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The Phoenissae   

Before the royal palace of Thebes. JOCASTA enters from the palace

JOCASTA O sun-god, who cleavest thy way along the starry sky, mounted
on golden-studded car, rolling on thy path of flame behind fleet coursers,
how curst the beam thou didst shed on Thebes, the day that Cadmus
left Phoenicia's realm beside the sea and reached this land! He it
was that in days long gone wedded Harmonia, the daughter of Cypris,
and begat Polydorus from whom they say sprung Labdacus, and Laius
from him. I am known as the daughter of Menoeceus, and Creon is my
brother by the same mother. Men called me Jocasta, for so my father
named me, and I am married to Laius. Now when he was still childless
after being wedded to me a long time, he went and questioned Phoebus,
craving moreover that our love might be crowned with sons born to
his house. But the god said, "King of Thebes for horses famed! seek
not to beget children against the will of heaven; for if thou beget
a son, that child shall slay thee, and all thy house shall wade through
blood." But he, yielding to his lust in a drunken fit, begat a son
of me, and when his babe was born, conscious of his sin and of the
god's warning, he gave the child to shepherds to expose in Hera's
meadow on mount Cithaeron, after piercing his ankles with iron spikes;
whence it was that Hellas named him Oedipus. But the keepers of the
horses of Polybus finding him took him home and laid him in the arms
of their mistress. So she suckled the child that I had borne and persuaded
her husband she was its mother. Soon as my son was grown to man's
estate, the tawny beard upon his cheek, either because he had guessed
the fraud or learnt it from another, he set out for the shrine of
Phoebus, eager to know for certain who his parents were; and likewise
Laius, my husband, was on his way thither, anxious to find out if
the child he had exposed was dead. And they twain met where the branching
roads to Phocis unite; and the charioteer of Laius called to him,
"Out of the way, stranger, room for my lord!" But he, with never a
word, strode on in his pride; and the horses with their hoofs drew
blood from the tendons of his feet. Then-but why need I tell aught
beyond the sad issue?-son slew father, and taking his chariot gave
it to Polybus his foster-father. Now when the Sphinx was grievously
harrying our city after my husband's death, my brother Creon proclaimed
that he would wed me to any who should guess the riddle of that crafty
maiden. By some strange chance, my own son, Oedipus, guessed the Sphinx's
riddle, and so he became king of this land and received its sceptre
as his prize, and married his mother, all unwitting, luckless wretch!
nor did I his mother know that I was wedded to my son; and I bore
him two sons, Eteocles and the hero Polyneices, and two daughters
as well; the one her father called Ismene, the other, which was the
elder, I named Antigone. Now when Oedipus, that awful sufferer, learnt
that I his wedded wife was his mother too, he inflicted a ghastly
outrage upon his eyes, tearing the bleeding orbs with a golden brooch.
But since my sons have grown to bearded men, they have confined their
father closely, that his misfortune, needing as it did full many a
shift to hide it, might be forgotten. He is still living in the palace,
but his misfortunes have so unhinged him that he imprecates the most
unholy curses on his sons, praying that they may have to draw the
sword before they share this house between them. So they, fearful
that heaven may accomplish his prayer if they dwell together, have
made an agreement, arranging that Polyneices, the younger, should
first leave the land in voluntary exile, while Eteocles should stay
and hold the sceptre for a year and then change places. But as soon
as Eteocles was seated high in power, he refused to give up the throne,
and drove Polyneices into exile from the kingdom; so Polyneices went
to Argos and married into the family of Adrastus, and having collected
a numerous force of Argives is leading them hither; and he is come
up against our seven-gated walls, demanding the sceptre of his father
and his share in the kingdom. Wherefore I, to end their strife, have
prevailed on one son to meet the other under truce, before appealing
to arms; and the messenger I sent tells me that he will come. O Zeus,

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