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ANTIGONE by Sophocles, Part 03


GUARD
I wish to tell thee 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
Thou hast a shrewd eye for thy mark; well dost thou fence thyself round against the blame; clearly thou hast some strange thing to tell.

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

CREON
Then tell it, wilt thou, and so get thee gone?

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

CREON
What sayest thou? What living man hath 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 e'en 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 spake, 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 thee, 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 e'en the work of gods?

CREON
Cease, ere thy words fill me utterly with wrath, lest thou be found at once an old man and foolish. For thou sayest 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 dost thou 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.

'Tis 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 hath my reverence, know this-I tell it thee 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 thou wilt find that ill-gotten pelf brings more men to ruin than to weal.

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

CREON
Knowest thou not that even now thy voice offends?

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

CREON
And why wouldst thou define the seat of my pain?

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

CREON
Ah, thou art a born babbler, 'tis well seen.

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

CREON
Yea, and more,-the seller of thy life for silver.

GUARD
Alas! 'Tis sad, truly, that he who judges should misjudge.

CREON
Let thy 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 thou wilt 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 singing
strophe 1

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, doth he wear, turning the soil with the offspring of horses, as the ploughs go to and fro from year to year.

antistrophe 1

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.

strophe 2

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

antistrophe 2

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 hath sworn by the gods to uphold, proudly stands his city: no city hath he who, for his rashness, dwells with sin. Never may he share my hearth, never think my thoughts, who doth these things!
Enter the GUARD on the spectators' left, leading in ANTIGONE.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
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 sire,-Of Oedipus! What means this? Thou brought a prisoner?-thou, disloyal to the king's laws, and taken in folly?

GUARD
Here she is, the doer of the deed:-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.

 

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