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I have considered them; and I am driven to this cruel predicament. I must take upon myself a mighty war against one side or the other. [440] There is no escape, it is as firmly fixed as a ship's hull drawn tight by windlasses. There is no result without grievous hurt. Now when goods are plundered from a homestead, [445] other goods may come by grace of Zeus, guardian of household wealth; as a tongue that has shot arrows beside the mark, one speech may be the healer of another. But to avoid the shedding of kindred blood, [450] surely there is need of sacrifice and that many a victim fall to many a god as a deliverance from impending harm. For truly, it is to my undoing that I have come into this quarrel; and yet I prefer to be unskilled rather than practised in the lore of foretelling ill. But may my judgment belie itself and all go well!

[455] Hear now the end of my appeals for compassion.

I hear; say on. It shall not escape me.

I have breast-bands and girdles to gather up my robes.

Such things are proper, no doubt, for women.

In these then, be sure, I have a beautiful instrument—

[460] Tell me what speech you plan to utter.

If you will not give some pledge to this group—

What will the contrivance of the sashes do for you?

To adorn these images with tablets of strange sort.

Your words are riddling; come, explain in simple speech.

[465] To hang ourselves from the statues of these gods.

I detect a threat that is a lash upon my heart.

You have grasped my intention, for I have cleared your vision.

And on many sides there are difficulties hard to wrestle with; for, like a flood, a multitude of ills bursts on me. [470] It is a sea of ruin, fathomless and impassable, which I am launched upon, and nowhere is there a haven from distress. For should I not pay the debt due to you, the pollution you name is beyond all range of speech; yet if [475] I take my stand before the walls and try the issue of battle with the sons of Aegyptus, your kinsmen, how will the cost not mount to a cruel price—men's blood to stain the ground for women's sake?

And yet the wrath of Zeus who guards the suppliant compels my reverence; for supreme among mortals is the fear of him. [480] Aged father of these maidens, take these boughs straightway in your arms and place them upon other altars of the country's gods, that all the natives may see the sign that you have come in suppliance. And let no random word fall against [485] me; for the people could complain against authority. It may well be that some, stirred to compassion at the sight, will hate the wantonness of the troop of males, and that the people will be more friendly towards you; for all men are well disposed to the weaker cause.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 363
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