Menoeceus, our new ruler by the new fortunes that the gods have given;
what counsel is he pondering, that he hath proposed this special
conference of elders, summoned by his general mandate?
(Enter CREON, from the central doors of the palace, in the garb of
king, with two attendants.)
Sirs, the vessel of our State, after being tossed on wild waves,
hath once more been safely steadied by the gods: and ye, out of all
the folk, have been called apart by my summons, because I knew,
first of all, how true and constant was your reverence for the royal
power of Laius; how, again, when Oedipus was ruler of our land, and
when he had perished, your steadfast loyalty still upheld their
children. Since, then, his sons have fallen in one day by a twofold
doom,-each smitten by the other, each stained with a brother's
blood,-I now possess the throne and all its powers, by nearness of
kinship to the dead.
No man can be fully known, in soul and spirit and mind, until he
hath been seen versed in rule and law-giving. For if any, being
supreme guide of the State, cleaves not to the best counsels, but,
through some fear, keeps his lips locked, I hold, and have ever
held, him most base; and if any makes a friend of more account than
his fatherland, that man hath no place in my regard. For I-be Zeus
my witness, who sees all things always-would not be silent if I saw
ruin, instead of safety, coming to the citizens; nor would I ever deem
the country's foe a friend to myself; remembering this, that our
country is the ship that bears us safe, and that only while she
prospers in our voyage can we make true friends.
Such are the rules by which I guard this city's greatness. And
in accord with them is the edict which I have now published to the
folk touching the sons of Oedipus;-that Eteocles, who hath fallen
fighting for our city, in all renown of arms, shall be entombed, and
crowned with every rite that follows the noblest dead to their rest.
But for his brother, Polyneices,-who came back from exile, and
sought to consume utterly with fire the city of his fathers and the
shrines of his fathers' gods,-sought to taste of kindred blood, and to
lead the remnant into slavery;-touching this man, it hath been
proclaimed to our people that none shall grace him with sepulture or
lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for birds and dogs to eat,
a ghastly sight of shame.
Such the spirit of my dealing; and never, by deed of mine, shall
the wicked stand in honour before the just; but whoso hath good will
to Thebes, he shall be honoured of me, in his life and in his death.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Such is thy pleasure, Creon, son of Menoeceus, touching this
city's foe, and its friend; and thou hast power, I ween, to take
what order thou wilt, both for the dead, and for all us who live.
See, then, that ye be guardians of the mandate.
Lay the burden of this task on some younger man.
Nay, watchers of the corpse have been found.
What, then, is this further charge that thou wouldst give?
That ye side not with the breakers of these commands.
No man is so foolish that he is enamoured of death.
In sooth, that is the meed; yet lucre hath oft ruined men
through their hopes.
(A GUARD enters from the spectators' left.)