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  • By Louis Groarke

Greek Tragedy


Ruin justice…

And your bloodline will weaken,

Your descendants fade out.

—Hesiod, Works and Days

The rose soon fades on Antigone’s cheek,

Rocked like a child that has fallen asleep;

Hung from the rafters in a makeshift grave,

She swings back and forth in an Attic cave.

No mortal king can undo the grim deed.

—The price of blood guilt uproots the bad seed.

Haemon, her lover, impedes the king’s way;

Strikes with the sword, but the king runs away.

Turns round the blade to receive the dread blow,

Following Antigone, far below.

Etecoles slain in the family feud;

Polyneices left for carrion food.

Eurydice, next, disheveled, dismayed,

Swoons on the point of an upturned blade.

Confronts her vexed end on iron so sharp,

It dulls the keen pain that pierces her heart.

King Creon, alone, afraid he will die,

Spies Lycus, his rival, creeping close by.

Fortuna, unmoved, keeps spinning her wheel,

As warm human flesh submits to cold steel.

The Furies, now dancing, round on the hill,

Recount the ill story, laughing so shrill.

Hark, Nemesis plays the chess-game of fate

Move after move that soon ends in checkmate.


Louis Groarke is a Professor of Philosophy at St. Francis Xavier University. Academically, he has published widely on ethics, aesthetics, logic, and ancient philosophy. He has a recent book on literary theory and has published a number of short stories and poems in venues such as the Antigonish Review, Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, Canadian Tales of the Mysterious, and the Quadrant.

5 Comments


ajsedia
Aug 20, 2023

This is a nice sweeping yet compact summation of Greek tragedy - "in a nutshell" if you will. It also at the end gives a nice summation of the worldview that birthed Greek tragedy and subtly hints that those same forces govern our present world.

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ddouthat09
ddouthat09
Jul 07, 2023

Next morning review by Mr. First Nighter for Sophocles newly opened "Antigone"


Or maybe SparkNote

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Louis Groarke
Louis Groarke
Jul 09, 2023
Replying to

Well, the poem doesn’t restrict itself to that play; as the quote from Hesiod indicates, what matters to the Greeks (and not so much to moderns) is poetic justice; Sophocles’ Antigone is one specific manifestation of that much larger idea and, in any case, the Greeks thought the very same stories needed to be retold again and again; thank you for your comment; best, Lg

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jm6783685
jm6783685
Jul 06, 2023

'As warm human flesh submits to cold steel' is nice. As is the chess game at the end.

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Louis Groarke
Louis Groarke
Jul 07, 2023
Replying to

Thanks for your comment; yes, I was trying to build it up to the final climax. Best, LG

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