ANTIGONE

BY:
SOPHOCLES

c. 440 BCE

Translation by:
R. C. Jebb

1912

HTML, Modifications to, and Corrections of the text by:
Dr. Barry F. Vaughan

2000


CAST:

SCENE:

The same as in 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, know you 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 your woes and
mine.

And now what new edict is this of which they tell, that our
Captain has just published to all Thebes? Know you aught? Have
you heard? Or is it hidden from you that our friends are
threatened with the doom of our foes?

ISMENE
No word of friends, Antigone, gladsome or painful, has 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 has fled, know no more, whether my fortune be brighter, or
more grievous.

ANTIGONE
I knew it well, and therefore sought to bring you beyond the
gates of the court, that you might hear alone.

ISMENE
What is it? It is plain that you are brooding on some dark
tidings.

ANTIGONE
What, has 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 has laid in the earth, for his
honour among the dead below. But the hapless corpse of Polyneices-as
rumour saith, it has 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, it is said, is the edict that the good Creon has set forth
for you 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. You know it now; and you will soon show whether you are
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 you will share the toil and the deed.

ISMENE
In what venture? What can be your meaning?

ANTIGONE
Wilt you aid this hand to lift the dead?

ISMENE
You would bury him, when it is forbidden to Thebes?

ANTIGONE
I will do my part, and thine, if you will not, to a brother.
False to him will I never be found.

ISMENE
Ah, over-bold! when Creon has forbidden?

ANTIGONE
No, he has 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. No, 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 it is witless to be over busy.

ANTIGONE
I will not urge you, no nor, if you yet should have the
mind, would you be welcome as a worker with me. No, be what you
will; 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 you will, be guilty of
dishonouring laws which the gods have established in honour.

ISMENE
I do them no dishonour; but to defy the State, I have no
strength for that.

ANTIGONE
Such be your plea: I, then, will go to heap the earth above the
brother whom I love.

ISMENE
Alas, unhappy one! How I fear for you!

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! You will be far more hateful for your silence, if
you proclaim not these things to all.

ISMENE
You have a hot heart for chilling deeds.

ANTIGONE
I know that I please where I am most bound to please.

ISMENE
Yes, if you can; but you would what you can 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 you speak, you will 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 you must; and of this be sure,that though thine
errand is foolish, to your dear ones you are 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

Beam of the sun, fairest light that ever dawned on Thebes of the
seven gates, you have 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, has been stirred by you to
headlong flight, in swifter career;

LEADER
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
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
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
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
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 father and one mother, set against
each other their twain conquering spears, and are sharers in a
common death.

CHORUS
But since Victory of glorious name has come to us, with joy
responsive to the joy of Thebes 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 Thebes.

LEADER
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 has 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,
has 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
has 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 has no place in my regard. For I (Zeus,
who sees all things always, be my witness) 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 has 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 has 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 has good will
to Thebes, he shall be honoured of me, in his life and in his death.

LEADER
Such is your pleasure, Creon, son of Menoeceus, touching this
city's foe, and its friend; and you have power, I ween, to take
what order you will, 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
No, watchers of the corpse have been found.

LEADER
What, then, is this further charge that you would 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 [cost]; yet lucre [profit] has oft ruined men through their hopes.

[A GUARD enters from the spectators' left]

GUARD
My lord, 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 do you go to your certain doom?"
"Wretch, tarrying again? And if Creon hears this from another, must
not you 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 you; 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 you thus?

GUARD
I wish to tell you 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
You have a shrewd eye for your mark; well do you fence
yourself round against the blame; clearly you have some strange thing to tell.

GUARD
Yes, truly; dread news makes one pause long.

CREON
Then tell it, will you, and so get you gone?

GUARD
Well, this is it. The corpse, someone has just given it burial,
and gone away, after sprinkling thirsty dust on the flesh, with such
other rites as piety enjoins.

CREON
What say you? What living man has 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 even 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 spoke, 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 you, 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 even the work of gods?

CREON
Cease, before your words fill me utterly with wrath, lest you be
found at once an old man and foolish. For you say 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
do you 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.

It is 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 has my reverence, know this, I tell it you 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 you will find that
ill-gotten wealth brings more men to ruin than to fame.

GUARD
May I speak? Or shall I just turn and go?

CREON
Know you not that even now your voice offends?

GUARD
Is your smart in the ears, or in the soul?

CREON
And why would you define the seat of my pain?

GUARD
The doer vexes your mind, but I, thine ears.

CREON
Ah, you are a born babbler, it is well seen.

GUARD
May be, but never the doer of this deed.

CREON
Yes, and more, the seller of your life for silver.

GUARD
Alas! It is sad, truly, that he who judges should misjudge.

CREON
Let your 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 you will 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
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, does he wear, turning the
soil with the offspring of horses, as the ploughs go to and fro from
year to year.

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.

And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods that mould a
state, has he taught himself; and how to flee the arrows of the
frost, when it is hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of
the rushing rain; yea, he has 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 has devised escapes.

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 has sworn by the gods to uphold, proudly
stands his city: no city has he who, for his rashness, dwells with
sin. Never may he share my hearth, never think my thoughts, who does
these things!

[Enter the GUARD on the spectators' left, leading in ANTIGONE]

LEADER
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 father, of Oedipus! What means this?
You brought a prisoner? You, disloyal to the king's laws, and
taken in folly?

GUARD
Here she is, the doer of the deed: we 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 has 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 your 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
it is 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 has fallen to me, and to none else. And now, father, take her
yourself, question her, examine her, as you will; but I have a right
to free and final quittance of this trouble.

CREON
And your prisoner here, how and whence have you taken her?

GUARD
She was burying the man; you know all.

CREON
Do you mean what you say? Do you speak aright?

GUARD
I saw her burying the corpse that you hadst forbidden to bury. Is
that plain and clear?

CREON
And how was she seen? How taken in the act?

GUARD
It happend in this way. 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 it is painful to bring friends to ill. Howbeit, all such
things are of less account to me than mine own safety.

CREON
You. You whose face is bent to earth. Do you avow, or
disavow, this deed?

ANTIGONE
I avow it; I make no denial.

CREON (to the GUARD)
You can betake you whither you will, free and clear of a
grave charge.

[Exit GUARD]

(To ANTIGONE) Now, tell me, not in many words, but
briefly; knew you that an edict had forbidden this?

ANTIGONE
I knew it; could I help it? It was public.

CREON
And you did 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 your decrees were of such force, that a
mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of
heaven. For their life is not of today 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 your 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 your sight, it may be that a foolish judge
arraigns my folly.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate father, and
knows not how to bend before troubles.

CREON
Yet I would have you know that over-stubborn spirits are most
often humbled; it is the stiffest iron, baked to hardness in the
fire, that you shall often 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 you are your 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 just 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 has been
caught in wickednes then seeks to make the crime a glory.

ANTIGONE
Wouldst you do more than take and slay me?

CREON
No more, indeed; having that, I have all.

ANTIGONE
Why then do you delay? In your discourse there is nought that
pleases me, never may there be! And so my words must needs be
unpleasing to you. And yet, for glory, whence could I have been
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, has the power to do and say what
it will.

CREON
You differ from all these Thebans in that view.

ANTIGONE
These also share it; but they curb their tongues for you.

CREON
And are you 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 father.

CREON
Why, then, do you render a grace that is impious in his sight?

ANTIGONE
The dead man will not say that he so deems it.

CREON
Yes, if you make 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
It is not my nature to join in hating, but in loving.

CREON
Pass, then, to the world of the dead, and, if you must needs
love, love them. While I live, no woman shall rule me.

[Enter ISMENE from the house, led in by two attendants.]

CHORUS
Look there, 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 you, 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, will you also
confess your part in this burial, or will you forswear all knowledge
of it?

ISMENE
I have done the deed, if she allows my claim, and share the burden
of the charge.

ANTIGONE
No, justice will not suffer you to do that: you did not
consent to the deed, nor did I give you part in it.

ISMENE
But, now that ills beset you, I am not ashamed to sail the sea of
trouble at your side.

ANTIGONE
Whose was the deed, Hades and the dead are witnesses: a friend
in words is not the friend that I love.

ISMENE
No, sister, reject me not, but let me die with you, and duly
honour the dead.

ANTIGONE
Share not you my death, nor claim deeds to which you have not
put your hand: my death will suffice.

ISMENE
And what life is dear to me, bereft of you?

ANTIGONE
Ask Creon; all your care is for him.

ISMENE
Why vex me thus, when it avails you nought?

ANTIGONE
Indeed, if I mock, it is with pain that I mock you.

ISMENE
Tell me, how can I serve you, even now?

ANTIGONE
Save yourself: I grudge not your escape.

ISMENE
Ah, woe is me! And shall I have no share in your fate?

ANTIGONE
Thy choice was to live; mine, to die.

ISMENE
At least your choice was not made without my protest.

ANTIGONE
One world approved your wisdom; another, mine.

ISMENE
Howbeit, the offence is the same for both of us.

ANTIGONE
Be of good cheer; you live; but my life has long been given to
death, that so I might serve the dead.

CREON
Lo, one of these maidens has newly shown herself foolish, as
the other has been since her life began.

ISMENE
Yes, O king, such reason as nature may have given abides not
with the unfortunate, but goes astray.

CREON
Thine did, when you chose vile deeds with the vile.

ISMENE
What life could I endure, without her presence?

CREON
No, speak not of her presence; she lives no more.

ISMENE
But will you slay the betrothed of thine own son?

CREON
No, 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 your father wrongs you!

CREON
Enough, enough of you and of your marriage!

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Wilt you indeed rob your son of this maiden?

CREON
It is Death that shall stay these bridals for me.

LEADER
It is determined, it seems, that she shall die.

CREON
Determined, yes, for you 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.

[Exit attendants, guarding ANTIGONE and ISMENE, CREON remains]

CHORUS
Blest are they whose days have not tasted of evil. For when a
house has 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.

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 has 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.

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 you, a ruler to whom time brings not old age,
dwell 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.

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 has 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 brief space does he fare free of woe.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But lo, Haemon, the last of your 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 your betrothed, are you come in rage against
your father? Or have I your good will, act how I may?

HAEMON
Father, I am thine; and you, in your wisdom, trace for me
rules which I shall follow. No marriage shall be deemed by me a
greater gain than your good guidance.

CREON
Yes, this, my son, should be your heart's fixed law,in all
things to obey your father's will. It is 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
does, his friend. But he who begets unprofitable children, what shall
we say that he has sown, but troubles for himself, and much triumph
for his foes? Then do not you, my son, at pleasure's beck, dethrone
your reason for a woman's sake; knowing that this is a joy that soon
grows cold in clasping arms,an evil woman to share your bed and your
home. For what wound could strike deeper than a false friend? No,
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, you seem to say
wisely what you say.

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 you speak not aright; and yet another man,
too, might have some useful thought. At least, it is my natural office
to watch, on your behalf, all that men say, or do, or find to blame.
For the dread of your 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 your welfare. What, indeed, is
a nobler ornament for children than a prospering father's fair fame,
or for father than son's? Wear not, then, one mood only in yourself;
think not that your word, and thine alone, must be right. For if any
man thinks that he alone is wise, that in speech, or in mind, he
has no peer, such a soul, when laid open, is ever found empty.

No, though a man be wise, it is no shame for him to learn many
things, and to bend in season. Look you, 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.

No, forego your wrath; permit yourself 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--it is good also to learn from those who speak aright.

LEADER
Father, it is meet that you should profit by his words, if he
speaks aught in season, and you, Haemon, by your father's; for on both
parts there has 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, you should
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 you have 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
You would make a good monarch of a desert.

CREON
This boy, it seems, is the woman's champion.

HAEMON
If you are a woman; indeed, my care is for you.

CREON
Shameless, at open feud with your father!

HAEMON
No, I see you offending against justice.

CREON
Do I offend, when I respect mine own prerogatives?

HAEMON
You do not respect them, when you trample on the gods'
honours,

CREON
O dastard nature, yielding place to woman!

HAEMON
You will never find me yield to baseness.

CREON
All your words, at least, plead for that girl.

HAEMON
And for you, and for me, and for the gods below.

CREON
You can never marry her, on this side the grave.

HAEMON
Then she must die, and in death destroy another.

CREON
How! Does your boldness run to open threats?

HAEMON
What threat is it, to combat vain resolves?

CREON
You shall rue your witless teaching of wisdom.

HAEMON
Were you not my father, I would have called you unwise.

CREON
You woman's slave, use not wheedling speech with me.

HAEMON
You would speak, and then hear no reply?

CREON
Say you so? Now, by the heaven above us, be sure of it, you
shall 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 shall you
ever set eyes more upon my face: rave, then, with such friends as
can endure you.

[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
Do you indeed intend to slay both?

CREON
Not her whose hands are pure, you say well.

LEADER
And by what doom mean'st you 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.

[Exit CREON, into the palace]

CHORUS

Love, unconquered in the fight, Love, who make havoc of
wealth, who keep your vigil on the soft cheek of a maiden; you
roam over the sea, and among the homes of dwellers in the wilds; no
immortal can escape you, nor any among men whose life is for a day;
and he to whom you have come is mad.

The just themselves have their minds warped by you to wrong,
for their ruin: it is you that have 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 will take her to her tomb]

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
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 has any song
been mine for the crowning of bridals; whom the lord of the Dark
Lake shall wed.

CHORUS
Glorious, therefore, and with praise, you depart to that
deep place of the dead: wasting sickness has not smitten you; you
havenot found the wages of the sword; no, mistress of thine own fate,
and still alive, you shall pass to Hades, as no other of mortal
kind has passed.

ANTIGONE
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
Yet she was a goddess, you know, and born of gods; we are
mortals, and of mortal race. But it is great renown for a woman who
has perished that she should have shared the doom of the godlike,
in her life, and afterward in death.

ANTIGONE
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 you holy ground of Thebes
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

You have rushed forward to the utmost verge of daring; and
against that throne where justice sits on high you have fallen, my
daughter, with a grievous fall. But in this ordeal you are paying,
haply, for your father's sin.

ANTIGONE
You have touched on my bitterest thought, awaking the ever-new
lament for my father 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 father!
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 your marriage, in your death you have undone my life!

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

ANTIGONE
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.

[Enter CREON, 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
has 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 you, my mother, and welcome, brother, to you; for,
when ye died, with mine own hands I washed and dressed you, and poured
drink-offerings at your graves; and now, Polyneices, it is for
tending your corpse that I win such recompense as this.

And yet I honoured you, 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 you 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 has 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? No, 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 has come very near to death.

CREON
I can cheer you with no hope that this doom is not thus to be
fulfilled.

ANTIGONE
O city of my fathers in the land of Thebes! O ye gods, eldest of
our race! They lead me hence 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!

[Exit ANTIGONE, led by guards]

CHORUS
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.

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.

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.

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]

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 your tidings?

TEIRESIAS
I will tell you; and do you hearken to the seer.

CREON
Indeed, it has not been my wont to slight your counsel.

TEIRESIAS
Therefore did you steer our city's course aright.

CREON
I have felt, and can attest, your benefits.

TEIRESIAS
Mark that now, once more, you stand on fate's fine edge.

CREON
What means this? How I shudder at your message!

TEIRESIAS
You will learn, when you hear what my warnings are. 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 it is thy counsel that has 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 does 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 has been made, that man is no longer witless or
unble who heals the ill into which he has fallen, and remains not
stubborn.

Self-will, we know, incurs the charge of folly. No, allow the
claim of the dead; stab not the fallen; what prowess is it to slay the
slain anew? I have sought your good, and for your 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; yes, the
seer-tribe has 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 [profit's] sake.

TEIRESIAS
Alas! Doth any man know, does any consider...

CREON
Whereof? What general truth do you announce?

TEIRESIAS
How precious, above all wealth, is good counsel.

CREON
As folly, I think, is the worst mischief.

TEIRESIAS
Yet you are tainted with that distemper.

CREON
I would not answer the seer with a taunt.

TEIRESIAS
But you do, 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
Know you that your speech is spoken of your king?

TEIRESIAS
I know it; for through me you have saved Thebes.

CREON
You are a wise seer; but you love evil deeds.

TEIRESIAS
You will 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 you.

CREON
Know that you shall not trade on my resolve.

TEIRESIAS
Then know you--yes, know it well--that you shall not live
through many more courses of the sun's swift chariot, before one begotten
of thine own loins shall have been given by you, a corpse for
corpses; because you have thrust children of the sunlight to the
shades, and ruthlessly lodged a living soul in the grave; but
keep in this world one who belongs to the gods infernal, a corpse
unburied, unhonoured, all unhallowed. In such you have no part, nor
have the gods above, but this is a violence done to them by you.
Therefore the avenging destroyers lie in wait for you, the Furies
of Hades and of the gods, that you may 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 your
house. And a tumult of hatred against you 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 your heart--since you provok me--have I
launched at you, archer-like, in my anger, sure arrows, of which you
shall 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.

[Exit TEIRESIAS, led by Boy]

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
The man has gone, O King, with dread prophecies. And, since the
hair on this head, once dark, has been white, I know that he has
never been a false prophet to our city.

CREON
I, too, know it well, and am troubled in soul. It is dire to yield;
but, by resistance, to smite my pride with ruin. This, too, is a dire
choice.

LEADER
Son of Menoeceus, it behoves you to take wise counsel.

CREON
What should I do then? Speak and I will obey.

LEADER
Go you, and free the maiden from her rocky chamber, and make a
tomb for the unburied dead.

CREON
And this is your counsel? You would have me yield?

LEADER
Yes, King, and with all speed; for swift harms from the gods cut
short the folly of men.

CREON
Ah me, it is hard, but I resign my cherished resolve, I obey. We
must not wage a vain war with destiny.

LEADER
Go, you, 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 has taken this turn, I will be present
to unloose her, as myself bound her. My heart misgives me, it is best
to keep the established laws, even to life's end.

[Exit CREON and his servants]

CHORUS
O you of many names, glory of the Cadmeian bride, offspring of
loud-thundering Zeus! you who watch over famed Italia, and
reign, where all guests are welcomed, in the sheltered plain of
Eleusinian Deo! O Bacchus, dweller in Thebes, metropolis of Bacchants,
by the softly-gliding stream of Ismenus, on the soil where the
fierce dragon's teeth were sown!

You have been seen where torch-flames glare through smoke,
above the crests of the twin peaks, where move the Corycian nymphs,
your votaries, hard by Castalia's stream.

You come from the ivy-mantled slopes of Nysa's hills, and
from the shore green with many-clustered vines, while your name is
lifted up on strains of more than mortal power, as you visit the
ways of Thebes

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

O you 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 you, the giver of good gifts, Iacchus!

[Enter MESSENGER]

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 father of princely children. And now all has
been lost. For when a man has forfeited his pleasures, I count him
not as living, I hold him but a breathing corpse. Heap up riches in
your house, if you will; 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 you have 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 has perished; his blood has been shed by no stranger.

LEADER
By his father's hand, or by his own?

MESSENGER
By his own, in wrath with his father for the murder.

LEADER
O prophet, how true, then, have you proved your 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 you with words in
which must presently be found false? Truth is ever best. I attended
your 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
wofull 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 it is 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 haveyou done! What thought has come to you? What manner of
mischance has marred your reason? Come forth, my child! I pray
you-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, struggled 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 has won his nuptial rites,
poor youth, not here, yet in the halls of Death; and he has witnessed
to mankind that, of all curses which cleave to man, ill counsel is the
sovereign curse.

[Exit EURYDICE]

LEADER
What would you augur from this? The lady has 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.
Yes, you say well: excess of silence, too, may have a perilous
meaning.

[Exit MESSENGER, Enter CREON with attendants, carrying the shrouded body of HAEMON on bier. The following lines between CREON and the CHORUS chant 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
Woe for the sins of a darkened soul, stubborn sins, fraught with
death! Ah, ye behold us, the father who has slain, the son who has
perished! Woe is me, for the wretched blindness of my counsels!
Alas, my son, you have died in your youth, by a timeless doom, woe
is me! Your spirit has fled, not by your folly, but by mine own!

CHORUS
Ah me, how all too late you seem 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]

MESSENGER
Father, you have come, methinks, as one whose hands are not
empty, but who has store laid up besides; you bear yonder
burden with you, and you are soon to look upon the woes within your
house.

CREON
And what worse ill is yet to follow upon ills?

MESSENGER
Thy queen has died, true mother of yon corpse--ah, hapless lady by
blows newly dealt.

CREON
Oh Hades, all-receiving whom no sacrifice can appease! Have
you, then, no mercy for me? O you herald of evil, bitter tidings,
what word do you utter? Alas, I was already as dead, and you
havesmitten me anew! What say you, my son? What is this new
message that you bringest-woe, woe is me! Of a wife's doom, of
slaughter headed on slaughter?

CHORUS
You can behold: it is no longer hidden within.

[The doors of the palace are opened, and the corpse of EURYDICE is disclosed.]

CREON

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 you, the slayer of your sons.

CREON
Woe, woe! I thrill with dread. Is there none to strike me to the
heart with two-edged sword? Oh miserable that I am, and steeped in
miserable anguish!

MESSENGER
Yes, both this son's doom, and that other's, were laid to your
charge by her whose corpse you see.

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
Ah me, this guilt can never be fixed on any other of mortal
kind, for my acquittal! I, even I, was your 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; brief is
best, when trouble is in our path.

CREON
Oh, let it come, let it appear, that fairest of fates for me, that
brings my last day, yes, best fate of all! Oh, let it come, that I may
never look upon tomorrow'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 you no more; for mortals have no escape from destined woe.

CREON
Lead me away, I pray you; a rash, foolish man; who have slain
you, ah my son, unwittingly, and you, 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 has leapt upon my head.

[Exit CREON, into the palace]

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.


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