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ANTIGONE by Sophocles, Part 04


CREON
What is it? What hath chanced, that makes my coming timely?

GUARD
O king, against nothing should men pledge their word; for the after-thought belies the first intent. I could have vowed that I should not soon be here again,-scared by thy threats, with which I had just been lashed: but,-since the joy that surprises and transcends our hopes is like in fulness to no other pleasure,-I have come, though 'tis in breach of my sworn oath, bringing this maid; who was taken showing grace to the dead. This time there was no casting of lots; no, this luck hath fallen to me, and to none else. And now, sire, take her thyself, question her, examine her, as thou wilt; but I have a right to free and final quittance of this trouble.

CREON
And thy prisoner here-how and whence hast thou taken her?

GUARD
She was burying the man; thou knowest all.

CREON
Dost thou mean what thou sayest? Dost thou speak aright?

GUARD
I saw her burying the corpse that thou hadst forbidden to bury. Is that plain and clear?

CREON
And how was she seen? how taken in the act?

GUARD
It befell on this wise. When we had come to the place,-with those dread menaces of thine upon us,-we swept away all the dust that covered the corpse, and bared the dank body well; and then sat us down on the brow of the hill, to windward, heedful that the smell from him should not strike us; every man was wide awake, and kept his neighbour alert with torrents of threats, if anyone should be careless of this task.

So went it, until the sun's bright orb stood in mid heaven, and the heat began to burn: and then suddenly a whirlwind lifted from the earth storm of dust, a trouble in the sky the plain, marring all the leafage of its woods; and the wide air was choked therewith: we closed our eyes, and bore the plague from the gods.

And when, after a long while, this storm had passed, the maid was seen; and she cried aloud with the sharp cry of a bird in its bitterness,-even as when, within the empty nest, it sees the bed stripped of its nestlings. So she also, when she saw the corpse bare, lifted up a voice of wailing, and called down curses on the doers of that deed. And straightway she brought thirsty dust in her hands; and from a shapely ewer of bronze, held high, with thrice-poured drink-offering she crowned the dead.

We rushed forward when we saw it, and at once dosed upon our quarry, who was in no wise dismayed. Then we taxed her with her past and present doings; and she stood not on denial of aught,-at once to my joy and to my pain. To have escaped from ills one's self is a great joy; but 'tis painful to bring friends to ill. Howbeit, all such things are of less account to me than mine own safety.

CREON
Thou-thou whose face is bent to earth-dost thou avow, or disavow, this deed?

ANTIGONE
I avow it; I make no denial.

CREON to GUARD
Thou canst betake thee whither thou wilt, free and clear of a grave charge.
Exit GUARD
To ANTIGONE
Now, tell me thou-not in many words, but briefly-knewest thou that an edict had forbidden this?

ANTIGONE
I knew it: could I help it? It was public.

CREON
And thou didst indeed dare to transgress that law?

ANTIGONE
Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven. For their life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all time, and no man knows when they were first put forth.

Not through dread of any human pride could I answer to the gods for breaking these. Die I must,-I knew that well (how should I not?)-even without thy edicts. But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain: for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about with evils, can such an one find aught but gain in death?

So for me to meet this doom is trifling grief; but if I had suffered my mother's son to lie in death an unburied corpse, that would have grieved me; for this, I am not grieved. And if my present deeds are foolish in thy sight, it may be that a foolish judge arraigns my folly.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate sire, and knows not how to bend before troubles.

CREON
Yet I would have thee know that o'er-stubborn spirits are most often humbled; 'tis the stiffest iron, baked to hardness in the fire, that thou shalt oftenest see snapped and shivered; and I have known horses that show temper brought to order by a little curb; there is no room for pride when thou art thy neighbour's slave.-This girl was already versed in insolence when she transgressed the laws that had been set forth; and, that done, lo, a second insult,-to vaunt of this, and exult in her deed.

Now verily I am no man, she is the man, if this victory shall rest with her, and bring no penalty. No! be she sister's child, or nearer to me in blood than any that worships Zeus at the altar of our house,-she and her kinsfolk shall not avoid a doom most dire; for indeed I charge that other with a like share in the plotting of this burial.

And summon her-for I saw her e'en now within,-raving, and not mistress of her wits. So oft, before the deed, the mind stands self-convicted in its treason, when folks are plotting mischief in the dark. But verily this, too, is hateful,-when one who hath been caught in wickednes then seeks to make the crime a glory.

ANTIGONE
Wouldst thou do more than take and slay me?

CREON
No more, indeed; having that, I have all.

ANTIGONE
Why then dost thou delay? In thy discourse there is nought that pleases me,-never may there be!-and so my words must needs be unpleasing to thee. And yet, for glory-whence could I have won a nobler, than by giving burial to mine own brother? All here would own that they thought it well, were not their lips sealed by fear. But royalty, blest in so much besides, hath the power to do and say what it will.

CREON
Thou differest from all these Thebans in that view.

ANTIGONE
These also share it; but they curb their tongues for thee.

CREON
And art thou not ashamed to act apart from them?

ANTIGONE
No; there is nothing shameful in piety to a brother.

CREON
Was it not a brother, too, that died in the opposite cause?

ANTIGONE
Brother by the same mother and the same sire.

CREON
Why, then, dost thou render a grace that is impious in his sight?

ANTIGONE
The dead man will not say that he so deems it.

CREON
Yea, if thou makest him but equal in honour with the wicked.

 

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