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Sophocles Index


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OEDIPUS THE KING by Sophocles, Part 11


MESSENGER
The Isthmian commons have resolved to make
Thy husband king--so 'twas reported there.

JOCASTA
What! is not aged Polybus still king?

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

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

MESSENGER
If I speak falsely, may I die myself.

JOCASTA
Quick, maiden, bear these tidings to my lord.
Ye god-sent oracles, where stand ye now!
This is the man whom Oedipus long shunned,
In dread to prove his murderer; and now
He dies in nature's course, not by his hand.
Enter OEDIPUS.

OEDIPUS
My wife, my queen, Jocasta, why hast thou
Summoned me from my palace?

JOCASTA
Hear this man,
And as thou hearest judge what has become
Of all those awe-inspiring oracles.

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

JOCASTA
He comes from Corinth and his message this:
Thy father Polybus hath passed away.

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

MESSENGER
If I must first make plain beyond a doubt
My message, know that Polybus is dead.

OEDIPUS
By treachery, or by sickness visited?

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

OEDIPUS
So of some malady he died, poor man.

MESSENGER
Yes, having measured the full span of years.

OEDIPUS
Out on it, lady! why should one regard
The Pythian hearth or birds that scream i' the air?
Did they not point at me as doomed to slay
My father? but he's dead and in his grave
And here am I who ne'er unsheathed a sword;
Unless the longing for his absent son
Killed him and so I slew him in a sense.
But, as they stand, the oracles are dead--
Dust, ashes, nothing, dead as Polybus.

JOCASTA
Say, did not I foretell this long ago?

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

JOCASTA
Then let I no more weigh upon thy soul.

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

JOCASTA
Why should a mortal man, the sport of chance,
With no assured foreknowledge, be afraid?
Best live a careless life from hand to mouth.
This wedlock with thy mother fear not thou.
How oft it chances that in dreams a man
Has wed his mother! He who least regards
Such brainsick phantasies lives most at ease.

OEDIPUS
I should have shared in full thy confidence,
Were not my mother living; since she lives
Though half convinced I still must live in dread.

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

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

MESSENGER
Who may this woman be whom thus you fear?

OEDIPUS
Merope, stranger, wife of Polybus.

MESSENGER
And what of her can cause you any fear?

OEDIPUS
A heaven-sent oracle of dread import.

MESSENGER
A mystery, or may a stranger hear it?

OEDIPUS
Aye, 'tis no secret. Loxias once foretold
That I should mate with mine own mother, and shed
With my own hands the blood of my own sire.
Hence Corinth was for many a year to me
A home distant; and I trove abroad,
But missed the sweetest sight, my parents' face.

MESSENGER
Was this the fear that exiled thee from home?

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

MESSENGER
Why, since I came to give thee pleasure, King,
Have I not rid thee of this second fear?

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

MESSENGER
Well, I confess what chiefly made me come
Was hope to profit by thy coming home.

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

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

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

 

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