I am the son of Polybus, who reigns
At Corinth, and the Dorian Merope
His queen; there long I held the foremost rank,
Honoured and happy, when a strange event
(For strange it was, though little meriting
The deep concern I felt) alarmed me much:
A drunken reveller at a feast proclaimed
That I was only the supposed son
Or Corinth's king. Scarce could I bear that day
The vile reproach. The next, I sought my parents
And asked of them the truth; they too, enraged,
Resented much the base indignity.
I liked their tender warmth, but still I felt
A secret anguish, and, unknown to them,
Sought out the Pythian oracle. In vain.
Touching my parents nothing could I learn;
But dreadful were the miseries it denounced
Against me. 'Twas my fate, Apollo said,
To wed my mother, to produce a race
Accursed and abhorred; and last, to slay
My father who begat me. Sad decree!
Lest I should e'er fulfil the dire prediction,
Instant I fled from Corinth, by the stars
Guiding my hapless journey to the place
Where thou report'st this wretched king was slain.
But I will tell thee the whole truth. At length
I came to where the three ways meet, when, lo!
A herald, with another man like him
Whom thou describ'st, and in a chariot, met me.
Both strove with violence to drive me back;
Enraged, I struck the charioteer, when straight,
As I advanced, the old man saw, and twice
Smote me o' th' head, but dearly soon repaid
The insult on me; from his chariot rolled
Prone on the earth, beneath my staff he fell,
And instantly expired! Th' attendant train
All shared his fate. If this unhappy stranger
And Laius be the same, lives there a wretch
So cursed, so hateful to the gods as I am?
Nor citizen nor alien must receive,
Or converse, or communion hold with me,
But drive me forth with infamy and shame.
The dreadful curse pronounced with my own lips
Shall soon o'ertake me. I have stained the bed
Of him whom I had murdered; am I then
Aught but pollution? If I fly from hence,
The bed of incest meets me, and I go
To slay my father Polybus, the best,
The tenderest parent. This must be the work
Of some malignant power. Ye righteous gods!
Let me not see that day, but rest in death,
Rather than suffer such calamity.
Credits: Reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New
York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904.
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