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The citizens and subjects of the King

He slew : Creon

So saith the Oracle.

But hold !
The story of this treason — all, you say,

Now known of it, how first made known in Thebes ? Creon

By the one man of the King's retinue,
Who having 'scaped the fate which took the rest,
As if the assassin's foot were at his heels,
Half dead with fear, just reached the city gates

With breath to tell the story.
Edipus -

And breathes still
To tell it once again?

I know not that:
For having told it, the bewildered man,
As fast as hither he had fled, fled hence,
Where, if the assassin's foot not on him then,
His eye, the God declares, were on him now
So fled he to his native field again

Among his flocks and fellow-husbandmen.

And thus the single witness you let slip,
Whose eye might even have singled out the man,
As him the man's! Oh, had I but been by,
I would have driven interrogation home,
Would the bewildered memory so have sifted
Of each minutest grain of circumstance
How many, accoutered how, what people like-
Now, by the lapse of time and memory,
Beyond recall into oblivion passed !
But not to lose what yet of hope there is.

Let him be sent for, sought for, found, and brought. Creon

Meanwhile, default of him for whom you send,
Or of uncertain memory when he comes,
Were it not well, if still the God withhold
His revelation of the word we need,

To question it of his Interpreter ?
Edipus -

Of his Interpreter ?

Of whom so well,
As of Tiresias, the blind Seer of Thebes,
Whose years the God hath in his service counted
Beyond all reach of human memory ?


So be it. But I marvel yet why Thebes,
Letting the witness slip, then unpursued,
Or undetected, left the criminal,
Whom the King's blood, by whomsoever spilt,

Cried out aloud to be revenged upon.

What might be done we did. But how detect
The roving robber, in whatever land,
Of friend or foe alike, outlawed of all,
Wherever prey to pounce on on the wing,
Or housed in rock or forest, save to him
Unknown, or inaccessible ? Besides,

Thebes soon had other business on her hand.

Why, what of business to engage her more

Than to revenge the murder of her King ?

None other than the riddle-singing Sphinx
Who, till you came to silence her, held Thebes

From thinking of the dead to save herself.

And leaving this which then you might have guessed,
To guess at that which none of you could solve,
You have brought home a riddle on your heads
Inextricable and more fatal far!
But I, who put the riddling Witch to rest,
This fatal riddle will unravel too,
And by swift execution following
The revelation, once more save the realm,
And wipe away the impiety and shame
Of Laius' yet unexpiated death.
For were no expiation to the God,
And to the welfare of this people due,
Were't not a shame thus unrevenged so long
To leave the slaughter of so great a King –
King Laius, the son of Labdacus,
Who from his father Polydore his blood
Direct from Cadmus and Agenor drew ?
Shame to myself, who, sitting on the throne
He sat on, wedded to the very Queen
Who should have borne him children, as to me
She bore them, had not an assassin's hand
Divorced them ere their wedded life bore fruit!
Therefore to this as 'twere my father's cause,

As of my people's - nay, why not my own,
Who in his death am threatened by the hand
Of him, whose eye now follows me about?
With the Gods' aid do I devote myself.
I, Edipus, albeit no Theban born,
By Thebes herself enthroned her sovereign King,
Thus to the citizens of Thebes proclaim:
That whosoever of them knows by whom
King Laius, son of Labdacus, was slain,
Forth with let him disclose it undismayed;
Yea, though the criminal himself he were,
Let not the dread of deadly consequence
Revolt him from confession of crime;
For he shall suffer nothing worse than this, -
Instant departure from the city, but
Uninjured, uninsulted, unpursued;
For though feloniously a King he slew,
Yet haply as a stranger unaware
That king was Laius; and thus the crime
Half cleared of treason, half absolved by time.
Nor, on the other hand, if any knows
Another guilty, let him not for love,
Or fear, or whatsoever else regard,
Flinch from a revelation that shall win
More from myself than aught he fears to lose
Nay, as a second savior of the State
Shall after me be called ; and who should not
Save a whole people at the cost of one ?
But Him - that one — who would not at the cost
Of self-confession save himself and all
Him -were he nearest to my heart and hearth -
Nearest and dearest — thus do I renounce:
That from the very moment that he stands,
By whatsoever, or by whom, revealed,
No man shall him bespeak, at home, abroad,
Sit with at table, nor by altar stand,
But, as the very Pestilence he were
Incarnate which this people now devours,
Him slay at once, or hoot and hunt him forth
With execration from the city walls.
But if, in spite of promise or of threat,
The man who did, or knows who did, this deed,
Still hold it in his bosom unrevealed -
That man — and he is here among us now
Man's vengeance may escape when he forswears

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Participation in the crime, but not
The Gods', himself involving in the Curse
Which, with myself and every man in Thebes,
He shall denounce upon the criminal,
The Gods invoking to withhold from him
That issue of the earth by which he lives,
That issue of the womb by which himself
Lives after him ; that in the deadly curse
By which his fellows perish he and his

May perish, or, if worse there be, by worse!

Beside Apollo's altar standing here,
That oath I swear, that neither I myself
Nor did myself, nor know who did this deed;
And in the curse I join on him who did,

Or, knowing him who did, will not reveal.

'Tis well: and, all the city's seven gates closed,
Thus solemnly shall every man in Thebes

Before the altars of his country swear.

Well have you done, O Master, in so far
As human hand and wit may reach; and lo!
The sacred Seer of Thebes, Tiresias,
To whom, next to God himself, we look
For Heaven's assistance, at your summons comes,
In his prophetic raiment, staff in hand,
Approaching, gravely guided as his wont,
But with a step, methinks, unwonted slow.

Tiresias, Minister and Seer of God,
Who, blind to all that others see without,
See that within to which all else are blind ;
Sequestered as you are with Deity,
You know, what others only know too well,
The mortal sickness that confounds us all;
But you alone can tell the remedy.
For since the God whose Minister you are
Bids us, if Thebes would be herself again,
Revenge the murder of King Laius
By retribution on the murderer,
Who undetected walks among us now;
Unless by you, Tiresias, to whose lips,
As Phæbus his Interpreter we cling,

To catch the single word that he withholds,
And without which what he reveals is vain-
Therefore to you, Tiresias, you alone,
Do look this people and their Ruler – look,
Imploring you, by that same inward light
Which sees, to name the man who lurks unseen,

And whose live presence is the death of all.

Alas! how worse than vain to be well armed

When the man's weapon turns upon himself ! Edipus

I know not upon whom that arrow lights.

If not on him that summoned, then on him
Who, summoned, came. There is one remedy;

Let those who hither led me lead me hence.

Before the single word – which you alone
Can speak - be spoken? How is this, Tiresias,
That to your King on such a summons come,

You come so much distempered ?

For the King,
With all his wisdom, knows not what he asks.
Edipus -

And therefore asks that he may know from you,
Seeing the God hath folded up his word

From human eyesight.
Tiresias -

Why should I reveal What He I serve has chosen to conceal ? Edipus

Is't not your office to interpret that

To man which he for man vouchsafes from Heaven ? Tiresias

What Fate hath fixed to come to pass come will,

Whether revealed or not.
Edipus -

I know it must;
But Fate may cancel Fate, foretelling that

Which, unpredicted, else would come to pass.
Tiresias -

Yet none the less I tell you, Edipus,
That you, though wise, not knowing what you ask,

I, knowing, shall not answer.

You will not!
Inexorable to the people's cries -
Plague-pitiless, disloyal to your King -

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