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To listen and what in me lies to do;
For surely mine were but a heart of stone
Not to be moved by such an embassy,

Nor feel my people's sorrows as my own.
Priest

O Edipus, our Father, and our King!
Of what a mingled company you see
This Supplication gathered at your door;
Even from the child who scarce has learned to creep,
Down to old age that little further can,
With all the strength of life that breathes between.
You know how all the shattered city lies
Reeling a-wreck, and cannot right herself
Under the tempest of this pestilence,
That nips the fruitful growth within the bud,
Strangles the struggling blossom in the womb,
With sudden death infects the living man,
Until the realm of Cadmus wastes, and Thebes
With her depopulation Hades feeds.
Therefore, myself and this mute company
In supplication at your altar sit,
Looking to you for succor; looking not
As to a God, but to the Man of men,
Most like the God in man's extremity :
Who, coming here a stranger to the land,
Didst overcome the Witch who with her song
Seduced, and slew the wisest and the best;
For which all but divine deliverance Thebes
Called the strange man who saved her to the throno
Left void by her hereditary king.
And now the kingdom looks to you once more
To you, the Master of the master mind,
To save her in a worse extremity :
When men, not one by one, but troop by troop,
Fall by a plague more deadly than the Sphinx,
Till Thebes herself is left to foreign arms
Assailable — for what are wall and tower,
Divinely built and founded as they be,
Without the rampart of the man within ? -
And let not what of Cadmus yet survives
From this time forth regard you as the man

Who saved them once, by worse to perish now.
Edipus

Alas, my children! telling me of that
My people groans with, knowing not yourselves

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How more than any man among you, I,
Who bear the accumulated woes of all;
So that you find me, coming when you may,
Restlessly all day pacing up and down,
Tossing all night upon a sleepless bed,
Endeavoring all that of myself I can,
And all of Heaven implore - thus far in vain.
But if your King have seemed to pause awhile,
'Tis that I wait the issue of one hope,
Which, if accomplished, will accomplish all.
Creon, my brother, and my second self
Beside the throne I sit on, to the shrine
Of Delphian Phæbus, - man's assured appeal
In all his exigence, - I have dispatched :
And long before you gathered at my door
Within my soul was fretting, lest To-day
That should have lighted him from Delphi back
Pass over into night, and bring him not.
But come he must, and will; and when he comes,
Do I not all, so far as man may do,
To follow where the God shall point the way,
Denounce me traitor to the State I saved

And to the people who proclaimed me King. Chorus - Your words are as a breath from Delphi, King,

Prophetic of itself; for even now
Forerunning Rumor buzzes in our ear

That he whose coming all await is here.
Edipus And as before the advent of a God,

The moving multitude divides - Phoebus!
Be but the word he carries back

Auspicious as well-timed!
Chorus -

And shall no less; For look! the laurel wreath about his brow Can but announce the herald of Success.

Enter CREON.
Edipus - Son of Meneceus! Brother! Brother king!-

Oh, let impatience for the word you bring
Excuse brief welcome to the messenger!

Be but the word as welcome! -
Creon –

As it shall,
Have you your ancient cunning to divine
The darker word in which the God of Light

Enshrines his answer.
Edipus -

Speak! for till I hear, I know not whether most to hope or fear.

me

Creon

Am I to speak before the people here,

Or to yourself within ?
Edipus

Here, before all,
Whose common cause it is.
Creon

To all then thus:
When Delphi reached, and at the sacred shrine
Lustration, sacrifice, and offering made,
I put the question I was charged withal,
The Prophetess of the three-footed throne,
Conceiving with the vapor of the God
Which wrapt her, rising from Earth's center, round,
At length convulsed to sudden answer broke:-
“O seven-gated City, by the Lyre
Compact, and peopled from a Dragon Sire!
Thebes feeds the Plague that slays her, nourishing

Within her walls the slayer of her King."
Edipus -

The slayer of her King ? What king ?
Creon-

None else
I know than Laius, son of Labdacus,
Who occupied the throne before you came;

That much of Oracle, methinks, is plain.
Edipus -

A story rises on me from the past.
Laius, the son of Labdacus - of whom

I know indeed, but him I never saw.
Creon
No; he was slain before

you your

foot Over the country's threshold. Edipus

Slain! By whom? Creon

That to divine were to interpret all
That (Edipus himself is called to answer.
Thus much is all we know,
The King was murdered by some roving band
Of outlaws, who waylaid him on his road
To that same Delphi, whither he had gone

On some such sacred mission as myself.
Edipus

Yet of those roving outlaws, one at least

Yet breathes among us in the heart of Thebes. Creon -

So saith the Oracle. Edipus

In the midst of all

set

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