Oedipus the King
JOCASTA My lords, ye look amazed to see your queen
With wreaths and gifts of incense in her hands.
I had a mind to visit the high shrines,
For Oedipus is overwrought, alarmed
With terrors manifold. He will not use
His past experience, like a man of sense,
To judge the present need, but lends an ear
To any croaker if he augurs ill.
Since then my counsels naught avail, I turn
To thee, our present help in time of trouble,
Apollo, Lord Lycean, and to thee
My prayers and supplications here I bring.
Lighten us, lord, and cleanse us from this curse!
For now we all are cowed like mariners
Who see their helmsman dumbstruck in the storm. (Enter Corinthian
MESSENGER My masters, tell me where the palace is
Of Oedipus; or better, where's the king.
CHORUS Here is the palace and he bides within;
This is his queen the mother of his children.
MESSENGER All happiness attend her and the house,
Blessed is her husband and her marriage-bed.
JOCASTA My greetings to thee, stranger; thy fair words
Deserve a like response. But tell me why
Thou comest-what thy need or what thy news.
MESSENGER Good for thy consort and the royal house.
JOCASTA What may it be? Whose messenger art thou?
MESSENGER The Isthmian commons have resolved to make
Thy husband king-so 'twas reported there.
JOCASTA What! is not aged Polybus still king?
MESSENGER No, verily; he's dead and in his grave.
JOCASTA What! is he dead, the sire of Oedipus?
MESSENGER If I speak falsely, may I die myself.
JOCASTA Quick, maiden, bear these tidings to my lord.
Ye god-sent oracles, where stand ye now!
This is the man whom Oedipus long shunned,
In dread to prove his murderer; and now
He dies in nature's course, not by his hand. (Enter OEDIPUS.)
OEDIPUS My wife, my queen, Jocasta, why hast thou
Summoned me from my palace?
JOCASTA Hear this man,
And as thou hearest judge what has become
Of all those awe-inspiring oracles.
OEDIPUS Who is this man, and what his news for me?
JOCASTA He comes from Corinth and his message this:
Thy father Polybus hath passed away.
OEDIPUS What? let me have it, stranger, from thy mouth.
MESSENGER If I must first make plain beyond a doubt
My message, know that Polybus is dead.
OEDIPUS By treachery, or by sickness visited?
MESSENGER One touch will send an old man to his rest.
OEDIPUS So of some malady he died, poor man.
MESSENGER Yes, having measured the full span of years.
OEDIPUS Out on it, lady! why should one regard
The Pythian hearth or birds that scream i' the air?
Did they not point at me as doomed to slay
My father? but he's dead and in his grave
And here am I who ne'er unsheathed a sword;
Unless the longing for his absent son
Killed him and so I slew him in a sense.
But, as they stand, the oracles are dead-
Dust, ashes, nothing, dead as Polybus.
JOCASTA Say, did not I foretell this long ago?