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Oedipus the King   


OEDIPUS Who did it? I adjure thee, tell me who
Say, was it father, mother?
MESSENGER I know not.
The man from whom I had thee may know more.
OEDIPUS What, did another find me, not thyself?
MESSENGER Not I; another shepherd gave thee me.
OEDIPUS Who was he? Would'st thou know again the man?
MESSENGER He passed indeed for one of Laius' house.
OEDIPUS The king who ruled the country long ago?
MESSENGER The same: he was a herdsman of the king.
OEDIPUS And is he living still for me to see him?
MESSENGER His fellow-countrymen should best know that.
OEDIPUS Doth any bystander among you know The herd he
speaks of, or by seeing him Afield or in the city? answer straight!
The hour hath come to clear this business up.
CHORUS Methinks he means none other than the hind
Whom thou anon wert fain to see; but that
Our queen Jocasta best of all could tell.
OEDIPUS Madam, dost know the man we sent to fetch?
Is the same of whom the stranger speaks?
JOCASTA Who is the man? What matter? Let it be.
'Twere waste of thought to weigh such idle words.
OEDIPUS No, with such guiding clues I cannot fail
To bring to light the secret of my birth.
JOCASTA Oh, as thou carest for thy life, give o'er
This quest. Enough the anguish I endure.
OEDIPUS Be of good cheer; though I be proved the son
Of a bondwoman, aye, through three descents
Triply a slave, thy honor is unsmirched.
JOCASTA Yet humor me, I pray thee; do not this.
OEDIPUS I cannot; I must probe this matter home.
JOCASTA 'Tis for thy sake I advise thee for the best.
OEDIPUS I grow impatient of this best advice.
JOCASTA Ah mayst thou ne'er discover who thou art!
OEDIPUS Go, fetch me here the herd, and leave yon woman
To glory in her pride of ancestry.
JOCASTA O woe is thee, poor wretch! With that last word
I leave thee, henceforth silent evermore. (Exit JOCASTA.)
CHORUS Why, Oedipus, why stung with passionate grief
Hath the queen thus departed? Much I fear
From this dead calm will burst a storm of woes.
OEDIPUS Let the storm burst, my fixed resolve still holds,
To learn my lineage, be it ne'er so low.
It may be she with all a woman's pride
Thinks scorn of my base parentage. But I
Who rank myself as Fortune's favorite child,
The giver of good gifts, shall not be shamed.
She is my mother and the changing moons
My brethren, and with them I wax and wane.
Thus sprung why should I fear to trace my birth?
Nothing can make me other than I am.
CHORUS (strophe)
If my soul prophetic err not, if my wisdom aught avail,
Thee, Cithaeron, I shall hail,
As the nurse and foster-mother of our Oedipus shall greet
Ere tomorrow's full moon rises, and exalt thee as is meet.
Dance and song shall hymn thy praises, lover of our royal race.
Phoebus, may my words find grace!
(antistrophe)
Child, who bare thee, nymph or goddess? sure thy sure was
more than man, Haply the hill-roamer Pan.
Of did Loxias beget thee, for he haunts the upland wold;
Or Cyllene's lord, or Bacchus, dweller on the hilltops cold?
Did some Heliconian Oread give him thee, a new-born joy?

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