Look up, look forth! the doom is plain,
Nor spake the messenger in vain!
A twofold sorrow, twofold strife-
Each brave against a brother’s life!
In double doom hath sorrow come
How shall I speak it?-on the home!
Alas, my sisters! be your sighs the gale,
The smiting of your brows the plash of oars,
Wafting the boat, to Acheron’s dim shores
That passeth ever, with its darkened sail,
On its uncharted voyage and sunless way,
Far from thy beams, Apollo, god of day-
The melancholy bark
Bound for the common bourn, the harbour of the dark!
Look up, look yonder! from the home
Antigone, Ismene come,
On the last, saddest errand bound,
To chant a dirge of doleful sound,
With agony of equal pain
Above their brethren slain!
Their sister-bosoms surely swell,
Heart with rent heart according well
In grief for those who fought and fell!
Yet-ere they utter forth their woe
We must awake the rueful strain
To vengeful powers, in realms below,
And mourn hell’s triumph o’er the slain!
Alas! of all, the breast who bind,-
Yea, all the race of womankind-
O maidens, ye are most bereaved!
For you, for you the tear-drops start-
Deem that in truth, and undeceived,
Ye hear the sorrows of my heart!
Children of bitterness, and sternly brave-
One, proud of heart against persuasion’s voice,
One, against exile proof! ye win your choice-
Each in your fatherland, a separate grave!
Alack, on house and heritage
They brought a baneful doom, and death for wage!
One strove through tottering walls to force his way,
One claimed, in bitter arrogance, the sway,
And both alike, even now and here,
Have closed their suit, with steel for arbiter!
And lo, the Fury-fiend of Oedipus, their sire,
Hath brought his curse to consummation dire
Each in the left side smitten, see them laid-
The children of one womb,
Slain by a mutual doom!
Alas, their fate! the combat murderous,
The horror of the house,
The curse of ancient bloodshed, now repaid!
Yea, deep and to the heart the deathblow fell,
Edged by their feud ineffable-
By the grim curse, their sire did imprecate
Discord and deadly hate!
Hark, how the city and its towers make moan-
How the land mourns that held them for its own!
Fierce greed and fell division did they blend,
Till death made end!
They strove to part the heritage in twain,
Giving to each a gain-
Yet that which struck the balance in the strife,
The arbitrating sword,
By those who loved the twain is held abhorred-
Loathed is the god of death, who sundered each from life!
Here, by the stroke of steel, behold! they lie-
And rightly may we cry
Beside their fathers, let them here be laid-
Iron gave their doom, witk iron their graves be made-
A lack, the slaying sword, alack, th’ entombing spade!
Alas, a piercing shriek, a rending groan,
A cry unfeigned of sorrow felt at heart!
With shuddering of grief, with tears that start,
With wailful escort, let them hither come-
For one or other make divided moan!
No light lament of pity mixed with gladness,
But with true tears, poured from the soul of sadness,
Over the princes dead and their bereaved home
Say we, above these brethren dead,
On citizen, on foreign foe,
Brave was their rush, and stern their blow-
Now, lowly are they laid!
Beyond all women upon earth
Woe, woe for her who gave them birth!
Unknowingly, her son she wed-
The children of that marriage-bed,
Each in the self-same womb, were bred-
Each by a brother’s hand lies dead!
Yea, from one seed they sprang, and by one fate
Their heritage is desolate,
The heart’s division sundered claim from claim,
And, from their feud, death came!
Now is their hate allayed,
Now is their life-stream shed,
Ensanguining the earth with crimson dye-
Lo, from one blood they sprang, and in one blood they lie!
A grievous arbiter was given the twain-
The stranger from the northern main,
The sharp, dividing sword,
Fresh from the forge and fire
The War-god treacherous gave ill award
And brought their father’s curse to a fulfilment dire!
They have their portion-each his lot and doom,
Given from the gods on high!
Yea, the piled wealth of fatherland, for tomb,
Shall underneath them lie!
Alas, alas! with flowers of fame and pride
Your home ye glorified;
But, in the end, the Furies gathered round
With chants of boding sound,
Shrieking, In wild defeat and disarray,
Behold, ye pass away!
The sign of Ruin standeth at the gate,
There, where they strove with Fate-
And the ill power beheld the brothers’ fall,
And triumphed over all!
The Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus