Sophocles, Blues Man

I think we can say that Sophocles’ Antigone is over the top.

The morbidity and high seriousness are so “extra” that maybe we should respond–with a smile and a head shake–as we do when B.B. King sings:

Nobody loves me but my mother,
And she could be jivin’ too.

In that spirit, consider Antigone’s famous address to the chorus before she’s led off to die:


Citizens of the fatherland, look at me–
Last time walking this road.
Last time seeing sunlight.
This is it.

Hades who readies sleep for all
Ushers me alive to Acheron’s shore.
I did not have my wedding song;
No nuptial hymn was sung for me.
That’s ok. I’ll be Acheron’s bride.

Also, consider the bluesy earthiness of the messenger’s philosophy of life, as told to the chorus (and rendered in bluesy English):


When a man’s fun goes,
He’s not alive, if you ask me.
He’s a feeling corpse, that’s my view.

Live large, if that’s your jam.
Roll like a king.
But when the thrill is gone,
That stuff’s not worth a shadow of smoke.
Nope, not without the fun.


ὁρᾶτέ μ᾿, ὦ γᾶς πατρίας πολῖται
τὰν νεάταν ὁδὸν
στείχουσαν, νέατον δὲ φέγ-
γος λεύσσουσαν ἀελίου,
κοὔποτ᾿ αὖθις· ἀλλά μ᾿ ὁ παγ-
κοίτας Ἅιδας ζῶσαν ἄγει
τὰν Ἀχέροντος
ἀκτάν, οὔθ᾿ ὑμεναίων
ἔγκληρον, οὔτ᾿ ἐπὶ νυμ-
φείοις πώ μέ τις ὕμνος ὕ-
μνησεν, ἀλλ᾿ Ἀχέροντι νυμφεύσω.


. . . καὶ γὰρ ἡδοναὶ
ὅταν προδῶσιν ἀνδρός, οὐ τίθημ᾿ ἐγὼ
ζῆν τοῦτον, ἀλλ᾿ ἔμψυχον ἡγοῦμαι νεκρόν.
πλούτει τε γὰρ κατ᾿ οἶκον, εἰ βούλῃ, μέγα,
καὶ ζῆ τύραννον σχῆμ᾿ ἔχων, ἐὰν δ᾿ ἀπῇ
τούτων τὸ χαίρειν, τἄλλ᾿ ἐγὼ καπνοῦ σκιᾶς
οὐκ ἂν πριαίμην ἀνδρὶ πρὸς τὴν ἡδονήν.

“The fundamental function of the blues musician . . . is not only to drive the blues away and hold them at bay at least for the time being, but also to evoke an ambiance of Dionysian revelry in the process.”–Albert Murray, Stomping the Blues

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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