MESSENGER

As much thy sire as I am, and no more.

OEDIPUS

My sire no more to me than one who is naught?

MESSENGER

Since I begat thee not, no more did he.

OEDIPUS

What reason had he then to call me son?

MESSENGER

Know that he took thee from my hands, a gift.

OEDIPUS

Yet, if no child of his, he loved me well.

MESSENGER

A childless man till then, he warmed to thee.

OEDIPUS

A foundling or a purchased slave, this child?

MESSENGER

I found thee in Cithaeron’s wooded glens.

OEDIPUS

What led thee to explore those upland glades?

MESSENGER

My business was to tend the mountain flocks.

OEDIPUS

A vagrant shepherd journeying for hire?

MESSENGER

True, but thy savior in that hour, my son.

OEDIPUS

My savior? from what harm? what ailed me then?

MESSENGER

Those ankle joints are evidence enow.

OEDIPUS

Ah, why remind me of that ancient sore?

MESSENGER

I loosed the pin that riveted thy feet.

OEDIPUS

Yes, from my cradle that dread brand I bore.

MESSENGER

Whence thou deriv’st the name that still is thine.

OEDIPUS

Who did it? I adjure thee, tell me who
Say, was it father, mother?

MESSENGER

I know not.
The man from whom I had thee may know more.

OEDIPUS

What, did another find me, not thyself?

MESSENGER

Not I; another shepherd gave thee me.

OEDIPUS

Who was he? Would’st thou know again the man?

MESSENGER

He passed indeed for one of Laius’ house.

OEDIPUS

The king who ruled the country long ago?

MESSENGER

The same: he was a herdsman of the king.

OEDIPUS

And is he living still for me to see him?

MESSENGER

His fellow-countrymen should best know that.

OEDIPUS

Doth any bystander among you know
The herd he speaks of, or by seeing him
Afield or in the city? answer straight!
The hour hath come to clear this business up.

CHORUS

Methinks he means none other than the hind
Whom thou anon wert fain to see; but that
Our queen Jocasta best of all could tell.

OEDIPUS

Madam, dost know the man we sent to fetch?
Is the same of whom the stranger speaks?

JOCASTA

Who is the man? What matter? Let it be.
‘Twere waste of thought to weigh such idle words.

OEDIPUS

No, with such guiding clues I cannot fail
To bring to light the secret of my birth.

JOCASTA

Oh, as thou carest for thy life, give o’er
This quest. Enough the anguish I endure.

OEDIPUS

Be of good cheer; though I be proved the son
Of a bondwoman, aye, through three descents
Triply a slave, thy honor is unsmirched.

JOCASTA

Yet humor me, I pray thee; do not this.

OEDIPUS

I cannot; I must probe this matter home.

JOCASTA

‘Tis for thy sake I advise thee for the best.

OEDIPUS

I grow impatient of this best advice.

JOCASTA

Ah mayst thou ne’er discover who thou art!

OEDIPUS

Go, fetch me here the herd, and leave yon woman
To glory in her pride of ancestry.

JOCASTA

O woe is thee, poor wretch! With that last word
I leave thee, henceforth silent evermore.

Exit JOCASTA.


Oedipus the King