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The Phoenissae   


the house of Oedipus; may he live to be more fortunate!
CREON Cease now your lamentations; 'tis time we bethought us of their
burial. Hear what I have to say, Oedipus. Eteocles, thy son, left
me to rule this land, by assigning it as a marriage portion to Haemon
with the hand of thy daughter Antigone. Wherefore I will no longer
permit thee to dwell therein, for Teiresias plainly declared that
the city would never prosper so long as thou wert in the land. So
begone! And this I say not to flout thee, nor because I bear thee
any grudge, but from fear that some calamity will come upon the realm
by reason of those fiends that dog thy steps.
OEDIPUS O destiny! to what a life of pain and sorrow didst thou bear
me beyond all men that ever were, e'en from the very first; yea for
when I was yet unborn, or ever I had left my mother's womb and seen
the light, Apollo foretold to Laius that I should become my father's
murderer; woe is me! So, as soon as I was born, my father tried to
end again the hapless life he had given, deeming me his foe, for it
was fated he should die at my hand; so he sent me still unweaned to
make a pitiful meal for beasts, but I escaped from that. Ah! would
that Cithaeron had sunk into hell's yawning abyss, in that it slew
me not! Instead thereof Fate made me a slave in the service of Polybus;
and I, poor wretch, after slaying my own father came to wed my mother
to her sorrow, and begat sons that were my brothers, whom also I have
destroyed, by bequeathing unto them the legacy of curses I received
from Laius. For nature did not make me so void of understanding, that
I should have devised these horrors against my own eyes and my children's
life without the intervention of some god. Let that pass. What am
I, poor wretch, to do? Who now will be my guide and tend the blind
man's step? Shall she, that is dead? Were she alive, I know right
well she would. My pair of gallant sons, then? But they are gone from
me. Am I still so young myself that I can find a livelihood? Whence
could I? O Creon, why seek thus to slay me utterly? For so thou wilt,
if thou banish me from the land. Yet will I never twine my arms about
thy knees and betray cowardice, for I will not belie my former gallant
soul, no! not for all my evil case.
CREON Thy words are brave in refusing to touch my knees, and I am
equally resolved not to let thee abide in the land. For these dead,
bear one forth-with to the palace; but the other, who came with stranger
folk to sack his native town, the dead Polyneices, cast forth unburied
beyond our frontiers. To all the race of Cadmus shall this be proclaimed,
that whosoe'er is caught decking his corpse with wreaths or giving
it burial, shall be requited with death; unwept, unburied let him
lie, a prey to birds. As for thee, Antigone, leave thy mourning for
these lifeless three and betake thyself indoors to abide there in
maiden state until to-morrow, when Haemon waits to wed thee.
ANTIGONE O father, in what cruel misery are we plunged! For thee
I mourn more than for the dead; for in thy woes there is no opposite
to trouble, but universal sorrow is thy lot. As for thee, thou new-made
king, why, I ask, dost thou mock my father thus with banishment? Why
start making laws over a helpless corpse?
CREON This was what Eteocles, not I, resolved.
ANTIGONE A foolish thought, and foolish art thou for entertaining
it!
CREON What! ought I not to carry out his behests?
ANTIGONE No; not if they are wrong and ill-advised.
CREON Why, is it not just for that other to be given to the dogs?
ANTIGONE Nay, the vengeance ye are exacting is no lawful one.
CREON It is; for he was his country's foe, though not a foeman born.
ANTIGONE Well, to fate he rendered up his destinies.
CREON Let him now pay forfeit in his burial too.
ANTIGONE What crime did he commit in coming to claim his heritage?
CREON Be very sure of this, yon man shall have no burial.
ANTIGONE I will bury him, although the state forbids.
CREON Do so, and thou wilt be making thy own grave by his.
ANTIGONE A noble end, for two so near and dear to be laid side by

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