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For other English-language translations of this work, see Oedipus Rex.

 

ŒDIPUS THE KING.




ARGUMENT.

Laios, King of Thebes, married Jocasta, daughter of Menœkeus, and they had no child. And he, grieved thereat, sought counsel of the God at Delphi, and the God bade him cease to wish for children, for should a son be born to him, by that son he should surely die.[1] And then it came to Pass that Jocasta bare him a son. And they, fearing the God's word, gave the boy to a shepherd, that he might cast it out upon the hill Kithæron: and so they were comforted, and deemed that they by this device had turned the oracle into a thing of nought. And thirty years afterwards, when Laios was well stricken in years, he went again on a pilgrimage to Delphi; and thence he never came back again,—slain on the way, men knew not by whose hands. And at that time the Sphinx made havoc of Thebes and all the coasts thereof so that they had no heart nor power to search into the matter of the king's death, but sought only for some one to answer the monster's riddle,[2] and save the city and its people. And a stranger came to the city, Œdipus of Corinth, son, as it was said, of Polybos and Merope, and answered the riddle aright,[3] and slew the Sphinx. And then the people of the city in their joy chose Œdipus as their king, in the room of Laios, who had been slain; and Jocasta took him as her husband, and Creon, Jocasta's brother, was his chief friend and counsellor, and all things prospered with him, and he had two sons and two daughters. But soon the wrath of God fell upon Thebes, and the city was visited with a sore pestilence; and the people turned in their affliction to their Gods, and made their supplications.[4]




Dramatis Personæ.

Œdipus, King of Thebes. Shepherd.
Creon, brother of Jocasta. Second Messenger.
Teiresias, a soothsayer. Jocasta, wife of Œdipus.
Priest of Zeus. Chorus of Priests and Suppliants.
Messenger from Corinth.
 

 

ŒDIPUS THE KING.




SCENE—Thebes. In the background, the palace of Œdipus; in front, the altar of Zeus, Priests and Boys round it in the attitude of suppliants, with olive and laurel branches in their hands, entwined with woollen threads.


Enter Œdipus.


Œdip. Why sit ye here, my children, youngest brood
Of Cadmos famed of old, in solemn state,
Your hands thus wreathèd with the suppliants' boughs?
And all the city reeks with incense smoke,
And all re-echoes with your hymns and groans;
And I, my children, counting it unmeet
To hear report from others, I have come
Myself, whom all name Œdipus the Great.—
Do thou, then, agèd Sire, since thine the right
To speak for these, tell clearly how ye stand,
In terror or submission; speak to me 10[5]
As willing helper. Heartless should I be
To see you prostrate thus, and feel no ruth.

Priest. Yea, Œdipus, thou ruler of my land,
Thou seest our age, who sit as suppliants, bowed
Around thine altars; some as yet too weak
For distant flight, and some weighed down with age,
Priest, I, of Zeus, and these the chosen youth:
And in the market-places of the town
The people sit and wail, with wreath in hand,
By the two shrines of Pallas,[6] or the grave, 20
Where still the seer Ismenos prophesies.
For this our city, as thine eyes may see,
Is sorely tempest-tossed, nor lifts its head
From out the surging sea of blood-flecked waves,
All smitten in the ripening blooms of earth,
All smitten in the herds that graze the fields,
Yea, and in timeless births of woman's fruit;
And still the God, fire-darting Pestilence,
As deadliest foe, upon our city swoops,
And desolates the home where Cadmos dwelt,
And Hades dark grows rich in sighs and groans. 30
It is not that we deem of thee as one
Equalled with Gods in power, that we sit here,
These little ones and I, as suppliants prone;
But, judging thee, in all life's shifting scenes,
Chiefest of men, yea, and of chiefest skill
In communings with Heaven. For thou did'st come
And freed'st this city, named of Cadmos old,
From the sad tribute which of yore we paid
To that stern songstress,[7] all untaught of us,
And all unprompted; but by gift of God,
Men think and say, thou did'st our life upraise.
And now, dear Œdipus, most honoured lord, 40
We pray thee, we thy suppliants, find for us
Some succour, whether voice of any God,
Or any man brings knowledge to thy soul;
For still I see, with those whom life has trained
To long-tried skill, the issues of their thoughts
Live and are mighty. Come then, noblest one,
Raise up our city; come, take heed to it;
As yet this land, for all thy former zeal,
Calls thee its saviour: do not give us cause
So to remember this thy reign, as men
Who having risen, then fall low again; 50
But raise our state to safety. Omens good
Were then with thee; thou did'st thy work, and now
Be equal to thyself! If thou wilt rule,
As thou dost sway, this land wherein we dwell,
'Twere better far to rule o'er living men
Than o'er a realm dispeopled. Nought avails,
Or tower or ship, when men are not within.

Œdip. Ο children, wailing loud, ye come with wish
Well-known, not unknown; well I know that ye
Are smitten, one and all, with taint of plague,
And yet though smitten, none that taint of plague 60
Feels, as I feel it. Each his burden bears,
His own and not another's; but my heart
Mourns for the state, for you, and for myself;
And, lo, ye wake me not as plunged in sleep,
But find me weeping, weeping many tears,
And treading many paths in wandering thought;
And that one way of health I, seeking, found,
This have I acted on. Menœkeus' son,
Creon, my kinsman, have I sent to seek
The Pythian home of Phœbos, there to learn
The words or deeds wherewith to save the state;
And even now I measure o'er the time,
And ask, "How fares he?" grieving, for he stays,
Most strangely, far beyond the appointed day;
But when he comes, I should be base indeed,
Failing to do whate'er the God declares.

Priest. Well hast thou spoken! And these bring me word,
That Creon comes advancing on his way.

Œdip. Ο king Apollo, may he come with chance 80
That brings deliverance, as his looks are bright.

Priest. If one may guess, he's glad. He had not come
Crowned with rich wreaths[8] of fruitful laurel else.

Œdip. Soon we shall know. Our voice can reach him now.
Say, prince, our well-beloved, Menœkeus' son,
What sacred answer bring'st thou from the God?


Enter Creon.


Creon. A right good answer! E'en our evil plight,
If all goes well, may end in highest good.

Œdip. What were the words? Nor full of eager hope,
Nor trembling panic, list I to thy speech. 90

Creon. I, if thou wish, am ready, these being by,
To tell thee all, or go within the gates.

Œdip. Speak out to all. I sorrow more for them
Than for the woe which touches me alone.

Creon. I then will speak what from the God I heard:
King Phœbos bids us chase the plague away
(The words were plain) now cleaving to our land,
Nor cherish guilt which still remains unhealed.

Œdip. But with what rites? And what the deed itself?

Creon. Or drive far off, or blood for blood repay; 100
That guilt of blood is blasting all the state.

Œdip. But whose fate is it that He pointeth to?

Creon. Once, Ο my king, ere thou did'st guide our state,
Our sovereign Laios ruled o'er all the land.

Œdip. So have I heard, for him I never saw.

Creon. Now the God clearly bids us, he being dead,
To take revenge on those who shed his blood.

Œdip. Yes; but where are they? How to track the course
Of guilt all shrouded in the doubtful past?

Creon. In this our land, so said He; those who seek 110
Shall find; unsought, we lose it utterly.

Œdip. Was it at home, or in the field, or else
In some strange land that Laios met his doom?

Creon. He went, so spake he, pilgrim-wise afar,
And never more came back as forth he went.

Œdip. Was there no courier, none who shared his road,
Who knew what, learning, one might turn to good?

Creon. Dead were they all, save one who fled for fear,
And he knew nought to tell but one small fact.

Œdip. [Interrupting.] And what was that? One fact might teach us much, 120
Had we but one small starting-point of hope.

Creon. He used to tell that robbers fell on him,
Not man for man, but with outnumbering force.

Œdip. How could the robber e'er have dared this deed,
Unless some bribe from hence had tempted him?

Creon. So men might think; but Laios having died,
There was no helper for us in our ills.

Œdip. What ill then hindered, when your sovereignty
Had fallen thus, from searching out the truth?

Creon. The Sphinx, with her dark riddle, bade us look
At nearer facts, and leave the dim obscure.

Œdip. Well, be it mine to track them to their source. 130
Right well hath Phœbos, and right well hast thou,
Shown for the dead your care, and ye shall find,
As is most meet, in me a helper true,
Aiding at once my country and the God.
It is not for the sake of friends remote,
But for mine own, that I dispel this pest;
For he that slew him, whosoe'er he be,
Will wish, perchance, with such a blow to smite 140
Me also. Helping him, I help myself.
And now, my children, rise with utmost speed
From off these steps, and raise your suppliant boughs;
And let another call my people here,
The race of Cadmos, and make known that I
Will do my taskwork to the uttermost:
So, as God wills, we prosper, or we fail.

Priest. Rise then, my children, 'twas for this we came,
For these good tidings which those lips have brought,
And Phœbos, who hath sent these oracles,
Pray that He come to save, and heal our plague. 150

[Exeunt Creon, Priest, and Suppliants, the
latter taking their boughs from the altar and
bearing them, as they march in procession
.


Enter Chorus of Theban citizens.

Stroph. I.

Chorus. Ο word of Zeus,[9] glad-voiced, with what intent
From Pytho, bright with gold,
Cam'st thou to Thebes, our city of high fame?
For lo! I faint for fear,
Through all my soul I quiver, in suspense,
(Hear, Iο Pæan! God of Delos,[10] hear!)
In brooding dread, what doom, of present growth,
Or as the months roll on, thy hand will work;
Tell me, Ο deathless Voice, thou child of golden hope!

Antistroph. I.

Thee first, Zeus-born Athena, thee I call,
Divine and deathless One,
And next thy sister, Goddess of our land, 160
Our Artemis, who sits,
Queen of our market, on encircled throne;
And Phœbos, the far-darter! Ο ye Three,[11]
Shine on us, and deliver us from ill!
If e'er before, when storms of woe oppressed,
Ye stayed the fiery tide, Ο come and help us now!

Stroph. II.

Ah me, ah me, for sorrows numberless
Press on my soul;
And all the host is smitten, and our thoughts 170
Lack weapons to resist.
For increase fails of fruits of goodly earth,
And women sink in childbirth's wailing pangs,
And one by one, as flit
The swift-winged birds through air,
So, flitting to the shore of Him who dwells
Down in the darkling West,[12]
Fleeter than mightiest fire,
Thou see'st them passing on.

Antistroph. II.

Yea, numberless are they who perish thus;
And on the earth,
Still breeding plague, unpitied infants lie,
Cast out all ruthlessly; 180
And wives and mothers, grey with hoary age,
Some here, some there, by every altar mourn,
With woe and sorrow crushed,
And chant their wailing plaint.
Clear thrills the sense their solemn Pæan cry,
And the sad anthem song;
Hear, golden child of Zeus,
And send us bright-eyed help.

Stroph. III.

And Ares the destroyer drive away![13]
Who now, though hushed the din 190
Of brazen shield and spear,
With fiercest battle-cry
Wars on me mightily.
Bid him go back in flight,
Retreat from this our land,
Or to the ocean bed,
Where Amphitrite sleeps,
Or to that haven of the homeless sea
Which sweeps the Thracian shore.[14]
*If waning night spares aught,
That doth the day assail:
Do thou, then. Sire almighty,
Wielding the lightning's strength, 200
Blast him with thy dread fiery thunderbolts.

Antistroph. III.

And thou, Lykeian king, the wolf's dread foe,
Fain would I see thy darts
From out thy golden bow
Go forth invincible,
Helping and bringing aid;
And with them, winged with fire,
The rays of Artemis,
With which on Lykian hills,
She moveth on her course.
And last, Ο golden-crowned, I call on thee,
Named after this our land,[15] 210
Bacchos, all flushed with wine,
With clamour loud and long,
Wandering with Mænads wild,
Flashing with blazing torch,
Draw near against the God whom all the Gods disown.[16]

Œdip. Thou prayest, and for thy prayers, if thou wilt hear
My words, and treat the dire disease with skill,
Thou shalt find help and respite from thy pain,—
My words, which I, a stranger to report,
A stranger to the deed, will now declare:
For I myself should fail to track it far, 220
Finding no trace to guide my steps aright.
But now, as I have joined you since the deed,
A citizen with citizens, I speak
To all the sons of Cadmos. Lives there one
Who knows of Laios, son of Labdacos,
The hand that slew him; him I bid to tell
His tale to me; and should it chance he shrinks
From raking up the charge against himself,
Still let him speak; no heavier doom is his
Than to depart uninjured from the land;
Or, if there be that knows an alien arm 230
As guilty, let him hold his peace no more;
I will secure his gain and thanks beside.
But if ye hold your peace, if one through fear,
Or for himself, or friend, shall hide this thing,
What then I purpose let him hear from me.
That man I banish, whosoe'er he be,
From out this land whose power and throne are mine;
And none may give him shelter, none speak to him,
Nor join with him in prayers and sacrifice,
Nor give him share in holy lustral stream; 240
But all shall thrust him from their homes, declared
Our curse and our pollution, as but now
The Pythian God's prophetic word has shown:
With acts like this, I stand before you here,
A helper to the God and to the dead.
All this I charge you do, for mine own sake,[17]
And for the God's, and for this land that pines,
Barren and god-deserted. Wrong 'twould be
E'en if no voice from heaven had urged us on,
That ye should leave the stain of guilt uncleansed, 250
Your noblest chief, your king himself, being slain.
Yea, rather, seek and find. And since I reign,
Wielding the might his hand did wield before,
Filling his couch, and calling his wife mine,
Yea, and our offspring too, but for the fate
That fell on his, had grown in brotherhood;
But now an evil chance on his head swooped;
And therefore will I strive my best for him,
As for my father, and will go all lengths
To seek and find the murderer, him who slew 260
The son of Labdacos, and Polydore,
And earlier Cadmos, and Agenor old;[18]
And for all those who hearken not, I pray
The Gods to give them neither fruit of earth,
Nor seed of woman,[19] but consume their lives
With this dire plague, or evil worse than this.
And for the man who did the guilty deed,
Whether alone he lurks, or leagued with more,
I pray that he may waste his life away,
For vile deeds vilely dying; and for me,
If in my house, I knowing it, he dwells, 270
May every curse I spake on my head fall.
And you, the rest, the men from Cadmos sprung,
To whom these words approve themselves as good,
May Righteousness befriend you, and the Gods,
In full accord, dwell with you evermore.

Chorus. Since thou hast bound me by a curse, Ο king,
I will speak thus. I neither slew the man,
Nor know who slew. To say who did the deed
Is quest for Him who sent us on the search.

Œdip. Right well thou speak'st, but man's best strength must fail 280
To force the Gods to do the things they will not.

Chorus. Fain would I speak the thoughts that second stand.

Œdip. Though there be third, shrink not from speaking out.

Chorus. One man I know, a prince, whose insight deep
Sees clear as princely Phœbos, and from him,
Teiresias, one might learn, Ο king, the truth.

Œdip. That too is done. No loiterer I in this,
For I, on Creon's hint, two couriers sent
To summon him, and wonder that he comes not.

Chorus. Old rumours are there also, dark and dumb. 290

Œdip. And what are they? I weigh the slightest word.

Chorus. 'Twas said he died by some chance traveller's hand.

Œdip. I, too, heard that. But none the eye-witness sees.

Chorus. If yet his soul be capable of awe,
Hearing thy curses, he will shrink from them.

Œdip. Words fright not him, who doing, knows no fear.

Chorus. Well, here is one who'll put him to the proof.
For lo! they bring the seer inspired of God,
With whom alone of all men, truth abides.


Enter Teiresias, blind, and guided by a boy.


Œdip. Teiresias! thou whose mind embraceth all, 300
Told or untold, of heaven or paths of earth;
Thou knowest, although thou see'st not, what a pest
Dwells on us, and we find in thee, Ο prince,
Our one deliverer, yea, our only help.
For Phœbos (if the couriers told thee not)
Sent back this word to us, who sent to ask,
That this one way was open to escape
From this fell plague,—if those who Laios slew,
We in our turn discovering should slay,
Or drive them forth as exiles from the land.
Thou, therefore, grudge not either sign from birds, 310
Or any other path of prophecy;
But save the city, save thyself, save me;
Save from the curse the dead has left behind;
On thee we hang. To use our means, our power,
In doing good, is noblest service owned.

Teir. Ah me! ah me! how dread is wisdom's gift,
When no good issue waiteth on the wise!
I knew it all too well, and then forgot,
Or else I had not on this journey come.

Œdip. What means this? How despondingly thou com'st!

Teir. Let me go home! for thus thy lot shalt thou,
And I mine own, bear easiest, if thou yield.

Œdip. No loyal words thou speak'st, nor true to Thebes
Who reared thee, holding back this oracle. 320

Teir. I see thy lips speak words that profit not:
And lest I too a like fault should commit . . .

Œdip. Now, by the Gods, unless thy reason fails,
Refuse us not, who all implore thy help.

Teir. Ah! Reason fails you all, but ne'er will I
*Say what thou bidd'st, lest I thy troubles show.

Œdip. What mean'st thou, then? Thou know'st and wilt not tell, 330
But wilt betray us, and the state destroy?

Teir. I will not pain myself nor thee. Why, then,
All vainly question? Thou shalt never know.

Œdip. Oh, basest of the base! (for thou would'st stir
A heart of stone;) and wilt thou never tell,
But still abide relentless and unmoved?

Teir. My mood thou blamest, but thou dost not know
What dwelleth with thee while thou chidest me.

Œdip. And who would not feel anger, hearing words
Like those with which thou dost the state insult? 340

Teir. Well! come they will, though I should hold my peace.

Œdip. If come they must, thy duty is to speak.

Teir. I speak no more. So, if thou wilt, rage on,
With every mood of wrath most desperate.

Œdip. Yes; I will not refrain, so fierce my wrath,
From speaking all my thought. I think that thou
Did'st plot the deed, and do it, though the blow
Thy hands, it may be, dealt not. Had'st thou seen,
I would have said it was thy deed alone.

Teir. And has it come to this? I charge thee, hold 350
To thy late edict, and from this day forth
Speak not to me, nor yet to these, for thou,
Thou art the accursèd plague-spot of the land.

Œdip. Art thou so shameless as to vent such words,
And dost thou think to 'scape scot-free for this?

Teir. I have escaped. The strength of truth is mine.

Œdip. Who prompted thee? This comes not from thine art.

Teir. 'Twas thou. Thou mad'st me speak against my will.

Œdip. What say'st thou? Speak again, that I may know.

Teir. Did'st thou not know before? Or dost thou try me? 360

Œdip. I could not say I knew it. Speak again.

Teir. I say thou art the murderer whom thou seek'st.

Œdip. Thou shalt not twice revile, and go unharmed.

Teir. And shall I tell thee more to stir thy rage?

Œdip. Say what thou pleasest. 'Twill be said in vain.

Teir. I say that thou, in vilest intercourse
With those that dearest are, dost blindly live,
Nor see'st the depth of evil thou hast reached.

Œdip. And dost thou think to say these things unscathed?

Teir. I doubt it not, if truth retain her might.

Œdip. That might is not for thee; thou can'st not claim it, 370
Blind in thine ears, thy reason, and thine eyes.

Teir. How wretched thou, thus hurling this reproach!
Such, all too soon, will all men hurl at thee.

Œdip. In one long night thou liv'st, and can'st not hurt,
Or me, or any man who sees the light.

Teir. 'Tis not thy doom to owe thy fall to me;
Apollo is enough, be His the task.

Œdip. Are these devices Creon's, or thine own?

Teir. It is not Creon harms thee, but thyself.

Œdip. Ο wealth, and sovereignty, and noblest skill 380
Surpassing skill in life so envy-fraught,
How great the ill-will dogging all your steps!
If for the sake of kingship, which the state
Hath given, unasked for, freely in mine hands,
Creon the faithful, found my fiend throughout,
Now seeks with masked attack to drive me forth,
And hires this wizard, plotter of foul schemes,
A vagrant mountebank, whose sight is clear
For pay alone, but in his art stone-blind.
Is it not so? When wast thou true seer found? 390
Why, when the monster with her song was here,
Spak'st thou no word our countrymen to help?
And yet the riddle lay above the ken
Of common men, and called for prophet's skill.
And this thou show'dst thou had'st not, nor by bird,
Nor any God made known; but then I came,
I, Œdipus, who nothing know, and slew her,
With mine own counsel winning, all untaught
By flight of birds. And now thou would'st expel me,
And think'st to take thy stand by Creon's throne. 400
But, as I think, both thou and he that plans
With thee, will hunt this mischief to your cost;
And but that I must think of thee as old,
Thou had'st learnt wisdom, suffering what thou plann'st.

Chorus. Far as we dare to guess, we think his words,
And thine, Ο Œdipus, in wrath are said.
Not such as these we need, but this to see,
How best to solve the God's great oracles.

Teir. King though thou be, I claim an equal right
To make reply. That power, at least, is mine:
For I am not thy slave, but Loxias';[20] 410
Nor shall I stand on Creon's patronage:
And this I say, since thou my blindness mock'st,
That thou, though seeing, failest to perceive
Thy evil plight, nor where thou liv'st, nor yet
With whom thou dwellest. Know'st thou even this,
Whence thou art sprung? All ignorant thou sinn'st
Against thine own, beneath, and on the earth:
And soon a two-edged Curse from sire and mother,
With foot of fear, shall chase thee forth from us,
Now seeing all things clear, then all things dark.
And will not then each creek repeat thy wail, 420
Each valley of Kithæron echoing ring,
When thou discern'st the marriage, fatal port,
To which thy prosp'rous voyage brought thy bark?
And other ills, in countless multitude,
*Thou see'st not yet, shall make thy lot as one
*With sire's and child's. Vent forth thy wrath then loud,
On Creon, and my speech. There lives not man
Whose life shall waste more wretchedly than thine.

Œdip. Can this be longer borne! Away with thee!
A curse light on thee! Wilt thou not depart?
Wilt thou not turn and from this house go back? 430

Teir. I had not come, had'st thou not called me here.

Œdip. I knew not thou would'st speak so foolishly;
Else I had hardly fetched thee to my house.

Teir. We then, so seems it thee, are fools from birth,
But, unto those who gave thee birth, seem wise.

[Turns to go.

Œdip. [Starting forward.] What? Stay thy foot.
What mortal gave me birth?

Teir. This day shall give thy birth, and work thy doom.

Œdip. What riddles dark and dim thou lov'st to speak.

Teir. Yes. But thy skill excels in solving such. 440

Œdip. Scoff thou at that in which thou 'lt find me strong.

Teir. And yet this same success has worked thy fall.

Œdip. I little care, if I have saved the state.

Teir. Well, then, I go. Do thou, boy, lead me on!

Œdip. Let him lead on. Most hateful art thou near;
Thou can'st not pain me more when thou art gone.

Teir. I go then, having said the things I came
To say. No fear of thee compels me. Thine
Is not the power to hurt me. And I say,
This man whom thou dost seek with hue-and-cry, 450
As murderer of Laios, he is here,
In show an alien sojourner, but in truth
A homeborn Theban. No delight to him
Will that discovery bring. Blind, having seen,
Poor, having rolled in wealth,—he, with a staff
Feeling his way, to a strange land shall go!
And to his sons shall he be seen at once
Father and brother, and of her who bore him
Husband and son, sharing his father's bed,
His father's murd'rer. Go thou then within, 460
And brood o'er this, and, if thou find'st me fail,
Say that my skill in prophecy is gone.

[Exeunt Œdipus and Teiresias.

Stroph. I.

Chorus. Who was it that the rock oracular
Of Delphi spake of, working
With bloody hands of all dread deeds most dread?
Time is it now for him,
Swifter than fastest steed to bend his flight;
For, in full armour clad,
Upon him darts, with fire
And lightning flash, the radiant Son of Zeus, 470
And with Him come in train
The dread and awful Powers,
The Destinies that fail not of their aim.

Antistroph. I.

For from Parnassos' heights, enwreathed with snow,
Gleaming, but now there shone
The oracle that bade us, one and all,
Track the unnamed, unknown;
For, lo! he wanders through the forest wild,
In caves and over rocks,
As strays the mountain bull,
In dreary loneliness with dreary tread,
Seeking in vain to shun
Dread words from central shrine;[21] 480
Yet they around him hover, full of life.

Stroph. II.

Fearfully, fearfully the augur moves me.
Nor answering, aye nor no!
And what to say I know not, but float on,
And hover still in hopes,
And fail to scan things present or to come.
For not of old, nor now,
Learnt I what cause of strife at variance set
The old Labdakid race 490
With him, the child and heir of Polybos,
Nor can I test the tale,
And take my stand against the well-earned fame
Of Œdipus, my lord,
As champion of the old Labdakid race,
For deaths obscure and dark!

Antistroph. II.

For Zeus and King Apollo, they are wise,
And know the hearts of men:
But that a seer excelleth me in skill,
This is no judgment true; 500
And one man may another's wisdom pass,
By wisdom higher still.
I, for my part, before the word is plain,
Will ne'er assent in blame.
Full clear, the wingèd Maiden-monster came
Against him, and he proved,
By sharpest test, that he was wise indeed,
By all the land beloved,
And never, from my heart at least, shall come 510
Words that accuse of guilt.


Enter Creon.


Creon. I come, ye citizens, as having learnt
Our sovereign, Œdipus, accuses me
Of dreadful things I cannot bear to hear.
For if, in these calamities of ours,
He thinks he suffers wrongly at my hands,
In word or deed, aught tending to his hurt,
I set no value on a life prolonged,
While this reproach hangs on me; for its harm
Affects not slightly, but is direst shame, 520
If through the town my name as villain rings,
By thee and by my friends a villain called.

Chorus. But this reproach, it may be, came from wrath
All hasty, rather than from calm, clear mind.

Creon. And who informed him that the seer, seduced
By my devices, spoke his lying words?

Chorus. The words were said, but with what mind I know not.

Creon. And was it with calm eyes and judgment calm,
This charge was brought against my name and fame?

Chorus. I cannot say. To what our rulers do 530
I close my eyes. But here he comes himself.


Enter Œdipus.


Œdip. Ho, there! is't thou? And does thy boldness soar
So shameless as to come beneath my roof,
When thou, 'tis clear, dost plot against my life,
And seek'st to rob me of my sovereignty?
Is it, by all the Gods, that thou hast seen
Or cowardice or folly in my soul,
That thou hast laid thy plans? Or thoughtest thou
That I should neither see thy sinuous wiles,
Nor, knowing, ward them off? This scheme of thine,
Is it not wild, backed nor by force nor friends, 540
To seek the power which force and wealth must grasp?

Creon. Dost know what thou wilt do? For words of thine
Hear like words back, and as thou hearest, judge.

Œdip. Cunning of speech art thou. But I am slow
Of thee to learn, whom I have found my foe.

Creon. Of this, then, first, hear what I have to speak. . . . .

Œdip. But this, then, say not, that thou art not vile.

Creon. If that thou thinkest self-willed pride avails,
Apart from judgment, know thou art not wise. 550

Œdip. If that thou think'st, thy kinsman injuring,
To do it unchastised, thou art not wise.

Creon. In this, I grant, thou speakest right; but tell,
What form of injury hast thou to endure?

Œdip. Did'st thou, or did'st thou not, thy counsel give,
Some one to send to fetch this reverend seer?

Creon. And even now by that advice I hold!

Œdip. How long a time has passed since Laios chanced . . . . [Pauses.

Creon. Chanced to do what? I understand not yet.

Œdip. Since he was smitten with the deadly blow? 560

Creon. The years would measure out a long, long tale.

Œdip. And was this seer then practising his art?

Creon. Full wise as now, and equal in repute.

Œdip. Did he at that time say a word of me?

Creon. Not one, while I, at any rate, was by.

Œdip. What? Held ye not your quest upon the dead?

Creon. Of course we held it, but we nothing heard.

Œdip. How was it he, this wise one, spoke not then?

Creon. I know not, and, not knowing, hold my peace.

Œdip. Thy deed thou know'st, and with clear mind could'st speak! 570

Creon. What is't ? I'll not deny it, if I know.

Œdip. Were he not leagued with thee he ne'er had talked
Of felon deed by me on Laios done.

Creon. If he says this, thou know'st it. I of thee
Desire to learn, as thou hast learnt of me.

Œdip. Learn then; on me no guilt of blood shall rest.

Creon. Well, then,—my sister? dost thou own her wife?

Œdip. I cannot meet this question with denial.

Creon. Rul'st thou this land in equal right with her?

Œdip. Her every wish she doth from me receive. 580

Creon. And am not I co-equal with you twain?

Œdip. Yes; and just here thou show'st thyself false friend.

Creon. Not so, if thou would'st reason with thyself,
As I will reason. First reflect on this;
Supposest thou that one would rather choose
To reign with fears than sleep untroubled sleep,
His power being equal? I, for one, prize less
The name of king than deeds of kingly power;
And so would all who learn in wisdom's school.
Now without fear I have what I desire, 590
At thy hand given. Did I rule, myself,
I might do much unwillingly. Why then
Should sovereignty exert a softer charm,
Than power and might unchequered by a care?
I am not yet so cheated by myself,
As to desire aught else but honest gain.
Now all men hail me, every one salutes,
Now they who seek thy favour court my smiles,
For on this hinge does all their fortune turn.
Why then should I leave this to hunt for that?
My mind, retaining reason, ne'er could act 600
The villain's part. I was not born to love
Such thoughts, nor join another in the act;
And as a proof of this, go thou thyself,
And ask at Pytho whether I brought back,
In very deed, the oracles I heard.
And if thou find me plotting with the seer,
In common concert, not by one decree,
But two, thine own and mine, put me to death.
But charge me not with crime on shadowy proof;
For neither is it just, in random thought,
The bad to count as good, nor good as bad; 610
For to thrust out a friend of noble heart,
Is like the parting with the life we love.
And this in time thou'lt know, for time alone
Makes manifest the righteous. Of the vile
Thou may'st detect the vileness in a day.

Chorus. To one who fears to fall, his words seem good;
Ο king, swift counsels are not always safe.

Œdip. But when a man is swift in wily schemes,
Swift must I be to baffle plot with plot;
And if I stand and wait, he wins the day, 620
And all my state to rack and ruin goes.

Creon. What seek'st thou, then? to drive me from the land?

Œdip. Not so. I seek thy death, not banishment.

Creon. When thou show'st first what grudge I bear to thee.

Œdip. And say'st thou this defying, yielding not?

Creon. I see your mind is gone.

Œdip. My right I mind.

Creon. Mine has an equal claim.

Œdip. Nay, thou art vile.

Creon. And if thy mind is darkened . . . . ?

Œdip. Still obey!

Creon. Nay, not a tyrant king.

Œdip. Ο country mine!

Creon. That country, too, is mine, not thine alone. 630

Chorus. Cease, Ο my princes! In good time I see
Jocasta coming hither from the house;
And it were well with her to hush this brawl.


Enter Jocasta.


Joc. Why, Ο ye wretched ones, this strife of tongues
Raise ye in your unwisdom, nor are shamed,
Our country suffering, private griefs to stir?
Come thou within; and thou, Ο Creon, go;
Bring not a trifling sore to mischief great!

Creon. My sister! Œdipus thy husband claims
The right to do me one of two great wrongs, 640
To thrust me from my fatherland, or slay me.

Œdip. 'Tis even so, for I have found him, wife,
Against my life his evil wiles devising.

Creon. May I ne'er prosper, but accursèd die,
If I have done the things he says I did!

Joc. Oh, by the Gods, believe him, Œdipus!
Respect his oath, which calls the Gods to hear;
And reverence me, and these who stand by thee.

Chorus. Hearken, my king! be calmer, I implore!

Œdip. What wilt thou that I yield? 650

Chorus. Oh, have respect
To one not weak before, who now is strong
In this his oath.

Œdip. And know'st thou what thou ask'st?

Chorus. I know right well.

Œdip. Say on, then, what thou wilt.

Chorus. Hurl not to shame, on grounds of mere mistrust,
*The friend on whom no taint of evil hangs.

Œdip. Know then that, seeking this, thou seek'st, in truth,
To work my death, or else my banishment.

Chorus. Nay, by the Sun-God, Helios, chief of Gods![22]
May I, too, die, of God and man accursed, 660
If I wish aught like this! But on my soul,
Our wasting land dwells heavily; ills on ills
*Still coming, new upon the heels of old.

Œdip. Let him depart then, even though I die,
Or from my country be thrust forth m shame: 670
Thy face, not his, I view with pitying eye;
For him, where'er he be, is nought but hate.

Creon. Thou 'rt loth to yield, 'twould seem, and wilt be vexed
When this thy wrath is over: moods like thine
Are fitly to themselves most hard to bear.

Œdip. Wilt thou not go, and leave me?

Creon. I will go,
By thee misjudged, but known as just by these.[Exit.

Chorus. Why, lady, art thou slow to lead him in?

Joc. I fain would learn how this sad chance arose. 680

Chorus. Blind haste of speech there was, and wrong will sting.

Joc. From both of them?

Chorus. Yea, both.

Joc. And what said each?

Chorus. Enough for me, enough, our land laid low,
It seems, to leave the quarrel where it stopped.

Œdip. See'st thou, thou good in counsel, what thou dost,
Slighting my cause, and toning down thy zeal?

Chorus. My chief, not once alone I spoke,
Unwise, unapt for wisdom should I seem, 690
Were I to turn from thee aside,
Who, when my country rocked in storm,
Did'st right her course. Ah! if thou can'st,
Steer her well onward now.

Joc. Tell me, my king, what cause of fell debate
Has bred this discord, and provoked thy soul.

Œdip. Thee will I tell, for thee I honour more 700
Than these. 'Twas Creon and his plots against me.

Joc. Say then, if clearly thou can'st tell the strife.

Œdip. He says that I am Laios' murderer.

Joc. Of his own knowledge, or by some one taught?

Œdip. A scoundrel seer suborning. For himself,
He takes good care to free his lips from blame.

Joc. Leave now thyself, and all thy thoughts of this,
And list to me, and learn how little skill
In art prophetic mortal man may claim;
And of this truth I'll give thee one short proof. 710
There came to Laios once an oracle,
(I say not that it came from Phœbos' self,
But from his servants,) that his fate was fixed
By his son's hand to fall—his own and mine;
And him, so rumour runs, a robber band
Of aliens slay, where meet the three great roads.
Nor did three days succeed the infant's birth,
Before, by other hands, he cast him forth,
Piercing his ancles, on a lonely hill.
Here, then, Apollo failed to make the boy 720
His father's murderer; nor by his son's hands,
Doom that he dreaded, did our Laios die;
Such things divining oracles proclaimed;
Therefore regard them not. Whate'er the God
Desires to search He will himself declare.

Œdip. [Trembling.] Ah, as but now I heard thee speak, my queen,
Strange whirl of soul, and rush of thoughts o'ercome me.

Joc. What vexing care bespeaks this sudden change?

Œdip. I thought I heard thee say that Laios fell,
Smitten to death, where meet the three great roads. 730

Joc. So was it said, and still the rumours hold.

Œdip. Where was the spot in which this matter passed?

Joc. They call the country Phocis, and the roads[23]
From Delphi and from Daulia there converge.

Œdip. And what the interval of time since then?

Joc. But just before thou camest to possess
And rule this land the tidings reached our city.

Œdip. Great Zeus! what fate hast thou decreed for me?

Joc. What thought is this, my Œdipus, of thine?

Œdip. Ask me not yet, but Laios, . . . tell of him, 740
His build, his features, and his years of life.

Joc. Tall was he, and the white hairs snowed his head,
And in his form not much unlike to thee.

Œdip. Woe, woe is me! so seems it I have plunged
All blindly into curses terrible.

Joc. What sayest thou? I fear to look at thee.

Œdip. I tremble lest the seer has seen indeed:
But thou can'st clear it, answering yet once more.

Joc. And I too fear, yet what thou ask'st I'll tell.

Œdip. Went he in humble guise, or with a troop 750
Of spearmen, as becomes a man that rules?

Joc. Five were they altogether, and of them
One was a herald, and one chariot bore him.

Œdip. Woe! woe! 'tis all too clear. And who was he
That told these tidings to thee, Ο my queen?

Joc. A servant who alone escaped with life.

Œdip. And does he chance to dwell among us now?

Joc. Not so; for from the time when he returned,
And found thee bearing sway, and Laios dead,
He, at my hand, a suppliant, implored 760
This boon, to send him to the distant fields
To feed his flocks, as far as possible
From this our city. And I sent him forth;
For though a slave, he might have claimed yet more.

Œdip. Ah! could we fetch him quickly back again!

Joc. That may well be. But why dost thou wish this?

Œdip. I fear, Ο queen, that words best left unsaid
Have passed these lips, and therefore wish to see him.

Joc. Well, he shall come. But some small claim have I,
Ο king, to learn what touches thee with woe. 770

Œdip. Thou shalt not fail to learn it, now that I
Have gone so far in bodings. Whom should I
More than to thee tell all the passing chance?
I had a father, Polybos of Corinth,
And Merope of Doris was my mother,
And I was held in honour by the rest
Who dwelt there, till this accident befel,
Worthy of wonder, of the heat unworthy
It roused within me. Thus it chanced: A man
At supper, in his cups, with wine o'ertaken,
Reviles me as a spurious changeling boy; 780
And I, sore vexèd, hardly for that day
Restrained myself. And when the morrow came
I went and charged my father and my mother
With what I thus had heard. They heaped reproach
On him who stirred the matter, and I soothed
My soul with what they told me; yet it teased,
Still vexing more and more; and so I went,
Unknown to them, to Pytho, and the God
Sent me forth shamed, unanswered in my quest;
And other things He spake, dread, dire, and dark, 790
That I should join in wedlock with my mother,
Beget a brood that men should loathe to look at,
Be murderer of the father that begot me.
And, hearing this, I straight from Corinth fled,
The stars thenceforth the land-marks of my way,
And fled where never more mine eyes might see
The shame of those dire oracles fulfilled;
And as I went I reached the spot where he,
This king, thou tell'st me, met the fatal blow.
And now, Ο lady, I will tell the truth. 800
Wending my steps that way where three roads meet,
There met me first a herald, and a man
Like him thou told'st of, riding on his car,
Drawn by young colts. With rough and hasty force
They drove me from the road,—the driver first,
And that old man himself; and then in rage
I strike the driver, who had turned me back.
And when the old man sees it, watching me
As by the chariot-side I passed, he struck
My forehead with a double-pointed goad.
But we were more than quits, for in a trice
With this right hand I struck him with my staff, 810
And he rolls backward from his chariot's seat.
And then I slay them all. And if it chance
That Laios and this stranger are akin,
What man more wretched than this man who speaks?
What man more harassed by the vexing Gods?
He whom none now, or alien, or of Thebes,
May welcome to their house, or speak to him,
But thrust him forth an exile. And 'twas I,
None other, who against myself proclaimed 820
These curses. And the bed of him that died
I with my hands, by which he fell, defile.
Am I not born to evil, all unclean?
If I must flee, yet still in flight my doom
Is never more to see the friends I love,
Nor tread my country's soil; or else to bear
The guilt of incest, and my father slay,
Yea, Polybos, who begat and brought me up.
Would not a man say right who said that here
Some cruel God was pressing hard on me?
Not that, not that, at least, thou Presence, pure 830
And awful, of the Gods; may I ne'er look
On such a day as that, but far away
Depart unseen from all the haunts of men,
Before such great pollution comes on me.

Chorus. We, too, Ο king, are grieved, yet hope thou on,
Till thou hast asked the man who then was by.

Œdip. And this indeed is all the hope I have,
Waiting until that shepherd-slave appear.

Joc. And when he comes, what ground for hope is there?

Œdip. I'll tell thee. Should he now repeat the tale
Thou told'st me, I, at least, stand free from guilt. 840

Joc. What special word was that thou heard'st from me?

Œdip. Thou said'st he told that robbers slew his lord,
And should he give their number as the same
Now as before, it was not I who slew him,
For one man could not be the same as many.
But if he speak of one man, all alone,
Then, all too plain, the deed cleaves fast to me.

Joc. But know, the thing was said, and clearly said,
And now he cannot from his word draw back.
Not I alone, but the whole city, heard it; 850
And should he now retract his former tale,
Not then, my husband, will he rightly show
The death of Laios, who, as Loxias told,
By my son's hands should die; and yet, poor boy,
He killed him not, but perished long ago.
So I, at least, for all their oracles,
Will never more cast glance or here, or there.

Œdip. Thou reasonest well. Yet send a messenger
To fetch that peasant. Be not slack in this. 860

Joc. I will make haste. But let us now go in;
I would do nothing that displeaseth thee.

[Exeunt

Stroph. I.

Chorus. Ο that 'twere mine to keep
An awful purity,
In words and deeds whose laws on high are set
Through heaven's clear æther spread,
Whose birth Olympos boasts,
Their one, their only sire,
Whom man's frail flesh begat not,
Nor in forgetfulness 870
Shall lull to sleep of death;
In them our God is great,
In them He grows not old for evermore.

Antistroph. I.

But pride begets the mood
Of wanton, tyrant power;
Pride filled with many thoughts, yet filled in vain,
Untimely, ill-advised,
Scaling the topmost height,
Falls to the abyss of woe,
Where step that profiteth
It seeks in vain to take.
I ask our God to stay
The labours never more
That work our country's good; 880
I will not cease to call on God for aid.

Stroph. II.

But if there be who walketh haughtily,
In action or in speech,
Whom Righteousness herself has ceased to awe,
Who shrines of Gods reveres not,
An evil fate be his,
(Fit meed for all his evil boastfulness;)
Unless he gain his gains more righteously,
*And draweth back from deeds of sacrilege,
*Nor lays rash hand upon the holy things,
By man inviolable: 890
Who now, if such things be,
*Will boast that he can guard
*His soul from darts of wrath?
If deeds like these are held in high repute,
What profit is 't for me
To raise my choral strain?

Antistroph. II.

No longer will I go in pilgrim's guise,
To yon all holy place,
Earth's central shrine, nor Abæ's temple old,
Nor to Olympia's fane,[24] 900
Unless these things shall stand
In sight all men, tokens clear from God.
But, Ο thou sovereign Ruler! if that name,
Ο Zeus, belongs to thee, who reign'st o'er all,
Let not this trespass hide itself from thee,
Or thine undying sway;
For now they set at nought
The worn-out oracles,
That Laios heard of old,
And king Apollo's wonted worship flags,
And all to wreck is gone
The homage due to God. 910


Enter Jocasta, followed by Attendants.


Joc. Princes of this our land, across my soul
There comes the thought to go from shrine to shrine
Of all the Gods, these garlands in my hand,
And waving incense; for our Œdipus
Vexes his soul too wildly with all woes,
And speaks not as a man should speak who scans
New issues by experience of the old,
But hangs on every breath that tells of fear.
And since I find that my advice avails not,
To thee, Lykeian King, Apollo, first
I come,—for thou art nearest,—suppliant 920
With these devotions, trusting thou wilt work
Some way of healing for us, free from guilt;
For now we shudder, all of us, seeing him,
The good ship's pilot, stricken down with fear.


Enter Messenger.


Mess. May I inquire of you, Ο strangers, where
To find the house of Œdipus the king,
And, above all, where he is, if ye know?

Chorus. This is the house, and he, good sir, within,
And here stands she, the mother of his children.

Mess. Good fortune be with her and all her kin,
Being, as she is, his true and honoured wife. 930

Joc. Like fortune be with thee, my friend. Thy speech,
So kind, deserves no less. But tell me why
Thou comest, what thou hast to ask or tell.

Mess. Good news to thee, and to thy husband, lady.

Joc. What is it, then? and who has sent thee here?

Mess. I come from Corinth, and the news I'll tell
May give thee joy. How else? Yet thou may'st grieve.

Joc. What is the news that has this twofold power?

Mess. The citizens that on the Isthmus dwell
Will make him sovereign. So the rumour ran. 940

Joc. What! Does old Polybos hold his own no more?

Mess. Nay, nay. Death holds him in his sepulchre.

Joc. What say'st thou? Polybos, thy king, is dead?

Mess. If I speak false, I bid you take my life.

Joc. Go, maiden, at thy topmost speed, and tell
Thy master this. Now, oracles of Gods,
Where are ye now? Long since my Œdipus
Fled, fearing lest his hand should slay the man;
And now he dies by fate, and not by him.


Enter Œdipus.


Œdip. Mine own Jocasta, why, Ο dearest one, 950
Why hast thou sent to fetch me from the house?

Joc. List this man's tale, and, when thou hearest, see
The plight of those the God's dread oracles.

Œdip. Who then is this, and what has he to tell?

Joc. He comes from Corinth, and he brings thee word
That Polybos thy father lives no more.

Œdip. What say'st thou, friend? Tell me thy tale thyself.

Mess. If I must needs report the story clear,
Know well that he has gone the way of death.

Œdip. Was it by plot, or chance of some disease? 960

Mess. An old man's frame a little stroke lays low.

Œdip. By some disease, 'twould seem, he met his death?

Mess. Yes, that, and partly worn by lingering age.

Œdip. Ha! ha! Why now, my queen, should we regard
The Pythian hearth oracular, or birds
In mid-air crying?[25] By their auguries,
I was to slay my father. And he dies,
And the grave hides him; and I find myself
Handling no sword; . . . unless for love of me
He pined away, and so I caused his death. 970
So Polybos is gone, and bears with him,
In Hades 'whelmed, those worthless oracles.

Joc. Did I not tell thee this long time ago?

Œdip. Thou did'st, but I was led away by fears.

Joc. Dismiss them, then, for ever from thy thoughts!

Œdip. And yet that "incest;" must I not fear that?

Joc. Why should we fear, when chance rules everything,
And foresight of the future there is none;
'Tis best to live at random, as one can.
But thou, fear not that marriage with thy mother: 980
Many ere now have dreamt of things like this,
But who cares least about them bears life best.

Œdip. Right well thou speakest all things, save that she
Still lives that bore me, and I can but fear,
Seeing that she lives, although thou speakest well.

Joc. And yet great light comes from thy father's grave.

Œdip. Great light I own; yet while she lives I fear.

Mess. Who is this woman about whom ye fear?

Œdip. 'Tis Merope, old sir, who lived with Polybos.

Mess. And what leads you to think of her with fear? 990

Œdip. A fearful oracle, my friend, from God.

Mess. Can'st tell it? or must others ask in vain?

Œdip. Most readily: for Loxias said of old
That I should with my mother wed, and then
With mine own hands should spill my father's blood.
And therefore Corinth long ago I left,
And journeyed far, right prosperously I own;—
And yet 'tis sweet to see one's parents' face.

Mess. And did this fear thy steps to exile lead? 1000

Œdip. I did not wish to take my father's life.

Mess. Why, then, Ο king, did I, with good-will come,
Not free thee from this fear that haunts thy soul?

Œdip. Yes, and for this thou shalt have worthy thanks.

Mess. For this, indeed, I chiefly came to thee;
That I on thy return might prosper well.

Œdip. And yet I will not with a parent meet.

Mess. 'Tis clear, my son, thou know'st not what thou dost.

Œdip. What is 't? By all the Gods, old man, speak out.

Mess. If 'tis for them thou fearest to return . . . . 1010

Œdip. I fear lest Phœbos prove himself too true.

Mess. Is it lest thou should'st stain thy soul through them?

Œdip. This self-same fear, old man, for ever haunts me.

Mess. And know'st thou not there is no cause for fear?

Œdip. Is there no cause if I was born their son?

Mess. None is there. Polybos was nought to thee.

Œdip. What say'st thou? Did not Polybos beget me?

Mess. No more than he thou speak'st to; just as much.

Œdip. How could a father's claim become as nought?

Mess. Well, neither he begat thee nor did I. 1020

Œdip. Why then did he acknowledge me as his?

Mess. He at my hands received thee as a gift.

Œdip. And could he love another's child so much?

Mess. Yes; for his former childlessness wrought on him.

Œdip. And gav'st thou me as foundling or as bought?

Mess. I found thee in Kithæron's shrub-grown hollow.

Œdip. And for what cause did'st travel thitherwards?

Mess. I had the charge to tend the mountain flocks.

Œdip. Wast thou a shepherd, then, and seeking hire?

Mess. E'en so, my son, and so I saved thee then. 1030

Œdip. What evil plight then did'st thou find me in?

Mess. The sinews of thy feet would tell that tale.

Œdip. Ah, me! why speak'st thou of that ancient wrong?

Mess. I freed thee when thy insteps both were pierced.

Œdip. A foul disgrace I had in swaddling clothes.

Mess. Thus from this chance there came the name thou bearest.

Œdip. [Starting.] Who gave the name, my father or my mother?

Mess. I know not. He who gave thee better knows.

Œdip. Did'st thou then take me from another's hand,
Not finding me thyself?

Mess. Not I, indeed;
Another shepherd made a gift of thee. 1040

Œdip. Who was he? Know'st thou how to point him out?

Mess. They called him one of those that Laios owned.

Œdip. Mean'st thou the former sovereign of this land?

Mess. E'en so. He fed the flocks of him thou nam'st.

Œdip. And is he living still that I might see him?

Mess. You, his own countrymen, should know that best.

Œdip. Is there of you who stand and listen here
One who has known the shepherd that he tells of,
Or seeing him upon the hills or here?
If so, declare it; 'tis full time to know. 1050

Chorus. I think that this is he whom from the fields
But now thou soughtest. But Jocasta here
Could tell thee this with surer word than I.

Œdip. Think'st thou, my queen, the man whom late we sent for
Is one with him of whom this stranger speaks?

Joc. [With forced calmness.] Whom did he speak of?
Care not thou for it,
Nor even wish to keep his words in mind.

Œdip. I cannot fail, once getting on the scent,
To track at last the secret of my birth.

Joc. Ah, by the Gods, if that thou valuest life 1060
Inquire no more. My misery is enough.

Œdip. Take heart; though I should prove thrice base-born slave,
Born of thrice base-born mother, thou art still
Free from all stain.

Joc. Yet, I implore thee, pause!
Yield to my counsels, do not do this deed.

Œdip. I may not yield, nor fail to search it out.

Joc. And yet best counsels give I, for thy good.

Œdip. What thou call'st best has long been grief to me.

Joc. May'st thou ne'er know, ill-starred one, who thou art!

Œdip. Will some one bring that shepherd to me here?
Leave her to glory in her high descent. 1070

Joc. Woe! woe! ill-fated one! my last word this,
This only, and no more for evermore. [Rushes out.

Chorus. Why has thy queen, Ο Œdipus, gone forth
In her wild sorrow rushing? Much I fear
Lest from such silence evil deeds burst out.

Œdip. Burst out what will; I seek to know my birth,
Low though it be, and she perhaps is shamed
(For, like a woman, she is proud of heart)
At thoughts of my low birth; but I, who count
Myself the child of Fortune, fear no shame; 1080
My mother she, and she has prospered me.
And so the months that span my life have made me
Both low and high; but whatsoe'er I be,
Such as I am I am, and needs must on
To fathom all the secret of my birth.

Stroph.

Chorus. If the seer's gift be mine,
Or skill in counsel wise,
Thou, Ο Kithæron, by Olympos high,
When next our full moon comes, 1090
Shalt fail not to resound
With cry that greets thee, fellow-citizen,
Mother and nurse of Œdipus;
And we will on thee weave our choral dance,
As bringing to our princes glad good news.
Hail, hail! Ο Phœbos, grant that what we do
May meet thy favouring smile.

Antistroph.

Who was it bore thee, child,[26]
Of Nymphs whose years are long,
Or drawing near the mighty Father, Pan, 1100
Who wanders o'er the hills,
Or Loxias' paramour,
Who loves the high lawns of the pasturing flocks?
Or was it He who rules
Kyllene's height; or did the Bacchic god,
Whose dwelling is upon the mountain peaks,
Receive thee, gift of Heliconian nymphs,
With whom He loves to sport?

Œdip. If I must needs conjecture, who as yet 1110
Ne'er met the man, I think I see the shepherd,
Whom this long while we sought for. In his age
He this man matches. And I see besides,
My servants bring him. Thou perchance can'st speak
From former knowledge yet more certainly.

Chorus. I know him, king, be sure; for this man stood,
If any, known as Laios' herdsman true.


Enter Shepherd.


Œdip. Thee first I ask, Corinthian stranger, say,
Is this the man?

Mess. The very man thou seekst 1120

Œdip. Ho there! old man. Come hither, look on me,
And tell me all. Did Laios own thee once?

Shep. His slave I was, not bought, but reared at home.

Œdip. What was thy work, or what thy mode of life?

Shep. Near all my life I followed with the flock.

Œdip. And in what regions did'st thou chiefly dwell?

Shep. Now 'twas Kithæron, now on neighbouring fields.

Œdip. Know'st thou this man? Did'st ever see him there?

Shep. What did he do? Of what man speakest thou?

Œdip. This man now present. Did ye ever meet? 1130

Shep. I cannot say off-hand from memory.

Mess. No wonder that, my lord. But I'll remind him
Right well of things forgotten. Well I know
He needs must know when on Kithæron's fields,
He with a double flock, and I with one,
I was his neighbour during three half years,
From springtide till Arcturos rose; and I
In winter to mine own fold drove my flocks,
And he to those of Laios. [To Shepherd.] Answer me, 1140
Speak I, or speak I not, the thing that was?

Shep. Thou speak'st the truth, although long years have passed.

Mess. Come, then, say on. Dost know thou gav'st me once
A boy, that I might rear him as my child?

Shep. What means this? Wherefore askest thou of that?

Mess. Here stands he, fellow! that same tiny boy.

Shep. A curse befall thee! Wilt not hold thy tongue?

Œdip. Rebuke him not, old man; thy words need more
The language of rebuker than do his.

Shep. Say, good my lord, what fault do I commit?

Œdip. This, that thou tell'st not of the child he asks for. 1150

Shep. Yes, for he nothing knows, and wastes his pains.

Œdip. For favour thou speak'st not, but shalt for pain. . . . [Strikes him.

Shep. By all the Gods, hurt not an old man weak.

Œdip. Will no one bind his hands behind his back?[27]

Shep. Oh wretched me! And what then wilt thou learn?

Œdip. Gav'st thou this man the boy of whom he asks?

Shep. I gave him. Would that I that day had died.

Œdip. Soon thou wilt come to that if thou speak'st wrong.

Shep. Nay, much more shall I perish if I speak.

Œdip. This fellow, as it seems, would tire us out. 1160

Shep. Not so. I said long since I gave it him.

Œdip. Whence came it? Was the child thine own or not?

Shep. Mine own 'twas not, from some one else I had it.

Œdip. Which of our people, or from out what home?

Shep. Oh, by the Gods, my master, ask no more!

Œdip. Thou diest if I question this again.

Shep. Some one it was of Laios' household born.

Œdip. Was it a slave, or some one kin to him?

Shep. Ah me, I stand upon the very brink
Where most I dread to speak.

Œdip. And I to hear:
And yet I needs must hear it, come what may. 1170

Shep. The boy was said to be his son; but she,
Thy queen within, could tell the whole truth best.

Œdip. What! was it she who gave it?

Shep. Yea, Ο king!

Œdip. And to what end?

Shep. To make away with it.

Œdip. And dared a mother . . . ?

Shep. Auguries dark she feared.

Œdip. What were they?

Shep. E'en that he his sire should kill.

Œdip. Why then did'st thou to this old man resign him?

Shep. I pitied him, Ο master, and I thought
That he would bear him to another land,
Whence he himself had come. But him he saved
For direst evil. For if thou be he 1180
Whom this man speaks of, thou art evil-starred.

Œdip. Woe! woe! woe! woe! all cometh clear at last.
Ο light, may this my last glance be on thee,
Who now am seen owing my birth to those
To whom I ought not, and with whom I ought not
In wedlock living, whom I ought not slaying.

[Exit.

Stroph. I.

Chorus. Ah, race of mortal men,
How as a thing of nought
I count ye, though ye live;
For who is there of men
That more of blessing knows, 1190
Than just a little while
To seem to prosper well,
And, having seemed, to fall?
With thee as pattern given,
Thy destiny, e'en thine,
Ill-fated Œdipus,
I count nought human blest.

antistroph. I.

For he, with wondrous skill,
Taking his aim, did hit
Success, in all things blest;
And did, Ο Zeus! destroy
The Virgin with claws bent,
And sayings wild and dark;
And against many deaths
A tower and strong defence 1200
Did for my country rise:
And so thou king art named,
With highest glory crowned,
Ruling in mighty Thebes.

Stroph. II.

And now, who lives than thou more miserable?
Who equals thee in wild woes manifold,
In shifting turns of life?
Ah, noble one, our Œdipus!
For whom the same wide harbour
Sufficed for sire and son,
In marriage rites to enter:
Ah how, ah, wretched one,
How could thy father's bed
Receive thee, and so long, 1210
Even till now, be dumb?

Antistroph. II.

Time, who sees all things, he hath found thee out,
Against thy will, and long ago condemned
The wedlock none may wed,
Begetter and begotten.
Ah, child of Laios ! would
I ne'er had seen thy face!
I mourn with wailing lips,
Mourn sore exceedingly.
'Tis simplest truth to say,
By thee from death I rose, 1220
By thee in death I sleep.

 

Enter Second Messenger.


Sec. Mess. Ye chieftains, honoured most in this our land,
What deeds ye now will hear of, what will see,
How great a wailing will ye raise, if still
Ye truly love the house of Labdacos!
For sure I think that neither Istros' stream
Nor Phasis' floods could purify this house,[28]
Such horrors does it hold. But soon 'twill show
Evils self-chosen, not without free choice: 1230
These self-sought sorrows ever pain men most.

Chorus. The ills we knew before lacked nothing meet
For plaint and moaning. Now, what add'st thou more?

Sec. Mess. Quickest for me to speak, and thee to learn;
Our sacred queen Jocasta,—she is dead.

Chorus. Ah, crushed with many sorrows! How and why?

Sec. Mess. Herself she slew. The worst of all that passed
I must omit, for none were there to see.
Yet, far as memory suffers me to speak,
That sorrow-stricken woman's end I'll tell; 1240
For when to passion yielding, on she passed
Within the porch, straight to the couch she rushed,
Her bridal bed, with both hands tore her hair,
And as she entered, dashing through the doors,
Calls on her Laios, dead long years ago,
Remembering that embrace of long ago,
Which brought him death, and left to her who bore,
With his own son a hateful motherhood.
And o'er her bed she wailed, where she had borne
Spouse to her spouse, and children to her child; 1250
And how she perished after this I know not;
For Œdipus struck in with woeful cry,
And we no longer looked upon her fate,
But gazed on him as to and fro he rushed.
For so he raves, and asks us for a sword,
Wherewith to smite the wife that wife was none,
The womb polluted with accursèd births,
Himself, his children,—so, as thus he raves,
Some spirit shows her to him, (none of us
Who stood hard by had done so): with a shout
Most terrible, as some one led him on, 1260
Through the two gates he leapt, and from the wards
He slid the hollow bolt, and rushes in;
And there we saw his wife had hung herself,
By twisted cords suspended. When her form
He saw, poor wretch! with one wild, fearful cry,
The twisted rope he loosens, and she fell,
Ill-starred one, on the ground. Then came a sight
Most fearful. Tearing from her robe the clasps,
All chased with gold, with which she decked herself,
He with them struck the pupils of his eyes, 1270
With words like these—"Because they had not seen
What ills he suffered and what ills he did,
They in the dark should look, in time to come,
On those whom they ought never to have seen,
Nor know the dear ones whom he fain had known,"
With such like wails, not once or twice alone,
Raising his eyes, he smote them, and the balls,
All bleeding, stained his cheek, nor poured they forth
Gore drops slow trickling, but the purple shower
Fell fast and full, a pelting storm of blood.
Such were the ills that sprang from both of them,
Not on one only, wife and husband both. 1280
His ancient fortune, which he held of old,
Was truly fortune; but for this day's doom
Wailing and woe, and death and shame, all forms
That man can name of evil, none have failed.

Chorus. What rest from suffering hath the poor wretch now?

Sec. Mess. He calls to us to ope the bolts, and show
To all in Thebes his father's murderer,
His mother's . . . . Foul and fearful were the words
He spoke; I dare not speak them. Then he said
That he would cast himself adrift, nor stay 1290
At home accursèd, as himself had cursed.
Some stay he surely needs, or guiding hand,
For greater is the ill than he can bear,
And this he soon will show thee, for the bolts
Of the two gates are opening, and thou 'lt see
A sight to touch e'en hatred's self with pity.


The doors of the Palace are thrown open, and Œdipus is seen within.


Chorus. Oh, fearful sight for men to look upon!
Most fearful of all woes
I hitherto have known! What madness strange
Has come on thee, thou wretched one? 1300
What Power with one fell swoop,
Ills heaping upon ills,
Than greatest greater yet,
Has marked thee for its prey?
Woe! woe! thou doomed one, wishing much to ask,
And much to learn, and much to gaze into,
I cannot look on thee,
So horrible the sight!

Œdip. Ah, woe! ah, woe! ah, woe!
Woe for my misery!
Where am I wandering in my utter woe?
Where floats my voice in air?
Dread Power, with crushing might 1310
Thou leaped'st on my head.

Chorus. Yea, with dread doom nor sight nor speech may bear.

Œdip. Ο cloud of darkness, causing one to shrink,
That onward sweeps with dread ineffable,
Resistless, borne along by evil blast,
Woe, woe, and woe again!
How through me darts the throb these clasps have caused,
And memory of my ills.

Chorus. And who can wonder that in such dire woes
Thou mournest doubly, bearing twofold ills? 1320

Œdip. Ah, friend,
Thou only keepest by me, faithful found,
Nor dost the blind one slight.
Woe, woe,
For thou escap'st me not; I clearly know,
Though all is dark, at least that voice of thine.

Chorus. Ο man of fearful deeds, how could'st thou bear
Thine eyes to outrage? What Power stirred thee to it?

Œdip. Apollo, oh, my friends, the God, Apollo,
Who worketh out all these, my bitter woes; 1330
Yet no man's hand but mine has smitten them.
What need for me to see,
When nothing's left that's sweet to look upon?

Chorus. Too truly dost thou speak the thing that is.

Œdip. Yea, what remains to see,
Or what to love, or hear,
With any touch of joy?
Lead me away, my friends, with utmost speed 1340
Lead me away, the foul polluted one,
Of all men most accursed,
Most hateful to the Gods.

Chorus. Ah, wretched one, alike in soul and doom,
I fain could wish that I had never known thee.

Œdip. Ill fate be his who from the fetters freed
*The child upon the hills,
*And rescued me from death, 1350
And saved me,—thankless boon!
Ah! had I died but then,
Nor to my friends nor me had been such woe.

Chorus. I, too, could fain wish that.

Œdip. Yes; then I had not been
My father's murderer:
Nor had men pointed to me as the man
Wedded with her who bore him.
But now all godless, born of impious stock, 1360
In incest joined with her who gave me birth;—
Yea, if there be an evil worse than all,
It falls on Œdipus!

Chorus. I may not say that thou art well-advised,
For better wert thou dead than living blind.

Œdip. Persuade me not, nor counsel give to show
That what I did was not the best to do. 1370
I know not with what eyes, in Hades dark,
To look on mine own father or my mother,
When I against them both, alas! have done
Deeds for which strangling were too light a doom.
My children's face, forsooth, was sweet to see,
Their birth being what it was; nay, nay, not so
To these mine eyes, nor yet this, nor tower,
Nor sacred shrines of Gods whence I, who stood
Most honoured one in Thebes, myself have banished, 1380
Commanding all to thrust the godless forth,
Him whom the Gods do show accursed, the stock
Of Laios old. And could I dare to look,
Such dire pollution fixing on myself,
And meet these face to face? Not so, not so.
Yea, if I could but stop the stream of sound,
And dam mine ears against it, I would do it,
Sealing my carcase vile, that I might live
Both blind, and hearing nothing. Sweet 'twould be
To keep my soul beyond the reach of ills. 1390
Why, Ο Kithæron, did'st thou shelter me,
Nor kill me out of hand? I had not shown,
In that case, all men whence I drew my birth.
Ο Polybos, and Corinth, and the home
Of old called mine, how strange a growth ye reared,
All fair outside, all rotten at the core;
For vile I stand, descended from the vile.
Ye threefold roads and thickets half concealed,
The copse, the narrow pass where three ways meet,
Which at my hands did drink my father's blood, 1400
Remember ye, what deeds I did in you,
What, hither come, I did?—Ο marriage rites
That gave me birth, and, having borne me, gave
To me in turn an offspring, and ye showed
Fathers, and sons, and brothers, all in one,
Mothers, and wives, and daughters, hateful names,
All foulest deeds that men have ever done.
But, since, where deeds are evil, speech is wrong,
With utmost speed, by all the Gods, or slay me,
Or drive me forth, or hide me in the sea, 1410
Where never more your eyes may look on me.
Come, scorn ye not to touch a wretch like me,
But hearken; fear ye not; no soul save me
Can bear the burden of my countless ills.
But ye, if ye have lost your sense of shame
For mortal men, yet reverence the light
Of him, our King, the Sun-God, source of life,
Nor sight so foul expose unveiled to view,
Which neither earth, nor shower from heaven, nor light,
Can see and welcome. But with utmost speed
Convey me in; for nearest kin alone 1420
Can meetly see and hear their kindred's ills.[29]

Chorus. The man for what thou need'st is come in time,
Creon, to counsel, and to act, for now
He in thy stead is left our state's one guide.[30]

Œdip. Ah, me! what language shall I hold to him,
What trust at his hands claim? In all the past
I showed myself to him most vile and base.


Enter Creon.


Creon. I have not come, Ο Œdipus, to scorn,
Nor to reproach thee for thy former crimes.

Œdip. Oh, by the Gods! since thou, beyond my hopes, 1430
Dost come all noble unto me all base,
One favour grant. I seek thy good, not mine.

Creon. And what request seek'st thou so wistfully?

Œdip. Cast me with all thy speed from out this land,
Where nevermore a man may speak to me!

Creon. Be sure, I would have done so, but I wished
To learn what now the God will bid us do.

Œdip. The oracle was surely clear enough 1440
That I the parricide, the pest, should die.

Creon. So ran the words. But in our present need
'Tis better to learn surely what to do.

Œdip. And will ye ask for one so vile as I?

Creon. Yea, thou, too, now would'st trust the voice of God.

Œdip. And this I charge thee, yea, and supplicate;
For her within, provide what tomb thou wilt,
For for thine own most meetly thou wilt care;
But never let this city of my fathers
Be sentenced to receive me as its guest; 1450
But suffer me on yon lone hills to dwell,
On my Kithæron, destined for my tomb,
While still I lived, by mother and by sire,
That I may die by those who sought to kill.
And yet this much I know, that no disease,
Nor aught else could have killed me; ne'er from death
Had I been saved but for some evil dread.
As for our fate, let it go where it will;
But for my children, of my boys, Ο Creon,
Take thou no thought; as men they will not feel, 1460
Where'er they be, the lack of means to live.
But for my two poor girls, all desolate,
To whom my table never brought a meal
Without my presence, but whatever I touched
They still partook of with me;—care for these;
Yea, let me touch them with my hands, and weep
With them my sorrows. Grant it, Ο my prince,
Ο born of noble nature!
Could I but touch them with my hands, I feel
Still I should have them mine, as when I saw. 1470


Enter Antigone and Ismene.


What say I? What is this?
Do I not hear, ye Gods, their dear, loved tones,
Broken with sobs, and Creon, pitying me,
Hath sent the dearest of my children to me?
Is it not so?

Creon. It is so. I am he who gives thee this,
Knowing the joy thou had'st in them of old.

Œdip. A blessing on thee! May the Powers on high
Guard thy path better than they guarded mine!
Where are ye, Ο my children? Come, oh, come 1480
To these your brother's hands, that now have brought
Your father's once bright eyes to this fell pass,
Who, Ο my children, blind and knowing nought,
Became your father e'en by her who bore me.
I weep for you, (for sight is mine no more,)
Picturing in mind the sad and dreary life
Which waits you at men's hands in years to come;
For to what friendly gatherings will ye go,
Or solemn feasts, from whence, for all the joy
And pride, ye shall not home return in tears? 1490
And when ye come to marriageable age,
Who is there, Ο my children, rash enough
To make his own the shame that then will fall,
Reproaches on my parents, and on yours?
What evil fails us here? Your father killed
His father, and was wed in incest foul
With her who bore him, and you twain begat
Of her who gave him birth. Such shame as this
Will men lay on you, and who then will dare
To make you his in marriage? None, not one, 1500
My children! but ye needs must waste away,
Unwedded, childless. Thou, Menœkeus' son,
Since thou alone art left a father to them,
(For we their parents perish utterly,)
Suffer them not to wander husbandless,
Nor let thy kindred beg their daily bread,
Nor make them sharers with me in my woe;
But look on them with pity, seeing them
At their age, but for thee, deprived of all.
Ο noble soul, I pray thee, touch my hand 1510
In token of consent. And ye, my girls,
Had ye the minds to hearken I would fain
Give ye much counsel. As it is, pray for me
To live where'er is meet; and for yourselves
A brighter life than his ye call your sire.

Creon. Enough of tears. Go thou within the house.

Œdip. I needs must yield, however hard it be.

Creon. In their right season all things prosper best.

Œdip. Know'st thou my wish?

Creon. Speak and I then shall know.

Œdip. That thou should'st send me far away from home.

Creon. Thou askest what the Gods alone can give.

Œdip. As for the Gods, above all men they hate me.

Creon. And therefore it may chance thou gain'st thy wish.

Œdip. And dost thou promise? 1520

Creon. When I mean them not,
I am not wont to utter idle words.

Œdip. Lead me, then, hence.

Creon. Go thou, but leave the girls.

Œdip. Ah, take them not from me!

Creon. Thou must not think
To hold the sway in all things all thy life:
The sway thou had'st did not abide with thee.

Chorus. Ye men of Thebes, behold this Œdipus,
Who knew the famous riddle and was noblest,
Whose fortune who saw not with envious glances?
And, lo! in what a sea of direst trouble
He now is plunged. From hence the lesson learn ye,
To reckon no man happy till ye witness
The closing day; until he pass the border
Which severs life from death, unscathed by sorrow.



  1. THE ORACLE TO LAIOS.
    Laios, Labdacos' son, thou askest for birth of fair offspring;
    Lo! I will give thee a son, but know that Destiny orders
    That thou by the boy's hand must die, for so to the curses of Pelops,
    Whom of his son thou hast robbed, Zeus, son of Kronos, hath granted,
    And he, in his trouble of heart, called all this sorrow upon thee.
  2. THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX.
    There lives upon earth a being, two-footed, yea, and with four feet,
    Yea, and with three feet, too, yet his voice continues unchanging;
    And, lo! of all things that move in earth, in heaven, or in ocean,
    He only changes his nature, and yet when on most feet he walketh,
    Then is the speed of his limbs most weak and utterly powerless.
  3. ANSWER OF ŒDIPUS.
    Hear thou against thy will, thou dark-winged Muse of the slaughtered,
    Hear from my lips the end, bringing a close to thy crime.
    Man is it thou hast described, who, when on earth he appeareth,
    First as a babe from the womb, fear-footed creeps on his way,
    Then when old age cometh on, and the burden of years weighs full heavy,
    Bending his shoulders and neck, as a third foot useth his staff.
  4. The starting-point of the cycle of Œdipus' legends is found in the Odyssey, xi. 271, where Odysseus describes the spectres that he saw in Hades:—

    "And there I looked on Epicasta's form,
    Mother of Œdipus, who, knowing not,
    Wrought greatest guilt, her own son marrying;
    And he his father slew, and married her.
    But soon the Gods disclosed it all to men,
    And he, with many woes, in Thebes beloved,
    Through fateful counsels of the Gods, ruled long
    O'er the Cadmeians. She, with woe outworn,
    To Hades went, strong warder of the dead,
    A long noose letting down from lofty roof.
    And many a woe she left behind to him,

    Which the Erinnyes of his mother work."

    With this it will be interesting to compare Pindar, Olymp., ii. 35–42:—

    "So Destiny, who keeps of olden time
    The goodly fortune of an honoured race,
    With prosperous years from God,
    Leads it another while
    Backward to bale and woe:
    E'en when the fateful son of Laios killed
    The father whom he met,
    And so fulfilled
    The Oracle in Pytho given of old,
    And seeing it, she slew,
    Erinnyes, clear of sight,

    The warrior race, with fratricidal hand."

    Æschylos (B.C. 471) had made it the subject of a Trilogy, tracing the working of the curse in Laios, Œdipus, the Seven against Thebes, of which only the last is extant.

    The date of composition is uncertain. Hypotheses, which connect the description of the plague at Thebes with that at Athens in B.C. 429, or the protests against impiety with the mutilation of the Hermæ in B.C. 415, are at best uncertain.

  5. These numerals refer to the Greek text, not to the translation.
  6. Probably, as at Athens Athena had two temples as Polias and Parthenos, so also at Thebes there were two shrines dedicated to her under different names, as Onkæa and Ismenia.
  7. The tribute of human victims paid to the Sphinx, the "Muse of the slaughtered," till her riddle was solved by Œdipus.
  8. Creon, coming from Delphi, wears a wreath of the Parnassian laurel, its red berries mingling with the dark, glossy leaves.
  9. The oracle, though given by Apollo, is yet the voice of Zeus, of whom Apollo is but the prophet, spokesman.
  10. Apollo, born in Delos, passed through Attica to Pytho, his shrine at Delphi.
  11. The Three named—Athena, Artemis, Phœbos—were the guardian deities of Thebes; but the tendency to bring three names together in one group in oaths and invocations runs through Greek worship generally.
  12. Pluto, dwelling where the sun sinks into darkness. The symbolism of the West as the region of dead and evil, of the East as that of light and truth, belongs to the earliest parables of nature.
  13. The Pestilence, previously (v. 27) personified, is now identified with Ares, the God of slaughter, and, as such, the foe of the more benign deities.
  14. The Chorus prays that the pestilence may be driven either to the far western ocean, beyond the pillars of Heracles, the couch of Amphitrite, the bride of Neptune, or to the northern coasts of the Euxine, where Ares was worshipped as the special God of the Thracians.
  15. Bacchos, as born in Thebes, was known as the Cadmeian king, the Bœotian God, while Thebes took from him the epithet Bacchia.
  16. So, in the Iliad, Ares is, of all the Gods of Olympos, most hateful to Zeus, (v. 890,) as the cause of all strife and slaughter.
  17. I follow Schneidewin's arrangement of this portion of the speech.
  18. Œdipus, as if identifying himself already with the kingly house, goes through the whole genealogy up to the remote ancestor.
  19. The imprecation agrees almost verbally with the curse of the Amphictyonic councils against sacrilege.
  20. The special name of Apollo as the prophetes of Zeus, and therefore the guardian of all seers and prophets.
  21. Delphi, thought of by the Greeks, as Jerusalem was in the middle ages, as the centre of the whole earth.
  22. Helios, specially invoked as the giver of light, discerning and making manifest all hidden things.
  23. The meeting place of the three roads is now the site of a decayed Turkish village, the Stavrodrom of Mparpanas.

    In Æschylos (Fragm. 160), the scene of the murder was laid at Potniæ, on the road between Thebes and Platæa. As the name indicates, the Erinnyes were worshipped there.

  24. The central shrine is, as in 480, Delphi, where a white oval stone was supposed to be the very centre, or omphalos of the earth. At Abæ, in Phocis, was an oracle of Apollo, believed to be older than that of Delphi. In Olympia, the priests of Zeus divined from the clearness or dimness of the fire upon the altar.
  25. The "Pythian hearth," with special reference to the apparent failure of the Delphic oracle; "birds," to that of the auguries of Teiresias.
  26. The Chorus, thinking only of the wonder of Œdipus's birth, plays with the conjecture that he is the offspring of the Gods, of Pan, the God of the hills, or Apollo, the prophet God, or Hermes, worshipped on Kyllene in Arcadia; or Bacchos, roaming on the highest peaks of Parnassos. The Heliconian nymphs are, of course, the Muses.
  27. Sc., Will no one scourge him at my command; and make him confess?
  28. Istros as the great river of Europe, Phasis of Asia.
  29. I follow Schneidewin in transferring the last lines from Creon (after 1430) to Œdipus.
  30. The two sons of Œdipus, Polyneikes and Eteocles, the Chorus thinks of as too young to reign.