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Sophocles Index


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ANTIGONE by Sophocles, Part 11


LEADER
What wouldst thou augur from this? The lady hath turned back, and is gone, without a word, good or evil.

MESSENGER
I, too, am startled; yet I nourish the hope that, at these sore tidings of her son, she cannot deign to give her sorrow public vent, but in the privacy of the house will set her handmaids to mourn the household grief. For she is not untaught of discretion, that she should err.

LEADER
I know not; but to me, at least, a strained silence seems to portend peril, no less than vain abundance of lament.

MESSENGER
Well, I will enter the house, and learn whether indeed she is not hiding some repressed purpose in the depths of a passionate heart. Yea, thou sayest well: excess of silence, too, may have a perilous meaning.
The MESSENGER goes into the palace. Enter CREON, on the spectators' left, with attendants, carrying the shrouded body of HAEMON on bier. The following lines between CREON and the CHORUS are chanted responsively.

CHORUS
Lo, yonder the king himself draws near, bearing that which tells too clear a tale,-the work of no stranger's madness,-if we may say it,-but of his own misdeeds.

CREON
strophe 1

Woe for the sins of a darkened soul, stubborn sins, fraught with death! Ah, ye behold us, the sire who hath slain, the son who hath perished! Woe is me, for the wretched blindness of my counsels! Alas, my son, thou hast died in thy youth, by a timeless doom, woe is me!-thy spirit hath fled,-not by thy folly, but by mine own!

CHORUS
strophe 2

Ah me, how all too late thou seemest to see the right!
CREON Ah me, I have learned the bitter lesson! But then, methinks, oh then, some god smote me from above with crushing weight, and hurled me into ways of cruelty, woe is me,-overthrowing and trampling on my joy! Woe, woe, for the troublous toils of men!
Enter MESSENGER from the house.

MESSENGER
Sire, thou hast come, methinks, as one whose hands are not empty, but who hath store laid up besides; thou bearest yonder burden with thee-and thou art soon to look upon the woes within thy house.

CREON
And what worse ill is yet to follow upon ills?

MESSENGER
Thy queen hath died, true mother of yon corpse-ah, hapless lady by blows newly dealt.

CREON
antistrophe 1

Oh Hades, all-receiving whom no sacrifice can appease! Hast thou, then, no mercy for me? O thou Herald of evil, bitter tidings, what word dost thou utter? Alas, I was already as dead, and thou hast smitten me anew! What sayest thou, my son? What is this new message that thou bringest-woe, woe is me!-Of a wife's doom-of slaughter headed on slaughter?

CHORUS
Thou canst behold: 'tis no longer hidden within.
The doors of the palace are opened, and the corpse of EURYDICE is disclosed.

CREON
antistrophe 2

Ah me,-yonder I behold a new, a second woe! What destiny, ah what, can yet await me? I have but now raised my son in my arms,-and there, again, I see a corpse before me! Alas, alas, unhappy mother! Alas, my child!

MESSENGER
There, at the altar, self-stabbed with a keen knife, she suffered her darkening eyes to close, when she had wailed for the noble fate of Megareus who died before, and then for his fate who lies there,-and when, with her last breath, she had invoked evil fortunes upon thee, the slayer of thy sons.

CREON
strophe 3

Woe, woe! I thrill with dread. Is there none to strike me to the heart with two-edged sword?-O miserable that I am, and steeped in miserable anguish!

MESSENGER
Yea, both this son's doom, and that other's, were laid to thy charge by her whose corpse thou seest.

CREON
And what was the manner of the violent deed by which she passed away?

MESSENGER
Her own hand struck her to the heart, when she had learned her son's sorely lamented fate.

CREON
strophe 4

Ah me, this guilt can never be fixed on any other of mortal kind, for my acquittal! I, even I, was thy slayer, wretched that I am-I own the truth. Lead me away, O my servants, lead me hence with all speed, whose life is but as death!

CHORUS
Thy counsels are good, if there can be good with ills; briefest is best, when trouble is in our path.

CREON
antistrophe 3

Oh, let it come, let it appear, that fairest of Fates for me, that brings my last day,-aye, best fate of all! Oh, let it come, that I may never look upon to-morrow's light.

CHORUS
These things are in the future; present tasks claim our care: the ordering of the future rests where it should rest.

CREON
All my desires, at least, were summed in that prayer.

CHORUS
Pray thou no more; for mortals have no escape from destined woe.

CREON
antistrophe 4

Lead me away, I pray you; a rash, foolish man; who have slain thee, ah my son, unwittingly, and thee, too, my wife-unhappy that I am! I know not which way I should bend my gaze, or where I should seek support; for all is amiss with that which is in my hands,-and yonder, again, a crushing fate hath leapt upon my head.
As CREON is being conducted into the palace, the LEADER OF THE CHORUS speaks the closing verses.

LEADER
Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to be wise.


THE END

 

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