Chorus of Theban Elders
Fortunate are they whose life has no taste of evils.
For those whose house is shaken by the god, nothing
of ruin is left out as it creeps over most of their lineage.585
As the nether darkness from 'neath the sea,
when it runs over the swell of the sea's main
before the storm-laden head winds of Thrace,(76)
rolls from the bottom590
dark sands, and headlands, pounded
by bad winds, roar mournfully.
Ancient the pains of the house of Labdacus' sons
I see piling onto the pains of the perished.(77)595
Neither does a generation set the lineage free, but someone
of the gods dashes it down, and it has no release.
Now, above the last
root a light had been stretched on Oedipus' house.600
Again the bloody dust(78)
of nether gods mows it down,
folly of words and Erinys of the mind.(79)
Thy might, Zeus, what trespass
of men could compass?605
It neither sleep †that enfeebles all† seizes,
nor the gods untiring
months, but, master unaging with time,
you possess the dazzling
splendor of Olympus.610
For futures near and far
and for the past as well, shall suffice
this law: nothing vast creeps
upon the life of mortals free of ruin.
Far wandering hope, though a good fortune for many men,615
is for many others a deception of their flighty lusts.
upon the man who knows nothing it creeps up
until he burns his foot on the hot fire.
Wisely from someone620
a word of renown has been revealed.
Evil seemeth(80) at some time a good
to one whose mind the god
is leading to ruin.
He acts for the briefest time outside ruin.625
[Haemon enters from the city.(81)]
Here is Haemon, last born
of your children. Does he come
tormented over the fate of his betrothed Antigone,
with whom he intended to marry,
anguishing over the deception of his marriage bed?630
We will quickly know better than seers could say.
My boy, you are not here, are you, after hearing
my fixed decree about your intended bride, in a rage at your father,
or as far as you are concerned are we, whatever we do, philoi?
Father, I am yours. You would guide me aright,635
if you have good judgments that I will follow.(82)
No marriage in my opinion will be worth
winning more than you leading nobly.
Yes, you should always be disposed this way in your breast, boy,
to assume your post behind your father's judgments640
in all things. For this reason, men pray to beget
and have sons in their households who listen,
that they may both repay an enemy with evils
and honor the philos equally with the father.
Whoever produces useless children,645
what could you say about him except that he begets
hardship for himself and great mockery for his enemies.
Do not ever throw out good sense, boy,
over pleasure for a woman's sake, knowing that
this proves to be a cold thing to embrace in your arms,650
a evil woman in your bed and in your house.
What wound greater could there be than an evil philos.
No, spit the girl out like an enemy, and let
someone in Hades' house marry her.
Since I caught her openly,655
alone out of the whole city, in disobedience,
I will not make myself a liar to the city,
but I shall kill her. Therefore, let her keep invoking Zeus of
Kin Blood.(83) If I nurture my natural kin
to be disorderly, then surely I will do so to those outside the family. 660
Whoever is a good man among those within his house
will also appear to be just in the city.
But whoever transgresses the laws and does them violence
or intends to issue orders to those in power,
this man cannot possibly receive praise from me.665
Whomever the city may appoint, one should
obey in small concerns and just, and in their opposites.
For my part, I would encourage this man
to rule nobly and to consent to be ruled well,
and when assigned a post amid the spear storm, to remain 670
there, a just and brave comrade beside his comrades.(84)
There is no greater evil than lack of rule.
This destroys cities, this renders houses
desolate, this in the spear battle
causes routs to break out. But among men who are prosperous,675
obedience to command saves many lives.
Thus a defense must be mounted for the regulations.
Defeat by a woman must never happen.
It is better, if it is bound to happen, to be expelled by a man.
We could not be called "defeated by women"--could not.680
In our opinion, unless we are misled by our years,
you seem to say thoughtfully what you are saying.
Father, the gods implant good sense in men
which is the foremost of all their possessions.
I . . . in what way you are mistaken in what you say,685
I neither could say, nor would I even know how to say.
Yet, things may come out right in another way.(85)
Whatever, it is my nature to scout(86) out for you
everything that someone says or does or finds fault with,
since your face is a terrifying thing for the townsmen690
because of words you are not pleased to hear.
It is possible for me to hear things in the shadows,
how the city mourns for this girl,
that the most undeserving of all women
is perishing in the foulest way for deeds most glorious.695
She did not allow one from the same womb, lying
without rites amid the carnage, to be ravaged
by raw-eating dogs or some one of the birds.
Is she not worthy of receiving a golden meed of honor?
Such dark talk is spreading secretly about.700
As far as I am concerned, there is no possession more valuable,
father, than a father who is prospering in good fortune.
What greater pride and joy is there for children than
a father flourishing in fame, or what for a father in children.
Do not wear one and only one frame of mind in yourself,705
that what you say, and nothing else, is right.
Whoever imagines that he and he alone has sense
or has a tongue or an essence that no other has,
these men, when unfolded,(87) are seen to be empty.
But for a man, even if he is wise, to go on learning710
many things and not to be drawn too taut is no shame.
You see how along streams swollen from winter floods
some trees yield and save their twigs,
but others resist and perish, root and branch.
Likewise, the man in command of a ship who draws715
the foot sheet(88) taut and leaves no slack, capsizes
and sails what is left with his decks upside down.
Let go your anger, and grant a change,
for if an opinion comes up from me, a younger person,
I say it is by far best(89) that a man be born filled with720
wisdom. If he is not, for the scale does not usually so incline,
to learn from those speaking competently is a noble thing.
Lord, it is fair, if he says something to the point, for you to learn,
and in turn for you from him. It has been well said well twice.725
Are we at our age to be taught
in exercising good sense by a man of his age?
Yes, in nothing that is not just. Even if I am young,
you should not see my years more than my deeds.
What deed is this--reverencing the disorderly?730
I would not order you to act piously toward evil men.
Has she not been stricken by such a disease?
The people, all Thebes together, deny it.
The city will tell me what orders I should give?
Do you see how young you sounded saying that?735
Should I rule the land for anyone other than myself?
There is no city that is one man's.
Is not the city considered to belong to the ruling man?
Nobly you could rule an empty land, alone.
This one, it seems, battles as an ally(90) of the woman.740
Yes, if you are a woman. For it is you I care for.
You most evil thing, by bringing your father to justice?
Yes, when I see you making an error that is not just.
Do I err by revering my own prerogatives?
You do not revere them by trampling upon the honor of the gods.745
You abomination who trails after a woman.
You would not catch me defeated by what is shameful.
And yet, your every word now is for her.
And for you, and me, and the gods below.
This woman, it is not possible for you to marry her while she lives. 750
Then she will die, and by her dying, she will destroy someone.
Are you so bold as to threaten me?
What threat is it to tell you my opinions?(91)
You will convey sense to me in tears since you are empty of sense yourself?
If you were not my father, I would say you were not making sense.
You slave to a woman, do not wheedle me.
Do you wish to speak, and after speaking, not hear anything?
Right! But, by Olympus, know this:
you will not revile me with criticism and get away with it. [To his slaves.]
Bring that hated thing so this instant before his eyes760
she may die next to her bridegroom.
No, not next to me. Do not ever suppose that.
She will not die next to me, and you will never
look upon my face again with your eyes.
Rage on at any of your philoi who are willing to let you.765
[Exit Haemon for the country]
The man is gone, lord, quickened by wrath.
The mind in pain takes things hard at his age.
Let him go. Let him act and think greater than what befits a man.
But these two girls, he will not save them from death.
Do you truly intend to kill them both?770
No, not the one who did not touch the deed. You are right.
By what death are you planning to kill the other?
By leading her where the path is deserted of people.
I will hide her alive in a rocky cave,
setting forth(92) enough food to escape pollution775
so that the whole city may escape miasma.
There begging Hades, whom alone of the gods
she reveres, perchance she will not die,
or she will come to realize, late but at last, that
revering what is in Hades is excessive labor.780
[Creon remains on stage.(93)]