Oedipus Rex

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  • 1.Oedipus the KingAnd greybeards bowed with years, priests, as am IBy SophoclesOf Zeus, and these the flower of our youth.Translated by F. StorrMeanwhile, the common folk, with wreathed boughs----------------------------------------------------------------------Crowd our two market-places, or beforeDramatis Personae Both shrines of Pallas congregate, or whereOEDIPUS Ismenus gives his oracles by fire.THE PRIEST OF ZEUSFor, as thou seest thyself, our ship of State,CREON Sore buffeted, can no more lift her head,CHORUS OF THEBAN ELDERS Foundered beneath a weltering surge of blood.TEIRESIAS A blight is on our harvest in the ear,JOCASTA A blight upon the grazing flocks and herds,MESSENGER A blight on wives in travail; and withalHERD OF LAIUS Armed with his blazing torch the God of Plague----------------------------------------------------------------------Hath swooped upon our city emptyingScene The house of Cadmus, and the murky realmThebes. Before the Palace of Oedipus. Suppliants of all ages are seated Of Pluto is full fed with groans and tears.round the altar at the palace doors, at their head a PRIEST OF ZEUS.To them enter OEDIPUS.Therefore, O King, here at thy hearth we sit,----------------------------------------------------------------------I and these children; not as deeming theeOEDIPUS A new divinity, but the first of men; My children, latest born to Cadmus old,First in the common accidents of life, Why sit ye here as suppliants, in your hands And first in visitations of the Gods. Branches of olive filleted with wool?Art thou not he who coming to the town What means this reek of incense everywhere,Of Cadmus freed us from the tax we paid And everywhere laments and litanies? To the fell songstress? Nor hadst thou received Children, it were not meet that I should learn Prompting from us or been by others schooled; From others, and am hither come, myself, No, by a god inspired (so all men deem, I Oedipus, your world-renowned king. And testify) didst thou renew our life. Ho! aged sire, whose venerable locks And now, O Oedipus, our peerless king, Proclaim thee spokesman of this company, All we thy votaries beseech thee, find Explain your mood and purport. Is it dread Some succor, whether by a voice from heaven Of ill that moves you or a boon ye crave?Whispered, or haply known by human wit. My zeal in your behalf ye cannot doubt;Tried counselors, methinks, are aptest found Ruthless indeed were I and obdurateTo furnish for the future pregnant rede. If such petitioners as you I spurned.Upraise, O chief of men, upraise our State!Look to thy laurels! for thy zeal of yorePRIESTOur countrys savior thou art justly hailed: Yea, Oedipus, my sovereign lord and king,O never may we thus record thy reign:-- Thou seest how both extremes of age besiege"He raised us up only to cast us down." Thy palace altars--fledglings hardly winged, Uplift us, build our city on a rock.

2. Thy happy star ascendant brought us luck,OEDIPUS O let it not decline! If thou wouldst rule We soon shall know; hes now in earshot range. This land, as now thou reignest, better sure Enter CREON. To rule a peopled than a desert realm. My royal cousin, say, Menoeceus child, Nor battlements nor galleys aught avail, What message hast thou brought us from the god? If men to man and guards to guard them tail.CREONOEDIPUS Good news, for een intolerable ills,Ah! my poor children, known, ah, known too well,Finding right issue, tend to naught but good.The quest that brings you hither and your need.Ye sicken all, well wot I, yet my pain, OEDIPUSHow great soever yours, outtops it all. How runs the oracle? thus far thy wordsYour sorrow touches each man severally, Give me no ground for confidence or fear.Him and none other, but I grieve at onceBoth for the general and myself and you.CREONTherefore ye rouse no sluggard from day-dreams. If thou wouldst hear my message publicly,Many, my children, are the tears Ive wept, Ill tell thee straight, or with thee pass within.And threaded many a maze of weary thought.Thus pondering one clue of hope I caught, OEDIPUSAnd tracked it up; I have sent Menoeceus son,Speak before all; the burden that I bearCreon, my consorts brother, to inquire Is more for these my subjects than myself.Of Pythian Phoebus at his Delphic shrine,How I might save the State by act or word.CREONAnd now I reckon up the tale of daysLet me report then all the god declared.Since he set forth, and marvel how he fares.King Phoebus bids us straitly extirpateTis strange, this endless tarrying, passing strange. A fell pollution that infests the land,But when he comes, then I were base indeed, And no more harbor an inveterate sore.If I perform not all the god declares.OEDIPUSPRIESTWhat expiation means he? Whats amiss? Thy words are well timed; even as thou speakest That shouting tells me Creon is at hand. CREONBanishment, or the shedding blood for blood.OEDIPUS This stain of blood makes shipwreck of our state.O King Apollo! may his joyous looksBe presage of the joyous news he brings!OEDIPUSWhom can he mean, the miscreant thus denounced?PRIEST As I surmise, tis welcome; else his head Had scarce been crowned with berry-laden bays. 3. CREONCREONBefore thou didst assume the helm of State,Robbers, he told us, not one bandit butThe sovereign of this land was Laius.A troop of knaves, attacked and murdered him.OEDIPUSOEDIPUSI heard as much, but never saw the man.Did any bandit dare so bold a stroke, Unless indeed he were suborned from Thebes?CREONHe fell; and now the gods command is plain: CREONPunish his takers-off, whoeer they be.So twas surmised, but none was found to avenge His murder mid the trouble that ensued.OEDIPUSWhere are they? Where in the wide world to findOEDIPUSThe far, faint traces of a bygone crime? What trouble can have hindered a full quest, When royalty had fallen thus miserably?CREONIn this land, said the god; "who seeks shall find; CREONWho sits with folded hands or sleeps is blind."The riddling Sphinx compelled us to let slide The dim past and attend to instant needs.OEDIPUSWas he within his palace, or afield, OEDIPUSOr traveling, when Laius met his fate? Well, I will start afresh and once again Make dark things clear. Right worthy the concernCREONOf Phoebus, worthy thine too, for the dead;Abroad; he started, so he told us, bound I also, as is meet, will lend my aidFor Delphi, but he never thence returned.To avenge this wrong to Thebes and to the god. Not for some far-off kinsman, but myself,OEDIPUSShall I expel this poison in the blood;Came there no news, no fellow-traveler For whoso slew that king might have a mindTo give some clue that might be followed up? To strike me too with his assassin hand. Therefore in righting him I serve myself.CREONUp, children, haste ye, quit these altar stairs,But one escape, who flying for dear life,Take hence your suppliant wands, go summon hitherCould tell of all he saw but one thing sure. The Theban commons. With the gods good help Success is sure; tis ruin if we fail.OEDIPUSAnd what was that? One clue might lead us far, Exeunt OEDIPUS and CREONWith but a spark of hope to guide our quest. 4. PRIEST To the westering shores of Night. Come, children, let us hence; these gracious words Forestall the very purpose of our suit. antistrophe 2 And may the god who sent this oracle Save us withal and rid us of this pest. Wasted thus by death on death All our city perisheth.Exeunt PRIEST and SUPPLIANTS.Corpses spread infection round; None to tend or mourn is found.CHORUS Wailing on the altar stair strophe 1 Wives and grandams rend the air-- Long-drawn moans and piercing cries Sweet-voiced daughter of Zeus from thy gold-paved Pythian shrineBlent with prayers and litanies. Wafted to Thebes divine,Golden child of Zeus, O hear What dost thou bring me? My soul is racked and shivers with fear. Let thine angel face appear! Healer of Delos, hear! Hast thou some pain unknown before, strophe 3 Or with the circling years renewest a penance of yore? Offspring of golden Hope, thou voice immortal, O tell me. And grant that Ares whose hot breath I feel, Though without targe or steel antistrophe 1 He stalks, whose voice is as the battle shout, May turn in sudden rout, First on Athene I call; O Zeus-born goddess, defend!To the unharbored Thracian waters sped, Goddess and sister, befriend, Or Amphitrites bed. Artemis, Lady of Thebes, high-throned in the midst of our mart! For what night leaves undone, Lord of the death-winged dart!Smit by the morrows sun Your threefold aid I cravePerisheth. Father Zeus, whose hand From death and ruin our city to save. Doth wield the lightning brand, If in the days of old when we nigh had perished, ye drave Slay him beneath thy levin bold, we pray, From our land the fiery plague, be near us now and defend us! Slay him, O slay! strophe 2 antistrophe 3 Ah me, what countless woes are mine!O that thine arrows too, Lycean King, All our host is in decline; From that taut bows gold string, Weaponless my spirit lies.Might fly abroad, the champions of our rights; Earth her gracious fruits denies; Yea, and the flashing lights Women wail in barren throes;Of Artemis, wherewith the huntress sweeps Life on life downstriken goes,Across the Lycian steeps. Swifter than the wind birds flight,Thee too I call with golden-snooded hair, Swifter than the Fire-Gods might,Whose name our land doth bear, 5. Bacchus to whom thy Maenads Evoe shout;And on the murderer this curse I lay Come with thy bright torch, rout,(On him and all the partners in his guilt):-- Blithe god whom we adore,Wretch, may he pine in utter wretchedness! The god whom gods abhor. And for myself, if with my privityHe gain admittance to my hearth, I prayEnter OEDIPUS.The curse I laid on others fall on me.See that ye give effect to all my hest,OEDIPUS For my sake and the gods and for our land,Ye pray; tis well, but would ye hear my wordsA desert blasted by the wrath of heaven.And heed them and apply the remedy, For, let alone the gods express command,Ye