part 10


CHORUS
We too, O king, are troubled; but till thou
Hast questioned the survivor, still hope on.

OEDIPUS
My hope is faint, but still enough survives
To bid me bide the coming of this herd.

JOCASTA
Suppose him here, what wouldst thou learn of him?

OEDIPUS
I'll tell thee, lady; if his tale agrees
With thine, I shall have 'scaped calamity.

JOCASTA
And what of special import did I say?

OEDIPUS
In thy report of what the herdsman said
Laius was slain by robbers; now if he
Still speaks of robbers, not a robber, I
Slew him not; "one" with "many" cannot square.
But if he says one lonely wayfarer,
The last link wanting to my guilt is forged.

JOCASTA
Well, rest assured, his tale ran thus at first,
Nor can he now retract what then he said;
Not I alone but all our townsfolk heard it.
E'en should he vary somewhat in his story,
He cannot make the death of Laius
In any wise jump with the oracle.
For Loxias said expressly he was doomed
To die by my child's hand, but he, poor babe,
He shed no blood, but perished first himself.
So much for divination. Henceforth I
Will look for signs neither to right nor left.

OEDIPUS
Thou reasonest well. Still I would have thee send
And fetch the bondsman hither. See to it.

JOCASTA
That will I straightway. Come, let us within.
I would do nothing that my lord mislikes.
Exeunt OEDIPUS and JOCASTA.

CHORUS
strophe 1

My lot be still to lead
The life of innocence and fly
Irreverence in word or deed,
To follow still those laws ordained on high
Whose birthplace is the bright ethereal sky
No mortal birth they own,
Olympus their progenitor alone:
Ne'er shall they slumber in oblivion cold,
The god in them is strong and grows not old.

antistrophe 1

Of insolence is bred
The tyrant; insolence full blown,
With empty riches surfeited,
Scales the precipitous height and grasps the throne.
Then topples o'er and lies in ruin prone;
No foothold on that dizzy steep.
But O may Heaven the true patriot keep
Who burns with emulous zeal to serve the State.
God is my help and hope, on him I wait.

strophe 2

But the proud sinner, or in word or deed,
That will not Justice heed,
Nor reverence the shrine
Of images divine,
Perdition seize his vain imaginings,
If, urged by greed profane,
He grasps at ill-got gain,
And lays an impious hand on holiest things.
Who when such deeds are done
Can hope heaven's bolts to shun?
If sin like this to honor can aspire,
Why dance I still and lead the sacred choir?

antistrophe 2

No more I'll seek earth's central oracle,
Or Abae's hallowed cell,
Nor to Olympia bring
My votive offering.
If before all God's truth be not bade plain.
O Zeus, reveal thy might,
King, if thou'rt named aright
Omnipotent, all-seeing, as of old;
For Laius is forgot;
His weird, men heed it not;
Apollo is forsook and faith grows cold.
Enter JOCASTA.

JOCASTA
My lords, ye look amazed to see your queen
With wreaths and gifts of incense in her hands.
I had a mind to visit the high shrines,
For Oedipus is overwrought, alarmed
With terrors manifold. He will not use
His past experience, like a man of sense,
To judge the present need, but lends an ear
To any croaker if he augurs ill.
Since then my counsels naught avail, I turn
To thee, our present help in time of trouble,
Apollo, Lord Lycean, and to thee
My prayers and supplications here I bring.
Lighten us, lord, and cleanse us from this curse!
For now we all are cowed like mariners
Who see their helmsman dumbstruck in the storm.
Enter Corinthian MESSENGER.

MESSENGER
My masters, tell me where the palace is
Of Oedipus; or better, where's the king.

CHORUS
Here is the palace and he bides within;
This is his queen the mother of his children.

MESSENGER
All happiness attend her and the house,
Blessed is her husband and her marriage-bed.

JOCASTA
My greetings to thee, stranger; thy fair words
Deserve a like response. But tell me why
Thou comest--what thy need or what thy news.

MESSENGER
Good for thy consort and the royal house.

JOCASTA
What may it be? Whose messenger art thou?

 

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