Oedipus at Colonus
OEDIPUS Flood on flood
Whelms me; that word's a second mortal blow.
OEDIPUS Yes, a murderer, but know-
CHORUS What canst thou plead?
OEDIPUS A plea of justice.
OEDIPUS I slew who else would me have slain;
I slew without intent,
A wretch, but innocent
In the law's eye, I stand, without a stain.
CHORUS Behold our sovereign, Theseus, Aegeus' son,
Comes at thy summons to perform his part. (Enter THESEUS)
THESEUS Oft had I heard of thee in times gone by-
The bloody mutilation of thine eyes-
And therefore know thee, son of Laius.
All that I lately gathered on the way
Made my conjecture doubly sure; and now
Thy garb and that marred visage prove to me
That thou art he. So pitying thine estate,
Most ill-starred Oedipus, I fain would know
What is the suit ye urge on me and Athens,
Thou and the helpless maiden at thy side.
Declare it; dire indeed must be the tale
Whereat I should recoil. I too was reared,
Like thee, in exile, and in foreign lands
Wrestled with many perils, no man more.
Wherefore no alien in adversity
Shall seek in vain my succor, nor shalt thou;
I know myself a mortal, and my share
In what the morrow brings no more than thine.
OEDIPUS Theseus, thy words so apt, so generous
So comfortable, need no long reply
Both who I am and of what lineage sprung,
And from what land I came, thou hast declared.
So without prologue I may utter now
My brief petition, and the tale is told.
THESEUS Say on, and tell me what I fain would learn.
OEDIPUS I come to offer thee this woe-worn frame,
A gift not fair to look on; yet its worth
More precious far than any outward show.
THESEUS What profit dost thou proffer to have brought?
OEDIPUS Hereafter thou shalt learn, not yet, methinks.
THESEUS When may we hope to reap the benefit?
OEDIPUS When I am dead and thou hast buried me.
THESEUS Thou cravest life's last service; all before-
Is it forgotten or of no account?
OEDIPUS Yea, the last boon is warrant for the rest.
THESEUS The grace thou cravest then is small indeed.
OEDIPUS Nay, weigh it well; the issue is not slight.
THESEUS Thou meanest that betwixt thy sons and me?
OEDIPUS Prince, they would fain convey me back to Thebes.
THESEUS If there be no compulsion, then methinks
To rest in banishment befits not thee.
OEDIPUS Nay, when I wished it they would not consent.
THESEUS For shame! such temper misbecomes the faller.
OEDIPUS Chide if thou wilt, but first attend my plea.
THESEUS Say on, I wait full knowledge ere I judge.
OEDIPUS O Theseus, I have suffered wrongs on wrongs.
THESEUS Wouldst tell the old misfortune of thy race?
OEDIPUS No, that has grown a byword throughout Greece.
THESEUS What then can be this more than mortal grief?
OEDIPUS My case stands thus; by my own flesh and blood