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Fierce indeed was the wrath of Creon when he heard that his order had thus been disobeyed. He accused the watchers of having done this deed themselves for gain, and added the stern threat that unless they could shortly produce before him the guilty one they should themselves suffer the punishment that he had denounced.
The guards therefore cleared away the dust again from the body, and left it once more exposed to the rays of the sun, and to the air of heaven. They themselves sat concealed in ambush close by, watching for what might happen. Soon Antigone drew near again to mourn once more over the dead, thinking that no one else was there. But when she saw what had been done she shrieked loudly, and wrung her hands, and imprecated curses upon those who had exposed the form of her loved one to the open air a second time. Then she brought the earth again with her hands, and lightly covered the dead, and poured over him three libations of pure water. But the guards rushed forward, blamed her for both her former and her present act of defiance to the rulers, and hurried her before Creon, glad that they were themselves cleared from a serious charge, yet deeply sorrowing over the maiden, who had thus exposed herself to danger and death.
Brief and stern was Creon's inquiry, Had she done that deed? Knew she the proclamation that had been issued thereupon? This she denied not, but when he went on to reproach her for venturing to transgress the law, the fire in her soul flashed forth, and she made answer bold and defiant; "It was not Zeus who put forth to me that decree. No, nor did Justice the assessor of the Gods below enact such laws among men. Nor thought I thy commands to have such force that they could disannul the sure though unwritten laws of the gods, mortal as thou art. For they were not of to-day or yesterday, but ever live, and no one knows whence they sprang. These I was not likely to disregard from fear of thy threats. I knew that I should die, but an early death were to me a gain, owing to the many sorrows that I have borne."
Then Creon's heart was further hardened against her, and he replied with words of violence, reproaching her stubborn spirit that would not bend before evil, but she answered with scorn for scorn. Then though she was his sister's child and under the protection of Zeus, the Guardian of the House, yea, though he knew further that Hæmon his sole surviving son loved her and longed to make her his bride, he passed upon her the dreadful sentence. She was to be borne away
to a cave in a desolate place beyond the city and there to be entombed alive with only just enough food to avert from her country the curse of blood, but no more, so that when that should be spent the lingering death by famine should be hers.
Vain were the pleadings of the Theban elders for her; vain were the entreaties and remonstrances of his son, whose love for the maiden he had hitherto marked with approbation. The sentence was passed, and his obstinacy would not permit him to reverse it. And she was led forth to her doom, a sad sight, young, unwedded, a bride indeed but of Acheron. She alone of mortals was to descend into the grave still living. Many wept as they saw her pass; many extolled her love for her father, her devotion to her brother; many celebrated her noble deed, though some mocked, whose base natures could see in her only the transgressor of her country's righteous decree, the defier of its rulers. But these were few. And others thought within themselves, 'Surely there must be some ancient crime of the house of Labdacus, the guilt of which has not yet been done away." And they wondered when the woes of that ill-starred family should end.
Slowly and sadly did the procession move onward. For the last time did the cool breeze fan the maiden's heated brow; for the last time did she look upon the beauteous orb of day to whom she bade the long farewell of the dying. And now they had reached the rock. They thrust her into the fissure,-her of the royal blood of Thebes, her the affianced bride of its prince. They closed up the entrance, and left her to wrestle with her fate.
But the just Gods marked the cruel deed with indignation, and the curse of the house was again called forth. The avenger of kindred blood hovered with dark wing over the palace of Creon, eager to quaff fresh gore. Nor were signs wanting to those who could see, so that the blind old prophet Tiresias hastened once more from his retirement to warn and remonstrate with the king. Creon greeted him with words of respect,—for who was there of the Cadmeians that did not revere Tiresias? He came, his tottering steps guided by the boy, who stood to him in the place of the eyes of which Here had deprived him. He first declared to the king the omens by which the anger of the undying gods had been revealed to him. When he took his seat upon his chair of augury, he had heard strange frantic shrieks of the birds, and he knew that they were rending one another with deadly talons, while the whirring of their wings was plain to hear. Then he made
the trial by fire. No flame shot forth from the victim, but a foul vapour bubbled up, the gall bladder melted away, and the thighs were left bare of their covering. So he was told by his guide, and well he knew the cause. For the altars were polluted by the foul birds that were preying upon the unhappy son of Edipus. Therefore the gods would not receive the prayers that were offered to them, nor could the birds give forth their usual divining cry. One course only remained to be pursued. Creon had erred, he must now repair the error, and not show himself guilty alike of obstinacy and folly, he must undo his unholy work.
But the king was infatuated. "Not even if the birds," said he, 66 were to bear up their prey to the throne of Zeus will I permit the burial which the seer is inspired to command, not by the revelation of the gods but by the gifts of men; nor will I release the maiden from her living tomb."
Then the prophet spake: "Soon shalt thou repay from thine own house dead for the dead. The gods of Hades deprived by thee of their own are against thee; the destroying Erinnyes are watching to work thy ruin. Soon will wailing be heard in thy house, and all thy fellows will forsake thee, yea, and be turned against thee, because thou hast brought a common pollution upon the land."
Thus he spake and departed, but his words remained behind, and called up anxiety and doubt in Creon's mind. The elders of the city urged him to follow the seer's counsel. For a long time he withstood them, but at last gave way. Guards were sent to bury the dead, and to release Antigone from her living grave,—but the past could not be recalled, and the woes of Thebes were now circling round Creon himself. In eager haste the soldiers hurried to the place where the dead lay again exposed. They washed the corpse and committed it to the tomb. Next they went to the cave in the rock where the living had been immured, and as they approached they heard the sound of bitter in which Creon recognised the voice of one well known. They entered the cave, and within a sad sight met their gaze. The maiden had strangled herself with a cord made up of twisted threads drawn from her own linen robe; and Hæmon, who had forced his way in, alas! too late to rescue his love, mad with despair, was clasping her body in his arms, and invoking curses upon him who had been the cause of this deed. But when he saw his father, with a loud cry drew his sword and made at him. He was foiled in his desperate at
tempt by the guards, and before any one could prevent him he plunged his weapon into his own breast. Then falling upon her whom he had loved, he joined her once more in the world below, and Creon found himself childless owing to his own perverse folly.
Nor was this all: for as soon as his wife heard of her son's sad end, her heart died away within her, and without saying a word to the messenger who brought the news, without saying a word to any of her attendants, she went to her own chamber, where her own hand sent her to be once more with her son.
Thus the light of Creon's house was quenched, and he himself lingered on for a short time a spiritless, broken-hearted, worn out old man. S. C. A.
FEW of our national institutions have undergone so thorough a change in the last generation as the village choir. It may be that a few of the old type still exist in far off corners of the country, but take the average standard of an English village choir of to-day and draw a comparison with a similar body of twenty or thirty years ago, what a striking contrast will be seen! In the inimitable descriptions of George Eliot we may perhaps find the most graphic picture of the past; small urchins in the front row of a hideous gallery at the west end of a tumble-down old church, supported by the learned instrumentalists of the parish, with clarionet, bassoon, and it may be bass viol, ready to emit a sepulchral groan from the depths of its ponderous inside as occasion may require; this fearful instrument would in all probability be manipulated by the parish clerk, a personage of equal importance with the parson himself, and without whom a Sunday service would be impossible. Our thoughts wander back to the faithful "Scenes from Clerical Life," and we see in our mind's eye a miscellaneous assemblage perched up aloft, ready to strike up with the matutinal hymn before the service; a slate suspended from the gallery, with lines inscribed for the benefit of such among the congregation as might be able to decipher them; the whole under the direction of the all-important clerk. I can recall such an one intent on his Sunday duties, sitting with his flat face supported by both elbows, complacently drinking in the pure Gospel as preached by his uncorrupted vicar. The new-fangled notions of Baptism by generation,
or they Pewsyite doctrines, had not invaded his parish, praise the LORD, and would not afore he was in his grave. The half dozen children proceed to shout vociferously, and meander gently through lengthy measures and well drawn out cadences, bassoon and pipes meanwhile contributing their bass and counter, in a manner which had excited the admiration of village critics for many a year. unfortunate urchin in the front row if any inattention is observed by our friend the clerk; whack! whack! comes the psalm-book on the delinquent's head with a mighty thud which echoes again through the ancient gables.
Woe to the
Reverse the picture; from the customs of thirty years ago let us examine the choir system of the present time. What is the scene presented to us in our own time? The greater number of village choirs have now an orderly set of six or eight boys, usually drawn from the Sunday school classes, with perhaps half-a-dozen men, so far musically educated as to render with tolerable accuracy the ordinary four-part music of our simple Anglican chant and hymn books. Clad in their fresh white surplices they occupy the benches or stalls which range on either side of the chancel. The greater number of churches now possess an organ of moderate proportions, which is carefully and laboriously presided over by the vicar's wife, or such amateur as happens to reside in the parish. Sunday after Sunday, month after month, in winter and summer is this work accomplished, till a degree of proficiency is attained which is often remarkable. The improvement in the last thirty years has been immense. In place of a couple of painfully-rendered hymns and a few badly-sung chants, we have a painstaking and carefully-sung musical service; the chants, admirable examples of Anglican church music; and the hymns comprising all the best of modern productions, together with those grand old melodies which have stood the lapse of centuries. The responses are intelligibly said or sung, and a bright cheerfulness has been introduced into our services which was entirely foreign to the church of fifty years ago,
It may be useful to examine the system of Church music as applied to our villages, the training of choirs, and to point out the more common faults which call for remedy in choirs which have some pretensions to excellence. It is not to be disputed that good music is a desirable addition to the sublime words of our Church service, besides being essentially devotional in itself, and the fittest mode of offering