I should have left him alone up there to die
on Cithaeron, beneath the jagged pines,
exposed to starve or to be eaten alive
by wolves or feral hogs, his limbs entwined,
a bloody peg through each ankle bone;
but his cries moved my heart enough to betray
a king; yet who could ever have known?
A kind act, three times blessed—a life that was saved,
a child to a childless pair,
to Corinth, a royal heir—
nothing more than a small act of charity
that led to regicide, the soiled bed,
pollution, plague, and all those Theban dead;
and as penance for my culpability,
I, a witness to the first, and forced to flee.
I should have left him up there to die, obeyed
my king, allowed the gods, then, to be betrayed
and the fate that they had prepared before time
began; yet, surely, they’d have devised a way,
and I, too, would then have been bloodied with crime.
Still, the guilt and terror, like silt, left behind—
ironic how the gods design their darkest arts
in deference to the windings of the human heart.