May I speak? Or shall I just turn and go?
Knowest thou not that even now thy voice offends?
Is thy smart in the ears, or in the soul?
And why wouldst thou define the seat of my pain?
The doer vexes thy mind, but I, thine ears.
Ah, thou art a born babbler, ’tis well seen.
May be, but never the doer of this deed.
Yea, and more,-the seller of thy life for silver.
Alas! ‘Tis sad, truly, that he who judges should misjudge.
Well, may he be found! so ’twere best. But, be he caught or be he not-fortune must settle that-truly thou wilt not see me here again. Saved, even now, beyond hope and thought, I owe the gods great thanks.
Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man; the power that crosses the white sea, driven by the stormy south-wind, making a path under surges that threaten to engulf him; and Earth, the eldest of the gods, the immortal, the unwearied, doth he wear, turning the soil with the offspring of horses, as the ploughs go to and fro from year to year.
And the light-hearted race of birds, and the tribes of savage beasts, and the sea-brood of the deep, he snares in the meshes of his woven toils, he leads captive, man excellent in wit. And he masters by his arts the beast whose lair is in the wilds, who roams the hills; he tames the horse of shaggy mane, he puts the yoke upon its neck, he tames the tireless mountain bull.
And speech, and wind-swift thought, and all the moods that mould a state, hath he taught himself; and how to flee the arrows of the frost, when ’tis hard lodging under the clear sky, and the arrows of the rushing rain; yea, he hath resource for all; without resource he meets nothing that must come: only against Death shall he call for aid in vain; but from baffling maladies he hath devised escapes.
Cunning beyond fancy’s dream is the fertile skill which brings him, now to evil, now to good. When he honours the laws of the land, and that justice which he hath sworn by the gods to uphold, proudly stands his city: no city hath he who, for his rashness, dwells with sin. Never may he share my hearth, never think my thoughts, who doth these things!
Lo, he comes forth again from the house, at our need.
What is it? What hath chanced, that makes my coming timely?
O king, against nothing should men pledge their word; for the after-thought belies the first intent. I could have vowed that I should not soon be here again,-scared by thy threats, with which I had just been lashed: but,-since the joy that surprises and transcends our hopes is like in fulness to no other pleasure,-I have come, though ’tis in breach of my sworn oath, bringing this maid; who was taken showing grace to the dead. This time there was no casting of lots; no, this luck hath fallen to me, and to none else. And now, sire, take her thyself, question her, examine her, as thou wilt; but I have a right to free and final quittance of this trouble.
And thy prisoner here-how and whence hast thou taken her?
She was burying the man; thou knowest all.
Dost thou mean what thou sayest? Dost thou speak aright?
And how was she seen? how taken in the act?
It befell on this wise. When we had come to the place,-with those dread menaces of thine upon us,-we swept away all the dust that covered the corpse, and bared the dank body well; and then sat us down on the brow of the hill, to windward, heedful that the smell from him should not strike us; every man was wide awake, and kept his neighbour alert with torrents of threats, if anyone should be careless of this task.
So went it, until the sun’s bright orb stood in mid heaven, and the heat began to burn: and then suddenly a whirlwind lifted from the earth storm of dust, a trouble in the sky the plain, marring all the leafage of its woods; and the wide air was choked therewith: we closed our eyes, and bore the plague from the gods.
And when, after a long while, this storm had passed, the maid was seen; and she cried aloud with the sharp cry of a bird in its bitterness,-even as when, within the empty nest, it sees the bed stripped of its nestlings. So she also, when she saw the corpse bare, lifted up a voice of wailing, and called down curses on the doers of that deed. And straightway she brought thirsty dust in her hands; and from a shapely ewer of bronze, held high, with thrice-poured drink-offering she crowned the dead.
We rushed forward when we saw it, and at once dosed upon our quarry, who was in no wise dismayed. Then we taxed her with her past and present doings; and she stood not on denial of aught,-at once to my joy and to my pain. To have escaped from ills one’s self is a great joy; but ’tispainful to bring friends to ill. Howbeit, all such things are of less account to me than mine own safety.
Antigone by Sophocles