Sophocles 498 - 06 92
7 Plays: Antigone, Aias, Oedipus Rex, Elextra, Trachinian Maidens, Philocetes, Oedipus at Colonus
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1 Antigone 278 45.2 37:40.
2 Aias 297 49.2 41.
3 Oedipus Rex 442 55.7 46:25.
4 Electra 395 51.8 43:10.
5 Trachinian Maiden 200 44.3 36:55.
6 Philocetes 403 51.2 42:40.
7 Oedipus at Colonus 521 62.9 52:25.
Page Data
Body Pages 391.4 Time 5:26:10
Chapters 2,536
Pages per chapter .15 :15
1 - Preface
In 1869, having read the Antigone with a pupil who at the time had a passion for the stage, I was led to attempt a metrical version of the _Antigone_, and, by and by, of the Electra and Trachiniae.[1] I had the satisfaction of seeing this last very beautifully produced by an amateur company in Scotland in 1877; when Mrs. Fleeming Jenkin may be said to have 'created' the part of Dêanira. Thus encouraged, I completed the translation of the seven plays, which was published by Kegan Paul in 1883 and again by Murray in 1896. I have now to thank Mr. Murray for consenting to this cheaper issue. The seven extant plays of Sophocles have been variously arranged. In the order most frequently adopted by English editors, the three plays of the Theban cycle, Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus Coloneus, and Antigone, have been placed foremost. In one respect this is obviously convenient, as appearing to present continuously a connected story. But on a closer view, it is in two ways illusory. 1. The Antigone is generally admitted to be, comparatively speaking, an early play, while the Oedipus Coloneus belongs to the dramatist's latest manner; the first Oedipus coming in somewhere between the two. The effect is therefore analogous to that produced on readers of Shakespeare by the habit of placing Henry VI after Henry IV and V. But tragedies and 'histories' or chronicle plays are not _in pari materia_. 2. The error has been aggravated by a loose way of speaking of 'the Theban Trilogy', a term which could only be properly applicable if the three dramas had been produced in the same year. I have therefore now arranged the seven plays in an order corresponding to the most probable dates of their production, viz. Antigone, Aias, King Oedipus, Electra, Trachiniae, Philoctetes, and Oedipus at Colonos. A credible tradition refers the Antigone to 445 B.C. The Aias appears to be not much later--it may even be earlier--than the Antigone. The Philoctetes was produced in 408 B.C., when the poet was considerably over eighty. The Oedipus at Colonos has always been believed to be a composition of Sophocles' old age. It is said to have been produced after his death, though it may have been composed some years earlier. The tragedy of King Oedipus, in which the poet's art attained its maturity, is plausibly assigned to an early year of the Peloponnesian war (say 427 B.C.), the Trachiniae to about 420 B.C. The time of the Electra is doubtful; but Professor Jebb has shown that, on metrical grounds, it should be placed after, rather than before, King Oedipus. Even the English reader, taking the plays as they are grouped in this volume, may be aware of a gradual change of manner, not unlike what is perceptible in passing from Richard II to Macbeth, and from Macbeth to The Winter's Tale or Cymbeline. For although the supposed date of the Antigone was long subsequent to the poet's first tragic victory, the forty years over which the seven plays are spread saw many changes of taste in art and literature. Footnote: 1 _Three Plays of Sophocles:_ Blackwood, 1873.
1 - Preface
PREFATORY NOTE TO THE EDITION OF 1883 I. The Hellenic spirit has been repeatedly characterized as simple Nature-worship. Even the Higher Paganism has been described as 'in other words the purified worship of natural forms.'[1] One might suppose, in reading some modern writers, that the Nymphs and Fauns, the River-Gods and Pan, were at least as prominent in all Greek poetry as Zeus, Apollo, and Athena, or that Apollo was only the sweet singer and not also the prophet of retribution. The fresh and unimpaired enjoyment of the Beautiful is certainly the aspect of ancient life and literature which most attracted the humanists of the sixteenth century, and still most impresses those amongst ourselves who for various reasons desire to point the contrast between Paganism and Judaism. The two great groups of forces vaguely known as the Renaissance and the Revolution have both contributed to this result. Men who were weary of conventionality and of the weight of custom 'heavy as frost and deep almost as life,' have longed for the vision of 'Oread or Dryad glancing through the shade,' or to 'hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.' Meanwhile, that in which the Greeks most resembled us, 'the human heart by which we live,' for the very reason that it lies so near to us, is too apt to be lost from our conception of them. Another cause of this one-sided view is the illusion produced by the contemplation of statuary, together with the unapproachable perfection of form which every relic of Greek antiquity indisputably possesses. But on turning from the forms of Greek art to the substance of Greek literature, we find that Beauty, although everywhere an important element, is by no means the sole or even the chief attribute of the greatest writings, nor is the Hellenic consciousness confined within the life of Nature, unless this term is allowed to comprehend man with all his thoughts and aspirations. It was in this latter sense that Hegel recognized the union of depth with brightness in Greek culture: 'If the first paradise was the paradise of nature, this is the second, the higher paradise of the human spirit, which in its fair naturalness, freedom, depth and brightness here comes forth like a bride out of her chamber. The first wild majesty of the rise of spiritual life in the East is here circumscribed by the dignity of form, and softened into beauty. Its depth shows itself no longer in confusion, obscurity, and inflation, but lies open before us in simple clearness. Its brightness (Heiterkeit) is not a childish play, but covers a sadness which knows the baldness of fate but is not by that knowledge driven out of freedom and measure.' Hegel's Werke, vol. XVI. p. 139 (translated by Prof. Caird). The simplicity of Herodotus, for example, does not exclude far reaching thoughts on the political advantages of liberty, nor such reflections on experience as are implied in the saying of Artabanus, that the transitoriness of human life is the least of its evils. And in what modern writing is more of the wisdom of life condensed than in the History of Thucydides? It is surely more true to say of Greek literature that it contains types of all things human, stamped with the freshness, simplicity, and directness which belong to first impressions, and to the first impressions of genius. Now the 'thoughts and aspirations,' which are nowhere absent from Greek literature, and make a centre of growing warmth and light in its Periclean period--when the conception of human nature for the first time takes definite shape--have no less of Religion in them than underlay the 'creed outworn'. To think otherwise would be an error of the same kind as that 'abuse of the word Atheism' against which the author of the work above alluded to protests so forcibly. Religion, in the sense here indicated, is the mainspring and vital principle of Tragedy. The efforts of Aeschylus and Sophocles were sustained by it, and its inevitable decay through the scepticism which preceded Socrates was the chief hindrance to the tragic genius of Euripides. Yet the inequality of which we have consequently to complain in him is redeemed by pregnant hints of something yet 'more deeply interfused,' which in him, as in his two great predecessors, is sometimes felt as 'modern,' because it is not of an age but for all time. The most valuable part of every literature is something which transcends the period and nation out of which it springs. On the other hand, much that at first sight seems primitive in Greek tragedy belongs more to the subject than to the mode of handling. The age of Pericles was in advance of that in which the legends were first Hellenized and humanized, just as this must have been already far removed from the earliest stages of mythopoeic imagination. The reader of Aeschylus or Sophocles should therefore be warned against attributing to the poet's invention that which is given in the fable. An educated student of Italian painting knows how to discriminate--say in an Assumption by Botticelli--between the traditional conventions, the contemporary ideas, and the refinements of the artist's own fancy. The same indulgence must be extended to dramatic art. The tragedy of King Lear is not rude or primitive, although the subject belongs to prehistoric times in Britain. Nor is Goethe's Faust mediaeval in spirit as in theme. So neither is the Oedipus Rex the product of 'lawless and uncertain thoughts,' notwithstanding the unspeakable horror of the story, but is penetrated by the most profound estimate of all in human life that is saddest, and all that is most precious. Far from being naive naturalists after the Keats fashion, the Greek tragic poets had succeeded to a pessimistic reaction from simple Pagan enjoyment; they were surrounded with gloomy questionings about human destiny and Divine Justice, and they replied by looking steadily at the facts of life and asserting the supreme worth of innocence, equity, and mercy. They were not philosophers, for they spoke the language of feeling; but the civilization of which they were the strongest outcome was already tinged with influences derived from early philosophy-- especially from the gnomic wisdom of the sixth century and from the spirit of theosophic speculation, which in Aeschylus goes far even to recast mythology. The latter influence was probably reinforced, through channels no longer traceable, by the Eleusinian worship, in which the mystery of life and death and of human sorrow had replaced the primitive wonder at the phenomena of the year. And whatever elements of philosophic theory or mystic exaltation the drama may have reflected, it was still more emphatically the repository of some of the most precious traditions of civilized humanity--traditions which philosophy has sometimes tended to extenuate, if not to destroy. Plato's Gorgias contains one of the most eloquent vindications of the transcendent value of righteousness and faithfulness as such. But when we ask, 'Righteousness in what relation?'--'Faithfulness to whom?'-- the Gorgias is silent; and when the vacant outline is filled up in the Republic, we are presented with an ideal of man's social relations, which, although it may be regarded as the ultimate development of existing tendencies, yet has no immediate bearing on any actual condition of the world. The ideal of the tragic poet may be less perfect; or rather he does not attempt to set before us abstractedly any single ideal. But the grand types of character which he presents to the world are not merely imaginary. They are creatures of flesh and blood, men and women, to whom the unsullied purity of their homes, the freedom and power of their country, the respect and love of their fellow-citizens, are inestimably dear. From a Platonic, and still more from a Christian point of view, the best morality of the age of Pericles is no doubt defective. Such counsels of perfection as 'Love your enemies', or 'A good man can harm no one, not even an enemy',--are beyond the horizon of tragedy, unless dimly seen in the person of Antigone. The coexistence of savage vindictiveness with the most affectionate tenderness is characteristic of heroes and heroines alike, and produces some of the most moving contrasts. But the tenderness is no less deep and real for this, and while the chief persons are thus passionate, the Greek lesson of moderation and reasonableness is taught by the event, whether expressed or not by the mouth of sage or prophet or of the 'ideal bystander'. Greek tragedy, then, is a religious art, not merely because associated with the festival of Dionysus, nor because the life which it represented was that of men who believed, with all the Hellenes, in Zeus, Apollo, and Athena, or in the power of Moira and the Erinyes,-- not merely because it represented 'the dread strife Of poor humanity's afflicted will Struggling in vain with ruthless destiny,' but much more because it awakened in the Athenian spectator emotions of wonder concerning human life, and of admiration for nobleness in the unfortunate--a sense of the infinite value of personal uprightness and of domestic purity--which in the most universal sense of the word were truly religious,--because it expressed a consciousness of depths which Plato never fathomed, and an ideal of character which, if less complete than Shakespeare's, is not less noble. It is indeed a 'rough' generalization that ranks the Agamemnon with the Adoniazusae as a religious composition. II. This spiritual side of tragic poetry deserves to be emphasized both as the most essential aspect of it, and as giving it the most permanent claim to lasting recognition. And yet, apart from this, merely as dramas, the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides will never cease to be admired. These poets are teachers, but they teach through art. To ask simply, as Carlyle once did, 'What did they think?' is not the way to understand or learn from them. Considered simply as works of art, the plays of Sophocles stand alone amongst dramatic writings in their degree of concentration and complex unity. 1. The interest of a Sophoclean drama is always intensely personal, and is almost always centred in an individual destiny. In other words, it is not historical or mythical, but ethical. Single persons stand out magnificently in Aeschylus. But the action is always larger than any single life. Each tragedy or trilogy resembles the fragment of a sublime Epic poem. Mighty issues revolve about the scene, whether this is laid on Earth or amongst the Gods, issues far transcending the fate of Orestes or even of Prometheus. In the perspective painting of Sophocles, these vast surroundings fall into the background, and the feelings of the spectator are absorbed in sympathy with the chief figure on the stage, round whom the other characters--the members of the chorus being included--are grouped with the minutest care. 2. In this grouping of the persons, as well as in the conduct of the action, Sophocles is masterly in his use of pathetic contrast. This motive must of course enter into all tragedy--nothing can be finer than the contrast of Cassandra to Clytemnestra in the Agamemnon,--but in Sophocles it is all-pervading, and some of the minor effects of it are so subtle that although inevitably felt by the spectator they are often lost upon the mere reader or student. And every touch, however transient, is made to contribute to the main effect. To recur once more to the much-abused analogy of statuary:--the work of Aeschylus may be compared to a colossal frieze, while that of Sophocles resembles the pediment of a smaller temple. Or if, as in considering the Orestean trilogy, the arrangement of the pediment affords the more fitting parallel even for Aeschylus, yet the forms are so gigantic that minute touches of characterization and of contrast are omitted as superfluous. Whereas in Sophocles, it is at once the finish of the chief figure and the studied harmony of the whole, which have led his work to be compared with that of his contemporary Phidias. Such comparison, however, is useful by way of illustration merely. It must never be forgotten that, as Lessing pointed out to some who thought the Philoctetes too sensational, analogies between the arts are limited by essential differences of material and of scope. All poetry represents successive moments. Its figures are never in repose. And although the action of Tragedy is concentrated and revolves around a single point, yet it is a dull vision that confounds rapidity of motion with rest. 3. Sophocles found the subjects of his dramas already embodied not only in previous tragedies but in Epic and Lyric poetry. And there were some fables, such as that of the death of Oedipus at Colonos, which seem to have been known to him only through oral tradition. For some reason which is not clearly apparent, both he and Aeschylus drew more largely from the Cyclic poets than from 'our Homer'. The inferior and more recent Epics, which are now lost, were probably more episodical, and thus presented a more inviting repertory of legends than the Iliad and Odyssey. Arctinus of Lesbos had treated at great length the story of the House of Thebes. The legend of Orestes, to which there are several allusions, not always consistent with each other, in the Homeric poems, had been a favourite and fruitful subject of tradition and of poetical treatment in the intervening period. Passages of the Tale of Troy, in which other heroes than Achilles had the pre-eminence, had been elaborated by Lesches and other Epic writers of the Post-Homeric time. The voyage of the Argonauts, another favourite heroic theme, supplied the subjects of many dramas which have disappeared. Lastly, the taking of Oechalia by Heracles, and the events which followed it, had been narrated in a long poem, in which one version of that hero's multiform legend was fully set forth. The subjects of the King Oedipus, Oedipus at Colonos, and Antigone, are taken from the Tale of Thebes, the Aias and the Philoctetes are founded on incidents between the end of the Iliad and the taking of Troy, the Electra represents the vengeance of Orestes, the crowning event in the tale of 'Pelops' line', the Trachiniae recounts the last crisis in the life of Heracles. 4. Of the three Theban plays, the Antigone was first composed, although its subject is the latest. Aeschylus in the Seven against Thebes had already represented the young heroine as defying the victorious citizens who forbade the burial of her brother, the rebel Polynices. He allowed her to be supported in her action by a band of sympathizing friends. But in the play of Sophocles she stands alone, and the power which she defies is not that of the citizens generally, but of Creon, whose will is absolute in the State. Thus the struggle is intensified, and both her strength and her desolation become more impressive, while the opposing claims of civic authority and domestic piety are more vividly realized, because either is separately embodied in an individual will. By the same means the situation is humanized to the last degree, and the heart of the spectator, although strained to the uttermost with pity for the heroic maiden whose life when full of brightest hopes was sacrificed to affection and piety, has still some feeling left for the living desolation of the man, whose patriotic zeal, degenerating into tyranny, brought his city to the brink of ruin, and cost him the lives of his two sons and of his wife, whose dying curse, as well as that of Haemon, is denounced upon him. In the Oedipus Tyrannus, Sophocles goes back to the central crisis of the Theban story. And again he fixes our attention, not so much on the fortunes of the city, or of the reigning house, as on the man Oedipus, his glory and his fall.-- 'O mirror of our fickle state Since man on earth unparalleled! The rarer thy example stands, By how much from the top of wondrous glory, Strongest of mortal men, To lowest pitch of abject fortune thou art fallen[2]. The horror and the pity of it are both enhanced by the character of Oedipus--his essential innocence, his affectionateness, his uncalculating benevolence and public spirit;--while his impetuosity and passionateness make the sequel less incredible. The essential innocence of Oedipus, which survives the ruin of his hopes in this world, supplies the chief motive of the Oedipus at Colonos. This drama, which Sophocles is said to have written late in life, is in many ways contrasted with the former Oedipus. It begins with pity and horror, and ends with peace. It is only in part founded on Epic tradition, the main incident belonging apparently to the local mythology of the poet's birthplace. It also implies a later stage of ethical reflection, and in this respect resembles the Philoctetes; it depends more on lyrical and melodramatic effects, and allows more room for collateral and subsidiary motives than any other of the seven. Yet in its principal theme, the vindication or redemption of an essentially noble spirit from the consequences of error, it repeats a note which had been struck much earlier in the Aias with great force, although with some crudities of treatment which are absent from the later drama. 5. In one of the Epic poems which narrated the fall of Troy, the figure of Aias was more prominent than in the Iliad. He alone and unassisted was there said to have repulsed Hector from the ships, and he had the chief share, although in this he was aided by Odysseus, in rescuing the dead body of Achilles. Yet Achilles' arms were awarded by the votes of the chieftains, as the prize of valour, not to Aias, but to Odysseus. This, no doubt, meant that wisdom is better than strength. But the wisdom of Odysseus in these later Epics was often less nobly esteemed than in the Iliad and Odyssey, and was represented as alloyed with cunning. Aias has withdrawn with his Salaminians, in a rage, from the fight, and after long brooding by the ships his wrath has broken forth into a blaze which would have endangered the lives of Odysseus and the Atridae, had not Athena in her care for them changed his anger into madness. Hence, instead of slaying the generals, he makes havoc amongst the flocks and herds, which as the result of various forays were the common property of the whole army. The truth is discovered by Odysseus with the help of Athena, and from being next to Achilles in renown, Aias becomes the object of universal scorn and hatred. The sequel of this hour of his downfall is the subject of the Aias of Sophocles. After lamenting his fate, the hero eludes the vigilance of his captive bride Tecmessa, and of his Salaminian mariners, and, in complete solitude, falls upon his sword. He is found by Tecmessa and by his half-brother Teucer, who has returned too late from a raid in the Mysian highlands. The Atridae would prohibit Aias' funeral; but Odysseus, who has been specially enlightened by Athena, advises generous forbearance, and his counsel prevails. The part representing the disgrace and death of Aias is more affecting to modern readers than the remainder of the drama. But we should bear in mind that the vindication of Aias after death, and his burial with undiminished honours, had an absorbing interest for the Athenian and Salaminian spectator. Philoctetes also is rejected by man and accepted by Destiny. The Argives in his case, as the Thebans in the case of Oedipus, are blind to the real intentions of the Gods. The Philoctetes, like the Oedipus at Colonos, was a work of Sophocles' old age; and while it can hardly be said that the fire of tragic feeling is abated in either of these plays, dramatic effect is modified in both of them by the influence of the poet's contemplative mood. The interest of the action in the Philoctetes is more inward and psychological than in any other ancient drama. The change of mind in Neoptolemus, the stubborn fixity of will in Philoctetes, contrasted with the confiding tenderness of his nature, form the elements of a dramatic movement at once extremely simple and wonderfully sustained. No purer ideal of virtuous youth has been imagined than the son of Achilles, who in this play, though sorely tempted, sets faithfulness before ambition. 6. In the Electra, which, though much earlier than the Philoctetes, is still a work of his mature genius, our poet appears at first sight to be in unequal competition with Aeschylus. If the Theban trilogy of the elder poet had remained entire, a similar impression might have been produced by the Oedipus Tyrannus. It is best to lay such comparisons aside, and to consider the work of Sophocles simply on its own merits. The subject, as he has chosen to treat it, is the heroic endurance of a woman who devotes her life to the vindication of intolerable wrongs done to her father, and the restoration of her young brother to his hereditary rights. Hers is the human agency which for this purpose works together with Apollo. But the divine intention is concealed from her. She suffers countless indignities from her father's enemies, of whom her own mother is the chief. And, at length, all her hopes are shattered by the false tidings that Orestes is no more. Even then she does not relinquish her resolve. And the revulsion from her deep sorrow to extremity of joy, when she finds Orestes at her side and ready to perform the act of vengeance in his own person, is irresistably affecting, even when the play is only read. Sophocles is especially great in the delineation of ideal female characters. The heroic ardour of Antigone, and the no less heroic persistence and endurance of Electra, are both founded on the strength of their affection. And the affection in both cases is what some moderns too have called the purest of human feelings, the love of a sister for a brother. Another aspect of that world-old marvel, 'the love of women,' was presented in Aias' captive bride, Tecmessa. This softer type also attains to heroic grandeur in Dêanira, the wronged wife of Heracles, whose fatal error is caused by the innocent working of her wounded love. It is strange that so acute a critic as A.W. Schlegel should have doubted the Sophoclean authorship of the Trachiniae. If its religious and moral lessons are even less obtrusive than those of either Oedipus and of the Antigone, there is no play which more directly pierces to the very heart of humanity. And it is a superficial judgement which complains that here at all events our sympathies are distracted between the two chief persons, Dêanira and Heracles. To one passion of his, to one fond mistake of hers, the ruin of them both is due. Her love has made their fates inseparable. And the spectator, in sharing Hyllus' grief, is afflicted for them both at once. We may well recognize in this treatment of the death of Heracles the hand of him who wrote-- [Greek: su kai dikaiôn adikous phrenas paraspas epi lôba, ..., ... amachos gar empaizei theos Aphrodita[3].] 7. It is unnecessary to expatiate here on the merits of construction in which these seven plays are generally acknowledged to be unrivalled; the natural way in which the main situation is explained, the suddenness and inevitableness of the complications, the steadily sustained climax of emotion until the action culminates, the preservation of the fitting mood until the end, the subtlety and effectiveness of the minor contrasts of situation and character[4]. But it may not be irrelevant to observe that the 'acting qualities' of Sophocles, as of Shakespeare, are best known to those who have seen him acted, whether in Greek, as by the students at Harvard[5] and Toronto[6], and more recently at Cambridge[7], or in English long ago by Miss Helen Faucit (since Lady Martin[8]), or still earlier and repeatedly in Germany, or in the French version of the Antigone by MM. Maurice and Vacquerie (1845) or of King Oedipus by M. Lacroix, in which the part of OEdipe Roi was finely sustained by M. Geoffroy in 1861, and by M. Mounet Sully in 1881[9]. With reference to the latter performance, which was continued throughout the autumn season, M. Francisque Sarcey wrote an article for the _Temps_ newspaper of August 15, 1881, which is full of just and vivid appreciation. At the risk of seeming absurdly 'modern', I will quote from this article some of the more striking passages. 'Ce troisième et ce quatrième actes, les plus émouvants qui se soient jamais produits sur aucune scène, se composent d'une suite de narrations, qui viennent l'une après l'autre frapper au coeur d'OEdipe, et qui ont leur contrecoup dans l'âme des spectateurs. Je ne sais qu'une pièce au monde qui soit construite de la sorte, c'est l'_École des Femmes_. Ce rapprochement vous paraîtra singulier, sans doute.... Mais ... c'est dans le vieux drame grec comme dans la comédie du maître français une trouvaille de génie.... 'Sophocle a voulu, après des émotions si terribles, après des angoisses si sèches, ouvrir la source des larmes: il a écrit un cinquième acte.... 'Les yeux crevés d'OEdipe ne sont qu'un accident, ou, si vous aimez mieux, un accessoire, Le poète, sans s'arrêter à ce détail, a mis sur les lèvres de son héros toute la gamme des sentiments douloureux qu'excite une si prodigieuse infortune.... 'À la lecture, elle est un pen longue cette scène de lamentations. Au théâtre, on n'a pas le temps de la trouver telle: on pleure de toute son âme et de tous ses yeux. C'est qu'après avoir eu le coeur si longtemps serré comme dans un étau, on épreuve comme un soulagement à sentir en soi jaillir la source des larmes. Sophocle, qui semble avoir été le plus malin des dramaturges, comme il est le plus parfait des écrivains dramatiques, a cherché là un effet de contraste dont l'effet est immanquant sur le public.' These and other like remarks of one of the best-known critics of the Parisian stage show that the dramatic art of Sophocles is still a living power. I am well aware how feeble and inadequate the present attempted reproduction must appear to any reader who knows the Greek original. There is much to be said for the view of an eminent scholar who once declared that he would never think of translating a Greek poet. But the end of translating is not to satisfy fastidious scholars, but to make the classics partially accessible to those whose acquaintance with them would otherwise be still more defective. Part of this version of Sophocles was printed several years ago in an imperfect form. The present volume contains the seven extant plays entire. As the object has been to give the effect of each drama as a whole, rather than to dwell on particular 'beauties' (which only a poet can render), the fragments have not been included. But the reader should bear in mind that the seven plays are less than a tithe of the work produced by the poet in his lifetime. It may very possibly be asked why verse has been employed at all. Why not have listened to Carlyle's rough demand, 'Tell us what they thought; none of your silly poetry'? The present translator can only reply that he began with prose, but soon found that, for tragic dialogue in English, blank verse appeared a more natural and effective vehicle than any prose style which he could hope to frame. And with the dialogue in verse, it was impossible to have the lyric parts in any sort of prose, simply because the reader would then have felt an intolerable incongruity. These parts have therefore been turned into such familiar lyric measures as seemed at once possible and not unsuitable. And where this method was found impracticable, as sometimes in the _Commoi_, blank metres have again been used,--with such liberties as seemed appropriate to the special purpose. The writer's hope throughout has been, not indeed fully to transfuse the poetry of Sophocles into another tongue, but to make the poet's dramatic intention to be understood and felt by English readers. One more such endeavour may possibly find acceptance at a time when many causes have combined to awaken a fresh interest at once in dramatic literature and in Hellenic studies. The reader who is hitherto unacquainted with the Greek drama, should be warned that the parts assigned to the 'Chorus' were often distributed among its several members, who spoke or chanted, singly or in groups, alternately or in succession. In some cases, but not in all, _Ch. 1_, _Ch. 2_, &c., have been prefixed, to indicate such an arrangement.
1 Antigone.
1 - Characters.
ANTIGONE,} _Daughters of Oedipus and Sisters of Polynices_ ISMENE, } _and Eteocles._ CHORUS _of Theban Elders._ CREON, _King of Thebes._ _A Watchman._ HAEMON, _Son of Creon, betrothed to Antigone._ TIRESIAS, _the blind Prophet._ _A Messenger._ EURYDICE, _the Wife of Creon._ _Another Messenger._
SCENE. Before the Cadmean Palace at Thebes. _Note._ The town of Thebes is often personified as Thebè.   Polynices, son and heir to the unfortunate Oedipus, having been supplanted by his younger brother Eteocles, brought an army of Argives against his native city, Thebes. The army was defeated, and the two brothers slew each other in single combat. On this Creon, the brother- in-law of Oedipus, succeeding to the chief power, forbade the burial of Polynices. But Antigone, sister of the dead, placing the dues of affection and piety before her obligation to the magistrate, disobeyed the edict at the sacrifice of her life. Creon carried out his will, but lost his son Haemon and his wife Eurydice, and received their curses on his head. His other son, Megareus, had previously been devoted as a victim to the good of the state. ANTIGONE. ISMENE.
Own sister of my blood, one life with me, Ismenè, 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?
1 - 2 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.
1 - 3 ANT.
I knew it well, and therefore led thee forth The palace gate, that thou alone mightst hear.
1 - 4 ISM.
Speak on! Thy troubled look bodes some dark news.
1 - 5 ANT.
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.
1 - 6 ISM.
Unhappy one! But what can I herein Avail to do or undo?
1 - 7 ANT.
Wilt thou share The danger and the labour? Make thy choice.
1 - 8 ISM.
Of what wild enterprise? What canst thou mean?
1 - 9 ANT.
Wilt thou join hand with mine to lift the dead?
1 - 10 ISM.
To bury him, when all have been forbidden? Is that thy thought?
1 - 11 ANT.
To bury my own brother And thine, even though thou wilt not do thy part. I will not be a traitress to my kin.
1 - 12 ISM.
Fool-hardy girl! against the word of Creon?
1 - 13 ANT.
He hath no right to bar me from mine own.
1 - 14 ISM.
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.
1 - 15 ANT.
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.
1 - 16 ISM.
Not from irreverence. But I have no strength To strive against the citizens' resolve.
1 - 17 ANT.
Thou, make excuses! I will go my way To raise a burial-mound to my dear brother.
1 - 18 ISM.
Oh, hapless maiden, how I fear for thee!
1 - 19 ANT.
Waste not your fears on me! Guide your own fortune.
1 - 20 ISM.
Ah! yet divulge thine enterprise to none, But keep the secret close, and so will I.
1 - 21 ANT.
O Heavens! Nay, tell! I hate your silence worse; I had rather you proclaimed it to the world.
1 - 22 ISM.
You are ardent in a chilling enterprise.
1 - 23 ANT.
I know that I please those whom I would please.
1 - 24 ISM.
Yes, if you thrive; but your desire is bootless.
1 - 25 ANT.
Well, when I fail I shall be stopt, I trow!
1 - 26 ISM.
One should not start upon a hopeless quest.
1 - 27 ANT.
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.
1 - 28 ISM.
Go, if you must--Not to be checked in folly, But sure unparalleled in faithful love! [_Exeunt_
1 - 29 CHORUS
(_entering_). Beam of the mounting Sun! I 1 O brightest, fairest ray Seven-gated Thebè yet hath seen! Over the vale where Dircè's fountains run At length thou appearedst, eye of golden Day, And with incitement of thy radiance keen Spurredst to faster flight The man of Argos hurrying from the fight. Armed at all points the warrior came, But driven before thy rising flame He rode, reverting his pale shield, Headlong from yonder battlefield. In snow-white panoply, on eagle wing, [_Half-Chorus_ He rose, dire ruin on our land to bring, Roused by the fierce debate Of Polynices' hate, Shrilling sharp menace from his breast, Sheathed all in steel from crown to heel, With many a plumèd crest. Then stooped above the domes, I 2 With lust of carnage fired, And opening teeth of serried spears Yawned wide around the gates that guard our homes; But went, or e'er his hungry jaws had tired On Theban flesh,--or e'er the Fire-god fierce Seizing our sacred town Besmirched and rent her battlemented crown. Such noise of battle as he fled About his back the War-god spread; So writhed to hard-fought victory The serpent[1] struggling to be free. High Zeus beheld their stream that proudly rolled [_Half-Chorus_ Idly caparisoned[2] with clanking gold: Zeus hates the boastful tongue: He with hurled fire down flung One who in haste had mounted high, And that same hour from topmost tower Upraised the exulting cry. Swung rudely to the hard repellent earth II 1 Amidst his furious mirth He fell, who then with flaring brand Held in his fiery hand Came breathing madness at the gate In eager blasts of hate. And doubtful swayed the varying fight Through the turmoil of the night, As turning now on these and now on those Ares hurtled 'midst our foes, Self-harnessed helper[3] on our right. Seven matched with seven, at each gate one, [_Half-Chorus_ Their captains, when the day was done, Left for our Zeus who turned the scale, The brazen tribute in full tale:-- All save the horror-burdened pair, Dire children of despair, Who from one sire, one mother, drawing breath, Each with conquering lance in rest Against a true born brother's breast, Found equal lots in death. But with blithe greeting to glad Thebe came II 2 She of the glorious name, Victory,--smiling on our chariot throng With eyes that waken song Then let those battle memories cease, Silenced by thoughts of peace. With holy dances of delight Lasting through the livelong night Visit we every shrine, in solemn round, Led by him who shakes the ground, Our Bacchus, Thebe's child of light.
But look! where Creon in his new-made power, Moved by the fortune of the recent hour, Comes with fresh counsel. What intelligence Intends he for our private conference, That he hath sent his herald to us all, Gathering the elders with a general call? _Enter_ CREON.
1 - 31 CREON.
My friends, the noble vessel of our State, After sore shaking her, the Gods have sped On a smooth course once more. I have called you hither, By special messengers selecting you From all the city, first, because I knew you Aye loyal to the throne of Laïus; Then, both while Oedipus gave prosperous days, And since his fall, I still beheld you firm In sound allegiance to the royal issue. Now since the pair have perished in an hour, Twinned in misfortune, by a mutual stroke Staining our land with fratricidal blood, All rule and potency of sovereign sway, In virtue of next kin to the deceased, Devolves on me. But hard it is to learn The mind of any mortal or the heart, Till he be tried in chief authority. Power shows the man. For he who when supreme Withholds his hand or voice from the best cause, Being thwarted by some fear, that man to me Appears, and ever hath appeared, most vile. He too hath no high place in mine esteem, Who sets his friend before his fatherland. Let Zeus whose eye sees all eternally Be here my witness. I will ne'er keep silence When danger lours upon my citizens Who looked for safety, nor make him my friend Who doth not love my country. For I know Our country carries us, and whilst her helm Is held aright we gain good friends and true. Following such courses 'tis my steadfast will To foster Thebè's greatness, and therewith In brotherly accord is my decree Touching the sons of Oedipus. The man-- Eteocles I mean--who died for Thebes Fighting with eminent prowess on her side, Shall be entombed with every sacred rite That follows to the grave the lordliest dead. But for his brother, who, a banished man, Returned to devastate and burn with fire The land of his nativity, the shrines Of his ancestral gods, to feed him fat With Theban carnage, and make captive all That should escape the sword--for Polynices, This law hath been proclaimed concerning him: He shall have no lament, no funeral, But he unburied, for the carrion fowl And dogs to eat his corse, a sight of shame. Such are the motions of this mind and will. Never from me shall villains reap renown Before the just. But whoso loves the State, I will exalt him both in life and death.
1 - 32 CH.
Son of Menoeceus, we have heard thy mind Toward him who loves, and him who hates our city. And sure, 'tis thine to enforce what law thou wilt Both on the dead and all of us who live.
1 - 33 CR.
Then be ye watchful to maintain my word.
1 - 34 CH.
Young strength for such a burden were more meet.
1 - 35 CR.
Already there be watchers of the dead.
1 - 36 CH.
What charge then wouldst thou further lay on us?
1 - 37 CR.
Not to give place to those that disobey.
1 - 38 CH.
Who is so fond, to be in love with death?
1 - 39 CR.
Such, truly, is the meed. But hope of gain Full oft ere now hath been the ruin of men.
(_entering_). My lord, I am out of breath, but not with speed. I will not say my foot was fleet. My thoughts Cried halt unto me ever as I came And wheeled me to return. My mind discoursed Most volubly within my breast, and said-- Fond wretch! why go where thou wilt find thy bane? Unhappy wight! say, wilt thou bide aloof? Then if the king shall hear this from another, How shalt thou 'scape for 't? Winding thus about I hasted, but I could not speed, and so Made a long journey of a little way. At last 'yes' carried it, that I should come To thee; and tell thee I must needs; and shall, Though it be nothing that I have to tell. For I came hither, holding fast by this-- Nought that is not my fate can happen to me.
1 - 41 CR.
Speak forth thy cause of fear. What is the matter?
1 - 42 WATCH.
First of mine own part in the business. For I did it not, nor saw the man who did, And 'twere not right that I should come to harm.
1 - 43 CR.
You fence your ground, and keep well out of danger; I see you have some strange thing to declare.
1 - 44 WATCH.
A man will shrink who carries words of fear.
1 - 45 CB.
Let us have done with you. Tell your tale, and go.
1 - 46 WATCH.
Well, here it is. The corse hath burial From some one who is stolen away and gone, But first hath strown dry dust upon the skin, And added what religious rites require.
1 - 47 CR.
Ha! What man hath been so daring in revolt?
1 - 48 WATCH.
I cannot tell. There was no mark to show-- No dint of spade, or mattock-loosened sod,-- Only the hard bare ground, untilled and trackless. Whoe'er he was, the doer left no trace. And, when the scout of our first daylight watch Showed us the thing, we marvelled in dismay. The Prince was out of sight; not in a grave, But a thin dust was o'er him, as if thrown By one who shunned the dead man's curse. No sign Appeared of any hound or beast o' the field Having come near, or pulled at the dead body. Then rose high words among us sentinels With bickering noise accusing each his mate, And it seemed like to come to blows, with none To hinder. For the hand that thus had wrought Was any of ours, and none; the guilty man Escaped all knowledge. And we were prepared To lift hot iron with our bare palms; to walk Through fire, and swear by all the Gods at once That we were guiltless, ay, and ignorant Of who had plotted or performed this thing. When further search seemed bootless, at the last One spake, whose words bowed all our heads to the earth With fear. We knew not what to answer him, Nor how to do it and prosper. He advised So grave a matter must not be concealed, But instantly reported to the King. Well, this prevailed, and the lot fell on me, Unlucky man! to be the ministrant Of this fair service. So I am present here, Against my will and yours, I am sure of that. None love the bringer of unwelcome news.
1 - 49 CH.
My lord, a thought keeps whispering in my breast, Some Power divine hath interposed in this.
1 - 50 CR.
Cease, ere thou quite enrage me, and appear Foolish as thou art old. Talk not to me Of Gods who have taken thought for this dead man! Say, was it for his benefits to them They hid his corse, and honoured him so highly, Who came to set on fire their pillared shrines, With all the riches of their offerings, And to make nothing of their land and laws? Or, hast thou seen them honouring villany? That cannot be. Long time the cause of this Hath come to me in secret murmurings From malcontents of Thebes, who under yoke Turned restive, and would not accept my sway. Well know I, these have bribed the watchmen here To do this for some fee. For nought hath grown Current among mankind so mischievous As money. This brings cities to their fall: This drives men homeless, and moves honest minds To base contrivings. This hath taught mankind The use of wickedness, and how to give An impious turn to every kind of act. But whosoe'er hath done this for reward Hath found his way at length to punishment. If Zeus have still my worship, be assured Of that which here on oath I say to thee-- Unless ye find the man who made this grave And bring him bodily before mine eye, Death shall not be enough, till ye have hung Alive for an example of your guilt, That henceforth in your rapine ye may know Whence gain is to be gotten, and may learn Pelf from all quarters is not to be loved. For in base getting, 'tis a common proof, More find disaster than deliverance.
1 - 51 WATCH.
Am I to speak? or must I turn and go?
1 - 52 CR.
What? know you not your speech offends even now?
1 - 53 WATCH.
Doth the mind smart withal, or only the ear?
1 - 54 CR.
Art thou to probe the seat of mine annoy?
1 - 55 WATCH.
If I offend, 'tis in your ear alone, The malefactor wounds ye to the soul.
1 - 56 CR.
Out on thee! thou art nothing but a tongue.
1 - 57 WATCH.
Then was I ne'er the doer of this deed.
1 - 58 CR.
Yea, verily: self-hired to crime for gold.
1 - 59 WATCH.
Pity so clear a mind should clearly err!
1 - 60 CR.
CR. Gloze now on clearness! But unless ye bring The burier, without glozing ye shall tell, Craven advantage clearly worketh bane.
1 - 61 WATCH.
By all means let the man be found; one thing I know right well:--caught or not caught, howe'er Fate rules his fortune, me you ne'er will see Standing in presence here. Even now I owe Deep thanks to Heaven for mine escape, so far Beyond my hope and highest expectancy. [_Exeunt severally_
1 - 62 CHORUS.
Many a wonder lives and moves, but the wonder of all is man, I 1 That courseth over the grey ocean, carried of Southern gale, Faring amidst high-swelling seas that rudely surge around, And Earth, supreme of mighty Gods, eldest, imperishable, Eternal, he with patient furrow wears and wears away As year by year the plough-shares turn and turn,-- Subduing her unwearied strength with children of the steed[4]. And wound in woven coils of nets he seizeth for his prey I 2 The aëry tribe of birds and wilding armies of the chase, And sea-born millions of the deep--man is so crafty-wise. And now with engine of his wit he tameth to his will The mountain-ranging beast whose lair is in the country wild; And now his yoke hath passed upon the mane Of horse with proudly crested neck and tireless mountain bull. Wise utterance and wind-swift thought, and city-moulding mind, II 1 And shelter from the clear-eyed power of biting frost, He hath taught him, and to shun the sharp, roof-penetrating rain,-- Full of resource, without device he meets no coming time; From Death alone he shall not find reprieve; No league may gain him that relief; but even for fell disease, That long hath baffled wisest leech, he hath contrived a cure. Inventive beyond wildest hope, endowed with boundless skill, II 2 One while he moves toward evil, and one while toward good, According as he loves his land and fears the Gods above. Weaving the laws into his life and steadfast oath of Heaven, High in the State he moves but outcast he, Who hugs dishonour to his heart and follows paths of crime Ne'er may he come beneath my roof, nor think like thoughts with me.
What portent from the Gods is here? My mind is mazed with doubt and fear. How can I gainsay what I see? I know the girl Antigone, O hapless child of hapless sire! Didst thou, then, recklessly aspire To brave kings' laws, and now art brought In madness of transgression caught? _Enter_ Watchman, _bringing in_ ANTIGONE
1 - 64 WATCH.
Here is the doer of the deed--this maid We found her burying him. Where is the King?
1 - 65 CH.
Look, he comes forth again to meet thy call. _Enter_ CREON.
1 - 66 CR.
What call so nearly times with mine approach?
1 - 67 WATCH.
My lord, no mortal should deny on oath, Judgement is still belied by after thought When quailing 'neath the tempest of your threats, Methought no force would drive me to this place But joy unlook'd for and surpassing hope Is out of bound the best of all delight, And so I am here again,--though I had sworn I ne'er would come,--and in my charge this maid, Caught in the act of caring for the dead Here was no lot throwing, this hap was mine Without dispute. And now, my sovereign lord, According to thy pleasure, thine own self Examine and convict her. For my part I have good right to be away and free From the bad business I am come upon.
1 - 68 CR.
This maiden! How came she in thy charge? Where didst thou find her?
1 - 69 WATCH.
Burying the prince. One word hath told thee all.
1 - 70 CR.
Hast thou thy wits, and knowest thou what thou sayest?
1 - 71 WATCH.
I saw her burying him whom you forbade To bury. Is that, now, clearly spoken, or no?
1 - 72 CR.
And how was she detected, caught, and taken?
1 - 73 WATCH.
It fell in this wise. We were come to the spot, Bearing the dreadful burden of thy threats; And first with care we swept the dust away From round the corse, and laid the dank limbs bare: Then sate below the hill-top, out o' the wind, Where no bad odour from the dead might strike us, Stirring each other on with interchange Of loud revilings on the negligent In 'tendance on this duty. So we stayed Till in mid heaven the sun's resplendent orb Stood high, and the heat strengthened. Suddenly, The Storm-god raised a whirlwind from the ground, Vexing heaven's concave, and filled all the plain, Rending the locks of all the orchard groves, Till the great sky was choked withal. We closed Our lips and eyes, and bore the God-sent evil. When after a long while this ceased, the maid Was seen, and wailed in high and bitter key, Like some despairing bird that hath espied Her nest all desolate, the nestlings gone. So, when she saw the body bare, she mourned Loudly, and cursed the authors of this deed. Then nimbly with her hands she brought dry dust, And holding high a shapely brazen cruse, Poured three libations, honouring the dead. We, when we saw, ran in, and straightway seized Our quarry, nought dismayed, and charged her with The former crime and this. And she denied Nothing;--to my delight, and to my grief. One's self to escape disaster is great joy; Yet to have drawn a friend into distress Is painful. But mine own security To me is of more value than aught else.
1 - 74 CR.
Thou, with thine eyes down-fastened to the earth! Dost thou confess to have done this, or deny it?
1 - 75 ANT.
I deny nothing. I avow the deed.
1 - 76 CR.
(_to_ Watchman). Thou may'st betake thyself whither thou wilt, Acquitted of the grievous charge, and free. (_to_ ANTIGONE) And thou,--no prating talk, but briefly tell, Knew'st thou our edict that forbade this thing?
1 - 77 ANT.
I could not fail to know. You made it plain.
1 - 78 CR.
How durst thou then transgress the published law?
1 - 79 ANT.
I heard it not from Heaven, nor came it forth From Justice, where she reigns with Gods below. They too have published to mankind a law. Nor thought I thy commandment of such might That one who is mortal thus could overbear The infallible, unwritten laws of Heaven. Not now or yesterday they have their being, But everlastingly, and none can tell The hour that saw their birth. I would not, I, For any terror of a man's resolve, Incur the God-inflicted penalty Of doing them wrong. That death would come, I knew Without thine edict;--if before the time, I count it gain. Who does not gain by death, That lives, as I do, amid boundless woe? Slight is the sorrow of such doom to me. But had I suffered my own mother's child, Fallen in blood, to be without a grave, That were indeed a sorrow. This is none. And if thou deem'st me foolish for my deed, I am foolish in the judgement of a fool.
1 - 80 CH.
Fierce shows the maiden's vein from her fierce sire; Calamity doth not subdue her will.
1 - 81 CR.
Ay, but the stubborn spirit first doth fall. Oft ye shall see the strongest bar of steel, That fire hath hardened to extremity, Shattered to pieces. A small bit controls The fiery steed. Pride may not be endured In one whose life is subject to command. This maiden hath been conversant with crime Since first she trampled on the public law; And now she adds to crime this insolence, To laugh at her offence, and glory in it. Truly, if she that hath usurped this power Shall rest unpunished, she then is a man, And I am none. Be she my sister's child, Or of yet nearer blood to me than all That take protection from my hearth, the pair Shall not escape the worst of deaths. For know, I count the younger of the twain no less Copartner in this plotted funeral: And now I bid you call her. Late I saw her Within the house, beyond herself, and frantic. --Full oft when one is darkly scheming wrong, The disturbed spirit hath betrayed itself Before the act it hides.--But not less hateful Seems it to me, when one that hath been caught In wickedness would give it a brave show.
1 - 82 ANT.
Wouldst thou aught more of me than merely death?
1 - 83 CR.
No more. 'Tis all I claim. Death closes all.
1 - 84 ANT.
Why then delay? No talk of thine can charm me, Forbid it Heaven! And my discourse no less Must evermore sound noisome to thine ear. Yet where could I have found a fairer fame Than giving burial to my own true brother? All here would tell thee they approve my deed, Were they not tongue-tied to authority. But kingship hath much profit; this in chief, That it may do and say whate'er it will.
1 - 85 CR.
No Theban sees the matter with thine eye.
1 - 86 ANT.
They see, but curb their voices to thy sway
1 - 87 CR.
And art thou not ashamed, acting alone?
1 - 88 ANT.
A sister's piety hath no touch of shame.
1 - 89 CR.
Was not Eteocles thy brother too?
1 - 90 ANT.
My own true brother from both parents' blood.
1 - 91 CR.
This duty was impiety to him.
1 - 92 ANT.
He that is dead will not confirm that word.
1 - 93 CR.
If you impart his honours to the vile.
1 - 94 ANT.
It was his brother, not a slave, who fell.
1 - 95 CR.
But laying waste the land for which he fought.
1 - 96 ANT.
Death knows no difference, but demands his due.
1 - 97 CR.
Yet not equality 'twixt good and bad.
1 - 98 ANT.
Both may be equal yonder; who can tell?
1 - 99 CR.
An enemy is hated even in death.
1 - 100 ANT.
Love, and not hatred, is the part for me.
1 - 101 CR.
Down then to death! and, if you must, there love The dead. No woman rules me while I live.
1 - 102 CH.
Now comes Ismenè forth. Ah, see, From clouds above her brow The sister-loving tear Is falling wet on her fair cheek, Distaining all her passion-crimson'd face! _Enter_ ISMENE.
1 - 103 CR.
And thou, that like a serpent coiled i' the house Hast secretly been draining my life-blood,-- Little aware that I was cherishing Two curses and subverters of my throne,-- Tell us, wilt thou avouch thy share in this Entombment, or forswear all knowledge of it?
1 - 104 ISM.
If her voice go therewith, I did the deed, And bear my part and burden of the blame.
1 - 105 ANT.
Nay, justice will not suffer that. You would not, And I refused to make you mine ally.
1 - 106 ISM.
But now in thy misfortune I would fain Embark with thee in thy calamity.
1 - 107 ANT.
Who did the deed, the powers beneath can tell. I care not for lip-kindness from my kin.
1 - 108 ISM.
Ah! scorn me not so far as to forbid me To die with thee, and honour our lost brother.
1 - 109 ANT.
Die not with me, nor make your own a deed you never touched! My dying is enough.
1 - 110 ISM.
What joy have I in life when thou art gone?
1 - 111 ANT.
Ask Creon there. He hath your care and duty.
1 - 112 ISM.
What can it profit thee to vex me so?
1 - 113 ANT.
My heart is pained, though my lip laughs at thee.
1 - 114 ISM.
What can I do for thee now, even now?
1 - 115 ANT.
Save your own life. I grudge not your escape.
1 - 116 ISM.
Alas! and must I be debarred thy fate?
1 - 117 ANT.
Life was the choice you made. Mine was to die.
1 - 118 ISM.
I warned thee----
1 - 119 ANT.
Yes, your prudence is admired On earth. My wisdom is approved below.
1 - 120 ISM.
Yet truly we are both alike in fault.
1 - 121 ANT.
Fear not; you live. My life hath long been given To death, to be of service to the dead.
1 - 122 CR.
Of these two girls, the one hath lost her wits: The other hath had none since she was born.
1 - 123 ISM.
My lord, in misery, the mind one hath Is wont to be dislodged, and will not stay.
1 - 124 CR.
You have ta'en leave of yours at any rate, When you cast in your portion with the vile.
1 - 125 ISM.
What can life profit me without my sister?
1 - 126 CR.
Say not 'my sister'; she is nothing now.
1 - 127 ISM.
What? wilt thou kill thy son's espousal too?
1 - 128 CR.
He may find other fields to plough upon.
1 - 129 ISM.
Not so as love was plighted 'twixt them twain.
1 - 130 CR.
I hate a wicked consort for my son.
1 - 131 ANT.
O dearest Haemon! how thy father wrongs thee!
1 - 132 CR.
Thou and thy marriage are a torment to me.
1 - 133 CH.
And wilt thou sever her from thine own son?
1 - 134 CR.
'Tis death must come between him and his joy,
1 - 135 CH.
All doubt is then resolved: the maid must die,
1 - 136 CR.
I am resolved; and so, 'twould seem, are you. In with her, slaves! No more delay! Henceforth These maids must have but woman's liberty And be mewed up; for even the bold will fly When they see Death nearing the house of life. [ANTIGONE _and_ ISMENE _are led into the palace._
1 - 137 CHORUS.
Blest is the life that never tasted woe. I 1 When once the blow Hath fallen upon a house with Heaven-sent doom, Trouble descends in ever-widening gloom Through all the number of the tribe to flow; As when the briny surge That Thrace-born tempests urge (The big wave ever gathering more and more) Runs o'er the darkness of the deep, And with far-searching sweep Uprolls the storm-heap'd tangle on the shore, While cliff to beaten cliff resounds with sullen roar. The stock of Cadmus from old time, I know, I 2 Hath woe on woe, Age following age, the living on the dead, Fresh sorrow falling on each new-ris'n head, None freed by God from ruthless overthrow. E'en now a smiling light Was spreading to our sight O'er one last fibre of a blasted tree,-- When, lo! the dust of cruel death, Tribute of Gods beneath, And wildering thoughts, and fate-born ecstasy, Quench the brief gleam in dark Nonentity. What froward will of man, O Zeus! can check thy might? II 1 Not all-enfeebling sleep, nor tireless months divine, Can touch thee, who through ageless time Rulest mightily Olympus' dazzling height. This was in the beginning, and shall be Now and eternally, Not here or there, but everywhere, A law of misery that shall not spare. For Hope, that wandereth wide, comforting many a head, II 2 Entangleth many more with glamour of desire: Unknowing they have trode the fire. Wise was the famous word of one who said, 'Evil oft seemeth goodness to the mind An angry God doth blind.' Few are the days that such as he May live untroubled of calamity.
Lo, Haemon, thy last offspring, now is come, Lamenting haply for the maiden's doom, Say, is he mourning o'er her young life lost, Fiercely indignant for his bridal crossed? _Enter_ HAEMON.
1 - 139 CR.
We shall know soon, better than seers could teach us. Can it be so, my son, that thou art brought By mad distemperature against thy sire, On hearing of the irrevocable doom Passed on thy promised bride? Or is thy love Thy father's, be his actions what they may?
1 - 140 HAEM.
I am thine, father, and will follow still Thy good directions; nor would I prefer The fairest bride to thy wise government.
1 - 141 CR.
That, O my son! should be thy constant mind, In all to bend thee to thy father's will. Therefore men pray to have around their hearths Obedient offspring, to requite their foes With harm, and honour whom their father loves; But he whose issue proves unprofitable, Begets what else but sorrow to himself And store of laughter to his enemies? Make not, my son, a shipwreck of thy wit For a woman. Thine own heart may teach thee this;-- There's but cold comfort in a wicked wife Yoked to the home inseparably. What wound Can be more deadly than a harmful friend? Then spurn her like an enemy, and send her To wed some shadow in the world below! For since of all the city I have found Her only recusant, caught in the act, I will not break my word before the State. I will take her life. At this let her invoke The god of kindred blood! For if at home I foster rebels, how much more abroad? Whoso is just in ruling his own house, Lives rightly in the commonwealth no less: But he that wantonly defies the law, Or thinks to dictate to authority, Shall have no praise from me. What power soe'er The city hath ordained, must be obeyed In little things and great things, right or wrong. The man who so obeys, I have good hope Will govern and be governed as he ought, And in the storm of battle at my side Will stand a faithful and a trusty comrade. But what more fatal than the lapse of rule? This ruins cities, this lays houses waste, This joins with the assault of war to break Full numbered armies into hopeless rout; And in the unbroken host 'tis nought but rule That keeps those many bodies from defeat, I must be zealous to defend the law, And not go down before a woman's will. Else, if I fall, 'twere best a man should strike me; Lest one should say, 'a woman worsted him.'
1 - 142 CH.
Unless our sense is weakened by long time, Thou speakest not unwisely.
1 - 143 HAEM.
O my sire, Sound wisdom is a God implanted seed, Of all possessions highest in regard. I cannot, and I would not learn to say That thou art wrong in this; though in another, It may be such a word were not unmeet. But as thy son, 'tis surely mine to scan Men's deeds, and words, and muttered thoughts toward thee. Fear of thy frown restrains the citizen In talk that would fall harshly on thine ear. I under shadow may o'erhear, how all Thy people mourn this maiden, and complain That of all women least deservedly She perishes for a most glorious deed. 'Who, when her own true brother on the earth Lay weltering after combat in his gore, Left him not graveless, for the carrion few And raw devouring field dogs to consume-- Hath she not merited a golden praise?' Such the dark rumour spreading silently. Now, in my valuing, with thy prosperous life, My father, no possession can compare. Where can be found a richer ornament For children, than their father's high renown? Or where for fathers, than their children's fame? Nurse not one changeless humour in thy breast, That nothing can be right but as thou sayest. Whoe'er presumes that he alone hath sense, Or peerless eloquence, or reach of soul, Unwrap him, and you'll find but emptiness. 'Tis no disgrace even to the wise to learn And lend an ear to reason. You may see The plant that yields where torrent waters flow Saves every little twig, when the stout tree Is torn away and dies. The mariner Who will not ever slack the sheet that sways The vessel, but still tightens, oversets, And so, keel upward, ends his voyaging. Relent, I pray thee, and give place to change. If any judgement hath informed my youth, I grant it noblest to be always wise, But,--for omniscience is denied to man-- Tis good to hearken to admonishment.
1 - 144 CH.
My lord, 'twere wise, if thou wouldst learn of him In reason; and thou, Haemon, from thy sire! Truth lies between you.
1 - 145 CR.
Shall our age, forsooth, Be taught discretion by a peevish boy?
1 - 146 HAEM.
Only in what is right. Respects of time Must be outbalanced by the actual need.
1 - 147 CR.
To cringe to rebels cannot be a need.
1 - 148 HAEM.
I do not claim observance for the vile.
1 - 149 CR.
Why, is not she so tainted? Is 't not proved?
1 - 150 HAEM.
All Thebes denies it.
1 - 151 CR.
Am I ruled by Thebes?
1 - 152 HAEM.
If youth be folly, that is youngly said.
1 - 153 CR.
Shall other men prescribe my government?
1 - 154 HAEM.
One only makes not up a city, father.
1 - 155 CR.
Is not the city in the sovereign's hand?
1 - 156 HAEM.
Nobly you'd govern as the desert's king.
1 - 157 CR.
This youngster is the woman's champion.
1 - 158 HAEM.
You are the woman, then--for you I care.
1 - 159 CR.
Villain, to bandy reasons with your sire!
1 - 160 HAEM.
I plead against the unreason of your fault.
1 - 161 CR.
What fault is there in reverencing my power?
1 - 162 HAEM.
There is no reverence when you spurn the Gods.
1 - 163 CR.
Abominable spirit, woman-led!
1 - 164 HAEM.
You will not find me following a base guide.
1 - 165 CR.
Why, all your speech this day is spent for her.
1 - 166 HAEM.
For you and me too, and the Gods below.
1 - 167 CR.
She will not live to be your wife on earth.
1 - 168 HAEM.
I know, then, whom she will ruin by her death.
1 - 169 CR.
What, wilt thou threaten, too, thou audacious boy?
1 - 170 HAEM.
It is no threat to answer empty words.
1 - 171 CR.
Witless admonisher, thou shalt pay for this!
1 - 172 HAEM.
Thou art my sire, else would I call thee senseless.
1 - 173 CR.
Thou woman's minion! mince not terms with me,
1 - 174 HAEM.
Wouldst thou have all the speaking on thy side?
1 - 175 CR.
Is 't possible? By yon heaven! thou'lt not escape, For adding contumely to words of blame. Bring out the hated thing, that she may die Immediately, before her lover's face!
1 - 176 HAEM.
HAEM. Nay, dream not she shall suffer in my sight Nor shalt thou ever see my face again Let those stay with you that can brook your rage! [_Exit_
1 - 177 CH.
CH. My lord, he is parted swiftly in deep wrath! The youthful spirit offended makes wild work.
1 - 178 CR.
Ay, let him do his worst. Let him give scope To pride beyond the compass of a man! He shall not free these maidens from their doom.
1 - 179 CH.
CH. Is death thy destination for them both?
1 - 180 CR.
Only for her who acted. Thou art right.
1 - 181 CH.
CH. And what hast thou determined for her death?
1 - 182 CH.
Where human footstep shuns the desert ground, I'll hide her living in a cave like vault, With so much provender as may prevent Pollution from o'ertaking the whole city And there, perchance, she may obtain of Death, Her only deity, to spare her soul, Or else in that last moment she will learn 'Tis labour lost to worship powers unseen. [_Exit_ CREON
1 - 183 CHORUS.
Love, never foiled in fight! 1 Warrior Love, that on Wealth workest havoc! Love, who in ambush of young maid's soft cheek All night keep'st watch!--Thou roamest over seas. In lonely forest homes thou harbourest. Who may avoid thee? None! Mortal, Immortal, All are o'erthrown by thee, all feel thy frenzy. Lightly thou draw'st awry 2 Righteous minds into wrong to their ruin Thou this unkindly quarrel hast inflamed 'Tween kindred men--Triumphantly prevails The heart-compelling eye of winsome bride, Compeer of mighty Law Thronèd, commanding. Madly thou mockest men, dread Aphrodite.
Ah! now myself am carried past the bound Of law, nor can I check the rising tear, When I behold Antigone even here Touching the quiet bourne where all must rest. _Enter_ ANTIGONE _guarded._
1 - 185 ANT.
Ye see me on my way, I 1 O burghers of my father's land! With one last look on Helios' ray, Led my last path toward the silent strand. Alive to the wide house of rest I go; No dawn for me may shine, No marriage-blessing e'er be mine, No hymeneal with my praises flow! The Lord of Acheron's unlovely shore Shall be mine only husband evermore.
1 - 186 CH.
Yea, but with glory and fame,-- Not by award of the sword, Not with blighting disease, But by a law of thine own,-- Thou, of mortals alone, Goest alive to the deep Tranquil home of the dead.
1 - 187 ANT.
Erewhile I heard men say, I 2 How, in far Phrygia, Thebè's friend, Tantalus' child, had dreariest end On heights of Sipylus consumed away: O'er whom the rock like clinging ivy grows, And while with moistening dew Her cheek runs down, the eternal snows Weigh o'er her, and the tearful stream renew That from sad brows her stone-cold breast doth steep. Like unto her the God lulls me to sleep.
1 - 188 CH.
But she was a goddess born, We but of mortal line; And sure to rival the fate Of a daughter of sires Divine Were no light glory in death.
1 - 189 ANT.
O mockery of my woe! II 1 I pray you by our fathers' holy Fear, Why must I hear Your insults, while in life on earth I stand, O ye that flow In wealth, rich burghers of my bounteous land? O fount of Dircè, and thou spacious grove, Where Thebè's chariots move! Ye are my witness, though none else be nigh, By what enormity of lawless doom, Without one friendly sigh, I go to the strong mound of yon strange tomb,-- All hapless, having neither part nor room With those who live or those who die!
1 - 190 CH.
Thy boldness mounted high, And thou, my child, 'gainst the great pedestal Of Justice with unmeasured force didst fall. Thy father's lot still presseth hard on thee.
1 - 191 ANT.
That pains me more than all. II 2 Ah! thou hast touched my father's misery Still mourned anew, With all the world-famed sorrows on us rolled Since Cadmus old. O cursèd marriage that my mother knew! O wretched fortune of my sire, who lay Where first he saw the day! Such were the authors of my burdened life; To whom, with curses dowered, never a wife, I go to dwell beneath. O brother mine, thy princely marriage-tie Hath been thy downfall, and in this thy death Thou hast destroyed me ere I die.
1 - 192 CH.
'Twas pious, we confess, Thy fervent deed. But he, who power would show, Must let no soul of all he rules transgress. A self-willed passion was thine overthrow.
1 - 193 ANT.
Friendless, uncomforted of bridal lay, III Unmourned, they lead me on my destined way. Woe for my life forlorn! I may not see The sacred round of yon great light Rising again to greet me from the night; No friend bemoans my fate, no tear hath fallen for me! _Enter_ CREON.
1 - 194 CR.
If criminals were suffered to complain In dirges before death, they ne'er would end. Away with her at once, and closing her, As I commanded, in the vaulty tomb, Leave her all desolate, whether to die, Or to live on in that sepulchral cell. We are guiltless in the matter of this maid; Only she shall not share the light of day.
1 - 195 ANT.
O grave! my bridal chamber, prison-house Eterne, deep-hollowed, whither I am led To find mine own,--of whom Persephonè Hath now a mighty number housed in death:-- I last of all, and far most miserably, Am going, ere my days have reached their term! Yet lives the hope that, when I go, most surely Dear will my coming be, father, to thee, And dear to thee, my mother, and to thee, Brother! since with these very hands I decked And bathed you after death, and ministered The last libations. And I reap this doom For tending, Polynices, on thy corse. Indeed I honoured thee, the wise will say. For neither, had I children, nor if one I had married were laid bleeding on the earth, Would I have braved the city's will, or taken This burden on me. Wherefore? I will tell. A husband lost might be replaced; a son, If son were lost to me, might yet be born; But, with both parents hidden in the tomb, No brother may arise to comfort me. Therefore above all else I honoured thee, And therefore Creon thought me criminal, And bold in wickedness, O brother mine! And now by servile hands, for all to see, He hastens me away, unhusbanded, Before my nuptial, having never known Or married joy or tender motherhood. But desolate and friendless I go down Alive, O horror! to the vaults of the dead. For what transgression of Heaven's ordinance? Alas! how can I look to Heaven? on whom Call to befriend me? seeing that I have earned, By piety, the meed of impious?-- Oh! if this act be what the Gods approve, In death I may repent me of my deed; But if they sin who judge me, be their doom No heavier than they wrongly wreak on me!
1 - 196 CH.
With unchanged fury beats the storm of soul That shakes this maiden.
1 - 197 CR.
Then for that, be sure Her warders shall lament their tardiness.
1 - 198 ANT.
Alas! I hear Death's footfall in that sound.
1 - 199 CR.
I may not reassure thee.--'Tis most true.
1 - 200 ANT.
O land of Thebè, city of my sires, Ye too, ancestral Gods! I go--I go! Even now they lead me to mine end. Behold! Founders of Thebes, the only scion left Of Cadmus' issue, how unworthily, By what mean instruments I am oppressed, For reverencing the dues of piety. [_Exit guarded_
1 - 201 CHORUS.
Even Danaë's beauty left the lightsome day. I 1 Closed in her strong and brass-bound tower she lay In tomb-like deep confine. Yet she was gendered, O my child! From sires of noblest line, And treasured for the Highest the golden rain. Fated misfortune hath a power so fell: Not wealth, nor warfare wild, Nor dark spray-dashing coursers of the main Against great Destiny may once rebel. He too in darksome durance was compressed, I 2 King of Edonians, Dryas' hasty son[5], In eyeless vault of stone Immured by Dionysus' hest, All for a wrathful jest. Fierce madness issueth in such fatal flower. He found 'twas mad to taunt the Heavenly Power, Chilling the Maenad breast Kindled with Bacchic fire, and with annoy Angering the Muse that in the flute hath joy. And near twin rocks that guard the Colchian sea, II 1 Bosporian cliffs 'fore Salmydessus rise, Where neighbouring Ares from his shrine beheld Phineus' two sons[6] by female fury quelled. With cursèd wounding of their sight-reft eyes, That cried to Heaven to 'venge the iniquity. The shuttle's sharpness in a cruel hand Dealt the dire blow, not struck with martial brand. But chiefly for her piteous lot they pined, II 2 Who was the source of their rejected birth. She touched the lineage of Erechtheus old; Whence in far caves her life did erst unfold, Cradled 'mid storms, daughter of Northern wind, Steed-swift o'er all steep places of the earth. Yet even on her, though reared of heavenly kind, The long-enduring Fates at last took hold. _Enter_ TIRESIAS, _led by a boy._
1 - 202 TIRESIAS.
We are come, my lords of Thebes, joint wayfarers, One having eyes for both. The blind must still Thus move in frail dependence on a guide.
1 - 203 CR.
. And what hath brought thee, old Tirésias, now?
1 - 204 TI.
I will instruct thee, if thou wilt hear my voice.
1 - 205 CR.
I have not heretofore rejected thee.
1 - 206 TI.
Therefore thy pilotage hath saved this city.
1 - 207 CR.
Grateful experience owns the benefit.
1 - 208 TI.
Take heed. Again thou art on an edge of peril.
1 - 209 CR.
What is it? How I shudder at thy word!
1 - 210 TI.
The tokens of mine art shall make thee know. As I was sitting on that ancient seat Of divination, where I might command Sure cognisance of every bird of the air, I heard strange clamouring of fowl, that screeched In furious dissonance; and, I could tell, Talons were bloodily engaged--the whirr Of wings told a clear tale. At once, in fear, I tried burnt sacrifice at the high altar: Where from the offering the fire god refused To gleam; but a dank humour from the bones Dripped on the embers with a sputtering fume. The gall was spirited high in air, the thighs Lay wasting, bared of their enclosing fat. Such failing tokens of blurred augury This youth reported, who is guide to me, As I to others. And this evil state Is come upon the city from thy will: Because our altars--yea, our sacred hearths-- Are everywhere infected from the mouths Of dogs or beak of vulture that hath fed On Oedipus' unhappy slaughtered son. And then at sacrifice the Gods refuse Our prayers and savour of the thigh-bone fat-- And of ill presage is the thickening cry Of bird that battens upon human gore Now, then, my son, take thought. A man may err; But he is not insensate or foredoomed To ruin, who, when he hath lapsed to evil, Stands not inflexible, but heals the harm. The obstinate man still earns the name of fool. Urge not contention with the dead, nor stab The fallen. What valour is 't to slay the slain? I have thought well of this, and say it with care; And careful counsel, that brings gain withal, Is precious to the understanding soul.
1 - 211 CR.
I am your mark, and ye with one consent All shoot your shafts at me. Nought left untried, Not even the craft of prophets, by whose crew I am bought and merchandised long since. Go on! Traffic, get gain, electrum from the mine Of Lydia, and the gold of Ind! Yet know, Grey-beard! ye ne'er shall hide him in a tomb. No, not if heaven's own eagle chose to snatch And bear him to the throne supreme for food, Even that pollution should not daunt my heart To yield permission for his funeral. For well know I defilement ne'er can rise From man to God. But, old Tirésias, hear! Even wisest spirits have a shameful fall That fairly speak base words for love of gain.
1 - 212 TI.
Ah! where is wisdom? who considereth?
1 - 213 CR.
Wherefore? what means this universal doubt?
1 - 214 TI.
How far the best of riches is good counsel!
1 - 215 CR.
As far as folly is the mightiest bane.
1 - 216 TI.
Yet thou art sick of that same pestilence.
1 - 217 CR.
I would not give the prophet blow for blow.
1 - 218 TI.
What blow is harder than to call me false?
1 - 219 CR.
Desire of money is the prophet's plague.
1 - 220 TI.
And ill-sought lucre is the curse of kings.
1 - 221 CR.
CR. Know'st thou 'tis of thy sovereign thou speak'st this?
1 - 222 TI.
Yea, for my aid gives thee to sway this city.
1 - 223 CR.
Far seeing art thou, but dishonest too.
1 - 224 TI.
Thou wilt provoke the utterance of my tongue To that even thought refused to dwell upon.
1 - 225 CR.
Say on, so thou speak sooth, and not for gain.
1 - 226 TI.
You think me likely to seek gain from you?
1 - 227 CR.
You shall not make your merchandise on me!
1 - 228 TI.
Not many courses of the racing sun Shalt thou fulfil, ere of thine own true blood Thou shalt have given a corpse in recompense For one on earth whom thou hast cast beneath, Entombing shamefully a living soul, And one whom thou hast kept above the ground And disappointed of all obsequies, Unsanctified and godlessly forlorn. Such violence the powers beneath will bear Not even from the Olympian gods. For thee The avengers wait. Hidden but near at hand, Lagging but sure, the Furies of the grave Are watching for thee to thy ruinous harm, With thine own evil to entangle thee. Look well to it now whether I speak for gold! A little while, and thine own palace-halls Shall flash the truth upon thee with loud noise Of men and women, shrieking o'er the dead. And all the cities whose unburied sons, Mangled and torn, have found a sepulchre In dogs or jackals or some ravenous bird That stains their incense with polluted breath, Are forming leagues in troublous enmity. Such shafts, since thou hast stung me to the quick, I like an archer at thee in my wrath Have loosed unerringly--carrying their pang, Inevitable, to thy very heart. Now, sirrah! lead me home, that his hot mood Be spent on younger objects, till he learn To keep a safer mind and calmer tongue. [_Exit_
1 - 229 CH.
Sire, there is terror in that prophecy. He who is gone, since ever these my locks, Once black, now white with age, waved o'er my brow, Hath never spoken falsely to the state.
1 - 230 CR.
I know it, and it shakes me to the core. To yield is dreadful: but resistingly To face the blow of fate, is full of dread.
1 - 231 CH.
The time calls loud on wisdom, good my lord.
1 - 232 CR.
What must I do? Advise me. I will obey.
1 - 233 CH.
Go and release the maiden from the vault, And make a grave for the unburied dead.
1 - 234 CR.
Is that your counsel? Think you I will yield?
1 - 235 CH.
With all the speed thou mayest: swift harms from heaven With instant doom o'erwhelm the froward man.
1 - 236 CR.
Oh! it is hard. But I am forced to this Against myself. I cannot fight with Destiny.
1 - 237 CH.
Go now to do it. Trust no second hand.
1 - 238 CR.
Even as I am, I go. Come, come, my people. Here or not here, with mattocks in your hands Set forth immediately to yonder hill! And, since I have ta'en this sudden turn, myself, Who tied the knot, will hasten to unloose it. For now the fear comes over me, 'tis best To pass one's life in the accustomed round. [_Exeunt_
1 - 239 CHORUS.
O God of many a name! I 1 Filling the heart of that Cadmeian bride With deep delicious pride, Offspring of him who wields the withering flame! Thou for Italia's good Dost care, and 'midst the all-gathering bosom wide[7] Of Dêo dost preside; Thou, Bacchus, by Ismenus' winding waters 'Mongst Thebè's frenzied daughters, Keep'st haunt, commanding the fierce dragon's brood. Thee o'er the forkèd hill I 2 The pinewood flame beholds, where Bacchai rove, Nymphs of Corycian grove, Hard by the flowing of Castalia's rill. To visit Theban ways, By bloomy wine-cliffs flushing tender bright 'Neath far Nyseian height Thou movest o'er the ivy-mantled mound, While myriad voices sound Loud strains of 'Evoe!' to thy deathless praise. For Thebè thou dost still uphold, II 1 First of cities manifold, Thou and the nymph whom lightning made Mother of thy radiant head. Come then with healing for the violent woe That o'er our peopled land doth largely flow, Passing the high Parnassian steep Or moaning narrows of the deep! Come, leader of the starry quire II 2 Quick-panting with their breath of fire! Lord of high voices of the night, Child born to him who dwells in light, Appear with those who, joying in their madness, Honour the sole dispenser of their gladness, Thyiads of the Aegean main Night-long trooping in thy train. _Enter_ Messenger.
1 - 240 MESS.
Neighbours of Cadmus and Amphion's halls, No life of mortal, howsoe'er it stand, Shall once have praise or censure from my mouth; Since human happiness and human woe Come even as fickle Fortune smiles or lours; And none can augur aught from what we see. Creon erewhile to me was enviable, Who saved our Thebè from her enemies; Then, vested with supreme authority, Ruled her aright; and flourish'd in his home With noblest progeny. What hath he now? Nothing. For when a man is lost to joy, I count him not to live, but reckon him A living corse. Riches belike are his, Great riches and the appearance of a King; But if no gladness come to him, all else Is shadow of a vapour, weighed with joy.
1 - 241 CH.
What new affliction heaped on sovereignty Com'st thou to tell?
1 - 242 MESS.
They are dead; and they that live Are guilty of the death.
1 - 243 CH.
The slayer, who? And who the slain? Declare.
1 - 244 MESS.
Haemon is dead, And by a desperate hand.
1 - 245 CH.
His own, or Creon's?
1 - 246 MESS.
By his own hand, impelled with violent wrath At Creon for the murder of the maid.
1 - 247 CH.
Ah, Seer! how surely didst thou aim thy word!
1 - 248 MESS.
So stands the matter. Make of it what ye list.
1 - 249 CH.
See, from the palace cometh close to us Creon's unhappy wife, Eurydicè. Is it by chance, or heard she of her son? _Enter_ EURYDICE.
1 - 250 EURYDICE.
Ye men of Thebes, the tidings met mine ear As I was coming forth to visit Pallas With prayerful salutation. I was loosening The bar of the closed gate, when the sharp sound Of mine own sorrow smote against my heart, And I fell back astonied on my maids And fainted. But the tale? tell me once more; I am no novice in adversity.
1 - 251 MESS.
Dear lady, I will tell thee what I saw, And hide no grain of truth: why should I soothe Thy spirit with soft tales, when the harsh fact Must prove me a liar? Truth is always best. I duly led the footsteps of thy lord To the highest point of the plain, where still was lying, Forlorn and mangled by the dogs, the corse Of Polynices. We besought Persephonè And Pluto gently to restrain their wrath, And wash'd him pure and clean, and then we burned The poor remains with brushwood freshly pulled, And heaped a lofty mound of his own earth Above him. Then we turned us to the vault, The maiden's stony bride-chamber of death. And from afar, round the unhallowed cell, One heard a voice of wailing loud and long, And went and told his lord: who coming near Was haunted by the dim and bitter cry, And suddenly exclaiming on his fate Said lamentably, 'My prophetic heart Divined aright. I am going, of all ways That e'er I went, the unhappiest to-day. My son's voice smites me. Go, my men, approach With speed, and, where the stones are torn away, Press through the passage to that door of death, Look hard, and tell me, if I hear aright The voice of Haemon, or the gods deceive me.' Thus urged by our despairing lord, we made Th' espial. And in the farthest nook of the vault We saw the maiden hanging by the neck With noose of finest tissue firmly tied, And clinging to her on his knees the boy, Lamenting o'er his ruined nuptial-rite, Consummated in death, his father's crime And his lost love. And when the father saw him, With loud and dreadful clamour bursting in He went to him and called him piteously: 'What deed is this, unhappy youth? What thought O'ermaster'd thee? Where did the force of woe O'erturn thy reason? O come forth, my son, I beg thee!' But with savage eyes the youth Glared scowling at him, and without a word Plucked forth his two-edged blade. The father then Fled and escaped: but the unhappy boy, Wroth with himself, even where he stood, leant heavily Upon his sword and plunged it in his side.-- And while the sense remained, his slackening arm Enfolded still the maiden, and his breath, Gaspingly drawn and panted forth with pain, Cast ruddy drops upon her pallid face; Then lay in death upon the dead, at last Joined to his bride in Hades' dismal hall:-- A monument unto mankind, that rashness Is the worst evil of this mortal state. [_Exit_ EURYDICE
1 - 252 CH.
What augur ye from this? The queen is gone Without word spoken either good or bad.
1 - 253 MESS.
I, too, am struck with dread. But hope consoles me, That having heard the affliction of her son, Her pride forbids to publish her lament Before the town, but to her maids within She will prescribe to mourn the loss of the house. She is too tried in judgement to do ill.
1 - 254 CH.
I cannot tell. The extreme of silence, too, Is dangerous, no less than much vain noise.
1 - 255 MESS.
Well, we may learn, if there be aught unseen Suppressed within her grief-distempered soul, By going within the palace. Ye say well: There is a danger, even in too much silence.
1 - 256 CH.
Ah! look where sadly comes our lord the King, Bearing upon his arm a monument-- If we may speak it--of no foreign woe, But of his own infirmity the fruit. _Enter_ CREON _with the body of_ HAEMON.
1 - 257 CR.
O error of my insensate soul, I 1 Stubborn, and deadly in the fateful end! O ye who now behold Slayer and slain of the same kindred blood! O bitter consequence of seeming-wise decree! Alas, my son! Strange to the world wert thou, and strange the fate That took thee off, that slew thee; woe is me! Not for thy rashness, but my folly. Ah me!
1 - 258 CH.
Alas for him who sees the right too late!
1 - 259 CR.
Alas! I have learnt it now. But then upon my head Some God had smitten with dire weight of doom; And plunged me in a furious course, woe is me! Discomforting and trampling on my joy. Woe! for the bitterness of mortal pain! _Enter_ 2nd Messenger.
1 - 260 2ND MESS.
My lord and master. Thou art master here Of nought but sorrows. One within thine arms Thou bear'st with thee, and in thy palace hall Thou hast possession of another grief, Which soon thou shalt behold.
1 - 261 CR.
What more of woe, Or what more woeful, sounds anew from thee?
1 - 262 2ND MESS.
The honoured mother of that corse, thy queen, Is dead, and bleeding with a new-given wound.
1 - 263 CR.
horrible! O charnel gulf I 2 Of death on death, not to be done away, Why harrowest thou my soul? Ill boding harbinger of woe, what word Have thy lips uttered? Oh, thou hast killed me again, Before undone! What say'st? What were thy tidings? Woe is me! Saidst thou a slaughtered queen in yonder hall Lay in her blood, crowning the pile of ruin?
1 - 264 CH.
No longer hidden in the house. Behold! [_The Corpse of_ EURYDICE _is disclosed_
1 - 265 CR.
Alas! Again I see a new, a second woe. What more calamitous stroke of Destiny Awaits me still? But now mine arms enfold My child, and lo! yon corse before my face! Ah! hapless, hapless mother, hapless son!
1 - 266 2ND MESS.
She with keen knife before the altar place[8] Closed her dark orbs; but first lamented loud The glorious bed of buried Megareus[9], And then of Haemon; lastly clamoured forth The curse of murdered offspring upon thee.
1 - 267 CR.
Ay me! Ay me! II 1 I am rapt with terror. Is there none to strike me With doubly sharpened blade a mortal blow? Ah! I am plunged in fathomless distress.
1 - 268 2ND MESS.
The guilt of this and of the former grief By this dead lady was denounced on thee.
1 - 269 CR.
Tell us, how ended she her life in blood?
1 - 270 2ND MESS.
Wounding herself to the heart, when she had heard The loud lamented death of Haemon here.
1 - 271 CR.
O me! This crime can come On no man else, exempting me. I slew thee--I, O misery! I say the truth, 'twas I! My followers, Take me with speed--take me away, away! Me, who am nothing now.
1 - 272 CH.
Thou sayest the best, if there be best in woe. Briefest is happiest in calamity.
1 - 273 CR.
Ah! let it come, II 2 The day, most welcome of all days to me, That brings the consummation of my doom. Come! Come! I would not see another sun.
1 - 274 CH.
Time will determine that. We must attend To present needs. Fate works her own dread work.
1 - 275 CR.
All my desire was gathered in my prayer.
1 - 276 CH.
But prayer is bootless. For to mortal men There is no saviour from appointed woe.
1 - 277 CR.
Take me away, the vain-proud man that slew Thee, O my son! unwittingly,--and thee! Me miserable, which way shall I turn, Which look upon? Since all that I can touch Is falling,--falling,--round me, and o'erhead Intolerable destiny descends.
Wise conduct hath command of happiness Before all else, and piety to Heaven Must be preserved. High boastings of the proud Bring sorrow to the height to punish pride:-- A lesson men shall learn when they are old.
2 Aias.
2 - Introduction 0
THE PERSONS ATHENA. ODYSSEUS. AIAS, _the son of Telamon._ CHORUS _of Salaminian Mariners._ TECMESSA. _A Messenger._ TEUCER, _half brother of Aias._ MENELAUS. AGAMEMNON. EURYSAKÈS, _the child of Aias and Tecmessa, appears, but does not speak._ SCENE. Before the encampment of Aias on the shore of the Troad. Afterwards a lonely place beyond Rhoeteum. Time, towards the end of the Trojan War.   _'A wounded spirit who can bear?'_ After the death of Achilles, the armour made for him by Hephaestus was to be given to the worthiest of the surviving Greeks. Although Aias was the most valiant, the judges made the award to Odysseus, because he was the wisest. Aias in his rage attempts to kill the generals; but Athena sends madness upon him, and he makes a raid upon the flocks and herds of the army, imagining the bulls and rams to be the Argive chiefs. On awakening from his delusion, he finds that he has fallen irrecoverably from honour and from the favour of the Greeks. He also imagines that the anger of Athena is unappeasable. Under this impression he eludes the loving eyes of his captive-bride Tecmessa, and of his Salaminian comrades, and falls on his sword. ('The soul and body rive not more in parting Than greatness going off.') But it is revealed through the prophet Calchas, that the wrath of Athena will last only for a day; and on the return of Teucer, Aias receives an honoured funeral, the tyrannical reclamations of the two sons of Atreus being overcome by the firm fidelity of Teucer and the magnanimity of Odysseus, who has been inspired for this purpose by Athena.
2 - 1 ATHENA.
ATHENA (_above_). ODYSSEUS. Oft have I seen thee, Laërtiades, Intent on some surprisal of thy foes; As now I find thee by the seaward camp, Where Aias holds the last place in your line, Lingering in quest, and scanning the fresh print Of his late footsteps, to be certified If he keep house or no. Right well thy sense Hath led thee forth, like some keen hound of Sparta! The man is even but now come home, his head And slaughterous hands reeking with ardent toil. Thou, then, no longer strain thy gaze within Yon gateway, but declare what eager chase Thou followest, that a god may give thee light.
Athena, 'tis thy voice! Dearest in heaven, How well discerned and welcome to my soul From that dim distance doth thine utterance fly In tones as of Tyrrhenian trumpet clang! Rightly hast thou divined mine errand here, Beating this ground for Aias of the shield, The lion-quarry whom I track to day. For he hath wrought on us to night a deed Past thought--if he be doer of this thing; We drift in ignorant doubt, unsatisfied-- And I unbidden have bound me to this toil. Brief time hath flown since suddenly we knew That all our gathered spoil was reaved and slaughtered, Flocks, herds, and herdmen, by some human hand, All tongues, then, lay this deed at Aias' door. And one, a scout who had marked him, all alone, With new-fleshed weapon bounding o'er the plain, Gave me to know it, when immediately I darted on the trail, and here in part I find some trace to guide me, but in part I halt, amazed, and know not where to look. Thou com'st full timely. For my venturous course, Past or to come, is governed by thy will.
2 - 3 ATH.
ATH. I knew thy doubts, Odysseus, and came forth Zealous to guard thy perilous hunting-path.
2 - 4 OD.
OD. Dear Queen! and am I labouring to an end?
2 - 5 ATH.
ATH. Thou schem'st not idly. This is Aias' deed.
2 - 6 OD.
OD. What can have roused him to a work so wild?
2 - 7 ATH.
ATH. His grievous anger for Achilles' arms.
2 - 8 OD.
OD. But wherefore on the flock this violent raid?
2 - 9 ATH.
ATH. He thought to imbrue his hands with your heart's blood.
2 - 10 0
OD. What? Was this planned against the Argives, then?
2 - 11 ATH.
ATH. Planned, and performed, had I kept careless guard.
2 - 12 0
OD. What daring spirit, what hardihood, was here!
2 - 13 ATH.
ATH. Alone by night in craft he sought your tents.
2 - 14 OD.
OD. How? Came he near them? Won he to his goal?
2 - 15 ATH.
ATH. He stood in darkness at the generals' gates.
2 - 16 OD.
OD. What then restrained his eager hand from murder?
2 - 17 ATH.
ATH. I turned him backward from his baleful joy, And overswayed him with blind phantasies, To swerve against the flocks and well-watched herd Not yet divided from the public booty. There plunging in he hewed the horned throng, And with him Havoc ranged: while now he thought To kill the Atreidae with hot hand, now this Now that commander, as the fancy grew. I, joining with the tumult of his mind, Flung the wild victim on the fatal net. Anon, this toil being overpast, he draws The living oxen and the panting sheep With cords to his home, not as a hornèd prey, But as in triumph marshalling his foes: Whom now he tortures in their bonds within. Come, thou shalt see this madness in clear day, And tell to the Argives all I show thee here Only stand firm and shrink not, I will turn His eyes askance, not to distinguish thee, Fear nought--Ho! thou that bindest to thy will The limbs of those thy captives, come thou forth! Aias! advance before thy palace gate!
2 - 18 OD.
OD. My Queen! what dost thou? Never call him forth.
2 - 19 ATH.
ATH. Hush, hush! Be not so timorous, but endure.
2 - 20 OD.
OD. Nay, nay! Enough. He is there, and let him bide.
2 - 21 ATH.
ATH. What fear you? Dates his valour from to day?
2 - 22 OD.
OD. He was and is my valiant enemy.
2 - 23 ATH.
ATH. Then is not laughter sweetest o'er a foe?
2 - 24 OD.
OD. No more! I care not he should pass abroad.
2 - 25 ATH.
ATH. You flinch from seeing the madman in full view.
2 - 26 OD.
OD. When sane, I ne'er had flinched before his face.
2 - 27 ATH.
ATH. Well, but even now he shall not know thee near.
2 - 28 OD.
OD. How, if his eyes be not transformed or lost?
2 - 29 ATH.
ATH. I will confound his sense although he see.
2 - 30 OD.
OD. Well, nothing is too hard for Deity.
2 - 31 ATH.
ATH. Stand still and keep thy place without a word.
2 - 32 OD.
I must. Would I were far away from here!
2 - 33 ATH.
ATH. Aias! Again I summon thee. Why pay So scanty heed to her who fights for thee? _Enter_ AIAS _with a bloody scourge._
2 - 34 AIAS.
Hail, offspring of the Highest! Pallas, hail! Well hast thou stood by me. Triumphal gold Shall crown thy temple for this lordly prey.
2 - 35 ATH.
ATH. A fair intention! But resolve me this: Hast dyed thy falchion deep in Argive blood?
2 - 36 AI.
AI. There is my boast; that charge I'll ne'er deny.
2 - 37 ATH.
ATH. Have Atreus' sons felt thy victorious might?
2 - 38 AI.
AI. They have. No more they'll make a scorn of me!
2 - 39 ATH.
ATH. I take it, then, they are dead.
2 - 40 AI.
AI. Ay, now they are dead, Let them arise and rob me of mine arms!
2 - 41 ATH.
ATH. Good. Next inform us of Laërtes' son; How stands his fortune? Hast thou let him go?
2 - 42 AI.
AI. The accursed fox! Dost thou inquire of him?
2 - 43 ATH.
ATH. Ay, of Odysseus, thy late adversary.
2 - 44 AI.
AI. He sits within, dear lady, to my joy, Bound; for I mean him not just yet to die.
2 - 45 ATH.
ATH. What fine advantage wouldst thou first achieve?
2 - 46 AI.
AI. First, tie him to a pillar of my hall--
2 - 47 ATH.
ATH. Poor wretch! What torment wilt thou wreak on him?
2 - 48 AI.
AI. Then stain his back with scourging till he die.
2 - 49 ATH.
ATH. Nay, 'tis too much. Poor caitiff! Not the scourge!
2 - 50 AI.
AI. Pallas, in all things else have thou thy will, But none shall wrest Odysseus from this doom.
2 - 51 ATH.
Well, since thou art determined on the deed, Spare nought of thine intent: indulge thy hand!
2 - 52 AI.
AI. (_waving the bloody scourge_). I go! But thou, I charge thee, let thine aid Be evermore like valiant as to-day.
2 - 53 ATH.
The gods are strong, Odysseus. Dost thou see? What man than Aias was more provident, Or who for timeliest action more approved?
2 - 54 OD.
I know of none. But, though he hates me sore, I pity him, poor mortal, thus chained fast To a wild and cruel fate,--weighing not so much His fortune as mine own. For now I feel All we who live are but an empty show And idle pageant of a shadowy dream.
2 - 55 ATH.
Then, warned by what thou seest, be thou not rash To vaunt high words toward Heaven, nor swell thy port Too proudly, if in puissance of thy hand Thou passest others, or in mines of wealth. Since Time abases and uplifts again All that is human, and the modest heart Is loved by Heaven, who hates the intemperate will. [_Exeunt_
2 - 56CHORUS
(_entering_). Telamonian child, whose hand Guards our wave-encircled land, Salamis that breasts the sea, Good of thine is joy to me; But if One who reigns above Smite thee, or if murmurs move From fierce Danaäns in their hate Full of threatening to thy state, All my heart for fear doth sigh, Shrinking like a dove's soft eye. Hardly had the darkness waned, [_Half-Chorus I._ When our ears were filled and pained With huge scandal on thy fame. Telling, thine the arm that came To the cattle-browsèd mead, Wild with prancing of the steed, And that ravaged there and slew With a sword of fiery hue All the spoils that yet remain, By the sweat of spearmen ta'en. Such report against thy life, [_Half-Chorus II._ Whispered words with falsehood rife, Wise Odysseus bringing near Shrewdly gaineth many an ear: Since invention against thee Findeth hearing speedily, Tallying with the moment's birth; And with loudly waxing mirth Heaping insult on thy grief, Each who hears it glories more Than the tongue that told before. Every slander wins belief Aimed at souls whose worth is chief: Shot at me, or one so small, Such a bolt might harmless fall. Ever toward the great and high Creepeth climbing jealousy Yet the low without the tall Make at need a tottering wall Let the strong the feeble save And the mean support the brave. CHORUS Ah! 'twere vain to tune such song 'Mid the nought discerning throng Who are clamouring now 'gainst thee Long and loud, and strengthless we, Mighty chieftain, thou away, To withstand the gathering fray Flocking fowl with carping cry Seem they, lurking from thine eye, Till the royal eagle's poise Overawe the paltry noise Till before thy presence hushed Sudden sink they, mute and crushed. Did bull slaying Artemis, Zeus' cruel daughter I 1 (Ah, fearful rumour, fountain of my shame!) Prompt thy fond heart to this disastrous slaughter Of the full herd stored in our army's name! Say, had her blood stained temple[1] missed the kindness Of some vow promised fruit of victory, Foiled of some glorious armour through thy blindness, Or fell some stag ungraced by gift from thee? Or did stern Ares venge his thankless spear Through this night foray that hath cost thee dear! For never, if thy heart were not distracted I 2 By stings from Heaven, O child of Telamon, Wouldst thou have bounded leftward, to have acted Thus wildly, spoiling all our host hath won! Madness might fall some heavenly power forfend it But if Odysseus and the tyrant lords Suggest a forged tale, O rise to end it, Nor fan the fierce flame of their withering words! Forth from thy tent, and let thine eye confound The brood of Sisyphus[2] that would thee wound! Too long hast thou been fixed in grim repose, III Heightening the haughty malice of thy foes, That, while thou porest by the sullen sea, Through breezy glades advanceth fearlessly, A mounting blaze with crackling laughter fed From myriad throats; whence pain and sorrow bred Within my bosom are establishèd. _Enter_ TECMESSA.
2 - 57 TECMESSA.
Helpers of Aias' vessel's speed, Erechtheus' earth-derivèd seed, Sorrows are ours who truly care For the house of Telamon afar. The dread, the grand, the rugged form Of him we know, Is stricken with a troublous storm; Our Aias' glory droopeth low.
2 - 58 CHORUS.
What burden through the darkness fell Where still at eventide 'twas well? Phrygian Teleutas' daughter, say; Since Aias, foremost in the fray, Disdaining not the spear-won bride, Still holds thee nearest at his side, And thou may'st solve our doubts aright.
2 - 59 TEC.
TEC. How shall I speak the dreadful word? How shall ye live when ye have heard? Madness hath seized our lord by night And blasted him with hopeless blight. Such horrid victims mightst thou see Huddled beneath yon canopy, Torn by red hands and dyed in blood, Dread offerings to his direful mood.
2 - 60 CH.
CH. What news of our fierce lord thy story showeth, 1 Sharp to endure, impossible to fly! News that on tongues of Danaäns hourly groweth, Which Rumour's myriad voices multiply! Alas! the approaching doom awakes my terror. The man will die, disgraced in open day, Whose dark dyed steel hath dared through mad brained error The mounted herdmen with their herds to slay.
2 - 61 TEC.
TEC. O horror! Then 'twas there he found The flock he brought as captives tied, And some he slew upon the ground, And some, side smiting, sundered wide Two white foot rams he backward drew, And bound. Of one he shore and threw The tipmost tongue and head away, The other to an upright stay He tied, and with a harness thong Doubled in hand, gave whizzing blows, Echoing his lashes with a song More dire than mortal fury knows.
2 - 62 CH.
CH. Ah! then 'tis time, our heads in mantles hiding, 2 Our feet on some stol'n pathway now to ply, Or with swift oarage o'er the billows gliding, With ordered stroke to make the good ship fly Such threats the Atridae, armed with two fold power, Launch to assail us. Oh, I sadly fear Stones from fierce hands on us and him will shower, Whose heavy plight no comfort may come near.
2 - 63 TEC.
TEC. 'Tis changed, his rage, like sudden blast, Without the lightning gleam is past And now that Reason's light returns, New sorrow in his spirit burns. For when we look on self made woe, In which no hand but ours had part, Thought of such griefs and whence they flow Brings aching misery to the heart.
2 - 64 CH.
CH. If he hath ceased to rave, he should do well The account of evil lessens when 'tis past.
2 - 65 TEC.
TEC. If choice were given you, would you rather choose Hurting your friends, yourself to feel delight, Or share with them in one commingled pain?
2 - 66 CH.
CH. The two fold trouble is more terrible.
2 - 67 TEC.
TEC. Then comes our torment now the fit is o'er.
2 - 68 CH.
CH. How mean'st thou by that word? I fail to see.
2 - 69 TEC.
TEC. He in his rage had rapture of delight And knew not how he grieved us who stood near And saw the madding tempest ruining him. But now 'tis over and he breathes anew, The counterblast of sorrow shakes his soul, Whilst our affliction vexeth as before, Have we not double for our single woe?
2 - 70 CH.
CH. I feel thy reasoning move me, and I fear Some heavenly stroke hath fallen. How else, when the end Of stormy sickness brings no cheering ray?
2 - 71 TEC.
TEC. Our state is certain. Dream not but 'tis so.
2 - 72 CH.
CH. How first began the assault of misery? Tell us the trouble, for we share the pain.
2 - 73 TEC.
TEC. It toucheth you indeed, and ye shall hear All from the first. 'Twas midnight, and the lamp Of eve had died, when, seizing his sharp blade, He sought on some vain errand to creep forth. I broke in with my word: 'Aias, what now? Why thus uncalled for salliest thou? No voice Of herald summoned thee. No trumpet blew. What wouldst thou when the camp is hushed in sleep?' He with few words well known to women's ears Checked me: 'The silent partner is the best.' I saw how 'twas and ceased. Forth then he fared Alone--What horror passed upon the plain This night, I know not. But he drags within, Tied in a throng, bulls, shepherd dogs, and spoil Of cattle and sheep. Anon he butchers them, Felling or piercing, hacking or tearing wide, Ribs from breast, limb from limb. Others in rage He seized and bound and tortured, brutes for men. Last, out he rushed before the doors, and there Whirled forth wild language to some shadowy form, Flouting the generals and Laërtes' son With torrent laughter and loud triumphing What in his raid he had wreaked to their despite. Then diving back within--the fitful storm Slowly assuaging left his spirit clear. And when his eye had lightened through the room Cumbered with ruin, smiting on his brow He roared; and, tumbling down amid the wreck Of woolly carnage he himself had made, Sate with clenched hand tight twisted in his hair. Long stayed he so in silence. Then flashed forth Those frightful words of threatening vehemence, That bade me show him all the night's mishap, And whither he was fallen I, dear my friends, Prevailed on through my fear, told all I knew. And all at once he raised a bitter cry, Which heretofore I ne'er had heard, for still He made us think such doleful utterance Betokened the dull craven spirit, and still Dumb to shrill wailings, he would only moan With half heard muttering, like an angry bull. But now, by such dark fortune overpowered, Foodless and dry, amid the quivering heap His steel hath quelled, all quietly he broods; And out of doubt his mind intends some harm: Such words, such groans, burst from him. O my friends.-- Therefore I hastened,--enter and give aid If aught ye can! Men thus forgone will oft Grow milder through the counsel of a friend.
2 - 74 CH.
CH. Teleutas' child! we shudder at thy tale That fatal frenzy wastes our hero's soul.
2 - 75 AIAS
(_within_). Woe's me, me, me!
2 - 76 TEC.
TEC. More cause anon! Hear ye not Aias there, How sharp the cry that shrills from him?
2 - 77 AI.
AI. Woe! Woe!
2 - 78 CH.
CH. Madly it sounds--Or springs it of deep grief For proofs of madness harrowing to his eye?
2 - 79 AI.
AI. Boy, boy!
2 - 80 TEC.
TEC. What means he? Oh, Eurysakes! He cries on thee. Where art thou? O my heart!
2 - 81 AI.
AI. Teucer I call! Where 's Teucer? Will he ne'er Come from the chase, but leave me to my doom?
2 - 82 CH.
CH. Not madness now. Disclose him. Let us look. Haply the sight of us may calm his soul.
2 - 83 TEC.
TEC. There, then; I open to your view the form Of Aias, and his fortunes as they are. [AIAS _is discovered_
2 - 84 AI.
AI. Dear comrades of the deep, whose truth and love I 1 Stand forth alone unbroken in my woe, Behold what gory sea Of storm-lashed agony Doth round and round me flow!
2 - 85 CH.
CH. (_to_ TEC.) Too true thy witness: for the fact cries out Wild thoughts were here and Reason's lamp extinct.
2 - 86 AI.
AI. Strong helpers of sea-speed, whose nimble hand I 2 Plied hither the salt oar with circling stroke, No shepherd there was found To give the avenging wound. Come, lay me with the flock!
2 - 87 CH.
CH. Speak no rash word! nor curing ill with ill Augment the plague of this calamity.
2 - 88 AI.
AI. Mark ye the brave and bold, II 1 Whom none could turn of old, When once he set his face to the fierce fight? Now beasts that thought no harm Have felt this puissant arm. O laughter of my foes! O mockery of my might!
2 - 89 TEC.
TEC. Aias, my lord! I entreat thee, speak not so!
2 - 90 AI.
AI. Thou here! Away! begone, and trouble me not! O! O!
2 - 91 CH.
CH. Be softened! bear a steadier mind!
2 - 92 AI.
AI. O heaven-accursèd hand That let the ruffians go, But falling 'midst the horn'd and bleating band, Made darkling blood-streams flow!
2 - 93 CH.
CH. Why vex thy heart with what is over and done? Do what we may, this ne'er will alter now.
2 - 94 AI.
AI. Child of Laërtes old, II 2 Thou that dost still behold And still contrive all shapes of monstrous ill, Winding in foulest ways Through the army's sinful maze,-- Now even for pleasure thou may'st laugh thy fill.
2 - 95 CH.
CH. Laughter and tears are in the gift of God.
2 - 96 AI.
AI. Ay, might I see him, though thus broken,--ay me! Even yet--
2 - 97 CH.
CH. Nay, vaunt not. Look where thou art fallen.
2 - 98 AI.
AI. Source where my life-blood springs, O Zeus, might I but slay That crafty plague, with those twin-sceptred kings, Then breathe my life away!
2 - 99 TEC.
TEC. Pray thus, and pray that I too be no more! If thou wert gone, what were my life to me?
2 - 100 AI.
AI. Darkness! my only light! III 1 O nether gloom, to me Brighter than morning to the wakeful eye! Take me to dwell with thee. Take me! What help? Zeus' daughter with fell might Torments me sore. I may not look on high, Nor to the tribe of momentary men.-- Oh, whither, then, Should it avail to fly? Ah! whither should I go and stay? All here is ruin. This mad prey Shames me for evermore: Vengeance is at the door; Yea, all the Achaean host, with armèd hand, Is ready at command To slay me o'er and o'er.
2 - 101 TEC.
TEC. Woe 's me! to hear from one so good and true Words he had scorned to utter in past days.
2 - 102 AI.
AI. Grey firths of foaming brine, III 2 And ye, deep groves, that crown The sea-caves and long cliffs upon the shore, Too long did ye confine My life about the walls of Troia's town: But no more now! a breathing man, no more! The wise in heart may duly learn that lore. Let Xanthus know, Whose waters neighbouring flow, And minister to Argive men: One man he ne'er shall see again; One, I will vaunt it forth! Highest in warlike worth Of all Greek forms that Troia's towers have eyed: Now, shorn of all that pride, I lie thus low.
2 - 103 CH.
CH. I know not how to let thee speak, nor how To silence thee. Such evils close thee round. AI. Ay me! Could human thought have prophesied My name would thus give echo to mine ill? 'Ai' now for Aias, doubly, trebly said, Sorts all too well to mark my misery; Whose father from this land of Troy, as noblest Of all the host, carrying the fairest prize, Came girt about with glory to his home. But I his son, not less of might than he, Nor poorer in the achievements of my hand, To this same region following in my prime, Am scouted by the Achaeans and destroyed. Yet know I one thing well. Had Peleus' child, Living, adjudged his armour as a meed Of well-tried bravery, no grasp save mine Had clutched it. But the Atridae with mean craft Conveyed his heirloom to a wit-proud knave, Whilst Aias' peerless prowess was despised. And had not this mine eye and mind distraught Glanced from my purpose, ne'er again had they Perverted judgement. But the invincible Stern daughter of the Highest, with baneful eye, Even as mine arm descended, baffled me, And hurled upon my soul a frenzied plague, To stain my hand with these dumb victims' blood. And those mine enemies exult in safety,-- Not with my will; but where a God misguides, Strong arms are thwarted and the weakling lives. Now, what remains? Heaven hates me, 'tis too clear: The Grecian host abhor me: Troy, with all This country round our camp, is my sworn foe. Shall I, across the Aegean sailing home, Leave these Atridae and their fleet forlorn? How shall I dare to front my father's eye? How will he once endure to look on me, Denuded of the prize of high renown, Whose coronal stood sparkling on his brow? No! 'twere too dreadful. Then shall I advance Before the Trojan battlements, and there In single conflict doing valiantly Last die upon their spears? Nay, for by this I might perchance make Atreus' offspring glad. That may not be imagined. I must find Some act to let my grey-haired father feel No heartless recreant once called him sire. Shame on the wight who when beset with ill Cares to live on in misery unrelieved. Can hour outlasting hour make less or more Of death? Whereby then can it furnish joy? That mortal weighs for nothing-worth with me, Whom Hope can comfort with her fruitless fire. Honour in life or honour in the grave Befits the noble heart. You hear my will.
2 - 104 CH.
CH. From thine own spirit, Aias, all may tell, That utterance came, and none have prompted thee. Yet stay thy hurrying thought, and by thy friends Be ruled to loose this burden from thy mind.
2 - 105 TEC.
TEC. O my great master! heaviest of all woe Is theirs whose life is crushed beyond recall. I, born of one the mightiest of the free And wealthiest in the Phrygian land, am now A captive. So Heaven willed, and thy strong arm Determined. Therefore, since the hour that made My being one with thine, I breathe for thee; And I beseech thee by the sacred fire Of home, and by the sweetness of the night When from thy captive I became thy bride, Leave me not guardless to the unworthy touch And cruel taunting of thine enemies' For, shouldst thou die and leave us, then shall I Borne off by Argive violence with thy boy Eat from that day the bread of slavery. And some one of our lords shall smite me there With galling speech: Behold the concubine Of Aias, first of all the Greeks for might, How envied once, worn with what service now! So will they speak; and while my quailing heart Shall sink beneath its burden, clouds of shame Will dim thy glory and degrade thy race. Oh! think but of thy father, left to pine In doleful age, and let thy mother's grief-- Who, long bowed down with many a careful year, Prays oftentimes thou may'st return alive-- O'er awe thee. Yea, and pity thine own son, Unsheltered in his boyhood, lorn of thee, With bitter foes to tend his orphanhood, Think, O my lord, what sorrow in thy death Thou send'st on him and me. For I have nought To lean to but thy life. My fatherland Thy spear hath ruined. Fate--not thou--hath sent My sire and mother to the home of death What wealth have I to comfort me for thee? What land of refuge? Thou art all my stay Oh, of me too take thought! Shall men have joy, And not remember? Or shall kindness fade? Say, can the mind be noble, where the stream Of gratitude is withered from the spring?
2 - 106 CH.
CH. Aias, I would thy heart were touched like mine With pity; then her words would win thy praise.
2 - 107 AI.
AI. My praise she shall not miss, if she perform My bidding with firm heart, and fail not here.
2 - 108 TEC.
TEC. Dear Aias, I will fail in nought thou bidst me.
2 - 109 0
AI. Bring me my boy, that I may see his face.
2 - 110 TEC.
TEC. Oh, in my terror I conveyed him hence!
2 - 111 AI.
AI. Clear of this mischief, mean'st thou? or for what?
2 - 112 TEC.
TEC. Lest he might run to thee, poor child, and die.
2 - 113 AI.
AI. That issue had been worthy of my fate!
2 - 114 TEC.
TEC. But I kept watch to fence his life from harm.
2 - 115 AI.
AI. 'Twas wisely done. I praise thy foresight there.
2 - 116 TEC.
TEC. Well, since 'tis so, how can I help thee now?
2 - 117 AI.
AI. Give me to speak to him and see him near.
2 - 118 TEC.
TEC. He stands close by with servants tending him.
2 - 119 AI.
AI. Then why doth he not come, but still delay?
2 - 120 TEC.
TEC. Thy father calls thee, child. Come, lead him hither, Whichever of you holds him by the hand.
2 - 121 AI.
AI. Moves he? or do thine accents idly fall?
2 - 122 TEC.
TEC. See, where thy people bring him to thine eye.
2 - 123 AI.
AI. Lift him to me: lift him! He will not fear At sight of this fresh havoc of the sword, If rightly he be fathered of my blood. Like some young colt he must be trained and taught To run fierce courses with his warrior sire. Be luckier than thy father, boy! but else Be like him, and thy life will not be low. One thing even now I envy thee, that none Of all this misery pierces to thy mind. For life is sweetest in the void of sense, Ere thou know joy or sorrow. But when this Hath found thee, make thy father's enemies Feel the great parent in the valiant child. Meantime grow on in tender youthfulness, Nursed by light breezes, gladdening this thy mother. No Greek shall trample thee with brutal harm, That I know well, though I shall not be near-- So stout a warder to protect thy life I leave in Teucer. He'll not fail, though now He follow far the chase upon his foes. My trusty warriors, people of the sea, Be this your charge, no less,--and bear to him My clear commandment, that he take this boy Home to my fatherland, and make him known To Telamon, and Eriboea too, My mother. Let him tend them in their age. And, for mine armour, let not that be made The award of Grecian umpires or of him Who ruined me. But thou, named of the shield[3], Eurysakes, hold mine, the unpierceable Seven-hided buckler, and by the well stitched thong Grasp firm and wield it mightily.--The rest Shall lie where I am buried.--Take him now, Quickly, and close the door. No tears! What! weep Before the tent? How women crave for pity! Make fast, I say. No wise physician dreams With droning charms to salve a desperate sore.
2 - 124 CH.
CH. There sounds a vehement ardour in thy words That likes me not. I fear thy sharpened tongue.
2 - 125 TEC.
TEC. Aias, my lord, what act is in thy mind?
2 - 126 AI.
AI. Inquire not, question not; be wise, thou'rt best.
2 - 127 TEC.
TEC. How my heart sinks! Oh, by thy child, by Heaven, I pray thee on my knees, forsake us not!
2 - 128 AI.
AI. Thou troublest me. What! know'st thou not that Heaven Hath ceased to be my debtor from to-day?
2 - 129 TEC.
TEC. Hush! Speak not so.
2 - 130 AI.
AI. Speak thou to those that hear.
2 - 131 TEC.
Will you not hear me?
2 - 132 AI.
AI. Canst thou not be still?
2 - 133 TEC.
TEC. My fears, my fears!
2 - 134 AI.
AI. (_to the_ Attendants). Come, shut me in, I say.
2 - 135 TEC.
TEC. Oh, yet be softened!
2 - 136 AI.
'Tis a foolish hope, If thou deem'st now to mould me to thy will. [Aias _is withdrawn. Exit_ Tecmessa
2 - 137 CHORUS.
Island of glory! whom the glowing eyes I 1 Of all the wondering world immortalize, Thou, Salamis, art planted evermore, Happy amid the wandering billows' roar; While I--ah, woe the while!--this weary time, By the green wold where flocks from Ida stray, Lie worn with fruitless hours of wasted prime, Hoping--ah, cheerless hope!--to win my way Where Hades' horrid gloom shall hide me from the day. Aias is with me, yea, but crouching low, I 2 Where Heaven-sent madness haunts his overthrow, Beyond my cure or tendance: woful plight! Whom thou, erewhile, to head the impetuous fight, Sent'st forth, thy conquering champion. Now he feeds His spirit on lone paths, and on us brings Deep sorrow; and all his former peerless deeds Of prowess fall like unremembered things From Atreus' loveless brood, this caitiff brace of kings. Ah! when his mother, full of days and bowed II 1 With hoary eld, shall hear his ruined mind, How will she mourn aloud! Not like the warbler of the dale, The bird of piteous wail, But in shrill strains far borne upon the wind, While on the withered breast and thin white hair Falls the resounding blow, the rending of despair. Best hid in death were he whom madness drives II 2 Remediless; if, through his father's race Born to the noblest place Among the war-worn Greeks, he lives By his own light no more, Self-aliened from the self he knew before. Oh, hapless sire, what woe thine ear shall wound! One that of all thy line no life save this hath found. _Enter_ Aias _with a bright sword, and_ Tecmessa, _severally._
2 - 138 AI.
What change will never-terminable Time Not heave to light, what hide not from the day? What chance shall win men's marvel? Mightiest oaths Fall frustrate, and the steely-tempered will. Ay, and even mine, that stood so diamond-keen Like iron lately dipped, droops now dis-edged And weakened by this woman, whom to leave A widow with her orphan to my foes, Dulls me with pity. I will go to the baths And meadows near the cliff, and purging there My dark pollution, I will screen my soul From reach of Pallas' grievous wrath. I will find Same place untrodden, and digging of the soil Where none shall see, will bury this my sword, Weapon of hate! for Death and Night to hold Evermore underground. For, since my hand Had this from Hector mine arch-enemy, No kindness have I known from Argive men. So true that saying of the bygone world, 'A foe's gift is no gift, and brings no good.' Well, we will learn of Time. Henceforth I'll bow To heavenly ordinance and give homage due To Atreus' sons. Who rules, must be obeyed. Since nought so fierce and terrible but yields Place to Authority. Wild Winter's snows Make way for bounteous Summer's flowery tread, And Night's sad orb retires for lightsome Day With his white steeds to illumine the glad sky. The furious storm-blast leaves the groaning sea Gently to rest. Yea, the all-subduer Sleep Frees whom he binds, nor holds enchained for aye. And shall not men be taught the temperate will? Yea, for I now know surely that my foe Must be so hated, as being like enough To prove a friend hereafter, and my friend So far shall have mine aid, as one whose love Will not continue ever. Men have found But treacherous harbour in companionship. Our ending, then, is peaceful. Thou, my girl, Go in and pray the Gods my heart's desire Be all fulfilled. My comrades, join her here, Honouring my wishes; and if Teucer come, Bid him toward us be mindful, kind toward you. I must go--whither I must go. Do ye But keep my word, and ye may learn, though now Be my dark hour, that all with me is well. [_Exit towards the country._ Tecmessa _retires_
2 - 139 CHORUS.
A shudder of love thrills through me. Joy! I soar 1 O Pan, wild Pan! [_They dance_ Come from Cyllenè hoar-- Come from the snow drift, the rock-ridge, the glen! Leaving the mountain bare Fleet through the salt sea-air, Mover of dances to Gods and to men. Whirl me in Cnossian ways--thrid me the Nysian maze! Come, while the joy of the dance is my care! Thou too, Apollo, come Bright from thy Delian home, Bringer of day, Fly o'er the southward main Here in our hearts to reign, Loved to repose there and kindly to stay. Horror is past. Our eyes have rest from pain. 2 O Lord of Heaven! [_They dance_ Now blithesome day again Purely may smile on our swift-sailing fleet, Since, all his woe forgot, Aias now faileth not Aught that of prayer and Heaven-worship is meet. Time bringeth mighty aid--nought but in time doth fade: Nothing shall move me as strange to my thought. Aias our lord hath now Cleared his wrath-burdened brow Long our despair, Ceased from his angry feud And with mild heart renewed Peace and goodwill to the high-sceptred pair. _Enter_ Messenger.
2 - 140 MESSENGER.
Friends, my first news is Teucer's presence here, Fresh from the Mysian heights; who, as he came Right toward the generals' quarter, was assailed With outcry from the Argives in a throng: For when they knew his motion from afar They swarmed around him, and with shouts of blame From each side one and all assaulted him As brother to the man who had gone mad And plotted 'gainst the host,--threatening aloud, Spite of his strength, he should be stoned, and die. --So far strife ran, that swords unscabbarded Crossed blades, till as it mounted to the height Age interposed with counsel, and it fell. But where is Aias to receive my word? Tidings are best told to the rightful ear.
2 - 141 CH.
CH. Not in the hut, but just gone forth, preparing New plans to suit his newly altered mind.
2 - 142 MESS.
MESS. Alas! Too tardy then was he who sped me hither; Or I have proved too slow a messenger.
2 - 143 CH.
CH. What point is lacking for thine errand's speed?
2 - 144 MESS.
MESS. Teucer was resolute the man should bide Close held within-doors till himself should come.
2 - 145 CH.
CH. Why, sure his going took the happiest turn And wisest, to propitiate Heaven's high wrath.
2 - 146 MESS.
MESS. The height of folly lives in such discourse, If Calchas have the wisdom of a seer.
2 - 147 CH.
CH. What knowest thou of our state? What saith he? Tell.
2 - 148 MESS.
MESS. I can tell only what I heard and saw. Whilst all the chieftains and the Atridae twain Were seated in a ring, Calchas alone Rose up and left them, and in Teucer's palm Laid his right hand full friendly; then out-spake With strict injunction by all means i' the world To keep beneath yon covert this one day Your hero, and not suffer him to rove, If he would see him any more alive. For through this present light--and ne'er again--- Holy Athena, so he said, will drive him Before her anger. Such calamitous woe Strikes down the unprofitable growth that mounts Beyond his measure and provokes the sky. 'Thus ever,' said the prophet, 'must he fall Who in man's mould hath thoughts beyond a man. And Aias, ere he left his father's door, Made foolish answer to his prudent sire. 'My son,' said Telamon, 'choose victory Always, but victory with an aid from Heaven.' How loftily, how madly, he replied! 'Father, with heavenly help men nothing worth May win success. But I am confident Without the Gods to pluck this glory down.' So huge the boast he vaunted! And again When holy Pallas urged him with her voice To hurl his deadly spear against the foe, He turned on her with speech of awful sound: 'Goddess, by other Greeks take thou thy stand; Where I keep rank, the battle ne'er shall break.' Such words of pride beyond the mortal scope Have won him Pallas' wrath, unlovely meed. But yet, perchance, so be it he live to-day, We, with Heaven's succour, may restore his peace.'-- Thus far the prophet, when immediately Teucer dispatched me, ere the assembly rose, Bearing to thee this missive to be kept With all thy care. But if my speed be lost, And Calchas' word have power, the man is dead.
2 - 149 CH.
CH. O trouble-tost Tecmessa, born to woe, Come forth and see what messenger is here! This news bites near the bone, a death to joy. _Enter_ TECMESSA.
2 - 150 TEC.
TEC. Wherefore again, when sorrow's cruel storm Was just abating, break ye my repose?
2 - 151 CH.
CH. (_pointing to the_ Messenger). Hear what he saith, and how he comes to bring News of our Aias that hath torn my heart.
2 - 152 TEC.
TEC. Oh me! what is it, man? Am I undone?
2 - 153 MESS.
MESS. Thy case I know not; but of Aias this, That if he roam abroad, 'tis dangerous.
2 - 154 TEC.
TEC. He is, indeed, abroad. Oh! tell me quickly!
2 - 155 MESS.
MESS. 'Tis Teucer's strong command to keep him close Beneath this roof, nor let him range alone.
2 - 156 TEC.
TEC. But where is Teucer? and what means his word?
2 - 157 MESS.
MESS. Even now at hand, and eager to make known That Aias, if he thus go forth, must fall.
2 - 158 TEC.
TEC. Alas! my misery! Whence learned he this?
2 - 159 MESS.
From Thestor's prophet-offspring, who to-day Holds forth to Aias choice of life or death.
2 - 160 TEC.
TEC. Woe's me! O friends, this desolating blow Is falling! Oh, stand forward to prevent! And some bring Teucer with more haste, while some Explore the western bays and others search Eastward to find your hero's fatal path! For well I see I am cheated and cast forth From the old favour. Child, what shall I do? [_Looking at_ EURYSAKES We must not stay. I too will fare along, go far as I have power. Come, let us go. Bestir ye! 'Tis no moment to sit still, If we would save him who now speeds to die.
2 - 161 CH.
CH. I am ready. Come! Fidelity of foot, And swift performance, shall approve me true. [_Exeunt omnes_ _The scene changes to a lonely wooded spot._
2 - 162 AIAS
(_discovered alone_). The sacrificer stands prepared,--and when More keen? Let me take time for thinking, too! This gift of Hector, whom of stranger men I hated most with heart and eyes, is set In hostile Trojan soil, with grinding hone Fresh-pointed, and here planted by my care Thus firm, to give me swift and friendly death. Fine instrument, so much for thee! Then, first, Thou, for 'tis meet, great Father, lend thine aid. For no great gift I sue thee. Let some voice Bear Teucer the ill news, that none but he May lift my body, newly fallen in death About my bleeding sword, ere I be spied By some of those who hate me, and be flung To dogs and vultures for an outcast prey. So far I entreat thee, Lord of Heaven. And thou, Hermes, conductor of the shadowy dead, Speed me to rest, and when with this sharp steel I have cleft a sudden passage to my heart, At one swift bound waft me to painless slumber! But most be ye my helpers, awful Powers, Who know no blandishments, but still perceive All wicked deeds i' the world--strong, swift, and sure, Avenging Furies, understand my wrong, See how my life is ruined, and by whom. Come, ravin on Achaean flesh--spare none; Rage through the camp!--Last, thou that driv'st thy course Up yon steep Heaven, thou Sun, when thou behold'st My fatherland, checking thy golden rein, Report my fall, and this my fatal end, To my old sire, and the poor soul who tends him. Ah, hapless one! when she shall hear this word, How she will make the city ring with woe! 'Twere from the business idly to condole. To work, then, and dispatch. O Death! O Death! Now come, and welcome! Yet with thee, hereafter, I shall find close communion where I go. But unto thee, fresh beam of shining Day, And thee, thou travelling Sun-god, I may speak Now, and no more for ever. O fair light! O sacred fields of Salamis my home! Thou, firm set natal hearth: Athens renowned, And ye her people whom I love; O rivers, Brooks, fountains here--yea, even the Trojan plain I now invoke!--kind fosterers, farewell! This one last word from Aias peals to you: Henceforth my speech will be with souls unseen. [_Falls on his sword_
2 - 163 CHORUS.
(_re-entering severally_).
2 - 164 CH. A.
CH. A. Toil upon toil brings toil, And what save trouble have I? Which path have I not tried? And never a place arrests me with its tale. Hark! lo, again a sound!
2 - 165 CH. B.
'Tis we, the comrades of your good ship's crew.
2 - 166 CH. A.
CH. A. Well, sirs?
2 - 167 CH. B.
We have trodden all the westward arm o' the bay.
2 - 168 CH. A.
Well, have ye found?
2 - 169 CH. B.
Troubles enow, but nought to inform our sight.
2 - 170 CH. A.
CH. A. Nor yet along the road that fronts the dawn Is any sign of Aias to be seen.
2 - 171 CH.
CH. Who then will tell me, who? What hard sea-liver, 1 What toiling fisher in his sleepless quest, What Mysian nymph, what oozy Thracian river, Hath seen our wanderer of the tameless breast? Where? tell me where! 'Tis hard that I, far-toiling voyager, Crossed by some evil wind, Cannot the haven find, Nor catch his form that flies me, where? ah! where?
2 - 172 TEC.
TEC. (_behind_). Oh, woe is me! woe, woe!
2 - 173 CH.
CH. A. Who cries there from the covert of the grove?
2 - 174 TEC.
TEC. O boundless misery!
2 - 175 CH.
CH. B. Steeped in this audible sorrow I behold Tecmessa, poor fate-burdened bride of war.
2 - 176 TEC.
TEC. Friends, I am spoiled, lost, ruined, overthrown!
2 - 177 CH.
CH. A. What ails thee now?
2 - 178 TEC.
TEC. See where our Aias lies, but newly slain, Fallen on his sword concealed within the ground,
2 - 179 CH.
CH. Woe for my hopes of home! Aias, my lord, thou hast slain Thy ship-companion on the salt sea foam. Alas for us, and thee, Child of calamity!
2 - 180 0
TEC. So lies our fortune. Well may'st thou complain.
2 - 181 CH.
CH. A. Whose hand employed he for the deed of blood?
2 - 182 TEC.
TEC. His own, 'tis manifest. This planted steel, Fixed by his hand, gives verdict from his breast.
2 - 183 CH.
CH. Woe for my fault, my loss! Thou hast fallen in blood alone, And not a friend to cross Or guard thee. I, deaf, senseless as a stone, Left all undone. Oh, where, then, lies the stern Aias, of saddest name, whose purpose none might turn?
2 - 184 TEC.
TEC. No eye shall see him. I will veil him round With this all covering mantle; since no heart That loved him could endure to view him there, With ghastly expiration spouting forth From mouth and nostrils, and the deadly wound, The gore of his self slaughter. Ah, my lord! What shall I do? What friend will carry thee? Oh, where is Teucer! Timely were his hand, Might he come now to smooth his brother's corse. O thou most noble, here ignobly laid, Even enemies methinks must mourn thy fate!
2 - 185 CH.
CH. Ah! 'twas too clear thy firm knit thoughts would fashion, 2 Early or late, an end of boundless woe! Such heaving groans, such bursts of heart-bruised passion, Midnight and morn, bewrayed the fire below. 'The Atridae might beware!' A plenteous fount of pain was opened there, What time the strife was set, Wherein the noblest met, Grappling the golden prize that kindled thy despair!
2 - 186 TEC.
TEC. Woe, woe is me!
2 - 187 CH.
CH. Deep sorrow wrings thy soul, I know it well.
2 - 188 TEC.
TEC. O woe, woe, woe!
2 - 189 CH.
CH. Thou may'st prolong thy moan, and be believed, Thou that hast lately lost so true a friend.
2 - 190 TEC.
TEC. Thou may'st imagine; 'tis for me to know.
2 - 191 CH.
CH. Ay, ay, 'tis true.
2 - 192 TEC.
Alas, my child! what slavish tasks and hard We are drifting to! What eyes control our will!
2 - 193 CH.
CH. Ay me! Through thy complaint I hear the wordless blow Of two high-throned, who rule without restraint Of Pity. Heaven forfend What evil they intend!
2 - 194 0
TEC. The work of Heaven hath brought our life thus low.
2 - 195 CH.
CH. 'Tis a sore burden to be laid on men.
2 - 196 TEC.
TEC. Yet such the mischief Zeus' resistless maid, Pallas, hath planned to make Odysseus glad.
2 - 197 CH.
CH. O'er that dark-featured soul What waves of pride shall roll, What floods of laughter flow, Rudely to greet this madness-prompted woe, Alas! from him who all things dares endure, And from that lordly pair, who hear, and seat them sure!
2 - 198 TEC.
TEC. Ay, let them laugh and revel o'er his fall! Perchance, albeit in life they missed him not, Dead, they will cry for him in straits of war. For dullards know not goodness in their hand, Nor prize the jewel till 'tis cast away. To me more bitter than to them 'twas sweet, His death to him was gladsome, for he found The lot he longed for, his self-chosen doom. What cause have they to laugh? Heaven, not their crew, Hath glory by his death. Then let Odysseus Insult with empty pride. To him and his Aias is nothing; but to me, to me, He leaves distress and sorrow in his room!
2 - 199 TEUCER
(_within_). Alas, undone!
2 - 200 LEADER OF CH.
Hush! that was Teucer's cry. Methought I heard His voice salute this object of dire woe. _Enter_ TEUCER.
2 - 201 TEU.
TEU. Aias, dear brother, comfort of mine eye, Hast thou then done even as the rumour holds?
2 - 202 CH.
CH. Be sure of that, Teucer. He lives no more.
2 - 203 TEU.
TEU. Oh, then how heavy is the lot I bear!
2 - 204 CH.
CH. Yes, thou hast cause--
2 - 205 TEU.
TEU. O rash assault of woe!--
2 - 206 CH.
CH. To mourn full loud.
2 - 207 TEU.
TEU. Ay me! and where, oh where On Trojan earth, tell me, is this man's child?
2 - 208 CH.
CH. Beside the huts, untended.
2 - 209 TEU.
TEU. (_to_ TEC). Oh, with haste Go bring him hither, lest some enemy's hand Snatch him, as from the lion's widowed mate The lion-whelp is taken. Spare not speed. All soon combine in mockery o'er the dead. [_Exit_ TECMESSA
2 - 210 CH.
Even such commands he left thee ere he died. As thou fulfillest by this timely care.
2 - 211 TEU.
TEU. O sorest spectacle mine eyes e'er saw! Woe for my journey hither, of all ways Most grievous to my heart, since I was ware, Dear Aias, of thy doom, and sadly tracked Thy footsteps. For there darted through the host, As from some God, a swift report of thee That thou wert lost in death. I, hapless, heard, And mourned even then for that whose presence kills me. Ay me! But come, Unveil. Let me behold my misery. [_The corpse of_ AIAS _is uncovered_ O sight unbearable! Cruelly brave! Dying, what store of griefs thou sow'st for me! Where, amongst whom of mortals, can I go, That stood not near thee in thy troublous hour? Will Telamon, my sire and thine, receive me With radiant countenance and favouring brow Returning without thee? Most like! being one Who smiles no more[4], yield Fortune what she may. Will he hide aught or soften any word, Rating the bastard of his spear-won thrall, Whose cowardice and dastardy betrayed Thy life, dear Aias,--or my murderous guile, To rob thee of thy lordship and thy home? Such greeting waits me from the man of wrath, Whose testy age even without cause would storm. Last, I shall leave my land a castaway, Thrust forth an exile, and proclaimed a slave; So should I fare at home. And here in Troy My foes are many and my comforts few. All these things are my portion through thy death. Woe's me, my heart! how shall I bear to draw thee, O thou ill-starr'd! from this discoloured blade, Thy self-shown slayer? Didst thou then perceive Dead Hector was at length to be thine end?-- I pray you all, consider these two men. Hector, whose gift from Aias was a girdle, Tight-braced therewith to the car's rim, was dragged And scarified till he breathed forth his life. And Aias with this present from his foe Finds through such means his death-fall and his doom. Say then what cruel workman forged the gifts, But Fury this sharp sword, Hell that bright band? In this, and all things human, I maintain, Gods are the artificers. My thought is said. And if there be who cares not for my thought, Let him hold fast his faith and leave me mine.
2 - 212 CH.
CH. Spare longer speech, and think how to secure Thy brother's burial, and what plea will serve; Since one comes here hath no good will to us And like a villain haply comes in scorn.
2 - 213 TEU.
TEU. What man of all the host hath caught thine eye?
2 - 214 CH.
CH. The cause for whom we sailed, the Spartan King.
2 - 215 TEU.
TEU. Yes; I discern him, now he moves more near. _Enter_ MENELAUS.
2 - 216 MENELAUS.
Fellow, give o'er. Cease tending yon dead man! Obey my voice, and leave him where he lies.