Home  »  Antigone  »  Lines 500–999

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

Lines 500–999

But live for ever, nor can man assignWhen first they sprang to being. Not through fearOf any man’s resolve was I preparedBefore the Gods to bear the penaltyOf sinning against these. That I should dieI knew (how should I not?), though thy decreeHad never spoken. And, before my timeIf I should die, I reckon this a gain;For whoso lives, as I, in many woes,How can it be but death shall bring him gain?And so for me to bear this doom of thineHas nothing painful. But, if I had leftMy mother’s son unburied on his death,I should have given them pain. But as things are,Pain I feel none. And should I seem to theeTo have done a foolish deed, ’tis simply this,—I bear the charge of folly from a fool.Chor.The maiden’s stubborn will, of stubborn sireThe offspring shows itself. She knows not yetTo yield to evils.CREON.Know, then, minds too stiffMost often stumble, and the rigid steelBaked in the furnace, made exceeding hard,Thou seest most often split and broken lie;And I have known the steeds of fiery moodWith a small curb subdued. It is not meetThat one who lives in bondage to his neighboursShould boast too loudly. Wanton outrage thenShe learnt when first these laws of mine she crossed,But, having done it, this is yet againA second outrage over it to boast,And laugh at having done it. Surely, then,She is the man, not I, if all unscathedSuch deeds of might are hers. But be she childOf mine own sister, nearest kin of allThat Zeus o’erlooks within our palace court,She and her sister shall not ’scape their doomMost foul and shameful; for I charge her, too,With having planned this deed of sepulture.Go ye and call her. ’Twas but now withinI saw her raving, losing self-command.And still the mind of those who in the darkPlan deeds of evil is the first to fail,And so convicts itself of secret guilt.But most I hate when one found out in guiltWill 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 onePleases me now, nor aye is like to please,And so all mine must grate upon thine ears.And yet how could I higher glory gainThan giving my true brother all the ritesOf solemn burial? These who hear would sayIt pleases them, did not their fear of theeClose up their lips. This power has sovereignty,That it can do and say whate’er it will.CREON.Of all the race of Cadmus thou aloneLook’st thus upon the deed.ANTIG.They see it tooAs I do, but in fear of thee they keepTheir tongue between their teeth.CREON.And dost thou feelNo shame to plan thy schemes apart from these?ANTIG.There is no baseness in the act which showsOur reverence for our kindred.CREON.Was he notThy brother also, who against him fought?ANTIG.He was my brother, of one mother born,And of the selfsame father.CREON.Why, then, payThine impious honours to the carcase there?ANTIG.The dead below will not accept thy words.CREON.Yes, if thou equal honours pay to him,And that most impious monster.ANTIG.’Twas no slaveThat perished, but my brother.CREON.Yes, in actTo waste this land, while he in its defenceStood fighting bravely.ANTIG.Not the less does deathCrave equal rites for all.CREON.But not that goodAnd evil share alike?ANTIG.And yet who knowsIf 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,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.

Chor.And, lo! Ismene at the gateComes shedding tears of sisterly regard,And o’er her brow a gathering cloudMars the deep roseate blush,Bedewing her fair cheek.CREON.[to ISMENE]. And thou who, creeping as a viper creeps,Didst drain my life in secret, and I knew notThat I was rearing two accursèd ones,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,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.ISM.I am not ashamedTo 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.ISM.Do not, my sister, put me to such shameAs 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 deedThou 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 careIs given so largely.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.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.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.ANTIG.Take courage. Thou wilt live. My soul long sinceHas given itself to Death, that to the deadI might bring help.CREON.Of these two maidens here,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 livedStands firm in evil days, but still it goes,Beside itself, astray.CREON.So then did thineWhen thou didst choose thy evil deeds to do,With those already evil.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?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!CREON.Thou art too vexing, thou, and these thy words,On marriage ever harping.ISM.Wilt thou robThine own dear son of her whom he has loved?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 keptAs women—suffered not to roam abroad;For even boldest natures shrink in fearWhen they behold the end of life draw nigh.[Exeunt Guards with ANTIGONE and ISMENE.

Chor.Blessed are those whose life has known no woe!For unto those whose houseThe Gods have shaken, nothing fails of curseOr woe, that creepeth on,To generations, far,As when a wave, where Thracian blasts blow strongOn that tempestuous shore,Up surges from the depths beneath the sea,And from the deep abyssRolls the black wind-vexed sand,And every jutting peak that drives it backRe-echoes with the roar.

I see the ancient doomThat fell upon the seed of Labdacus,Who perished long ago,Still falling, woes on woes;That generation cannot rescue this;Some God still urges on,And will not be appeased.So now there rose a gleamOver the last weak shootsThat sprang from out the race of Œdipus;And thus the blood-stained swordOf those that reign belowCuts off relentlesslyMadness of speech, and fury of the soul.

Thy power, O Zeus, what haughtiness of manCould ever hold in check?Which neither sleep, that maketh all things old,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,Thou dwellest in thy sheen of radiancyOn far Olympus’ height.Through all the future and the coming years,As through all time that’s past,One law holds ever good,That nothing comes to life of man on earth,Unscathed throughout by woe.

To many, hope may come, in wanderings wild,A solace and a joy;To many, shows of fickle-hearted love;But still it creepeth on,On him who knows it not,Until he brings his footWithin the scorching flame.Wisely from one of oldThe far-famed saying cameThat evil ever seems to be as goodTo those whose thoughts of heartGod leadeth unto woe,And without woe, but shortest time he spends.And here comes Hæmon, youngest of thy sons.Comes he bewailing soreThe fate of her who should have been his wife,His bride Antigone,Sore grieving at the failure of his joys?

CREON.Soon we shall know much more than seers can tell.Surely thou dost not come, my son, to rageAgainst thy father, hearing his decree,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 directWith thy wise counsels, I will follow them.No marriage weighs one moment in the scalesWith 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:For this men pray that they may rear and keepObedient offspring by their hearths and homes,That they may both requite their father’s foes,And pay with him like honours to his friend.But he who reareth sons that profit not,What could one say of him but this, that heBreeds his own sorrow, laughter to his foes?Lose not thy reason, then, my son, o’ercomeBy pleasure, for a woman’s sake, but know,A cold embrace is that to have at homeA worthless wife, the partner of thy bed.What ulcerous sore is worse than one we loveWho proves all worthless? No! with loathing scorn,As hateful to thee, let her go and wedA spouse in Hades. Taken in the actI found her, her alone of all the state,Rebellious. And I will not make myselfFalse to the state. She dies. So let her callOn Zeus, the lord of kindred. If I rearOf mine own stock things foul and orderless,I shall have work enough with those without.For he who in the life of home is goodWill still be seen as just in things of state;While he who breaks or goes beyond the laws,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 appointsIn things or just and lowly, or, may be,The opposite of these. Of such a manI 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,A just and good defender. AnarchyIs our worst evil, brings our commonwealthTo utter ruin, lays whole houses low,In battle strife hurls men in shameful flight;But they who walk uprightly, these shall findObedience saves most men. Sure help should comeTo what our rulers order; least of allOught we to bow before a woman’s sway.Far better, if it must be so, to fallBy a man’s hand, than thus to bear reproach,By woman conquered.Chor.Unto us, O king,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 manHis reason, noblest of all earthly gifts;Nor dare I say nor prove that what thou speak’stIs aught but right. And yet another’s thoughtsMay have some reason. I am wont to watchWhat each man says or does, or blames in thee(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,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 exposeTo carrion dogs, or any bird of prey,May she not claim the meed of golden crown?”Such is the whisper that in secret runsAll darkling. And for me, my father, naughtIs dearer than thy welfare. What can beA nobler form of honour for the sonThan a sire’s glory, or for sire than son’s?I pray thee, then, wear not one mood alone,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.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,Save their last twigs, while those that will not yieldPerish with root and branch. And when one haulsToo tight the mainsail sheet, and will not slack,He has to end his voyage with deck o’erturned.Do thou, then, yield. Permit thyself to change.Young though I be, if any prudent thoughtBe with me, I at least will dare assertThe higher worth of one who, come what will,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,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?HÆM.’Twere not wrong.And if I be but young, not age but deedsThou shouldst regard.CREON.Fine deeds, I trow, to paySuch honour to the lawless.HÆM.’Tis not IWould bid you waste your honour on the base.CREON.And has she not been seized with that disease?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 theeAs from some beardless boy?CREON.And who, then, elseBut me should rule this land?HÆM.That is no stateWhich hangs on one man’s will.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,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 stillWilt hold debate!HÆM.For, lo! I see thee stillGuilty of wrong.CREON.And am I guilty, then,Claiming due reverence for my sovereignty?HÆM.Thou show’st no reverence, trampling on the lawsThe Gods hold sacred.CREON.O thou sin-stained soul,A woman’s victim.HÆM.Yet thou wilt not findIn me the slave of baseness.CREON.All thy speechStill hangs on her.HÆM.Yes, and on thee, myself,And the great Gods below.CREON.Of this be sure,Thou shalt not wed her in the land of life.HÆM.She, then, must die, and in her death will slayAnother than herself.CREON.And dost thou dareTo come thus threatening?HÆM.Is it then a threatTo speak to erring judgment?CREON.To thy costThou shalt learn wisdom, having none thyself.HÆM.If thou wert not my father, I would sayThou wert not wise.CREON.Thou woman’s slave, I say,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 freeTo flout me with reproaches. Lead her outWhom my soul hates, that she may die forthwithBefore mine eyes, and near her bridegroom here.HÆM.No! Think it not! Near me she shall not die,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.CREON.Let him do what he will, and bear himselfToo high for mortal state, he shall not freeThose maidens from their doom!Chor.And dost thou meanTo slay them both?CREON.Not her who touched it not.Chor.There thou say’st well: and with what kind of deathMean’st thou to kill her?CREON.Where the desert pathIs loneliest, there, alive, in rocky caveWill I immure her, just so much of foodBefore her set as may appease the Gods,And save the city from the guilt of blood;And there, invoking Hades, whom aloneOf all the Gods she worships, she, perchance,Shall gain escape from death, or else shall knowThat all her worship is but labour lost.[Exit.

Chor.O Love, in every battle victor owned;Love, now assailing wealth and lordly state,Now on a girl’s soft cheek,Slumbering the livelong night;Now wandering o’er the sea,And now in shepherd’s folds;The Undying Ones have no escape from thee,Nor men whose lives are measured as a day;And who has thee is mad.

Thou makest vile the purpose of the just,To his own fatal harm;Thou stirrest up this fierce and deadly strife,Of men of nearest kin;The glowing eyes of bride beloved and fairReign, crowned with victory,And dwell on high among the powers that rule,Equal with holiest laws;For Aphrodite, she whom none subdues,Sports in her might divine.I, even I, am borneBeyond the bounds of right;I look on this, and cannot stayThe fountain of my tears.For, lo! I see her, see AntigoneWind her sad, lonely wayTo that dread chamber where is room for all.ANTIG.Yes! O ye men of this my fatherland,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,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,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,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,Where Sipylus rears high its lofty crag,The Phrygian daughter of a stranger land,Whom Tantalus begot;Whom growth of rugged rock,Clinging as ivy clings,Subdued, and made its own:And now, so runs the tale,There, as she melts in shower,The snow abideth aye,And still bedews yon cliffs that lie belowThose brows that ever weep.With fate like hers doth Fortune bring me low.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,To gain like doom with those of heavenly raceIs great and strange to hear.ANTIG.Ye mock me, then. Alas! Why wait ye not?By all our fathers’ Gods, I ask of you,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,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,By what stern laws condemned,I go to that strong dungeon of the tomb,For burial new and strange.Oh, miserable me!Whom neither mortal men nor spirits own,Nor those that live, nor those that fall asleep.Chor.Forward and forward still to farthest vergeOf daring hast thou gone,And now, O child, thou fallest heavilyWhere Right erects her throne;Surely thou payest to the uttermostThy father’s debt of guilt.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.Woe for the curses direOf that defiled bed,With foulest incest stained,Whence I myself have sprung, most miserable.And now, I go to them,To sojourn in the grave,Bound by a curse, unwed;