Oedipus the King
HERDSMAN Ah me!
I stand upon the perilous edge of speech.
OEDIPUS And I of hearing, but I still must hear.
HERDSMAN Know then the child was by repute his own,
But she within, thy consort best could tell.
OEDIPUS What! she, she gave it thee?
HERDSMAN 'Tis so, my king.
OEDIPUS With what intent?
HERDSMAN To make away with it.
OEDIPUS What, she its mother.
HERDSMAN Fearing a dread weird.
OEDIPUS What weird?
HERDSMAN 'Twas told that he should slay his sire.
OEDIPUS What didst thou give it then to this old man?
HERDSMAN Through pity, master, for the babe. I thought
He'd take it to the country whence he came;
But he preserved it for the worst of woes.
For if thou art in sooth what this man saith,
God pity thee! thou wast to misery born.
OEDIPUS Ah me! ah me! all brought to pass, all true!
O light, may I behold thee nevermore!
I stand a wretch, in birth, in wedlock cursed,
A parricide, incestuously, triply cursed! (Exit OEDIPUS.)
CHORUS (strophe 1)
Races of mortal man
Whose life is but a span,
I count ye but the shadow of a shade!
For he who most doth know
Of bliss, hath but the show;
A moment, and the visions pale and fade.
Thy fall, O Oedipus, thy piteous fall
Warns me none born of women blest to call.
For he of marksmen best,
O Zeus, outshot the rest,
And won the prize supreme of wealth and power.
By him the vulture maid
Was quelled, her witchery laid;
He rose our savior and the land's strong tower.
We hailed thee king and from that day adored
Of mighty Thebes the universal lord.
O heavy hand of fate!
Who now more desolate,
Whose tale more sad than thine, whose lot more dire?
O Oedipus, discrowned head,
Thy cradle was thy marriage bed;
One harborage sufficed for son and sire.
How could the soil thy father eared so long
Endure to bear in silence such a wrong?
All-seeing Time hath caught
Guilt, and to justice brought
The son and sire commingled in one bed.
O child of Laius' ill-starred race
Would I had ne'er beheld thy face;
I raise for thee a dirge as o'er the dead.
Yet, sooth to say, through thee I drew new breath,
And now through thee I feel a second death. (Enter SECOND MESSENGER.)
SECOND MESSENGER Most grave and reverend senators of Thebes,
What Deeds ye soon must hear, what sights behold