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The Phoenissae   


So spake they, cheering them to the fray.
Meantime the seers were sacrificing sheep and noting the tongues and
forks of fire, the damp reek which is a bad omen, and the tapering
flame, which gives decisions on two points, being both a sign of victory
and defeat. But, if thou hast any power or subtle speech or charmed
spell, go, stay thy children from this fell affray, for great is the
risk they run. The issue thereof will be grievous sorrow for thee,
if to-day thou art reft of both thy sons. (The MESSENGER departs
in haste as ANTIGONE comes out of the palace.)

JOCASTA Antigone, my daughter, come forth before the palace; this
heaven-sent crisis is no time for thee to be dancing or amusing thyself
with girlish pursuits. But thou and thy mother must prevent two gallant
youths, thy own brothers, from plunging into death and falling by
each other's hand.
ANTIGONE Mother mine, what new terror art thou proclaiming to thy
dear ones before the palace?
JOCASTA Daughter, thy brothers are in danger of their life.
ANTIGONE What mean'st thou?
JOCASTA They have resolved on single combat.
ANTIGONE O horror! what hast thou to tell, mother?
JOCASTA No welcome news; follow me.
ANTIGONE Whither away from my maiden-bower?
JOCASTA To the army.
ANTIGONE I cannot face the crowd.
JOCASTA Modesty is not for thee now.
ANTIGONE But what can I do?
JOCASTA Thou shalt end thy brothers' strife.
ANTIGONE By what means, mother mine?
JOCASTA By falling at their knees with me.
ANTIGONE Lead on till we are 'twixt the armies; no time for lingering
now.
JOCASTA Haste, my daughter, haste! For, if I can forestall the onset
of my sons, may yet live; but if they be dead, I will lay me down
and die with them. (JOCASTA and ANTIGONE hurriedly depart.)
CHORUS (singing, strophe)
Ah me! my bosom thrills with terror; and through my flesh there passes
a throb of pity for the hapless mother. Which of her two sons will
send the other to a bloody grave? ah, woe is me! O Zeus, O earth,
alas! brother severing brother's throat and robbing him of life, cleaving
through his shield to spill his blood? Ah me! ah me! which of them
will claim my dirge of death?
(antistrophe)
Woe unto thee, thou land of Thebes! two savage beasts, two murderous
souls, with brandished spears will soon be draining each his fallen
foeman's gore. Woe is them, that they ever thought of single combat!
in foreign accent will I chant a dirge of tears and wailing in mourning
for the dead. Close to murder stands their fortune; the coming day
will decide it. Fatal, ah! fatal will this slaughter be, because of
the avenging fiends.
But I see Creon on his way hither to the palace with brow o'ercast;
I will check my present lamentations. (CREON enters. He is followed
by attendants carrying the body of MENOECEUS.)

CREON Ah me! what shall I do? Am I to mourn with bitter tears myself
or my city, round which is settling a swarm thick enough to send us
to Acheron? My own son hath died for his country, bringing glory to
his name but grievous woe to me. His body I rescued but now from the
dragon's rocky lair and sadly carried the self-slain victim hither
in my arms; and my house is fallen with weeping: but now I come to
fetch my sister Jocasta, the living must reverence the nether god
by paying honour to the dead.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS Thy sister, Creon, hath gone forth and her daughter
Antigone went with her.
CREON Whither went she? and wherefore? tell me.
LEADER She heard that her sons were about to engage in single combat

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