A few years ago I was directing The Oresteia––all three parts in one production. I started by comparing three different translations: Ted Hughes, Edith Hamilton, and Robert Fagles. When I got to the famous lines on truth and suffering, I created a collage of all three translations.
I’ve been wondering about this idea today. Are there lessons so important that the pain never fully goes away?
from Aeschylus’ Oresteia
Zeus has given man this law,
Zeus has led us on to know,
God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer––
we must suffer, suffer into truth,
The truth has to be melted out of our stubborn lives by suffering.
And even in our sleep…
We cannot sleep
…pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart,
Drop by drop at the heart, the pain of pain remembered:
Nothing speaks the truth, nothing tells us how things really are, nothing forces us to know except pain.
And in our own despite, against our will…
…comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
This is how the gods declare their love.
From the gods there comes a violent love.
Truth comes with pain.
–Fagles, Hamilton, and Hughes