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Antigone
(12 February 1828 – 18 May 1909 / Portsmouth, England)

Antigone

The buried voice bespake Antigone.

'O sister! couldst thou know, as thou wilt know,
The bliss above, the reverence below,
Enkindled by thy sacrifice for me;
Thou wouldst at once with holy ecstasy
Give thy warm limbs into the yearning earth.
Sleep, Sister! for Elysium's dawning birth, -
And faith will fill thee with what is to be!
Sleep, for the Gods are watching over thee!
Thy dream will steer thee to perform their will,
As silently their influence they instil.
O Sister! in the sweetness of thy prime,
Thy hand has plucked the bitter flower of death;
But this will dower thee with Elysian breath,
That fade into a never-fading clime.
Dear to the Gods are those that do like thee
A solemn duty! for the tyranny
Of kings is feeble to the soul that dares
Defy them to fulfil its sacred cares:
And weak against a mighty will are men.
O, Torch between two brothers! in whose gleam
Our slaughtered House doth shine as one again,
Tho' severed by the sword; now may thy dream
Kindle desire in thee for us, and thou,
Forgetting not thy lover and his vow,
Leaving no human memory forgot,
Shalt cross, not unattended, the dark stream
Which runs by thee in sleep and ripples not.
The large stars glitter thro' the anxious night,
And the deep sky broods low to look at thee:
The air is hush'd and dark o'er land and sea,
And all is waiting for the morrow light:
So do thy kindred spirits wait for thee.
O Sister! soft as on the downward rill,
Will those first daybeams from the distant hill
Fall on the smoothness of thy placid brow,
Like this calm sweetness breathing thro' me now:
And when the fated sounds shall wake thine eyes,
Wilt thou, confiding in the supreme will,
In all thy maiden steadfastness arise,
Firm to obey and earnest to fulfil;
Remembering the night thou didst not sleep,
And this same brooding sky beheld thee creep,
Defiant of unnatural decree,
To where I lay upon the outcast land;
Before the iron gates upon the plain;
A wretched, graveless ghost, whose wailing chill
Came to thy darkened door imploring thee;
Yearning for burial like my brother slain; -
And all was dared for love and piety!
This thought will nerve again thy virgin hand
To serve its purpose and its destiny.'

She woke, they led her forth, and all was still.


Swathed round in mist and crown'd with cloud,
O Mountain! hid from peak to base -
Caught up into the heavens and clasped
In white ethereal arms that make
Thy mystery of size sublime!
What eye or thought can measure now
Thy grand dilating loftiness!
What giant crest dispute with thee
Supremacy of air and sky!
What fabled height with thee compare!
Not those vine-terraced hills that seethe
The lava in their fiery cusps;
Nor that high-climbing robe of snow,
Whose summits touch the morning star,
And breathe the thinnest air of life;
Nor crocus-couching Ida, warm
With Juno's latest nuptial lure;
Nor Tenedos whose dreamy eye
Still looks upon beleaguered Troy;
Nor yet Olympus crown'd with gods
Can boast a majesty like thine,
O Mountain! hid from peak to base,
And image of the awful power
With which the secret of all things,
That stoops from heaven to garment earth,
Can speak to any human soul,
When once the earthly limits lose
Their pointed heights and sharpened lines,
And measureless immensity
Is palpable to sense and sight.

User Rating: 2,6 / 5 ( 68 votes ) 11

Comments (11)

measureless immensity, well penned the whole poem
George Meredith was influenced by the works of John Keats and Lord Tennyson.
If the first part of the poem is a call from her dead brother, the second part is a comparison between the humble, human condition of a king and the greatness of the divinity. For this purpose, the poet used the mountain. 'That stoops from heaven to garment earth, Can speak to any human soul'
In the poem of George Meredith, Antigone is empowered by death. Some expressions are relevant, for example ' thy sacrifice for me', 'Sleep, Sister! for Elysium's dawning birth'(the dead bother talked to her) , 'will dower thee with Elysian breath', 'spirits wait for thee'.
Therefore, Antigone hanged herself and she was followed in death by Hæmon, her fiancé, and by Eurydice, the mother of Hæmon. In the Aristotelian perception, their life was a tragedy because people couldn't fight against their fate which was predetermined by a supernatural power.
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