Translation by F. Storr, BA Formerly Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge From the Loeb Library Edition
Originally published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA and
William Heinemann Ltd, London
To Laius, King of Thebes, an oracle foretold that the child born to him by his queen Jocasta would slay his father and wed his mother. So when in time a son was born the infant’s feet were riveted together and he was left to die on Mount Cithaeron. But a shepherd found the babe and tended him, and delivered him to another shepherd who took him to his master, the King or Corinth. Polybus being childless adopted the boy, who grew up believing that he was indeed the King’s son. Afterwards doubting his parentage he inquired of the Delphic god and heard himself the weird declared before to Laius. Wherefore he fled from what he deemed his father’s house and in his flight he encountered and unwillingly slew his father Laius. Arriving at Thebes he answered the riddle of the Sphinx and the grateful Thebans made their deliverer king. So he reigned in the room of Laius, and espoused the widowed queen. Children were born to them and Thebes prospered under his rule, but again a grievous plague fell upon the city. Again the oracle was consulted and it bade them purge themselves of blood-guiltiness. Oedipus denounces the crime of which he is unaware, and undertakes to track out the criminal. Step by step it is brought home to him that he is the man. The closing scene reveals Jocasta slain by her own hand and Oedipus blinded by his own act and praying for death or exile.
My children, latest born to Cadmus old, Why sit ye here as suppliants, in your hands Branches of olive filleted with wool?
What means this reek of incense everywhere, And everywhere laments and litanies?
Children, it were not meet that I should learn From others, and am hither come, myself, I Oedipus, your world-renowned king.
Ho! aged sire, whose venerable locks Proclaim thee spokesman of this company, Explain your mood and purport. Is it dread Of ill that moves you or a boon ye crave? My zeal in your behalf ye cannot doubt;
Ruthless indeed were I and obdurate If such petitioners as you I spurned.
Yea, Oedipus, my sovereign lord and king, Thou seest how both extremes of age besiege Thy palace altars–fledglings hardly winged, and greybeards bowed with years; priests, as am I of Zeus, and these the flower of our youth. Meanwhile, the common folk, with wreathed boughs Crowd our two market-places, or before
Both shrines of Pallas congregate, or where Ismenus gives his oracles by fire.
For, as thou seest thyself, our ship of State, Sore buffeted, can no more lift her head, Foundered beneath a weltering surge of blood. A blight is on our harvest in the ear,
A blight upon the grazing flocks and herds, A blight on wives in travail; and withal Armed with his blazing torch the God of Plague Hath swooped upon our city emptying
The house of Cadmus, and the murky realm Of Pluto is full fed with groans and tears. Therefore, O King, here at thy hearth we sit, I and these children; not as deeming thee A new divinity, but the first of men;
First in the common accidents of life, And first in visitations of the Gods.
Art thou not he who coming to the town of Cadmus freed us from the tax we paid
To the fell songstress? Nor hadst thou received Prompting from us or been by others schooled; No, by a god inspired (so all men deem,
And testify) didst thou renew our life. And now, O Oedipus, our peerless king,
All we thy votaries beseech thee, find Some succor, whether by a voice from heaven Whispered, or haply known by human wit.
Tried counselors, methinks, are aptest found  To furnish for the future pregnant rede. Upraise, O chief of men, upraise our State! Look to thy laurels! for thy zeal of yore Our country’s savior thou art justly hailed: O never may we thus record thy reign:–
“He raised us up only to cast us down.” Uplift us, build our city on a rock.
Thy happy star ascendant brought us luck, O let it not decline! If thou wouldst rule This land, as now thou reignest, better sure To rule a peopled than a desert realm.
Nor battlements nor galleys aught avail, If men to man and guards to guard them tail.
Ah! my poor children, known, ah, known too well, The quest that brings you hither and your need. Ye sicken all, well wot I, yet my pain,
How great soever yours, outtops it all. Your sorrow touches each man severally,
Him and none other, but I grieve at once Both for the general and myself and you. Therefore ye rouse no sluggard from day-dreams. Many, my children, are the tears I’ve wept, And threaded many a maze of weary thought. Thus pondering one clue of hope I caught, And tracked it up; I have sent Menoeceus’ son, Creon, my consort’s brother, to inquire
Of Pythian Phoebus at his Delphic shrine, How I might save the State by act or word. And now I reckon up the tale of days
Since he set forth, and marvel how he fares. ‘Tis strange, this endless tarrying, passing strange. But when he comes, then I were base indeed, If I perform not all the god declares.
Well, _I_ will start afresh and once again Make dark things clear. Right worthy the concern Of Phoebus, worthy thine too, for the dead; I also, as is meet, will lend my aid
To avenge this wrong to Thebes and to the god. Not for some far-off kinsman, but myself, Shall I expel this poison in the blood;
For whoso slew that king might have a mind To strike me too with his assassin hand. Therefore in righting him I serve myself. Up, children, haste ye, quit these altar stairs, Take hence your suppliant wands, go summon hither The Theban commons. With the god’s good help Success is sure; ’tis ruin if we fail.
[Exeunt OEDIPUS and CREON]
Come, children, let us hence; these gracious words Forestall the very purpose of our suit.
And may the god who sent this oracle Save us withal and rid us of this pest.
[Exeunt PRIEST and SUPPLIANTS]
Sweet-voiced daughter of Zeus from thy gold-paved Pythian shrine Wafted to Thebes divine,
What dost thou bring me? My soul is racked and shivers with fear. (Healer of Delos, hear!)
Hast thou some pain unknown before, Or with the circling years renewest a penance of yore? Offspring of golden Hope, thou voice immortal, O tell me.
First on Athene I call; O Zeus-born goddess, defend! Goddess and sister, befriend,
Artemis, Lady of Thebes, high-throned in the midst of our mart! Lord of the death-winged dart!
Your threefold aid I crave
From death and ruin our city to save. If in the days of old when we nigh had perished, ye drave From our land the fiery plague, be near us now and defend us!
Ah me, what countless woes are mine! All our host is in decline;
Weaponless my spirit lies.
Earth her gracious fruits denies; Women wail in barren throes;
Life on life downstriken goes,
Swifter than the wind bird’s flight, Swifter than the Fire-God’s might,
To the westering shores of Night.
Wasted thus by death on death
All our city perisheth.
Corpses spread infection round;
None to tend or mourn is found.
Wailing on the altar stair
Wives and grandams rend the air– Long-drawn moans and piercing cries
Blent with prayers and litanies. Golden child of Zeus, O hear
Let thine angel face appear!
And grant that Ares whose hot breath I feel, Though without targe or steel
He stalks, whose voice is as the battle shout, May turn in sudden rout,
To the unharbored Thracian waters sped, Or Amphitrite’s bed.
For what night leaves undone,
Smit by the morrow’s sun
Perisheth. Father Zeus, whose hand
Doth wield the lightning brand,
Slay him beneath thy levin bold, we pray, Slay him, O slay!
O that thine arrows too, Lycean King, From that taut bow’s gold string,
Might fly abroad, the champions of our rights; Yea, and the flashing lights
Of Artemis, wherewith the huntress sweeps Across the Lycian steeps.
Thee too I call with golden-snooded hair, Whose name our land doth bear,
Bacchus to whom thy Maenads Evoe shout; Come with thy bright torch, rout,
Blithe god whom we adore,
The god whom gods abhor.
Ye pray; ’tis well, but would ye hear my words And heed them and apply the remedy,
Ye might perchance find comfort and relief. Mind you, I speak as one who comes a stranger To this report, no less than to the crime; For how unaided could I track it far
Without a clue? Which lacking (for too late Was I enrolled a citizen of Thebes)
This proclamation I address to all:– Thebans, if any knows the man by whom
Laius, son of Labdacus, was slain,
I summon him to make clean shrift to me. And if he shrinks, let him reflect that thus Confessing he shall ‘scape the capital charge; For the worst penalty that shall befall him Is banishment–unscathed he shall depart. But if an alien from a foreign land
Be known to any as the murderer,
Let him who knows speak out, and he shall have Due recompense from me and thanks to boot. But if ye still keep silence, if through fear For self or friends ye disregard my hest, Hear what I then resolve; I lay my ban
On the assassin whosoe’er he be.
Let no man in this land, whereof I hold The sovereign rule, harbor or speak to him; Give him no part in prayer or sacrifice
Or lustral rites, but hound him from your homes. For this is our defilement, so the god
Hath lately shown to me by oracles. Thus as their champion I maintain the cause Both of the god and of the murdered King. And on the murderer this curse I lay
(On him and all the partners in his guilt):– Wretch, may he pine in utter wretchedness! And for myself, if with my privity
He gain admittance to my hearth, I pray The curse I laid on others fall on me.
See that ye give effect to all my hest, For my sake and the god’s and for our land, A desert blasted by the wrath of heaven. For, let alone the god’s express command, It were a scandal ye should leave unpurged The murder of a great man and your king, Nor track it home. And now that I am lord, Successor to his throne, his bed, his wife, (And had he not been frustrate in the hope Of issue, common children of one womb
Had forced a closer bond twixt him and me, But Fate swooped down upon him), therefore I His blood-avenger will maintain his cause As though he were my sire, and leave no stone Unturned to track the assassin or avenge The son of Labdacus, of Polydore,
Of Cadmus, and Agenor first of the race. And for the disobedient thus I pray:
May the gods send them neither timely fruits Of earth, nor teeming increase of the womb, But may they waste and pine, as now they waste, Aye and worse stricken; but to all of you, My loyal subjects who approve my acts,
May Justice, our ally, and all the gods Be gracious and attend you evermore.
The oath thou profferest, sire, I take and swear. I slew him not myself, nor can I name
The slayer. For the quest, ’twere well, methinks That Phoebus, who proposed the riddle, himself Should give the answer–who the murderer was.
Teiresias, seer who comprehendest all, Lore of the wise and hidden mysteries,
High things of heaven and low things of the earth, Thou knowest, though thy blinded eyes see naught, What plague infects our city; and we turn To thee, O seer, our one defense and shield. The purport of the answer that the God
Returned to us who sought his oracle, The messengers have doubtless told thee–how One course alone could rid us of the pest, To find the murderers of Laius,
And slay them or expel them from the land. Therefore begrudging neither augury
Nor other divination that is thine, O save thyself, thy country, and thy king, Save all from this defilement of blood shed. On thee we rest. This is man’s highest end, To others’ service all his powers to lend.
Yea, I am wroth, and will not stint my words, But speak my whole mind. Thou methinks thou art he, Who planned the crime, aye, and performed it too, All save the assassination; and if thou
Hadst not been blind, I had been sworn to boot That thou alone didst do the bloody deed.
O wealth and empiry and skill by skill Outwitted in the battlefield of life,
What spite and envy follow in your train! See, for this crown the State conferred on me. A gift, a thing I sought not, for this crown The trusty Creon, my familiar friend,
Hath lain in wait to oust me and suborned This mountebank, this juggling charlatan, This tricksy beggar-priest, for gain alone Keen-eyed, but in his proper art stone-blind. Say, sirrah, hast thou ever proved thyself A prophet? When the riddling Sphinx was here Why hadst thou no deliverance for this folk? And yet the riddle was not to be solved
By guess-work but required the prophet’s art; Wherein thou wast found lacking; neither birds Nor sign from heaven helped thee, but _I_ came, The simple Oedipus; _I_ stopped her mouth By mother wit, untaught of auguries.
This is the man whom thou wouldst undermine, In hope to reign with Creon in my stead. Methinks that thou and thine abettor soon Will rue your plot to drive the scapegoat out. Thank thy grey hairs that thou hast still to learn What chastisement such arrogance deserves.
King as thou art, free speech at least is mine To make reply; in this I am thy peer.
I own no lord but Loxias; him I serve And ne’er can stand enrolled as Creon’s man. Thus then I answer: since thou hast not spared To twit me with my blindness–thou hast eyes, Yet see’st not in what misery thou art fallen, Nor where thou dwellest nor with whom for mate. Dost know thy lineage? Nay, thou know’st it not, And all unwitting art a double foe
To thine own kin, the living and the dead; Aye and the dogging curse of mother and sire One day shall drive thee, like a two-edged sword, Beyond our borders, and the eyes that now See clear shall henceforward endless night. Ah whither shall thy bitter cry not reach, What crag in all Cithaeron but shall then Reverberate thy wail, when thou hast found With what a hymeneal thou wast borne
Home, but to no fair haven, on the gale! Aye, and a flood of ills thou guessest not Shall set thyself and children in one line. Flout then both Creon and my words, for none Of mortals shall be striken worse than thou.
I go, but first will tell thee why I came. Thy frown I dread not, for thou canst not harm me. Hear then: this man whom thou hast sought to arrest With threats and warrants this long while, the wretch Who murdered Laius–that man is here.
He passes for an alien in the land
But soon shall prove a Theban, native born. And yet his fortune brings him little joy; For blind of seeing, clad in beggar’s weeds, For purple robes, and leaning on his staff, To a strange land he soon shall grope his way. And of the children, inmates of his home, He shall be proved the brother and the sire, Of her who bare him son and husband both, Co-partner, and assassin of his sire.
Go in and ponder this, and if thou find That I have missed the mark, henceforth declare I have no wit nor skill in prophecy.
[Exeunt TEIRESIAS and OEDIPUS]
Who is he by voice immortal named from Pythia’s rocky cell, Doer of foul deeds of bloodshed, horrors that no tongue can tell? A foot for flight he needs
Fleeter than storm-swift steeds, For on his heels doth follow,
Armed with the lightnings of his Sire, Apollo. Like sleuth-hounds too
The Fates pursue.
Yea, but now flashed forth the summons from Parnassus’ snowy peak, “Near and far the undiscovered doer of this murder seek!” Now like a sullen bull he roves
Through forest brakes and upland groves, And vainly seeks to fly
The doom that ever nigh
Flits o’er his head,
Still by the avenging Phoebus sped, The voice divine,
From Earth’s mid shrine.
Sore perplexed am I by the words of the master seer. Are they true, are they false? I know not and bridle my tongue for fear,
Fluttered with vague surmise; nor present nor future is clear. Quarrel of ancient date or in days still near know I none Twixt the Labdacidan house and our ruler, Polybus’ son. Proof is there none: how then can I challenge our King’s good name, How in a blood-feud join for an untracked deed of shame?
All wise are Zeus and Apollo, and nothing is hid from their ken; They are gods; and in wits a man may surpass his fellow men; But that a mortal seer knows more than I know–where Hath this been proven? Or how without sign assured, can I blame Him who saved our State when the winged songstress came, Tested and tried in the light of us all, like gold assayed? How can I now assent when a crime is on Oedipus laid?
Friends, countrymen, I learn King Oedipus Hath laid against me a most grievous charge, And come to you protesting. If he deems
That I have harmed or injured him in aught By word or deed in this our present trouble, I care not to prolong the span of life,
Thus ill-reputed; for the calumny
Hits not a single blot, but blasts my name, If by the general voice I am denounced
False to the State and false by you my friends.
Sirrah, what mak’st thou here? Dost thou presume To approach my doors, thou brazen-faced rogue, My murderer and the filcher of my crown? Come, answer this, didst thou detect in me Some touch of cowardice or witlessness,
That made thee undertake this enterprise? I seemed forsooth too simple to perceive The serpent stealing on me in the dark,
Or else too weak to scotch it when I saw. This _thou_ art witless seeking to possess Without a following or friends the crown, A prize that followers and wealth must win.
Not so, if thou wouldst reason with thyself, As I with myself. First, I bid thee think, Would any mortal choose a troubled reign Of terrors rather than secure repose,
If the same power were given him? As for me, I have no natural craving for the name
Of king, preferring to do kingly deeds, And so thinks every sober-minded man.
Now all my needs are satisfied through thee, And I have naught to fear; but were I king, My acts would oft run counter to my will. How could a title then have charms for me Above the sweets of boundless influence? I am not so infatuate as to grasp
The shadow when I hold the substance fast. Now all men cry me Godspeed! wish me well, And every suitor seeks to gain my ear,
If he would hope to win a grace from thee. Why should I leave the better, choose the worse? That were sheer madness, and I am not mad. No such ambition ever tempted me,
Nor would I have a share in such intrigue. And if thou doubt me, first to Delphi go, There ascertain if my report was true
Of the god’s answer; next investigate If with the seer I plotted or conspired, And if it prove so, sentence me to death, Not by thy voice alone, but mine and thine. But O condemn me not, without appeal,
On bare suspicion. ‘Tis not right to adjudge Bad men at random good, or good men bad. I would as lief a man should cast away
The thing he counts most precious, his own life, As spurn a true friend. Thou wilt learn in time The truth, for time alone reveals the just; A villain is detected in a day.
Misguided princes, why have ye upraised This wordy wrangle? Are ye not ashamed,
While the whole land lies striken, thus to voice Your private injuries? Go in, my lord;
Go home, my brother, and forebear to make A public scandal of a petty grief.
No, by the leader of the host divine! (Str. 2)
Witness, thou Sun, such thought was never mine, Unblest, unfriended may I perish,
If ever I such wish did cherish!
But O my heart is desolate
Musing on our striken State,
Doubly fall’n should discord grow
Twixt you twain, to crown our woe.
King, I say it once again,
Witless were I proved, insane,
If I lightly put away
Thee my country’s prop and stay,
Pilot who, in danger sought,
To a quiet haven brought
Our distracted State; and now
Who can guide us right but thou?
Then thou mayest ease thy conscience on that score. Listen and I’ll convince thee that no man Hath scot or lot in the prophetic art.
Here is the proof in brief. An oracle Once came to Laius (I will not say
‘Twas from the Delphic god himself, but from His ministers) declaring he was doomed
To perish by the hand of his own son, A child that should be born to him by me. Now Laius–so at least report affirmed– Was murdered on a day by highwaymen,
No natives, at a spot where three roads meet. As for the child, it was but three days old, When Laius, its ankles pierced and pinned Together, gave it to be cast away
By others on the trackless mountain side. So then Apollo brought it not to pass
The child should be his father’s murderer, Or the dread terror find accomplishment, And Laius be slain by his own son.
Such was the prophet’s horoscope. O king, Regard it not. Whate’er the god deems fit To search, himself unaided will reveal.
No, for as soon as he returned and found Thee reigning in the stead of Laius slain, He clasped my hand and supplicated me
To send him to the alps and pastures, where He might be farthest from the sight of Thebes. And so I sent him. ‘Twas an honest slave And well deserved some better recompense.
And thou shalt not be frustrate of thy wish. Now my imaginings have gone so far.
Who has a higher claim that thou to hear My tale of dire adventures? Listen then. My sire was Polybus of Corinth, and
My mother Merope, a Dorian;
And I was held the foremost citizen, Till a strange thing befell me, strange indeed, Yet scarce deserving all the heat it stirred. A roisterer at some banquet, flown with wine, Shouted “Thou art not true son of thy sire.” It irked me, but I stomached for the nonce The insult; on the morrow I sought out
My mother and my sire and questioned them. They were indignant at the random slur
Cast on my parentage and did their best To comfort me, but still the venomed barb Rankled, for still the scandal spread and grew. So privily without their leave I went
To Delphi, and Apollo sent me back
Baulked of the knowledge that I came to seek. But other grievous things he prophesied, Woes, lamentations, mourning, portents dire; To wit I should defile my mother’s bed
And raise up seed too loathsome to behold, And slay the father from whose loins I sprang. Then, lady,–thou shalt hear the very truth– As I drew near the triple-branching roads, A herald met me and a man who sat
In a car drawn by colts–as in thy tale– The man in front and the old man himself Threatened to thrust me rudely from the path, Then jostled by the charioteer in wrath
I struck him, and the old man, seeing this, Watched till I passed and from his car brought down Full on my head the double-pointed goad. Yet was I quits with him and more; one stroke Of my good staff sufficed to fling him clean Out of the chariot seat and laid him prone. And so I slew them every one. But if
Betwixt this stranger there was aught in common With Laius, who more miserable than I,
What mortal could you find more god-abhorred? Wretch whom no sojourner, no citizen
May harbor or address, whom all are bound To harry from their homes. And this same curse Was laid on me, and laid by none but me. Yea with these hands all gory I pollute
The bed of him I slew. Say, am I vile? Am I not utterly unclean, a wretch
Doomed to be banished, and in banishment Forgo the sight of all my dearest ones,
And never tread again my native earth; Or else to wed my mother and slay my sire, Polybus, who begat me and upreared?
If one should say, this is the handiwork Of some inhuman power, who could blame
His judgment? But, ye pure and awful gods, Forbid, forbid that I should see that day! May I be blotted out from living men
Ere such a plague spot set on me its brand!
In thy report of what the herdsman said Laius was slain by robbers; now if he
Still speaks of robbers, not a robber, I Slew him not; “one” with “many” cannot square. But if he says one lonely wayfarer,
The last link wanting to my guilt is forged.
Well, rest assured, his tale ran thus at first, Nor can he now retract what then he said; Not I alone but all our townsfolk heard it. E’en should he vary somewhat in his story, He cannot make the death of Laius
In any wise jump with the oracle.
For Loxias said expressly he was doomed To die by my child’s hand, but he, poor babe, He shed no blood, but perished first himself. So much for divination. Henceforth I
Will look for signs neither to right nor left.
My lot be still to lead
The life of innocence and fly
Irreverence in word or deed,
To follow still those laws ordained on high Whose birthplace is the bright ethereal sky No mortal birth they own,
Olympus their progenitor alone:
Ne’er shall they slumber in oblivion cold, The god in them is strong and grows not old.
Of insolence is bred
The tyrant; insolence full blown,
With empty riches surfeited,
Scales the precipitous height and grasps the throne. Then topples o’er and lies in ruin prone; No foothold on that dizzy steep.
But O may Heaven the true patriot keep Who burns with emulous zeal to serve the State. God is my help and hope, on him I wait.
But the proud sinner, or in word or deed, That will not Justice heed,
Nor reverence the shrine
Of images divine,
Perdition seize his vain imaginings, If, urged by greed profane,
He grasps at ill-got gain,
And lays an impious hand on holiest things. Who when such deeds are done
Can hope heaven’s bolts to shun? If sin like this to honor can aspire,
Why dance I still and lead the sacred choir?
No more I’ll seek earth’s central oracle, Or Abae’s hallowed cell,
Nor to Olympia bring
My votive offering.
If before all God’s truth be not bade plain. O Zeus, reveal thy might,
King, if thou’rt named aright
Omnipotent, all-seeing, as of old;
For Laius is forgot;
His weird, men heed it not;
Apollo is forsook and faith grows cold. [Enter JOCASTA.]
My lords, ye look amazed to see your queen With wreaths and gifts of incense in her hands. I had a mind to visit the high shrines,
For Oedipus is overwrought, alarmed With terrors manifold. He will not use
His past experience, like a man of sense, To judge the present need, but lends an ear To any croaker if he augurs ill.
Since then my counsels naught avail, I turn To thee, our present help in time of trouble, Apollo, Lord Lycean, and to thee
My prayers and supplications here I bring. Lighten us, lord, and cleanse us from this curse! For now we all are cowed like mariners
Who see their helmsman dumbstruck in the storm. [Enter Corinthian MESSENGER.]
Quick, maiden, bear these tidings to my lord. Ye god-sent oracles, where stand ye now! This is the man whom Oedipus long shunned, In dread to prove his murderer; and now
He dies in nature’s course, not by his hand. [Enter OEDIPUS.]
Out on it, lady! why should one regard The Pythian hearth or birds that scream i’ the air? Did they not point at me as doomed to slay My father? but he’s dead and in his grave And here am I who ne’er unsheathed a sword; Unless the longing for his absent son
Killed him and so _I_ slew him in a sense. But, as they stand, the oracles are dead– Dust, ashes, nothing, dead as Polybus.
Why should a mortal man, the sport of chance, With no assured foreknowledge, be afraid? Best live a careless life from hand to mouth. This wedlock with thy mother fear not thou. How oft it chances that in dreams a man
Has wed his mother! He who least regards Such brainsick phantasies lives most at ease.
Aye, ’tis no secret. Loxias once foretold That I should mate with mine own mother, and shed With my own hands the blood of my own sire. Hence Corinth was for many a year to me
A home distant; and I trove abroad, But missed the sweetest sight, my parents’ face.
Let the storm burst, my fixed resolve still holds, To learn my lineage, be it ne’er so low. It may be she with all a woman’s pride
Thinks scorn of my base parentage. But I Who rank myself as Fortune’s favorite child, The giver of good gifts, shall not be shamed. She is my mother and the changing moons
My brethren, and with them I wax and wane. Thus sprung why should I fear to trace my birth? Nothing can make me other than I am.
If my soul prophetic err not, if my wisdom aught avail, Thee, Cithaeron, I shall hail,
As the nurse and foster-mother of our Oedipus shall greet Ere tomorrow’s full moon rises, and exalt thee as is meet. Dance and song shall hymn thy praises, lover of our royal race. Phoebus, may my words find grace!
Child, who bare thee, nymph or goddess? sure thy sure was more than man,
Haply the hill-roamer Pan.
Of did Loxias beget thee, for he haunts the upland wold; Or Cyllene’s lord, or Bacchus, dweller on the hilltops cold? Did some Heliconian Oread give him thee, a new-born joy? Nymphs with whom he love to toy?
Elders, if I, who never yet before
Have met the man, may make a guess, methinks I see the herdsman who we long have sought; His time-worn aspect matches with the years Of yonder aged messenger; besides
I seem to recognize the men who bring him As servants of my own. But you, perchance, Having in past days known or seen the herd, May better by sure knowledge my surmise.
No wonder, master. But I will revive His blunted memories. Sure he can recall What time together both we drove our flocks, He two, I one, on the Cithaeron range,
For three long summers; I his mate from spring Till rose Arcturus; then in winter time
I led mine home, he his to Laius’ folds. Did these things happen as I say, or no?