Antigone. Own sister of my blood, one life with me,
Ismene, have the tidings caught thine ear?
Say, hath not Heaven decreed to execute
On thee and me, while yet we are alive.
All the evil Oedipus bequeathed? All horror,
All pain, all outrage, falls on us! And now
The General's proclamation of to-day—
Hast thou not heard?—Art thou so slow to hear
When harm from foes threatens the souls we love?
Ismene. No word of those we love, Antigone,
Painful or glad, hath reached me, since we two
Were utterly deprived of our two brothers,
Cut off with mutual stroke, both in one day.
And since the Argive host this now-past night
Is vanished, I know nought beside to make me
Nearer to happiness or more in woe.
Ant. I knew it well, and therefore led thee forth
The palace gate, that thou alone mightst hear.
Ism. Speak on! Thy troubled look bodes some dark
Ant. Why, hath not Creon, in the burial-rite.
Of our two brethren honoured one, and wrought
On one foul wrong? Eteocles, they tell.
With lawful consecration he lays out.
And after covers him in earth, adorned
With amplest honours in the world below.
But Polynices, miserably slain.
They say 'tis publicly proclaimed that none
Must cover in a grave, nor mourn for him;
But leave him tombless and unwept, a store
Of sweet provision for the carrion fowl
That eye him greedily. Such righteous law
Good Creon hath pronounced for thy behoof—
Ay, and for mine! I am not left out!—And now
He moves this way to promulgate his will
To such as have not heard, nor lightly holds
The thing he bids, but, whoso disobeys,
The citizens shall stone him to the death.
This is the matter, and thou wilt quickly show
If thou art noble, or fallen below thy birth.
Ism. Unhappy one! But what can I herein
Avail to do or undo?
Ant.Wilt thou share
The danger and the labour? Make thy choice.
Ism. Of what wild enterprise? What canst thou
Ant. Wilt thou join hand with mine to lift the
Ism. To bury him, when all have been forbidden?
Is that thy thought?
Ant.To bury my own brother
And thine, even though thou wilt not do thy part.
I will not be a traitress to my kin.
Ism. Fool-hardy girl! against the word of Creon?
Ant. He hath no right to bar me from mine own.
Ism. Ah, sister, think but how our father fell.
Hated of all and lost to fair renown.
Through self-detected crimes—with his own hand,
Self-wreaking, how he dashed out both his eyes:
Then how the mother-wife, sad two-fold name!
With twisted halter bruised her life away;
Last, how in one dire moment our two brothers
With internecine contlict at a blow
Wrought out by fratricide their mutual doom.
Now, left alone, O think how beyond all
Most piteously we twain shall be destroyed,
If in defiance of authority
We traverse the commandment of the King!
We needs must bear in mind we are but women.
Never created to contend with men;
Nay more, made victims of resistless power.
To obey behests more harsh than this to-day.
I, then, imploring those beneath to grant
Indulgence, seeing I am enforced in this,
Will yield submission to the powers that rule,
Small wisdom were it to overpass the bound.
Ant. I will not urge you! no! nor if now you
To help me, will your help afford me joy.
Be what you choose to be! This single hand
Shall bury our lost brother. Glorious
For me to take this labour and to die!
Dear to him will my soul be as we rest
In death, when I have dared this holy crime.
My time for pleasing men will soon be over;
Not so my duty toward the Dead! My home
Yonder will have no end. You, if you will,
May pour contempt on laws revered on High.
Ism. Not from irreverence. But I have no strength
To strive against the citizens' resolve.
Ant. Thou, make excuses! I will go my way
To raise a burial-mound to my dear brother.
Ism. Oh, hapless maiden, how I fear for thee!
Ant. Waste not your fears on me! Guide your own
Ism. Ah! yet divulge thine enterprise to none.
But keep the secret close, and so will I.
Ant. O Heavens! Nay, tell! I hate your silence
I had rather you proclaimed it to the world.
Ism. You are ardent in a chilling enterprise.
Ant. I know that I please those whom I would
Ism. Yes, if you thrive; but your desire is bootless.
Ant. Well, when I fail I shall be stopt, I trow!
Ism. One should not start upon a hopeless quest.
Ant. Speak in that vein if you would earn my hate
And aye be hated of our lost one. Peace!
Leave my unwisdom to endure this peril;
Fate cannot rob me of a noble death.
Ism. Go, if you must—Not to be checked in folly,
But sure unparalleled in faithful love![Exeunt
Beam of the mounting Sun!I 1
O brightest, fairest ray
Seven-gated Thebè yet hath seen!
Over the vale where Direè's fountains run
At length thou appearedst, eye of golden Day,
And with incitement of thy radiance keen
Spurredst to faster flight
The man of Argos hurrying from the fight.
Armed at all points the warrior came,
But driven before thy rising flame
He rode, reverting his pale shield.
Headlong from yonder battlefield.
In snow-white panoply, on eagle wing,
He rose, dire ruin on our land to bring,
Roused by the fierce debate
Of Polynices' hate.
Shrilling sharp menace from his breast.
Sheathed all in steel from crown to heel.
With many a plumed crest.
Then stooped above the domes,I 2
With lust of carnage fired.
And opening teeth of serried spears
Yawned wide around the gates that guard our
But went, or e'er his hungry jaws had tired
On Theban flesh,—or e'er the Fire-god fierce
Seizing our sacred town
Besmirched and rent her battlemented crown.
Such noise of battle as he fled
About his back the War-god spread;
So writhed to hard -fought victory
The serpent struggling to be free.
High Zeus beheld their stream that proudly rolled
Idly caparisoned with clanking gold:
Zeus hates the boastful tongue:
He with hurled firedown flung
One who in haste had mounted high,
And that same hour from topmost tower
Upraised the exulting cry.
Swung rudely to the hard repellent earthII 1
Amidst his furious mirth
He fell, who then with flaring brand
Held in his fiery hand
Came breathing madness at the gate
In eager blasts of hate.
And doubtful swayed the varying fight
Through the turmoil of the night,
As turning now on these and now on those
Ares hurtled ’midst our foes,
Self-harnessed helper on our right.
Seven matched with seven. at each gate one,
Their captains, when the day was done,
Left for our Zeus who turned the scale,
The brazen tribute in full tale:—
All save the horror-burdened pair,
Dire children of despair,
Who from one sire, one mother, drawing breath,
Each with conquering lance in rest
Against a true-born brother's breast,
Found equal lots in death.
But with blithe greeting to glad Thebè cameII 2
She of the glorious name,
Victory,—smiling on our chariot throng
With eyes that waken song.
Then let those battle-memories cease,
Silenced by thoughts of peace.
With holy dances of delight
Lasting through the livelong night
Visit we every shrine, in solemn round,
Led by him who shakes the ground,
Our Bacchus, Thebè's child of light.
Leader of Chorus.
But look! where Creon in his new-made power,
Moved by the fortune of the recent hour,
Comes with fresh counsel. What intelligence
Intends he for our private conference,
That he hath sent his herald to us all,
Gathering the elders with a general call?
Creon. My friends, the noble vessel of our State,
After sore shaking her, the Gods have sped
On a smooth course once more. I have
called you hither,
By special messengers selecting you
From all the city, first, because I knew you
Aye loyal to the throne of Laïus;
Then, both while Oedipus gave prosperous days,
And since his fall, I still beheld you firm
In sound allegiance to the royal issue.
Now since the pair have perished in an hour,
Twinned in misfortune, by a mutual stroke
Staining our land with fratricidal blood,
All rule and potency of sovereign sway,
In virtue of next kin to the deceased,
Devolves on me. But hard it is to learn
The mind of any mortal or the heart,
Till he be tried in chief authority.
Power shows the man. For he who when supreme
Withholds his hand or voice from the best cause,
Being thwarted by some fear, that man to me
Appears, and ever hath appeared, most vile.
He too hath no high place in mine esteem,
Who sets his friend before his fatherland.
Let Zeus whose eye sees all eternally
Be here my witness. I will ne’er keep silence
When danger lours upon my citizens
Who looked for safety, nor make him my friend
Who doth not love my country. For I know
Our country carries us, and whilst her helm
Is held aright we gain good friends and true.
Following such courses 'tis my steadfast will
To foster Thebè's greatness, and therewith
In brotherly accord is my decree
Touching. the sons of Oedipus. The man—
Etcocles I mean—who died for Thebes
Fighting with eminent prowess on her side,
Shall be entombed with every sacred rite
That follows to the grave the lordliest dead.
But for his brother, who, a banished man,
Returned to devastate and burn with tire
The land of his nativity, the shrines
Of his ancestral gods, to feed him fat
With Theban carnage, and make captive all
That should escape the sword—for Polynices,
This law hath been proclaimed concerning him:
He shall have no lament, no funeral,
But lie unburied, for the carrion fowl
And dogs to eat his corse, a sight of shame.
Such are the motions of this mind and will.
Never from me shall villains reap renown
Before the just. But whoso loves the State,
I will exalt him both in life and death.
Ch. Son of Menoeceus, we have heard thy mind
Toward him who loves, and him who hates our city.
And sure, 'tis thine to enforce what law thou wilt
Both on the dead and all of us who live.
Cr. Then be ye watchful to maintain my word.
Ch. Young strength for such a burden were more
Cr. Already there be watchers of the dead.
Ch. What charge then wouldst thou further lay on
Cr. Not to give place to those that disobey.
Ch. Who is so fond, to be in love with death?
Cr. Such, truly, is the meed. But hope of gain
Full oft ere now hath been the ruin of men.
Watchman. (entering). My lord, I am out of breath,
but not with speed.
I will not say my foot was fleet. My thoughts
Cried halt unto me ever as I came
And wheeled me to return. My mind discoursed
Most volubly within my breast, and said—
Fond wretch! why go where thou wilt find thy bane?
Unhappy wight! say, wilt thou bide aloof?
Then if the king shall hear this from another,
How shalt thou 'scape for 't? Winding thus about
I hasted, but I could not speed, and so
Made a long journey of a little way.
At last 'yes' carried it, that I should come
To thee; and tell thee I must needs, and shall,
Though it be nothing that I have to tell.
For I came hither, holding fast by this—
Nought that is not my fate can happen to me;
Cr. Speak forth thy cause of fear. What is the
Watch. First of mine own part in the business. For
I did it not, nor saw the man who did,
And 'twere not right that I should come to harm.
Cr. You fence your ground, and keep well out of
I see you have some strange thing to declare.
Watch. A man will shrink who carries words of fear.
Cr. Let us have done with you. Tell your tale, and
Watch. Well, here it is. The corse hath burial
From some one who is stolen away and gone,
But first hath strown dry dust upon the skin,
And added what religious rites require.
What man hath been so daring in revolt?
Watch. I cannot tell. There was no mark to show—
No dint of spade, or mattock-loosened sod,—
Only the hard bare ground, untilled and trackless.
Whoe'er he was, the doer left no trace.
And, when the scout of our first daylight watch
Showed us the thing, we marvelled in dismay.
The Prince was out of sight; not in a grave,
But a thin dust was o'er him, as if thrown
By one who shunned the dead man’s curse. No sign
Appeared of any hound or beast o' the field
Having come near, or pulled at the dead body.
Then rose high words among us sentinels
With bickering noise accusing each his mate,
And it seemed like to come to blows, with none
To hinder. For the hand that thus had wrought
Was any of ours, and none; the guilty man
Escaped all knowledge. And we were prepared
To lift hot iron with our bare palms; to walk
Through fire, and swear by all the Gods at once
That we were guiltless, ay, and ignorant
Of who had plotted or performed this thing.
When further search seemed bootless, at the last
One spake, whose words bowed all our heads to the earth
With fear. We knew not what to answer him,
Nor how to do it and prosper. He advised
So grave a matter must not be concealed,
But instantly reported to the King.
Well, this prevailed, and the lot fell on me,
Unlucky man! to be the ministrant
Of this fair service. So I am present here,
Against my will and yours, I am sure of that.
None love the bringer of unwelcome news.
Ch. My lord, a thought keeps whispering in my
Some Power divine hath interposed in this.
Cr. Cease, ere thou quite enrage me, and appear
Foolish as thou art old. Talk not to me
Of Gods who have taken thought for this dead man!
Say, was it for his benefits to them
They hid his corse, and honoured him so highly,
Who came to set on fire their pillared shrines,
With all the riches of their offerings,
And to make nothing of their land and laws?
Or, hast thou seen them honouring villany?
That cannot be. Long time the cause of this
Hath come to me in secret murmurings
From maleontents of Thebes, who under yoke
Turned restive, and would not accept my sway.
Well know I, these have bribed the watchmen here
To do this for some fee. For nought hath grown
Current among mankind so mischievous
As money. This brings cities to their fall:
This drives men homeless, and moves honest minds
To base contrivings. This hath taught mankind
The use of wickedness, and how to give
An impious turn to every kind of act.
But whosoe'er hath done this for reward
Hath found his way at length to punishment.
If Zeus have still my worship, be assured
Of that which here on oath I say to thee—
Unless ye find the man who made this grave
And bring him bodily before mine eye,
Death shall not be enough, till ye have hung
Alive for an example of j^our guilt,
That henceforth in your rapine ye may know
Whence gain is to be gotten, and may learn
Pelf from all quarters is not to be loved.
For in base getting, 'tis a common proof,
More find disaster than deliverance.
Watch. Am I to speak? or must I turn and go?
Cr. What? know you not your speech offends even
Watch. Doth the mind smart withal, or only the ear?
Cr. Art thou to probe the seat of mine annoy?
Watch. If I offend, 'tis in your ear alone.
The malefactor wounds ye to the soul.
Cr. Out on thee! thou art nothing but a tongue.
Watch. Then was I ne'er the doer of this deed.
Cr. Yea, verily: self-hired to crime for gold.
Watch. Pity so clear a mind should clearly err!
Cr. Gloze now on clearness! But unless ye bring
The burier, without glozing ye shall tell,
Craven advantage clearly worketh bane.
Watch. By all means let the man be found; one thing
I know right well:—caught or not caught, howe'er
Fate rules his fortune, me you ne'er will see
Standing in presence here. Even now I owe
Deep thanks to Heaven for mine escape, so far
Beyond my hope and highest expectancy.
Many a wonder lives and moves, but the wonder of all is
That courseth over the grey ocean, carried of Southern
Faring amidst high-swelling seas that rudely surge
And Earth, supreme of mighty Cods, eldest, imperishable.
Eternal, he with patient furrow wears and wears away
As year by year the plough-shares turn and
Subduing her unwearied strength with children of the
And wound in woven coils of nets he seizeth for his
The aëry tribe of birds and wilding armies of the
And sea-born millions of the deep—man is so crafty-
And now with engine of his wit he tameth to his will
The mountain-ranging beast whose lair is in the country
And now his yoke hath passed upon the mane
Of horse with proudly crested neck and tireless mountain
Wise utterance and wind-swift thought, and city-
moulding mind,II. 1
And shelter from the clear-eyed power of biting frost.
He hath taught him, and to shun the sharp, roof-penetrating
Full of resource, without device he meets no coming
From Death alone he shall not find reprieve;
No league may gain him that relief; but even for fell
That long hath baffled wisest leech, he hath contrived a
Inventive beyond wildest hope, endowed with boundless
One while he moves toward evil, and one while toward
According as he loves his land and fears the Gods above;
Weaving the laws into his life and steadfast oath of
High in the State he moves: but outcast he,
Who hugs dishonour to his heart, and follows paths of
Ne`er may he come beneath my roof, nor think like
thoughts with me.
Leader of Chorus
What portent from the Gods is here?
My mind is mazed with doubt and fear.
How can I gainsay what I see?
I know the girl Antigone.
O hapless child of hapless sire!
Didst thou, then, recklessly aspire,
To brave kings' laws, and now art brought
In madness of transgression caught?
Enter Watchman, bringing in Antigone.
Watch. Here is the doer of the deed: this maid.
We found her burying him. Where is the King?
Ch. Look, he comes forth again to meet thy call.
Cr. What call so nearly times with mine approach?
Watch. My lord, no mortal should deny on oath;
Judgement is still belied by after-thought.
When quailing 'neath the tempest of your threats,
Methought no force would drive me to this place.
But joy unlook'd for and surpassing hope
Is out of bound the best of all delight,
And so I am here again,—though I had sworn
I ne'er would come,—and in my charge this maid,
Caught in the act of caring for the dead.
Here was no lot-throwing; this hap was mine
Without dispute. And now, my sovereign lord,
According to thy pleasure, thine own self
Examine and convict her. For my part.
I have good right to be away and free
From the bad business I am come upon.
Cr. This maiden!
How came she in thy charge? Where didst thou find
Watch. Burying the prince. One word hath told
Cr. Hasty thou thy wits, and knowest thou what thou
Watch. I saw her burying him whom you forbade
To bury, Is that, now, clearly spoken, or no?
Cr. And how was she detected. caught, and taken?
Watch. It fell in this wise. We were come to the
Bearing the dreadful burden of thy threats;
And first with care we swept the dust away
From round the corse, and laid the dank limbs bare:
Then sate below the hill-top, out o' the wind,
Where no bad odour from the dead might strike us,
Stirring each other on with interchange
Of loud revilings on the negligent;
In 'tendance on this duty. So we stayed
Till in mid heaven the sun's resplendent orb
Stood high, and the heat strengthened. Suddenly,
The Storm-god raised a whirlwind from the ground,
Vexing heaven’s concave, and filled all the plain,
Rending the locks of all the orchard groves,
Till the great sky was choked withal. We closed
Our lips and eyes, and bore the God-sent evil.
When after a long while this ceased, the maid
Was seen, and wailed in high and bitter key,
Like some despairing bird that hath espied
Her nest all desolate, the nestlings gone.
So, when she saw the body bare, she mourned
Loudly, and cursed the authors of this deed.
Then nimbly with her hands she brought dry dust,
And holding high a shapely brazen cruse,
Poured three libations, honouring the dead.
We, when we saw, ran in, and straightway seized
Our quarry, nought dismayed, and charged her with
The former crime and this. And she denied
Nothing;—to my delight, and to my grief.
One’s self to escape disaster is great joy;
Yet to have drawn a friend into distress
Is painful. But mine own security
To me is of more value than aught else.
Cr. Thou, with thine eyes down-fastened to the
Dost thou confess to have done this, or deny it?
Ant. I deny nothing. I avow the deed.
Cr. (to Watchman). Thou may’st betake thyself
whither thou wilt,
Acquitted of the grievous charge, and free.
(To Antigone) And thou,—no prating talk, but briefly
Knew'st thou our edict that forbade this thing?
Ant. I could not fail to know. You made it plain.
Cr. How durst thou then transgress the published
Ant. I heard it not from Heaven. nor came it forth
From Justice, where she reigns with Gods below.
They too have published to mankind a law.
Nor thought I thy commandment of such might
That one who is mortal thus could overbear
The infallible, unwritten laws of Heaven.
Not now or yesterday they have their being,
But everlastingly, and none can tell
The hour that saw their birth. I would not, I,
For any terror of a man’s resolve,
Incur the God-inflicted penalty
Of doing them wrong. That death would come, I knew
Without thine edict;—if before the time,
I count it gain. Who does not gain by death,
That lives, as I do, amid boundless woe?
Slight is the sorrow of such doom to me.
But had I suffered my own mother’s child,
Fallen in blood, to be without a grave,
That were indeed a sorrow. This is none.
And if thou deem'st me foolish for my deed,
I am foolish in the judgement of a fool.
Ch. Fierce shows the maidlen’s vein from her fierce
Calamity doth not subdue her will.
Cr. Ay, but the stubborn spirit first doth fall.
Oft ye shall see the strongest bar of steel,
That fire hath hardened to extremity,
Shattered to pieces. A small bit controls
The fiery steed. Pride may not be endured
In one whose life is subject to command.
This maiden hath been conversant with crime
Since first she trampled on the public law;
And now she adds to crime this insolence,
To laugh at her offence, and glory in it.
Truly, if she that hath usurped this power
Shall rest unpunished, she then is a man,
And I am none. lie she my sister’s child,
Or of yet, nearer blood to me than all
That take protection from my hearth, the pair
Shall not escape the worst of deaths. For know,
I count the younger of the twain no less
Copartner in this plotted funeral:
And now I bid you call her. Late I saw her
Within the house, beyond herself, and frantic.
—Full oft when one is darkly scheming wrong,
The disturbed spirit hath betrayed itself
Before the act it hides.—But not less hateful
Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught
In wickedness would give it a brave show.
Ant. Wouldst thou aught more of me than merely
Ant. No more. 'Tis all I claim. Death closes all.
Ant. Why then delay? No talk of thine can charm
Forbid it Heaven! And my discourse no less
Must evermore sound noisome to thine ear.
Yet where could I have found a fairer fame
Than giving burial to my own true brother?
All here would tell thee they approve my deed,
Were they not tongue-tied to authority.
But kingship hath much profit; this in chief,
That it may do and say whate’er it will.
Cr. No Theban sees the matter with thine eye.
Ant. They see, but curb their voices to thy sway.
Cr. And art thou not ashamed, acting alone?
Ant.A sisters piety hath no touch of shame.
Cr. Was not Eteocles thy brother too?
Ant. My own true brother from both parents' blood.
Cr. This duty was impiety to him.
Ant. He that is dead will not confirm that word.
Cr. If you impart his honours to the vile.
Ant. It was his brother, not a slave, who fell.
Cr. But laying waste the land for which he
Ant. Death knows no difference, but demands his
Cr. Yet not equality 'twixt good and bad.
Ant. Both may be equal yonder; who can tell?
Cr. An enemy is hated even in death.
Ant. Love, and not hatred, is the part for me.
Cr. Down then to death! and, if you must, there
The dead. No woman rules me while I live.
Ant. Now comes Ismenè forth. Ah, see,
From clouds above her brow if
The sister-loving tear
Is falling wet on her fair cheek,
Distaining all her passion-crimson'd face!
Cr. And thou, that like a serpent coiled i' the house
Hast secretly been draining my 1ife-blood,—
Little aware that I was cherishing
Two curses and subverters of my throne,—
Tell us, wilt thou avouch thy share in this
Entombment, or forswear all knowledge of it?
Ism. If her voice go therewith, I did the deed,
And bear my part and burden of the blame.
Ant. Nay, justice will not suffer that. You would not,
And I refused to make you mine ally.
Ism. But now in thy misfortune I would fain
Embark,with thee in thy calamity.
Ant. Who did the deed, the powers beneath can tell.
I care not for lip-kindness from my kin.
Ism. Ah! scorn me not so far as to forbid me
To die with thee, and honour our lost brother.
Ant. Die not with me, nor make your own a deed
You never touched! My dying is enough.
Ism. What joy have I in life when thou art gone?
Ant. Ask Creon there. He hath your care and duty.
Ism. What can it profit thee to vex me so?
Ant. My heart is pained, though my lip laughs at thee.
Ism. What can I do for thee now, even now?
Ant. Save your own life. I grudge not your escape.
Ism. Alas! and must I be debarred thy fate?
Ant. Life was the choice you made. Mine was to die.
Ism. I warned thee———
Ant. Yes, your prudence is admired
On earth. My wisdom is approved below.
Ism. Yet truly we are both alike in fault.
Ant. Fear not; you live. My life hath long been given
To death, to be of service to the dead.
Cr. Of these two girls, the one hath lost her wits:
The other hath had none since she was born.
Ism. My lord, in misery, the mind one hath
Is wont to be dislodged, and will not stay.
Cr. You have ta'en leave of yours at any rate,
When you cast in your portion with the vile.
Ism. What can life profit me without my sister?
Cr. Say not 'my sister'; she is nothing now.
Ism. What? wilt thou kill thy son's espousal too?
Cr. He may find other fields to plough upon.
Ism. Not so as love was plighted 'twixt them twain.
Cr. I hate a wicked consort for my son.
Ant. O dearest Haemon! how thy father wrongs
Cr. Thou and thy marriage are a torment to me.
Ch. And wilt thou sever her from thine own son?
Cr. 'Tis death must come between him and his joy.
Ch. All doubts then resolved: the maid must die.
Cr. I am resolved; and so, 'twould seem, are you.
In with her, slaves! No more delay! Henceforth
These maids must have but woman's liberty
And be mewed up; for even the bold will fly
When they see Death nearing the house of life
[Antigone and Ismene are led into the palace.
Blest is the life that never tasted woe.I 1
When once the blow
Hath fallen upon a house with Heaven-sent doom,
Trouble descends in ever-widening gloom
Through all the number of the tribe to flow;
As when the briny surge
That Thrace-born tempests urge
(The big wave ever gathering more and more)
Runs o`er the darkness of the deep,
And with far-searching sweep
Uprolls the storm-heap'd tangle on the shore,
While cliff to beaten cliff resounds with sullen roar.
The stock of Cadmus from old time, I know,I 2
Hath woe on woe,
Age following age, the living on the dead,
Fresh sorrow falling on each new-ris'n head,
None freed by God from ruthless overthrow.
E'en now a smiling light
Was spreading to our sight
O'er one last fibre of a blasted tree,—
When, lo! the dust of cruel death,
Tribute of Gods beneath,
And wildering thoughts, and fate-born ecstasy,
Quench the brief gleam in dark Nonentity,
What froward will of man, O Zeus! can check thy
might? II 1
Not all-enfeebling sleep, nor tireless months divine,
Can touch thee, who through ageless time
Rulest mightily Olympus' dazzling height.
This was in the beginning, and shall be
Now and eternally,
Not here or there, but everywhere,
A law of misery that shall not spare.
For Hope, that wandereth wide, comforting many a
Entangleth many more with glamour of desire:
Unknowing they have trode the fire.
Wise was the famous word of one who said,
'Evil oft seemeth goodness to the mind
An angry God doth blind'
Few are the days that such as he
May live untroubled of calamity.
Leader of Chorus.
Lo, Haemon, thy last offspring, now is come,
Lamenting haply for the maiden's doom.
Say, is he mourning o'er her young life lost,
Fiercely indignant for his bridal crossed?
Cr. We shall know soon, better than seers could
Can it be so, my son, that thou art brought
By mad distemperature against thy sire,
On hearing of the irrevocable doom
Passed on thy promised bride? Or is thy love
Thy father's, be his actions what they may?
Haemon. I am thine, father, and will follow still
Thy good directions; nor would I prefer
The fairest bride to thy wise government.
Cr. That, O my son! should be thy constant mind,
In all to bend thee to thy fathers will.
Therefore men pray to have around their hearths
Obedient offspring, to requite their foes
With harm, and honour whom their father loves;
But he whose issue proves unprofitable,
Begets what else but sorrow to himself
And store of laughter to his enemies?
Make not, my son, a shipwreck of thy wit
For a woman. Thine own heart may teach thee this:—
There's but cold comfort in a wicked wife
Yoked to the home inseparably. What wound
Can be more deadly than a harmful friend?
Then spurn her like an enemy, and send her
To wed some shadow in the world below!
For since of all the city I have found
Her only recusant, caught in the act,
I will not break my word before the State.
I will take her life. At this let her invoke
The god of kindred blood! For if at home
I foster rebels, how much more abroad?
Whoso is just in ruling his own house, I
Lives rightly in the commonwealth no less:
But he that wantonly defies the law,
Or thinks to dictate to authority,
Shall have no praise from me. What power soe'er
The city hath ordained, must be obeyed
In little things and great things, right or wrong.
The man who so obeys, I have good hope
Will govern and be governed as he ought,
And in the storm of battle at my side I
Will stand a faithful and a trusty comrade.
But what more fatal than the lapse of rule?
This ruins cities, this lays houses waste,
This joins with the assault of war to break
Full-numbered armies into hopeless rout;
And in the unbroken host 'tis nought but rule
That keeps those many bodies from defeat.
I must be zealous to defend the law,
And not go down before a woman's will.
Else, if I fall, 'twere best a man should strike me;
Lest one should say, 'a woman worsted him.'
Ch. Unless our sense is weakened by long time,
Thou speakest not unwisely.
Haem.O my sire,
Sound wisdom is a God-implanted seed,
Of all possessions highest in regard.
I cannot, and I would not learn to say
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