Home  »  Antigone  »  Lines 1000–1537

Sophocles (c.496 B.C.–406 B.C.). Antigone.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Lines 1000–1537

Ah, brother, thou didst findThy marriage fraught with ill,And in thy death hast smitten down my life.Chor.Acts reverent and devoutMay claim devotion’s name,But power, in one who cares to keep his power,May never be defied;And thee thy stubborn mood,Self-chosen, layeth low.ANTIG.Unwept, without a friend,Unwed, and whelmed in woe,I journey on the road that open lies.No more shall it be mine (O misery!)To look upon the holy eye of day,And yet, of all my friends,Not one bewails my fate,No kindly tear is shed.

CREON.And know ye not, if men can vantage gainBy songs and wailings at the hour of death,That they will never stop? Lead, lead her on,And, as I said, without delay immureIn yon cavernous tomb, and then depart.Leave her, or lone and desolate to die,Or, living, in the tomb to find her home.Our hands are clean in all that touches her;But she no more shall sojourn here with us.ANTIG.[turning towards the cavern] O tomb, my bridal chamber, vaulted home,Guarded right well for ever, where I goTo join mine own, of whom, of all that die,As most in number Persephassa owns;And I, of all the last and lowest, wendMy way below, life’s little span unfilled.And yet I go, and feed myself with hopesThat I shall meet them, by my father loved,Dear to my mother, well-beloved of thee,Thou dearest brother: I, with these my hands,Washed each dear corpse, arrayed you, poured the stream,In rites of burial. And in care for thee,Thy body, Polynices, honouring,I gain this recompense. And yet ’twas well;I had not done it had I come to beA mother with her children,—had not dared,Though ’twere a husband dead that mouldered there,Against my country’s will to bear this toil,And dost thou ask what law constrained me thus?I answer, had I lost a husband dear,I might have had another; other sonsBy other spouse, if one were lost to me;But when my father and my mother sleepIn Hades, then no brother more can come.And therefore, giving thee the foremost place,I seemed in Creon’s eyes, O brother dear,To sin in boldest daring. So himself,He leads me, having taken me by force,Cut off from marriage bed and marriage feast,Untasting wife’s true joy, or mother’s bliss,With infant at her breast, but all forlorn,Bereaved of friends, in utter misery,Alive, I tread the chambers of the dead.What law of Heaven have I transgressed against?What use for me, ill-starred one, still to lookTo any God for succour, or to callOn any friend for aid? For holiest deedI bear this charge of rank unholiness.If acts like these the Gods on high approve,We, taught by suffering, own that we have sinned;But if they sin [looking at CREON], I pray they suffer notWorse evils than the wrongs they do to me.Chor.Still do the same wild blastsVex her poor storm-tossed soul.CREON.Therefore shall these her guardsWeep sore for this delay.ANTIG.Ah me! this word of thineTells of death drawing nigh.CREON.I cannot bid thee hopeThat other fate is thine.ANTIG.O citadel of Thebes, my native land,Ye Gods of old renown,I go, and linger not.Behold me. O ye senators of Thebes,The last, love scion of the kingly race,What things I suffer, and from whom they come,Revering still where reverence most is due.[Guards lead ANTIGONE away.

Chor.So Danæ’s form endured of old,In brazen palace hid,To lose the light of heaven,And in her tomblike chamber was enclosed,And yet high honour came to her, O child,And on her flowed the golden shower of Zeus.But great and dread the might of Destiny:Nor tempest-storm, nor war,Nor tower, nor dark-hulled shipsThat sweep the sea, escape.

Bitter and sharp in mood,The son of Dryas, kingOf yon Edonian tribes,By Dionysus’ hands,Was shut in prison cave,And so his frenzy wild and soul o’erboldWaste slowly evermore.And he was taught that he, with ribald tongueIn what wild frenzy, had attacked the Gods.For fain had he the Mænad throng brought low,And that bright flashing fire,And roused the wrath of Muses sweet in song.

And by Kyanean waters’ double seaAre shores of Bosphorus, and Thracian isle,As Salmydessus known, inhospitable,Where Ares, God of all the region round,Saw the accursed woundThat smote with blindness Phineus’ twin-born sonsBy a fierce stepdame’s hand,—Dark wound, upon the dark-doomed eyeballs struck,Not with the stroke of sword,But blood-stained hands, on point of spindle sharp.

And they in misery, miserable fateLamenting, waste away,Born of a mother wedded to a curse.And she who claimed descentFrom men of ancient fame,The old Erechteid race,Daughter of Boreas, in far distant cavesAmid her father’s woods,Was reared, a child of Gods,Swift moving as the steed, o’er lofty crag,And yet, my child, on herBore down the Destinies,Whose years are infinite.
Enter TEIRESIAS, guided by a Boy.

TEIR.Princes of Thebes, we come as travellers joined,One seeing for both, for still the blind must useA guide’s assistance to direct his steps.CREON.And what new thing, Teiresias, brings thee here?TEIR.That I will tell thee, and do thou obeyThe seer who speaks.CREON.Of old I was not wontTo differ from thy judgment.TEIR.Therefore, wellAnd safely dost thou steer our good ship’s course.CREON.I, from experience, bear my witness stillOf good derived from thee.TEIR.Bethink thee, then,Thou walkest now upon a razor’s edge.CREON.What means this? Lo! I shudder at thy speech.TEIR.Soon shalt thou know, as I unfold the signsOf my dread art. For sitting, as of old,Upon my ancient seat of augury,Where every bird has access, lo! I hearStrange cry of winged creatures, shouting shrill,In clamour sharp and savage, and I knewThat they were tearing each the other’s breastWith bloody talons, for their whirring wingsMade that quite clear; and straightway I, in fear,Made trial of the sacrifice that layOn fiery altar. But the living flameShone not from out the offering; then there oozedUpon the ashes, trickling from the bones,A moisture, and it bubbled, and it spat,And, lo! the gall was scattered to the air,And forth from out the fat that wrapped them round,The thigh joints fell. Such omens of decayFrom strange mysterious rites I learnt from him,This boy, who now stands here, for he is stillA guide to me, as I to others am.And all this evil falls upon the state,From out thy counsels; for our altars all,Our sacred hearths, are full of food for dogsAnd birds unclean, the flesh of that poor wretchWho fell, the son of Œdipus. And soThe Gods no longer hear our solemn prayers,Nor own the flame that burns the sacrifice;Nor do the birds give cry of omen good,But feed on carrion of a human corpse.Think thou on this, my son: to err, indeed,Is common unto all, but having erred,He is no longer reckless or unblest,Who, having fallen into evil, seeksFor healing, nor continues still unmoved.Self-will must bear the guilt of stubbornness:Yield to the dead, and outrage not a corpse.What gain is it a fallen foe to slay?Good counsel give I, planning good for thee;And of all joys the sweetest is to learnFrom one who speaketh well, should that bring gain.CREON.Old man, as archers aiming at their mark,So ye shoot forth your venomed darts at me;I know your augur’s skill, and by your artsLong since am tricked and sold. Yes, gain your gains,Get precious bronze from Sardis, Indian gold,That corpse ye shall not hide in any tomb.Not though the eagles, birds of Zeus, should bearTheir carrion morsels to their master’s throne,Not even fearing this pollution dire,Will I consent to burial. Well I knowThat man is powerless to pollute the Gods.But many fall, Teiresias, dotard old,A shameful fall, who gloze their shameful words,For lucre’s sake, with surface show of good.TEIR.Ah, me! Does no man know, does none consider.…CREON.Consider what? What trite poor saw is this?TEIR.How far good counsel heaped up wealth excels?CREON.By just so far methinks the greatest hurtIs sheer unwisdom.TEIR.Thou, at least, hast grownFrom head to foot all full of that disease.CREON.Loath am I with a prophet evil wordsTo bandy to and fro.TEIR.And yet thou dost so,Saying that I utter speech that is not true.CREON.The race of seers is ever fond of gold.TEIR.And that of tyrants loves the gain that comesOf filthy lucre.CREON.Art thou ignorant, then,That what thou say’st, thou speak’st of those that rule?TEIR.I know it. ’Twas from me thou hadst the state,By me preserved.CREON.Wise art thou as a seer,But too much given to wrong and injury.TEIR.Thou wilt provoke me in my wrath to speakOf things best left unspoken.CREON.Speak them out!Only take heed thou speak them not for gain.TEIR.And dost thou, then, already judge me thus?CREON.Know that my judgment is not bought and sold.TEIR.Know, then, and know it well, that thou shalt seeNot many winding circuits of the sun,Before thou giv’st a quittance for the dead,A corpse by thee begotten; for that thouHast trampled to the ground what stood on high,And foully placed within a charnel-houseA living soul. And now thou keep’st from them,The Gods below, the corpse of one unblest,Unwept, unhallowed. Neither part nor lotHast thou in them, nor have the Gods who ruleThe worlds above, but at thy hands they meetThis outrage. And for this they wait for thee,The sure though slow avengers of the grave,The dread Erinyes of the Gods above,In these same evils to be snared and caught.Search well if I say this as one who sellsHis soul for money. Yet a little while,And in thy house men’s wailing, women’s cry,Shall make it plain. And every city stirsItself in arms against thee, owning thoseWhose limbs the dogs have buried, or fierce wolves,Or winged birds have brought the accursèd taintTo city’s altar-hearth. Doom like to this,Sure darting as an arrow to its mark,I launch at thee (for thou dost grieve me sore),An archer aiming at the very heart,And thou shalt not escape its fiery sting.And now, O boy, lead thou me home again,And let him vent his spleen on younger men,And learn to keep his tongue more orderly,With better thoughts than this his present mood.[Exit.Chor.The man has gone, O king, predicting woe,And well we know, since first our raven hairWas mixed with gray, that never yet his wordsWere uttered to our state and failed of truth.CREON.I know it too, ’tis that that troubles me.To yield is hard, but, holding out, to smiteOne’s soul with sorrow, this is harder still.Chor.Much need is there, O Creon, at this hour,Of wisest counsel.CREON.What, then, should I do?Tell me and I will hearken.Chor.Go thou first,Release the maiden from her cavern tomb,And give a grave to him who lies exposed.CREON.Is this thy counsel? Dost thou bid me yield?Chor.Without delay, O king, for, lo! they come,The God’s swift-footed ministers of ill,And in an instant lay the wicked low.CREON.Ah, me! ’tis hard; and yet I bend my willTo do thy bidding. With necessityWe must not fight at such o’erwhelming odds.Chor.Go, then, and act! Commit it not to others.CREON.E’en as I am I’ll go. Come, come, my men,Present or absent, come, and in your handsBring axes. Come to yonder eminence,And I, since now my judgment leans that way,Who myself bound her, now myself will loose.Too much I fear lest it should wisest proveTo end my life, maintaining ancient laws.[Exit.

Chor.O thou of many names,Of that Cadmeian maidThe glory and the joy,Child of loud-thundering Zeus,Who watchest over fair Italia,And reign’st o’er all the bays that open wide,Which Deo claims on fair Eleusis’ coast:Bacchus, who dwell’st in Thebes,The mother city of thy Bacchant train,Among Ismenus’ stream that glideth on,And with the dragon’s brood;

Thee, o’er the double peak of yonder height,The flashing blaze beholds,Where nymphs of CorycusGo forth in Bacchic dance,And by Castalia’s stream;And thee the ivied slopes of Nysa’s hills,And vine-clad promontory,While words of more than mortal melodyShout out the well-known name,Send forth, the guardian lordOf all the streets of Thebes.

Above all cities thou,With her, thy mother, whom the thunder slew,Dost look on it with love;And now, since all the city bendeth lowBeneath the sullen plague,Come thou with cleansing treadO’er the Parnassian slopes,Or o’er the moaning straits.

O thou, who lead’st the bandOf stars still breathing fire,Lord of the hymns that echo in the night,Offspring of highest Zeus,Appear, we pray thee, with thy Naxian train,Of Thyian maidens, frenzied, passionate,Who all night long, in maddening chorus, singThy praise, their lord, Iacchus.
Enter Messenger

MESS.Ye men of Cadmus and Amphion’s house,I know no life of mortal man which IWould either praise or blame. It is but chanceThat raiseth up, and chance that bringeth low,The man who lives in good or evil plight,And none foretells a man’s appointed lot.For Creon, in my judgment, men might watchWith envy and with wonder, having savedThis land of Cadmus from the bands of foes;And, having ruled with fullest sovereignty,He lived and prospered, joyous in a raceOf goodly offspring. Now, all this is gone;For when men lose the joys that sweeten life,I cannot count this living, rather deemAs of a breathing corpse. His heaped-up storesOf wealth are large; so be it, and he livesWith all a sovereign’s state, and yet, if joyBe absent, all the rest I count as naught,And would not weigh them against pleasure’s charm,More than a vapour’s shadow.Chor.What is this?What new disaster tell’st thou of our chiefs?MESS.Dead are they, and the living cause their death.Chor.Who slays, and who is slaughtered? Tell thy tale.MESS.Hæmon is dead. His own hand sheds his blood.Chor.Was it father’s hand that struck the blow,Or his own arm?MESS.He by himself alone,Yet in his wrath he charged his father with it.Chor.O prophet! true, most true, those words of thine.MESS.Since thus it stands, we may as well debateOf other things in council.Chor.Lo! there comesThe wife of Creon, sad Eurydice.She from the house is come, or hearing speechAbout her son, or else by chance.

EURYD.My friends,I on my way without, as suppliant boundTo pay my vows at Pallas’ shrine, have heardYour words, and so I chanced to slip the boltOf the half-opened door, when, lo! a soundFalls on my ears of evil near at hand,And terror-struck I fell in deadly swoonBack in my handmaids’ arms; yet tell it me,Tell the tale once again, for I shall hear,By long experience disciplined to grief.MESS.Dear lady, I will tell thee: I was by,And will not leave one word of truth untold.Why should we smooth and gloze, when all too soonWe should be found as liars? Truth is stillThe best and wisest. Lo! I went with him,Thy husband, in attendance, to the heightOf yonder plain, where still all ruthlesslyThe corpse of Polynices tombless lay,Mangled by dogs. And, having prayed to her,The Goddess of all pathways, and to Pluto,To look with favour on them, him they washedWith holy water; and what yet was leftWe burnt in branches freshly cut, and heapedA high raised grave from out the soil around,And then we entered on the stone-paved home,Death’s marriage-chamber for the ill-starred maid.And some one hears, while standing yet afar,Shrill voice of wailing near the bridal bower,By funeral rites unhallowed, and he comesAnd tells my master, Creon. On his ears,Advancing nearer, falls a shriek confusedOf bitter sorrow, and with grieving loud,He utters one sad cry: “Me miserable!And am I, then, a prophet? Do I wendThis day the dreariest way of all my life?My son’s voice greets me. Go, my servants, go,Quickly draw near, and standing by the tomb,Search ye and see; and where the joined stonesStill leave an opening, look ye in, and sayIf I hear Hæmon’s voice, or if my soulIs cheated by the Gods.” And then we searched,As he, our master, in his frenzy, bade us;And, in the furthest corner of the vault,We saw her hanging by a twisted cordOf linen threads entwined, and him we foundClasping her form in passionate embrace,And mourning o’er the doom that robbed him of her,His father’s deed, and that his marriage bed,So full of sorrow. When he saw him there,Groaning again in bitterness of heart,He goes to him, and calls in wailing voice,“Ah! wretched me! what dost thou! Hast thou lostThy reason? In what evil sinkest thou?Come forth, my child, on bended knee I ask thee.”And then the boy, with fierce, wild gleaming eyes,Glared at him, spat upon his face, and draws,Still answering naught, the sharp two-edged sword.Missing his aim (his father from the blowTurning aside), in anger with himself,The poor ill-doomed one, even as he was,Fell on his sword, and drove it through his breast,Full half its length, and clasping, yet alive,The maiden’s arm, still soft, he there breathes outIn broken gasps, upon her fair white cheek,A rain of blood. And so at last they lie,Dead bridegroom with dead bride, and he has gainedHis marriage rites in Hades’ darksome home,And left to all men witness terrible,That man’s worst ill is stubbornness of heart.[Exit EURYDICE.Chor.What dost thou make of this? She turns again,And not one word, or good or ill, will speak.MESS.I, too, am full of wonder. Yet with hopesI feed myself, she will not think it meet,Hearing her son’s woes, openly to wailBefore her subjects, but beneath her roofWill think it best to bear her private griefs.Too trained a judgment has she so to err.Chor.I know not. To my mind, or silence hard,Or vain wild cries, are signs of bitter woe.MESS.Soon we shall know, within the house advancing,If, in the passion of her heart, she hidesA secret purpose. Truly dost thou speak;There is a terror in that silence hard.Chor.[seeing CREON approaching with the corpse of HÆMON in his arms]And, lo! the king himself comes on,And in his hands he bears a record clear,No woe (if I may speak) by others caused,Himself the great offender.
Enter CREON bearing HÆMON’S body
CREON.Woe! for the sins of souls of evil mood,Strong, mighty to destroy;O ye who look on those of kindred race,The slayers and the slain,Woe for mine own rash plans that prosper not;Woe for thee, son; but new in life’s career,And by a new fate dying.Woe! woe!Thou diest, thou art gone,Not by thine evil counsel, but by mine.Chor.Ah me! Too late thou seem’st to see the right.CREON.Ah me!I learn the grievous lesson. On my head,God, pressing sore, hath smitten me and vexed,In ways most rough and terrible (ah me!),Shattering the joy, and trampling underfoot.Woe! woe! We toil for that which profits not.
Enter Second Messenger

SEC. MESS.My master! thou, as one who hast full store,One source of sorrow bearest in thine arms,And others in thy house, too soon, it seems,Thou need’st must come and see.CREON.And what remainsWorse evil than the evils that we bear?SEC. MESS.Thy wife is dead. Thy dead son’s mother true,Ill starred one, smitten with a deadly blow,But some few moments since.CREON.O agony?Thou house of Death, that none may purify,Why dost thou thus destroy me?O thou who comest, bringing in thy trainWoes horrible to tell,Thou tramplest on a man already slain.What say’st thou? What new tidings bring’st to me?Ah me! ah me!Is it that over all the slaughter wroughtMy own wife’s death has come to crown it all?Chor.It is but all too clear! No longer nowDoes yon recess conceal her.[The gates open and show the dead body of EURYDICE.CREON.Woe is me!This second stroke I gaze on, miserable,What fate, yea, what still lies in wait for me?Here in my arms I bear what was my son;And there, O misery! look upon the dead.Ah, wretched mother! ah, my son! my son!SEC. MESS.Sore wounded, she around the altar clung,And closed her darkening eyelids, and bewailedThe honoured bed of Megareus, who diedLong since, and then again that corpse thou hast;And last of all she cried a bitter cryAgainst thy deeds, the murderer of thy son.CREON.Woe! woe! alas!I shudder in my fear: Will no one strikeA deadly blow with sharp two-edgèd sword?Fearful my fate, alas!And with a fearful woe full sore beset.SEC. MESS.She in her death charged thee with being the causeOf all their sorrows, his and hers alike.CREON.And in what way struck she the murderous blow?SEC. MESS.With her own hand below her heart she stabbed,Hearing her son’s most pitiable fate.CREON.Ah me! The fault is mine. On no one else,Of all that live, the fearful guilt can come;I, even I, did slay thee, wretched one,I; yes, I say it clearly. Come, ye guards,Lead me forth quickly; lead me out of sight,More crushed to nothing than the dead unborn.Chor.Thou counsellest gain, if gain there be in ills,For present evils then are easiest borneWhen shortest lived.CREON.Oh, come thou, then, come thou,Last of my sorrows, that shall bring to meBest boon, my life’s last day. Come, then, oh, come That nevermore I look upon the light.Chor.These things are in the future. What is near,That we must do. O’er what is yet to comeThey watch, to whom that work of right belongs.CREON.I did but pray for what I most desire.Chor.Pray thou for nothing more. For mortal manThere is no issue from a doom decreed.CREON.[looking at the two corpses]Lead me, then, forth,vain shadow that I am,Who slew thee, O my son, unwittingly,And thee, too—(O my sorrow)—and I know notWhich way to look. All near at hand is turnedAside to evil; and upon my headThere falls a doom far worse than I can bear.Chor.Man’s highest blessednessIn wisdom chiefly stands;And in the things that touch upon the Gods,’Tis best in word of deedTo shun unholy pride;Great words of boasting bring great punishments;And so to gray-haired ageComes wisdom at the last.