Thou-thou whose face is bent to earth-dost thou avow, or disavow,
I avow it; I make no denial.
Thou canst betake thee whither thou wilt, free and clear of a grave charge.
Now, tell me thou-not in many words, but briefly-knewest thou that an edict
had forbidden this?
I knew it: could I help it? It was public.
And thou didst indeed dare to transgress that law?
Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict;
not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the
gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a mortal
could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven. For their
life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all time, and no man knows
when they were first put forth.
Not through dread of any human pride could I answer to the gods
for breaking these. Die I must,-I knew that well (how should I not?)-even
without thy edicts. But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain:
for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about with evils, can such an
one find aught but gain in death?
So for me to meet this doom is trifling grief; but if I had suffered
my mother’s son to lie in death an unburied corpse, that would have grieved
me; for this, I am not grieved. And if my present deeds are foolish in
thy sight, it may be that a foolish judge arraigns my folly.
The maid shows herself passionate child of passionate sire,
and knows not how to bend before troubles.
Yet I would have thee know that o’er-stubborn spirits are most
often humbled; ’tis the stiffest iron, baked to hardness in the fire, that
thou shalt oftenest see snapped and shivered; and I have known horses that
show temper brought to order by a little curb; there is no room for pride
when thou art thy neighbour’s slave.-This girl was already versed in insolence
when she transgressed the laws that had been set forth; and, that done,
lo, a second insult,-to vaunt of this, and exult in her
Now verily I am no man, she is the man, if this victory shall rest
with her, and bring no penalty. No! be she sister’s child, or nearer to
me in blood than any that worships Zeus at the altar of our house,-she
and her kinsfolk shall not avoid a doom most dire; for indeed I charge
that other with a like share in the plotting of this
And summon her-for I saw her e’en now within,-raving, and not mistress
of her wits. So oft, before the deed, the mind stands self-convicted in
its treason, when folks are plotting mischief in the dark. But verily this,
too, is hateful,-when one who hath been caught in wickednes then seeks
to make the crime a glory.
Wouldst thou do more than take and slay me?
No more, indeed; having that, I have all.
Why then dost thou delay? In thy discourse there is nought
that pleases me,-never may there be!-and so my words must needs be unpleasing
to thee. And yet, for glory-whence could I have won a nobler, than by giving
burial to mine own brother? All here would own that they thought it well,
were not their lips sealed by fear. But royalty, blest in so much besides,
hath the power to do and say what it will.
Thou differest from all these Thebans in that view.
These also share it; but they curb their tongues for thee.
And art thou not ashamed to act apart from them?
No; there is nothing shameful in piety to a brother.
Was it not a brother, too, that died in the opposite cause?
Brother by the same mother and the same sire.
Why, then, dost thou render a grace that is impious in his
The dead man will not say that he so deems it.
Yea, if thou makest him but equal in honour with the wicked.
It was his brother, not his slave, that perished.
Wasting this land; while he fell as its champion.
Nevertheless, Hades desires these rites.
But the good desires not a like portion with the evil.
Who knows but this seems blameless in the world below?
A foe is never a friend-not even in death.
Tis not my nature to join in hating, but in loving.
Pass, then, to the world of the dead, and, it thou must needs
love, love them. While I live, no woman shall rule me.
Enter ISMENE from the house, led in by two attendants.
Antigone by Sophocles