Chorus of Theban Elders
Thou of Many Names, pride and joy 1115
of the Cadmeian bride,(125)
son of loud-thundering Zeus
who haunt renowned
Italy and hold sway
in the folds of Eleusinian1120
Deo(126) that are open to all, O Bacchus,
dwelling in the mother-city of the Bacchae
beside the liquid
stream of Ismenus and beside
the seeding ground of the savage dragon.(127)1125
Thee the light shimmering through smoky flames
has seen about the twin peaks(128)
of rock where Corycian
Nymphs, your Bacchae, wend.
Thee, the stream of Castalia has seen.1130
And thee, the ivied slopes
of Nysean mountains and shores
green with grape clusters escort
amid divine strains of Eu-oi-oi-oi-oi
resounding as you visit1135
the concourses of Thebes.(129)
This city thou honorest
as preeminent above all cities
and thy mother taken by lightning.
Now, when the city and its people1140
are held fast under violent sickness,
come with cleansing foot across the slopes
of Parnassus'(130) or moaning straits.1145
Io, io, leader of the chorus
of stars breathing fire, surveyor
of voices in the night,
boy son of Zeus, appear,
O Lord, amidst thy Thyiads(131)1150
who accompany you, and in maddened frenzy,
dance the night for you, dispenser of good Iacchos.(132)
[A man enters from the country.]
Neighbors of the houses of Cadmus and Amphion,(133) 1155
no life among men exists that I would
either praise or blame as fixed once for all.
Chance sets upright, and chance dashes down
the lucky and the unlucky, always.
Mortals have no prophet at all for what is established.1160
For Creon was enviable in my opinion, once.
He saved this land of Cadmus from its enemies.
He received sole rule omnipotent over the land
and guided it straight, flourishing in the
seed of children born. And now everything is lost.1165
Whenever men forfeit their pleasures, I do not regard
such a man as alive, but I consider him a living corpse.
Be very wealthy in your household, if you wish, and live
the style of absolute rulers, but should the enjoyment of these
depart, what is left, compared to pleasure,1170
I would not buy from a man for a shadow of smoke.
What misery this for the kings do you come bringing?
They are dead. The living are responsible for them dying.
Who is the murderer? Who is laid forth? Tell us.
Haemon is dead, his blood drawn by a hand of his own . . .(134)1175
his father's or the hand of his own?
He himself by his own hand in anger at his father for the murder.
O prophet, how truly you fulfilled your word.
Since this is the situation, it remains to plan for the rest.
[A woman enters from the house.]
Here I see wretched Eurydice close by,1180
wife of Creon.(135) She comes from the house,
because she has she heard about her son, or by chance.
All my townsmen, I heard your words
as I was approaching the door to go
and address the goddess Pallas(136) with my prayers.1185
I was just loosening the bolts of the door,
when the sound of misfortune for my house
struck my ears. I fell backward
in fear into my servants' arms and fainted.
But say again what the report was, 1190
for I will listen as one not inexperienced in evils.
I will tell you, phil mistress. I was there.
I will not omit any word of the truth. Why would I
comfort you with words for which later
I will be revealed a liar? The truth is always the right thing.1195
I followed your husband as his guide
to the edge of the plain where was lying, unpitied
and rent by dogs Polyneices' body, still.
We asked the Goddess of the Road and
Plouton to maintain a kindly disposition.(137)1200
We bathed him with purifying bath and burned
what was left on newly plucked branches.
A lofty crowned mound of his own earth,
we heaped upon him, and, afterwards, we left
for the maiden's hollow bridal chamber of Hades 1205
with its bedding of stone. From afar someone hears
high-pitched laments of a voice near the bride's chamber
unhallowed by funeral rites. He came and reported to his master.
Senseless marks of a cry of suffering
came over Creon as he drew nearer.1210
Crying out, he sent forth a mournful word.
"O miserable me, am I a prophet? Am I going
the most unfortunate road of those traveled before?
My son's voice touches(138) me. But, servants,
go quickly closer, and stand near the tomb,1215
and look, entering at the gap torn in the rocks of the mound
as far as the mouth itself, and see if I am hearing
Haemon's voice, or I am deceived by the gods."
At the command of our despairing master,
we began looking, and in the furthest part of the tomb,1220
we saw her hanging by the neck,
suspended by a noose of fine linen,
and him lying beside her, his arms about her waist,
bewailing the destruction of his nuptial bed departed below,
his father's deeds, and wretched marriage bed.1225
When Creon sees him, crying out dreadfully, he goes
inside toward him, and wailing out loud, he calls out:
"Wretched one, what have you done? What were
you thinking? By what disaster were you destroyed?
Come out, my child, I beg you on my knees."1230
With savage eyes descrying him, the boy,
spitting at his face and offering no reply,
draws his two-edged sword, but he fell short
of his father bolting in flight. Then, doomed
and furious with himself, just as he was, he stretched1235
out and drove his sword half-way into his side. Still
conscious, he enfolds the girl in his faint embrace.
He was panting and streaming a swift flow
of blood upon her white cheek.
He lies, corpse around corpse.1240
The wretched one received marriage rites in Hades' house,
[At some point before the Messenger concludes his report, Eurydice withdraws into the house.]
having shown among men how much lack of counsel
is the greatest evil that clings to a man.
What do you suppose about that? The woman is gone again,
before she said a word, good or bad.1245
I, too, am surprised, but I feed on the hopes
that, on hearing of her child's pains, she does not think
wailing before the city proper, but inside beneath her roof,
she will set forth the grief of her own for her slaves to lament.
She is not inexperienced in discretion so as to make a mistake.1250
I do not know. To me too much silence seems
as heavy as much vain shouting.
Well, we will know if, as we fear, she is concealing
something, repressed secretly in her distraught heart,
after I have entered the house. You are right. 1255
There is a heaviness even in too much silence.
[Exit Messenger. During his last lines, Creon enters silently, holding onto the body of his son Haemon which is carried by his servants.]
Here comes the lord himself,
holding in his hands a remarkable memorial,(139)
if it is meet to say, not of another's
ruin but of a mistake that is all his own.1260
I, i,
the mistakes of thoughtless minds,
stubborn, deadly mistakes,
i, you who look upon kinsmen
slayers and the slain.
Ah me! the unhappy counsels among my counsels.1265
O boy, new to life with a new kind of death,(140)
aiai, aiai,
you died, and you have departed
because of my bad counsels, not yours.
Ah me! how you seem to see justice late.1270
Ah me!
I have learned in misery. Upon my head
a god, at that time holding a heavy weight,
struck me and hurled me in savage ways,
Ah me! overturning and trampling my joy.(141)1275
pheu, pheu, the painful pains of mortals.
[Enter the Messenger from the house.]
Master, you are holding evils, and you have others
laid in store. Some you carry in your hands. Others inside the house
you are about to come and see over there. 1280
What worse evil is yet to come from evils?
The woman is dead, the all-mother(142) of the corpse,
the wretched one, just now by newly cut blows.
i, haven of Hades hard to atone,
why me, why are you destroying me?1285
O you who have escorted to me
the sufferings of ill-tidings, what word are you crying out?
Aiai, you have done away with a dead man.
What are you saying, boy?(143) What news are telling me?
Aiai, aiai, 1290
slaughter on top of destruction--
a woman's death besetting me on both sides?
You may see, for she is no longer in the inner recesses of the house.
[The central doors of the stage building move inward (1186). The ekkyklma, a low, wooden platform mounted on wheels, is pushed outward. On it is displayed the corpse of Eurydice lying next to an altar (1301). A sword is visible piercing her side.]
Ah me!
in my misery I am looking at a second evil.1295
What, what fate still awaits me?
I hold my child just now in my hands,
wretched me, and I look further at the corpse before me.
Pheu, pheu, woeful mother, pheu, child.
†Around the sharply whetted knife at the altar,†(144) 1300
she relaxes her eyebrows into darkness, after lamenting
the empty bed of Megareus who died before(145)
and again the bed of this one and lastly, after conjuring
evil doings for you, child-killer.(146)1305
Aiai, aiai,
I flutter with fear. Why has someone not
struck me straight in the chest with a two-edged sword?
I am miserable, aiai,1310
and I am soaked in miserable woe.
Yes, you were denounced(147) by the dead woman with
responsibility for the deaths, that one and this one both.
In what way did she release herself in bloodshed?
By striking herself with her own hand down to the liver when1315
she heard of the boy's sharply lamented suffering.
Ah me! me, these things will never be fit upon another
of mortals and be free of my responsibility.
Yes, I killed, I killed you, O pitiable me,
I, the report is true. i, servants,1320
lead me away as quickly as you can, lead me from under foot,
who exists no more than a nonentity.1325
You give profitable advice, if any profit exists amid evils,
for the evils at one's feet are best when very brief.
Let it come. Let it come.
Let the fairest of destines appear,
the one that brings to me my final day,1330
the supreme destiny. Let it come. Let it come,
that I no longer see another day.
These things lie in the future. It is necessary to do some of what lies before.
What lies in the future is the care of those who ought to care.1335
No, what I lust for, I have prayed for.
Then, do not pray for anything. There is no escape
for mortals from misfortune that is fated.
Please, lead a useless man out from under foot,
who killed you, boy, not willingly,1340
and you, too, this woman. O me, wretched me, I do not know
toward which to look or where to lean for support. Everything
in my hands is awry, while upon my head 1345
fate unbearable leaped.
[Creon is led into the house. The ekkyklma is drawn inside, and the messenger and the slaves carrying Haemon's body enter the house.]
Chorus of Theban Elders
By far is having sense the first part
of happiness. One must not act impiously toward
what pertains to gods. Big words1350
of boasting men,
paid for by big blows,
teach having sense in old age.
Before the festival, the Council had compiled a list of names from each of the ten tribes of citizens. These names were placed in ten urns, sealed and stored on the Acropolis. At the beginning of the festival, the urns were set up in the theater, and the magistrate drew the name of one man from each urn. These ten men, now designated as judges of the contest, were required by law to select a winning poet. With the close of the final satyr play, it was time for them to vote. The judges, weathering the advice shouted down from the slope of the Acropolis and mindful of their oath of impartiality, marked their tablets and deposited them in a jar. The magistrate solemnly drew five and, after reading the names, whispered to the herald. The latter, whose voice speaks for the community, proclaimed the victor.