Nay, speak not of her ‘presence’; she lives no more.
But wilt thou slay the betrothed of thine own son?
Nay, there are other fields for him to plough.
But there can never be such love as bound him to her.
I like not an evil wife for my son.
Haemon, beloved! How thy father wrongs thee!
Enough, enough of thee and of thy marriage!
Wilt thou indeed rob thy son of this maiden?
‘Tis Death that shall stay these bridals for me.
‘Tis determined, it seems, that she shall die.
Determined, yes, for thee and for me.-
Blest are they whose days have not tasted of evil. For when a house hath once been shaken from heaven, there the curse fails nevermore, passingfrom life to life of the race; even as, when the surge is driven over the darkness of the deep by the fierce breath of Thracian sea-winds, it rolls up the black sand from the depths, and there is sullen roar from wind-vexed headlands that front the blows of the storm.
I see that from olden time the sorrows in the house of the Labdacidae are heaped upon the sorrows of the dead; and generation is not freed by generation, but some god strikes them down, and the race hath no deliverance.
For now that hope of which the light had been spread above the last root of the house of Oedipus-that hope, in turn, is brought low–by the blood-stained dust due to the gods infernal, and by folly in speech, and frenzy at the heart.
Thy power, O Zeus, what human trespass can limit? That power which neither Sleep, the all-ensnaring, nor the untiring months of the gods can master; but thou, a ruler to whom time brings not old age, dwellest in the dazzling splendour of Olympus.
For that hope whose wanderings are so wide is to many men a comfort, but to many a false lure of giddy desires; and the disappointment comes on one who knoweth nought till he burn his foot against the hot fire.
Yea, this, my son, should be thy heart’s fixed law,-in all things to obey thy father’s will. ‘Tis for this that men pray to see dutiful children grow up around them in their homes,-that such may requite their father’s foe with evil, and honour, as their father doth, his friend. But he who begets unprofitable children-what shall we say that he hath sown, but troubles for himself, and much triumph for his foes? Then do not thou, my son, at pleasure’s beck, dethrone thy reason for a woman’s sake; knowing that this is a joy that soon grows cold in clasping arms,-an evil woman to share thy bed and thy home. For what wound could strike deeper than a false friend? Nay, with loathing, and as if she were thine enemy, let this girl go to find a husband in the house of Hades. For since I have taken her, alone of all the city, in open disobedience, I will not make myself a liar to my people-I will slay her.
So let her appeal as she will to the majesty of kindred blood. If I am to nurture mine own kindred in naughtiness, needs must I bear with it in aliens. He who does his duty in his own household will be found righteous in the State also. But if any one transgresses, and does violence to thelaws, or thinks to dictate to his rulers, such an one can win no praise from me. No, whomsoever the city may appoint, that man must be obeyed,in little things and great, in just things and unjust; and I should feel sure that one who thus obeys would be a good ruler no less than a goodsubject, and in the storm of spears would stand his ground where he was set, loyal and dauntless at his comrade’s side.
But disobedience is the worst of evils. This it is that ruins cities; this makes homes desolate; by this, the ranks of allies are broken into head-long rout; but, of the lives whose course is fair, the greater part owes safety to obedience. Therefore we must support the cause of order, and in no wise suffer a woman to worst us. Better to fall from power, if we must, by a man’s hand; then we should not be called weaker than a woman.
Father, the gods implant reason in men, the highest of all things that we call our own. Not mine the skill-far from me be the quest!-to say wherein thou speakest not aright; and yet another man, too, might have some useful thought. At least, it is my natural office to watch, on thy behalf, all that men say, or do, or find to blame. For the dread of thy frown forbids the citizen to speak such words as would offend thine ear; but can hear these murmurs in the dark, these moanings of the city for this maiden; ‘no woman,’ they say, ‘ever merited her doom less,-none ever was to die so shamefully for deeds so glorious as hers; who, when her own brother had fallen in bloody strife, would not leave him unburied, to be devoured by carrion dogs, or by any bird:-deserves not she the meed of golden honour?’
Such is the darkling rumour that spreads in secret. For me, my father, no treasure is so precious as thy welfare. What, indeed, is a noblerornament for children than a prospering sire’s fair fame, or for sire than son’s? Wear not, then, one mood only in thyself; think not that thy word,and thine alone, must be right. For if any man thinks that he alone is wise,-that in speech, or in mind, he hath no peer,-such a soul, when laidopen, is ever found empty.
No, though a man be wise, ’tis no shame for him to learn many things, and to bend in season. Seest thou, beside the wintry torrent’s course, how the trees that yield to it save every twig, while the stiff-necked perish root and branch? And even thus he who keeps the sheet of his sail taut, and never slackens it, upsets his boat, and finishes his voyage with keel uppermost.
Nay, forego thy wrath; permit thyself to change. For if I, a younger man, may offer my thought, it were far best, I ween, that men should be all-wise by nature; but, otherwise-and oft the scale inclines not so-’tis good also to learn from those who speak aright.
Antigone by Sophocles