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Oedipus the King   


Yet scarce deserving all the heat it stirred.
A roisterer at some banquet, flown with wine,
Shouted «Thou art not true son of thy sire.»
It irked me, but I stomached for the nonce
The insult; on the morrow I sought out
My mother and my sire and questioned them.
They were indignant at the random slur
Cast on my parentage and did their best
To comfort me, but still the venomed barb
Rankled, for still the scandal spread and grew.
So privily without their leave I went
To Delphi, and Apollo sent me back
Baulked of the knowledge that I came to seek.
But other grievous things he prophesied,
Woes, lamentations, mourning, portents dire;
To wit I should defile my mother's bed
And raise up seed too loathsome to behold,
And slay the father from whose loins I sprang.
Then, lady,--thou shalt hear the very truth-
As I drew near the triple-branching roads,
A herald met me and a man who sat
In a car drawn by colts-as in thy tale-
The man in front and the old man himself
Threatened to thrust me rudely from the path,
Then jostled by the charioteer in wrath
I struck him, and the old man, seeing this,
Watched till I passed and from his car brought down
Full on my head the double-pointed goad.
Yet was I quits with him and more; one stroke
Of my good staff sufficed to fling him clean
Out of the chariot seat and laid him prone.
And so I slew them every one. But if
Betwixt this stranger there was aught in common
With Laius, who more miserable than I,
What mortal could you find more god-abhorred?
Wretch whom no sojourner, no citizen
May harbor or address, whom all are bound
To harry from their homes. And this same curse
Was laid on me, and laid by none but me.
Yea with these hands all gory I pollute
The bed of him I slew. Say, am I vile?
Am I not utterly unclean, a wretch
Doomed to be banished, and in banishment Forgo the sight of all my dearest ones, And never tread again my native earth;
Or else to wed my mother and slay my sire,
Polybus, who begat me and upreared?
If one should say, this is the handiwork
Of some inhuman power, who could blame
His judgment? But, ye pure and awful gods,
Forbid, forbid that I should see that day!
May I be blotted out from living men
Ere such a plague spot set on me its brand!
CHORUS We too, O king, are troubled; but till thou
Hast questioned the survivor, still hope on.
OEDIPUS My hope is faint, but still enough survives
To bid me bide the coming of this herd.
JOCASTA Suppose him here, what wouldst thou learn of him?
OEDIPUS I'll tell thee, lady; if his tale agrees
With thine, I shall have 'scaped calamity.
JOCASTA And what of special import did I say?
OEDIPUS In thy report of what the herdsman said
Laius was slain by robbers; now if he
Still speaks of robbers, not a robber, I
Slew him not; «one» with «many» cannot square.
But if he says one lonely wayfarer,

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