Antigone Part 12

SCENE 5

[start of Section 12: Lines 1090-1237]

[Enter TEIRESIAS and BOY]

TEIRESIAS
Princes of Thebes, two wayfarers as one,
Having betwixt us eyes for one, we are here.
The blind man cannot move without a guide.

CREON
Why tidings, old Teiresias?

TEIRESIAS
I will tell thee;
And when thou hearest thou must heed the seer.

CREON
Thus far I ne’er have disobeyed thy rede.

TEIRESIAS
So hast thou steered the ship of State aright.

CREON
I know it, and I gladly own my debt.

TEIRESIAS
Bethink thee that thou treadest once again
The razor edge of peril.

CREON
What is this?
Thy words inspire a dread presentiment.

TEIRESIAS
The divination of my arts shall tell.
Sitting upon my throne of augury,
As is my wont, where every fowl of heaven
Find harborage, upon mine ears was borne
A jargon strange of twitterings, hoots, and screams;
So knew I that each bird at the other tare
With bloody talons, for the whirr of wings
Could signify naught else. Perturbed in soul,
I straight essayed the sacrifice by fire
On blazing altars, but the God of Fire
Came not in flame, and from the thigh bones dripped
And sputtered in the ashes a foul ooze;
Gall-bladders cracked and spurted up: the fat
Melted and fell and left the thigh bones bare.
Such are the signs, taught by this lad, I read–
As I guide others, so the boy guides me–
The frustrate signs of oracles grown dumb.
O King, thy willful temper ails the State,
For all our shrines and altars are profaned
By what has filled the maw of dogs and crows,
The flesh of Oedipus’ unburied son.
Therefore the angry gods abominate
Our litanies and our burnt offerings;
Therefore no birds trill out a happy note,
Gorged with the carnival of human gore.
O ponder this, my son. To err is common
To all men, but the man who having erred
Hugs not his errors, but repents and seeks
The cure, is not a wastrel nor unwise.
No fool, the saw goes, like the obstinate fool.
Let death disarm thy vengeance. O forbear
To vex the dead. What glory wilt thou win
By slaying twice the slain? I mean thee well;
Counsel’s most welcome if I promise gain.

CREON
Old man, ye all let fly at me your shafts
Like anchors at a target; yea, ye set
Your soothsayer on me. Peddlers are ye all
And I the merchandise ye buy and sell.
Go to, and make your profit where ye will,
Silver of Sardis change for gold of Ind;
Ye will not purchase this man’s burial,
Not though the winged ministers of Zeus
Should bear him in their talons to his throne;
Not e’en in awe of prodigy so dire
Would I permit his burial, for I know
No human soilure can assail the gods;
This too I know, Teiresias, dire’s the fall
Of craft and cunning when it tries to gloss
Foul treachery with fair words for filthy gain.

TEIRESIAS
Alas! doth any know and lay to heart–

CREON
Is this the prelude to some hackneyed saw?

TEIRESIAS
How far good counsel is the best of goods?

CREON
True, as unwisdom is the worst of ills.

TEIRESIAS
Thou art infected with that ill thyself.

CREON
I will not bandy insults with thee, seer.

TEIRESIAS
And yet thou say’st my prophesies are frauds.

CREON
Prophets are all a money-getting tribe.

TEIRESIAS
And kings are all a lucre-loving race.

CREON
Dost know at whom thou glancest, me thy lord?

TEIRESIAS
Lord of the State and savior, thanks to me.

CREON
Skilled prophet art thou, but to wrong inclined.

TEIRESIAS
Take heed, thou wilt provoke me to reveal
The mystery deep hidden in my breast.

CREON
Say on, but see it be not said for gain.

TEIRESIAS
Such thou, methinks, till now hast judged my words.

CREON
Be sure thou wilt not traffic on my wits.

TEIRESIAS
Know then for sure, the coursers of the sun
Not many times shall run their race, before
Thou shalt have given the fruit of thine own loins
In quittance of thy murder, life for life;
For that thou hast entombed a living soul,
And sent below a denizen of earth,
And wronged the nether gods by leaving here
A corpse unlaved, unwept, unsepulchered.
Herein thou hast no part, nor e’en the gods
In heaven; and thou usurp’st a power not thine.
For this the avenging spirits of Heaven and Hell
Who dog the steps of sin are on thy trail:
What these have suffered thou shalt suffer too.
And now, consider whether bought by gold
I prophesy. For, yet a little while,
And sound of lamentation shall be heard,
Of men and women through thy desolate halls;
And all thy neighbor States are leagues to avenge
Their mangled warriors who have found a grave
I’ the maw of wolf or hound, or winged bird
That flying homewards taints their city’s air.
These are the shafts, that like a bowman I
Provoked to anger, loosen at thy breast,
Unerring, and their smart thou shalt not shun.
Boy, lead me home, that he may vent his spleen
On younger men, and learn to curb his tongue
With gentler manners than his present mood.

[Exit TEIRESIAS]

CHORUS
My liege, that man hath gone, foretelling woe.
And, O believe me, since these grizzled locks
Were like the raven, never have I known
The prophet’s warning to the State to fail.

CREON
I know it too, and it perplexes me.
To yield is grievous, but the obstinate soul
That fights with Fate, is smitten grievously.

CHORUS
Son of Menoeceus, list to good advice.

CHORUS
What should I do. Advise me. I will heed.

CHORUS
Go, free the maiden from her rocky cell;
And for the unburied outlaw build a tomb.

CREON
Is that your counsel? You would have me yield?

CHORUS
Yea, king, this instant. Vengeance of the gods
Is swift to overtake the impenitent.

CREON
Ah! what a wrench it is to sacrifice
My heart’s resolve; but Fate is ill to fight.

CHORUS
Go, trust not others. Do it quick thyself.

CREON
I go hot-foot. Bestir ye one and all,
My henchmen! Get ye axes! Speed away
To yonder eminence! I too will go,
For all my resolution this way sways.
‘Twas I that bound, I too will set her free.
Almost I am persuaded it is best
To keep through life the law ordained of old.

[Exit CREON]