From ‘Oedipus at Colonus’

Tom Paulin

The Chorus draws nearer to Oedipus.

CHORUS
Those evil men that have slept
since long ago.
It is not proper to awaken them.
But yet I must be told –

OEDIPUS
Told what?

CHORUS
Told of that great heartbreak
for which there was no help.
I mean the pain
that you have had to suffer.

OEDIPUS
I ask that you be kind.
I ask you not to open
my ancient wound
and all my shame too.

CHORUS
Everywhere your shame is spoken of.
It never dies.
I only want to hear the truth.

OEDIPUS
Ah! Ah!

CHORUS
I ask that you consent now.
Please grant my wish
and I shall grant you yours.

OEDIPUS
A thing most terrible –
I had to face it.
But it was not willed by me or anyone.
I swear that this is true.
That unclean thing
I would have been disgusted by it.

CHORUS
So?

OEDIPUS
Though I did not know it
Thebes bound and married me to evil.
Fate and I were joined there.

CHORUS
So it was your mother
with whom the deed was done?

OEDIPUS
It is worse than death
to hear it told.
Think those two girls of mine
they were a luckless pair
for they were given birth
by her who gave birth to me.

CHORUS
If they are daughters they are also –

OEDIPUS
Yes my sisters.
They are their father’s sisters.

CHORUS
Ah pity!

OEDIPUS
Pity indeed.
O what hordes of pities
crowd into my mind!

CHORUS
You suffered –

OEDIPUS
Yes no words can speak of it.

CHORUS
You sinned –

OEDIPUS
No I never sinned!

CHORUS
How did you not?

OEDIPUS
I thought that she was my reward.
Ah would that I had never won it!
I wish that I had never served the state
on that most fateful day!

CHORUS
Unhappy man you also killed –

OEDIPUS
What are you saying?
What do you want me to say?

CHORUS
That you killed your own father.

OEDIPUS
Ah God in heaven
you bite deep into my wound.

CHORUS
You killed him.

OEDIPUS
I killed him yes.
But there is –

CHORUS
What is there more to say?

OEDIPUS
There was a just reason for it.
And it is this
– I did not know him
and he wished to murder me.
Before the law
– and before God too
know that I am innocent!

The Chorus turns at the approach of Theseus.