Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources

Page: 73

[Pg 128] "And how wilt thou deal with the other?"

"There is a desolate place, and there I will shut her up alive in a sepulchre; yet giving her so much of food as shall quit us of guilt in the matter, for I would not have the city defiled. There let her persuade Death, whom she loveth so much, that he harm her not."

So the guards led Antigone away to shut her up alive in the sepulchre. But scarcely had they departed when there came an old prophet Tiresias, seeking the king. Blind he was, so that a boy led him by the hand; but the gods had given him to see things to come.

And when the king saw him he asked:

"What seekest thou, wisest of men?"

Then the prophet answered:

"Hearken, O King, and I will tell thee. I sat in my seat, after my custom, in the place whither all manner of birds resort. And as I sat I heard a cry of birds that I knew not, very strange and full of wrath. And I knew that they tare and slew each other, for I heard the fierce flapping of their wings. And being afraid, I made inquiry about the fire, how it burned upon the altars. And this boy, for as I am a guide to others so he guideth me, told me that it shone not at all, but smouldered and was dull, and that the flesh which was burnt upon the altar spluttered in the flame and wasted away into corruption and filthiness. And now I tell thee, O King, that the city is troubled by thy ill counsels. For the dogs and the birds of the air tear the flesh of this dead son of Œdipus, whom thou sufferest not to have due burial, and carry it to the altars, polluting them therewith. Wherefore the gods receive not from us prayer or sacrifice, and the cry of the birds hath an evil sound, for they are full of the flesh of a man. Therefore I bid thee be wise in time. For all men may err; but he that keepeth not his folly, but repenteth, doeth well; but stubbornness cometh to great trouble."

[Pg 129] Then the king answered:

"Old man, I know the race of prophets full well, how ye sell your art for gold. But make thy trade as thou wilt, this man shall not have burial; yea, though the eagles of Zeus carry his flesh to their master's throne in heaven, he shall not have it."

And when the prophet spake again, entreating him and warning, the king answered him after the same fashion, that he spake not honestly, but had sold his art for money.

But at the last the prophet spake in great wrath, saying:

"Know, O King, that before many days shall pass thou shalt pay a life for a life, even one of thine own children, for them with whom thou hast dealt unrighteously, shutting up the living with the dead and keeping the dead from them to whom they belong. Therefore the Furies lie in wait for thee and thou shalt see whether or no I speak these things for money. For there shall be mourning and lamentation in thine own house, and against thy people shall be stirred up many cities. And now, my child, lead me home and let this man rage against them that are younger than I."

So the prophet departed and the old men were sore afraid and said:

"He hath spoken terrible things, O King; nor ever since these gray hairs were black have we known him say that which was false."

"Even so," said the king, "and I am troubled in heart and yet am loath to depart from my purpose."

"King Creon," said the old men, "thou needest good counsel."

"What, then, would ye have done?"

"Set free the maiden from the sepulchre and give this dead man burial."

Then the king cried to his people that they should bring[Pg 130] bars wherewith to loosen the doors of the sepulchre, and hastened with them to the place. But coming on their way to the body of Prince Polynices, they took it up and washed it, and buried that which remained of it, and raised over the ashes a great mound of earth. And this being done, they drew near to the place of the sepulchre; and as they approached, the king heard within a very piteous voice, and knew it for the voice of his son. Then he bade his attendants loose the door with all speed; and when they had loosed it, they beheld within a very piteous sight. For the maiden Antigone had hanged herself by the girdle of linen which she wore, and the young man Prince Hæmon stood with his arms about her dead body, embracing it. And when the king saw him, he cried to him to come forth; but the prince glared fiercely upon him and answered him not a word, but drew his two-edged sword. Then the king, thinking that his son was minded in his madness to slay him, leapt back, but the prince drove the sword into his own heart and fell forward on the earth, still holding the dead maiden in his arms. And when they brought the tidings of these things to Queen Eurydice, the wife of King Creon and mother to the prince, she could not endure the grief, being thus bereaved of her children, but laid hold of a sword and slew herself therewith.