John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

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Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 10 of 29)
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Against our fatherland.

As eagle shrieking shrill, 120

1 The action of the drama begins at daybreak, and this hymn is
therefore sung to the sun at its rising.

2 A spring near Thebes.

^ The " warrior" is used collectively for the whole Argive army
under Adrastus that had come to invade Thebes and support the cause
of Polyneices.


He hovered o'er our land,
With snow-white wing bedecked,
Begirt with myriad arms,
And flowing horsehair crests.

Antistrophe I.

He stood above our towers, 125

Encircling, with his spears all blood-bestained,

The portals of our gates ;
. He went, before he filled

His jaws with blood of men,

Ere the pine-fed Hephaestus ^ 130

Had seized our crown of towers.

So loud the battle din
That Ares loves was raised around his rear,
A conflict hard e'en for his dragon foe.^

For breath of haughty speech 135

Zeus hateth evermore ;

And seeing them advance.

With mighty rushing stream.

And clang of golden arms,

With brandished fire he hurls 140

One who rushed eagerly

From topmost battlement

To shout out, " Victory ! "

Strophe II.

Crashing to earth he fell,^

Down-smitten, with his torch, 145

^ The g-od of fire is here used for the element itself.

2 As the Argive army was eompared to the eag-le, so Thebes to the
eagle's great enemy, the serpent. Here, probably, is a reference to
tiie mytkos of the descent of the Thebans from the dragon's teeth
sown by Cadmus.

^ The unnamed leader whose fall is thus singled out for special men-
tion was Capaneus, who bore on his shield the figure of a naked man
brandishing a torch and crying, ' ' I will burn the city."


Who came, with madman's haste,

Drunken, with frenzied soul,

And swept o'er us with blasts,

The whirlwind blasts of hate.

Thus on one side they fare, 150

And Ares great, like war-horse in his strength,

Smiting now here, now there,

Brought each his several fate.
For seven chief warriors at the seven gates met,

Equals with equals matched, 155

To Zeus, the Lord of War,

Left tribute, arms of bronze ;

All but the hateful ones.
Who, from one father and one mother sprung.

Stood wielding, hand to hand, leo

Their two victorious spears,
And had their doom of death as common lot.

Antistrophe II.

But now, since Victory,

Of mightiest name, hath come

To Thebes, of chariots proud, les

Joying and giving joy.

After these wars just past,

Learn ye forgetfulness,
And all night long, with dance and voice of hymns.

Let us go round in state no

To all the shrines of Gods,
While Bacchus, making Thebes resound with dance.

Begins the strain of joy.

But, lo ! our country's king,

Creon, Menoekeus' son, 175

New ruler, by new change,

And providence of God,


Comes to us, steering on some new device ;

For, lo ! lie hath convened,

By herald's loud command, isa

This council of the elders of our land.

Enter Creon,

Creon, My friends, for what concerns our common-
The Gods who vexed it with the billowing storms
Have righted it again ; and I have sent,
By special summons, calling you to come 185

Apart from all the others. This, in part,
As knowing ye did all along uphold
The might of Laius' ^ throne ; in part again,
Because when Oedipus our country ruled.
And, when he perished, then towards his sons 190

Ye still were faithful in your steadfast mind.
And since they fell, as by a double death.
Both on the selfsame day with murderous blow,
Smiting and being smitten, now I hold
Their thrones and all their power of sov'reignty 195
By nearness of my kindred to the dead.^
And hard it is to learn what each man is,
In heart and mind and judgment, till he gain
Experience in princedom and in laws.
For me, whoe'er is called to guide a State, 200

And does not catch at counsels wise and good,
But holds his peace through any fear of man,
I deem him basest of all men that are.
And so have deemed long since ; and whosoe'er
As worthier than his country counts his friend, 205

1 The former king" of Thebes, and father of Oedipus.

2 Creon was son of Menoeceus and brother to locasta, the wife
and mother of Oedipus,


I utterly despise him. I myself,

Zeus be my witness, who beholdeth all,

Would not keep silence, seeing danger come,

Instead of safety, to my subjects true.

Nor could I take as friend my country's foe ; 210

For this I know, that there our safety lies.

And sailing while the good ship holds her course,

We gather friends around us. By these. rules

And such as these do I maintain the State.

And now I come, with edicts, close allied 215

To these in spirit, for my citizens.

Concerning those two sons of Oedipus ;

Eteocles, who died in deeds of might

Illustrious, fighting for our fatherland.

To honor him with sepulture, all rites 220

Duly performed that to the noblest dead

Of right belong. Not so his brother ; him

I speak of, Polyneices, who, returned

From exile, sought with fire to desolate

His father's city and the shrines of Gods, 225

Yea, sought to glut his rage with blood of men,

And lead them captives to the bondslave's doom ;

Him I decree that none shall dare entomb.

That none shall utter wail or loud lament.

But leave his corpse unburied, by the dogs 230

And vultures mangled, foul to look upon.

Such is my purpose. Ne'er, if I can help.

Shall the vile have more honor than the just ;

But whoso shows himself my country's friend,

Living or dead, from me shall honor gain. 235

Chorus. This is thy pleasure, O Menoekeus' son.
For him who hated, him who loved our State ;
And thou hast power to make what laws thou wilt,
Both for the dead and all of us who live.


Creon. Be ye then guardians of the things I
speak. 240

Chorus. Commit this task to one of younger years.

Creon. Nay, watchmen are appointed for the corpse.

Chorus. What other task then dost thou lay on us ?

Creon. Not to consent with those that disobey.

Chorus. None are so foolish as to seek for death. 245

Creon. Yet that shall be the doom ; but love of
Hath oft with false hopes lured men to their death.

Enter Guard.

Guard. I will not say, O king, that I have come
Panting with speed, and plying nimble feet,
For I had many halting-points of thought, 25c

Backwards and forwards turning, round and round :
For now my mind would give me sage advice ;
" Poor wretch, why go where thou must bear the blame ?
Or wilt thou tarry, fool ? Shall Creon know
These things from others? How wilt thou 'scape
grief ? " 255

Revolving thus, I came in haste, yet slow.
And thus a short way finds itself prolonged ;
But, last of all, to come to thee prevailed.
And though I tell of nought, yet I will speak ;
For this one hope I cling to, might and main, 260

That I shall suffer nought but destiny.

Creon. What is it then that causes such dismay?

Guard. First, for mine own share in it, this I say,
The deed I did not, do not know who did,
Nor should I rightly come to ill for it. 265

Creon. Thou feel'st thy way and f encest up thy deed
All round and round. 'T would seem thou hast some


Guard. Yea, news of fear engenders long delay.

Creon. Wilt thou not speak, and then depart in
peace ?

Guard. Well, speak I will. The corpse . . . Some
one has been 270

But now and buried it, a little dust
O'er the skin scattering, with the wonted rites.^

Creon. What say'st thou ? What man dared this
deed of guilt?

Guard. I know not. Neither was there stroke of
Nor earth cast up by mattock. All the soil 275

Was dry and hard, no track of chariot wheel ;
But he who did it went and left no sign.
And when the first day-watchman showed it us,
The sight caused wonder and sore grief to all ;
For he had disappeared : no tomb indeed 280

Was over him, but dust all lightly strown,
As by some hand that shunned defiling guilt ;
And no sign was there of wild beast or dog
Having come and torn him. Evil words arose
Among us, guard to guard imputing blame, 285

Which might have come to blows, and none was there
To check its course, for each to each appeared
The man whose hand had done it. Yet not one
Had it brought home, but each disclaimed all know-
ledge ;
And we were ready in our hands to take 290

Bars of hot iron, and to walk through fire,
And call the Gods to witness none of us
Were privy to his schemes who planned the deed,
Nor his who wrought it. Then at last, when nought

1 It was the rite of burial, not the actual interment, that was all-
important to the Greek mind.


Was gained by all our searching, some one speaks, 295

Who made us bend our gaze upon the ground

In fear and trembling ; for we neither saw

How to oppose it, nor, accepting it.

How we might prosper in it. And his speech

Was this, that all our tale should go to thee, 300

Not hushed up anywise. This gained the day ;

And me, ill-starred, the lot condemns to win

This precious prize. So here I come to thee

Against my will ; and surely do I trow

Thou dost not wish to see me. Still 'tis true 305

That no man loves the messenger of ill.

Chorus. For me, my prince, my mind some time
has thought
If this perchance has some divine intent.

Creon. Cease then, before thou fillest me with
Lest thou be found, though full of years, a fool. 310
For what thou say'st is most intolerable,
That for this corpse the providence of Gods
Has any care. What ! have they buried him,
As to their patron paying honors high.
Who came to waste their columned shrines with
fire, 315

To desecrate their offerings and their lands.
And all their wonted customs ? Dost thou see
The Gods approving men of evil deeds ?
It is not so ; but men of rebel mood.
Lifting their head in secret long ago, 320

Still murmured thus against me. Never yet
Had they their neck beneath the yoke, content
To bear it with submission. They, I know,
Have bribed these men to let the deed be done.
No thing in use by man, for power of ill, 325


Can equal money. This lays cities low,

This drives men forth from quiet dwelling-place,

This warps and changes minds of worthiest stamp,

To turn to deeds of baseness, teaching men

All shifts of cunning, and to know the guilt 330

Of every impious deed. But they who, hired,

Have wrought this crime, have laboured to their cost,

Or soon or late to pay the penalty.

But if Zeus still claims any awe from me,

Know this, and with an oath I tell it thee, 335

Unless ye find the very man whose hand

Has wrought this burial, and before mine eyes

Present him captive, death shall not suffice,

Till first, hung up still living, ye shall show

The story of this outrage, that henceforth, 340

Knowing what gain is lawful, ye may grasp

At that, and learn it is not meet to love

Gain from all quarters. By base profit won

You will see more destroyed than prospering.

Guard. May I then speak ? Or shall I turn and
go ? 345

Creon. See'st not e'en yet how vexing are thy
words ?

Guard, Is it thine ears they trouble, or thy soul ?

Creon. Why dost thou gauge my trouble where it

Guard. The doer grieves thy heart, but I thine

Creon. Pshaw ! what a babbler, born to prate art

thou ! 350

Guard. May be ; yet I this deed, at least, did not.
Creon. Yes, and for money ; selling e'en thy soul.
Guard. Ah me I

How dire it is, in thinking, false to think !



Creon, Prate about thinking : but unless ye show
To me the doers, ye shall say ere long 355

That scoundrel gains still work their punishment.

Guard, God send we find him! Should we find
him not,
As well may be, (for this must chance decide,)
You will not see me coming here again ;
For now, being safe beyond all hope of mine, seo

Beyond all thought, I owe the Gods much thanks.

Strophe I.

Chorus. Many the forms of life,

Wondrous and strange to see,

But nought than man appears

More wondrous and more strange. 365

He, with the wintry gales,

O'er the white foaming sea,

'Mid wild waves surging round,

Wendeth his way across :
Earth, of all Gods, from ancient days the first, 370

Unworn and undecayed.
He, with his ploughs that travel o'er and o'er,

Furrowing with horse and mule,

Wears ever year by year.

Antistrophe I.
The thoughtless tribe of birds, 375

The beasts that roam the fields,
The brood in sea-depths born,
He takes them all in nets
Knotted in snaring mesh,

Man, wonderful in skill. sso

And by his subtle arts
He holds in sway the beasts



That roam tlie fields, or tread the mountain's
height ;

And brings the binding yoke
Upon the neck of horse with shaggy mane, 385

Or bull on mountain crest,

Untamable in strength.

Strophe II.

And speech, and thought as swift as wind.
And tempered mood for higher life of states.

These he has learnt, and how to flee 390

Or the clear cold of frost unkind,

Or darts of storm and shower,
Man all-providing. Unprovided, he
Meeteth no chance the coming days may bring ;

Only from Hades, still 395

He fails to find escape.
Though skill of art may teach him how to flee
From depths of fell disease incurable.

Antistrophe II.

So, gifted with a wondrous might,
Above all fancy's dreams, with skill to plan, 400

Now unto evil, now to good.

He turns. While holding fast the laws,

His country's sacred rights.
That rest upon the oath of Gods on high.
High in the State : an outlaw from the State, 405

When loving, in his pride.

The thing that is not good ;
Ne'er may he share my hearth, nor yet my thoughts.
Who worketh deeds of evil like to this.

Enter Guards bringing in Antigone.
to this portent which the Gods have sent, 410


I stand in doubt. Can I, who know her, say
That this is not the maid Antigone ?

wretched one of wretched father born,
Thou child of Oedipus,

What means this ? Surely 't is not that they bring 415
Thee as a rebel 'gainst the king's decree.
And taken in the folly of thine act?

Guard. Yes ! She it was by whom the deed was
We found her burying. Where is Creon, pray ? 419
Chorus. Back from his palace comes he just in time.

Enter Creon.
Creon. What chance is this, with which my coming

Guard. Men, O my king, should pledge themselves
to nought ;
For cool reflection makes their purpose void.

1 surely thought I should be slow to come here,
Cowed by thy threats, which then fell thick on me ; 425
But now persuaded by the sweet delight

Which comes unlooked for, and beyond our hopes,
I come, although I swore the contrary.
Bringing this maiden, whom in act we found
Decking the grave. No need for lots was now ; 430
The prize was mine, and not another man's.
And now, O king, take her, and as thou wilt.
Judge and convict her. I can claim a right
To wash my hands of all this troublous coil.

Creon. How and where was it that ye seized and

brought her ? 435

Guard. She was in act of burying. Thou knowest

Creon. Dost know and rightly speak the tale thou
tell'st ?


Guard. I saw her burying that self-same corpse
Thou bad'st us not to bury. Speak I clear ? 439

Creon. How was she seen, and taken in the act ?

Guard. The matter passed as follows : — When we
With all those dreadful threats of thine upon us,
Sweeping away the dust which, lightly spread,
Covered the corpse, and laying stript and bare
The tainted carcase, on the hill we sat 445

To windward, shunning the infected air,
Each stirring up his fellow with strong words,
If any shirked his duty. This went on
Some time, until the glowing orb of day
Stood in mid-heaven, and the scorching heat 450

Fell on us. Then a sudden whirlwind rose,
A scourge from heaven, raising squalls on earth,
And filled the plain, the leafage stripping bare
Of all the forest, and the air's vast space
Was thick and troubled, and we closed our eyes, 455
Until the plague the Gods had sent was past ;
And when it ceased, a weary time being gone,
The girl is seen, and with a bitter cry.
Shrill as a bird's, when it beholds its nest
All emptied of its infant brood, she wails ; 460

Thus she, when she beholds the corpse all stript,
Groaned loud with many moanings, and she called
Fierce curses down on those who did the deed.
And in her hand she brings some fine, dry dust.
And from a vase of bronze, well wrought, upraised.
She pours the three libations o'er the dead.^ 466

And we, beholding, give her chase forthwith,

1 The three libations were sometimes separately of wine, milk, and
honey. Here the narrative implies that Antigone had only one urn,
but adhered to the sacred number in her act of pouring-.


And run her down, nought terrified at us.

And then we charged her with the former deed,

As well as this. And nothing she denied. 470

But this to me both bitter is and sweet.

For to escape one's self from ill is sweet,

But to bring friends to trouble, this is hard

And painful. Yet my nature bids me count

Above all these things safety for myself. 475

Creon, \_To Antigone.] Thou, then — yes, thou,
who bend'st thy face to earth —
Confessest thou, or dost deny the deed ?

Antigone. I own I did it, and will not deny.

Creon, \_To Guard.] Go thou thy way, where'er thy
will may choose,
Freed from a weighty charge. {Exit Guard.

\_To Antigone.] And now for thee. 480

Say in few words, not lengthening out thy speech,
Knew'st thou the edicts which forbade these things ?

Antigone. I knew them. Could I fail ? Full clear
were they.

Creon. And thou didst dare to disobey these laws ?

Antigone. Yes, for it was not Zeus who gave them
forth, 485

Nor Justice, dwelling with the Gods below.
Who traced these laws for all the sons of men ;
Nor did I deem thy edicts strong enough,
That thou, a mortal man, shouldst overpass
The unwritten laws of God that know not change. 490
They are not of to-day nor yesterday.
But live forever, nor can man assign
When first they sprang to being. Not through fear
Of any man's resolve was I prepared
Before the Gods to bear the penalty 49f

Of sinning against these. That I should die


I knew (how should I not?), though thy decree

Had never spoken. And, before my time

If I shall die, I reckon this a gain ;

For whoso lives, as I, in many woes, 500

How can it be but he shall gain by death ?

And so for me to bear this doom of thine

Has nothing painful. But, if I had left

My mother's son unburied on his death,

In that I should have suffered ; but in this 505

I suffer not. And should I seem to thee

To do a foolish deed, 't is simply this, —

I bear the charge of folly from a fool.

Chorus. The maiden's stubborn will, of stubborn sire
The offspring shows itself. She knows not yet 510

To yield to evils.

Creon. Know then, minds too stiff

Most often stumble, and the rigid steel
Baked in the furnace, made exceeding hard,
Thou seest most often split and shivered lie ;
And I have known the steeds of fiery mood 515

With a small curb subdued. It is not meet
That one who lives in bondage to his neighbors
Should think too proudly. Wanton outrage then
This girl first learnt, transgressing these my laws ;
But this, when she has done it, is again 520

A second outrage, over it to boast,
And laugh as having done it. Surely, then,
She is the man, not I, if, all unscathed.
Such deeds of might are hers. But be she child
Of mine own sister, or of one more near 525

Than all the kith and kin of Household Zeus,
She and her sister shall not 'scape a doom
Most foul and shameful ; for I charge her, too,
With having planned this deed of sepulture.


Go ye and call her. 'T was but now within 530

I saw her raving, losing self-command.

And still the mind of those who in the dark

Plan deeds of evil is the first to fail,

And so convicts itself of secret guilt.

But most I hate when one found out in guilt 535

Will seek to gloze and brave it to the end.

Antigone. And dost thou seek aught else beyond
my death?

Creon. Nought else for me. That gaining, I gain

Antigone. Why then delay ? Of all thy words not
Pleases me now (and may it never please ! ), 540

And so all mine must grate upon thine ears.
And yet how could I higher glory gain
Than placing my true brother in his tomb ?
There is not one of these but would confess
It pleases them, did fear not seal their lips. 545

The tyrant's might in much besides excels,
And it may do and say whate'er it will.

Creon. Of all the race of Cadmus thou alone
Look'st thus upon the deed.

Antigone. They see it too

As I do, but their tongue is tied for thee.


Creon. Art not ashamed against their thoughts to
think ?

Antigone. There is nought base in honoring our
own blood.

Creon. And was he not thy kin who fought against

Antigone. Yea, brother, of one father and one mo-

Creon. Why then give honor which dishonors
him? 555


Antigone. The dead below will not repeat tliy words.
Creon. Yes, if thou give like honor to the godless.
Antigone. It was his brother, not his slave that died.
Creon. Wasting this land, while he died fighting

for it.
Antigone. Yet Hades still craves equal rites for all.
Creon. The good craves not the portion of the

bad. 561

Antigone. Who knows if this be holy deemed below ?
Creon. Not even when he dies can foe be friend.
Antigone. My nature leads to sharing love, not hate.
Creon. Go then below; and if thou must have

love, 565

Love them. While I live, women shall not rule.

Enter Ismene, led in by Attendants.

Chorus. And, lo ! Ismene at the gate
Comes shedding tears of sisterly regard,
And o'er her brow a gathering cloud

Mars the deep roseate blush, 570

Bedewing her fair cheek.
Creon. [To Ismene.] And thou who, creeping as a
viper creeps.
Didst drain my life in secret, and I knew not
That I was rearing two accursed ones,
Subverters of my throne, — come, tell me, then, 575
Wilt thou confess thou took'st thy part in this,
Or wilt thou swear thou didst not know of it ?

Ismene. I did the deed, if she did, go with her.
Yea, share the guilt, and bear an equal blame.

Antigone. Nay, justice will not suffer this, for thou
Didst not consent, nor did I let thee join. 58i

Ismene. Nay, in thy troubles, I am not ashamed
In the same boat with thee to share thy fate.


Antigone. Who did it, Hades knows, and those
below :
I do not love a friend who loves in words. 585

Ismene. Do not, my sister, put me to such shame,
As not to let me join in death with thee.
And so to pay due reverence to the dead.

Antigone. Share not my death, nor make thine

own this deed

Thou hadst no hand in. My death shall suffice. 590

Ismene. What life to me is sweet, bereaved of thee ?

Antigone. Ask Creon there, since thou o'er him dost

Ismene. Why vex me so, in nothing bettered by it ?
Antigone. 'T is pain indeed, to laugh my laugh at
thee. 594

Ismene. But now, at least, how may I profit thee ?
Antigone. Save thou thyself. I grudge not thy

Ismene. Ah, woe is me ! and must I miss thy fate ?
Antigone. Thou mad'st thy choice to live, and I to

Ismene. 'T was not because I failed to speak my

Antigone. To these didst thou, to those did I seem
wise. 600

Ismene. And yet the offence is equal in us both.
Antigone. Take courage. Thou dost live. My soul
long since
Hath died to render service to the dead.

Creon. Of these two girls the one goes mad but now,
The other ever since her life began. eos

Ismene. E'en so, O king ; no mind that ever lived
Stands firm in evil days, but goes astray.

Creon. Thine did, when, with the vile, vile deeds
thou chosest.


Ismene. How could I live without her presence

here ?
Creon. Speak not of presence. She is here no
more. eio

Ismene. And wilt thou slay thy son's betrothed
, bride ?

V Creon. Full many a field there is which he may
Ismene. None like that plighted troth 'twixt him

and her.

Creon. Wives that are vile I love not for my sons.

Ismene. Ah, dearest Haemon, how thy father

shames thee ! eis

Creon. Thou with that marriage dost but vex my

Chorus. And wilt thou rob thy son of her he loved ?
Creon. 'T is Death, not I, shall break the marriage

Chorus. Her doom is fixed, it seems, then. She

must die.
Creon. Fixed, yes, by me and thee. No more
delay, 620

Lead them within, ye slaves. These must be kept
Henceforth as women, suffered not to roam;
For even boldest natures shrink in fear
^ When they see Hades overshadowing life.

[Exeunt Guards with Antigone and Ismene.

hi Strophe I.

Pyv^ Chorus. Blessed are those whose life no woe doth

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 10 of 29)