Antigone (1 of 16)
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translated by Lewis Campbell
ANTIGONE,ISMENE _Daughters of Oedipus and Sisters of Polynices and Eteocles._
CHORUS _of Theban Elders._
CREON, _King of Thebes._
HAEMON, _Son of Creon, betrothed to Antigone._
TIRESIAS, _the blind Prophet._
EURYDICE, _the Wife of Creon._
SCENE. Before the Cadmean Palace at Thebes.
ANTIGONE. Own sister of my blood, one life with me,
Ismene, have the tidings caught thine ear?
Say, hath not Heaven decreed to execute
On thee and me, while yet we are alive,
All the evil Oedipus bequeathed? All horror,
All pain, all outrage, falls on us! And now
The General's proclamation of to-day--
Hast thou not heard?--Art thou so slow to hear
When harm from foes threatens the souls we love?
ISMENE. No word of those we love, Antigone,
Painful or glad, hath reached me, since we two
Were utterly deprived of our two brothers,
Cut off with mutual stroke, both in one day.
And since the Argive host this now-past night
Is vanished, I know nought beside to make me
Nearer to happiness or more in woe.
ANTIGONE. I knew it well, and therefore led thee forth
The palace gate, that thou alone mightst hear.
ISMENE. Speak on! Thy troubled look bodes some dark news.
ANTIGONE. Why, hath not Creon, in the burial-rite,
Of our two brethren honoured one, and wrought
On one foul wrong? Eteocles, they tell,
With lawful consecration he lays out,
And after covers him in earth, adorned
With amplest honours in the world below.
But Polynices, miserably slain,
They say 'tis publicly proclaimed that none
Must cover in a grave, nor mourn for him;
But leave him tombless and unwept, a store
Of sweet provision for the carrion fowl
That eye him greedily. Such righteous law
Good Creon hath pronounced for thy behoof--
Ay, and for mine! I am not left out!--And now
He moves this way to promulgate his will
To such as have not heard, nor lightly holds
The thing he bids, but, whoso disobeys,
The citizens shall stone him to the death.
This is the matter, and thou wilt quickly show
If thou art noble, or fallen below thy birth.
ISMENE. Unhappy one! But what can I herein
Avail to do or undo?
ANTIGONE. Wilt thou share
The danger and the labour? Make thy choice.
ISMENE. Of what wild enterprise? What canst thou mean?
ANTIGONE. Wilt thou join hand with mine to lift the dead?
ISMENE. To bury him, when all have been forbidden?
Is that thy thought?
ANTIGONE. To bury my own brother
And thine, even though thou wilt not do thy part.
I will not be a traitress to my kin.
ISMENE. Fool-hardy girl! against the word of Creon?
ANTIGONE. He hath no right to bar me from mine own.
ISMENE. Ah, sister, think but how our father fell,
Hated of all and lost to fair renown,
Through self-detected crimes--with his own hand,
Self-wreaking, how he dashed out both his eyes:
Then how the mother-wife, sad two-fold name!
With twisted halter bruised her life away,
Last, how in one dire moment our two brothers
With internecine conflict at a blow
Wrought out by fratricide their mutual doom.
Now, left alone, O think how beyond all
Most piteously we twain shall be destroyed,
If in defiance of authority
We traverse the commandment of the King!
We needs must bear in mind we are but women,
Never created to contend with men;
Nay more, made victims of resistless power,
To obey behests more harsh than this to-day.
I, then, imploring those beneath to grant
Indulgence, seeing I am enforced in this,
Will yield submission to the powers that rule,
Small wisdom were it to overpass the bound.
ANTIGONE. I will not urge you! no! nor if now you list
To help me, will your help afford me joy.
Be what you choose to be! This single hand
Shall bury our lost brother. Glorious
For me to take this labour and to die!
Dear to him will my soul be as we rest
In death, when I have dared this holy crime.
My time for pleasing men will soon be over;
Not so my duty toward the Dead! My home
Yonder will have no end. You, if you will,
May pour contempt on laws revered on High.
ISMENE. Not from irreverence. But I have no strength
To strive against the citizens' resolve.
ANTIGONE. Thou, make excuses! I will go my way
To raise a burial-mound to my dear brother.
ISMENE. Oh, hapless maiden, how I fear for thee!
ANTIGONE. Waste not your fears on me! Guide your own fortune.
ISMENE. Ah! yet divulge thine enterprise to none,
But keep the secret close, and so will I.
ANTIGONE. O Heavens! Nay, tell! I hate your silence worse;
I had rather you proclaimed it to the world.
ISMENE. You are ardent in a chilling enterprise.
ANTIGONE. I know that I please those whom I would please.
ISMENE. Yes, if you thrive; but your desire is bootless.
ANTIGONE. Well, when I fail I shall be stopt, I trow!
ISMENE. One should not start upon a hopeless quest.
ANTIGONE. Speak in that vein if you would earn my hate
And aye be hated of our lost one. Peace!
Leave my unwisdom to endure this peril;
Fate cannot rob me of a noble death.
ISMENE. Go, if you must--Not to be checked in folly,
But sure unparalleled in faithful love! [_Exeunt_