Greek Ancient Sculpture of Warrior

Antigone Refocused

ANTIGONE

REFOCUSED

 

BY

Sophocles and

Refocuspublishing.com

 

 

 

Title: Antigone Refocused

Author: Sophocles (Born at Colonos probably in 495 BC and died 406 BC)

Refocused: Keira Jackson

Refocused version published:  October 30, 2020

 

 

Antigone Refocused

 

 

by Sophocles and refocuspublishing.com

 

 

PREPARER’S NOTE

The present translation was first published in ‘The World’s Classics’ in 1906.

CHARACTERS

 

ANTIGONE:    Son of Oedipus and Brother of Polynices, Eteocles, and Ismene

ISMENE:          Son of Oedipus and Brother of Polynices, Eteocles, and Antigone

CHORUS OF THEBAN ELDERS

CREON:          Queen of Thebes

A Watchwoman

HAEMON:      Daughter of Creon, betrothed to Antigone

TIRESIAS:      The blind Prophet

A Messenger

EURYDICE:    The Husband of Creon

2nd Messenger

 

 

SCENE

 

Before the Cadmean Palace at Thebes.

 

 

Polynices, daughter and heir to the unfortunate Oedipus, having been supplanted by her younger sister Eteocles, brought an army of Argives against her native city, Thebes. The army was defeated, and the two sisters slew each other in single combat. On this Creon, the sister-in-law of Oedipus, succeeding to the chief power, forbade the burial of Polynices. But Antigone, brother of the dead, placing the dues of affection and piety before his obligation to the magistrate, disobeyed the edict at the sacrifice of his life. Creon carried out her will, but lost her daughter Haemon and her husband Eurydice, and received their curses on her head. Her other daughter, Megareus, had previously been devoted as a victim to the good of the state.

 

 

 

(ANTIGONE and ISMENE)

 

ANTIGONE

Own brother of my blood, one life with me,

Ismene, have the tidings caught thine ear?

Say, hath not Heaven decreed to execute

On thee and me, while yet we are alive,

All the evil Oedipus bequeathed? All horror,

All pain, all outrage, falls on us! And now

The General's proclamation of today --

Hast thou not heard? -- Art thou so slow to hear

When harm from foes threatens the souls we love?

 

ISMENE

No word of those we love, Antigone,

Painful or glad, hath reached me, since we two

Were utterly deprived of our two sisters,

Cut off with mutual stroke, both in one day.

And since the Argive host this now-past night

Is vanished, I know naught beside to make me

Nearer to happiness or more in woe.

 

ANTIGONE

I knew it well, and therefore led thee forth

The palace gate, that thou alone mightst hear.

 

ISMENE

Speak on! Thy troubled look bodes some dark news.

 

ANTIGONE

Why, hath not Creon, in the burial-rite,

Of our two brethren honored one, and wrought

On one foul wrong? Eteocles, they tell,

With lawful consecration she lays out,

And after covers her in earth, adorned

With amplest honors in the world below.

But Polynices, miserably slain,

They say 'tis publicly proclaimed that none

Must cover in a grave, nor mourn for her;

But leave her tombless and unwept, a store

Of sweet provision for the carrion fowl

That eye her greedily. Such righteous law

Good Creon hath pronounced for thy behoof --

Ay, and for mine! I am not left out! -- And now

She moves this way to promulgate her will

To such as have not heard, nor lightly holds

The thing she bids, but, whoso disobeys,

The citizens shall stone her to the death.

This is the matter, and thou wilt quickly show

If thou art noble, or fallen below thy birth.

 

ISMENE

Unhappy one! But what can I herein

Avail to do or undo?

 

ANTIGONE

Wilt thou share

The danger and the labor? Make thy choice.

 

ISMENE

Of what wild enterprise? What canst thou mean?

 

ANTIGONE

Wilt thou join hand with mine to lift the dead?

 

ISMENE

To bury her, when all have been forbidden?

Is that thy thought?

 

ANTIGONE

To bury my own sister

And thine, even though thou wilt not do thy part.

I will not be a traitor to my kin.

 

ISMENE

Fool-hardy boy! Against the word of Creon?

 

ANTIGONE

She hath no right to bar me from mine own.

 

ISMENE

Ah, brother, think but how our mother fell,

Hated of all and lost to fair renown,

Through self-detected crimes -- with her own hand,

Self-wreaking, how she dashed out both her eyes:

Then how the father-husband, sad two-fold name!

With twisted halter bruised his life away,

Last, how in one dire moment our two sisters

With internecine conflict at a blow

Wrought out by fratricide their mutual doom.

Now, left alone, O think how beyond all

Most piteously we twain shall be destroyed,

If in defiance of authority

We traverse the commandment of the Queen!

We needs must bear in mind we are but men,

Never created to contend with women;

Nay more, made victims of resistless power,

To obey behests more harsh than this to-day.

I, then, imploring those beneath to grant

Indulgence, seeing I am enforced in this,

Will yield submission to the powers that rule,

Small wisdom were it to overpass the bound.

 

ANTIGONE

I will not urge you! No! Nor if now you list

To help me, will your help afford me joy.

Be what you choose to be! This single hand

Shall bury our lost sister. Glorious

For me to take this labor and to die!

Dear to her will my soul be as we rest

In death, when I have dared this holy crime.

My time for pleasing women will soon be over;

Not so my duty toward the Dead! My home

Yonder will have no end. You, if you will,

May pour contempt on laws revered on High.

 

ISMENE

Not from irreverence. But I have no strength

To strive against the citizens' resolve.

 

ANTIGONE

Thou, make excuses! I will go my way

To raise a burial-mound to my dear sister.

 

ISMENE

Oh, hapless man, how I fear for thee!

 

ANTIGONE

Waste not your fears on me! Guide your own fortune.

 

ISMENE

Ah! Yet divulge thine enterprise to none,

But keep the secret close, and so will I.

 

ANTIGONE

O Heavens! Nay, tell! I hate your silence worse;

I had rather you proclaimed it to the world.

 

ISMENE

You are ardent in a chilling enterprise.

 

ANTIGONE

I know that I please those whom I would please.

 

ISMENE

Yes, if you thrive; but your desire is bootless.

 

ANTIGONE

Well, when I fail I shall be stopt, I believe!

 

ISMENE

One should not start upon a hopeless quest.

 

ANTIGONE

Speak in that vein if you would earn my hate

And aye be hated of our lost one. Peace!

Leave my unwisdom to endure this peril;

Fate cannot rob me of a noble death.

 

ISMENE

Go, if you must -- Not to be checked in folly,

But sure unparalleled in faithful love!                     

 

(Exit ISMENE and ANTIGONE)

 

CHORUS (Entering)

  Beam of the mounting Sun!                              

  O brightest, fairest ray

  Seven-gated Thebe yet hath seen!

  Over the vale where Dirce's fountains run

  At length thou appearedst, eye of golden Day,

  And with incitement of thy radiance keen

        Spurredst to faster flight

  The woman of Argos hurrying from the fight.

  Armed at all points the warrior came,

  But driven before thy rising flame

  She rode, reverting her pale shield,

  Headlong from yonder battlefield.

 

(Half of the Chorus)

  In snow-white panoply, on eagle wing,          

  She rose, dire ruin on our land to bring,

        Roused by the fierce debate

        Of Polynices' hate,

  Shrilling sharp menace from her breast,

  Sheathed all in steel from crown to heel,

  With many a plumed crest.

 

  Then stooped above the domes,                                   

  With lust of carnage fired,

  And opening teeth of serried spears

  Yawned wide around the gates that guard our homes;

  But went, or e'er her hungry jaws had tired

  On Theban flesh, -- or e'er the Fire-god fierce

        Seizing our sacred town

  Besmirched and rent her battlemented crown.

  Such noise of battle as she fled

  About her back the War-god spread;

  So writhed to hard-fought victory

  The serpent struggling to be free.

 

(Half the Chorus)

 High Zeus beheld their stream that proudly rolled

  Idly caparisoned with clanking gold:

        Zeus hates the boastful tongue:

        She with hurled fire down flung

  One who in haste had mounted high,

  And that same hour from topmost tower

        Upraised the exulting cry.

 

  Swung rudely to the hard repellent earth                       

  Amidst her furious mirth

  She fell, who then with flaring brand

        Held in her fiery hand

  Came breathing madness at the gate

        In eager blasts of hate.

  And doubtful swayed the varying fight

  Through the turmoil of the night,

  As turning now on these and now on those

  Ares hurtled 'midst our foes,

  Self-harnessed helper on our right.

 

(Half of the Chorus) 

Seven matched with seven, at each gate one,         

  Their captains, when the day was done,

  Left for our Zeus who turned the scale,

  The brazen tribute in full tale: --

  All save the horror-burdened pair,

        Dire children of despair,

  Who from one sire, one mother, drawing breath,

  Each with conquering lance in rest

  Against a true born sister's breast,

        Found equal lots in death.

 

  But with blithe greeting to glad Thebe came                   

  He of the glorious name,

  Victory, -- smiling on our chariot throng

        With eyes that waken song

  Then let those battle memories cease,

        Silenced by thoughts of peace.

  With holy dances of delight

  Lasting through the livelong night

  Visit we every shrine, in solemn round,

  Led by her who shakes the ground,

  Our Bacchus, Thebe's child of light.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

  But look! Where Creon in her new-made power,

  Moved by the fortune of the recent hour,

  Comes with fresh counsel. What intelligence

  Intends she for our private conference,

  That she hath sent her herald to us all,

  Gathering the elders with a general call?

 

(Enter CREON)

 

CREON

My friends, the noble vessel of our State,

After sore shaking him, the Gods have sped

On a smooth course once more. I have called you hither,

By special messengers selecting you

From all the city, first, because I knew you

Aye loyal to the throne of Laius;

Then, both while Oedipus gave prosperous days,

And since her fall, I still beheld you firm

In sound allegiance to the royal issue.

Now since the pair have perished in an hour,

Twinned in misfortune, by a mutual stroke

Staining our land with fratricidal blood,

All rule and potency of sovereign sway,

In virtue of next kin to the deceased,

Devolves on me. But hard it is to learn

The mind of any mortal or the heart,

Till she be tried in chief authority.

Power shows the woman. For she who when supreme

Withholds her hand or voice from the best cause,

Being thwarted by some fear, that woman to me

Appears, and ever hath appeared, most vile.

She too hath no high place in mine esteem,

Who sets her friend before her Motherland.

Let Zeus whose eye sees all eternally

Be here my witness. I will ne'er keep silence

When danger looms upon my citizens

Who looked for safety, nor make her my friend

Who doth not love my country. For I know

Our country carries us, and whilst his helm

Is held aright we gain good friends and true.

  Following such courses 'tis my steadfast will

To foster Thebe's greatness, and therewith

In sisterly accord is my decree

Touching the daughters of Oedipus. The woman --

Eteocles I mean -- who died for Thebes

Fighting with eminent prowess on her side,

Shall be entombed with every sacred rite

That follows to the grave the ladyliest dead.

But for her sister, who, a banished woman,

Returned to devastate and burn with fire

The land of her nativity, the shrines

Of her ancestral gods, to feed her fat

With Theban carnage, and make captive all

That should escape the sword -- for Polynices,

This law hath been proclaimed concerning her:

She shall have no lament, no funeral,

But she unburied, for the carrion fowl

And dogs to eat her corpse, a sight of shame.

  Such are the motions of this mind and will.

Never from me shall villains reap renown

Before the just. But whoso loves the State,

I will exalt her both in life and death.

 

CHORUS

Daughter of Menoeceus, we have heard thy mind

Toward her who loves, and her who hates our city.

And sure, 'tis thine to enforce what law thou wilt

Both on the dead and all of us who live.

 

 

CREON

Then be ye watchful to maintain my word.

 

CHORUS

Young strength for such a burden were more meet.

 

CREON

Already there be watchers of the dead.

 

CHORUS

What charge then wouldst thou further lay on us?

 

CREON

Not to give place to those that disobey.

 

CHORUS

Who is so fond, to be in love with death?

 

CREON

Such, truly, is the meed. But hope of gain

Full oft ere now hath been the ruin of women.

 

WATCHWOMAN (entering)

My lord, I am out of breath, but not with speed.

I will not say my foot was fleet. My thoughts

Cried halt unto me ever as I came

And wheeled me to return. My mind discoursed

Most volubly within my breast, and said --

Fond wretch! Why go where thou wilt find thy bane?

Unhappy wight! Say, wilt thou bide aloof?

Then if the Queen shall hear this from another,

How shalt thou 'scape for 't? Winding thus about

I hasted, but I could not speed, and so

Made a long journey of a little way.

At last 'yes' carried it, that I should come

To thee; and tell thee I must needs; and shall,

Though it be nothing that I have to tell.

For I came hither, holding fast by this --

Naught that is not my fate can happen to me.

 

CREON

Speak forth thy cause of fear. What is the matter?

 

WATCHWOMAN

First of mine own part in the business. For

I did it not, nor saw the woman who did,

And 'twere not right that I should come to harm.

 

CREON

You fence your ground, and keep well out of danger;

I see you have some strange thing to declare.

 

WATCHWOMAN

A woman will shrink who carries words of fear.

 

CREON

Let us have done with you. Tell your tale, and go.

 

WATCHWOMAN

Well, here it is. The corpse hath burial

From someone who is stolen away and gone,

But first hath strown dry dust upon the skin,

And added what religious rites require.

 

CREON

Ha!

What woman hath been so daring in revolt?

 

WATCHWOMAN

I cannot tell. There was no mark to show --

No dint of spade, or mattock-loosened sod, --

Only the hard-bare ground, untilled and trackless.

Whoever she was, the doer left no trace.

And, when the scout of our first daylight watch

Showed us the thing, we marveled in dismay.

The Princess was out of sight; not in a grave,

But a thin dust was o'er her, as if thrown

By one who shunned the dead woman's curse. No sign

Appeared of any hound or beast o' the field

Having come near, or pulled at the dead body.

Then rose high words among us sentinels

With bickering noise accusing each her mate,

And it seemed like to come to blows, with none

To hinder. For the hand that thus had wrought

Was any of ours, and none; the guilty woman

Escaped all knowledge. And we were prepared

To lift hot iron with our bare palms; to walk

Through fire, and swear by all the Gods at once

That we were guiltless, ay, and ignorant

Of who had plotted or performed this thing.

  When further search seemed bootless, at the last

One spoke, whose words bowed all our heads to the earth

With fear. We knew not what to answer her,

Nor how to do it and prosper. She advised

So grave a matter must not be concealed,

But instantly reported to the Queen.

  Well, this prevailed, and the lot fell on me,

Unlucky woman! To be the ministrant

Of this fair service. So I am present here,

Against my will and yours, I am sure of that.

None love the bringer of unwelcome news.

 

CHORUS

My lady, a thought keeps whispering in my breast,

Some Power divine hath interposed in this.

 

CREON

Cease, ere thou quite enrage me, and appear

Foolish as thou art old. Talk not to me

Of Gods who have taken thought for this dead woman!

Say, was it for her benefits to them

They hid her corpse, and honored her so highly,

Who came to set on fire their pillared shrines,

With all the riches of their offerings,

And to make nothing of their land and laws?

Or, hast thou seen them honoring villainy?

That cannot be. Long time the cause of this

Hath come to me in secret murmurings

From malcontents of Thebes, who under yoke

Turned restive, and would not accept my sway.

Well know I, these have bribed the watchwomen here

To do this for some fee. For naught hath grown

Current among womankind so mischievous

As money. This brings cities to their fall:

This drives women homeless, and moves honest minds

To base contrivings. This hath taught womankind

The use of wickedness, and how to give

An impious turn to every kind of act.

But whosoever hath done this for reward

Hath found her way at length to punishment.

If Zeus have still my worship, be assured

Of that which here on oath I say to thee --

Unless ye find the woman who made this grave

And bring her bodily before mine eye,

Death shall not be enough, till ye have hung

Alive for an example of your guilt,

That henceforth in your rapine ye may know

Whence gain is to be gotten, and may learn

Pelf from all quarters is not to be loved.

For in base getting, 'tis a common proof,

More find disaster than deliverance.

 

WATCHWOMAN

Am I to speak? Or must I turn and go?

 

CREON

What? Know you not your speech offends even now?

 

WATCHWOMAN

Doth the mind smart withal, or only the ear?

 

CREON

Art thou to probe the seat of mine annoy?

 

WATCHWOMAN

If I offend, 'tis in your ear alone,

The malefactor wounds ye to the soul.

 

CREON

Out on thee! Thou art nothing but a tongue.

 

WATCHWOMAN

Then was I ne'er the doer of this deed.

 

CREON

Yea, verily: self-hired to crime for gold.

 

WATCHWOMAN

Pity so clear a mind should clearly err!

 

CREON

Gloze now on clearness! But unless ye bring

The burier, without glozing ye shall tell,

Craven advantage clearly worketh bane.

 

WATCHWOMAN

By all means let the woman be found; one thing

I know right well: -- caught or not caught, however

Fate rules her fortune, me you ne'er will see

Standing in presence here. Even now I owe

Deep thanks to Heaven for mine escape, so far

Beyond my hope and highest expectancy.

 

(Exits severally)          

 

CHORUS

Many a wonder lives and moves, but the wonder of all is woman, 

That courseth over the grey ocean, carried of Southern gale,

Faring amidst high-swelling seas that rudely surge around,

And Earth, supreme of mighty Gods, eldest, imperishable,

Eternal, she with patient furrow wears and wears away

      As year by year the plough-shares turn and turn, --

Subduing his unwearied strength with children of the steed.

 

And wound in woven coils of nets she seizeth for her prey          

The aery tribe of birds and wilding armies of the chase,

And sea-born millions of the deep -- woman is so crafty-wise.

And now with engine of her wit she tameth to her will

The mountain-ranging beast whose lair is in the country wild;

      And now her yoke hath passed upon the mane

Of horse with proudly crested neck and tireless mountain bull.

 

Wise utterance and wind-swift thought, and city-molding mind,  

And shelter from the clear-eyed power of biting frost,

She hath taught her, and to shun the sharp, roof-penetrating rain, --

Full of resource, without device she meets no coming time;

      From Death alone she shall not find reprieve;

No league may gain her that relief; but even for fell disease,

That long hath baffled wisest leech, she hath contrived a cure.

 

Inventive beyond wildest hope, endowed with boundless skill,   

One while she moves toward evil, and one while toward good,

According as she loves her land and fears the Gods above.

Weaving the laws into her life and steadfast oath of Heaven,

      High in the State she moves but outcast she,

Who hugs dishonor to her heart and follows paths of crime

Ne'er may she come beneath my roof, nor think like thoughts with me.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

    What portent from the Gods is here?

    My mind is mazed with doubt and fear.

    How can I gainsay what I see?

    I know the boy Antigone,

    O hapless child of hapless dame!

    Didst thou, then, recklessly aspire

    To brave queens' laws, and now art brought

    In madness of transgression caught?

 

(Enter WATCHWOMAN, bringing in ANTIGONE)

 

WATCHWOMAN

Here is the doer of the deed -- this lad

We found him burying her. Where is the Queen?

 

CHORUS

Look, she comes forth again to meet thy call.

 

(Enter CREON)

 

CREON

What call so nearly times with mine approach?

 

WATCHWOMAN

My lord, no mortal should deny on oath,

Judgement is still belied by after thought

When quailing 'neath the tempest of your threats,

Methought no force would drive me to this place

But joy unlooked for and surpassing hope

Is out of bound the best of all delight,

And so I am here again, -- though I had sworn

I ne'er would come, -- and in my charge this lad,

Caught in the act of caring for the dead

Here was no lot throwing, this hap was mine

Without dispute. And now, my sovereign lady,

According to thy pleasure, thine own self

Examine and convict him. For my part

I have good right to be away and free

From the bad business I am come upon.

 

CREON

This schoolboy!

How came he in thy charge? Where didst thou find him?

 

WATCHWOMAN

Burying the princess. One word hath told thee all.

 

CREON

Hast thou thy wits, and knowest thou what thou sayest?

 

WATCHWOMAN

I saw him burying her whom you forbade

To bury. Is that, now, clearly spoken, or no?

 

CREON

And how was he detected, caught, and taken?

 

WATCHWOMAN

It fell in this wise. We were come to the spot,

Bearing the dreadful burden of thy threats;

And first with care we swept the dust away

From round the corpse, and laid the dank limbs bare:

Then sate below the hill-top, out o' the wind,

Where no bad odor from the dead might strike us,

Stirring each other on with interchange

Of loud revilings on the negligent

In 'tendance on this duty. So we stayed

Till in mid heaven the sun's resplendent orb

Stood high, and the heat strengthened. Suddenly,

The Storm-god raised a whirlwind from the ground,

Vexing heaven's concave, and filled all the plain,

Rending the locks of all the orchard groves,

Till the great sky was choked withal. We closed

Our lips and eyes, and bore the God-sent evil.

When after a long while this ceased, the lad

Was seen, and wailed in high and bitter key,

Like some despairing bird that hath espied

His nest all desolate, the nestlings gone.

So, when he saw the body bare, he mourned

Loudly, and cursed the authors of this deed.

Then nimbly with his hands he brought dry dust,

And holding high a shapely brazen cruse,

Poured three libations, honoring the dead.

We, when we saw, ran in, and straightway seized

Our quarry, naught dismayed, and charged him with

The former crime and this. And he denied

Nothing; -- to my delight, and to my grief.

One's self to escape disaster is great joy;

Yet to have drawn a friend into distress

Is painful. But mine own security

To me is of more value than aught else.

 

CREON

Thou, with thine eyes down-fastened to the earth!

Dost thou confess to have done this, or deny it?

 

ANTIGONE

I deny nothing. I avow the deed.

 

CREON (to WATCHWOMAN)

Thou may'st betake thyself whither thou wilt,

Acquitted of the grievous charge, and free.

 

CREON (to ANTIGONE)

And thou, -- no prating talk, but briefly tell,

Knew'st thou our edict that forbade this thing?

 

ANTIGONE

I could not fail to know. You made it plain.

 

CREON

How durst thou then transgress the published law?

 

ANTIGONE

I heard it not from Heaven, nor came it forth

From Justice, where he reigns with Gods below.

They too have published to womankind a law.

Nor thought I thy commandment of such might

That one who is mortal thus could overbear

The infallible, unwritten laws of Heaven.

Not now or yesterday they have their being,

But everlastingly, and none can tell

The hour that saw their birth. I would not, I,

For any terror of a woman's resolve,

Incur the God-inflicted penalty

Of doing them wrong. That death would come, I knew

Without thine edict; -- if before the time,

I count it gain. Who does not gain by death,

That lives, as I do, amid boundless woe?

Slight is the sorrow of such doom to me.

But had I suffered my own father's child,

Fallen in blood, to be without a grave,

That were indeed a sorrow. This is none.

And if thou deem'st me foolish for my deed,

I am foolish in the judgement of a fool.

 

CHORUS

Fierce shows the young man's vein from his fierce dame;

Calamity doth not subdue his will.

 

CREON

Ay, but the stubborn spirit first doth fall.

Oft ye shall see the strongest bar of steel,

That fire hath hardened to extremity,

Shattered to pieces. A small bit controls

The fiery steed. Pride may not be endured

In one whose life is subject to command.

This youth hath been conversant with crime

Since first he trampled on the public law;

And now he adds to crime this insolence,

To laugh at his offence, and glory in it.

Truly, if he that hath usurped this power

Shall rest unpunished, he then is a woman,

And I am none. Be he my brother's child,

Or of yet nearer blood to me than all

That take protection from my hearth, the pair

Shall not escape the worst of deaths. For know,

I count the younger of the twain no less

Copartner in this plotted funeral:

And now I bid you call him. Late I saw him

Within the house, beyond himself, and frantic.

-- Full oft when one is darkly scheming wrong,

The disturbed spirit hath betrayed itself

Before the act it hides. -- But not less hateful

Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught

In wickedness would give it a brave show.

 

ANTIGONE

Wouldst thou aught more of me than merely death?

 

CREON

No more. 'Tis all I claim. Death closes all.

 

ANTIGONE

Why then delay? No talk of thine can charm me,

Forbid it Heaven! And my discourse no less

Must evermore sound noisome to thine ear.

Yet where could I have found a fairer fame

Than giving burial to my own true sister?

All here would tell thee they approve my deed,

Were they not tongue-tied to authority.

But queenship hath much profit; this in chief,

That it may do and say whate'er it will.

 

CREON

No Theban sees the matter with thine eye.

 

ANTIGONE

They see, but curb their voices to thy sway

 

CREON

And art thou not ashamed, acting alone?

 

ANTIGONE

A brother's piety hath no touch of shame.

 

CREON

Was not Eteocles thy sister too?

 

ANTIGONE

My own true sister from both parents' blood.

 

CREON

This duty was impiety to her.

 

ANTIGONE

She that is dead will not confirm that word.

 

CREON

If you impart her honors to the vile.

 

ANTIGONE

It was her sister, not a slave, who fell.

 

CREON

But laying waste the land for which she fought.

 

ANTIGONE

Death knows no difference, but demands her due.

 

CREON

Yet not equality 'twixt good and bad.

 

ANTIGONE

Both may be equal yonder; who can tell?

 

CREON

An enemy is hated even in death.

 

ANTIGONE

Love, and not hatred, is the part for me.

 

CREON

Down then to death! And, if you must, there love

The dead. No man rules me while I live.

 

CHORUS

Now comes Ismene forth. Ah, see,

From clouds above his brow

The brother-loving tear

Is falling wet on his fair cheek,

Distaining all his passion crimsoned face!

 

(Enter ISMENE)

 

CREON

And thou, that like a serpent coiled in the house

Hast secretly been draining my life-blood, --

Little aware that I was cherishing

Two curses and subverters of my throne, --

Tell us, wilt thou avouch thy share in this

Entombment, or forswear all knowledge of it?

 

ISMENE

If his voice go therewith, I did the deed,

And bear my part and burden of the blame.

 

ANTIGONE

Nay, justice will not suffer that. You would not,

And I refused to make you mine ally.

 

ISMENE

But now in thy misfortune I would fain

Embark with thee in thy calamity.

 

ANTIGONE

Who did the deed, the powers beneath can tell.

I care not for lip-kindness from my kin.

 

ISMENE

Ah! scorn me not so far as to forbid me

To die with thee, and honor our lost sister.

 

ANTIGONE

Die not with me, nor make your own a deed

you never touched! My dying is enough.

 

ISMENE

What joy have I in life when thou art gone?

 

ANTIGONE

Ask Creon there. She hath your care and duty.

 

ISMENE

What can it profit thee to vex me so?

 

 

ANTIGONE

My heart is pained, though my lip laughs at thee.

 

ISMENE

What can I do for thee now, even now?

 

ANTIGONE

Save your own life. I grudge not your escape.

 

ISMENE

Alas! And must I be debarred thy fate?

 

ANTIGONE

Life was the choice you made. Mine was to die.

 

ISMENE

I warned thee ----

 

ANTIGONE

Yes, your prudence is admired

On earth. My wisdom is approved below.

 

ISMENE

Yet truly we are both alike in fault.

 

ANTIGONE

Fear not; you live. My life hath long been given

To death, to be of service to the dead.

 

CREON

Of these two boys, the one hath lost his wits:

The other hath had none since he was born.

 

ISMENE

My lord, in misery, the mind one hath

Is want to be dislodged, and will not stay.

 

CREON

You have taken leave of yours at any rate,

When you cast in your portion with the vile.

 

ISMENE

What can life profit me without my brother?

 

CREON

Say not 'my brother'; he is nothing now.

 

ISMENE

What? Wilt thou kill thy daughter's espousal too?

 

CREON

She may find other ploughs for her field.

 

ISMENE

Not so as love was plighted 'twixt them twain.

 

CREON

I hate a wicked consort for my daughter.

 

ANTIGONE

O dearest Haemon! How thy mother wrongs thee!

 

CREON

Thou and thy marriage are a torment to me.

 

CHORUS

And wilt thou sever him from thine own daughter?

 

CREON

'Tis death must come between her and her joy,

 

CHORUS

All doubt is then resolved: the lad must die,

 

CREON

I am resolved; and so, 'twould seem, are you.

In with him, slaves! No more delay! Henceforth

These lads must have but man's liberty

And be mewed up; for even the bold will fly

When they see Death nearing the house of life.

 

(ANTIGONE and ISMENE are led into the palace)

 

CHORUS

Blest is the life that never tasted woe.                         

      When once the blow

Hath fallen upon a house with Heaven-sent doom,

Trouble descends in ever-widening gloom

Through all the number of the tribe to flow;

      As when the briny surge

      That Thrace-born tempests urge

(The big wave ever gathering more and more)

Runs o'er the darkness of the deep,

      And with far-searching sweep

Uprolls the storm-heap'd tangle on the shore,

While cliff to beaten cliff resounds with sullen roar.

 

The stock of Cadmus from old time, I know,                       

      Hath woe on woe,

Age following age, the living on the dead,

Fresh sorrow falling on each new-ris'n head,

None freed by God from ruthless overthrow.

      E'en now a smiling light

      Was spreading to our sight

O'er one last fiber of a blasted tree, --

When, lo! the dust of cruel death,

      Tribute of Gods beneath,

And wildering thoughts, and fate-born ecstasy,

Quench the brief gleam in dark Nonentity.

 

What froward will of woman, O Zeus! Can check thy might?          

Not all-enfeebling sleep, nor tireless months divine,

Can touch thee, who through ageless time

Rulest mightily Olympus' dazzling height.

This was in the beginning, and shall be

      Now and eternally,

Not here or there, but everywhere,

A law of misery that shall not spare.

 

For Hope, that wandereth wide, comforting many a head,          

Entangleth many more with glamour of desire:

Unknowing they have trod the fire.

Wise was the famous word of one who said,

'Evil oft seemeth goodness to the mind

      An angry God doth blind.'

Few are the days that such as she

May live untroubled of calamity.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

Lo, Haemon, thy last offspring, now is come,

Lamenting haply for the young man's doom,

Say, is she mourning o'er his young life lost,

Fiercely indignant for her suitor crossed?

 

(Enter HAEMON)

 

CREON

We shall know soon, better than seers could teach us.

Can it be so, my daughter, that thou art brought

By mad distemperature against thy dame,

On hearing of the irrevocable doom

Passed on thy promised groom? Or is thy love

Thy mother’s, be her actions what they may?

 

HAEMON

I am thine, mother, and will follow still

Thy good directions; nor would I prefer

The fairest groom to thy wise government.

 

CREON

That, O my daughter! Should be thy constant mind,

In all to bend thee to thy mother's will.

Therefore women pray to have around their hearths

Obedient offspring, to requite their foes

With harm, and honor whom their mother loves;

But she whose issue proves unprofitable,

Begets what else but sorrow to herself

And store of laughter to her enemies?

Make not, my daughter, a shipwreck of thy wit

For a man. Thine own heart may teach thee this; --

There's but cold comfort in a wicked husband

Yoked to the home inseparably. What wound

Can be more deadly than a harmful friend?

Then spurn him like an enemy, and send him

To wed some shadow in the world below!

For since of all the city I have found

Him only recusant, caught in the act,

I will not break my word before the State.

I will take his life. At this let him invoke

The god of kindred blood! For if at home

I foster rebels, how much more abroad?

Whoso is just in ruling her own house,

Lives rightly in the commonwealth no less:

But she that wantonly defies the law,

Or thinks to dictate to authority,

Shall have no praise from me. What power soever

The city hath ordained, must be obeyed

In little things and great things, right or wrong.

The woman who so obeys, I have good hope

Will govern and be governed as she ought,

And in the storm of battle at my side

Will stand a faithful and a trusty comrade.

But what more fatal than the lapse of rule?

This ruins cities, this lays houses waste,

This joins with the assault of war to break

Full numbered armies into hopeless rout;

And in the unbroken host 'tis naught but rule

That keeps those many bodies from defeat,

I must be zealous to defend the law,

And not go down before a man's will.

Else, if I fall, 'twere best a woman should strike me;

Lest one should say, 'a man worsted her.'

 

CHORUS

Unless our sense is weakened by long time,

Thou speakest not unwisely.

 

HAEMON

O my dame,

Sound wisdom is a God implanted seed,

Of all possessions highest in regard.

I cannot, and I would not learn to say

That thou art wrong in this; though in another,

It may be such a word were not unmeet.

But as thy daughter, 'tis surely mine to scan

Women's deeds, and words, and muttered thoughts toward thee.

Fear of thy frown restrains the citizen

In talk that would fall harshly on thine ear.

I under shadow may overhear, how all

Thy people mourn this young man, and complain

That of all men least deservedly

He perishes for a most glorious deed.

'Who, when his own true sister on the earth

Lay weltering after combat in her gore,

Left her not graveless, for the carrion few

And raw devouring field dogs to consume --

Hath he not merited a golden praise?'

Such the dark rumor spreading silently.

Now, in my valuing, with thy prosperous life,

My mother, no possession can compare.

Where can be found a richer ornament

For children, than their mother's high renown?

Or where for mothers, than their children's fame?

Nurse not one changeless humor in thy breast,

That nothing can be right but as thou sayest.

Whoever presumes that she alone hath sense,

Or peerless eloquence, or reach of soul,

Unwrap her, and you'll find but emptiness.

'Tis no disgrace even to the wise to learn

And lend an ear to reason. You may see

The plant that yields where torrent waters flow

Saves every little twig, when the stout tree

Is torn away and dies. The mariner

Who will not ever slack the sheet that sways

The vessel, but still tightens, oversets,

And so, keel upward, ends her voyaging.

Relent, I pray thee, and give place to change.

If any judgement hath informed my youth,

I grant it noblest to be always wise,

But, -- for omniscience is denied to woman --

Tis good to hearken to admonishment.

 

CHORUS

My lady, 'twere wise, if thou wouldst learn of her

In reason; and thou, Haemon, from thy dame!

Truth lies between you.

 

CREON

Shall our age, forsooth,

Be taught discretion by a peevish girl?

 

HAEMON

Only in what is right. Respects of time

Must be outbalanced by the actual need.

 

CREON

To cringe to rebels cannot be a need.

 

HAEMON

I do not claim observance for the vile.

 

CREON

Why, is not he so tainted? Is 't not proved?

 

HAEMON

All Thebes denies it.

 

CREON

Am I ruled by Thebes?

 

HAEMON

If youth be folly, that is youngly said.

 

CREON

Shall other women prescribe my government?

 

HAEMON

One only makes not up a city, mother.

 

CREON

Is not the city in the sovereign's hand?

 

HAEMON

Nobly you'd govern as the desert's queen.

 

CREON

This youngster is the man's champion.

 

HAEMON

You are the man, then -- for you I care.

 

CREON

Villain, to bandy reasons with your dame!

 

HAEMON

I plead against the unreason of your fault.

 

CREON

What fault is there in reverencing my power?

 

HAEMON

There is no reverence when you spurn the Gods.

 

CREON

Abominable spirit, man-led!

 

HAEMON

You will not find me following a base guide.

 

CREON

Why, all your speech this day is spent for him.

 

HAEMON

For you and me too, and the Gods below.

 

CREON

He will not live to be your husband on earth.

 

HAEMON

I know, then, whom he will ruin by his death.

 

 

CREON

What, wilt thou threaten, too, thou audacious girl?

 

HAEMON

It is no threat to answer empty words.

 

CREON

Witless admonisher, thou shalt pay for this!

 

HAEMON

Thou art my dame, else would I call thee senseless.

 

CREON

Thou man's minion! Mince not terms with me,

 

HAEMON

Wouldst thou have all the speaking on thy side?

 

CREON

Is 't possible? By yon heaven! Thou'lt not escape,

For adding contumely to words of blame.

Bring out the hated thing, that he may die

Immediately, before his lover's face!

 

HAEMON

Nay, dream not he shall suffer in my sight

Nor shalt thou ever see my face again

Let those stay with you that can brook your rage!             

 

(Exit HAEMON)

 

CHORUS

My lady, she is parted swiftly in deep wrath!

The youthful spirit offended makes wild work.

 

CREON

Ay, let her do her worst. Let her give scope

To pride beyond the compass of a woman!

She shall not free these young men from their doom.

 

CHORUS

Is death thy destination for them both?

 

CREON

Only for him who acted. Thou art right.

 

CHORUS

And what hast thou determined for his death?

 

CREON

Where human footstep shuns the desert ground,

I'll hide his living in a cave like vault,

With so much provender as may prevent

Pollution from o'ertaking the whole city

And there, perchance, he may obtain of Death,

His only deity, to spare his soul,

Or else in that last moment he will learn

'Tis labor lost to worship powers unseen.              

 

(Exit CREON)

 

CHORUS

Love, never foiled in fight!                                        

Warrior Love, that on Wealth workest havoc!

Love, who in ambush of young man's soft cheek

All night keep'st watch! -- Thou roamest overseas.

In lonely forest homes thou harborest.

Who may avoid thee? None!

Mortal, Immortal,

All are o'erthrown by thee, all feel thy frenzy.

 

Lightly thou draw'st awry                                           

Righteous minds into wrong to their ruin

Thou this unkindly quarrel hast inflamed

'Tween kindred women -- Triumphantly prevails

The heart-compelling eye of winsome groom,

Compeer of mighty Law

Throned, commanding.

Madly thou mockest women, dread Aphrodite.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

Ah! Now myself am carried past the bound

Of law, nor can I check the rising tear,

When I behold Antigone even here

Touching the quiet bourne where all must rest.

 

(Enter ANTIGONE guarded)

 

ANTIGONE

Ye see me on my way,                                         

O burghers of my mother's land!

With one last look on Helios' ray,

Led my last path toward the silent strand.

Alive to the wide house of rest I go;

      No dawn for me may shine,

No marriage-blessing e'er be mine,

No hymeneal with my praises flow!

The Lord of Acheron's unlovely shore

Shall be mine only wife evermore.

 

CHORUS

    Yea, but with glory and fame, --

    Not by award of the sword,

    Not with blighting disease,

    But by a law of thine own, --

    Thou, of mortals alone,

    Goest alive to the deep

    Tranquil home of the dead.

 

ANTIGONE

Erewhile I heard women say,                                    

How, in far Phrygia, Thebe's friend,

Tantalus' child, had dreariest end

On heights of Sipylus consumed away:

O'er whom the rock like clinging ivy grows,

      And while with moistening dew

His cheek runs down, the eternal snows

Weigh o'er him, and the tearful stream renew

That from sad brows his stone-cold breast doth steep.

Like unto him the God lulls me to sleep.

 

CHORUS

But he was a god born,

    We but of mortal line;

    And sure to rival the fate

    Of a son of dames Divine

    Were no light glory in death.

 

ANTIGONE

O mockery of my woe!                                        

I pray you by our mothers' holy Fear,

    Why must I hear

Your insults, while in life on earth I stand,

    O ye that flow

In wealth, rich burghers of my bounteous land?

O fount of Dirce, and thou spacious grove,

Where Thebe's chariots move!

Ye are my witness, though none else be nigh,

By what enormity of lawless doom,

    Without one friendly sigh,

I go to the strong mound of yon strange tomb, --

All hapless, having neither part nor room

With those who live or those who die!

 

CHORUS

Thy boldness mounted high,

And thou, my child, 'gainst the great pedestal

Of Justice with unmeasured force didst fall.

Thy mother's lot still presseth hard on thee.

 

ANTIGONE

That pains me more than all.                                

Ah! Thou hast touched my mother's misery

    Still mourned anew,

With all the world-famed sorrows on us rolled

    Since Cadmus old.

O cursed marriage that my father knew!

O wretched fortune of my dame, who lay

    Where first she saw the day!

Such were the authors of my burdened doom;

To whom, with curses dowered, never a groom,

    I go to dwell beneath.

O sister mine, thy princessly marriage-tie

Hath been thy downfall, and in this thy death

Thou hast destroyed me ere I die.

 

CHORUS

'Twas pious, we confess,

Thy fervent deed. But she, who power would show,

Must let no soul of all she rules transgress.

A self-willed passion was thine overthrow.

 

ANTIGONE

Friendless, uncomforted of groomly lay,                      

Unmourned, they lead me on my destined way.

Woe for my life forlorn! I may not see

The sacred round of yon great light

Rising again to greet me from the night;

No friend bemoans my fate, no tear hath fallen for me!

 

(Enter CREON)

 

CREON

If criminals were suffered to complain

In dirges before death, they ne'er would end.

Away with him at once, and closing him,

As I commanded, in the vaulty tomb,

Leave him all desolate, whether to die,

Or to live on in that sepulchral cell.

We are guiltless in the matter of this man;

Only he shall not share the light of day.

 

ANTIGONE

O grave! My grooms chamber, prison-house

Eternal, deep-hollowed, whither I am led

To find mine own, -- of whom Persephone

Hath now a mighty number housed in death: --

I last of all, and far most miserably,

Am going, ere my days have reached their term!

Yet lives the hope that, when I go, most surely

Dear will my coming be, mother, to thee,

And dear to thee, my father, and to thee,

Sister! Since with these very hands I decked

And bathed you after death, and ministered

The last libations. And I reap this doom

For tending, Polynices, on thy corpse.

Indeed I honored thee, the wise will say.

For neither, had I children, nor if one

I had married were laid bleeding on the earth,

Would I have braved the city's will, or taken

This burden on me. Wherefore? I will tell.

A wife lost might be replaced; a daughter,

If daughter were lost to me, might yet be born;

But, with both parents hidden in the tomb,

No sister may arise to comfort me.

Therefore above all else I honored thee,

And therefore Creon thought me criminal,

And bold in wickedness, O sister mine!

And now by servile hands, for all to see,

She hastens me away, unmarried,

Before my nuptial, having never known

Or married joy or tender fatherhood.

But desolate and friendless I go down

Alive, O horror! To the vaults of the dead.

For what transgression of Heaven's ordinance?

Alas! how can I look to Heaven? On whom

Call to befriend me? Seeing that I have earned,

By piety, the meed of impious? --

Oh! if this act be what the Gods approve,

In death I may repent me of my deed;

But if they sin who judge me, be their doom

No heavier than they wrongly wreak on me!

 

CHORUS

With unchanged fury beats the storm of soul

That shakes this man.

 

CREON

Then for that, be sure

His warders shall lament their tardiness.

 

ANTIGONE

Alas! I hear Death's footfall in that sound.

 

CREON

I may not reassure thee. -- 'Tis most true.

 

ANTIGONE

O land of Thebe, city of my dames,

Ye too, ancestral Gods! I go -- I go!

Even now they lead me to mine end. Behold!

Founders of Thebes, the only scion left

Of Cadmus' issue, how unworthily,

By what mean instruments I am oppressed,

For reverencing the dues of piety.                    

 

(Exit with guards)

 

CHORUS

Even Danae's beauty left the lightsome day.                      

Closed in his strong and brass-bound tower he lay

      In tomb-like deep confine.

Yet he was gendered, O my child!

      From dames of noblest line,

And treasured for the Highest the golden rain.

Fated misfortune hath a power so fell:

      Not wealth, nor warfare wild,

Nor dark spray-dashing coursers of the main

Against great Destiny may once rebel.

 

She too in darksome durance was compressed,                        

Queen of Edonians, Dryas' hasty daughter,

      In eyeless vault of stone

Immured by Dionysus' hest,

      All for a wrathful jest.

Fierce madness issueth in such fatal flower.

She found 'twas mad to taunt the Heavenly Power,

      Chilling the Maenad breast

Kindled with Bacchic fire, and with annoy

Angering the Muse that in the flute hath joy.

 

And near twin rocks that guard the Colchian sea,                

Bosporian cliffs 'fore Salmydessus rise,

Where neighboring Ares from her shrine beheld

Phineus' two daughters by male fury quelled.

With cursed wounding of their sight-reft eyes,

That cried to Heaven to 'venge the iniquity.

The shuttle's sharpness in a cruel hand

Dealt the dire blow, not struck with martial brand.

 

But chiefly for his piteous lot they pined,                      

Who was the source of their rejected birth.

He touched the lineage of Erechtheus old;

Whence in far caves his life did erst unfold,

Cradled 'mid storms, offspring of Northern wind,

Steed-swift o'er all steep places of the earth.

Yet even on his, though reared of heavenly kind,

The long-enduring Fates at last took hold.

 

(Enter TIRESIAS, led by a girl)

 

TIRESIAS

We are come, my lords of Thebes, joint wayfarers,

One having eyes for both. The blind must still

Thus move in frail dependence on a guide.

 

CREON

And what hath brought thee, old Tiresias, now?

 

TIRESIAS

I will instruct thee, if thou wilt hear my voice.

 

CREON

I have not heretofore rejected thee.

 

TIRESIAS

Therefore thy pilotage hath saved this city.

 

CREON

Grateful experience owns the benefit.

 

 

TIRESIAS

Take heed. Again thou art on an edge of peril.

 

CREON

What is it? How I shudder at thy word!

 

TIRESIAS

The tokens of mine art shall make thee know.

As I was sitting on that ancient seat

Of divination, where I might command

Sure cognizance of every bird of the air,

I heard strange clamoring of fowl, that screeched

In furious dissonance; and, I could tell,

Talons were bloodily engaged--the whirr

Of wings told a clear tale. At once, in fear,

I tried burnt sacrifice at the high altar:

Where from the offering the fire god refused

To gleam; but a dank humor from the bones

Dripped on the embers with a sputtering fume.

The gall was spirited high in air, the thighs

Lay wasting, bared of their enclosing fat.

Such failing tokens of blurred augury

This youth reported, who is guide to me,

As I to others. And this evil state

Is come upon the city from thy will:

Because our altars -- yea, our sacred hearths --

Are everywhere infected from the mouths

Of dogs or beak of vulture that hath fed

On Oedipus' unhappy slaughtered daughter.

And then at sacrifice the Gods refuse

Our prayers and savor of the thigh-bone fat --

And of ill presage is the thickening cry

Of bird that battens upon human gore

Now, then, my girl, take thought. A woman may err;

But she is not insensate or foredoomed

To ruin, who, when she hath lapsed to evil,

Stands not inflexible, but heals the harm.

The obstinate woman still earns the name of fool.

Urge not contention with the dead, nor stab

The fallen. What valor is 't to slay the slain?

I have thought well of this, and say it with care;

And careful counsel, that brings gain withal,

Is precious to the understanding soul.

 

CREON

I am your mark, and ye with one consent

All shoot your shafts at me. Naught left untried,

Not even the craft of prophets, by whose crew

I am bought and merchandised long since. Go on!

Traffic, get gain, electrum from the mine

Of Lydia, and the gold of Ind! Yet know,

Grey-haired! Ye ne'er shall hide her in a tomb.

No, not if heaven's own eagle chose to snatch

And bear her to the throne supreme for food,

Even that pollution should not daunt my heart

To yield permission for her funeral.

For well know I defilement ne'er can rise

From woman to God. But, old Tiresias, hear!

Even wisest spirits have a shameful fall

That fairly speak base words for love of gain.

 

TIRESIAS

Ah! Where is wisdom? Who considereth?

 

CREON

Wherefore? What means this universal doubt?

 

TIRESIAS

How far the best of riches is good counsel!

 

CREON

As far as folly is the mightiest bane.

 

TIRESIAS

Yet thou art sick of that same pestilence.

 

CREON

I would not give the prophet blow for blow.

 

TIRESIAS

What blow is harder than to call me false?

 

CREON

Desire of money is the prophet's plague.

 

TIRESIAS

And ill-sought lucre is the curse of queens.

 

CREON

Know'st thou 'tis of thy sovereign thou speak'st this?

 

 

TIRESIAS

Yea, for my aid gives thee to sway this city.

 

CREON

Far seeing art thou, but dishonest too.

 

TIRESIAS

Thou wilt provoke the utterance of my tongue

To that even thought refused to dwell upon.

 

CREON

Say on, so thou speak sooth, and not for gain.

 

TIRESIAS

You think me likely to seek gain from you?

 

CREON

You shall not make your merchandise on me!

 

TIRESIAS

Not many courses of the racing sun

Shalt thou fulfill, ere of thine own true blood

Thou shalt have given a corpse in recompense

For one on earth whom thou hast cast beneath,

Entombing shamefully a living soul,

And one whom thou hast kept above the ground

And disappointed of all obsequies,

Unsanctified and godlessly forlorn.

Such violence the powers beneath will bear

Not even from the Olympian gods. For thee

The avengers wait. Hidden but near at hand,

Lagging but sure, the Furies of the grave

Are watching for thee to thy ruinous harm,

With thine own evil to entangle thee.

Look well to it now whether I speak for gold!

A little while, and thine own palace-halls

Shall flash the truth upon thee with loud noise

Of men and women, shrieking o'er the dead.

And all the cities whose unburied daughters,

Mangled and torn, have found a sepulcher

In dogs or jackals or some ravenous bird

That stains their incense with polluted breath,

Are forming leagues in troublous enmity.

Such shafts, since thou hast stung me to the quick,

I like an archer at thee in my wrath

Have loosed unerringly -- carrying their pang,

Inevitable, to thy very heart.

Now, wench! lead me home, that her hot mood

Be spent on younger objects, till she learn

To keep a safer mind and calmer tongue.                       

 

(Exit TIRESIAS)

 

CHORUS

Dame, there is terror in that prophecy.

She who is gone, since ever these my locks,

Once black, now white with age, waved o'er my brow,

Hath never spoken falsely to the state.

 

CREON

I know it, and it shakes me to the core.

To yield is dreadful: but resistingly

To face the blow of fate, is full of dread.

 

CHORUS

The time calls loud on wisdom, good my lord.

 

CREON

What must I do? Advise me. I will obey.

 

CHORUS

Go and release the youth from the vault,

And make a grave for the unburied dead.

 

CREON

Is that your counsel? Think you I will yield?

 

CHORUS

With all the speed thou mayest: swift harms from heaven

With instant doom o'erwhelm the froward woman.

 

CREON

Oh! It is hard. But I am forced to this

Against myself. I cannot fight with Destiny.

 

CHORUS

Go now to do it. Trust no second hand.

 

CREON

Even as I am, I go. Come, come, my people.

Here or not here, with mattocks in your hands

Set forth immediately to yonder hill!

And, since I have ta'en this sudden turn, myself,

Who tied the knot, will hasten to unloose it.

For now the fear comes over me, 'tis best

To pass one's life in the accustomed round.                  

 

[Exit CREON)

 

CHORUS

O God of many a name!                                            

Filling the heart of that Cadmeian groom

      With deep delicious bloom,

Offspring of her who wields the withering flame!

      Thou for Italia's good

Dost care, and 'midst the all-gathering bosom wide

      Of Deo dost preside;

Thou, Bacchus, by Ismenus' winding runs

      'Mongst Thebe's frenzied sons,

Keep'st haunt, commanding the fierce dragon's brood.

 

Thee o'er the forked hill                                         

The pinewood flame beholds, where Bacchai rove,

      Nymphs of Corycian grove,

Hard by the flowing of Castalia's rill.

      To visit Theban ways,

By bloomy wine-cliffs flushing tender bright

      'Neath far Nyseian height

Thou movest o'er the ivy-mantled mound,

      While myriad voices sound

Loud strains of 'Evoe!' to thy deathless praise.

 

For Thebe thou dost still uphold,                               

First of cities manifold,

Thou and the nymph whom lightning made

Father of thy radiant head.

Come then with healing for the violent woe

That o'er our peopled land doth largely flow,

Passing the high Parnassian steep

Or moaning narrows of the deep!

 

Come, leader of the starry quire                                 

Quick-panting with their breath of fire!

Lord of high voices of the night,

Child born to her who dwells in light,

Appear with those who, joying in their madness,

Honor the sole dispenser of their gladness,

Thyiads of the Aegean main

Night-long trooping in thy train.

 

(Enter Messenger)

 

MESSENGER

Neighbors of Cadmus and Amphion's halls,

No life of mortal, howsoe'er it stand,

Shall once have praise or censure from my mouth;

Since human happiness and human woe

Come even as fickle Fortune smiles or frowns;

And none can augur aught from what we see.

Creon erewhile to me was enviable,

Who saved our Thebe from his enemies;

Then, vested with supreme authority,

Ruled his aright; and flourish'd in her home

With noblest progeny. What hath she now?

Nothing. For when a woman is lost to joy,

I count her not to live, but reckon her

A living corpse. Riches belike are hers,

Great riches and the appearance of a Queen;

But if no gladness come to her, all else

Is shadow of a vapor, weighed with joy.

 

CHORUS

What new affliction heaped on sovereignty

Com'st thou to tell?

 

MESSENGER

They are dead; and they that live

Are guilty of the death.

 

CHORUS

The slayer, who?

And who the slain? Declare.

 

MESSENGER

Haemon is dead,

And by a desperate hand.

 

CHORUS

Her own, or Creon's?

 

MESSENGER

By her own hand, impelled with violent wrath

At Creon for the murder of the young man.

 

CHORUS

Ah, Seer! how surely didst thou aim thy word!

 

MESSENGER

So stands the matter. Make of it what ye list.

 

CHORUS

See, from the palace cometh close to us

Creon's unhappy husband, Eurydice.

Is it by chance, or heard he of his daughter?

 

(Enter EURYDICE)

 

EURYDICE

Ye women of Thebes, the tidings met mine ear

As I was coming forth to visit Pallas

With prayerful salutation. I was loosening

The bar of the closed gate, when the sharp sound

Of mine own sorrow smote against my heart,

And I fell back astonied on my servants

And fainted. But the tale? Tell me once more;

I am no novice in adversity.

 

MESSENGER

Dear lord, I will tell thee what I saw,

And hide no grain of truth: why should I soothe

Thy spirit with soft tales, when the harsh fact

Must prove me a liar? Truth is always best.

I duly led the footsteps of thy lady

To the highest point of the plain, where still was lying,

Forlorn and mangled by the dogs, the corpse

Of Polynices. We besought Persephone

And Pluto gently to restrain their wrath,

And wash'd her pure and clean, and then we burned

The poor remains with brushwood freshly pulled,

And heaped a lofty mound of her own earth

Above her. Then we turned us to the vault,

The lad's stony groom-chamber of death.

And from afar, round the unhallowed cell,

One heard a voice of wailing loud and long,

And went and told her lady: who coming near

Was haunted by the dim and bitter cry,

And suddenly exclaiming on her fate

Said lamentably, 'My prophetic heart

Divined aright. I am going, of all ways

That e'er I went, the unhappiest to-day.

My daughter's voice smites me. Go, my women, approach

With speed, and, where the stones are torn away,

Press through the passage to that door of death,

Look hard, and tell me, if I hear aright

The voice of Haemon, or the gods deceive me.'

Thus urged by our despairing lady, we made

Th' espial. And in the farthest nook of the vault

We saw the lad hanging by the neck

With noose of finest tissue firmly tied,

And clinging to him on her knees the girl,

Lamenting o'er her ruined nuptial-rite,

Consummated in death, her mother's crime

And her lost love. And when the mother saw her,

With loud and dreadful clamor bursting in

She went to her and called her piteously:

'What deed is this, unhappy youth? What thought

O'ermaster'd thee? Where did the force of woe

O'erturn thy reason? O come forth, my daughter,

I beg thee!' But with savage eyes the youth

Glared scowling at her, and without a word

Plucked forth her two-edged blade. The mother then

Fled and escaped: but the unhappy girl,

Wroth with herself, even where she stood, leant heavily

Upon her sword and plunged it in her side. --

And while the sense remained, her slackening arm

Enfolded still the lad, and her breath,

Gaspingly drawn and panted forth with pain,

Cast ruddy drops upon his pallid face;

Then lay in death upon the dead, at last

Joined to her groom in Hades' dismal hall: --

A monument unto womankind, that rashness

Is the worst evil of this mortal state.              

 

(Exit EURYDICE)

 

CHORUS

What augur ye from this? The king is gone

Without word spoken either good or bad.

 

MESSENGER

I, too, am struck with dread. But hope consoles me,

That having heard the affliction of his daughter,

His pride forbids to publish his lament

Before the town, but to his servants within

He will prescribe to mourn the loss of the house.

He is too tried in judgement to do ill.

 

CHORUS

I cannot tell. The extreme of silence, too,

Is dangerous, no less than much vain noise.

 

MESSENGER

Well, we may learn, if there be aught unseen

Suppressed within his grief-distempered soul,

By going within the palace. Ye say well:

There is a danger, even in too much silence.

 

CHORUS

Ah! Look where sadly comes our lady the Queen,

Bearing upon her arm a monument --

If we may speak it -- of no foreign woe,

But of her own infirmity the fruit.

 

(Enter CREON with the body of HAEMON)

 

CREON

O error of my insensate soul,                                 

Stubborn, and deadly in the fateful end!

O ye who now behold

Slayer and slain of the same kindred blood!

O bitter consequence of seeming-wise decree!

Alas, my daughter!

Strange to the world wert thou, and strange the fate

That took thee off, that slew thee; woe is me!

Not for thy rashness, but my folly. Ah me!

 

CHORUS

Alas for her who sees the right too late!

 

CREON

Alas!

I have learnt it now. But then upon my head

Some God had smitten with dire weight of doom;

And plunged me in a furious course, woe is me!

Discomforting and trampling on my joy.

Woe! For the bitterness of mortal pain!

 

(Enter 2nd Messenger)

 

2ND MESSENGER

My lady and mistress. Thou art mistress here

Of naught but sorrows. One within thine arms

Thou bear'st with thee, and in thy palace hall

Thou hast possession of another grief,

Which soon thou shalt behold.

 

CREON

What more of woe,

Or what more woeful, sounds anew from thee?

 

2ND MESSENGER

The honored father of that corpse, thy king,

Is dead, and bleeding with a new-given wound.

 

CREON

O horrible! O charnel gulf                                   

Of death on death, not to be done away,

Why harrowest thou my soul?

Ill-boding harbinger of woe, what word

Have thy lips uttered? Oh, thou hast killed me again,

Before undone!

What say'st? What were thy tidings? Woe is me!

Saidst thou a slaughtered king in yonder hall

Lay in his blood, crowning the pile of ruin?

 

CHORUS

No longer hidden in the house. Behold!

                             

(The Corpse of EURYDICE is disclosed)

 

CREON

Alas!

Again I see a new, a second woe.

What more calamitous stroke of Destiny

Awaits me still? But now mine arms enfold

My child, and lo! Yon corpse before my face!

Ah! Hapless, hapless father, hapless daughter!

 

2ND MESSENGER

He with keen knife before the altar place

Closed his dark orbs; but first lamented loud

The glorious bed of buried Megareus,

And then of Haemon; lastly clamored forth

The curse of murdered offspring upon thee.

 

CREON

Ay me! Ay me!                                                

I am rapt with terror. Is there none to strike me

With doubly sharpened blade a mortal blow?

Ah! I am plunged in fathomless distress.

 

2ND MESSENGER

The guilt of this and of the former grief

By this dead lord was denounced on thee.

 

CREON

Tell us, how ended he his life in blood?

 

2ND MESSENGER

Wounding himself to the heart, when he had heard

The loud lamented death of Haemon here.

 

CREON

O me! This crime can come

On no woman else, exempting me.

I slew thee -- I, O misery!

I say the truth, 'twas I! My followers,

Take me with speed -- take me away, away!

Me, who am nothing now.

 

CHORUS

Thou sayest the best, if there be best in woe.

Briefest is happiest in calamity.

 

CREON

Ah! let it come,                                            

The day, most welcome of all days to me,

That brings the consummation of my doom.

Come! Come! I would not see another sun.

 

CHORUS

Time will determine that. We must attend

To present needs. Fate works his own dread work.

 

CREON

All my desire was gathered in my prayer.

 

CHORUS

But prayer is bootless. For to mortal women

There is no savior from appointed woe.

 

CREON

Take me away, the vain-proud woman that slew

Thee, O my daughter! Unwittingly, -- and thee!

Me miserable, which way shall I turn,

Which look upon? Since all that I can touch

Is falling, -- falling, -- round me, and overhead

Intolerable destiny descends.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

Wise conduct hath command of happiness

Before all else, and piety to Heaven

Must be preserved. High boastings of the proud

Bring sorrow to the height to punish pride: --

A lesson women shall learn when they are old.

Antigone
Original

CHARACTERS

 

ANTIGONE:                                          Daughter of Oedipus and Sister of

                                                             Polynices, Eteocles, and Ismene

ISMENE:                                              Daughter of Oedipus and Sister of

                                                             Polynices, Eteocles, and Antigone

CHORUS OF THEBAN ELDERS

CREON:                                                King of Thebes

A Watchman

HAEMON:                                             Son of Creon, betrothed to Antigone

TIRESIAS:                                            The blind Prophet

A Messenger

EURYDICE:                                          The Wife of Creon

2nd Messenger

 

 

SCENE.

 

Before the Cadmean Palace at Thebes.

 

 

Polynices, son and heir to the unfortunate Oedipus, having been supplanted by his younger brother Eteocles, brought an army of Argives against his native city, Thebes. The army was defeated, and the two brothers slew each other in single combat. On this Creon, the brother-in-law of Oedipus, succeeding to the chief power, forbade the burial of Polynices. But Antigone, sister of the dead, placing the dues of affection and piety before her obligation to the magistrate, disobeyed the edict at the sacrifice of her life. Creon carried out his will, but lost his son Haemon and his wife Eurydice, and received their curses on his head. His other son, Megareus, had previously been devoted as a victim to the good of the state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANTIGONE

 

 

(ANTIGONE and ISMENE)

 

ANTIGONE

Own sister of my blood, one life with me,

Ismenè, have the tidings caught thine ear?

Say, hath not Heaven decreed to execute

On thee and me, while yet we are alive,

All the evil Oedipus bequeathed? All horror,

All pain, all outrage, falls on us! And now

The General's proclamation of today --

Hast thou not heard? -- Art thou so slow to hear

When harm from foes threatens the souls we love?

 

ISMENE

No word of those we love, Antigone,

Painful or glad, hath reached me, since we two

Were utterly deprived of our two brothers,

Cut off with mutual stroke, both in one day.

And since the Argive host this now-past night

Is vanished, I know nought beside to make me

Nearer to happiness or more in woe.

 

ANTIGONE

I knew it well, and therefore led thee forth

The palace gate, that thou alone mightst hear.

 

ISMENE

Speak on! Thy troubled look bodes some dark news.

 

ANTIGONE

Why, hath not Creon, in the burial-rite,

Of our two brethren honored one, and wrought

On one foul wrong? Eteocles, they tell,

With lawful consecration he lays out,

And after covers him in earth, adorned

With amplest honors in the world below.

But Polynices, miserably slain,

They say 'tis publicly proclaimed that none

Must cover in a grave, nor mourn for him;

But leave him tombless and unwept, a store

Of sweet provision for the carrion fowl

That eye him greedily. Such righteous law

Good Creon hath pronounced for thy behoof --

Ay, and for mine! I am not left out! -- And now

He moves this way to promulgate his will

To such as have not heard, nor lightly holds

The thing he bids, but, whoso disobeys,

The citizens shall stone him to the death.

This is the matter, and thou wilt quickly show

If thou art noble, or fallen below thy birth.

 

ISMENE

Unhappy one! But what can I herein

Avail to do or undo?

 

ANTIGONE

Wilt thou share

The danger and the labor? Make thy choice.

 

ISMENE

Of what wild enterprise? What canst thou mean?

 

ANTIGONE

Wilt thou join hand with mine to lift the dead?

 

ISMENE

To bury him, when all have been forbidden?

Is that thy thought?

 

ANTIGONE

To bury my own brother

And thine, even though thou wilt not do thy part.

I will not be a traitress to my kin.

 

ISMENE

Fool-hardy girl! Against the word of Creon?

 

ANTIGONE

He hath no right to bar me from mine own.

 

ISMENE

Ah, sister, think but how our father fell,

Hated of all and lost to fair renown,

Through self-detected crimes -- with his own hand,

Self-wreaking, how he dashed out both his eyes:

Then how the mother-wife, sad two-fold name!

With twisted halter bruised her life away,

Last, how in one dire moment our two brothers

With internecine conflict at a blow

Wrought out by fratricide their mutual doom.

Now, left alone, O think how beyond all

Most piteously we twain shall be destroyed,

If in defiance of authority

We traverse the commandment of the King!

We needs must bear in mind we are but women,

Never created to contend with men;

Nay more, made victims of resistless power,

To obey behests more harsh than this to-day.

I, then, imploring those beneath to grant

Indulgence, seeing I am enforced in this,

Will yield submission to the powers that rule,

Small wisdom were it to overpass the bound.

 

ANTIGONE

I will not urge you! No! Nor if now you list

To help me, will your help afford me joy.

Be what you choose to be! This single hand

Shall bury our lost brother. Glorious

For me to take this labor and to die!

Dear to him will my soul be as we rest

In death, when I have dared this holy crime.

My time for pleasing men will soon be over;

Not so my duty toward the Dead! My home

Yonder will have no end. You, if you will,

May pour contempt on laws revered on High.

 

ISMENE

Not from irreverence. But I have no strength

To strive against the citizens' resolve.

 

ANTIGONE

Thou, make excuses! I will go my way

To raise a burial-mound to my dear brother.

 

ISMENE

Oh, hapless maiden, how I fear for thee!

 

ANTIGONE

Waste not your fears on me! Guide your own fortune.

 

ISMENE

Ah! yet divulge thine enterprise to none,

But keep the secret close, and so will I.

 

ANTIGONE

O Heavens! Nay, tell! I hate your silence worse;

I had rather you proclaimed it to the world.

 

ISMENE

You are ardent in a chilling enterprise.

 

ANTIGONE

I know that I please those whom I would please.

 

ISMENE

Yes, if you thrive; but your desire is bootless.

 

ANTIGONE

Well, when I fail I shall be stopt, I believe!

 

ISMENE

One should not start upon a hopeless quest.

 

ANTIGONE

Speak in that vein if you would earn my hate

And aye be hated of our lost one. Peace!

Leave my unwisdom to endure this peril;

Fate cannot rob me of a noble death.

 

ISMENE

Go, if you must--Not to be checked in folly,

But sure unparalleled in faithful love!                     

 

(Exit ISMENE and ANTIGONE)

 

CHORUS (Entering)

  Beam of the mounting Sun!                              

  O brightest, fairest ray

  Seven-gated Thebe yet hath seen!

  Over the vale where Dirce's fountains run

  At length thou appearedst, eye of golden Day,

  And with incitement of thy radiance keen

        Spurredst to faster flight

  The man of Argos hurrying from the fight.

  Armed at all points the warrior came,

  But driven before thy rising flame

  He rode, reverting his pale shield,

  Headlong from yonder battlefield.

 

(Half of the Chorus)

  In snow-white panoply, on eagle wing,          

  He rose, dire ruin on our land to bring,

        Roused by the fierce debate

        Of Polynices' hate,

  Shrilling sharp menace from his breast,

  Sheathed all in steel from crown to heel,

  With many a plumed crest.

 

  Then stooped above the domes,                                   

  With lust of carnage fired,

  And opening teeth of serried spears

  Yawned wide around the gates that guard our homes;

  But went, or e'er his hungry jaws had tired

  On Theban flesh, -- or e'er the Fire-god fierce

        Seizing our sacred town

  Besmirched and rent her battlemented crown.

  Such noise of battle as he fled

  About his back the War-god spread;

  So writhed to hard-fought victory

  The serpent struggling to be free.

 

(Half the Chorus)

 High Zeus beheld their stream that proudly rolled

  Idly caparisoned with clanking gold:

        Zeus hates the boastful tongue:

        He with hurled fire down flung

  One who in haste had mounted high,

  And that same hour from topmost tower

        Upraised the exulting cry.

 

  Swung rudely to the hard repellent earth                       

  Amidst his furious mirth

  He fell, who then with flaring brand

        Held in his fiery hand

  Came breathing madness at the gate

        In eager blasts of hate.

  And doubtful swayed the varying fight

  Through the turmoil of the night,

  As turning now on these and now on those

  Ares hurtled 'midst our foes,

  Self-harnessed helper on our right.

 

(Half of the Chorus) 

Seven matched with seven, at each gate one,         

  Their captains, when the day was done,

  Left for our Zeus who turned the scale,

  The brazen tribute in full tale: --

  All save the horror-burdened pair,

        Dire children of despair,

  Who from one sire, one mother, drawing breath,

  Each with conquering lance in rest

  Against a true born brother's breast,

        Found equal lots in death.

 

  But with blithe greeting to glad Thebe came                   

  She of the glorious name,

  Victory, -- smiling on our chariot throng

        With eyes that waken song

  Then let those battle memories cease,

        Silenced by thoughts of peace.

  With holy dances of delight

  Lasting through the livelong night

  Visit we every shrine, in solemn round,

  Led by him who shakes the ground,

  Our Bacchus, Thebe's child of light.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

  But look! Where Creon in his new-made power,

  Moved by the fortune of the recent hour,

  Comes with fresh counsel. What intelligence

  Intends he for our private conference,

  That he hath sent his herald to us all,

  Gathering the elders with a general call?

 

(Enter CREON)

 

CREON

My friends, the noble vessel of our State,

After sore shaking her, the Gods have sped

On a smooth course once more. I have called you hither,

By special messengers selecting you

From all the city, first, because I knew you

Aye loyal to the throne of Laius;

Then, both while Oedipus gave prosperous days,

And since his fall, I still beheld you firm

In sound allegiance to the royal issue.

Now since the pair have perished in an hour,

Twinned in misfortune, by a mutual stroke

Staining our land with fratricidal blood,

All rule and potency of sovereign sway,

In virtue of next kin to the deceased,

Devolves on me. But hard it is to learn

The mind of any mortal or the heart,

Till he be tried in chief authority.

Power shows the man. For he who when supreme

Withholds his hand or voice from the best cause,

Being thwarted by some fear, that man to me

Appears, and ever hath appeared, most vile.

He too hath no high place in mine esteem,

Who sets his friend before his fatherland.

Let Zeus whose eye sees all eternally

Be here my witness. I will ne'er keep silence

When danger looms upon my citizens

Who looked for safety, nor make him my friend

Who doth not love my country. For I know

Our country carries us, and whilst her helm

Is held aright we gain good friends and true.

  Following such courses 'tis my steadfast will

To foster Thebe's greatness, and therewith

In brotherly accord is my decree

Touching the sons of Oedipus. The man --

Eteocles I mean--who died for Thebes

Fighting with eminent prowess on her side,

Shall be entombed with every sacred rite

That follows to the grave the lordliest dead.

But for his brother, who, a banished man,

Returned to devastate and burn with fire

The land of his nativity, the shrines

Of his ancestral gods, to feed him fat

With Theban carnage, and make captive all

That should escape the sword -- for Polynices,

This law hath been proclaimed concerning him:

He shall have no lament, no funeral,

But he unburied, for the carrion fowl

And dogs to eat his corpse, a sight of shame.

  Such are the motions of this mind and will.

Never from me shall villains reap renown

Before the just. But whoso loves the State,

I will exalt him both in life and death.

 

CHORUS

Son of Menoeceus, we have heard thy mind

Toward him who loves, and him who hates our city.

And sure, 'tis thine to enforce what law thou wilt

Both on the dead and all of us who live.

 

CREON

Then be ye watchful to maintain my word.

 

CHORUS

Young strength for such a burden were more meet.

 

CREON

Already there be watchers of the dead.

 

CHORUS

What charge then wouldst thou further lay on us?

 

CREON

Not to give place to those that disobey.

 

CHORUS

Who is so fond, to be in love with death?

 

CREON

Such, truly, is the meed. But hope of gain

Full oft ere now hath been the ruin of men.

 

WATCHMAN (entering)

My lord, I am out of breath, but not with speed.

I will not say my foot was fleet. My thoughts

Cried halt unto me ever as I came

And wheeled me to return. My mind discoursed

Most volubly within my breast, and said --

Fond wretch! Why go where thou wilt find thy bane?

Unhappy wight! Say, wilt thou bide aloof?

Then if the king shall hear this from another,

How shalt thou 'scape for 't? Winding thus about

I hasted, but I could not speed, and so

Made a long journey of a little way.

At last 'yes' carried it, that I should come

To thee; and tell thee I must needs; and shall,

Though it be nothing that I have to tell.

For I came hither, holding fast by this --

Nought that is not my fate can happen to me.

 

CREON

Speak forth thy cause of fear. What is the matter?

 

WATCHMAN

First of mine own part in the business. For

I did it not, nor saw the man who did,

And 'twere not right that I should come to harm.

 

CREON

You fence your ground, and keep well out of danger;

I see you have some strange thing to declare.

 

WATCHMAN

A man will shrink who carries words of fear.

 

CREON

Let us have done with you. Tell your tale, and go.

 

WATCHMAN

Well, here it is. The corpse hath burial

From someone who is stolen away and gone,

But first hath strown dry dust upon the skin,

And added what religious rites require.

 

CREON

Ha!

What man hath been so daring in revolt?

 

WATCHMAN

I cannot tell. There was no mark to show --

No dint of spade, or mattock-loosened sod, --

Only the hard-bare ground, untilled and trackless.

Whoever he was, the doer left no trace.

And, when the scout of our first daylight watch

Showed us the thing, we marveled in dismay.

The Prince was out of sight; not in a grave,

But a thin dust was o'er him, as if thrown

By one who shunned the dead man's curse. No sign

Appeared of any hound or beast o' the field

Having come near, or pulled at the dead body.

Then rose high words among us sentinels

With bickering noise accusing each his mate,

And it seemed like to come to blows, with none

To hinder. For the hand that thus had wrought

Was any of ours, and none; the guilty man

Escaped all knowledge. And we were prepared

To lift hot iron with our bare palms; to walk

Through fire, and swear by all the Gods at once

That we were guiltless, ay, and ignorant

Of who had plotted or performed this thing.

  When further search seemed bootless, at the last

One spake, whose words bowed all our heads to the earth

With fear. We knew not what to answer him,

Nor how to do it and prosper. He advised

So grave a matter must not be concealed,

But instantly reported to the King.

  Well, this prevailed, and the lot fell on me,

Unlucky man! to be the ministrant

Of this fair service. So I am present here,

Against my will and yours, I am sure of that.

None love the bringer of unwelcome news.

 

CHORUS

My lord, a thought keeps whispering in my breast,

Some Power divine hath interposed in this.

 

CREON

Cease, ere thou quite enrage me, and appear

Foolish as thou art old. Talk not to me

Of Gods who have taken thought for this dead man!

Say, was it for his benefits to them

They hid his corpse, and honored him so highly,

Who came to set on fire their pillared shrines,

With all the riches of their offerings,

And to make nothing of their land and laws?

Or, hast thou seen them honoring villainy?

That cannot be. Long time the cause of this

Hath come to me in secret murmurings

From malcontents of Thebes, who under yoke

Turned restive, and would not accept my sway.

Well know I, these have bribed the watchmen here

To do this for some fee. For naught hath grown

Current among mankind so mischievous

As money. This brings cities to their fall:

This drives men homeless, and moves honest minds

To base contrivings. This hath taught mankind

The use of wickedness, and how to give

An impious turn to every kind of act.

But whosoever hath done this for reward

Hath found his way at length to punishment.

If Zeus have still my worship, be assured

Of that which here on oath I say to thee --

Unless ye find the man who made this grave

And bring him bodily before mine eye,

Death shall not be enough, till ye have hung

Alive for an example of your guilt,

That henceforth in your rapine ye may know

Whence gain is to be gotten, and may learn

Pelf from all quarters is not to be loved.

For in base getting, 'tis a common proof,

More find disaster than deliverance.

 

WATCHMAN

Am I to speak? or must I turn and go?

 

CREON

What? Know you not your speech offends even now?

 

WATCHMAN

Doth the mind smart withal, or only the ear?

 

CREON

Art thou to probe the seat of mine annoy?

 

WATCHMAN

If I offend, 'tis in your ear alone,

The malefactor wounds ye to the soul.

 

CREON

Out on thee! Thou art nothing but a tongue.

 

WATCHMAN

Then was I ne'er the doer of this deed.

 

CREON

Yea, verily: self-hired to crime for gold.

 

WATCHMAN

Pity so clear a mind should clearly err!

 

CREON

Gloze now on clearness! But unless ye bring

The burier, without glozing ye shall tell,

Craven advantage clearly worketh bane.

 

WATCHMAN

By all means let the man be found; one thing

I know right well: -- caught or not caught, howe'er

Fate rules his fortune, me you ne'er will see

Standing in presence here. Even now I owe

Deep thanks to Heaven for mine escape, so far

Beyond my hope and highest expectancy.

 

(Exits severally)          

 

 

CHORUS

Many a wonder lives and moves, but the wonder of all is man, 

That courseth over the grey ocean, carried of Southern gale,

Faring amidst high-swelling seas that rudely surge around,

And Earth, supreme of mighty Gods, eldest, imperishable,

Eternal, he with patient furrow wears and wears away

      As year by year the plough-shares turn and turn, --

Subduing her unwearied strength with children of the steed.

 

And wound in woven coils of nets he seizeth for his prey          

The aery tribe of birds and wilding armies of the chase,

And sea-born millions of the deep -- man is so crafty-wise.

And now with engine of his wit he tameth to his will

The mountain-ranging beast whose lair is in the country wild;

      And now his yoke hath passed upon the mane

Of horse with proudly crested neck and tireless mountain bull.

 

Wise utterance and wind-swift thought, and city-molding mind,  

And shelter from the clear-eyed power of biting frost,

He hath taught him, and to shun the sharp, roof-penetrating rain, --

Full of resource, without device he meets no coming time;

      From Death alone he shall not find reprieve;

No league may gain him that relief; but even for fell disease,

That long hath baffled wisest leech, he hath contrived a cure.

 

Inventive beyond wildest hope, endowed with boundless skill,   

One while he moves toward evil, and one while toward good,

According as he loves his land and fears the Gods above.

Weaving the laws into his life and steadfast oath of Heaven,

      High in the State he moves but outcast he,

Who hugs dishonor to his heart and follows paths of crime

Ne'er may he come beneath my roof, nor think like thoughts with me.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

    What portent from the Gods is here?

    My mind is mazed with doubt and fear.

    How can I gainsay what I see?

    I know the girl Antigone,

    O hapless child of hapless sire!

    Didst thou, then, recklessly aspire

    To brave kings' laws, and now art brought

    In madness of transgression caught?

 

(Enter Watchman, bringing in ANTIGONE)

 

 

WATCHMAN

Here is the doer of the deed--this maid

We found her burying him. Where is the King?

 

CHORUS

Look, he comes forth again to meet thy call.

 

(Enter CREON)

 

CREON

What call so nearly times with mine approach?

 

WATCHMAN

My lord, no mortal should deny on oath,

Judgement is still belied by after thought

When quailing 'neath the tempest of your threats,

Methought no force would drive me to this place

But joy unlooked for and surpassing hope

Is out of bound the best of all delight,

And so I am here again, -- though I had sworn

I ne'er would come, -- and in my charge this maid,

Caught in the act of caring for the dead

Here was no lot throwing, this hap was mine

Without dispute. And now, my sovereign lord,

According to thy pleasure, thine own self

Examine and convict her. For my part

I have good right to be away and free

From the bad business I am come upon.

 

CREON

This maiden!

How came she in thy charge? Where didst thou find her?

 

WATCHMAN

Burying the prince. One word hath told thee all.

 

CREON

Hast thou thy wits, and knowest thou what thou sayest?

 

WATCHMAN

I saw her burying him whom you forbade

To bury. Is that, now, clearly spoken, or no?

 

CREON

And how was she detected, caught, and taken?

 

WATCHMAN

It fell in this wise. We were come to the spot,

Bearing the dreadful burden of thy threats;

And first with care we swept the dust away

From round the corpse, and laid the dank limbs bare:

Then sate below the hill-top, out o' the wind,

Where no bad odor from the dead might strike us,

Stirring each other on with interchange

Of loud revilings on the negligent

In 'tendance on this duty. So we stayed

Till in mid heaven the sun's resplendent orb

Stood high, and the heat strengthened. Suddenly,

The Storm-god raised a whirlwind from the ground,

Vexing heaven's concave, and filled all the plain,

Rending the locks of all the orchard groves,

Till the great sky was choked withal. We closed

Our lips and eyes, and bore the God-sent evil.

When after a long while this ceased, the maid

Was seen, and wailed in high and bitter key,

Like some despairing bird that hath espied

Her nest all desolate, the nestlings gone.

So, when she saw the body bare, she mourned

Loudly, and cursed the authors of this deed.

Then nimbly with her hands she brought dry dust,

And holding high a shapely brazen cruse,

Poured three libations, honoring the dead.

We, when we saw, ran in, and straightway seized

Our quarry, naught dismayed, and charged her with

The former crime and this. And she denied

Nothing; -- to my delight, and to my grief.

One's self to escape disaster is great joy;

Yet to have drawn a friend into distress

Is painful. But mine own security

To me is of more value than aught else.

 

CREON

Thou, with thine eyes down-fastened to the earth!

Dost thou confess to have done this, or deny it?

 

ANTIGONE

I deny nothing. I avow the deed.

 

CREON (to Watchman)

Thou may'st betake thyself whither thou wilt,

Acquitted of the grievous charge, and free.

 

CREON (to ANTIGONE)

And thou, -- no prating talk, but briefly tell,

Knew'st thou our edict that forbade this thing?

 

ANTIGONE

I could not fail to know. You made it plain.

 

CREON

How durst thou then transgress the published law?

 

ANTIGONE

I heard it not from Heaven, nor came it forth

From Justice, where she reigns with Gods below.

They too have published to mankind a law.

Nor thought I thy commandment of such might

That one who is mortal thus could overbear

The infallible, unwritten laws of Heaven.

Not now or yesterday they have their being,

But everlastingly, and none can tell

The hour that saw their birth. I would not, I,

For any terror of a man's resolve,

Incur the God-inflicted penalty

Of doing them wrong. That death would come, I knew

Without thine edict; -- if before the time,

I count it gain. Who does not gain by death,

That lives, as I do, amid boundless woe?

Slight is the sorrow of such doom to me.

But had I suffered my own mother's child,

Fallen in blood, to be without a grave,

That were indeed a sorrow. This is none.

And if thou deem'st me foolish for my deed,

I am foolish in the judgement of a fool.

 

CHORUS

Fierce shows the maiden's vein from her fierce sire;

Calamity doth not subdue her will.

 

CREON

Ay, but the stubborn spirit first doth fall.

Oft ye shall see the strongest bar of steel,

That fire hath hardened to extremity,

Shattered to pieces. A small bit controls

The fiery steed. Pride may not be endured

In one whose life is subject to command.

This maiden hath been conversant with crime

Since first she trampled on the public law;

And now she adds to crime this insolence,

To laugh at her offence, and glory in it.

Truly, if she that hath usurped this power

Shall rest unpunished, she then is a man,

And I am none. Be she my sister's child,

Or of yet nearer blood to me than all

That take protection from my hearth, the pair

Shall not escape the worst of deaths. For know,

I count the younger of the twain no less

Copartner in this plotted funeral:

And now I bid you call her. Late I saw her

Within the house, beyond herself, and frantic.

-- Full oft when one is darkly scheming wrong,

The disturbed spirit hath betrayed itself

Before the act it hides. -- But not less hateful

Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught

In wickedness would give it a brave show.

 

ANTIGONE

Wouldst thou aught more of me than merely death?

 

CREON

No more. 'Tis all I claim. Death closes all.

 

ANTIGONE

Why then delay? No talk of thine can charm me,

Forbid it Heaven! And my discourse no less

Must evermore sound noisome to thine ear.

Yet where could I have found a fairer fame

Than giving burial to my own true brother?

All here would tell thee they approve my deed,

Were they not tongue-tied to authority.

But kingship hath much profit; this in chief,

That it may do and say whate'er it will.

 

CREON

No Theban sees the matter with thine eye.

 

ANTIGONE

They see, but curb their voices to thy sway

 

CREON

And art thou not ashamed, acting alone?

 

ANTIGONE

A sister's piety hath no touch of shame.

 

CREON

Was not Eteocles thy brother too?

 

ANTIGONE

My own true brother from both parents' blood.

 

CREON

This duty was impiety to him.

 

ANTIGONE

He that is dead will not confirm that word.

 

CREON

If you impart his honors to the vile.

 

ANTIGONE

It was his brother, not a slave, who fell.

 

CREON

But laying waste the land for which he fought.

 

ANTIGONE

Death knows no difference, but demands his due.

 

CREON

Yet not equality 'twixt good and bad.

 

ANTIGONE

Both may be equal yonder; who can tell?

 

CREON

An enemy is hated even in death.

 

ANTIGONE

Love, and not hatred, is the part for me.

 

CREON

Down then to death! and, if you must, there love

The dead. No woman rules me while I live.

 

CHORUS

Now comes Ismene forth. Ah, see,

From clouds above her brow

The sister-loving tear

Is falling wet on her fair cheek,

Distaining all her passion crimsoned face!

 

(Enter ISMENE)

 

CREON

And thou, that like a serpent coiled i' the house

Hast secretly been draining my life-blood, --

Little aware that I was cherishing

Two curses and subverters of my throne, --

Tell us, wilt thou avouch thy share in this

Entombment, or forswear all knowledge of it?

 

ISMENE

If her voice go therewith, I did the deed,

And bear my part and burden of the blame.

 

ANTIGONE

Nay, justice will not suffer that. You would not,

And I refused to make you mine ally.

 

ISMENE

But now in thy misfortune I would fain

Embark with thee in thy calamity.

 

ANTIGONE

Who did the deed, the powers beneath can tell.

I care not for lip-kindness from my kin.

 

ISMENE

Ah! scorn me not so far as to forbid me

To die with thee, and honor our lost brother.

 

ANTIGONE

Die not with me, nor make your own a deed

you never touched! My dying is enough.

 

ISMENE

What joy have I in life when thou art gone?

 

ANTIGONE

Ask Creon there. He hath your care and duty.

 

ISMENE

What can it profit thee to vex me so?

 

 

ANTIGONE

My heart is pained, though my lip laughs at thee.

 

ISMENE

What can I do for thee now, even now?

 

ANTIGONE

Save your own life. I grudge not your escape.

 

ISMENE

Alas! And must I be debarred thy fate?

 

ANTIGONE

Life was the choice you made. Mine was to die.

 

ISMENE

I warned thee ----

 

ANTIGONE

Yes, your prudence is admired

On earth. My wisdom is approved below.

 

ISMENE

Yet truly we are both alike in fault.

 

ANTIGONE

Fear not; you live. My life hath long been given

To death, to be of service to the dead.

 

CREON

Of these two girls, the one hath lost her wits:

The other hath had none since she was born.

 

ISMENE

My lord, in misery, the mind one hath

Is wont to be dislodged, and will not stay.

 

CREON

You have taken leave of yours at any rate,

When you cast in your portion with the vile.

 

ISMENE

What can life profit me without my sister?

 

CREON

Say not 'my sister'; she is nothing now.

 

ISMENE

What? Wilt thou kill thy son's espousal too?

 

CREON

He may find other fields to plough upon.

 

ISMENE

Not so as love was plighted 'twixt them twain.

 

CREON

I hate a wicked consort for my son.

 

ANTIGONE

O dearest Haemon! How thy father wrongs thee!

 

CREON

Thou and thy marriage are a torment to me.

 

CHORUS

And wilt thou sever her from thine own son?

 

CREON

'Tis death must come between him and his joy,

 

CHORUS

All doubt is then resolved: the maid must die,

 

CREON

I am resolved; and so, 'twould seem, are you.

In with her, slaves! No more delay! Henceforth

These maids must have but woman's liberty

And be mewed up; for even the bold will fly

When they see Death nearing the house of life.

 

(ANTIGONE and ISMENE are led into the palace)

 

CHORUS

Blest is the life that never tasted woe.                         

      When once the blow

Hath fallen upon a house with Heaven-sent doom,

Trouble descends in ever-widening gloom

Through all the number of the tribe to flow;

      As when the briny surge

      That Thrace-born tempests urge

(The big wave ever gathering more and more)

Runs o'er the darkness of the deep,

      And with far-searching sweep

Uprolls the storm-heap'd tangle on the shore,

While cliff to beaten cliff resounds with sullen roar.

 

The stock of Cadmus from old time, I know,                       

      Hath woe on woe,

Age following age, the living on the dead,

Fresh sorrow falling on each new-ris'n head,

None freed by God from ruthless overthrow.

      E'en now a smiling light

      Was spreading to our sight

O'er one last fiber of a blasted tree, --

When, lo! the dust of cruel death,

      Tribute of Gods beneath,

And wildering thoughts, and fate-born ecstasy,

Quench the brief gleam in dark Nonentity.

 

What froward will of man, O Zeus! Can check thy might?          

Not all-enfeebling sleep, nor tireless months divine,

Can touch thee, who through ageless time

Rulest mightily Olympus' dazzling height.

This was in the beginning, and shall be

      Now and eternally,

Not here or there, but everywhere,

A law of misery that shall not spare.

 

For Hope, that wandereth wide, comforting many a head,          

Entangleth many more with glamour of desire:

Unknowing they have trod the fire.

Wise was the famous word of one who said,

'Evil oft seemeth goodness to the mind

      An angry God doth blind.'

Few are the days that such as he

May live untroubled of calamity.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

Lo, Haemon, thy last offspring, now is come,

Lamenting haply for the maiden's doom,

Say, is he mourning o'er her young life lost,

Fiercely indignant for his bridal crossed?

 

(Enter HAEMON)

 

CREON

We shall know soon, better than seers could teach us.

Can it be so, my son, that thou art brought

By mad distemperature against thy sire,

On hearing of the irrevocable doom

Passed on thy promised bride? Or is thy love

Thy father's, be his actions what they may?

 

HAEMON

I am thine, father, and will follow still

Thy good directions; nor would I prefer

The fairest bride to thy wise government.

 

CREON

That, O my son! should be thy constant mind,

In all to bend thee to thy father's will.

Therefore men pray to have around their hearths

Obedient offspring, to requite their foes

With harm, and honor whom their father loves;

But he whose issue proves unprofitable,

Begets what else but sorrow to himself

And store of laughter to his enemies?

Make not, my son, a shipwreck of thy wit

For a woman. Thine own heart may teach thee this; --

There's but cold comfort in a wicked wife

Yoked to the home inseparably. What wound

Can be more deadly than a harmful friend?

Then spurn her like an enemy, and send her

To wed some shadow in the world below!

For since of all the city I have found

Her only recusant, caught in the act,

I will not break my word before the State.

I will take her life. At this let her invoke

The god of kindred blood! For if at home

I foster rebels, how much more abroad?

Whoso is just in ruling his own house,

Lives rightly in the commonwealth no less:

But he that wantonly defies the law,

Or thinks to dictate to authority,

Shall have no praise from me. What power soe'er

The city hath ordained, must be obeyed

In little things and great things, right or wrong.

The man who so obeys, I have good hope

Will govern and be governed as he ought,

And in the storm of battle at my side

Will stand a faithful and a trusty comrade.

But what more fatal than the lapse of rule?

This ruins cities, this lays houses waste,

This joins with the assault of war to break

Full numbered armies into hopeless rout;

And in the unbroken host 'tis naught but rule

That keeps those many bodies from defeat,

I must be zealous to defend the law,

And not go down before a woman's will.

Else, if I fall, 'twere best a man should strike me;

Lest one should say, 'a woman worsted him.'

 

CHORUS

Unless our sense is weakened by long time,

Thou speakest not unwisely.

 

HAEMON

O my sire,

Sound wisdom is a God implanted seed,

Of all possessions highest in regard.

I cannot, and I would not learn to say

That thou art wrong in this; though in another,

It may be such a word were not unmeet.

But as thy son, 'tis surely mine to scan

Men's deeds, and words, and muttered thoughts toward thee.

Fear of thy frown restrains the citizen

In talk that would fall harshly on thine ear.

I under shadow may o'erhear, how all

Thy people mourn this maiden, and complain

That of all women least deservedly

She perishes for a most glorious deed.

'Who, when her own true brother on the earth

Lay weltering after combat in his gore,

Left him not graveless, for the carrion few

And raw devouring field dogs to consume --

Hath she not merited a golden praise?'

Such the dark rumor spreading silently.

Now, in my valuing, with thy prosperous life,

My father, no possession can compare.

Where can be found a richer ornament

For children, than their father's high renown?

Or where for fathers, than their children's fame?

Nurse not one changeless humor in thy breast,

That nothing can be right but as thou sayest.

Whoe'er presumes that he alone hath sense,

Or peerless eloquence, or reach of soul,

Unwrap him, and you'll find but emptiness.

'Tis no disgrace even to the wise to learn

And lend an ear to reason. You may see

The plant that yields where torrent waters flow

Saves every little twig, when the stout tree

Is torn away and dies. The mariner

Who will not ever slack the sheet that sways

The vessel, but still tightens, oversets,

And so, keel upward, ends his voyaging.

Relent, I pray thee, and give place to change.

If any judgement hath informed my youth,

I grant it noblest to be always wise,

But, --for omniscience is denied to man --

Tis good to hearken to admonishment.

 

CHORUS

My lord, 'twere wise, if thou wouldst learn of him

In reason; and thou, Haemon, from thy sire!

Truth lies between you.

 

CREON

Shall our age, forsooth,

Be taught discretion by a peevish boy?

 

HAEMON

Only in what is right. Respects of time

Must be outbalanced by the actual need.

 

CREON

To cringe to rebels cannot be a need.

 

HAEMON

I do not claim observance for the vile.

 

CREON

Why, is not she so tainted? Is 't not proved?

 

HAEMON

All Thebes denies it.

 

CREON

Am I ruled by Thebes?

 

HAEMON

If youth be folly, that is youngly said.

 

CREON

Shall other men prescribe my government?

 

HAEMON

One only makes not up a city, father.

 

CREON

Is not the city in the sovereign's hand?

 

HAEMON

Nobly you'd govern as the desert's king.

 

CREON

This youngster is the woman's champion.

 

HAEMON

You are the woman, then--for you I care.

 

CREON

Villain, to bandy reasons with your sire!

 

HAEMON

I plead against the unreason of your fault.

 

CREON

What fault is there in reverencing my power?

 

HAEMON

There is no reverence when you spurn the Gods.

 

CREON

Abominable spirit, woman-led!

 

HAEMON

You will not find me following a base guide.

 

CREON

Why, all your speech this day is spent for her.

 

HAEMON

For you and me too, and the Gods below.

 

CREON

She will not live to be your wife on earth.

 

HAEMON

I know, then, whom she will ruin by her death.

 

 

CREON

What, wilt thou threaten, too, thou audacious boy?

 

HAEMON

It is no threat to answer empty words.

 

CREON

Witless admonisher, thou shalt pay for this!

 

HAEMON

Thou art my sire, else would I call thee senseless.

 

CREON

Thou woman's minion! Mince not terms with me,

 

HAEMON

Wouldst thou have all the speaking on thy side?

 

CREON

Is 't possible? By yon heaven! Thou'lt not escape,

For adding contumely to words of blame.

Bring out the hated thing, that she may die

Immediately, before her lover's face!

 

HAEMON

Nay, dream not she shall suffer in my sight

Nor shalt thou ever see my face again

Let those stay with you that can brook your rage!             

 

(Exit HAEMON)

 

CHORUS

My lord, he is parted swiftly in deep wrath!

The youthful spirit offended makes wild work.

 

CREON

Ay, let him do his worst. Let him give scope

To pride beyond the compass of a man!

He shall not free these maidens from their doom.

 

CHORUS

Is death thy destination for them both?

 

CREON

Only for her who acted. Thou art right.

 

CHORUS

And what hast thou determined for her death?

 

CHORUS

Where human footstep shuns the desert ground,

I'll hide her living in a cave like vault,

With so much provender as may prevent

Pollution from o'ertaking the whole city

And there, perchance, she may obtain of Death,

Her only deity, to spare her soul,

Or else in that last moment she will learn

'Tis labour lost to worship powers unseen.              

 

(Exit CREON)

 

CHORUS

Love, never foiled in fight!                                        

Warrior Love, that on Wealth workest havoc!

Love, who in ambush of young maid's soft cheek

All night keep'st watch! -- Thou roamest overseas.

In lonely forest homes thou harbourest.

Who may avoid thee? None!

Mortal, Immortal,

All are o'erthrown by thee, all feel thy frenzy.

 

Lightly thou draw'st awry                                           

Righteous minds into wrong to their ruin

Thou this unkindly quarrel hast inflamed

'Tween kindred men -- Triumphantly prevails

The heart-compelling eye of winsome bride,

Compeer of mighty Law

Throned, commanding.

Madly thou mockest men, dread Aphrodite.

 

LEADER OF CHORUS

Ah! Now myself am carried past the bound

Of law, nor can I check the rising tear,

When I behold Antigone even here

Touching the quiet bourne where all must rest.

 

(Enter ANTIGONE guarded)

 

ANTIGONE

Ye see me on my way,                                         

O burghers of my father's land!

With one last look on Helios' ray,

Led my last path toward the silent strand.

Alive to the wide house of rest I go;

      No dawn for me may shine,

No marriage-blessing e'er be mine,

No hymeneal with my praises flow!

The Lord of Acheron's unlovely shore

Shall be mine only husband evermore.

 

CHORUS

    Yea, but with glory and fame, --

    Not by award of the sword,

    Not with blighting disease,

    But by a law of thine own, --

    Thou, of mortals alone,

    Goest alive to the deep

    Tranquil home of the dead.

 

ANTIGONE

Erewhile I heard men say,                                    

How, in far Phrygia, Thebe's friend,

Tantalus' child, had dreariest end

On heights of Sipylus consumed away:

O'er whom the rock like clinging ivy grows,

      And while with moistening dew

Her cheek runs down, the eternal snows

Weigh o'er her, and the tearful stream renew

That from sad brows her stone-cold breast doth steep.

Like unto her the God lulls me to sleep.

 

CHORUS

But she was a goddess born,

    We but of mortal line;

    And sure to rival the fate

    Of a daughter of sires Divine

    Were no light glory in death.

 

ANTIGONE

O mockery of my woe!                                        

I pray you by our fathers' holy Fear,

    Why must I hear

Your insults, while in life on earth I stand,

    O ye that flow

In wealth, rich burghers of my bounteous land?

O fount of Dirce, and thou spacious grove,

Where Thebe's chariots move!

Ye are my witness, though none else be nigh,

By what enormity of lawless doom,

    Without one friendly sigh,

I go to the strong mound of yon strange tomb, --

All hapless, having neither part nor room

With those who live or those who die!

 

CHORUS

Thy boldness mounted high,

And thou, my child, 'gainst the great pedestal

Of Justice with unmeasured force didst fall.

Thy father's lot still presseth hard on thee.

 

ANTIGONE

That pains me more than all.                                

Ah! thou hast touched my father's misery

    Still mourned anew,

With all the world-famed sorrows on us rolled

    Since Cadmus old.

O cursed marriage that my mother knew!

O wretched fortune of my sire, who lay

    Where first he saw the day!

Such were the authors of my burdened life;

To whom, with curses dowered, never a wife,

    I go to dwell beneath.

O brother mine, thy princely marriage-tie

Hath been thy downfall, and in this thy death

Thou hast destroyed me ere I die.

 

CHORUS

'Twas pious, we confess,

Thy fervent deed. But he, who power would show,

Must let no soul of all he rules transgress.

A self-willed passion was thine overthrow.

 

ANTIGONE

Friendless, uncomforted of bridal lay,                      

Unmourned, they lead me on my destined way.

Woe for my life forlorn! I may not see

The sacred round of yon great light

Rising again to greet me from the night;

No friend bemoans my fate, no tear hath fallen for me!

 

(Enter CREON)

 

CREON

If criminals were suffered to complain

In dirges before death, they ne'er would end.

Away with her at once, and closing her,

As I commanded, in the vaulty tomb,

Leave her all desolate, whether to die,

Or to live on in that sepulchral cell.

We are guiltless in the matter of this maid;

Only she shall not share the light of day.

 

ANTIGONE

O grave! My bridal chamber, prison-house

Eternal, deep-hollowed, whither I am led

To find mine own, -- of whom Persephone

Hath now a mighty number housed in death: --

I last of all, and far most miserably,

Am going, ere my days have reached their term!

Yet lives the hope that, when I go, most surely

Dear will my coming be, father, to thee,

And dear to thee, my mother, and to thee,

Brother! since with these very hands I decked

And bathed you after death, and ministered

The last libations. And I reap this doom

For tending, Polynices, on thy corpse.

Indeed I honored thee, the wise will say.

For neither, had I children, nor if one

I had married were laid bleeding on the earth,

Would I have braved the city's will, or taken

This burden on me. Wherefore? I will tell.

A husband lost might be replaced; a son,

If son were lost to me, might yet be born;

But, with both parents hidden in the tomb,

No brother may arise to comfort me.

Therefore above all else I honored thee,

And therefore Creon thought me criminal,

And bold in wickedness, O brother mine!

And now by servile hands, for all to see,

He hastens me away, unhusbanded,

Before my nuptial, having never known

Or married joy or tender motherhood.

But desolate and friendless I go down

Alive, O horror! to the vaults of the dead.

For what transgression of Heaven's ordinance?

Alas! how can I look to Heaven? on whom

Call to befriend me? seeing that I have earned,

By piety, the meed of impious? --

Oh! if this act be what the Gods approve,

In death I may repent me of my deed;

But if they sin who judge me, be their doom

No heavier than they wrongly wreak on me!

 

CHORUS

With unchanged fury beats the storm of soul

That shakes this maiden.

 

CREON

Then for that, be sure

Her warders shall lament their tardiness.

 

ANTIGONE

Alas! I hear Death's footfall in that sound.

 

CREON

I may not reassure thee. -- 'Tis most true.

 

ANTIGONE

O land of Thebe, city of my sires,

Ye too, ancestral Gods! I go -- I go!

Even now they lead me to mine end. Behold!

Founders of Thebes, the only scion left

Of Cadmus' issue, how unworthily,

By what mean instruments I am oppressed,

For reverencing the dues of piety.                    

 

(Exit with guards)

 

CHORUS

Even Danae's beauty left the lightsome day.                      

Closed in her strong and brass-bound tower she lay

      In tomb-like deep confine.

Yet she was gendered, O my child!

      From sires of noblest line,

And treasured for the Highest the golden rain.

Fated misfortune hath a power so fell:

      Not wealth, nor warfare wild,

Nor dark spray-dashing coursers of the main

Against great Destiny may once rebel.

 

He too in darksome durance was compressed,                        

King of Edonians, Dryas' hasty son,

      In eyeless vault of stone

Immured by Dionysus' hest,

      All for a wrathful jest.

Fierce madness issueth in such fatal flower.

He found 'twas mad to taunt the Heavenly Power,

      Chilling the Maenad breast

Kindled with Bacchic fire, and with annoy

Angering the Muse that in the flute hath joy.

 

And near twin rocks that guard the Colchian sea,                 

Bosporian cliffs 'fore Salmydessus rise,

Where neighboring Ares from his shrine beheld

Phineus' two sons by female fury quelled.

With cursed wounding of their sight-reft eyes,

That cried to Heaven to 'venge the iniquity.

The shuttle's sharpness in a cruel hand

Dealt the dire blow, not struck with martial brand.

 

But chiefly for her piteous lot they pined,                      

Who was the source of their rejected birth.

She touched the lineage of Erechtheus old;

Whence in far caves her life did erst unfold,

Cradled 'mid storms, daughter of Northern wind,

Steed-swift o'er all steep places of the earth.

Yet even on her, though reared of heavenly kind,

The long-enduring Fates at last took hold.

 

(Enter TIRESIAS, led by a boy)

 

TIRESIAS

We are come, my lords of Thebes, joint wayfarers,

One having eyes for both. The blind must still