An excerpt from
Oedipus the King

Sophocles

Dryden trans.

OEDIPUS
But what is the oracle? So far, thy words make me neither bold nor yet afraid.

CREON
If thou wouldest hear while these are nigh, I am ready to speak; or else to go within.

OEDIPUS
Speak before all: the sorrow which I bear is for these more than for mine own life.

CREON
With thy leave, I will tell what I heard from the god. Phoebus our lord bids us plainly to drive out a defiling thing, which (he saith) hath been harboured in this land, and not to harbour it, so that it cannot be healed.

OEDIPUS
By what rite shall we cleanse us? What is the manner of the misfortune?

CREON
By banishing a man, or by bloodshed in quittance of bloodshed, since it is that blood which brings the tempest on our city.

OEDIPUS
And who is the man whose fate he thus reveals?

CREON
Laius, king, was lord of our land before thou wast pilot of this State.

OEDIPUS
I know it well--by hearsay, for I saw him never.

CREON
He was slain; and the god now bids us plainly to wreak vengeance on his murderers-whosoever they be.

OEDIPUS
And where are they upon the earth? Where shall the dim track of this old crime be found?

CREON
In this land,--said the god. What is sought for can be caught; only that which is not watched escapes.

OEDIPUS
And was it in the house, or in the field, or on strange soil that Laius met this bloody end?

CREON
'Twas on a visit to Delphi, as he said, that he had left our land; and he came home no more, after he had once set forth.

OEDIPUS
And was there none to tell? Was there no comrade of his journey who saw the deed, from whom tidings might have been gained, and used?

CREON
All perished, save one who fled in fear, and could tell for certain but one thing of all that he saw.

OEDIPUS
And what was that? One thing might show the clue to many, could we get but a small beginning for hope.

CREON
He said that robbers met and fell on them, not in one man's might, but with full many hands.

OEDIPUS
How, then, unless there was some trafficking in bribes from here, should the robber have dared thus far?

CREON
Such things were surmised; but, Laius once slain, amid our troubles no avenger arose.

OEDIPUS
But, when royalty had fallen thus, what trouble in your path can have hindered a full search?

CREON
The riddling Sphinx had made us let dark things go, and was inviting us to think of what lay at our doors.

OEDIPUS
Nay, I will start afresh, and once more make dark things plain. Right worthily hath Phoebus, and worthily hast thou, bestowed this care on the cause of the dead; and so, as is meet, ye shall find me too leagued with you in seeking vengeance for this land, and for the god besides. On behalf of no far-off friend, no, but in mine own cause, shall I dispel this taint. For whoever was the slayer of Laius might wish to take vengeance on me also with a hand as fierce. Therefore, in doing right to Laius, I serve myself.

. . .

CREON
'Tis not my wont to speak idly what I do not mean.

OEDIPUS
Then 'tis time to lead me hence.

CREON
Come, then,--but let thy children go.

OEDIPUS
Nay, take not these from me!

CREON
Crave not to be master in all things: for the mastery which thou didst win hath not followed thee through life.

CHORUS (singing)
Dwellers in our native Thebes, behold, this is Oedipus, who knew the famed riddle, and was a man most mighty; on whose fortunes what citizen did not gaze with envy? Behold into what a stormy sea of dread trouble he hath come! Therefore, while our eyes wait to see the destined final day, we must call no one happy who is of mortal race, until he hath crossed life's border, free from pain.


Complete text ( F. Storr translation) from The Internet Classics Archive at MIT.

Now that you have the context, why do you suppose Freud picked the emphasized passage for his epitaph?