Fiction > Harvard Classics > Sophocles > Antigone
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Sophocles (c.496 B.C.–406 B.C.).  Antigone.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Lines 500–999
 
 
But live for ever, nor can man assign        500
When first they sprang to being. Not through fear
Of any man’s resolve was I prepared
Before the Gods to bear the penalty
Of sinning against these. That I should die        504
I knew (how should I not?), though thy decree
Had never spoken. And, before my time
If I should die, I reckon this a gain;
For whoso lives, as I, in many woes,        508
How can it be but death shall bring him gain?
And so for me to bear this doom of thine
Has nothing painful. But, if I had left
My mother’s son unburied on his death,        512
I should have given them pain. But as things are,
Pain I feel none. And should I seem to thee
To have done a foolish deed, ’tis simply this,—
I bear the charge of folly from a fool.        516
 
Chor.  The maiden’s stubborn will, of stubborn sire
The offspring shows itself. She knows not yet
To yield to evils.
 
CREON.  Know, then, minds too stiff        520
Most often stumble, and the rigid steel
Baked in the furnace, made exceeding hard,
Thou seest most often split and broken lie;
And I have known the steeds of fiery mood        524
With a small curb subdued. It is not meet
That one who lives in bondage to his neighbours
Should boast too loudly. Wanton outrage then
She learnt when first these laws of mine she crossed,        528
But, having done it, this is yet again
A second outrage over it to boast,
And laugh at having done it. Surely, then,
She is the man, not I, if all unscathed        532
Such deeds of might are hers. But be she child
Of mine own sister, nearest kin of all
That Zeus o’erlooks within our palace court,
She and her sister shall not ’scape their doom        536
Most foul and shameful; for I charge her, too,
With having planned this deed of sepulture.
Go ye and call her. ’Twas but now within
I saw her raving, losing self-command.        540
And still the mind of those who in the dark
Plan deeds of evil is the first to fail,
And so convicts itself of secret guilt.
But most I hate when one found out in guilt        544
Will seek to glaze and brave it to the end.
 
ANTIG.  And dost thou seek aught else beyond my death?
 
CREON.  Naught else for me. That gaining, I gain all.
 
ANTIG.  Wilt thou delay? Of all thy words not one        548
Pleases me now, nor aye is like to please,
And so all mine must grate upon thine ears.
And yet how could I higher glory gain
Than giving my true brother all the rites        552
Of solemn burial? These who hear would say
It pleases them, did not their fear of thee
Close up their lips. This power has sovereignty,
That it can do and say whate’er it will.        556
 
CREON.  Of all the race of Cadmus thou alone
Look’st thus upon the deed.
 
ANTIG.  They see it too
As I do, but in fear of thee they keep        560
Their tongue between their teeth.
 
CREON.  And dost thou feel
No shame to plan thy schemes apart from these?
 
ANTIG.  There is no baseness in the act which shows        564
Our reverence for our kindred.
 
CREON.  Was he not
Thy brother also, who against him fought?
 
ANTIG.  He was my brother, of one mother born,        568
And of the selfsame father.
 
CREON.  Why, then, pay
Thine impious honours to the carcase there?
 
ANTIG.  The dead below will not accept thy words.        572
 
CREON.  Yes, if thou equal honours pay to him,
And that most impious monster.
 
ANTIG.  ’Twas no slave
That perished, but my brother.        576
 
CREON.  Yes, in act
To waste this land, while he in its defence
Stood fighting bravely.
 
ANTIG.  Not the less does death        580
Crave equal rites for all.
 
CREON.  But not that good
And evil share alike?
 
ANTIG.  And yet who knows        584
If in that world these things are counted good?
 
CREON.  Our foe, I tell thee, ne’er becomes our friend,
Not even when he dies.
 
ANTIG.  My bent is fixed,        588
I tell thee, not for hatred, but for love.
 
CREON.  Go, then, below. And if thou must have love,
Love those thou find’st there. While I live, at least,
A woman shall not rule.        592
 
Enter ISMENE
Chor.  And, lo! Ismene at the gate
Comes shedding tears of sisterly regard,
And o’er her brow a gathering cloud
Mars the deep roseate blush,        596
Bedewing her fair cheek.
 
CREON.  [to ISMENE]. And thou who, creeping as a viper creeps,
Didst drain my life in secret, and I knew not
That I was rearing two accursèd ones,        600
Subverters of my throne: come, tell me, then,
Dost thou confess thou took’st thy part in it?
Or wilt thou swear thou didst not know of it?
 
ISM.  I did the deed. Since she will have it so,        604
I share the guilt; I bear an equal blame.
 
ANTIG.  This, Justice will not suffer, since, in truth,
Thou wouldst have none of it. And I, for one,
Shared it not with thee.        608
 
ISM.  I am not ashamed
To count myself companion in thy woes.
 
ANTIG.  Whose was the deed, Death knows, and those below.
I do not love a friend who loves in words.        612
 
ISM.  Do not, my sister, put me to such shame
As not to let me share thy death with thee,
And with thee pay due reverence to the dead.
 
ANTIG.  Share not my death, nor make thine own this deed        616
Thou hadst no hand in. Let my death suffice.
 
ISM.  And what to me is life, bereaved of thee?
 
ANTIG.  Ask Creon there. To him thy tender care
Is given so largely.        620
 
ISM.  Why wilt thou torture me,
In nothing bettered by it?
 
ANTIG.  Yes—at thee,
E’en while I laugh, I laugh with pain of heart.        624
 
ISM.  But now, at least, how may I profit thee?
 
ANTIG.  Save thou thyself. I grudge not thy escape.
 
ISM.  Ah, woe is me! and must I miss thy fate?
 
ANTIG.  Thou mad’st thy choice to live, and I to die.        628
 
ISM.  ’Tis not through want of any words of mine.
 
ANTIG.  To these thou seemest, doubtless, to be wise;
I to those others.
 
ISM.  Yet our fault is one.        632
 
ANTIG.  Take courage. Thou wilt live. My soul long since
Has given itself to Death, that to the dead
I might bring help.
 
CREON.  Of these two maidens here,        636
The one, I say, hath lost her mind but now,
The other ever since her life began.
 
ISM.  Yea, O my king. No mind that ever lived
Stands firm in evil days, but still it goes,        640
Beside itself, astray.
 
CREON.  So then did thine
When thou didst choose thy evil deeds to do,
With those already evil.        644
 
ISM.  How could I.
Alone, apart from her, endure to live?
 
CREON.  Speak not of her. She stands no longer here.
 
ISM.  And wilt thou slay thy son’s betrothed bride?        648
 
CREON.  Full many a field there is which he may plough.
 
ISM.  But none like that prepared for him and her.
 
CREON.  Wives that are vile, I love not for my son.
 
ANTIG.  Ah, dearest Hæmon, how thy father shames thee!        652
 
CREON.  Thou art too vexing, thou, and these thy words,
On marriage ever harping.
 
ISM.  Wilt thou rob
Thine own dear son of her whom he has loved?        656
 
CREON.  ’Tis Death who breaks the marriage contract off.
 
ISM.  Her doom is fixed, it seems, then. She must die.
 
CREON.  So thou dost think, and I. No more delay,
Ye slaves. Our women henceforth must be kept        660
As women—suffered not to roam abroad;
For even boldest natures shrink in fear
When they behold the end of life draw nigh.  [Exeunt Guards with ANTIGONE and ISMENE.
 
STROPHE. I
Chor.  Blessed are those whose life has known no woe!
        664
For unto those whose house
The Gods have shaken, nothing fails of curse
Or woe, that creepeth on,
  To generations, far,        668
As when a wave, where Thracian blasts blow strong
  On that tempestuous shore,
Up surges from the depths beneath the sea,
  And from the deep abyss        672
Rolls the black wind-vexed sand,
And every jutting peak that drives it back
  Re-echoes with the roar.
 
ANTISTROPHE. I
I see the ancient doom
        676
That fell upon the seed of Labdacus,
  Who perished long ago,
  Still falling, woes on woes;
That generation cannot rescue this;        680
  Some God still urges on,
  And will not be appeased.
  So now there rose a gleam
  Over the last weak shoots        684
That sprang from out the race of Œdipus;
And thus the blood-stained sword
Of those that reign below
Cuts off relentlessly        688
Madness of speech, and fury of the soul.
 
STROPHE. II
Thy power, O Zeus, what haughtiness of man
  Could ever hold in check?
Which neither sleep, that maketh all things old,        692
Nor the long months of Gods that wax not faint,
  Can for a moment seize.
But still as Lord supreme,
Through time that grows not old,        696
Thou dwellest in thy sheen of radiancy
  On far Olympus’ height.
Through all the future and the coming years,
As through all time that’s past,        700
One law holds ever good,
That nothing comes to life of man on earth,
Unscathed throughout by woe.
 
ANTISTROPHE. II
To many, hope may come, in wanderings wild,
        704
  A solace and a joy;
To many, shows of fickle-hearted love;
  But still it creepeth on,
  On him who knows it not,        708
  Until he brings his foot
  Within the scorching flame.
  Wisely from one of old
  The far-famed saying came        712
That evil ever seems to be as good
  To those whose thoughts of heart
  God leadeth unto woe,
And without woe, but shortest time he spends.        716
And here comes Hæmon, youngest of thy sons.
Comes he bewailing sore
The fate of her who should have been his wife,
  His bride Antigone,        720
Sore grieving at the failure of his joys?
 
Enter HÆMON
CREON.  Soon we shall know much more than seers can tell.
Surely thou dost not come, my son, to rage
Against thy father, hearing his decree,        724
Fixing her doom who should have been thy bride;
Or are we still, whate’er we do, beloved?
 
HÆMON.  My father, I am thine. Do thou direct
With thy wise counsels, I will follow them.        728
No marriage weighs one moment in the scales
With me, while thou art prospering in thy reign.
 
CREON.  This thought, my son, should dwell within thy breast,
That all things stand below a father’s will:        732
For this men pray that they may rear and keep
Obedient offspring by their hearths and homes,
That they may both requite their father’s foes,
And pay with him like honours to his friend.        736
But he who reareth sons that profit not,
What could one say of him but this, that he
Breeds his own sorrow, laughter to his foes?
Lose not thy reason, then, my son, o’ercome        740
By pleasure, for a woman’s sake, but know,
A cold embrace is that to have at home
A worthless wife, the partner of thy bed.
What ulcerous sore is worse than one we love        744
Who proves all worthless? No! with loathing scorn,
As hateful to thee, let her go and wed
A spouse in Hades. Taken in the act
I found her, her alone of all the state,        748
Rebellious. And I will not make myself
False to the state. She dies. So let her call
On Zeus, the lord of kindred. If I rear
Of mine own stock things foul and orderless,        752
I shall have work enough with those without.
For he who in the life of home is good
Will still be seen as just in things of state;
While he who breaks or goes beyond the laws,        756
Or thinks to bid the powers that be obey,
He must not hope to gather praise from me.
No! we must follow whom the state appoints
In things or just and lowly, or, may be,        760
The opposite of these. Of such a man
I should be sure that he would govern well,
And know well to be governed, and would stand,
In war’s wild storm, on his appointed post,        764
A just and good defender. Anarchy
Is our worst evil, brings our commonwealth
To utter ruin, lays whole houses low,
In battle strife hurls men in shameful flight;        768
But they who walk uprightly, these shall find
Obedience saves most men. Sure help should come
To what our rulers order; least of all
Ought we to bow before a woman’s sway.        772
Far better, if it must be so, to fall
By a man’s hand, than thus to bear reproach,
By woman conquered.
 
Chor.  Unto us, O king,        776
Unless our years have robbed us of our wit,
Thou seemest to say wisely what thou say’st.
 
HÆM.  The Gods, my father, have bestowed on man
His reason, noblest of all earthly gifts;        780
Nor dare I say nor prove that what thou speak’st
Is aught but right. And yet another’s thoughts
May have some reason. I am wont to watch
What each man says or does, or blames in thee        784
(For dread thy face to one of low estate),
In words thou wouldst not much rejoice to hear.
But I can hear the things in darkness said,
How the whole city wails this maiden’s fate,        788
As one “who of all women worthiest praise,
For noblest deed must die the foulest death.
She who, her brother fallen in the fray,
Would neither leave unburied, nor expose        792
To carrion dogs, or any bird of prey,
May she not claim the meed of golden crown?”
Such is the whisper that in secret runs
All darkling. And for me, my father, naught        796
Is dearer than thy welfare. What can be
A nobler form of honour for the son
Than a sire’s glory, or for sire than son’s?
I pray thee, then, wear not one mood alone,        800
That what thou say’st is right, and naught but that;
For he who thinks that he alone is wise,
His mind and speech above what others boast,
Such men when searched are mostly empty found.        804
But for a man to learn, though he be wise,
Yea, to learn much, and know the time to yield,
Brings no disgrace. When winter floods the streams,
Thou seest the trees that bend before the storm,        808
Save their last twigs, while those that will not yield
Perish with root and branch. And when one hauls
Too tight the mainsail sheet, and will not slack,
He has to end his voyage with deck o’erturned.        812
Do thou, then, yield. Permit thyself to change.
Young though I be, if any prudent thought
Be with me, I at least will dare assert
The higher worth of one who, come what will,        816
Is full of knowledge. If that may not be
(For nature is not wont to take that bent),
’Tis good to learn from those who counsel well.
 
Chor.  My king! ’tis fit that thou shouldst learn from him,        820
If he speaks words in season; and, in turn,
That thou [to HÆMON] shouldst learn of him, for both speak well.
 
CREON.  Shall we at our age stoop to learn from him,
Such as he is, our lesson?        824
 
HÆM.  ’Twere not wrong.
And if I be but young, not age but deeds
Thou shouldst regard.
 
CREON.  Fine deeds, I trow, to pay        828
Such honour to the lawless.
 
HÆM.  ’Tis not I
Would bid you waste your honour on the base.
 
CREON.  And has she not been seized with that disease?        832
 
HÆM.  The men of Thebes with one accord say, No.
 
CREON.  And will my subjects tell me how to rule?
 
HÆM.  Dost thou not see that these words fall from thee
As from some beardless boy?        836
 
CREON.  And who, then, else
But me should rule this land?
 
HÆM.  That is no state
Which hangs on one man’s will.        840
 
CREON.  The state, I pray,
It is not reckoned his who governs it?
 
HÆM.  Brave rule! Alone, and o’er an empty land!
 
CREON.  Here, as it seems, is one who still will fight,        844
A woman’s friend.
 
HÆM.  If thou a woman be,
For all my care I lavish upon thee.
 
CREON.  Basest of base, who with thy father still        848
Wilt hold debate!
 
HÆM.  For, lo! I see thee still
Guilty of wrong.
 
CREON.  And am I guilty, then,        852
Claiming due reverence for my sovereignty?
 
HÆM.  Thou show’st no reverence, trampling on the laws
The Gods hold sacred.
 
CREON.  O thou sin-stained soul,        856
A woman’s victim.
 
HÆM.  Yet thou wilt not find
In me the slave of baseness.
 
CREON.  All thy speech        860
Still hangs on her.
 
HÆM.  Yes, and on thee, myself,
And the great Gods below.
 
CREON.  Of this be sure,        864
Thou shalt not wed her in the land of life.
 
HÆM.  She, then, must die, and in her death will slay
Another than herself.
 
CREON.  And dost thou dare        868
To come thus threatening?
 
HÆM.  Is it then a threat
To speak to erring judgment?
 
CREON.  To thy cost        872
Thou shalt learn wisdom, having none thyself.
 
HÆM.  If thou wert not my father, I would say
Thou wert not wise.
 
CREON.  Thou woman’s slave, I say,        876
Prate on no longer.
 
HÆM.  Dost thou wish to speak,
And, speaking, wilt not listen? Is it so?
 
CREON.  No, by Olympus! Thou shalt not go free        880
To flout me with reproaches. Lead her out
Whom my soul hates, that she may die forthwith
Before mine eyes, and near her bridegroom here.
 
HÆM.  No! Think it not! Near me she shall not die,        884
And thou shalt never see my face alive,
So mad art thou with all that would be friends.  [Exit.
 
Chor.  The man has gone, O king, in hasty mood.
A mind distressed in youth is hard to bear.        888
 
CREON.  Let him do what he will, and bear himself
Too high for mortal state, he shall not free
Those maidens from their doom!
 
Chor.  And dost thou mean        892
To slay them both?
 
CREON.  Not her who touched it not.
 
Chor.  There thou say’st well: and with what kind of death
Mean’st thou to kill her?        896
 
CREON.  Where the desert path
Is loneliest, there, alive, in rocky cave
Will I immure her, just so much of food
Before her set as may appease the Gods,        900
And save the city from the guilt of blood;
And there, invoking Hades, whom alone
Of all the Gods she worships, she, perchance,
Shall gain escape from death, or else shall know        904
That all her worship is but labour lost.  [Exit.
 
STROPHE.
Chor.  O Love, in every battle victor owned;
Love, now assailing wealth and lordly state,
    Now on a girl’s soft cheek,        908
    Slumbering the livelong night;
    Now wandering o’er the sea,
    And now in shepherd’s folds;
    The Undying Ones have no escape from thee,        912
    Nor men whose lives are measured as a day;
    And who has thee is mad.
 
ANTISTROPHE.
Thou makest vile the purpose of the just,
    To his own fatal harm;        916
Thou stirrest up this fierce and deadly strife,
    Of men of nearest kin;
    The glowing eyes of bride beloved and fair
    Reign, crowned with victory,        920
And dwell on high among the powers that rule,
    Equal with holiest laws;
For Aphrodite, she whom none subdues,
    Sports in her might divine.        924
I, even I, am borne
Beyond the bounds of right;
I look on this, and cannot stay
The fountain of my tears.        928
    For, lo! I see her, see Antigone
  Wind her sad, lonely way
To that dread chamber where is room for all.
 
ANTIG.  Yes! O ye men of this my fatherland,        932
  Ye see me on my way,
  Life’s last long journey, gazing on the sun,
His last rays watching, now and nevermore;
Alone he leads me, who has room for all,        936
  Hades, the Lord of Death,
  To Acheron’s dark shore,
With neither part nor lot in marriage rites,
No marriage hymn resounding in my ears,        940
But Acheron shall claim me as his bride.
 
Chor.  And hast thou not all honour, worthiest praise,
Who goest to the home that hides the dead,
Not smitten by the sickness that decays,        944
  Nor by the sword’s sharp edge,
But of thine own free will, in fullest life,
  To Hades tak’st thy way?
 
ANTIG.  I heard of old her pitiable end,        948
Where Sipylus rears high its lofty crag,
The Phrygian daughter of a stranger land,
Whom Tantalus begot;
Whom growth of rugged rock,        952
  Clinging as ivy clings,
  Subdued, and made its own:
And now, so runs the tale,
There, as she melts in shower,        956
  The snow abideth aye,
And still bedews yon cliffs that lie below
  Those brows that ever weep.
With fate like hers doth Fortune bring me low.        960
 
Chor.  Godlike in nature, godlike, too, in birth,
  Was she of whom thou tell’st,
And we are mortals, born of mortal seed.
And, lo! for one who liveth but to die,        964
To gain like doom with those of heavenly race
  Is great and strange to hear.
 
ANTIG.  Ye mock me, then. Alas! Why wait ye not?
  By all our fathers’ Gods, I ask of you,        968
Why wait ye not till I have passed away,
  But flout me while I live?
O city that I love, O men that dwell,
  That city’s wealthiest lords,        972
  O Dirkè, fairest fount,
  O grove of Thebes, that boasts her chariot host,
I take you all to witness, look and see,
How, with no friends to weep,        976
By what stern laws condemned,
I go to that strong dungeon of the tomb,
  For burial new and strange.
      Oh, miserable me!        980
Whom neither mortal men nor spirits own,
Nor those that live, nor those that fall asleep.
 
Chor.  Forward and forward still to farthest verge
Of daring hast thou gone,        984
And now, O child, thou fallest heavily
  Where Right erects her throne;
Surely thou payest to the uttermost
  Thy father’s debt of guilt.        988
 
ANTIG.  Ah! thou hast touched the quick of all my grief,
  The thrice-told tale of all my father’s woe,
  The fate which dogs us all,
The race of Labdacus of ancient fame.        992
  Woe for the curses dire
  Of that defiled bed,
  With foulest incest stained,
Whence I myself have sprung, most miserable.        996
  And now, I go to them,
  To sojourn in the grave,
  Bound by a curse, unwed;
 

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