Antigone Part 6

*[start of Section 6: Lines 656-700]

[Enter ISMENE]

Lo from out the palace gate,
Weeping o’er her sister’s fate,
Comes Ismene; see her brow,
Once serene, beclouded now,
See her beauteous face o’erspread
With a flush of angry red.

Woman, who like a viper unperceived
Didst harbor in my house and drain my blood,
Two plagues I nurtured blindly, so it proved,
To sap my throne. Say, didst thou too abet
This crime, or dost abjure all privity?

I did the deed, if she will have it so,
And with my sister claim to share the guilt.

That were unjust. Thou would’st not act with me
At first, and I refused thy partnership.

But now thy bark is stranded, I am bold
To claim my share as partner in the loss.

Who did the deed the under-world knows well:
A friend in word is never friend of mine.

O sister, scorn me not, let me but share
Thy work of piety, and with thee die.

Claim not a work in which thou hadst no hand;
One death sufficeth. Wherefore should’st thou die?

What would life profit me bereft of thee?

Ask Creon, he’s thy kinsman and best friend.

Why taunt me? Find’st thou pleasure in these gibes?
‘Tis a sad mockery, if indeed I mock.

O say if I can help thee even now.

No, save thyself; I grudge not thy escape.

Is e’en this boon denied, to share thy lot?

Yea, for thou chosed’st life, and I to die.

Thou canst not say that I did not protest.

Well, some approved thy wisdom, others mine.

But now we stand convicted, both alike.

Fear not; thou livest, I died long ago
Then when I gave my life to save the dead.

Both maids, methinks, are crazed. One suddenly
Has lost her wits, the other was born mad.

Yea, so it falls, sire, when misfortune comes,
The wisest even lose their mother wit.

I’ faith thy wit forsook thee when thou mad’st
Thy choice with evil-doers to do ill.

What life for me without my sister here?

Say not thy sister _here_: thy sister’s dead.

What, wilt thou slay thy own son’s plighted bride?

Aye, let him raise him seed from other fields.

No new espousal can be like the old.

A plague on trulls who court and woo our sons.

O Haemon, how thy sire dishonors thee!

A plague on thee and thy accursed bride!

What, wilt thou rob thine own son of his bride?

‘Tis death that bars this marriage, not his sire.

So her death-warrant, it would seem, is sealed.

By you, as first by me; off with them, guards,
And keep them close. Henceforward let them learn
To live as women use, not roam at large.
For e’en the bravest spirits run away
When they perceive death pressing on life’s heels.


(Str. 1)
Thrice blest are they who never tasted pain!
If once the curse of Heaven attaint a race,
The infection lingers on and speeds apace,
Age after age, and each the cup must drain.
So when Etesian blasts from Thrace downpour
Sweep o’er the blackening main and whirl to land
From Ocean’s cavernous depths his ooze and sand,
Billow on billow thunders on the shore.

(Ant. 1)
On the Labdacidae I see descending
Woe upon woe; from days of old some god
Laid on the race a malison, and his rod
Scourges each age with sorrows never ending.
The light that dawned upon its last born son
Is vanished, and the bloody axe of Fate
Has felled the goodly tree that blossomed late.
O Oedipus, by reckless pride undone!

(Str. 2)
Thy might, O Zeus, what mortal power can quell?
Not sleep that lays all else beneath its spell,
Nor moons that never tier: untouched by Time,
Throned in the dazzling light
That crowns Olympus’ height,
Thou reignest King, omnipotent, sublime.
Past, present, and to be,
All bow to thy decree,
All that exceeds the mean by Fate
Is punished, Love or Hate.

(Ant. 2)
Hope flits about never-wearying wings;
Profit to some, to some light loves she brings,
But no man knoweth how her gifts may turn,
Till ‘neath his feet the treacherous ashes burn.
Sure ’twas a sage inspired that spake this word;
_To_any, _Fate_is_near_;
And brief the respite from her flaming sword.
Hither comes in angry mood
Haemon, latest of thy brood;
Is it for his bride he’s grieved,
Or her marriage-bed deceived,
Doth he make his mourn for thee,
Maid forlorn, Antigone?