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148 Ancient Greek Sophocles (ca. 495–406 b.c.) From Antigone chorus Eros, invincible in battle, Eros, consumer of riches, who slumbers through the night on a maiden’s soft cheeks, ranges the furthest seas and visits lonely huts on the high pastures. No one escapes—neither immortal gods nor men whose lives are short as those of mayflies that live for only a day— the one you touch is driven mad. Even just men’s thoughts you warp to crime, stirring conflict between kindred— between father and son. But triumphant desire that shines from the eyes of the newly-married bride is stronger than the greatest laws. Unconquerable Aphrodite sits among the gods and plays her games of power. (Antigone is brought from the Palace through the double doors by guards.) And now I too am overcome and carried beyond the realm of loyalty and law, no longer able to hold back my tears when I see Antigone being led towards the bridal chamber where she will sleep with Death. Sophocles 149  antigone Behold me, fellow citizens of my ancestral land, walking the last mile, the last road, seeing the sun’s light which I shall never see again for the last time. Hades, the god of death, who puts us all to sleep, leads me living to the banks of Acheron. No wedding songs are sung for me as I become his bride. chorus What glory and praise you deserve as you depart for the cavern of death— not struck by fatal disease nor slaughtered in war, but still alive and of your own free will—you alone of all mortals will enter Hades. antigone Like that story I heard of our Phrygian guest, the daughter of Tantalus—of how, on the peak of Sipylus, she was enclosed and hedged about, as ivy clings to a wall, by a stony accretion; and how, they say, the rain and snow that fall on the mountaintop erode her form, and the ceaseless tears that pour from beneath her brows become streams down the hills. Like her, in a rocky cave, the gods lull me to sleep. 150 Ancient Greek chorus But she was a goddess, born of gods and we are mortal, of mortal stock. Yet it is a great thing to have it said, when you die, that your destiny was equal to that of a god. antigone By the gods of my father I ask: why do you mock me— not even waiting until I have gone, but still here before your eyes? O city! city!— you propertied men of the city! But fountains of Dirce, and holy groves of Thebes with its many chariots, you at least can testify how no one laments me, and by what an aberration of justice I go to the heaped stones of my prison and unnatural tomb. What a wretched creature I am— with nowhere to dwell, neither among mortals nor corpses, not the living nor the dead. chorus Boldly you pressed to the furthest limit, my child, until you stumbled against the awesome throne of Justice—as if doomed to pay the price of your father’s sins. antigone Ah! now you touch on the worst thing of all— Sophocles 151  that tripled pity, pain and anguish I feel at the thought of my father, the dreadful fate of the noble house of Labdacus, and the tainted madness of that marriage bed where my poor accursed mother slept incestuously with my father, her own son. Those were my parents— already at birth I was doomed to join them, unmarried, in death. Brother, your ill-fated wedding killed us both—though I am yet alive. chorus Your piety is admirable. But the man who holds the power must also be acknowledged. Stubborn wilfulness destroyed you. antigone No funeral hymns, no marriage songs; unloved, unwept and wretched, I am led along the ordained path. Never again shall I, miserable one, raise my eyes towards the sacred eye and light of the sun— no dear friend is here to mourn me nor weep for my harsh fate. Ruth Fainlight and Robert J. Littman, 2009 A Chorus from Oedipus Rex ỉώ γενεαì βροτω̂υ . . . Alas for the seed of men. 152 Ancient Greek What measure shall I give these generations That breathe on the void and are void And exist and do not exist? Who bears more weight of joy Than mass of sunlight shifting in images, Or who shall make his thought stay on That down time...


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