A rhyming adaptation of Sophocles' 'Antigone'
Antigone stood up like a periscope,
discerning truth, descrying hope;
She was battered, borne along
by Time's monumental stream of wrong
until into truth's white crucible
she sullenly withdrew.
their minds on matters of philosophy.
Yet, for all this, Elric's thoughts were forever
turning to Zarozina and the fear
of what might have befallen her.
The very innocence of this girl,
her vulnerability and her youth had been,
to some degree at least, his salvation.
His protective love for her had helped to keep
him from brooding too deeply
on his own doom-filled life, and her company
had eased his melancholy.
---- Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer
[ANTIGONE and ISMENE are sewing shrouds.]
Whose is better, darker, Ismene,
of these silk parachutists' shrouds we weave
to float our brothers Hellward while we grieve?
By our industry and fair eyes
they shall be made to rhapsodise;
Your shroud itself's a masterwork
of timely love and deep-felt hurt;
in its lacy and lovely weave
you help your glimmering eye to grieve.
And its perfect, or nearly, dear,
with but one lose thread... there.
Oh, yes. You're right. I'll need
to even up the stitches with the needle.
Let justice weight up her scolding scales
with equal wonder where two lives have failed;
with equal equanimity just this once in death,
let our doughty fighting brothers' breaths
the golden grace of their spent days exhaust
as before in the lives which they have lost,
misplaced, they strode in double, loving arms, they two,
alike extraordinary above the common view.
Are you done with that little needle yet?
Almost done, Antigone, yet
Eteocles' E still needs a flirting filigree,
a flourish to please Charon's craggy eye.
My shroud for downcast Polynices must
be nice enough for him to win love from dust
and steal Persephone from Hades' heated side;
less success than that in the afterworld he won't abide
who for his own hard-garnered self-regard has died.
Upon the crooked little field of death he stood
with brazen eyes defying, how proud,
the tatter-rattle killing tricks
of his enemies' glittering sticks;
In Hell he should have the bride of Spring
as the smallest help for his pride's comforting.
Eteocles too stood like a god,
as though he were made to live forever, trod
the mangling hazards of our civil war to stuff
and never shiver with the common guff.
Two brothers, both alike in greatness,
now a double duty for two sisters' neatness,
sewing tidy shrouds to twine their griefs
worn by weeping to terminal unbelief.
Here's the thread. Now, watch the needle!
You'll spike yourself if you're unheedful.
If this needle, potential sore,
yet light enough for maids' endeavors,
could be forged a sword by hate and sorrow
strong enough to decapitate tomorrow
or spark some mercy by a trick of light
from my war-hollow heart poured stiff concrete
I'd lay it in my side though God himself forbade;
I'd consecrate it's bald bold blade
with my every drop of virgin blood
and never sew another shroud.
Don't talk like that! Your heart must yield.
....We're almost at the battlefield.
Here ghosts that died so full of vengeful victory
in the height of useless hubris yesterday
will hear your vow and be offended
that a woman's words so warlike sounded.
Two brothers, our brothers, who were to rule together
but couldn't manage it, mangled now in heather.
They have died, but the State survives the scrum
and decrees one a hero, the other a hoodlum.
What are we to do with that? What's next?
Calamity, calamity unending is the great text
our sisterly sorrow-sighs must punctuate.
Sisters in misery, we fare not well
under this hard hail from Hell....
Who's got a better right to cry for vengeance?
The dead have lost their old intemperance
and lay in rotten equanimity all day---
it's us, we need someplace to throw our hearts away,
some bloody spot of ground to shout alone.
Soldiers and women both inter the bones;
but only women have no place to vent
the things with which their hearts are bent.
Our heads are rife with greifs we can't delouse,
while men make all the world a charnalhouse
and for their killing get crowned as Kings,
with ruby wands decreeing royal things.
We women in our low office may only weep;
unceasing calamity, dear sister, is ours to keep.
Oh, that of the royal house of Oedipus
I knew nothing, and cared less!
Topping it off, a rape has rasped my ears today,
sharp soot from the dragon's-mouth polluting lucidity,
dark words evilly twisting the clarity of air,
the few clear things we've scraped together
from the stark wreckage of our hates and hurts.
What words, Antigone, can nail me worse
than those our father Oedipus' horrors
hammer in my nightly terrors,
repeat and echo in my heart's herse?
Keep your words and roarings terse.
Coursing, ribald, disrespecting war
has rivered me from myself so far,
it is the only blood moves in me now;
unceasing seas of inclement reds allow
our brothers' bare bodies on the killing field
no time to mend, or my heart to yeild.
You have not heard, then,
of Colonel Kreon's creeping dictum?
The battlefield's lousy with lost bones,
kinsmen skinned and left ungroaned;
here sightless eyes may scratch
all night at the stars' hard latch
seeking entrance to a dignified heaven
their unburied state keeps them exiled from.
This I know. This I have seen:
rummagers and mummified mourners
lost among the belladonna
step toe-careful through the loot
and lornly bawl, and to no boot.
This I know. This I have seen:
embracing a bruised Etocles
in limitless suffering of the dead
come at last to their simple end.
Here's ETOCLES. How grave
and graceful are the things death saves.
This solid ground has held long enough
the weight of which I long to feel the crush;
Soon enough the earth in her ruin will get
eternal possession of all I loved, and love yet.
Come, Ismene, help me lift him that I may serve
the office of the earth in brief embrace. Observe,
I hold the brave beauty of his body
that proved too frail a home for his immortality.
The soldiers too will shout like lovers,
beat their bronzen breasts, pull out their hair,
toil in tongue-tied oratory toward God's lair
to gasp their grief, and blare upon the air
with trumpets in their lumped throats. They'll tear
and cry for what all their pride did first inter
beneath the dirt with Etocles together.
It's right they should. Oh, brother
let such honors as our customs connive
hold you above the loam awhile, alive
in cheating eyes still blurred by death.
And Polynices, out of breath,
whose lagging sails and body's ship
the punishing waves have stripped
breasted the selfsame oceans of this war
that Etocles and ourselves abhorred
and from his topmast is drowned as deep
as ever our own Etocles did sleep.
Yes, Polynices, you too shall we wrap,
with balm and comely unguents trap,
until our love-touches may render
your wounds shut up with heavy lavender
that opened such holes in us. But wait,
dear Polynices, just a bit,
while we bind and bandage Etocles,
whose priority in these housekeeping deeds
lies only in that he lay over you.
Thus our one atom of love's made two.
Although in life and war you two stood
on the bitter spectrum of faction opposed
and picked out, like boxers, opposite colors,
yet in death shall you rank together.
They say that... God curse these crows!
Dread harbingers! That Kreon... No, no!
You'll bear no bit of human meat
obscenely heavenward in your black beaks.
[A trumpet is heard offstage.]
Kreon...? Here comes his motorcade
with flag and bright insignia displayed,
an annoucer reared on the back seat
bearing a scroll that must yet
announce some new decree of law,
applying peace to these new-finished wars.
Let us attend.
Let Etocles be buried with the great,
for Etocles has served the state.
Polynices must rot, for he did not.
Military medals will drip from Etocles' chest
since for the State alone he did his best.
Polynices did not, and therefore must rot.
Tuesday's parade, led by this motorcade,
in triumphal, sumptuous march down ol' Main Street
will shill the war-orphans a special treat.
Polynices, however, our bitter enemy,
stays where he lays for all to see.
Let no hand touch the such-and-such
whose dark swat at our metropolis was too much.
Let no hand in his burial play a caring part,
the State decrees itself quite pleased
that dogs should eat out his heart.
On pain of Death, it is decreed in Thebes!
The hollow longing of his staring skull
will serve as warning for one and all.
Ismene, here's suds, in this sweet water jug
to lave and love Polynices when we've dug
his gravesite in this battled clay
and put him to rest for the rest of the day
and maybe wrote a poem to help arrow his bones
past the pearly death-gates where he'll roam
half mindless in his fulltime Hell.
Antigone! Perhaps you don't hear so well.
Public announcements are for public
consumption. I am a person, and shall always click
my consciousness to seperate, private stations.
But that decree means our cremations!
Ismene, listen. We are just dust.
Cremation's only one more formality
confirming our transient humanity.
Its your own mind you must listen to and hear.
Help me or don't help me. Whichever, dear.
But there is no middle way.
Not yesterday, not tomorrow, not today.
I know this world is muddy, obscure with fear.
But some things that were clear stay clear.
Help? What...? I don't get it. Nothing's clear.
Help me bury Polynices, of course.
Bury... but... Kreon... the decree....death, and worse!
A person has to bury their brother,
I know that deep as I know nothing other.
Although no dictator's pen has written it,
yet no monarch's censoring eraser can efface it.
But the risks are hideous! We'll die
and rot out here with Polynices, catching flies.
Are you coming with me to the farther wall?
He's so harsh and all.
What tank could ever outflank a daisy?
The State gears forward, making lazy
figure eights on its rotored treads
searching for enemies and loaded with lead.
All his messerschmitts and schnausers
haven't the justice of a single flower
willing to die to bring to new seed
the blossom of truth its sap decrees.
Political ideas have gone to their heads!
My future estate lies with the dead.
Sister! Our troubles are already triple.
Oedipus in love with his infernal riddles,
ripping his eyes out to see terror better
in the acknowledged dark where life is bitter.
Life's a mess on the family plan,
Jocasta axing herself out of our clan
as soon as she knew just what she had done,
giving incestuous birth, fucked by her son!
Snatching a curtain cord, screeching "umbilical!"
she twisted her life out by the empty sill
full of sunset's exploded glory.
And even that's not the end of the story.
As she lay there, remotely moored
by Fate's crossed strings to the livingroom floor
there came the muffled scuffing of a hundred drums
announcing the pronouncement that our end had come.
War rolled in like an incinerator, wild
to burn up the last dry leaves of our lives.
And when Kreon marched smartly from the officers' barracks,
you laughed impolitely and said he was garish.
But Kreon's was the only steady hand
careful and regular under Etocles' command;
and summer had flashed all our land to one whiteness.
And then Etocles and Polynices
still handsome and young, fell spitted like pigs
playing their opposite numbers, sweet brothers, sweet figs,
tossed on the glory of each other's swords.
It's been enough for me to foreswear the Lord.
You see my point, sister? Our life's a bust.
And now who's left of our whole clan? Just us.
Want us to go down the same way, with a flare and a fizz,
unsure of everything but our own righteousness?
A pair of girls! We aren't part of the army,
we left that to the men; it's far too alarming
to think of fighting them now, all alone,
---not all the men, all the army. Antigone!
The law's a strong word whose only
counterpoint's a punctual "I obey."
If that's your opinion,
then I don't want you. Shuffle on,ISMENE.
When exciting multiplicity
withers to single simplicity
from all the coulds imagination displayed
we humble humans inevitably degrade
into the choices that we've made.
I'm not too good at making demands of others,
the dead are best at that, our brothers
whose twilit, silent insistence,
incites a kind of conscience,
knowing we live a little while in pleasure
and that in cool death we die forever.
Go on, go do as you please,
set up a life for yourself, it's a breeze.
I'm burying my brother. Seems he's got
one less sister than he thought.
All this battle, and now strife between us.
These offerings of the gods lick of bitterness.
These offerings offer us a chance at passion,
a head turned to kiss what's now out-of-fashion:
human Justice touching the immortal Right.
And more than that, ex-sister, we can't ask to get.
The gods I know how to honor in their temple,
the repeating seasons each recieve their sample
of my ceremonial devotion on the burning altars.
What I don't know is how to break the law, or alter
the one and only thing that's made exactly the same
for all of us, no matter who we think we are.
Every renegade must have reasons,
every anxious stay-at-home excuses for her treasons;
Pardon me, Ismene, please excuse me
while I get on with burying Polynices.
Antigone, I'm afraid.
[ANTIGONE gives her a look.]
So afraid. For you.
Don't bother. With fear I'm through.
All these furiously luminous fairy tales of yours
scar the dark so serenely that they bore,
dwindle to a blink, and then blink no more.
Your concern is touching, but doesn't reassure;
Got to think about yourself. I understand. Sure.
I'll keep your secret, Antigone, I won't peep;
I won't tell a soul, not even in my sleep.
Maybe you'll get away with it, who knows?
Then everyone can be happy, like the first day of snow.
Happiness is like a dream which passes
out on a punctual pillow, and doesn't hear its glasses
shatter on tiles' evil configuration;
your concern for me, like a strange inauguration,
comes through haphazarded by static, fluffy, wrong, untrue.
Don't stop youself talking. Tell 'em all. It's true!
If you race around the Spanish esplanade
you can probably catch old Kreon
discussing troop dispositions with the gods.
Go on, rabbit after them, go, go on,
chatter with the evil beings posing on the lawn.
Just reason to yourself about how distrustful
Kreon'll feel when he knows you knew it all.
Aren't you afraid at all? It makes me cold
to think of being so breezily daring, brave and bold.
Just doing what's got to be done, is all.
But can you really do it, simple as a song?
I bet you can't. Not really, not for long.
That's a point. When my strength abates
I'll give it up-- when my bones break.
But why should you die for what can't succeed?
Get out, ISMENE. Before you know it,
I will be the one hating you. If death bites
for honoring the dead, it will be for me
an honorable death. Get out, ISMENE.
[Battlefield previous day. ETOCLES and POLYNICES.]
SOLDIER UNDER ETOCLES.
Two valiant brothers in titanic conflict
clear a field of foes with gigantic fists.
What Etocles becomes, Polynices counters;
each for the other's drunken army is the bouncer.
Their angers are the rawest in the field.
One to the other will never yeild.
Those two conquer countries within:
the soiled uttermost of brother-hatred is their sin.
Etocles becomes a fury,
thousand-armed in his bloody hurry,
and settles widows by the swarm
with every dainty swing of his mighty arm.
Polynices no less---
with each great step he kills a mess,
plantations graveyards, and swamps
our alfalfa fields with bloods beyond our mops.
Fore, fore, to the fore!
Let every backward heart cower like a whore,
flailing backward and bedward which should march more!
Let feet be geared to onward use alone:
rearward gapes a retracting cliff.
Fore, fore, to the fore! No ifs!
Let onward men view virtue in the face
of dead enemies whose valor we debase.
Oh worse than night, you bloodblack men, away,
that slow the righteous rising of my day!
A fallen Etocles must my horizon be
or no new dawn shall roar aloud in Thebes.
Etocles, ever onward! [He's slain.]
Slave! fear justice and her terrible sword;
I think there are no men that fight for Etocles,
but these counterfeit counters.
Death to the invader! [He's slain.]
I do believe the world's all heads
and limbs stuck in its crust; my foot's in a sea of reds.
I should switch my infantry for gravediggers
to get a single square yard of land clearer
that I might convincingly contest.
[They argue and kill each other.]
Two mighty hearts in turmoil contest
and beat each other to silence in the sand,
absent boastful besting. [Aloud.] Victory, Thebans,
mounts on lightning wings to our defended city!
Let none say, however unpretty,
that the will of God was left undone;
here you see where his terror shone
upon these dead brothers he once enthroned.
[MERCHANT, soldiers, widows, others.]
Funerary candles, fifteen-hundred,
silk shrouds for the cadavers, ten ton,
fifty priests of Zeus with tough knees to say
everlasting prayers, tend everlasting flames all day,
ten days of mourning drama-shows
depicting heroic deaths, and their lives below,
three-hundred twenty-five epitaphs we commission
to give grave-visiting a fab frisson;
a wailing crier to sing out the names
of our honorable dead, numerically arranged.
Other minor matters, too small to mention,
but included in the contracts. Sign here, Kreon.
Good, good. Now everything is bought and paid for;
The last detail of every victory's a funeral.
Dead hands pull palls
to curtain our dark State
which yesterday had bloods full
enough to race in headlong gait
heedless of the finish ribbon that tripped us up.
Now our old dignities, due for a checkup,
steady themselves on the doctor's treadmill,
pausing after the last pant up the final hill
that seemed a topless, insurmountable mountain
inaccessible to our steadfast intent. Yet, citizens,
your dear devotion and plauditory patience
reap hard reward's overdue benificence:
Peace in every suburban hedge is what you've got,
just what unhesitating obedience has brought.
To Laius you bowed in lauded rows;
To Oedipus presented contented countenances;
When he was exiled by the windmills of the gods
to be blown across creation, a poor old sod,
your loyal hearts embraced his kids,
rare exemplars of our Greecian Ids;
dear Etocles and mighty Polynices
accepted loyalty oaths of your future services.
Yesterday, in battle royale, Polynices slayed
Thebes' defender Etocles, who had strayed
from his command post too youthfully enthused
by the sight of his old school chums oozed
across the battlefield like football players
a vengeful god half-massacred, a bluster-
ing coach too tough with his exhausted team.
Yet success' sunlight still on Etocles' shoulder beamed,
and he took for his post-game winner's trophy
the useless life of his traitor-brother, Polynices.
They met in an embrace of bloods their tomb,
who once were pried in sequence from the womb.
I, as uncle to these great ones,
to the inherited mantle of good government have come,
politic, conservative, yet in full power
I walk the corridors of State in a direful hour,
enchanting to the magnates, and brave to the plebes,
I ascend this long-contested throne of Thebes.
Law distributes the rights our leaders construe.
Someone has to know how to
know and what to know and how to do.
Without a body, the lolling head rolls useless;
Let our arms be your arms; our legs, your Zeus'
thunderbolts against rebellion,
dissolution, and damned disunion.
Remember that. Your loyalty will be tested yet.
We're behind you 100 per cent.
But we have to keep an eye to profit,
not every public service can pay the private rent.
Fine; but that's not quite what I meant.
Sixty sentries already walk the bloody quad
and six sharpshooters practice for the firing squad;
I have a plan for an enduring peace, of course,
that I simply want my citizens to endorse.
100 per cent; what more could we say?
It's what's done, not said, that will win the day.
Harbor no lawbreakers in your uptown house,
the State is a dog when its home to a louse.
Disobey, and incur the risk
of sharpshooters six ready to whisk
our souls into idiot oblivion?
I'm not that brave. Or that dumb, for one.
Most solemn comes the State's sharp pen
to delete the life of a citizen.
Yet, coin jingles bright with money's delights
and deep indifferent wisdoms have often been
seduced by its tinny attractions time and again.
Colonel, although I risk my neck,
my breath held steady and my mind a wreck
I have a report that I must make,
though twice on my way here I did a doubletake.
I turned around. Once, just at the gilded door.
Once, when I overheard your passionate disparagement pour
on apperceived disloyalty in basso counterpoint
to your praise of death selected by the State Adroit.
My knees went backward like a bird's
hesitant and repentant at such hard words
to push forward through atmospheres of fear
churning in my gut's hurricane as I neared.
"Go back, you imbecile, why won't you listen
to me, your mind's sinuous apprehension!
Don't go whistling to your deathtrap, halt!
Can't you hear Fate's gears grinding to gestalt?"
So I paced, then heard your soldier's solid loyalty.
My heart took heart, and my stomach calm,
I arrive ready to reveal, as I was ordered,
what my senses in the State's employ recorded.
Although, it may not make much sense, my senior.
So, then, when I got---
Spit it out you crippled idiot.
Hey! I didn't do it. Didn't see who did.
The battlefield's a forest of the disloyal dead,
desecrating the State's impersonal decorum,
with faces frozen stiff by death's intimate abhorrence.
But don't you worry, sir, we didn't choke,
we left the cold unburied in the rain to soak.
You should be an advocate at court,
the pertinent is absent from your report.
Just what was this something-nothing that you saw?
I'll need all the details. You know the law.
Um, strange, livid, nearly unearthly...
Spit. It. Out.
No need to shout.
Beneath, between, the mists that purled and paused
upon the obscure battlefield like first-aid gauze
the corroded dead continued, rigor mortis,
to shout about the pains that caused distress.
But time's silent stuffing fingers in their mouths
gagged to windy whispers all their howls.
Out there, near Polynice's end of the field...
Well... Seems a touch of dust had begun to build.
A thin, really thin, layer almost, of, of--
Surely the dead are dirty.
And what they smell of....
Someone was trying to bury him, sir.
All about, the close-packed earth was stirred
as if Polynice's ghost had rose up in dirge
for his unburied body. This they tried to cure,
whoever they were, spilling wine and soil
over the indignant dead man Etocles had spoiled.
A long battle. Dried blood looks like grime;
sweaty work, things stick to the skin, look like crime.
Someone had put him under. Handful
by handful. One foot was neatly buried, the sandal
packed under neat handprints. Dirt in the wrinkles,
not fallen or scattershot, but lovingly sprinkled.
A last ablution of earth.
WHO. DARES. DO. THIS? THE TRUTH!
I swear I don't know, Colonel Kreon!
Sir! All that fog. And we boys was tired, gone...
from the battle still; all that fat feasting after.
My ears still rang honky-tonk tunes and laughter.
We looked for signs, but couldn't find none.
Just Polynices put under, not another single one.
Silence all the night. No talk amongst us,
too weird with all those blue bodies in the dust,
some brothers to us, our places so close
but so different. It'd be strange to be verbose,
their restless ghost tapping in at will
from the other side; moon baleful on the fog, a veil
of nothingness smothered in absence, and then,
before long, dawn trundlin' up from Apollo's pen,
staining our apprehensions with day again.
The corporal saw it, not me, I didn't notice.
A small... a extra limning of darkness on the premises.
Somehow Polynices seemed just more not there,
if you know what I mean. It was quite a scare.
I do not.
I wasn't me, I swear! Didn't see nothing.
Nothing there, not really, just a thin layer,
of, of.... something.
A sort of something that the nose
perceives as musk or musty, clottish, knows
mostly from an unread scroll, an eviscerated crust
common sense and experience dub as dust.
But on the wide, absract, identical terrain
one thing by its very absence marked the plain:
scattered among expressive corpses lacking tact,
no indent or dusty comma of a paw or track
appeared, there was never the least sign at all
of even the remotest type of animal,
and this, like a magic trick, to our soldier's acumen
revealed the intruder as something human.
A nest of accusations when I returned to post;
things real quiet for a sec. Boys on my shift,
well, I gotta say we started finger-pointing promptly.
Visciousness on the parade grounds where we'd stomped
or whispered confidences, little things, sought
private views on public topics, where we fought,
such like. All came to nothing, rude
fear in our voices morphing to instant certitude,
rapid logic making airtight cases,
calling back swear words and rushed excuses.
Whole jurisprudence process was rather crude.
All came to nothing. We didn't know who'd
done what, if anything. Bad news, all of it.
Then I have to see you.... sir, tell the tale, spill it.
I mean, someone had to go to tell the Colonel.
Stared the graffiti meaningless in the barracks urinal.
We stared hard at our feet, restless, restless,
and I drew the short straw... my luckiness.
No happiness in the news, none in the bearer.
Nobody shines to see a bad-news man draw nearer.
And you all saw nothing?
Absolutely. Not a thing.
Maybe it was the gods did it. A sign.
"Ferocious prophecies first often seem benign."
Gods!? Money! You were decieved and bribed!
Sentry-- you'll wish that you had died
eviscerated on a poinard, if this damned corpse
gets dunked in dirt again, like they taught at church.
Watch steady, night ain't too long. Keep your poise.
Money turn your heads, boys?
....I'll twist 'em off!!
[Aside to himself.] Dumpkoff, dumpkoff, dumpkoff.
[ETOCLES and POLYNICES before their troops.
One day earlier, morning.]
Gone to view the defenses.
Their men are nearly double ours.
For every four grunts they've a dozen howitzers.
Praise Zeus we have two arms each, then,
to double up the dead and slain.
It's bad odds, Lieutenant, and what
we've come all this way, tramping at night,
the rutty road waterlogged, horses slipping
and men crying crumpled under 'em, then stilling....
Too far from home or victory to change our places;
tomorrow's unlucky dead today have breathing faces.
Who knows who? Today a riddle's all they'll tell us.
These warlike jaws that snap around us!
If only we could plant their dragon's-teeth
and grow more men!
That'd be a relief.
The jaws that snap!
Why, Euroborus, let them trap
on air, or, like the dragon of your name,
engulf its own tail in hungry shame
--- before it slither-slumps away!
Who has the greater cause today?
The greater work to do, honor to win?
Our victory will change the world again.
Nature bites at changes, dogs fleaed,
like sleepy dragons, snap, once stirred
even if by an angel's foot. Such teeth
we do not need, nor would I have them,
for who would so late desert a cause,
even were it the wrongest flag on earth,
him I account of no-account, a less than dirt, no worth,
a thing, and not a man. O traitorous hope!
I hope Etocles doesn't pull back one
ounce of spitting venom. But let us win,
if, by the gods, we are deemed and fated
to win this great contest, against all we hated!
The harder fought, the more our fame's assured,
the greater the odds, the greater god's grace purrs,
moving though our rough ready human limbs
as does our very blood! Roar on, great dragon!
We'll cheer merry swords into your gullet, snake!
Thus your awesome voice shall be slaked
by the loud levity of our shouts, all of one
coiled killing intent when your death comes!
[The lads all cheer.]
It seems a boisterous roaring
from Polynices' camp is coming.
My heart is struck with fear,
pouring ice for my veins in by my ears.
Here comes Etocles to enhearten us, fool.
Let your cold ears hear his incendiary flak.
Let him pour his dragon's soul into you.
No speech given out by the top dog, sir Sir,
ever made a lesser cur bark louder.
No talk, however eloquent, however electrifying,
ever shocked a coward into bravery,
or raised a drooping army to vigorous attack,
or gifted a man with cause to fight who lacked.
Yet it is customary for a commander to give a speech,
and so I will. I guess another usual reason's
to get to know the troops, strangers shanghaied
into some State affair for quick reward.
Maybe that applies to Polynices' troops,
culled from the barbarous Spartan mobs
coming to loot our houses and rape our Moms,
but not to me and you it doesn't apply.
We grew up playing war together, low and high,
wrestling in the same sandlot! Yet,
it is customary for a commader to give a speech,
and so I will. Our enemy, too, is our intimate,
kicked sand in your faces, twisted my arm,
laughed with us and pledged love to our faces,
which love he now demeans and disgraces.
Let the measure of our former love
dole out the extent of our hatred now. So far
as you were his friends, that far
is he a traitor. What's to say? Our
mute hearts are eloquence. Yet, it is customary
for a commader to give a speech,
and so I will....
[KREON sits for 'royal' portrait.]
Is it with an awkward moral cognizance
that in the rising star's dark presence
I feel myself, almost, transmuted into trance?
An artist's only error is lack of diligence.
Decay, corruption, malfesience spur my palette
as well as hope, triumph and glory on the mallet
of the supreme sculptor sit calmly folded as a wallet.
All's art an echo of the poised, Platonic Reality.
Chaos and the curule chair both indispensibly
litter the tones and values of my smudger's art;
the frowning brow, the virtuoso heart,
both play, unto rerun, their artist's miscast parts.
Draw your face into a helmet, til resolution
alone still fits on the immortal face of Kreon.
Excellent, excellent. That's it.
Is that the lithe Antigone I see? Come in and prance.
Quite a face, ethereal, yet in charge, a strangeness
as if she'd seized the world in a single glance
and found it wanting. A greatness... of arrogance.
Colonel! Here's the one who... hey,
is that a crown on your portrait there?
Report, Sentry. Artist, turn the picture.
Right here, this one, caught her
carrying the dirt in her skirt, trying to twist
Polynices up in a silk shroud, better his condition,
gentle him up for the far side.
God throws the dice, we play the numbers.
Man alive is born to wonder.
I'd've sworn I wouldn't be back
to see you! ...That ramrod back,
that thundery brow, the artist
got it pretty good there, way it twists....
Thank you, young sir.
Well, one look at that, sure....
I was shivering half the night, my spear
rattling against my breastplate. Kept me wide-eyed, though,
I'll tell you that, Colonel. Things you threatened....Whoa.
Well, how'd I know she'd prance right up,
kneel by his side, praying and making sup
with drippy libations. "Solved the case," I told myself.
"Arrest the waif, handcuff the little elf."
No short-straws this time: I ran, by hell.
And Antigone kept up with me real well.
She didn't seem shy at all out there by Polynices.
Go on, take her, question her. She'll clear me.
Antigone? A woman, and Etocles' sister?
She was heaving the dirt over him, yessir,
I tell you!
IS. THIS. TRUE?
What else? Unless my eyes are liars,
what else can they say that saw her?
Details, details. We'll see if your story tallies.
[Gulping.] Uh, well,
after all that shouting last time,
me and the boys raced back to Polynices' body,
holding our uniforms over our faces from the smell,
his face going awry; brushed him clean,
touching lightly as this personal grooming
might look itself like disloyalty; knew him
from his place on the field,
more than from his bloated looks, deep stinkpits
for eyes, a blackness of mouth, lips torn
from a skull, not a smile, of course, but
an irony there about the jaws. We sat upwind,
wary and awake, I can swear. No celebrations,
just us scared out of our togs, hearing the mind's moan.
We'd spear each other awake, for the State
must guard its prerogatives vigilantly.
All day nothing, and the wind getting hairy,
seeming to scratch a rash on the land,
dust into our watching eyes harshly fanned,
big afternoon sun obscured, dark as a bush,
plain, trees, debris, all snuffed out in one whoosh,
a whirlwind! That should keep him clean,
we figured. Can't bury no one
if the earth's up and on the go!
Whirlwind lasted a long while, everything unfixed, so
blurry... A dream it was, but, as with dreams,
it passed on into clarity, a semi-obscene
picture developing like a polaroid in the trees,
stars starting to peep out again, colorless clarity,
everything in our eyes pale as a corpse.
Saw a scuffle in the rags, a nervous torso,
and it was Antigone! She'd let out a start
to see her previous day's work torn apart,
Polynices made naked by the night, no cover
for the sake of respect. He's a traitor,
like you say, and I don't hold that he should
get the honors a patriot'd command;
but it was right pitiful, laid out so careless
when we'd all had a drink with him timeless
times before, before it all. She was crying hard
crying, crying over Polynices, and then we heard
her curse us, curse the damned hands on him
that undid the respect she'd risked life and limb
to wrap him in. Then, from her skirt, more dirt, more!
Blessed by a priest I reckon, and three or four
sprinkles of fine wine, our mouths dry as dust
watching her give over for his itchy ghost
the libation to quieten him. That's when we grabbed her,
and she as calm as a kitchen matron,
and she didn't seemed surprised at all, not at all,
but had a calmness in her eyes, "seeing though fate"
my grandma calls it, even when we charged her
with the desecration of the law, she stood steady.
Put me out of sorts, I'll tell you.
She gave me a slug of the wine, held me up.
Told me to take her here, so I did.
Feels good to get out of a death threat,
but lousy to give over another to it.
But she held my hand, said it was alright,
knew what she was doing, that it was her doing, etc.
(Personally, I think she was grief-crazed.)
But, here she is, and I'm safe out of it... right?
Nothing so safe and sweet as your own skin.
Lift up your face. Do you confess,
Antigone, to this tryst with lawlessness?
I deny nothing. I did it.
Dismissed. [SENTRY exits.]
Tell me. Tell it all. Did you even hear
the proclamation in the tramped agora, dear?
You saw me standing there. Shit,
when you broke the news to your loyal lieutenants,
lining up your whore-score of votes,
I knew you were a man to whom god's dignity was remote.
And you defied this decree?
I defy. Resolutely.
God wasn't there chewing the fat,
just you and your poor cohorts.
Justice stays exiled to Hades, deep below,
while men still prate and gape above. I know.
Our laws change with the electorate's indifference,
die when we die, and fail along with us.
Ask Etocles, he'd agree with me.
Your edict, tricked out in consensus,
withers when the Eumenedies fix their eyes
upon its temporary littleness.
How brief a space has man, how great his pride!
An underpaid tailor in a greenroom wardrobe
takes the godly measurements for his lonely soul,
trimming Fate to the requirements of his starring role.
Spotlights add a little glow to the final disaster,
making pride and hubris consummate faster
in the fourth-act pathos of the story
where pride of self consumes the glory
a humbler noticing of exacter circumstance
would assign, in careful retrospect, to chance.
Well, don't you take the prize for pride?
A woman's coarse voice roaring from a child.
Honey, when you, like me, are little older
you'll submit to the wisdom of your elders.
I won't grow old enough to know.
The edict predicts death, and I go
gladly to my exile. To the state,
my life, I won't hesitate;
to the gods, all that made
my life my life-- an even trade.
I knew that I was doomed to die, even before
that stuffy proclamation of yours.
You think you invented death?
Not so bad, not so tough,
dying after being born.
Death's an eternal grace malingering life adorns.
Life is so filled with evil days and acts,
deluded Oedipus' and Jocasta's sex pact
concluding in the numb triumph of this war
of brothers once equal even in your love, Kreon.
How can Death be anything but my friend,
my darkly needful helpmeet at the end?
Death will free me in its final shout,
while guilt will bind your conscience in a knot.
My death's a footnote at best,
astericked on a forgotten page in jest,
a silly ancillary to the argument
of which your horror will be the trump.
I'm a nobody. A little girl
underfoot about the house, unreal,
who only knows how much it hurt
to see her brother crest the dirt,
cursed by each official, proclaimed word,
and left unburied for the birds.
Each evil beak whose gnaw I followed
bore me aloft and left me hollow.
Oh, Kreon, that ironic smile, hold!
You have all the spiffy dignity of a god.
You think so too, Kreon? Really?
Kreon the Eternal! A fool convicts my folly.
The daughter shows her father's scorn,
alike as acorns; hard as acorns thrown.
I know your personal passion
seems necessity and not fashion,
however, what is and seems is a form:
absurdities decreed elevate to norms.
The horrid, undateable hunchback
given public dignity, which he lacked,
goes in moments from abhorred
to Cosmo's 'most winning bachelor.'
And so I tell you that your passion
is naught but a sixteen year old's whim,
come to your head, no doubt just lately,
from late-night reruns of some Greek tragedy.
But if with this smote emoting you persist
not even trying to resist,
I warn you, in your ignorance,
high in your insolent tower of pretence,
that very soon you'll start to teeter,
then the long fall, in timeless millimeters,
passing tidy, illuminated rooms
to one dumb girl's luckless doom.
Even mustangs, in their western estates,
their stiff-necked necks must break
if, once beneath a knowledgable hand they're lain,
they hesitate to obey the rein.
If you go on breaking laws
with no excusable why or licit because,
and then grant a primetime interview
undercutting what I'm trying to do
saying sound bites like "God's
word is my heart's sole command,"
etc. and so on--- damn!
That's when the shit hits the fan.
And all because copper Kreon was nice
enough to let you escape with your life.
If I let you live, let you go,
the law's prestige in the popularity poll
will drop to zero. We're
in a delicate way right now, here
in Thebes, the way things are;
room in our small sky for only one star.
Who's going to be telling the populace
what's what, which regulation face
to wear, how to act, what to do?
Difference 'tween me and you,
when moms gab in the produce aisle
or clerks smoke by their empty files,
well, that difference gets pretty thin,
slim stuff, mere wordings;
the way a phrase aligns, sometimes,
can decide what's cruel or kind.
Me, I need ultra-loyal ears
hearing what I need them to hear,
minds thinking what I need them to think,
Thebes is shoved that close to the brink.
Right words do justice to the State,
give the man in charge, myself, a break.
What's this got to do with my choice
to bury my brother?
and not dirt on the dead,
your voice is what I really dread.
[To ARTIST:] Damned girl's bitched in the head!
My dying going to make you happy?
I'll dance to hear hegemony
honored by the plain folks' horror
shuddering respect at the deathly-whisper:
"Antigone's dead, dead, dead.
Against her right King's rule she rebelled."
In that case, kill me. Enough!
Talk tires me out, wears my ears off.
Bad taste in my mouth from all this palace palaver,
and I'm sure you're tired of me in a lather
shooting off about the gods like a prophet,
and me not hedging me bets by mandate,
not so half unsure of myself, not cutting it fine,
to increase the temple donation down the line.
These soldier-stiffs propped around here
like clay Kreons-- even they'd agree with me
if it weren't for your mania
for cutting the gods out of the power structure.
Not everybody can shoot off his mouth
like a King.
Only you think that, ANTIGONE.
Are you really so naive?
The guilt is yours, not theirs. Believe.
They obey, you defy. They are good,
you are not. They shall live, and you would....
and will die. There is no overlap.
You are too naive, perhaps.
I honored my brother, as any would.
By spitting on the memory of Etocles?
Polynices stabbed him in the heart, you see,
while Etocles was defending his city.
I wrapped Etocles in his shroud!
Are a traitor and a patriot the same?
Death has made them brothers again.
And you are their sister. Join them.
Let the gods be my judges then,
for in every sign that they gave me, in every
inner feeling fallen from heaven, they told me:
"Go on, don't go back on what we ask of you."
Her reasons are inspired, true,
every artist must hold them valid.
What are your reasons, sire, I mean colonel,
sir, for prosecuting this difference, so ephemeral,
between the dead and the dead?
Rebellion, you idiot.
That's my reason. Don't you get it?
There was an enemy army
out there day before yesterday,
and a bloodletter of the royal house
waving at its head, leading the grouse.
What am I to do, ignore such spectacles
as if they were parades, spectaculars?
Ring the boring barracks, call out my troops
to stand by and watch the show? Ridiculous!
If all my men need to help 'em think
is inhale the indifferent stink
of your dead brother, a dead enemy,
in order to discourage mutiny
do you imagine I'll hesitate
to let Polynices disintegrate
and whiten into a skull out there?
Don't cry. See here, see here.
It's tomorrow's bloodshed I seek to avoid;
Against that future cost, I'll endure the goad
of all the gods and holy men
women have ever kneeled to. Amen.
And now, when at long last
I think the danger a minute past,
what happens but that there springs
a traitorous viper at my heels' wings.
You, my dear Antigone!
Me, a threat to the State! Hardly.
I'm barely old enough to get married.
You're old enough to disobey the law.
Should my first edict command guffaws?
Do you really care about the crowd?
Should pollsters legislate what is allowed?
Is that what makes you more just,
or less. More Kingly than common? It must!
Is the approbation of the mob what's destined?
One must always listen to the winds
stirred up in the crowds' hurrahs, keep close ear
on their early nays and niggling whispers.
A king cannot afford to isolate himself for long,
expecting distant dictation to master the throng.
But won't the wise and good citizens
suspect that you relented for the dead, their kin?
The mass of men....
The mass of men don't really matter.
What happens with them is chance and chatter.
They never make a decision for us,
or themselves, in either calm or crisis.
If they did, then they really
would make a difference, the scales reeling....
What a heaven we could engineer today
if alabaster could be made of clay!
What vast paradises of the common will!
The State would be awash in wisdoms, swill
the Dionysian inspiration at the cafeteria
in plastic cups, manufacturing the poet's hysteria;
foolish things and idiot schemes, curtains
of mauve and turquoise, would be an oddity unknown.
But what they do does not matter, for they
know not what they do. And they
cannot be forgiven, no, no,
for what they cannot decide to do.
[Outside tavern, fencing several weeks before the battle.]
Oh, what hot work! My throat's the worst.
These make-believe battles fight us into thirst.
Indeed. Let's get back to the tavern, fast.
Haemon! Set us up with some liquid relief.
[Drinks.] At last, I feel a little clear of grief.
So long those funeral trappings held me shut
into my own mind.
Perhaps our emotional glut
will help to make us mothers of the wounded state
so we can band-aid the hearts tragedy made us inherit.
Let's trade bouts of drinks as titans
traded tirades with Kronos long ago.
[They clink cups.] Requited!
Yes. Let's drown out Neptune's trumpet
by the hollow ringing of our tankards' clunking.
Barman, fill, fill.
Haemon, my closest friend still,
besides my brother Etocles, stand us a toast
to prove our friendly happiness is no boast.
Which of these golden suns, now glistening,
will rise above our State as King?
With this bright pair my love to dual love has grown;
Let craftsmen dovetail two elaborate thrones
joined at the arm as your two strong selves
A dual kingship?
to punch us from our crutches, brothers. [Drinks.]
I hadn't thought of it, little brother.
Why not? It seems a good solution.
Solution implies a problem.
I am the eldest, POLYNICES.
This you know.
That will not change, although Kronos
was overthrown. You are as special as a lover,
and will continue so, a valued advisor.
Thus trusted and kept, even as you are now,
in the office of brother.
Office of brother? What rites or
prerogatives has that? What armies can
"brother" raise, against a cry of "king"?
Armies? What nonsense are you speaking?
You know our neighbors in Sparta
are ready to invade and divide our
fractured State which tragedy
has already so nearly sundered.
We must have a solid front and ready display
to out-face them.
Kreon has courage enough to confront them.
Kreon is ambitious. Kreon....
Kreon? Heamon's father? His ambition
extends no farther than his duty, surely.
Isn't that so, Haemon?
So it seems to me. Up in the morning
polishing his boots and buckler, drilling
with the soldiers back of the barracks at four....
And yourself, Haemon? Is your
duty so small itself? Do you see your life
given meaning by such small-minded stuff,
such meaningless circumscription?
Etocles is the eldest. Tradition
would choose him, and so would the law.
Your sister, Antigone,
as you know, is promised me;
but how should such a promise hold
if all the world of laws were sold
to Hell? My love is with you, Polynices,
but my duty augers
I should support your
brother in this quarrel.
[Aside.] Perhaps I ought to
mosey on along to Sparta
where my arguments, and not my years,
will find more amenable ears
to hear what I have meant.
[KREON is being measured for a royal gown and crown.]
And so, the folds will flow thus and thus,
the sharpest, latest fashion for a king's a must.
I'm not the King just yet.
Coronation casts the only net
that catches rightful kings, and labors
to haul them kicking to the rulers' table.
Law and tradition place on the mind
a subtle weight of story, of a kind
that helps to keep the chessmen of the game,
however shopworn, virtually the same.
And now our story's of a death,
my son's betrothed, and the comdemning breath
must be my own, for all the rules arrayed
are never by king or demimonde betrayed.
I shall play my predestined part.
No kingship thrives that at the start
quakes uncertain as the king's own heart.
Learned that in the army. Taught it, too.
That's not going to change anytime soon.
And now the measurement for the crown.
Let me tie this ribbon right. There we are.
Speaking of your son, here he comes now.
I've said my last word on that girl
Do you march in here loving me, or hating me?
Haemon, you've always been good.
Obedient, chipper. Don't change your stripes, bud.
I come as your son, my father.
I remember marching into the long strides
your own footsteps made in the dirt outside our house.
But when you jump into a palace,
I must stretch myself another way for solace
and find my course by some nearer means.
Let that way be the law's way, Haemon.
It touches you as it touches any other citizen.
You are nearer my heart and council than any,
but if you alienate yourself from the law,
you make yourself a stranger to your father
and walk beyond my helping.
Won't go that way, Dad. The thing is,
you've always been my guide; you clear things up
for me, turn me straight when I would wander.
I just had to come and see you. I felt confused.
You did the right thing. Good you came.
Obedience profits. Disloyalty consumes itself.
Good sense, your majesty,
and done up with braids of dignity.
Dad, remember when we walked to the temple,
sizzled the entrails on the ample altar,
knelt, asked about what might god decide
after Oedipus' exile and Jocasta's suicide?
We waited a long time to hear our answers,
Tiresias clickering over smoky coals like a geiger....
and he hedged on several key points, moreover,
shaving himself some room to maneuver.
Wisdom, he called it. Learning how to listen.
You agreed, and said that we in our mortal condition
should never push the gods for sureties.
That reason is the one gift of God to man, you see,
and so damnably easy to be given the shove.
I agree when you warn my reason's lost for love.
It'd be a stunt for a child to engineer
his Dad's tragic fate into the clear,
or show him how to act and think. But,
if my reason is God's gift, hear it out!
Let whatever divinity shines at my lips' brim
light on you, illuminating what's within.
Its reasonable to learn while on your ass,
knocked there or in a paid chair, class is class.
My chalks and knots encode my sire's height.
I mean, sir, sire. But, the boy says right,
no uniform complements even the most strict
officer if it pinches in too tight.
A Dad get spanked by his wanking kid?
Oh I'll wail back to my mother's skirts in a trice
before I'll listen to such childish advice.
If I'm not right, I'm wrong. Fair enough.
But if I'm right? What notice takes the right
of youth, or age, or anything but being right?
What's right? Right to be on the side
of damned anarchy, boy?
No, no I don't. I don't truck with crooks.
Ain't that little girl a criminal?
A criminal girl? Because she grieves?
The entire city populace would deny it.
The city, eh? They to teach me how to rule
who's been commanding men since I gained my age?
Your shooting off teenage-like enough now.
From one voice comes rule, comes clarity.
Didn't we have enough confusion already
with those two tawny brothers grasping
for the one solar spotlight, both together gasping,
grasping and tearing and muddying things?
One voice alone can bring things plain,
help straighten out scribbled melodies again,
erect all things aright. You'll see.
One horn don't make a symphony.
The conductor is the symphony!
I am the State. Way it is, way its got to be.
Yeah, if the State's a deserted isle.
My boy... selling out to a mere girl,
the most powerless member of the community.
If you're a girl, Daddy,
then I'm a sell-out, proud to be, the only
person I'm worried about now is you.
Worried about who?
Write "love" on your fist
and strike my gut, sinking to the wrist!
All you're worried about is getting even
with the man transformed into Antigone's demon.
Is it better that our new King wrestle
against Justice in the streets? Is that your stance?
All I do is within my rights as ruler.
Dosen't that attitude strike you as insular?
Rights of the gods don't start from you, Dad.
You're only right is the right you always had:
to listen if the conscience of Justice is speaking, sir.
Shit of a son! Sucked from me by a fucking girl!
What has she done to you? Have you two slept....
I'd have you hung as an example, but hate
the cost of a court marshall, and demure.
You're not my Dad, that's for sure.
Out of remembered honor only am I terse
and keep from calling you utterly perverse.
Seduced boy! Pussy-
whipped! Don't you bandy
blank words with me!
No. I'll let you be the talker.
After all, you're the State. I'm the gawker.
Every great leader needs a great obeyer.
Now get on out of here and slay her.
I'm not taken in by any vileness, father.
But every word of yours is hers!
What did she say to you?
That she would gladly give her life
for the sake of the law! Better answer than yours.
My answers look after you, seek you.
Trying to find myself, my meaning,
in all of us. Where are the gods in this room?
Sir, if I may....
You will never marry her, you know,
not while she breathes. Her only marriage bed
will be the dirty earth.
Then she will soon be dead;
but her dying kills one more, now.
One more? Who? Senseless son,
are you threatening rebellion?
Would you hold your life in opposition
to me and your own bleeding reason?
How can I oppose my father?
He's already dead. Cancelled, rather,
a prime time TV soap opera type,
glossy victim of his own hype.
I hope you live to regret this son,
regret these airs you're putting on;
in your ripe old age is where you and I
will finally agree, when we lay side by side
in the military graveyard of the State.
Yeah, Dad. Yeah. It's a date.
And when the long sullen hearse
glides to the curb in reverse,
I'll load your corpse with tidbits,
honors and flowers and all that shit,
just as much, and to the same degree,
as you bothered with the body of Polynices.
You are nothing. I am the State.
Rave on, with your insane mission;
you have no friends who'll listen.
You won't see me again. My eyes,
King Kreon, shall not see her die. [Exit.]
This doesn't look right, my leige.
Doesn't look right? Will you instruct me now
on how to run the country, toga-maker?
Sire, I only....
Not anyone's sire yet, ay?
Antigone I will carry far, far away
until she becomes, like an enemy over a cliff,
a worry discarded. Out in the walless wilderness,
sealed in a vast vault of living stone.
Honor the dead, she says? We must atone?
She wants to honor the dead so much,
let her join 'em. Oh, well, I won't, as such,
condemn her quite to death. Requiescat?
Let her gods' laws do that.
Food in the tomb, some vinegared water,
as the custom has it, freeing the State
from the killing cobra-strike
of her demise. I bear no spiking spite.
Let her pious declamations
ring in her ruined tomb unheard, unquestioned.
Maybe then she'll learn-- too late!--
that piety and pity shouldn't be wasted on the dead!
Then let her prate.
[Four months before the battle,
betrothal picnic of Antigone.]
Let's toll up our tipping pile of lucks:
Plague, with its slopping vomit-buckets,
disinfectants, crosses and cadavers,
has changed its intrusive thermometers
for warm milk, gingersnaps, and peace
how many happy years ago now, Oedipus?
Enough for the dark daughter of our nights
to have blossomed up to betrothal height
and look on the plauge-sick infant, Haemon,
with eyes that dare tramsform him to a man.
[Ironically.] Then let us give to the nodding gods
good thanksgiving, who might marr our odds
or dog our days with devastation and death's disgrace
if we forget to hide in hands our grateful face.
Normal joys are worn away by lapping lassitude,
the timerous ticks of waves, days, ingratitudes.
Let the playful peace that we have got
stand a statue, eternal horseman, who trots
forever on his shining, prancing hinds.
Don't throw rotten rocks at his high behind.
you know today our dear Antigone
is to be betrothed to Kreon's Haemon.
The great gods in their cloudy watchtower
demand our vital vigilance each turn of each hour
or else all our feasts and bridal fetes
decay to fatal famines.
I won't forget.
I lived here through the plague a boy
and discipline was all that held us steady
until you came with your magic words.
Well... I did what I could.
And were well rewarded with a Kingship.
We were all so glad you gave Fate the slip.
Even you, Kreon, who stood in line just after Laius,
acclaimed our savior Oedipus to the dais.
He who has use of the law must be
respected and obeyed by all, your majesties,
everything you say is quite correct. Never otherwise.
Here comes your Haemon now, Kreon.
On his armored arm, Antigone.
And her brothers revelling after the pair.
And teasing them.
While she twirls her glistering hair.
Why don't you loves swear your vows
and stitch your poverty of two into one double dower.
Hold your dovetailed hands like Spring and Winter,
then summer's transcendence we'll truly enter.
I'm too young yet. And Antigone's younger.
Oh come on, don't be a stickler.
Leave that to your dad and his hoard of orders.
Dad's right about more things more
often, than anyone else I know, including Tiresias.
Oh ho! Colonel Kreon out-guesses
prophets now! That's some soldier's discipline there.
Must be all those camp-outs peering at the stars.
Don't mock, Polynices.
I know, I know. It isn't "nices."
It was Tiresias' boiled-blind eyes that saw
the kinks of Kreon's fate in a shooting star
stitching quick through six constellations
before it flashed and faded out behind the yellow moon.
That forebodes high office and fabled towers,
control of men and fates on earth. Much power.
That's ancient history. You make your chance.
That's what all philosophers of free-trade
in the agora say all day, if you pay your way.
[Boys laugh and go off.]
I would swear my soul to you today.
And it is here, in warm human awe,
that true blue duty shifts wish to law.
[ANTIGONE's tomb. ISMENE is decorating it,
chervil, marestail, teazel....
Sweet flowers, brighten this tomb around me,
give my eye a safe place for retreating reverie.
Although here is so much of what's beautiful and best,
I cannot think of her but hurt.
I see Antigone, and I cry. Oh flowers,
ephemeral, eternal, sweet, idiotic powers,
how can you still be cheerful, and not crack,
trading all your rainbow looks for black?
Do you look at me with pity, sister?
Do not, although the Archeron flow faster
for the down-draw of my downfall.
My voice mixed with Death's will all
be mumbling sleepy night-talk soon,
as I whisper in the ears of my brothers, gone
into that eternal, ephemeral, emerald glade
where all flowers are of nightshade.
Yes, you'll die. Its the common lot
of all that lives to consummate in rot.
Down in your dirty grave, the final horror
of decayed, vampirish, drear decor,
there will shine a kind of honor
alien to those of us who die at random,
killed singly, or undone in tandem---
for you have chosen ruin with willful love
and with brave lonliness all human law
denied. You never bowed before a tinsel sword.
Even to the dead, you never went back on your word.
Endless rain in the underworld,
they say; limitless drippings, whirled
beneath bone-cold feet, while grave ghosts stare
demanding to know why they are there.
Gathered darks and frozen omens,
the dead themselves only half-sensible
as in an interrupted dream. I feel
the loneliness of death all too well.
So, all glory for you is gone?
None in this world, none in the one beyond?
You're laughing at me, Ismene.
Tell true, you can't wait until I'm dead, can you?
One less trouble under you legs,
racing to my disaster impelled by dear ideals
the law mocks, and you feel
too self-indulgent to be real.
Far past that brightness where
human hearts alight and dare
your high heart has taken you, Antigone.
Look around. To the halls of justice you have come.
Trees and rivers of this Thebes,
weep for me, if you will, I have seen
your gods, obeyed, and was unjustly judged.
This is the place you pointed out. I didn't budge.
When I came here, I came flying
to the stone hole of justice, grieving, dying.
Now I'll sleep in the abandoned bridebed
where my father and his mother did
it, and made me. Crime, crime, deep infection,
bleakness beyond what we see of meaning....
Their marriage worms up from the grave,
eating my hope, killing my marriage.
And now I'm the stranger in my own home-place,
You came to death at your own pace,
Let me go, let me die.
Truth is a hard word to hear, to say.
The sun removes itself from my eye,
leaving everything vast and cold and sick.
Lead me to my last vigil, quick, quick,
before I dissolve, empty
of lamentaions and of loves.
My passions have drained me.
If a dirge-ditty could keep death back,
the first man would still be wailing at the crack
of the first grave ever made.
Throw her in; the place is prepared.
Distribute the honeycakes. If the gods,
determined to to distribute unevely the odds,
give her sustinace as they impelled rebellion,
she shall live. Our hands are clean.
Our family darkness gathers in the tomb,
Uncle, pressing every instance of light out of the room
execution has made too suddenly, awkwardly cozy.
I die unbrided, my children locked in me as a rose is
locked and loaded into its miniature seed.
How easily discarded are those things once known as need.
Now deep, too deep, within ungerminating rock
my designs to be a bride eternally are mocked,
a Michaelangelo statue giving me the finger.
Never let my loving Haemon linger
here where all my hopes are bedded,
writhing within the stone that I have wedded.
Be witnesses for me, thin, effectless ghosts!
I poured the holy libation, I covered Polynices,
departed Dead, according to your laws and ways!
My own hand grows spectral before my face,
I dissolve and all my future intent's replaced
by a story told and over with. Remember, Ismene,
my story, although you have opposed me.
Say what I have done, and repeat it carefully
all your days, for the dead forget, they say,
and wander in dimensionless mist,
always moaning on about old crimes, listless.
O passionate heart!
As unyeilding as tormented!
The voice of death!
I can't say if you're mistaken, Antigone.
As these guards bind you, so my duty binds me.
Last sad daughter of a string of kings,
damned by the confusion of confusing things,
a maiden butterfly bereft of wings.
Unhappy kings, all unthroned to Hades,
where already in thought my thrown shade is,
you will recall what sadnesses have occured here,
here, in my heart. See what I've suffered, dears,
at these hands, incautious, abrupt,
but always royal, even when they cuffed
a girl curled against them in her ribbon stuff.
And still, after all, they think themselves human,
but I kept first the ordinance of Heaven.
[Years earlier. ETOCLES and POLYNICES are
children, rollerskating. ANTIGONE a babe.]
I cry with a wild cry.
You chase me just to waste me. Why?
High-speed, here's ETOCLES.
in my neck the rollerskate's solid wheel.
Monkey's uncle! Mercy, Etocles!
Your foot is really squishing me!
Say it. Pray it.
This dog's day isn't over yet.
You're just as meany mean
as old Unc' Kreon.
Say it. Or I'll make you double-time
march until... until dinnertime!
When we're ready to be princes
beloved in the world's embraces,
plastered on the summer magazines
kept in adolescent dreams obscene,
poked and prodded, adored, implored,
by the tired mechanics of Fame's one door,
it's Etocles, not me, who'll be
the glass of fashion, and king. You'll see.
It's Etocles, not me,
not me, it's Etocles who'll be....
It's Etocles, not me,
not me, you'll see, it's Etocles
who will grow up to be
king of everthing he sees.
not me, not me.
OK. Good enough; get up.
It's almost time to wash and sup.
My neck is cricked
Wanna play "soverign and his councillors"?
Nah... What a bore.
It's Antigone I wanta check out.
See if her bunched-up face is normal yet.
All right. To the nurse! Double-time!
You said no double-time.
Did not. I said double-time til dinnertime
if you did not crown me king. That's not
a promise of no double-time, it's a threat.
Same thing, silly.
[Enter NURSE and JOCASTA.]
Today Kreon returns with his forecast.
I never saw anyone so certain and self-assured
so anxious about the half-sayings of the prophets
NURSE. I'd have thought it would fall
beneath his dignity to get any advice at all.
Don't let crass Kreon fool you girls.
His crew-cut style hides feigning wiles.
Half his dignity's his uniform,
pressed and polished, that's his norm.
That's the visitor's pipping trumpet.
Let greedy ears hear what the prophet said.
Well, Kreon, what news from on high?
Such news as might make stone men sigh.
NURSE. Oh, sir, look at his face! I, I....
Here, take a pull on my flask.
A dark and dirty task
has been assigned to hard-pressed Thebes.
Then we'll launder it to light's reprieve.
Its a pollution from long ago.
A splotch that necessities did throw
from our minds. Can't think about honor
on an empty stomach, or you'll double sorrow.
Nor when half the city's sick with plague.
The Sphinx gave me a promise. She did not renege
when I solved her riddle about the legs.
I'll do the same for this problem. And simply,
now that I'm the King, and it's my responsibility.
Well, it's a real riddle again, right enough.
Hmm. These augers often play with double tongues
and curse those who most expect a kiss.
I'd rather not be a patsy in their plots.
But what choice have we got?
Such is the whim of God. Let's hear the knot.
What can we do, but be good guessers
and attempt all the obstacles in life, the greater and lesser,
tripping and leaping by turns?
Shrewdly said, sire. There is a stain....
So you said. Make yourself plain.
A blotch... a murder.
But there is no murder, unless I err.
Brutal and ruinous, and the culprit
still at large. "Laius," said the voice, I still hear it:
"Laius; find his killer, or mighty Thebes is no more."
But he was killed long before
I even got here!
Oracles can be pretty rough.
Oh, this makes the puzzle tough.
Murdered on the open road; the man
and his entire entourage..or, nearly. And
now the gods, going through the oracle's cold throat
command we track the killer or they get our goat.
Why wasn't this matter devined
time out of mind, long sad years ago? I mind
a regicide loose in Thebes!
For all I know, I could be next!
That's why we dawdled as detectives.
Wasn't looked into because of the plague;
folks passing out in the streets, faces greyed,
dead as the weather in yesterday's papers. Dead inks.
No time then for any riddle but the Sphinx's.
Once more it seems my task
to disgorge these dark things until they bask
in the temperate light of day. To my head,
it is good and lawful to honor the dead,
never too late to set things straight with heaven,
blot out evil wherever it lies hidden.
In my own mind's quiet self-report
I can scan nothing more important.
[Enter the children, screaming and running.]
Children, enough! The time
for play has come and gone.
[Coronation of KREON.]
Let this chosen of the gods
be shown of special promise and strictest bond
to guide the stray arrangents of our state
with kingly competence, and put no bad act
before the eternal temperance divinely given
when gods attempt to teach justice to men.
Beneath this State vestment I must frown
and find my fellows lacking as I turn round
viewing the world from the gold hedge and ground
of your principle endowment: this crown of crowns
or haughty scepter whose powers enforce
a king's singular essence of moral choice.
These tidings and these trinkets
I accept without a blink, yet
I acknowledge they were only theived
from you, dear citizens of Thebes.
Having so lately defended yourselves
from a most horrible attack upon your homes,
I take it in victory, and in sacred trust,
that civic will and private itch keep us robust.
Above me, a pretty speech cries out.
Who speaks? He has the rough measure of Kreon
of old, but talks of citizens and kings, not men,
horses, battle, and such warlike use of words
as was his common way when I knew him good.
It's me, TIRESIAS.
Your boy has eyes.
Doesn't he tell you when to bow before a king?
King? King? I thought you just said
you were KREON.
I know your voice. You are.
Now, how is a Colonel a king? Tell me boy,
for this Kreon is trying out a jest.
I guess for everything there's a first.
You've stumbled into a coronation, prophet.
Were you looking to sadden some widow before her time?
Please, don't let me detain you.
There's many I might make sad today.
Yourself not least, KREON.
Listen to what I say.
I don't recall ever NOT listening, Tiresias.
Good. You've done one good thing there, wise.
A good start for a new king, indeed.
Yes, yes. To you I'm indebted for past deeds
and prophacies. But what new fate comes today?
Listen: Kreon, once more you sway
uneasily on the bladed edge of some great fate.
What's this? Your words discombobulate.
Kreon, Kreon, can't you tell
from the trembling insistance of my prophet's yell,
I'm giving you a chance too oft denied
by Fate's roulette wheel busy spinning in its pride.
The gods who blinded me are blessing you;
but they've handed it off to me to tell you what to do.
You know that little chair I've got up on the mountain,
set wildly high, where geysers shrink to fountains,
and the humungous ocean is reduced
to a puddle children's feet traduce?
Well, I was sitting there, feeling the sunlight
and the air, and the birds that make it to heaven's light,
and back, swirled all around me, all set a-chatter
(nothing too unusual in a prophet's business matters)
when out of their beaks there came contrasted
this sound that just, well, it sort of blasted
more than anything else; human in that screechfest,
like a child being dissected in an eagle's nest,
a person's voice set alight by the gods and burning,
a bonfire of consciousness, pure flame roaring
out of the anonymities gathered there.
There was a fight set off between 'em all in the air,
a seriousness of division like a war, wing-whirr
and furiousness. I put my hand out for the boy,
got him to swear up and down what he tol'
was what was happening. Didn't trust the, the
extraordinariness of it at all, too uncanny,
I thought, but the gods've left me dangling,
and brought me round to stranger things.
Here's what he saw, the boy, what my ears witnessed,
and no mistake: some of the bigger crows had hissed
a little dove over on its back, flayed out the wings
while a series of flyers looped low to sting
at the virgin breast, ripped and ripped, ceased
when a human voice leapt out of the distressed beast,
far louder than its size, a widow's moan
that in that violence was a sound alone.
When all was done, and no more to be heard,
I put my thumb in the open bowl of the bird,
trying to feel how the heart made out, what state
it was in for the augury, and I gave a start,
almost put my old thumb through that dove's ribs
and out the back, felt liver, and lungs, some greasy tid-bits,
but the heart, well, that was pecked completely
out, an absent mansion in my hand waiting
for it to flap back and start pumping. I was lost!
What could it all mean at this point?
Didn't know what to think, retreated out-of-joint
to my usual altar fires and such like.
But Hephastos failed me. Fire and no smoke,
no sign rising from destruction that should choke
black the heavenly skies. That's a fact.
I was in a panic. All the earth was out of whack!
Sonny, some things start out serious, stay that way
to the grave. This is one of 'em. What I say.
Everybody makes mistakes, no matter how exalted,
diligence is needed to see what the fault is
as well as to carry on with a difficult chore.
The gods chortle at our morose doings, none more
than our puffing up in pride and staying puffed.
But when goodness licks out of a man like holy fire
and by its light he sees his wrongs, and does
something, anything almost, to fix 'em up in gods' eyes,
that diminishes the evil, sets it at naught,
if done timely and with a sincere heart. Kreon,
think about things, who's standing up for the gods'
old ways in spite of man? Don't conflict
by policy with what moves above us... Ain't politic.
Ordering strong men to swim in armor,
march a million miles; orders have an issuer,
but results are not guaranteed. Kreon,
this Antigone thing.... It goes against God.
I've seen it, and ran here. Best tell Kreon, I thought,
he's always kept a level head on and whatnot.
Birds of Zeus! Are you sure your boy
didn't whistle while you dozed in prophetic joy,
perhaps sipping too much of that bacchic wine
that brings insightful frenzy to the near-divine?
Can't my coronation day, in a country wide-
open with a peace we've earned, be free
of these nasty natterings and edgy anxieties?
No, Tiresias, even if your lauded eagles
carried Polynices up to heaven, regal
bit by stinking bit, I'd not yeild at all.
All my life I've put up with fortune-tellers;
He defied me in life, let his death be the exemplar!
I didn't pollute any temples, was always solemn.
The gods themselves are immune to us, no man can smack 'em.
You'll have to go elsewhere, go away
with your filthy business, I won't pay
to have my brightest day ruined by some
sour old blind man with his abacus of curses. Come,
Gather 'round! Tiresias sells his wisdom
to the highest bidder! Worthless words for hire!
Is there no man left inside you to fear the fire?
Are you so completely withered to this length,
a single conceit of earthly power and tyrant-strength
that you, an armored prawn, would defy augury and all
that heaven gives in grace to the earth? It appalls!
All right. Give us the phony aphorism.
Here's a dangled drachma for your boy-whore jism.
Is there no man left in you who'll
know that wisdom outweighs any wealth, you fool!
Right. And bribes are baser than any baseness.
Bribes leave both the giver and taker with less.
I would not presume to counter a prophet
who's so good at counting what's in his pocket.
Do you still say my prophecy's for sale?
That for some monkish junk I'd sell the Grail?
Prophets have always thought it a touch too keen
to catch the sordid future in a drachma's gleam.
And kings have always loved warrior's brass,
and the brassy brayings of their own voices!
Watch it! Your king stands before you.
I know it. I prophecied that too.
You, Tiresias, are not without talent.
But foreseeing my rise may not be thought
too spectacular. No one worked so hard for their fate,
trimming my sails, and staying up late,
stabbing back at intrigue, watching for my chances.
Face it Tiresias, a lucky guess. And now my guess is,
well, now you've completely sold out.
Sire, fatal words are in my throat.
Do not unclasp their lock. There is no antidote.
Here. Place this coin under your tongue,
that useless lock for those flapping gums,
and unburden yourself of your bleak words.
But remember, no matter what is said or heard,
no further coin will I give you for defiance,
although maybe I'd pay for some uncommon silence.
Although these words charge your life in fee,
yet, you cannot afford my silent tranquility.
No doubt. No doubt. I'm listening.
Your audience stands attentive, prevaricating performer.
Very well, then. Take this, Kreon,
and take deep to heart! Not much father will
the days advance upon your royal time
when you shall be charged to pay all
back that you have taken: corpse for corpse
and flesh of your flesh shall pay the price!
You thrust one wondering child of light
into damned antechambers of soul's night---
innocent Antigone, who kept to the gods
and did not stray, into Hades too terribly sudden,
living in night before she's made a shade.
Also, you have perversely kept above the dust
another soul, marooned here on the earth's crust
that should have been with dignity interred.
One graved before her death, the other denied
holy sanction of a burial. These are your crimes,
Kreon. Fear the Furies and the dark of time.
Fear the great, dim gods of Hell:
Their punishment is moving swift and fell.
So swift and sure their flight at you
that you cannot even hear the fatal arrow
fletched by my prophacy. Are these the words,
Kreon, for which you wished and paid?
Soon, soon, as night and day revolve again
around your guilt, targeting in,
your house shall know loud lamentations,
men and women wandering eyeless from tears,
distant curses will come up close.
Cities grieving their unburied boys
will bend in ill will at your policies,
pushing the sink of the dead into beautiful Thebes,
even as high as your palace. These are my words,
Kreon, free of charge. Now you have heard.
[Throws money at KREON.]
Come, boy. We have seen enough.
These words work in my heart, make me cough
like a plague unleashed. Tiresias is gone,
but his bitter knowledge lingers in the air.
Old as I am, I can't remember him lying ever.
Ah. It is hurts to even think whether....
But I cannot remember him ever lying either.
If I may advise....
If not always very wise,
you at least have served me. How could I woo
that troublesome Tiresias and ignore you?
Thank you. I am worried. I think....
Yes? What is it? Speak.
Get Antigone out of her tomb,
and put Polynices in there. Trade 'em.
Maybe the gods will take the hoodwink.
Friend, of all my campaigns, I think,
would you really have me do this?
As old as I am, I'd hate to see
new sorrow bring my old captain down.
Now go at once. You heard how swift
it must be done! The gods are never slow
to punish men who wrong 'em. No.
All my heart's against it, all.
But, yes, all right. I'll
not wrestle destiny for a corpse.
And go yourself,
that's the right way with these things!
I will go. Servents-- fetch axes,
pull shovels from the farmers' hands.
To Polynices first, he's the first thing
I'll take out of the gods' sight and put right.
Quick, quick! The gods are stonger than us
and all our little hubris of polity;
a man must serve them till he die.
[OEDIPUS in Thebes, answering Sphinx.]
It's a hard day full of light
as opposite a cramped, paranoic night
as a traveller'd dare to care to have, or get,
until it seems that that old soul the sun, cart-
wheels just for fun, rolling toward oblivion.
The road's all dust, and a plague, they say,
kills a city, Thebes, just one cross ridge away.
There the Sphinx, flinty singer, stone muse of mystery,
riddles every passerby to intermit the plague
but none who've answered lived, or answered as a sage.
But as I was born a wanderer with swell
feet, I might as well
attempt what answer I can make, or makeup what I can't,
--for what use is life without a little of romance?
Life's philosophy's eternal whim;
too much permanence must make us grim,
seize our sighs to breathless glaciers
and put our passions on permanant vacations.
I'll try my maybe answers to get the golden pouches
proffered by the populace. There she crouches....
Now let me take a chance; she's overheard!
Time to make my stand. Sphinx! Lion! Woman! Bird!
I am SPHINX. Take counsel, and be afraid.
Be afraid? And drill myself to silence?
I'd rather be an inquisitor in your presence.
Time mocks men that mock their fears.
I came to ask you what your riddle is,
to delve it out or die.
I am SPHINX.
Take counsel, and depart.
[Aside.] A jinx.
Take counsel and depart? Where, sorcerer,
would I go, a homeless wanderer? [Aloud.]
I am ready for your riddle, Sphinx.
I'm after this city of Thebes' rink-
y-dink reward. There's advantage for my risk---
enough to allay my fears, maybe, sans mock's 'tisk.'
Prepare for death, mortal man.
Lay it on me, sister.
Answer, if you can:
What walks on four legs at dawn, two at noon,
and three legs when the sun is gone?
Beats me. I give up, what is it?
Your life and soul are forfeit.
Hey, I was just kidding! Man!
Man? Make your answer clear, or soon....
Yeah, yeah... Man, that's it. Dawn
is infancy, crawling on all fours; noon
is adulthood, when we walk upright, and....
I have seen the mighty of all nations
look appalled upon the pit, and die at these equations.
And evening... evening is, well, uh, would be,
that is, or would be, would kinda haveta be,
well, you know, old age and all that. See?
An old age you will never know. Prepare!
In old age man walks on three... three...
[Aside.] Stick to it, OEDIPUS.
Stick to it, stick, stick....
Stick? Your answer now, be quick!
Yes! Evening is old age, when man
walks with the aid of a crutch, a stick, when he can,
you know the deal. Well, monster, that's my guess;
am I dead, or delivered from this mess?
Now to see what the Thebans will give.
[Inside ANTIGONE's tomb.]
Already I am done with waiting.
Already I wish to be my consummation taking,
and with these waters and flowers sweet
end my too many days in this rock of night.
Never again will the sun come unto my face
unless it be in chinky disfigurence,
rough oblongs that obscure what they set upon
as much as may illuminate. This bride-bedecked tomb
differs less than many might have thought
from the airy daylight world I left,
filled, as that world is, with sights obscured
by ambition and prideful puffings of the self
enough to make this dismal chambered
dark, bright as the broadest noonday to myself.
But already am I done with its smalls charms,
and though it make me a respite from harm,
and all the corrupting rack of earth outside
that seems a more populated dark of brutal tides,
I am done. You have directed my feet, O gods,
to this place, accept me to the afterworld
as in this harried round of menace and ambition
you disgraced my simplicity and devotion.
I am done. Now I'll tear my veil
and shread my neck from breath as well
who should pant upon her bridal bed
like a wild leopard left unfed,
saying "Haemon," and "love" and such smallnesses
as this, which new-marrieds will make to pass
their days in restful glory and in bliss.
[She hangs herself.]
[Outside.] This is the most desperate spot
Thebes or the entire earth has got,
which everywhere else has such unequalled good;
This ruined landscape, flat, devoid,
measures well with the harsh expectations
of my empty soul. You, and you, drop your rations,
and tear with me at these false-risen
obstructions obscuring my life's business,
these stones of earth that cage my heart.
My father is the supreme head of State
as well you fingers of his power know
whom he posted here. Now, let's go!
Would you deny me, men? Think on it:
would you deny his son and risk the worst?
Good. Now, to it! O State that makes such men
so concerned with their skins and not what's within.
Antigone! Since I cannot from
the blasted blankness of this rocky womb
deliver you to life and light again,
which life lacks light without your presence,
I've come to bury myself with you
where my heart already lies entombed.
There, it is done. When I am within
this inky place, seal all up again the same
and I shall thank you as though you were my saviors.
Antigone.... do you sleep, or in prayer labor?
My adjusting eyes are hard put
to see you or anything in this murk.
Here's a cup of brackish water, a cruelty condoned
by my father to hurt your last days alone.
What's this? Soft... flowers strewn
almost to heaping! I thought is was yourself, Antigone,
nothing else. Now the chamber's darkness dies
and starts to glow like lurid moonrise
over sandy wastes; things appear,
but not in their true character,
but merely, as it were,
half-aware of what they were in daylight.
I seem to see within my eye, and not without.
What in the very center of this chamber floats?
....A ghost! [Florishes sword at Antigone.]
O spirit restless
whose place I trespass,
greet me as a younger brother born
to share an immortality like your own.
But wait... Oh, I am done with waiting! [Slashes.]
Collapsing on the stone floor? What? A weighted thing....
[Discards sword.] Now I own again my full sight
to look upon the desecration of my heart.
O Antigone! Were you so impaitient to be hurled
from this sinister fascination called the world?
Guards, stop your lawful punishment.
This is a trick. We're ordered to finish it.
He's changed his mind.
He spoke to Tiresias, and decided,
better to gamble with the gods than against.
The state is not the only arbiter of mens' estate;
he grasped some greatness within that helped him
do one thing great. He rushed off then,
spade in hand, to bury Polynices' properly.
I had helped, starting out over there with 'em.
We had to... to.... It was awful...
Then he thought it best to post me onward,
here to the tomb, to bring tidings to Haemon
and ease his troubled mind. Haemon!
You'll have to shout considerably louder.
Why? What evil is in your laughter?
Haemon's in the tomb with Antigone.
In there? Why? He was not condemned.
He wanted to be with his bride
to break-in the bed.
[A cry is heard from within the tomb..]
What's that? An evil sound of lunacy.
Let's give the honeymoon couple some privacy.
But Kreon orders them out!
I'll await Kreon's orders. Don't pout.
You know what a hardhead he is.
He sent me on ahead to tell you this.
Have you ever known Kreon's mind
to ever change? The man's adamantine.
Out of my way then; I'll dig them out myself.
Not while I have breath....
[They prepare to scuffle. ENTER KREON.]
This man tried to break into the tomb
and undo your orders, sir. You're under arrest. Come.
What's that? From the tomb! Those cries!
Just Haemon saying his goodbyes.
Haemon! Haemon! Are you in there?
What is this crying out? Dear,
son, speak to me-- I come here on my knees
begging forgiveness. Unloose me
from this parental nightmare of regret.
Let me see my son again obedient
to a wronging father who corrects
himself by the forgotten love he recollects
---I am as new-made as light
within a sharpened diamond's made more bright
by the outer hardness it discards
to redouble illumination's shards
and give back twice to the paitient eye
all the glory looming in a summer sky.
There, through this hasty chink
I see you in the center of the rock,
lying athwart the darkest spot.
But beside you, what's that you've got?
Something white a little to your left;
It looks like Antigone's veil, bereft
of her fine face and flung awry.
I've buried Polynices, Antigone!
Washed him up with my own hands,
first with holy water with my own hands.
And then into the mellow ground, you see,
now all the grime and dirt's on me.
Tiresias knocked sense into me, until I saw
I've no war with the dead, except how
to honor them more highly. Haemon!
Shall a father not be answered by his son?
We're almost through, sire. Here's an entrance.
Watch out, this heavy stone is losing its balance!
Haemon-- voice of the damned dark, talk!--
Is Antigone dead, did her body balk
when I criminalized her love?
To my sunken ear her light voice dove,
deformed by aquatic harmonics, till
I only heard her mumur against my will,
my will magnified by water into The State.
I'll dash away these tears and wait
to hear her voice again from under shale.
She has hung herself with her unwound vail!
Haemon, Haemon, let my grief
reverse engineer her death back to relief,
and may my taut repentance
rekinkle our cold aquiantance,
for a father and son should be united;
then her death might be less blighted.
O my son, let my sorrow, my tears, impart
by my new-washed intent, a place in your heart!
Forgive me! All's done ill.
Here, take my hand. No! This chill
and evil fiction in your eyes!
Haemon, the father in me dies
to see you see me through such lies,
a vail of hating falsities.
Nor can I expect a blink's reprieve
from the long stabs inside your sight
that show me as I am, not as I might
have been: a father loving and alive
to all his only son might give.
Ah! now he's stabbing at my face,
stabbing, stabbing at my disgrace,
the delineaments of age and error
that no longer awe him into terror
nor any obedience any longer.
Son, o son, I wish I had been stronger!
and known the fictions of renown
make their victors victims of their poem.
Now... No! No! Haemon, slice
nothing of yourself for your father's vice!
Turn the wild knife's erratic
attention back against the vatic
idiot who forgot his only duty
was to tell his son to love his beauty,
and let young Haemon, and pretty Antigone,
live and love and be.
Come out and kill the wretch
who held a burecratic pen to sketch
a tyrant's tragedy among the stars,
and cut his heart to a hash of scars.
Come out and kill me. Oh fair boy,
whose rose of blood lays unalloyed
on Antigone's dead and paper cheek....
You have won your bride, even as I speak,
and I have lost my son.
[The stone is rolled away. We see
HAEMON and ANTIGONE dead.]