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Antigone

Creon, the king of Thebes, forbids the burial of those who rebelled against his rule. Antigone, soon to marry Creon's son, disobeys this edict to bury her brother Polyneices.
440 BC
ANTIGONE
by Sophocles
translated by R. C. Jebb
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

daughters of Oedipus:
ANTIGONE
ISMENE

CREON, King of Thebes
EURYDICE, his wife
HAEMON, his son
TEIRESIAS, the blind prophet
GUARD, set to watch the corpse of Polyneices
FIRST MESSENGER
SECOND MESSENGER, from the house
CHORUS OF THEBAN ELDERS
ANTIGONE
ANTIGONE
ANTIGONE

(SCENE:-The same as in the Oedipus the King, an open space before
the royal palace, once that of Oedipus, at Thebes. The backscene
represents the front of the palace, with three doors, of which the
central and largest is the principal entrance into the house. The time
is at daybreak on the morning after the fall of the two brothers,
Eteocles and Polyneices, and the flight of the defeated Argives.
ANTIGONE calls ISMENE forth from the palace, in order to speak to
her alone.)

ANTIGONE
ISMENE, sister, mine own dear sister, knowest thou what ill
there is, of all bequeathed by Oedipus, that Zeus fulfils not for us
twain while we live? Nothing painful is there, nothing fraught with
ruin, no shame, no dishonour, that I have not seen in thy woes and
mine.
And now what new edict is this of which they tell, that our
Captain hath just published to all Thebes? Knowest thou aught? Hast
thou heard? Or is it hidden from thee that our friends are
threatened with the doom of our foes?
ISMENE
No word of friends, Antigone, gladsome or painful, hath come to
me, since we two sisters were bereft of brothers twain, killed in
one day by twofold blow; and since in this last night the Argive
host hath fled, know no more, whether my fortune be brighter, or
more grievous.
ANTIGONE
I knew it well, and therefore sought to bring thee beyond the
gates of the court, that thou mightest hear alone.
ISMENE
What is it? 'Tis plain that thou art brooding on some dark
tidings.
ANTIGONE
What, hath not Creon destined our brothers, the one to honoured
burial, the other to unburied shame? Eteocles, they say, with due
observance of right and custom, he hath laid in the earth, for his
honour among the dead below. But the hapless corpse of Polyneices-as
rumour saith, it hath been published to the town that none shall
entomb him or mourn, but leave unwept, unsepulchred, a welcome store
for the birds, as they espy him, to feast on at will.
Such, 'tis said, is the edict that the good Creon hath set forth
for thee and for me,-yes, for me,-and is coming hither to proclaim
it clearly to those who know it not; nor counts the matter light, but,
whoso disobeys in aught, his doom is death by stoning before all the
folk. Thou knowest it now; and thou wilt soon show whether thou art
nobly bred, or the base daughter of a noble line.
ISMENE
Poor sister,-and if things stand thus, what could I help to do
or undo?
ANTIGONE
Consider if thou wilt share the toil and the deed.
ISMENE
In what venture? What can be thy meaning?
ANTIGONE
Wilt thou aid this hand to lift the dead?
ISMENE
Thou wouldst bury him,-when 'tis forbidden to Thebes?
ANTIGONE
I will do my part,-and thine, if thou wilt not,-to a brother.
False to him will I never be found.
ISMENE
Ah, over-bold! when Creon hath forbidden?
ANTIGONE
Nay, he hath no right to keep me from mine own.
ISMENE
Ah me! think, sister, how our father perished, amid hate and
scorn, when sins bared by his own search had moved him to strike
both eyes with self-blinding hand; then the mother wife, two names
in one, with twisted noose did despite unto her life; and last, our
two brothers in one day,-each shedding, hapless one, a kinsman's
blood,-wrought out with mutual hands their common doom. And now we
in turn-we two left all alone think how we shall perish, more
miserably than all the rest, if, in defiance of the law, we brave a
king's decree or his powers. Nay, we must remember, first, that we
were born women, as who should not strive with men; next, that we
are ruled of the stronger, so that we must obey in these things, and
in things yet sorer. I, therefore, asking the Spirits Infernal to
pardon, seeing that force is put on me herein, will hearken to our
rulers. for 'tis witless to be over busy.
ANTIGONE
I will not urge thee,-no nor, if thou yet shouldst have the
mind, wouldst thou be welcome as a worker with me. Nay, be what thou
wilt; but I will bury him: well for me to die in doing that. I shall
rest, a loved one with him whom I have loved, sinless in my crime; for
I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living: in that
world I shall abide for ever. But if thou wilt, be guilty of
dishonouring laws which the gods have stablished in honour.
ISMENE
I do them no dishonour; but to defy the State,-I have no
strength for that.
ANTIGONE
Such be thy plea:-I, then, will go to heap the earth above the
brother whom I love.
ISMENE
Alas, unhappy one! How I fear for thee!
ANTIGONE
Fear not for me: guide thine own fate aright.
ISMENE:
At least, then, disclose this plan to none, but hide it
closely,-and so, too, will I.
ANTIGONE
Oh, denounce it! Thou wilt be far more hateful for thy silence, if
thou proclaim not these things to all.
ISMENE
Thou hast a hot heart for chilling deeds.
ANTIGONE
I know that I please where I am most bound to please.
ISMENE
Aye, if thou canst; but thou wouldst what thou canst not.
ANTIGONE
Why, then, when my strength fails, I shall have done.
ISMENE
A hopeless quest should not be made at all.
ANTIGONE
If thus thou speakest, thou wilt have hatred from me, and will
justly be subject to the lasting hatred of the dead. But leave me, and
the folly that is mine alone, to suffer this dread thing; for I
shall not suffer aught so dreadful as an ignoble death.
ISMENE
Go, then, if thou must; and of this be sure,-that though thine
errand is foolish, to thy dear ones thou art truly dear.

(Exit ANTIGONE on the spectators' left. ISMENE retires into the
palace by one of the two side-doors. When they have departed, the
CHORUS OF THEBAN ELDERS enters.)

CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

Beam of the sun, fairest light that ever dawned on Thebe of the
seven gates, thou hast shone forth at last, eye of golden day,
arisen above Dirce's streams! The warrior of the white shield, who
came from Argos in his panoply, hath been stirred by thee to
headlong flight, in swifter career;
LEADER OF THE CHORUS

systema 1

who set forth against our land by reason of the vexed claims of
Polyneices; and, like shrill-screaming eagle, he flew over into our
land, in snow-white pinion sheathed, with an armed throng, and with
plumage of helms.
CHORUS

antistrophe 1

He paused above our dwellings; he ravened around our sevenfold
portals with spears athirst for blood; but he went hence, or ever
his jaws were glutted with our gore, or the Fire-god's pine-fed
flame had seized our crown of towers. So fierce was the noise of
battle raised behind him, a thing too hard for him to conquer, as he
wrestled with his dragon foe.
LEADER

systema 2

For Zeus utterly abhors the boasts of a proud tongue; and when
he beheld them coming on in a great stream, in the haughty pride of
clanging gold, he smote with brandished fire one who was now hasting
to shout victory at his goal upon our ramparts.
CHORUS

strophe 2

Swung down, he fell on the earth with a crash, torch in hand, he
who so lately, in the frenzy of the mad onset, was raging against us
with the blasts of his tempestuous hate. But those threats fared not
as he hoped; and to other foes the mighty War-god dispensed their
several dooms, dealing havoc around, a mighty helper at our need.
LEADER

systema 3

For seven captains at seven gates, matched against seven, left the
tribute of their panoplies to Zeus who turns the battle; save those
two of cruel fate, who, born of one sire and one mother, set against
each other their twain conquering spears, and are sharers in a
common death.
CHORUS

antistrophe 2

But since Victory of glorious name hath come to us, with joy
responsive to the joy of Thebe whose chariots are many, let us enjoy
forgetfulness after the late wars, and visit all the temples of the
gods with night-long dance and song; and may Bacchus be our leader,
whose dancing shakes the land of Thebe.
LEADER

systema 4

But lo, the king of the land comes yonder, Creon, son of
Menoeceus, our new ruler by the new fortunes that the gods have given;
what counsel is he pondering, that he hath proposed this special
conference of elders, summoned by his general mandate?

(Enter CREON, from the central doors of the palace, in the garb of
king, with two attendants.)

CREON
Sirs, the vessel of our State, after being tossed on wild waves,
hath once more been safely steadied by the gods: and ye, out of all
the folk, have been called apart by my summons, because I knew,
first of all, how true and constant was your reverence for the royal
power of Laius; how, again, when Oedipus was ruler of our land, and
when he had perished, your steadfast loyalty still upheld their
children. Since, then, his sons have fallen in one day by a twofold
doom,-each smitten by the other, each stained with a brother's
blood,-I now possess the throne and all its powers, by nearness of
kinship to the dead.
No man can be fully known, in soul and spirit and mind, until he
hath been seen versed in rule and law-giving. For if any, being
supreme guide of the State, cleaves not to the best counsels, but,
through some fear, keeps his lips locked, I hold, and have ever
held, him most base; and if any makes a friend of more account than
his fatherland, that man hath no place in my regard. For I-be Zeus
my witness, who sees all things always-would not be silent if I saw
ruin, instead of safety, coming to the citizens; nor would I ever deem
the country's foe a friend to myself; remembering this, that our
country is the ship that bears us safe, and that only while she
prospers in our voyage can we make true friends.
Such are the rules by which I guard this city's greatness. And
in accord with them is the edict which I have now published to the
folk touching the sons of Oedipus;-that Eteocles, who hath fallen
fighting for our city, in all renown of arms, shall be entombed, and
crowned with every rite that follows the noblest dead to their rest.
But for his brother, Polyneices,-who came back from exile, and
sought to consume utterly with fire the city of his fathers and the
shrines of his fathers' gods,-sought to taste of kindred blood, and to
lead the remnant into slavery;-touching this man, it hath been
proclaimed to our people that none shall grace him with sepulture or
lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for birds and dogs to eat,
a ghastly sight of shame.
Such the spirit of my dealing; and never, by deed of mine, shall
the wicked stand in honour before the just; but whoso hath good will
to Thebes, he shall be honoured of me, in his life and in his death.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Such is thy pleasure, Creon, son of Menoeceus, touching this
city's foe, and its friend; and thou hast power, I ween, to take
what order thou wilt, both for the dead, and for all us who live.
CREON
See, then, that ye be guardians of the mandate.
LEADER
Lay the burden of this task on some younger man.
CREON
Nay, watchers of the corpse have been found.
LEADER
What, then, is this further charge that thou wouldst give?
CREON
That ye side not with the breakers of these commands.
LEADER
No man is so foolish that he is enamoured of death.
CREON
In sooth, that is the meed; yet lucre hath oft ruined men
through their hopes.
(A GUARD enters from the spectators' left.)
GUARD
My liege, I will not say that I come breathless from speed, or
that have plied a nimble foot; for often did my thoughts make me
pause, and wheel round in my path, to return. My mind was holding
large discourse with me; 'Fool, why goest thou to thy certain doom?'
'Wretch, tarrying again? And if Creon hears this from another, must
not thou smart for it?' So debating, I went on my way with lagging
steps, and thus a short road was made long. At last, however, it
carried the day that I should come hither-to thee; and, though my tale
be nought, yet will I tell it; for I come with a good grip on one
hope,-that I can suffer nothing but what is my fate.
CREON
And what is it that disquiets thee thus?
GUARD
I wish to tell thee first about myself-I did not do the deed-I did
not see the doer-it were not right that I should come to any harm.
CREON
Thou hast a shrewd eye for thy mark; well dost thou fence
thyself round against the blame; clearly thou hast some strange
thing to tell.
GUARD
Aye, truly; dread news makes one pause long.
CREON
Then tell it, wilt thou, and so get thee gone?
GUARD
Well, this is it.-The corpse-some one hath just given it burial,
and gone away,-after sprinkling thirsty dust on the flesh, with such
other rites as piety enjoins.
CREON
What sayest thou? What living man hath dared this deed?
GUARD
I know not; no stroke of pickaxe was seen there, no earth thrown
up by mattock; the ground was hard and dry, unbroken, without track of
wheels; the doer was one who had left no trace. And when the first
day-watchman showed it to us, sore wonder fell on all. The dead man
was veiled from us; not shut within a tomb, but lightly strewn with
dust, as by the hand of one who shunned a curse. And no sign met the
eye as though any beast of prey or any dog had come nigh to him, or
torn him.
Then evil words flew fast and loud among us, guard accusing guard;
und it would e'en have come to blows at last, nor was there any to
hinder. Every man was the culprit, and no one was convicted, but all
disclaimed knowledge of the deed. And we were ready to take red-hot
iron in our hands;-to walk through fire;-to make oath by the gods that
we had not done the deed,-that we were not privy to the planning or
the doing.
At last, when all our searching was fruitless, one spake, who made
us all bend our faces on the earth in fear; for we saw not how we
could gainsay him, or escape mischance if we obeyed. His counsel was
that this deed must be reported to thee, and not hidden. And this
seemed best; and the lot doomed my hapless self to win this prize.
So here I stand,-as unwelcome as unwilling, well I wot; for no man
delights in the bearer of bad news.
LEADER
O king, my thoughts have long been whispering, can this deed,
perchance, be e'en the work of gods?
CREON
Cease, ere thy words fill me utterly with wrath, lest thou be
found at once an old man and foolish. For thou sayest what is not to
be borne, in saying that the gods have care for this corpse. Was it
for high reward of trusty service that they sought to hide his
nakedness, who came to burn their pillared shrines and sacred
treasures, to burn their land, and scatter its laws to the winds? Or
dost thou behold the gods honouring the wicked? It cannot be. No! From
the first there were certain in the town that muttered against me,
chafing at this edict, wagging their heads in secret; and kept not
their necks duly under the yoke, like men contented with my sway.
'Tis by them, well I know, that these have been beguiled and
bribed to do this deed. Nothing so evil as money ever grew to be
current among men. This lays cities low, this drives men from their
homes, this trains and warps honest souls till they set themselves
to works of shame; this still teaches folk to practise villainies, and
to know every godless deed.
But all the men who wrought this thing for hire have made it
sure that, soon or late, they shall pay the price. Now, as Zeus
still hath my reverence, know this-I tell it thee on my oath:-If ye
find not the very author of this burial, and produce him before mine
eyes, death alone shall not be enough for you, till first, hung up
alive, ye have revealed this outrage,-that henceforth ye may thieve
with better knowledge whence lucre should be won, and learn that it is
not well to love gain from every source. For thou wilt find that
ill-gotten pelf brings more men to ruin than to weal.
GUARD
May I speak? Or shall I just turn and go?
CREON
Knowest thou not that even now thy voice offends?
GUARD
Is thy smart in the ears, or in the soul?
CREON
And why wouldst thou define the seat of my pain?
GUARD
The doer vexes thy mind, but I, thine ears.
CREON
Ah, thou art a born babbler, 'tis well seen.
GUARD
May be, but never the doer of this deed.
CREON
Yea, and more,-the seller of thy life for silver.
GUARD
Alas! 'Tis sad, truly, that he who judges should misjudge.
CREON
Let thy fancy play with 'judgment' as it will;-but, if ye show
me not the doers of these things, ye shall avow that dastardly gains
work sorrows.
(CREON goes into the palace.)
GUARD
Well, may he be found! so 'twere best. But, be he caught or be
he not-fortune must settle that-truly thou wilt not see me here again.
Saved, even now, beyond hope and thought, I owe the gods great thanks.
(The GUARD goes out on the spectators' left.)
CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man; the power
that crosses the white sea, driven by the stormy south-wind, making
a path under surges that threaten to engulf him; and Earth, the eldest
of the gods, the immortal, the unwearied, doth he wear, turning the
soil with the offspring of horses, as the ploughs go to and fro from
year to year.

antistrophe 1

And the light-hearted race of birds, and the tribes of savage
beasts, and the sea-brood of the deep, he snares in the meshes of
his woven toils, he leads captive, man excellent in wit. And he
masters by his arts the beast whose lair is in the wilds, who roams
the hills; he tames the horse of shaggy mane, he puts the yoke upon
its neck, he tames the tireless mountain bull.

strophe 2

And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods that mould a
state, hath he taught himself; and how to flee the arrows of the
frost, when 'tis hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of
the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all; without resource he
meets nothing that must come: only against Death shall he call for aid
in vain; but from baffling maladies he hath devised escapes.

antistrophe 2

Cunning beyond fancy's dream is the fertile skill which brings
him, now to evil, now to good. When he honours the laws of the land,
and that justice which he hath sworn by the gods to uphold, proudly
stands his city: no city hath he who, for his rashness, dwells with
sin. Never may he share my hearth, never think my thoughts, who doth
these things!

(Enter the GUARD on the spectators' left, leading in ANTIGONE.)

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
What portent from the gods is this?-my soul is amazed. I know
her-how can I deny that yon maiden is Antigone?
O hapless, and child of hapless sire,-Of Oedipus! What means this?
Thou brought a prisoner?-thou, disloyal to the king's laws, and
taken in folly?
GUARD
Here she is, the doer of the deed:-caught this girl burying
him:-but where is Creon?
(CREON enters hurriedly from the palace.)
LEADER
Lo, he comes forth again from the house, at our need.
CREON
What is it? What hath chanced, that makes my coming timely?
GUARD
O king, against nothing should men pledge their word; for the
after-thought belies the first intent. I could have vowed that I
should not soon be here again,-scared by thy threats, with which I had
just been lashed: but,-since the joy that surprises and transcends our
hopes is like in fulness to no other pleasure,-I have come, though
'tis in breach of my sworn oath, bringing this maid; who was taken
showing grace to the dead. This time there was no casting of lots; no,
this luck hath fallen to me, and to none else. And now, sire, take her
thyself, question her, examine her, as thou wilt; but I have a right
to free and final quittance of this trouble.
CREON
And thy prisoner here-how and whence hast thou taken her?
GUARD
She was burying the man; thou knowest all.
CREON
Dost thou mean what thou sayest? Dost thou speak aright?
GUARD
I saw her burying the corpse that thou hadst forbidden to bury. Is
that plain and clear?
CREON
And how was she seen? how taken in the act?
GUARD
It befell on this wise. When we had come to the place,-with
those dread menaces of thine upon us,-we swept away all the dust
that covered the corpse, and bared the dank body well; and then sat us
down on the brow of the hill, to windward, heedful that the smell from
him should not strike us; every man was wide awake, and kept his
neighbour alert with torrents of threats, if anyone should be careless
of this task.
So went it, until the sun's bright orb stood in mid heaven, and
the heat began to burn: and then suddenly a whirlwind lifted from
the earth storm of dust, a trouble in the sky the plain, marring all
the leafage of its woods; and the wide air was choked therewith: we
closed our eyes, and bore the plague from the gods.
And when, after a long while, this storm had passed, the maid
was seen; and she cried aloud with the sharp cry of a bird in its
bitterness,-even as when, within the empty nest, it sees the bed
stripped of its nestlings. So she also, when she saw the corpse
bare, lifted up a voice of wailing, and called down curses on the
doers of that deed. And straightway she brought thirsty dust in her
hands; and from a shapely ewer of bronze, held high, with
thrice-poured drink-offering she crowned the dead.
We rushed forward when we saw it, and at once dosed upon our
quarry, who was in no wise dismayed. Then we taxed her with her past
and present doings; and she stood not on denial of aught,-at once to
my joy and to my pain. To have escaped from ills one's self is a great
joy; but 'tis painful to bring friends to ill. Howbeit, all such
things are of less account to me than mine own safety.
CREON
Thou-thou whose face is bent to earth-dost thou avow, or
disavow, this deed?
ANTIGONE
I avow it; I make no denial.
CREON (to GUARD)
Thou canst betake thee whither thou wilt, free and clear of a
grave charge.
(Exit GUARD)
(To ANTIGONE) Now, tell me thou-not in many words, but
briefly-knewest thou that an edict had forbidden this?
ANTIGONE
I knew it: could I help it? It was public.
CREON
And thou didst indeed dare to transgress that law?
ANTIGONE
Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not
such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the
gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a
mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of
heaven. For their life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all
time, and no man knows when they were first put forth.
Not through dread of any human pride could I answer to the gods
for breaking these. Die I must,-I knew that well (how should I
not?)-even without thy edicts. But if I am to die before my time, I
count that a gain: for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about
with evils, can such an one find aught but gain in death?
So for me to meet this doom is trifling grief; but if I had
suffered my mother's son to lie in death an unburied corpse, that
would have grieved me; for this, I am not grieved. And if my present
deeds are foolish in thy sight, it may be that a foolish judge
arraigns my folly.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate sire, and
knows not how to bend before troubles.
CREON
Yet I would have thee know that o'er-stubborn spirits are most
often humbled; 'tis the stiffest iron, baked to hardness in the
fire, that thou shalt oftenest see snapped and shivered; and I have
known horses that show temper brought to order by a little curb; there
is no room for pride when thou art thy neighbour's slave.-This girl
was already versed in insolence when she transgressed the laws that
had been set forth; and, that done, lo, a second insult,-to vaunt of
this, and exult in her deed.
Now verily I am no man, she is the man, if this victory shall rest
with her, and bring no penalty. No! be she sister's child, or nearer
to me in blood than any that worships Zeus at the altar of our
house,-she and her kinsfolk shall not avoid a doom most dire; for
indeed I charge that other with a like share in the plotting of this
burial.
And summon her-for I saw her e'en now within,-raving, and not
mistress of her wits. So oft, before the deed, the mind stands
self-convicted in its treason, when folks are plotting mischief in the
dark. But verily this, too, is hateful,-when one who hath been
caught in wickednes then seeks to make the crime a glory.
ANTIGONE
Wouldst thou do more than take and slay me?
CREON
No more, indeed; having that, I have all.
ANTIGONE
Why then dost thou delay? In thy discourse there is nought that
pleases me,-never may there be!-and so my words must needs be
unpleasing to thee. And yet, for glory-whence could I have won a
nobler, than by giving burial to mine own brother? All here would
own that they thought it well, were not their lips sealed by fear. But
royalty, blest in so much besides, hath the power to do and say what
it will.
CREON
Thou differest from all these Thebans in that view.
ANTIGONE
These also share it; but they curb their tongues for thee.
CREON
And art thou not ashamed to act apart from them?
ANTIGONE
No; there is nothing shameful in piety to a brother.
CREON
Was it not a brother, too, that died in the opposite cause?
ANTIGONE
Brother by the same mother and the same sire.
CREON
Why, then, dost thou render a grace that is impious in his sight?
ANTIGONE
The dead man will not say that he so deems it.
CREON
Yea, if thou makest him but equal in honour with the wicked.
ANTIGONE
It was his brother, not his slave, that perished.
CREON
Wasting this land; while he fell as its champion.
ANTIGONE
Nevertheless, Hades desires these rites.
CREON
But the good desires not a like portion with the evil.
ANTIGONE
Who knows but this seems blameless in the world below?
CREON
A foe is never a friend-not even in death.
ANTIGONE
Tis not my nature to join in hating, but in loving.
CREON
Pass, then, to the world of the dead, and, it thou must needs
love, love them. While I live, no woman shall rule me.

(Enter ISMENE from the house, led in by two attendants.)

CHORUS (chanting)
Lo, yonder Ismene comes forth, shedding such tears as fond sisters
weep; a cloud upon her brow casts its shadow over her
darkly-flushing face, and breaks in rain on her fair cheek.
CREON
And thou, who, lurking like a viper in my house, wast secretly
draining my life-blood, while I knew not that I was nurturing two
pests, to rise against my throne-come, tell me now, wilt thou also
confess thy part in this burial, or wilt thou forswear all knowledge
of it?
ISMENE
I have done the deed,-if she allows my claim,-and share the burden
of the charge.
ANTIGONE
Nay, justice will not suffer thee to do that: thou didst not
consent to the deed, nor did I give thee part in it.
ISMENE
But, now that ills beset thee, I am not ashamed to sail the sea of
trouble at thy side.
ANTIGONE
Whose was the deed, Hades and the dead are witnesses: a friend
in words is not the friend that I love.
ISMENE
Nay, sister, reject me not, but let me die with thee, and duly
honour the dead.
ANTIGONE
Share not thou my death, nor claim deeds to which thou hast not
put thy hand: my death will suffice.
ISMENE
And what life is dear to me, bereft of thee?
ANTIGONE
Ask Creon; all thy care is for him.
ISMENE
Why vex me thus, when it avails thee nought?
ANTIGONE
Indeed, if I mock, 'tis with pain that I mock thee.
ISMENE
Tell me,-how can I serve thee, even now?
ANTIGONE
Save thyself: I grudge not thy escape.
ISMENE
Ah, woe is me! And shall I have no share in thy fate?
ANTIGONE
Thy choice was to live; mine, to die.
ISMENE
At least thy choice was not made without my protest.
ANTIGONE
One world approved thy wisdom; another, mine.
ISMENE
Howbeit, the offence is the same for both of us.
ANTIGONE
Be of good cheer; thou livest; but my life hath long been given to
death, that so I might serve the dead.
CREON
Lo, one of these maidens hath newly shown herself foolish, as
the other hath been since her life began.
ISMENE
Yea, O king, such reason as nature may have given abides not
with the unfortunate, but goes astray.
CREON
Thine did, when thou chosest vile deeds with the vile.
ISMENE
What life could I endure, without her presence?
CREON
Nay, speak not of her 'presence'; she lives no more.
ISMENE
But wilt thou slay the betrothed of thine own son?
CREON
Nay, there are other fields for him to plough.
ISMENE
But there can never be such love as bound him to her.
CREON
I like not an evil wife for my son.
ANTIGONE
Haemon, beloved! How thy father wrongs thee!
CREON
Enough, enough of thee and of thy marriage!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Wilt thou indeed rob thy son of this maiden?
CREON
'Tis Death that shall stay these bridals for me.
LEADER
'Tis determined, it seems, that she shall die.
CREON
Determined, yes, for thee and for me.-(To the two attendants) No
more delay-servants, take them within! Henceforth they must be
women, and not range at large; for verily even the bold seek to fly,
when they see Death now closing on their life.

(Exeunt attendants, guarding ANTIGONE and ISMENE.-CREON remains.)

CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

Blest are they whose days have not tasted of evil. For when a
house hath once been shaken from heaven, there the curse fails
nevermore, passing from life to life of the race; even as, when the
surge is driven over the darkness of the deep by the fierce breath
of Thracian sea-winds, it rolls up the black sand from the depths, and
there is sullen roar from wind-vexed headlands that front the blows of
the storm.

antistrophe 1

I see that from olden time the sorrows in the house of the
Labdacidae are heaped upon the sorrows of the dead; and generation
is not freed by generation, but some god strikes them down, and the
race hath no deliverance.
For now that hope of which the light had been spread above the
last root of the house of Oedipus-that hope, in turn, is brought
low--by the blood-stained dust due to the gods infernal, and by
folly in speech, and frenzy at the heart.
strophe 2

Thy power, O Zeus, what human trespass can limit? That power which
neither Sleep, the all-ensnaring, nor the untiring months of the
gods can master; but thou, a ruler to whom time brings not old age,
dwellest in the dazzling splendour of Olympus.
And through the future, near and far, as through the past, shall
this law hold good: Nothing that is vast enters into the life of
mortals without a curse.

antistrophe 2

For that hope whose wanderings are so wide is to many men a
comfort, but to many a false lure of giddy desires; and the
disappointment comes on one who knoweth nought till he burn his foot
against the hot fire.
For with wisdom hath some one given forth the famous saying,
that evil seems good, soon or late, to him whose mind the god draws to
mischief; and but for the briefest space doth he fare free of woe.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But lo, Haemon, the last of thy sons;-Comes he grieving for the
doom of his promised bride, Antigone, and bitter for the baffled
hope of his marriage?
(Enter HAEMON)
CREON
We shall know soon, better than seers could tell us.-My son,
hearing the fixed doom of thy betrothed, art thou come in rage against
thy father? Or have I thy good will, act how I may?
HAEMON
Father, I am thine; and thou, in thy wisdom, tracest for me
rules which I shall follow. No marriage shall be deemed by me a
greater gain than thy good guidance.
CREON
Yea, this, my son, should be thy heart's fixed law,-in all
things to obey thy father's will. 'Tis for this that men pray to see
dutiful children grow up around them in their homes,-that such may
requite their father's foe with evil, and honour, as their father
doth, his friend. But he who begets unprofitable children-what shall
we say that he hath sown, but troubles for himself, and much triumph
for his foes? Then do not thou, my son, at pleasure's beck, dethrone
thy reason for a woman's sake; knowing that this is a joy that soon
grows cold in clasping arms,-an evil woman to share thy bed and thy
home. For what wound could strike deeper than a false friend? Nay,
with loathing, and as if she were thine enemy, let this girl go to
find a husband in the house of Hades. For since I have taken her,
alone of all the city, in open disobedience, I will not make myself
a liar to my people-I will slay her.
So let her appeal as she will to the majesty of kindred blood.
If I am to nurture mine own kindred in naughtiness, needs must I
bear with it in aliens. He who does his duty in his own household will
be found righteous in the State also. But if any one transgresses, and
does violence to the laws, or thinks to dictate to his rulers, such an
one can win no praise from me. No, whomsoever the city may appoint,
that man must be obeyed, in little things and great, in just things
and unjust; and I should feel sure that one who thus obeys would be
a good ruler no less than a good subject, and in the storm of spears
would stand his ground where he was set, loyal and dauntless at his
comrade's side.
But disobedience is the worst of evils. This it is that ruins
cities; this makes homes desolate; by this, the ranks of allies are
broken into head-long rout; but, of the lives whose course is fair,
the greater part owes safety to obedience. Therefore we must support
the cause of order, and in no wise suffer a woman to worst us.
Better to fall from power, if we must, by a man's hand; then we should
not be called weaker than a woman.
LEADER
To us, unless our years have stolen our wit, thou seemest to say
wisely what thou sayest.
HAEMON
Father, the gods implant reason in men, the highest of all
things that we call our own. Not mine the skill-far from me be the
quest!-to say wherein thou speakest not aright; and yet another man,
too, might have some useful thought. At least, it is my natural office
to watch, on thy behalf, all that men say, or do, or find to blame.
For the dread of thy frown forbids the citizen to speak such words
as would offend thine ear; but can hear these murmurs in the dark,
these moanings of the city for this maiden; 'no woman,' they say,
'ever merited her doom less,-none ever was to die so shamefully for
deeds so glorious as hers; who, when her own brother had fallen in
bloody strife, would not leave him unburied, to be devoured by carrion
dogs, or by any bird:-deserves not she the meed of golden honour?'
Such is the darkling rumour that spreads in secret. For me, my
father, no treasure is so precious as thy welfare. What, indeed, is
a nobler ornament for children than a prospering sire's fair fame,
or for sire than son's? Wear not, then, one mood only in thyself;
think not that thy word, and thine alone, must be right. For if any
man thinks that he alone is wise,-that in speech, or in mind, he
hath no peer,-such a soul, when laid open, is ever found empty.
No, though a man be wise, 'tis no shame for him to learn many
things, and to bend in season. Seest thou, beside the wintry torrent's
course, how the trees that yield to it save every twig, while the
stiff-necked perish root and branch? And even thus he who keeps the
sheet of his sail taut, and never slackens it, upsets his boat, and
finishes his voyage with keel uppermost.
Nay, forego thy wrath; permit thyself to change. For if I, a
younger man, may offer my thought, it were far best, I ween, that
men should be all-wise by nature; but, otherwise-and oft the scale
inclines not so-'tis good also to learn from those who speak aright.
LEADER
Sire, 'tis meet that thou shouldest profit by his words, if he
speaks aught in season, and thou, Haemon, by thy father's; for on both
parts there hath been wise speech.
CREON
Men of my age are we indeed to be schooled, then, by men of his?
HAEMON
In nothing that is not right; but if I am young, thou shouldest
look to my merits, not to my years.
CREON
Is it a merit to honour the unruly?
HAEMON
I could wish no one to show respect for evil-doers.
CREON
Then is not she tainted with that malady?
HAEMON
Our Theban folk, with one voice, denies it.
CREON
Shall Thebes prescribe to me how I must rule?
HAEMON
See, there thou hast spoken like a youth indeed.
CREON
Am I to rule this land by other judgment than mine own?
HAEMON
That is no city which belongs to one man.
CREON
Is not the city held to be the ruler's?
HAEMON
Thou wouldst make a good monarch of a desert.
CREON
This boy, it seems, is the woman's champion.
HAEMON
If thou art a woman; indeed, my care is for thee.
CREON
Shameless, at open feud with thy father!
HAEMON
Nay, I see thee offending against justice.
CREON
Do I offend, when I respect mine own prerogatives?
HAEMON
Thou dost not respect them, when thou tramplest on the gods'
honours,
CREON
O dastard nature, yielding place to woman!
HAEMON
Thou wilt never find me yield to baseness.
CREON
All thy words, at least, plead for that girl.
HAEMON
And for thee, and for me, and for the gods below.
CREON
Thou canst never marry her, on this side the grave.
HAEMON
Then she must die, and in death destroy another.
CREON
How! doth thy boldness run to open threats?
HAEMON
What threat is it, to combat vain resolves?
CREON
Thou shalt rue thy witless teaching of wisdom.
HAEMON
Wert thou not my father, I would have called thee unwise.
CREON
Thou woman's slave, use not wheedling speech with me.
HAEMON
Thou wouldest speak, and then hear no reply?
CREON
Sayest thou so? Now, by the heaven above us-be sure of it-thou
shalt smart for taunting me in this opprobrious strain. Bring forth
that hated thing, that she may die forthwith in his presence-before
his eyes-at her bridegroom's side!
HAEMON
No, not at my side-never think it-shall she perish; nor shalt thou
ever set eyes more upon my face:-rave, then, with such friends as
can endure thee.
(Exit HAEMON)
LEADER
The man is gone, O king, in angry haste; a youthful mind, when
stung, is fierce.
CREON
Let him do, or dream, more than man-good speed to him!-But he
shall not save these two girls from their doom.
LEADER
Dost thou indeed purpose to slay both?
CREON
Not her whose hands are pure: thou sayest well.
LEADER
And by what doom mean'st thou to slay the other?
CREON
I will take her where the path is loneliest, and hide her, living,
in rocky vault, with so much food set forth as piety prescribes,
that the city may avoid a public stain. And there, praying to Hades,
the only god whom she worships, perchance she will obtain release from
death; or else will learn, at last, though late, that it is lost
labour to revere the dead.
(CREON goes into the palace.)
CHORUS (singing)

strophe

Love, unconquered in the fight, Love, who makest havoc of
wealth, who keepest thy vigil on the soft cheek of a maiden; thou
roamest over the sea, and among the homes of dwellers in the wilds; no
immortal can escape thee, nor any among men whose life is for a day;
and he to whom thou hast come is mad.

antistrophe

The just themselves have their minds warped by thee to wrong,
for their ruin: 'tis thou that hast stirred up this present strife
of kinsmen; victorious is the love-kindling light from the eyes of the
fair bride; it is a power enthroned in sway beside the eternal laws;
for there the goddess Aphrodite is working her unconquerable will.

(ANTIGONE is led out of the palace by two Of CREON'S attendants who
are about to conduct her to her doom.)

But now I also am carried beyond the bounds of loyalty, and can no
more keep back the streaming tears, when I see Antigone thus passing
to the bridal chamber where all are laid to rest.

(The following lines between ANTIGONE and the CHORUS are chanted
responsively.)

ANTIGONE
strophe 1

See me, citizens of my fatherland, setting forth on my last way,
looking my last on the sunlight that is for me no more; no, Hades
who gives sleep to all leads me living to Acheron's shore; who have
had no portion in the chant that brings the bride, nor hath any song
been mine for the crowning of bridals; whom the lord of the Dark
Lake shall wed.
CHORUS

systema 1

Glorious, therefore, and with praise, thou departest to that
deep place of the dead: wasting sickness hath not smitten thee; thou
hast not found the wages of the sword; no, mistress of thine own fate,
and still alive, thou shalt pass to Hades, as no other of mortal
kind hath passed.
ANTIGONE

antistrophe 1

I have heard in other days how dread a doom befell our Phrygian
guest, the daughter of Tantalus, on the Sipylian heights; I how,
like clinging ivy, the growth of stone subdued her; and the rains fail
not, as men tell, from her wasting form, nor fails the snow, while
beneath her weeping lids the tears bedew her bosom; and most like to
hers is the fate that brings me to my rest.
CHORUS

systema 2

Yet she was a goddess, thou knowest, and born of gods; we are
mortals, and of mortal race. But 'tis great renown for a woman who
hath perished that she should have shared the doom of the godlike,
in her life, and afterward in death.
ANTIGONE

strophe 2

Ah, I am mocked! In the name of our fathers' gods, can ye not wait
till I am gone,-must ye taunt me to my face, O my city, and ye, her
wealthy sons? Ah, fount of Dirce, and thou holy ground of Thebe
whose chariots are many; ye, at least, will bear me witness, in what
sort, unwept of friends, and by what laws I pass to the rock-closed
prison of my strange tomb, ah me unhappy! who have no home on the
earth or in the shades, no home with the living or with the dead.
CHORUS

strophe 3

Thou hast rushed forward to the utmost verge of daring; and
against that throne where justice sits on high thou hast fallen, my
daughter, with a grievous fall. But in this ordeal thou art paying,
haply, for thy father's sin.
ANTIGONE

antistrophe 2

Thou hast touched on my bitterest thought,-awaking the ever-new
lament for my sire and for all the doom given to us, the famed house
of Labdacus. Alas for the horrors of the mother's bed! alas for the
wretched mother's slumber at the side of her own son,-and my sire!
From what manner of parents did I take my miserable being! And to them
I go thus, accursed, unwed, to share their home. Alas, my brother,
ill-starred in thy marriage, in thy death thou hast undone my life!
CHORUS

antistrophe 3

Reverent action claims a certain praise for reverence; but an
offence against power cannot be brooked by him who hath power in his
keeping. Thy self-willed temper hath wrought thy ruin.
ANTIGONE

epode

Unwept, unfriended, without marriage-song, I am led forth in my
sorrow on this journey that can be delayed no more. No longer, hapless
one, may I behold yon day-star's sacred eye; but for my fate no tear
is shed, no friend makes moan.
(CREON enters from the palace.)
CREON
Know ye not that songs and wailings before death would never
cease, if it profited to utter them? Away with her-away! And when ye
have enclosed her, according to my word, in her vaulted grave, leave
her alone, forlorn-whether she wishes to die, or to live a buried life
in such a home. Our hands are clean as touching this maiden. But
this is certain-she shall be deprived of her sojourn in the light.
ANTIGONE
Tomb, bridal-chamber, eternal prison in the caverned rock, whither
go to find mine own, those many who have perished, and whom Persephone
hath received among the dead! Last of all shall I pass thither, and
far most miserably of all, before the term of my life is spent. But
I cherish good hope that my coming will be welcome to my father, and
pleasant to thee, my mother, and welcome, brother, to thee; for,
when ye died, with mine own hands I washed and dressed you, and poured
drink-offerings at your graves; and now, Polyneices, 'tis for
tending thy corpse that I win such recompense as this.
And yet I honoured thee, as the wise will deem, rightly. Never,
had been a mother of children, or if a husband had been mouldering
in death, would I have taken this task upon me in the city's
despite. What law, ye ask, is my warrant for that word? The husband
lost, another might have been found, and child from another, to
replace the first-born: but, father and mother hidden with Hades, no
brother's life could ever bloom for me again. Such was the law whereby
I held thee first in honour; but Creon deemed me guilty of error
therein, and of outrage, ah brother mine! And now he leads me thus,
a captive in his hands; no bridal bed, no bridal song hath been
mine, no joy of marriage, no portion in the nurture of children; but
thus, forlorn of friends, unhappy one, I go living to the vaults of
death.
And what law of heaven have I transgressed? Why, hapless one,
should I look to the gods any more,-what ally should I invoke,-when by
piety I have earned the name of impious? Nay, then, if these things
are pleasing to the gods, when I have suffered my doom, I shall come
to know my sin; but if the sin is with my judges, I could wish them no
fuller measure of evil than they, on their part, mete wrongfully to
me.
CHORUS
Still the same tempest of the soul vexes this maiden with the same
fierce gusts.
CREON
Then for this shall her guards have cause to rue their slowness.
ANTIGONE
Ah me! that word hath come very near to death.
CREON
I can cheer thee with no hope that this doom is not thus to be
fulfilled.
ANTIGONE
O city of my fathers in the land of Thebe! O ye gods, eldest of
our race!-they lead me henc--now, now-they tarry not! Behold me,
princes of Thebes, the last daughter of the house of your kings,-see
what I suffer, and from whom, because I feared to cast away the fear
of Heaven!
(ANTIGONE is led away by the guards.)
CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

Even thus endured Danae in her beauty to change the light of day
for brass-bound walls; and in that chamber, secret as the grave, she
was held close prisoner; yet was she of a proud lineage, O my
daughter, and charged with the keeping of the seed of Zeus, that
fell in the golden rain.
But dreadful is the mysterious power of fate: there is no
deliverance from it by wealth or by war, by fenced city, or dark,
sea-beaten ships.

antistrophe 1

And bonds tamed the son of Dryas, swift to wrath, that king of the
Edonians; so paid he for his frenzied taunts, when, by the will of
Dionysus, he was pent in a rocky prison. There the fierce exuberance
of his madness slowly passed away. That man learned to know the god,
whom in his frenzy he had provoked with mockeries; for he had sought
to quell the god-possessed women, and the Bacchanalian fire; and he
angered the Muses that love the flute.

strophe 2

And by the waters of the Dark Rocks, the waters of the twofold
sea, are the shores of Bosporus, and Thracian Salmydessus; where Ares,
neighbour to the city, saw the accurst, blinding wound dealt to the
two sons of Phineus by his fierce wife,-the wound that brought
darkness to those vengeance-craving orbs, smitten with her bloody
hands, smitten with her shuttle for a dagger.

antistrophe 2

Pining in their misery, they bewailed their cruel doom, those sons
of a mother hapless in her marriage; but she traced her descent from
the ancient line of the Erechtheidae; and in far-distant caves she was
nursed amid her father's storms, that child of Boreas, swift as a
steed over the steep hills, a daughter of gods; yet upon her also
the gray Fates bore hard, my daughter.
(Enter TEIRESIAS, led by a Boy, on the spectators' right.)
TEIRESIAS
Princes of Thebes, we have come with linked steps, both served
by the eyes of one; for thus, by a guide's help, the blind must walk.
CREON
And what, aged Teiresias, are thy tidings?
TEIRESIAS
I will tell thee; and do thou hearken to the seer.
CREON
Indeed, it has not been my wont to slight thy counsel.
TEIRESIAS
Therefore didst thou steer our city's course aright.
CREON
I have felt, and can attest, thy benefits.
TEIRESIAS
Mark that now, once more, thou standest on fate's fine edge.
CREON
What means this? How I shudder at thy message!
TEIRESIAS
Thou wilt learn, when thou hearest the warnings of mine art. As
I took my place on mine old seat of augury, where all birds have
been wont to gather within my ken, I heard a strange voice among them;
they were screaming with dire, feverish rage, that drowned their
language in jargon; and I knew that they were rending each other
with their talons, murderously; the whirr of wings told no doubtful
tale.
Forthwith, in fear, I essayed burnt-sacrifice on a duly kindled
altar: but from my offerings the Fire-god showed no flame; a dank
moisture, oozing from the thigh-flesh, trickled forth upon the embers,
and smoked, and sputtered; the gall was scattered to the air; and
the streaming thighs lay bared of the fat that had been wrapped
round them.
Such was the failure of the rites by which I vainly asked a
sign, as from this boy I learned; for he is my guide, as I am guide to
others. And 'tis thy counsel that hath brought this sickness on our
State. For the altars of our city and of our hearths have been
tainted, one and all, by birds and dogs, with carrion from the hapless
corpse, the son of Oedipus: and therefore the gods no more accept
prayer and sacrifice at our hands, or the flame of meat-offering;
nor doth any bird give a clear sign by its shrill cry, for they have
tasted the fatness of a slain man's blood.
Think, then, on these things, my son. All men are liable to err;
but when an error hath been made, that man is no longer witless or
unblest who heals the ill into which he hath fallen, and remains not
stubborn.
Self-will, we know, incurs the charge of folly. Nay, allow the
claim of the dead; stab not the fallen; what prowess is it to slay the
slain anew? I have sought thy good, and for thy good I speak: and
never is it sweeter to learn from a good counsellor than when he
counsels for thine own gain.
CREON
Old man, ye all shoot your shafts at me, as archers at the
butts;-Ye must needs practise on me with seer-craft also;-aye, the
seer-tribe hath long trafficked in me, and made me their
merchandise. Gain your gains, drive your trade, if ye list, in the
silver-gold of Sardis and the gold of India; but ye shall not hide
that man in the grave,-no, though the eagles of Zeus should bear the
carrion morsels to their Master's throne-no, not for dread of that
defilement will I suffer his burial:-for well I know that no mortal
can defile the gods.-But, aged Teiresias, the wisest fall with
shameful fall, when they clothe shameful thoughts in fair words, for
lucre's sake.
TEIRESIAS
Alas! Doth any man know, doth any consider...
CREON
Whereof? What general truth dost thou announce?
TEIRESIAS
How precious, above all wealth, is good counsel.
CREON
As folly, I think, is the worst mischief.
TEIRESIAS
Yet thou art tainted with that distemper.
CREON
I would not answer the seer with a taunt.
TEIRESIAS
But thou dost, in saying that I prophesy falsely.
CREON
Well, the prophet-tribe was ever fond of money.
TEIRESIAS
And the race bred of tyrants loves base gain.
CREON
Knowest thou that thy speech is spoken of thy king?
TEIRESIAS
I know it; for through me thou hast saved Thebes.
CREON
Thou art a wise seer; but thou lovest evil deeds.
TEIRESIAS
Thou wilt rouse me to utter the dread secret in my soul.
CREON
Out with it!-Only speak it not for gain.
TEIRESIAS
Indeed, methinks, I shall not,-as touching thee.
CREON
Know that thou shalt not trade on my resolve.
TEIRESIAS
Then know thou-aye, know it well-that thou shalt not live
through many more courses of the sun's swift chariot, ere one begotten
of thine own loins shall have been given by thee, a corpse for
corpses; because thou hast thrust children of the sunlight to the
shades, and ruthlessly lodged a living soul in the grave; but
keepest in this world one who belongs to the gods infernal, a corpse
unburied, unhonoured, all unhallowed. In such thou hast no part, nor
have the gods above, but this is a violence done to them by thee.
Therefore the avenging destroyers lie in wait for thee, the Furies
of Hades and of the gods, that thou mayest be taken in these same
ills.
And mark well if I speak these things as a hireling. A time not
long to be delayed shall awaken the wailing of men and of women in thy
house. And a tumult of hatred against thee stirs all the cities
whose mangled sons had the burial-rite from dogs, or from wild beasts,
or from some winged bird that bore a polluting breath to each city
that contains the hearths of the dead.
Such arrows for thy heart-since thou provokest me-have I
launched at thee, archer-like, in my anger,-sure arrows, of which thou
shalt not escape the smart.-Boy, lead me home, that he may spend his
rage on younger men, and learn to keep a tongue more temperate, and to
bear within his breast a better mind than now he bears.
(The Boy leads TEIRESIAS Out.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
The man hath gone, O King, with dread prophecies. And, since the
hair on this head, once dark, hath been white, I know that he hath
never been a false prophet to our city.
CREON
I, too, know it well, and am troubled in soul. 'Tis dire to yield;
but, by resistance, to smite my pride with ruin-this, too, is a dire
choice.
LEADER
Son of Menoeceus, it behoves thee to take wise counsel.
CREON
What should I do then? Speak and I will obey.
LEADER
Go thou, and free the maiden from her rocky chamber, and make a
tomb for the unburied dead.
CREON
And this is thy counsel? Thou wouldst have me yield?
LEADER
Yea, King, and with all speed; for swift harms from the gods cut
short the folly of men.
CREON
Ah me, 'tis hard, but I resign my cherished resolve,-I obey. We
must not wage a vain war with destiny.
LEADER
Go, thou, and do these things; leave them not to others.
CREON
Even as I am I'll go:-on, on, my servants, each and all of
you,-take axes in your hands, and hasten to the ground that ye see
yonder! Since our judgment hath taken this turn, I will be present
to unloose her, as myself bound her. My heart misgives me, 'tis best
to keep the established laws, even to life's end.

(CREON and his servants hasten out on the spectators' left.)

CHORUS (singing)

strophe 1

O thou of many names, glory of the Cadmeian bride, offspring of
loud-thundering Zeus! thou who watchest over famed Italia, and
reignest, where all guests are welcomed, in the sheltered plain of
Eleusinian Deo! O Bacchus, dweller in Thebe, mother-city of Bacchants,
by the softly-gliding stream of Ismenus, on the soil where the
fierce dragon's teeth were sown!
antistrophe 1

Thou hast been seen where torch-flames glare through smoke,
above the crests of the twin peaks, where move the Corycian nymphs,
thy votaries, hard by Castalia's stream.
Thou comest from the ivy-mantled slopes of Nysa's hills, and
from the shore green with many-clustered vines, while thy name is
lifted up on strains of more than mortal power, as thou visitest the
ways of Thebe:

strophe 2

Thebe, of all cities, thou holdest first in honour, thou and thy
mother whom the lightning smote; and now, when all our people is
captive to a violent plague, come thou with healing feet over the
Parnassian height, or over the moaning strait!

antistrophe 2

O thou with whom the stars rejoice as they move, the stars whose
breath is fire; O master of the voices of the night; son begotten of
Zeus; appear, O king, with thine attendant Thyiads, who in
night-long frenzy dance before thee, the giver of good gifts, Iacchus!
(Enter MESSENGER, on the spectators' left.)
MESSENGER
Dwellers by the house of Cadmus and of Amphion, there is no estate
of mortal life that I would ever praise or blame as settled. Fortune
raises and Fortune humbles the lucky or unlucky from day to day, and
no one can prophesy to men concerning those things which are
established. For
CREON was blest once, as I count bliss; he had saved this land of
Cadmus from its foes; he was clothed with sole dominion in the land;
he reigned, the glorious sire of princely children. And now all hath
been lost. For when a man hath forfeited his pleasures, I count him
not as living,-I hold him but a breathing corpse. Heap up riches in
thy house, if thou wilt; live in kingly state; yet, if there be no
gladness therewith, I would not give the shadow of a vapour for all
the rest, compared with joy.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
And what is this new grief that thou hast to tell for our princes?
MESSENGER
Death; and the living are guilty for the dead.
LEADER
And who is the slayer? Who the stricken? Speak.
MESSENGER
Haemon hath perished; his blood hath been shed by no stranger.
LEADER
By his father's hand, or by his own?
MESSENGER
By his own, in wrath with his sire for the murder.
LEADER
O prophet, how true, then, hast thou proved thy word!
MESSENGER
These things stand thus; ye must consider of the rest.
LEADER
Lo, I see the hapless Eurydice, Creon's wife, approaching; she
comes from the house by chance, haply,-or because she knows the
tidings of her son.
(Enter EURYDICE from the palace.)
EURYDICE
People of Thebes, I heard your words as I was going forth, to
salute the goddess Pallas with my prayers. Even as I was loosing the
fastenings of the gate, to open it, the message of a household woe
smote on mine ear: I sank back, terror-stricken, into the arms of my
handmaids, and my senses fled. But say again what the tidings were;
I shall hear them as one who is no stranger to sorrow.
MESSENGER
Dear lady, I will witness of what I saw, and will leave no word of
the truth untold. Why, indeed, should I soothe thee with words in
which must presently be found false? Truth is ever best.-I attended
thy lord as his guide to the furthest part of the plain, where the
body of Polyneices, torn by dogs, still lay unpitied. We prayed the
goddess of the roads, and Pluto, in mercy to restrain their wrath;
we washed the dead with holy washing; and with freshly-plucked
boughs we solemnly burned such relics as there were. We raised a
high mound of his native earth; and then we turned away to enter the
maiden's nuptial chamber with rocky couch, the caverned mansion of the
bride of Death. And, from afar off, one of us heard a voice of loud
wailing at that bride's unhallowed bower; and came to tell our
master Creon.
And as the king drew nearer, doubtful sounds of a bitter cry
floated around him; he groaned, and said in accents of anguish,
'Wretched that I am, can my foreboding be true? Am I going on the
wofullest way that ever I went? My son's voice greets me.-Go, my
servants,-haste ye nearer, and when ye have reached the tomb, pass
through the gap, where the stones have been wrenched away, to the
cell's very mouth,-and look. and see if 'tis Haemon's voice that I
know, or if mine ear is cheated by the gods.'
This search, at our despairing master's word, we went to make; and
in the furthest part of the tomb we descried her hanging by the
neck, slung by a thread-wrought halter of fine linen: while he was
embracing her with arms thrown around her waist, bewailing the loss of
his bride who is with the dead, and his father's deeds, and his own
ill-starred love.
But his father, when he saw him, cried aloud with a dread cry
and went in, and called to him with a voice of wailing:-'Unhappy, what
deed hast thou done! What thought hath come to thee? What manner of
mischance hath marred thy reason? Come forth, my child! I pray
thee-I implore!' But the boy glared at him with fierce eyes, spat in
his face, and, without a word of answer, drew his cross-hilted
sword:-as his father rushed forth in flight, he missed his
aim;-then, hapless one, wroth with himself, he straightway leaned with
all his weight against his sword, and drove it, half its length,
into his side; and, while sense lingered, he clasped the maiden to his
faint embrace, and, as he gasped, sent forth on her pale cheek the
swift stream of the oozing blood.
Corpse enfolding corpse he lies; he hath won his nuptial rites,
poor youth, not here, yet in the halls of Death; and he hath witnessed
to mankind that, of all curses which cleave to man, ill counsel is the
sovereign curse.
(EURYDICE retires into the house.)
LEADER
What wouldst thou augur from this? The lady hath turned back,
and is gone, without a word, good or evil.
MESSENGER
I, too, am startled; yet I nourish the hope that, at these sore
tidings of her son, she cannot deign to give her sorrow public vent,
but in the privacy of the house will set her handmaids to mourn the
household grief. For she is not untaught of discretion, that she
should err.
LEADER
I know not; but to me, at least, a strained silence seems to
portend peril, no less than vain abundance of lament.
MESSENGER
Well, I will enter the house, and learn whether indeed she is
not hiding some repressed purpose in the depths of a passionate heart.
Yea, thou sayest well: excess of silence, too, may have a perilous
meaning.

(The MESSENGER goes into the palace. Enter CREON, on the spectators'
left, with attendants, carrying the shrouded body of HAEMON on
bier. The following lines between CREON and the CHORUS are
chanted responsively.)

CHORUS
Lo, yonder the king himself draws near, bearing that which tells
too clear a tale,-the work of no stranger's madness,-if we may say
it,-but of his own misdeeds.
CREON

strophe 1

Woe for the sins of a darkened soul, stubborn sins, fraught with
death! Ah, ye behold us, the sire who hath slain, the son who hath
perished! Woe is me, for the wretched blindness of my counsels!
Alas, my son, thou hast died in thy youth, by a timeless doom, woe
is me!-thy spirit hath fled,-not by thy folly, but by mine own!
CHORUS

strophe 2

Ah me, how all too late thou seemest to see the right!
CREON Ah me, I have learned the bitter lesson! But then, methinks,
oh then, some god smote me from above with crushing weight, and hurled
me into ways of cruelty, woe is me,-overthrowing and trampling on my
joy! Woe, woe, for the troublous toils of men!
(Enter MESSENGER from the house.)
MESSENGER
Sire, thou hast come, methinks, as one whose hands are not
empty, but who hath store laid up besides; thou bearest yonder
burden with thee-and thou art soon to look upon the woes within thy
house.
CREON
And what worse ill is yet to follow upon ills?
MESSENGER
Thy queen hath died, true mother of yon corpse-ah, hapless lady by
blows newly dealt.
CREON

antistrophe 1

Oh Hades, all-receiving whom no sacrifice can appease! Hast
thou, then, no mercy for me? O thou herald of evil, bitter tidings,
what word dost thou utter? Alas, I was already as dead, and thou
hast smitten me anew! What sayest thou, my son? What is this new
message that thou bringest-woe, woe is me!-Of a wife's doom-of
slaughter headed on slaughter?
CHORUS
Thou canst behold: 'tis no longer hidden within.

(The doors of the palace are opened, and the corpse of EURYDICE is
disclosed.)

CREON

antistrophe 2

Ah me,-yonder I behold a new, a second woe! What destiny, ah what,
can yet await me? I have but now raised my son in my arms,-and
there, again, I see a corpse before me! Alas, alas, unhappy mother!
Alas, my child!
MESSENGER
There, at the altar, self-stabbed with a keen knife, she
suffered her darkening eyes to close, when she had wailed for the
noble fate of Megareus who died before, and then for his fate who lies
there,-and when, with her last breath, she had invoked evil fortunes
upon thee, the slayer of thy sons.
CREON

strophe 3

Woe, woe! I thrill with dread. Is there none to strike me to the
heart with two-edged sword?-O miserable that I am, and steeped in
miserable anguish!
MESSENGER
Yea, both this son's doom, and that other's, were laid to thy
charge by her whose corpse thou seest.
CREON
And what was the manner of the violent deed by which she passed
away?
MESSENGER
Her own hand struck her to the heart, when she had learned her
son's sorely lamented fate.
CREON

strophe 4

Ah me, this guilt can never be fixed on any other of mortal
kind, for my acquittal! I, even I, was thy slayer, wretched that I
am-I own the truth. Lead me away, O my servants, lead me hence with
all speed, whose life is but as death!
CHORUS
Thy counsels are good, if there can be good with ills; briefest is
best, when trouble is in our path.
CREON

antistrophe 3

Oh, let it come, let it appear, that fairest of fates for me, that
brings my last day,-aye, best fate of all! Oh, let it come, that I may
never look upon to-morrow's light.
CHORUS
These things are in the future; present tasks claim our care:
the ordering of the future rests where it should rest.
CREON
All my desires, at least, were summed in that prayer.
CHORUS
Pray thou no more; for mortals have no escape from destined woe.
CREON

antistrophe 4

Lead me away, I pray you; a rash, foolish man; who have slain
thee, ah my son, unwittingly, and thee, too, my wife-unhappy that I
am! I know not which way I should bend my gaze, or where I should seek
support; for all is amiss with that which is in my hands,-and
yonder, again, a crushing fate hath leapt upon my head.

(As CREON is being conducted into the palace, the LEADER OF THE
CHORUS speaks the closing verses.)

LEADER
Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the
gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever
punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to
be wise.


-THE END-
.
 

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