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Sophocles (c.496 B.C.–406 B.C.).  Oedipus the King.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Lines 1000–1584
 
 
I was to slay my father. And he dies,        1000
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.
So Polybus is gone, and with him lie,        1004
In Hades whelmed, those worthless oracles.
 
JOC.  Did I not tell thee this long time ago?
 
ŒDIP.  Thou didst, but I was led away by fears.
 
JOC.  Dismiss them, then, for ever from thy thoughts!        1008
 
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.        1012
But thou, fear not that marriage with thy mother:
Such things men oft have dreams of; but who cares
The least about them lives the happiest.
 
ŒDIP.  Right well thou speakest all things, save that she        1016
Still lives that bore me, and I can but fear,
Seeing that she lives, although thou speakest well.
 
JOC.  And yet thy father’s grave’s a spot of light.
 
ŒDIP.  ’Tis so: yet while she liveth there is fear.        1020
 
MESS.  Who is this woman about whom ye fear?
 
ŒDIP.  ’Tis Merope, old sir, who lived with Polybus.
 
MESS.  And what leads you to think of her with fear?
 
ŒDIP.  A fearful oracle, my friend, from God.        1024
 
MESS.  Canst tell it; or must others ask in vain?
 
ŒDIP.  Most readily; for Loxias said of old
The doom of incest lay on me, and I
With mine own hands should spill my father’s blood.        1028
And therefore Corinth long ago I left,
And journeyed far, right prosperously I own;—
And yet ’tis sweet to see a parent’s face.
 
MESS.  And did this fear thy steps to exile lead?        1032
 
ŒDIP.  I did not wish to take my father’s life.
 
MESS.  Why, the, O king, did I who came with good
Not free thee from this fear that haunts thy soul?
 
ŒDIP.  For this, I own, I owe thee worthy thanks.        1036
 
MESS.  For this, I own, I chiefly came to thee;
That I on thy return may prosper well.
 
ŒDIP.  But I return not while a parent lives.
 
MESS.  ’Tis clear, my son, thou know’st not what thou dost.        1040
 
ŒDIP.  What is’t? By all the Gods, old man, speak out.
 
MESS.  If ’tis for them thou fearest to return…
 
ŒDIP.  I fear lest Phœbus prove himself too true.
 
MESS.  Is it lest thou shouldst stain thy soul through them?        1044
 
ŒDIP.  This selfsame 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. Polybus is naught to thee.        1048
 
ŒDIP.  What say’st thou? Did not Polybus beget me?
 
MESS.  No more than he thou speak’st to; just as much.
 
ŒDIP.  How could a father’s claim become as naught?
 
MESS.  Well, neither he begat thee nor did I.        1052
 
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 this former childlessness wrought on him.        1056
 
ŒDIP.  And gav’st thou me as buying or as finding?
 
MESS.  I found thee in Kithæron’s shrub-grown hollow.
 
ŒDIP.  And for what cause didst travel thitherwards?
 
MESS.  I had the charge to tend the mountain flocks.        1060
 
ŒDIP.  Was thou a shepherd born, or seeking hire?
 
MESS.  At any rate, my son, I saved thee then.
 
ŒDIP.  What evil, plight, then, didst thou find me in?
 
MESS.  The sinews of thy feet would tell that tale.        1064
 
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 his chance there came the name thou bearest.        1068
 
ŒDIP.  [starting] Who gave the name, my father or my mother;
In heaven’s name tell me?
 
MESS.  This I do not know;
Who gave thee to me better knows than I.        1072
 
ŒDIP.  Didst thou, then, take me from another’s hand,
Not finding me thyself?
 
MESS.  Not I, indeed;
Another shepherd made a gift of thee.        1076
 
ŒDIP.  Who was he? know’st thou where to find him out?
 
MESS.  They called him one of those that Laius owned.
 
ŒDIP.  Mean’s thou the former sovereign of this land?
 
MESS.  E’en so. He fed the flocks of him thou nam’st.        1080
 
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,        1084
Or seeing him upon the hills or here?
If so, declare it; ’tis full time to speak!
 
CHORUS  I think that this is he whom from the hills
But now thou soughtest. But Jocasta here        1088
Could tell thee this with surer word than I.
 
ŒDIP.  Knowest thou, my queen, the man whom late we sent
To fetch; and him of whom this stranger speaks?
 
JOC.  [with forced calmness] Whom did he speak of? Care not thou for it,        1092
But wish his words may be but idle tales.
 
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        1096
Inquire no further. Let my woe suffice.
 
ŒDIP.  Take heart; though I should turn out thrice a slave,
Born of a thrice vile mother, thou art still
Free from all stain.        1000
 
JOC.  Yet, I implore thee, pause!
Yield to my counsels, do not do this deed.
 
ŒDIP.  I may not yield, and fail to search it out.
 
JOC.  And yet good counsels give I, for thy good.        1104
 
ŒDIP.  This “for my good” has been my life’s long plague.
 
JOC.  Who thou art, hapless, mayst thou never know!
 
ŒDIP.  Will some one bring that shepherd to me here?
Leave her to glory in her high descent.        1108
 
JOC.  Woe! woe! ill-fated one! my last word this,
This only, and no more for evermore.  [Rushes out.
 
CHORUS  Why has thy queen, O Œdipus, gone forth
In her wild sorrow rushing. Much I fear        1112
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)        1116
At thoughts of my low birth; but I, who count
Myself the child of Fortune, fear no shame.
My mother she, and she has prospered me.
And so the months that span my life have made me        1120
Both high and low; 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,
        1124
    Or skill in counsel wise,
Thou, O Kithæron, when the morrow comes,
    Our full-moon festival,
Shalt fail not to resound        1128
    The voice that greets thee, fellow-citizen,
  Parent and nurse of Œdipus;
And we will on thee weave our choral dance,
As bringing to our princes glad good news.        1132
Hail, hail! O Phœbus, smile on this our prayer.
 
ANTISTROPH


Who was it, child, that bore thee?
Blest daughter of the ever-living Ones,
Or meeting in the ties of love with Pan,        1136
    Who wanders o’er the hills,
    Or with thee, Loxias, for to thee are dear
All the high lawns where roam the pasturing flocks;
Or was it he who rules Kyllene’s height;        1140
    Or did the Bacchic God,
    Upon the mountain’s peak,
Receive thee as the gift of some fair nymph
    Of Helicon’s fair band,        1144
With whom he sports and wantons evermore?
 
ŒDIP.  If I must needs conjecture, who as yet
Ne’er met the man, I think I see the shepherd,
Whom this long while we sought for. With the years        1148
His age fits well. And now I see, besides,
My servants bring him. Thou perchance canst say
From former knowledge yet more certainly.
 
CHORUS  I know him well, O king! For this man stood,        1152
If any, known as Laius’ faithful slave.
 
Enter Shepherd


ŒDIP.  Thee first I ask, Corinthian stranger, say,
Is this the man?
 
MESS.  The very man thou seek’st.        1156
 
ŒDIP.  Ho, there, old man. Come hither, look on me,
And tell me all. Did Laius own thee once?
 
SHEP  Not as a slave from market, but home-reared.
 
ŒDIP.  What was thy work, or what thy mode of life?        1160
 
SHEP  Near all my life I followed with the flock.
 
ŒDIP.  And in what regions didst thou chiefly dwell?
 
SHEP  Now ’twas Kithæron, now on neighbouring fields.
 
ŒDIP.  Know’st thou this man? Didst ever see him there?        1164
 
SHEP  What did he do? Of what man speakest thou?
 
ŒDIP.  This man now present. Did ye ever meet?
 
SHEP  My memory fails when taxed thus suddenly.
 
MESS.  No wonder that, my lord. But I’ll remind him        1168
Right well of things forgotten. Well I know
He’ll call to mind when on Kithæron’s fields,
He with a double flock, and I with one,
I was his neighbour during three half years,        1172
From springtide on to autumn; and in winter
I drove my flocks to mine own fold, and he
To those of Laius. [To SHEPHERD] Is this false or true?
 
SHEP  Thou tell’st the truth, although long years have passed.        1176
 
MESS.  Come, then, say, on. Rememberest thou a boy
Thou gav’st me once, that I might rear him up
As mine own child?
 
SHEP  Why askest thou of this?        1180
 
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 reproaches than do his.        1184
 
SHEP  Say, good my lord, what fault have I committed?
 
ŒDIP.  This, that thou tell’st not of the child he asks for.
 
SHEP  Yes, for he speaks in blindness, wasting breath.
 
ŒDIP.  Thou wilt not speak for favour, but a blow…  [Strikes him.        1188
 
SHEP  By all the Gods, hurt not my feeble age.
 
ŒDIP.  Will no one bind his hands behind his back?
 
SHEP  O man most wretched! what, then, wilt thou learn?
 
ŒDIP.  Gav’st thou this man the boy of whom he asks?        1192
 
SHEP  I gave him. Would that day had been my last!
 
ŒDIP.  That doom will soon be thine 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.        1196
 
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, but some one gave it me,
 
ŒDIP.  Which of our people, or beneath what roof?        1200
 
SHEP  Oh, by the Gods, my master, ask no more!
 
ŒDIP.  Thou diest if I question this again.
 
SHEP  Some one it was in Laius’ household born.
 
ŒDIP.  Was it a slave, or some one born to him?        1204
 
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.        1208
 
SHEP  The boy was said to be his son; but she,
Thy queen within, could tell thee best the truth.
 
ŒDIP.  What! was it she who gave it?
 
SHEP  Yea, O king!        1212
 
ŒDIP.  And to what end?
 
SHEP  To make away with it.
 
ŒDIP.  And dared a mother…?
 
SHEP  Evil doom she feared.        1216
 
ŒDIP.  What doom?
 
SHEP  ’Twas said that he his sire should kill.
 
ŒDIP.  Why, then, didst thou to this old man resign him?
 
SHEP  I pitied him, O master, and I thought        1220
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
Whom this man speaks of, thou art born to ill.        1224
 
ŒDIP.  Woe! woe! woe! woe! all cometh clear at last.
O light, may I ne’er look on thee again,
Who now am seen owing my birth to those
To whom I ought not, and with whom I ought not        1228
In wedlock living, whom I ought not slaying.  [Exit.
 
STROPH. I


CHORUS  Ah, race of mortal men,
How as a thing of naught
I count ye, though ye live;        1232
For who is there of men
That more of blessing knows
Than just a little while
In a vain show to stand,        1236
And, having stood, to fall?
With thee before mine eyes,
Thy destiny, e’en thine,
Ill-fated Œdipus,        1240
I can count no man blest.
 
ANTISTROPH. I


For thou, with wondrous skill,
Taking thine aim, didst hit
Success, in all things prosperous;        1244
And didst, O Zeus! destroy
The Virgin with her talons bent,
And sayings wild and dark;
And against many deaths        1248
A tower and strong defence
Didst for my country rise;
And therefore dost thou bear the name of king,
With highest glory crowned,        1252
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?        1256
Ah, noble one, our Œdipus!
For whom the selfsame port
Sufficed for sire and son,
In wedlock’s haven met:        1260
Ah how, ah how, thou wretched one, so long
Could that incestuous bed
Receive thee, and be dumb?
 
ANTISTROPH. II


Time, who sees all things, he hath found thee out,
        1264
Against thy will, and long ago condemned
The wedlock none may wed,
Begetter and begotten
In strange confusion joined.        1268
Ah, child of Laius! ah!
Would that I ne’er had looked upon thy face!
For I mourn sore exceedingly,
From lips with wailing full.        1272
In simplest truth, by thee I rose from death,
By thee I close mine eyes in deadly sleep.
 
Enter Second Messenger


SEC. MESS.  Ye chieftains, honoured most in this our land,
For all the deeds ye hear of, all ye see,        1276
How great a wailing will ye raise, if still
Ye truly love the house of Labdacus;
For sure I think that neither Ister’s stream
Nor Phasis’ floods could purify this house,        1280
Such horrors does it hold. But all too soon,
Will we or will we not, they’ll come to light.
Self-chosen sorrows ever pain men most.
 
CHORUS  The ills we knew before lacked nothing meet        1284
For plaint and moaning. Now, what add’st thou more?
 
SEC. MESS.  Quickest for me to speak, and thee to learn;
Our godlike queen Jocasta—she is dead.
 
CHORUS  Ah, crushed with many sorrows! How and why?        1288
 
SEC. MESS.  Herself she slew. The worst of all that passed
I must pass o’er, for none were there to see.
Yet, far as memory suffers me to speak,
That sorrow-stricken woman’s end I’ll tell;        1292
How, yielding to her passion, on she passed
Within the porch, made straightway for the couch,
Her bridal bed, with both hands tore her hair,
And as she entered, dashing through the doors,        1296
Calls on her Laius, dead long years ago,
Remembering all that birth of long ago,
Which brought him death, and left to her who bore,
With his own son a hateful motherhood.        1300
And o’er her bed she wailed, where she had borne
Spouse to her spouse, and children to her child;
And how she perished after this I know not;
For Œdipus struck in with woeful cry,        1304
And we no longer looked upon her fate,
But gazed on him as to and fro he rushed,
For so he comes, and asks us for a sword,
Wherewith to smite the wife that wife was none,        1308
The bosom stained by those accursed 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        1312
Most terrible, as some one led him on,
Through the two gates he leapt, and from the hasp
He slid the hollow bolt, and falls within;
And there we saw his wife had hung herself,        1316
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        1320
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,
Such words as these exclaiming: “They should see        1324
No more the ills he suffered or had done;
But in the dark should look, in time to come,
On those they ought not, not know whom they would.”
With such like wails, not once or twice alone,        1328
Raising the lids, he tore his eyes, and they,
All bleeding, stained his cheek, nor ceased to pour
Thick clots of gore, but still the purple shower
Fell fast and full, a very rain of blood.        1332
Such were the ills that fell on both of them,
Not on one only, wife and husband both.
His former fortune, which he held of old,
Was rightly honoured; but for this day’s doom        1336
Wailing and woe, and death and shame, all forms
That man can name of evil, none have failed.
 
CHORUS  And hath the wretched man a pause of ill?
 
SEC. MESS.  He calls to us to ope the gates, and show        1340
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        1344
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        1348
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, piteous sight!
    Most fearful of all woes        1352
      I hitherto have known! What madness strange
Has come on thee, thou wretched one?
What power with one fell swoop,
Ills heaping upon ills,        1356
Each greater than the last,
Has marked thee for its prey?
Woe! woe! thou doomed one, wishing much to ask,
And much to learn, and much to gaze into,        1360
    I cannot look on thee,
    So horrible the sight!
 
ŒDIP.  Ah, woe! ah, woe! ah, woe!
    Woe for my misery!        1364
Where am I wand’ring in my utter woe?
Where floats my voice in air?
Dread power, where leadest thou?
 
CHORUS  To doom of dread nor sight nor speech may bear.        1368
 
ŒDIP.  O cloud of darkest guilt
That onwards sweeps with dread ineffable,
Resistless, borne along by evil blast,
    Woe, woe, and woe again!        1372
How through my soul there darts the sting of pain,
The memory of my crimes.
 
CHORUS  And who can wonder that in such dire woes
Thou mournest doubly, bearing twofold ills?        1376
 
ŒDIP.  Ah, friend,
Thou only keepest by me, faithful found,
Nor dost the blind one slight.
    Woe, woe,        1380
For thou escap’st me not, I know thee well;
Though all is dark, I still can hear thy voice.
 
CHORUS  O man of fearful deeds, how couldst thou bear
Thine eyes to outrage? What power stirred thee to it?        1384
 
ŒDIP.  Apollo! oh, my friends, the God, Apollo!
Who worketh all my woes—yes, all my woes.
No human hand but mine has done this deed.
    What need for me to see,        1388
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,        1392
    With any touch of joy?
Lead me away, my friends, with utmost speed,
Lead me away, the foul polluted one,
    Of all men most accursed,        1396
    Most hateful to the Gods.
 
CHORUS  Ah, wretched one, alike in soul and doom,
Would that my eyes had never known thy face!
 
ŒDIP.  Ill fate be his who loosed the fetters sharp,        1400
    That ate into my flesh,
    And freed me from the doom of death,
    And saved me—thankless boon!
    Ah! had I died but then,        1404
Nor to my friends nor me had been such woe.
 
CHORUS  That I, too, vainly wish!
 
ŒDIP.  Yes; then I had not been
    My father’s murderer:        1408
Nor had men pointed to me as the man
    Wedded with her who bore him.
But now all god-deserted, born in sins,
In incest joined with her who gave me birth;        1412
Yea, if there be an evil worse than all,
It falls on Œdipus!
 
CHORUS  I may not call thy acts or counsels good,
For better wert thou dead than living blind.        1416
 
ŒDIP.  Persuade me not, nor counsel give to show
That what I did was not the best to do.
I know not how, on entering Hades dark,
To look for my own father or my mother,        1420
Crimes worse than deadly done against them both.
And though my children’s face was sweet to see
With their growth growing, yet these eyes no more
That sight shall see, nor citadel, nor tower,        1424
Nor sacred shrines of Gods whence I, who stood
Most honoured one in Thebes, myself have banished,
Commanding all to thrust the godless forth,
Him whom the Gods do show accursed, the stock        1428
Of Laius old. And could I dare to look,
Such dire pollution fixing on myself,
And meet them face to face? Not so, not so.
Yea, if I could but stop the stream of sound,        1432
And dam mine ears against it, I would do it,
Closing each wretched sense that I might live
Both blind, and hearing nothing, Sweet ’twould be
To keep the soul beyond the reach of ills.        1436
Why, O Kithæron, didst thou shelter me,
Nor kill me out of hand? I had not shown,
In that case, all men whence I drew my birth.
O Polybus, and Corinth, and the home        1440
I thought was 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,        1444
The hedge, the narrow pass where three ways meet,
Which at my hands did drink my father’s blood,
Remember ye what deeds I did in you;
What, hither come, I did?—the marriage rites        1448
That gave me birth, and then, commingling all,
In horrible confusion, showed in one
A father, brother, son, all kindreds mixed,
Mother, and wife, and daughter, hateful names,        1452
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 hide,
Or take my life, or cast me in the sea,        1456
Where nevermore your eyes may look on me.
Come, scorn ye not to touch my misery,
But hearken; fear ye not; no soul but I
Can bear the burden of my countless ills.        1460
 
CHORUS  The man for what thou need’st is come in time,
Creon, to counsel and to act, for now
He in thy place is left our only guide.
 
ŒDIP.  Ah, me! what language shall I hold to him,        1464
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, O Œdipus, to scorn,
Nor to reproach thee for thy former crimes;        1468
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,        1472
Which neither earth, nor shower from heaven nor light,
Can see and welcome. But with utmost speed
Convey him in; for nearest kin alone
Can meetly see and hear their kindred’s ills.        1476
 
ŒDIP.  Oh, by the Gods! since thou, beyond my hopes,
Dost come all noble unto me all base,
In one thing hearken. For thy good I ask.
 
CREON.  And what request seek’st thou so wistfully?        1480
 
ŒDIP.  Cast me with all thy speed from out this land,
Where nevermore a man may look on me!
 
CREON.  Be sure I would have done so, but I wished
To learn what now the God will bid us do.        1484
 
ŒDIP.  The oracle was surely clear enough
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.        1488
 
ŒDIP.  And will ye ask for one so vile as I?
 
CREON.  Yea, now thou, too, wouldst trust the voice of God.
 
ŒDIP.  And this I charge thee, yea, and supplicate,
For her within, provide what tomb thou wilt,        1492
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;
But suffer me on yon lone hills to dwell,        1496
Where stands Kithæron, chosen as 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,        1500
Nor aught else could have killed me; ne’er from death
Had I been saved but for this destined doom.
But for our fate, whatever comes may come:
And for my boys, O Creon, lay no charge        1504
Of them upon me. They are grown, nor need,
Where’er they be, feel lack of means to live.
But for my two poor girls, all desolate,
To whom their table never brought a meal        1508
Without my presence, but whate’er I touched
They still partook of with me; these I care for.
Yea, let me touch them with my hands, and weep
To them my sorrows. Grant it, O my prince,        1512
    O born of noble nature!
Could I but touch them with my hands, I feel
Still I should have them mine, as when I saw.
 
Enter ANTIGONE and ISMENE


What say I? What is this?
        1516
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?        1520
 
CREON.  It is so. I am he who gives thee this,
Knowing the joy thou hadst in them of old.
 
ŒDIP.  Good luck have thou! And may the powers on high
Guard thy path better than they guarded mine!        1524
Where are ye, O my children? Come, oh, come
To these your brother’s hands, which but now tore
Your father’s eyes, that once were bright to see,
Who, O my children, blind and knowing naught,        1528
Became your father—how, I may not tell.
I weep for you, though sight is mine no more,
Picturing in mind the sad and dreary life
Which waits you in the world in years to come;        1532
For to what friendly gatherings will ye go,
Or festive joys, from whence, for stately show
Once yours, ye shall not home return in tears?
And when ye come to marriageable age,        1536
Who is there, O my children, rash enough
To make his own the shame that then will fall
On those who bore me, and on you as well?
What evil fails us here? Your father killed        1540
His father, and was wed in incest foul
With her who bore him, and ye owe your birth
To her who gave him his. Such shame as this
Will men lay on you, and who then will dare        1544
To make you his in marriage? None, not one,
My children! but ye needs must waste away,
Unwedded, childless, Thou, Menœkeus’ son,
Since thou alone art left a father to them        1548
(For we, their parents, perish utterly),
Suffer them not to wander husbandless,
Nor let thy kindred beg their daily bread;
But look on them with pity, seeing them        1552
At their age, but for thee, deprived of all.
O noble soul, I pray thee, touch my hand
In token of consent. And ye, my girls,
Had ye the minds to hearken I would fain        1556
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 and words. Go thou within.        1560
 
ŒDIP.  I needs must yield, however, hard it be.
 
CREON.  In their right season all things prospect best.
 
ŒDIP.  Know’st thou my wish?
 
CREON.  Speak and I then shall hear.        1564
 
ŒDIP.  That thou shouldst send me far away from home.
 
CREON.  Thou askest what the Gods alone can give.
 
ŒDIP.  And yet I go most hated of the Gods.
 
CREON.  And therefore it may chance thou gain’st thy wish.        1568
 
ŒDIP.  And dost thou promise, then, to grant it me?
 
CREON.  I am not wont to utter idle words.
 
ŒDIP.  Lead me, then, hence.
 
CREON.  Go thou, but leave the girls.        1572
 
ŒDIP.  Ah, take them not from me!
 
CREON.  Thou must not think
To have thy way in all things all thy life.
Thou hadst it once, yet went it ill with thee.        1576
 
CHORUS  Ye men of Thebes, behold this Œdipus,
Who knew the famous riddle and was noblest,
Who envied no one’s fortune and success.
And, lo,! in what a sea of direst woe        1580
He now is plunged. From hence the lesson draw,
To reckon no man happy till ye see
The closing day; until he pass the bourn
Which severs life from death, unscathed by woe.        1584
 

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