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ANTIGONE by Sophocles, Part 09


CHORUS singing
strophe 1

Even thus endured Danae in her beauty to change the light of day for brass-bound walls; and in that chamber, secret as the grave, she was held close prisoner; yet was she of a proud lineage, O my daughter, and charged with the keeping of the seed of Zeus, that fell in the golden rain.

But dreadful is the mysterious power of fate: there is no deliverance from it by wealth or by war, by fenced city, or dark, sea-beaten ships.

antistrophe 1

And bonds tamed the son of Dryas, swift to wrath, that king of the Edonians; so paid he for his frenzied taunts, when, by the will of Dionysus, he was pent in a rocky prison. There the fierce exuberance of his madness slowly passed away. That man learned to know the god, whom in his frenzy he had provoked with mockeries; for he had sought to quell the god-possessed women, and the Bacchanalian fire; and he angered the Muses that love the flute.

strophe 2

And by the waters of the Dark Rocks, the waters of the twofold sea, are the shores of Bosporus, and Thracian Salmydessus; where Ares, neighbour to the city, saw the accurst, blinding wound dealt to the two sons of Phineus by his fierce wife,-the wound that brought darkness to those vengeance-craving orbs, smitten with her bloody hands, smitten with her shuttle for a dagger.

antistrophe 2

Pining in their misery, they bewailed their cruel doom, those sons of a mother hapless in her marriage; but she traced her descent from the ancient line of the Erechtheidae; and in far-distant caves she was nursed amid her father's storms, that child of Boreas, swift as a steed over the steep hills, a daughter of gods; yet upon her also the gray Fates bore hard, my daughter.
Enter TEIRESIAS, led by a Boy, on the spectators' right.

TEIRESIAS
Princes of Thebes, we have come with linked steps, both served by the eyes of one; for thus, by a guide's help, the blind must walk.

CREON
And what, aged Teiresias, are thy tidings?

TEIRESIAS
I will tell thee; and do thou hearken to the seer.

CREON
Indeed, it has not been my wont to slight thy counsel.

TEIRESIAS
Therefore didst thou steer our city's course aright.

CREON
I have felt, and can attest, thy benefits.

TEIRESIAS
Mark that now, once more, thou standest on fate's fine edge.

CREON
What means this? How I shudder at thy message!

TEIRESIAS
Thou wilt learn, when thou hearest the warnings of mine art. As I took my place on mine old seat of augury, where all birds have been wont to gather within my ken, I heard a strange voice among them; they were screaming with dire, feverish rage, that drowned their language in jargon; and I knew that they were rending each other with their talons, murderously; the whirr of wings told no doubtful tale.

Forthwith, in fear, I essayed burnt-sacrifice on a duly kindled altar: but from my offerings the Fire-god showed no flame; a dank moisture, oozing from the thigh-flesh, trickled forth upon the embers, and smoked, and sputtered; the gall was scattered to the air; and the streaming thighs lay bared of the fat that had been wrapped round them.

Such was the failure of the rites by which I vainly asked a sign, as from this boy I learned; for he is my guide, as I am guide to others. And 'tis thy counsel that hath brought this sickness on our State. For the altars of our city and of our hearths have been tainted, one and all, by birds and dogs, with carrion from the hapless corpse, the son of Oedipus: and therefore the gods no more accept prayer and sacrifice at our hands, or the flame of meat-offering; nor doth any bird give a clear sign by its shrill cry, for they have tasted the fatness of a slain man's blood.

Think, then, on these things, my son. All men are liable to err; but when an error hath been made, that man is no longer witless or unblest who heals the ill into which he hath fallen, and remains not stubborn.

Self-will, we know, incurs the charge of folly. Nay, allow the claim of the dead; stab not the fallen; what prowess is it to slay the slain anew? I have sought thy good, and for thy good I speak: and never is it sweeter to learn from a good counsellor than when he counsels for thine own gain.

CREON
Old man, ye all shoot your shafts at me, as archers at the butts;-Ye must needs practise on me with seer-craft also;-aye, the seer-tribe hath long trafficked in me, and made me their merchandise. Gain your gains, drive your trade, if ye list, in the silver-gold of Sardis and the gold of India; but ye shall not hide that man in the grave,-no, though the eagles of Zeus should bear the carrion morsels to their Master's throne-no, not for dread of that defilement will I suffer his burial:-for well I know that no mortal can defile the gods.-But, aged Teiresias, the wisest fall with shameful fall, when they clothe shameful thoughts in fair words, for lucre's sake.

TEIRESIAS
Alas! Doth any man know, doth any consider...

CREON
Whereof? What general truth dost thou announce?

TEIRESIAS
How precious, above all wealth, is good counsel.

CREON
As folly, I think, is the worst mischief.

TEIRESIAS
Yet thou art tainted with that distemper.

CREON
I would not answer the seer with a taunt.

TEIRESIAS
But thou dost, in saying that I prophesy falsely.

CREON
Well, the prophet-tribe was ever fond of money.

TEIRESIAS
And the race bred of tyrants loves base gain.

CREON
Knowest thou that thy speech is spoken of thy king?

TEIRESIAS
I know it; for through me thou hast saved Thebes.

CREON
Thou art a wise seer; but thou lovest evil deeds.

TEIRESIAS
Thou wilt rouse me to utter the dread secret in my soul.

CREON
Out with it!-Only speak it not for gain.

TEIRESIAS
Indeed, methinks, I shall not,-as touching thee.

CREON
Know that thou shalt not trade on my resolve.

 

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