William Entriken Baily.

Dramatic poems online

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An understanding of thy womanhood?
Thy variance is oft masculine, oft deep
In method, semblance hiding much, I am
Half loath to call thee sister. Why to me
Be not a twin in fundamental love.
In mental concourse one, obscuring naught
Thus bound? Apprising thee so prone, my words
Are on my lips ere time takes time to form
Them into syllables, and ere I know



106 DBAMATIC FOEMS.

What 's said 't is said. I can not hold account
Of what I feel or think or do from thee devoid
Of those sensations which rebuke with such
A force regret is mine. But thou art swayed
With such conditions 't is a mystery
To solve that we are kindred of one bed,
Save by an instinct faintly knowing each
As brute knows brute.

Is. Sister, no more!

Thou art unjust in judging traits of mine.
I know not how it is; but confidence
Withheld is modesty discreet, or tone
Of manhood curbing woman's mouth, or ill
Within the blood of candid words afraid.
As thou, I am in dark about the matter.

An. Is felt w^hat thou dost say is so: a cloud
Doth settle o'er me, keeping indistinct
Much that I, curious, would perceive. Although
Too close in speech, reserved to give where well
Thy secrets not, yet blameless thou. Still there 's
Within thee, counterpoising to my wish,
Some quality that on occasions thoughts
Evoke, admiring faintly, drooping soon;
At others, selfish censure that this wish
Would have thee hear for penalty: in this
I go below myself, in that above; in both,
A medium false, discerning I not clearly.
Oh, could we mortals eke our day's scant light,
What virtues would adorn its sentiments!

7s. Pause, sister, pause! Without this area gaze.



THE DAUGHTEBS OF (EDIPUS. 107

Who 's 3'onder coming scanning all around?
Nearchus! Seems his shadow him before
Advances, dragging him behind. As wont,
He mutters 'tween his teeth. Hq sees us not.
Let us retire within the peristj^le.

An. Ah, no! I would not have myself confess
Thus so a cowardice to consciousness.
That would, despite the faults it bears, sustain
Not this. Let us confront him with a look
Of houor, aid to innocence, if so
We can. . . . He turns to us. I would not fear,
Yet fearing thrills. He is the king's own spy,
Tigerish. Comes he! Sister, lend thy arm
To bend, supporting me, around the waist.
He nearsi Let 's turn away; my breath is short.

Is. No, no! let us retain our ground. Now hap
What will, we must the worst with strength repel,
Forsaking not the best some end to gain.
The gods behold, with whom resides our weal,
Dividing it for those here disappointed.

Enter Nearchus.

JYe. Ye trembling aspens, what a scene presenting!
Ah, well! . . . The king, Antigone, in wrath
Hath spoken, intercessors vain. Many
From him in apprehension turn. Accuse
Thee others, saying thou at night hast sinned
In giving forms of burial to the one.
Who' traitor to his country, was outlawed.



108 DBAMATIC POEMS.

Kow, what misfortune thine! What grief for it!

The king, in terms repeated, hoarse, declares

Aversion for the heirs of (Edipus,

Anathemas succeeding as he hears

The late injunction violated is.

Oh, say thou guiltless art, and thus relieve

Suspense that hangs mist-like about all Thebes!

An. The deed was mine. A sister's right impelled
To wish a brother's bones immunity
To have from fowls devouring flesh therefrom;
His spirit gifted, loved so well by many,
To enter Pluto's bounds, arrested not
By Styx, the Fields Elysian to extend
To it their welcome. Well reflected I
On what was due to him, on what was due
To Creon; weighing these confused, was chosen
The firmness of my love for leadership.
That held obedient every faculty
Of grosser nature to accomplish this
You censure so. The consequence was known.
And knowledge half prepared my fortitude
To aim at no evasion power provokes —
To die if need be. Having for reward
The joy of doing well, joy 's conqueror.

Ne. To such would further listen not my ears.
Would eyes behold thee friendly to the state,
Its pillar clothing as an ivy thou!

Is. I, too, am guilty, scorning the impulse
That lurks within, suggesting phrases veiled,
That would aught hide, insidious to avert



THE DAUGHTERS OF (EDIPUS. 109

The blame; the ostracism; the penalty

Most stern imposed by judgment's seat. To her

A relative I am; together Ave

As children played; we are as women bound

By ties so mutual they most precious are

Unto ourselves. I knew beforehand what

Was her intent, inclined to yield as is

Her wont to mercy's call. I sympathized

With her in part; yet failed I her to hinder

In the accomplishment. Ismene thus

Is guilty, wishing thus to stand with her.

iVe. Thou, too, false subject to authority!

Is. Yes, let our uncle, Creon, hear it so.

JVe. Ah, well! I, messenger, to give to him
Who circumspect implored, forbidding me
Awhile with accusation none to join! . . .
Having well-wishes in respect to you.
His nieces, he especial for your sake
Won praise from those, your opponents, who were
Most quick to cast suspicion on j'our backs.
Then still he favored you when rumor came
More pointedly arraigning you, with proof
So positive it made him tremble — cheeks
Both pale, eyes both uneasy. Came anon,
Assailing him, his wish to hear them not.
Such words, such phrases and such sentences
Concerning you as chafing him he burst
With passion, full persuaded that the truth
Alone you charged exactly. Thus from him
I came, and found you here, O guilty pair!



110 DRAMATIC POEMS.

An. Return to him and say Antigone
Will yield to the outcome, yet with assent
Seeing no law. At first she wept to think
Creon's decree to break; but having it
Once broken, so enforced with faith that what
She did is right, above the awe of kings,
With better purpose proud she stands. . . . Alone
I am in this, and she, my sister here.
Is innocent; return and tell him so.

Ke. Antigone, have pity! Bid me take
That thou as she art innocent, a task
Much lighter! Trifling is the falsehood.
Thy guilt, a heavy load, must cause remorse
More grief than falsehood aiming for thy weal.
A life's own fortune lies within thy mouth;
A whisper is enough. Dost understand?
Then utter it, oblivious not of friends
Who wait in doubt and anxious for thy safety.

An, No, no! in fear of gods, my thoughts not less.

iVe. Still pity me, for go I unto one
Who, inexorable, is rash to act.
Compassion crushing, fiery in revenge.
His end attaining by the surest course!

Exit Nearchus.

Is. Alack, alack! Impressions come that make
So dizzy now the brain things are amiss.
Aught inimical now influence would,
Turning virtue's motive out of doors! . , .



THE BAVGHTEBS OF (EDIPUS. Ill

Eecede let us to some near place retired;
There let us sit, assuaging senses all.
Something may yet be done us from to loose
The fatal tangle making to involve
Our lives, to perish by degrees. . . . Oh, thou
Hast been bewildered from thy better self
By a false deity, hell-born, profane,
Thy frailty to mislead, apart to act
Against prerogatives of innocence!

An. Be not afflicted. Thy true self, away
From thee, will come again. Remember, fear
Is at the heart where courage was before;
Thou didst inspire me with it now not more
Than half an hour. I feel -its tone as yet
Dilating as harp-sounds the drooping head.
Oh, what half phantoms we as women are!
We are embodied in too false a mould,
That, not all ours, or fickle, rash or wise
Makes us, the sum oft small, the kind oft poor.

Is. Oh, this is not a time for utterance!
I want to be alone. Oh, go awhile
Away! A heavy sickness by the heart
Thy presence aggravates, disdaining thoughts
Of duty that would fortify the will.
In sympathy with thee, to be more strong.

An. I go. . . . Eesolve, my master be. I turn
From tribulations of life's day to calm
Of death's near night. . . . O flesh, dim servitor!
Thy mission done, sink in oblivion's flood;
Thou art of earth — mere dust. . . . O soul, adored!



112 BBAMATIG POEMS.

Be now my all, supreme; with speed direct
Me from where flesh is now to where 't is well,
Salvation there, its presence serving, bowed
Before the humble. . . . Nerves, be strong! I would
Not quaver now in what intent conceives,
Lest shame might conscience burn, and form
On it a scar forevermore. . . . Thus, thus! —
Fare thee well, sister, fairest Ismene! —
Whilst dauntless is the mood I must be going.

Exit Antigone.

Is. What can she mean? The figures of her speech
Abstruse! But that her custom is, impulse,
Doth bear her forth. A heart of dove, a wing
Of eagle, too, both hers! Still in her features
There something was unusual e'en for her.
My words may have offended her; if so,
Herself restored to love will come again
And smile on me. . . . This head doth ache and ache.
What drowsy numbness this that lulls my tongue?
'T is well she 's hence, repose a panacea.

Enter Nearchus and Officeks.

Ne. Ismene, what appearance this! Upon
Thy cheek a snow-white pallor is. This day's
Sad business, unsettling to strong men.
Hath called for austere bearing of ourselves;
But thou, one delicate, succumbing now,



THE DAUGHTEBS OF (EDIPUS. 113

With firmness gone, art proof, indeed, of what
The struggle costs. Condolence bends to thee;
It would not, futile, tender what it hath
To aid distress. Withal, it would not go
Too far; it hath intelligence it shrinks
To tell. The torrent of the times brings down
Disasters on proud heads. Impious thought,
Though sufTring moves to it, dares not reproach
The gods, for evils are their plagues men due.
Let patience be the gospel then of mortals —
Mortals that blend as mist in ether high
With immortality, Time's province fairest!
This good should be the chief to instigate
Our progress through the moments trying us. . . .
Thy sister, Ismene, hath more than erred;
Her trespass Creon rouses more and more —
A lion rampant he. These officers
Standing hard by he sent with mandate clothed
According to his wish. Dost know the rest? . . .
Thy sister, where is she?

Is. I do not know.

Just ere you came she left. She here will be
Anon. She 's much disturbed, and wanders to
And fro. Her hair disheveled fell adown
The back; her garments loose the zephyrs seized
As if in wantonness. Two passers-by
Did look on her with sorrow joined to awe,
Shaking their he^ds as they moved off. I should
Have gone with her. He mien bewildered so,
8-n



114 BBAMATIG POEMS,

A chain it is that to itself may link

(So heavy now with weight accrued!) more harm.

But here I am, and she aloof. She here,

There I should be. She should be Ismene,

And I Antigone; for grievance drugs

Me so the worst I would have happen me,

Not her.

JVe. Which way went she?

Is, I think without

The city's walls toward yon cypress grove.

JVe. Officers, thither go; if her you find,
A prisoner of state with her return.

Exeunt Officers.

Is. How cruel is the king! Yet you are kind;
For you would hide what he determined has.

^e. In self-esteem find courage to assist.

Is. To know the terms precise he has imposed
The ear just now to listen would recoil.

Ne. Still know, prophetic shadows hover near.

Is. As fears the bud the frost, so hope fears them,
Chilling the ardor of warm maidenhood.

Ne. Take time awhile assuaging fear aroused.

Is. What 's best, that would, were mercy's news
Vouchsafed, be bright, dispelling vapors thick
Which rise, enshrouding from occurrences;
That would awhile, surmising, fain believe
That all is well, and what is present past.
Making the future golden, promising.



THE DAUGHTERS OF (EDIPUS. 115

Yet 't is foolishness! — ^jargon! — vagary!

Stands Reality before with mantle dire,

Material as the flesh in which breath is,

We facing where, ere long there, i^erish all. . . .

Nearchus, then say on! Be foul or fair

The tidings, speak of Antigone's fate.

JVe. The king gives forth she shall alive be cast
Entombed, atoning for her late offense.

Is. Oh, loathsome sentence, from an uncle, too!
To die shut up with perturbations strange!
The mould, the worms each vital moment seizing!

JVe. I would friend's comfort give; my functions bid
A cold performance of command. . . . Behold,
An officer approaching here in haste.
What can this signify?

Enter Officer.

What, ho, man! Where
Is she for whom you have been sent? Foot-speeding,
Such tells of some mishap betiding late.

Offi. She — Antigone — the others guard her form.

JVe. Ho, ho! give voice, and stammer not, its Avords.

Offi. Within the cypress grove, at mouth of cave,
Her body lies, stabbed to the heart. Blood red
Flows on the lily whiteness of her breast.

JVe. Some one has murder done!

Offi. In dexter hand

She clasped the dagger jealous of her life.
And self-infliction helped it to its work.



116 DBAMATIC POEMS.

Ne, Art certain, man, it is Antigone?

0^. Certain! Upon the temple's marble steps,
Ascending she to worship, have I seen
Her frequently, as people nodding said:
There goes Antigone, soon (EcUpus,
Her father blind, to lead. Hoio filial she!
Then on she moved amid a general hush.
Unlike she was to any woman else
In Thebes, so dear to high and low! Now sleeps
That figure (swine it snuffing when we saw
It first) ne'er to awake again.

JVe. Let 's hence.

This work will anger more the king. Thus foiled
His mandate, breed it may annoying hints,
Until his palace with contention sounds.
But go to her at once, then go to him.
Come, come! delay answers effect not well.

Exeunt Nearchus and Officer.

Is. Now, think of it! — so warm of late, now cold!
Her virtues turned to a sad monument!
Oh, would it were not so! . . . Desert me not,
O strength! I would have thee support these limbs
E'en to the green spot where she lies. But how
Is this? Frailty with crippled gait is here
Instead, when I should hasten to her corse —
Ah, there should go all out of breath, and cast
Me down, and weep affliction out. She gone.
My father gone, my brothers gone, and I



THE DAUGHTEBS OF (EDIPUS. 117

Alone — these things possession have. A numb
Sensation steals, as poppy's dreamy fume,
Arousing then depressing efforts made.
That waning would resign. This knot on knot
In woof of present to unweave repels
Less skill than Tate's; but she in distance grim,
For race of CEdipus admonishment.
Is as a thunder-cloud. Then joy is sin
IMien Time atonement for fatality
Invokes, to answer stage by stage unto
The tomb. . . . Antigone, all spectral now,
Thou art so severed from this earth, the loss
Not its, but Ismene's — so much, no gain
From other one existing can restore.
Removing to a bourn, in that reserved
In shadow-land no footstep to invite
Pursuit behind, I would be old more near
To be the path on which, descending now,
Thou art at peace; I would be old, forgot
Youth's weariness, to feel soft tremors come;
The fading day of self into its night
To undulate. . . . But how is this? Oh! Oh!
How sight doth fail! The footsteps halt! I would
Recline somewhere. ^N'ot here. A\Tiere shall I go?
Each sense, how dull! . . . O Antigone, me return!

[She swoons.

THE END.



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Online LibraryWilliam Entriken BailyDramatic poems → online text (page 6 of 6)