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Oedipus the King   


OEDIPUS Thou didst: but I was misled by my fear.
JOCASTA Then let I no more weigh upon thy soul.
OEDIPUS Must I not fear my mother's marriage bed.
JOCASTA Why should a mortal man, the sport of chance,
With no assured foreknowledge, be afraid?
Best live a careless life from hand to mouth.
This wedlock with thy mother fear not thou.
How oft it chances that in dreams a man
Has wed his mother! He who least regards
Such brainsick phantasies lives most at ease.
OEDIPUS I should have shared in full thy confidence,
Were not my mother living; since she lives
Though half convinced I still must live in dread.
JOCASTA And yet thy sire's death lights out darkness much.
OEDIPUS Much, but my fear is touching her who lives.
MESSENGER Who may this woman be whom thus you fear?
OEDIPUS Merope, stranger, wife of Polybus.
MESSENGER And what of her can cause you any fear?
OEDIPUS A heaven-sent oracle of dread import.
MESSENGER A mystery, or may a stranger hear it?
OEDIPUS Aye, 'tis no secret. Loxias once foretold
That I should mate with mine own mother, and shed
With my own hands the blood of my own sire.
Hence Corinth was for many a year to me
A home distant; and I trove abroad,
But missed the sweetest sight, my parents' face.

MESSENGER Was this the fear that exiled thee from home?
OEDIPUS Yea, and the dread of slaying my own sire.
MESSENGER Why, since I came to give thee pleasure, King,
Have I not rid thee of this second fear?
OEDIPUS Well, thou shalt have due guerdon for thy pains.
MESSENGER Well, I confess what chiefly made me come
Was hope to profit by thy coming home.
OEDIPUS Nay, I will ne'er go near my parents more.
MESSENGER My son, 'tis plain, thou know'st not what thou doest.
OEDIPUS How so, old man? For heaven's sake tell me all.
MESSENGER If this is why thou dreadest to return.
OEDIPUS Yea, lest the god's word be fulfilled in me.
MESSENGER Lest through thy parents thou shouldst be accursed?
OEDIPUS This and none other is my constant dread.
MESSENGER Dost thou not know thy fears are baseless all?
OEDIPUS How baseless, if I am their very son?
MESSENGER Since Polybus was naught to thee in blood.
OEDIPUS What say'st thou? was not Polybus my sire?
MESSENGER As much thy sire as I am, and no more.
OEDIPUS My sire no more to me than one who is naught?
MESSENGER Since I begat thee not, no more did he.
OEDIPUS What reason had he then to call me son?
MESSENGER Know that he took thee from my hands, a gift.
OEDIPUS Yet, if no child of his, he loved me well.
MESSENGER A childless man till then, he warmed to thee.
OEDIPUS A foundling or a purchased slave, this child?
MESSENGER I found thee in Cithaeron's wooded glens.
OEDIPUS What led thee to explore those upland glades?
MESSENGER My business was to tend the mountain flocks.
OEDIPUS A vagrant shepherd journeying for hire?
MESSENGER True, but thy savior in that hour, my son.
OEDIPUS My savior? from what harm? what ailed me then?
MESSENGER Those ankle joints are evidence enow.
OEDIPUS Ah, why remind me of that ancient sore?
MESSENGER I loosed the pin that riveted thy feet.
OEDIPUS Yes, from my cradle that dread brand I bore.
MESSENGER Whence thou deriv'st the name that still is thine.

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