the imaginative conservative logo

russell kirkIn a generation like ours, which has forgotten the natural law and has knelt to Leviathan, Antigone takes on a meaning little understood during the nineteenth century. . . . There exist in human nature, common to the Greeks of the fifth century and to us, certain constant qualities.  Of these qualities, among the rising talents of every generation, are a longing for poetic imagery; a dim participating in the tragic view of life; and an aspiration after ethical insights.  Antigone is a great drama because it is humane in the highest sense: that is, Antigone exemplifies the educational discipline called humanitas, the training of the ethical faculty through the understanding of powerful literature.  Despite all the muddled positivism and pragmatism to which college students have been subjected since the age of five or six years, truth will demand a hearing now and again.  The ancient hungers of the imagination are hard to deny. [Russell Kirk, Decadence and Renewal (1978), 36-37]

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism.

Books by Russell Kirk and by other men mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore

Print Friendly
"All comments are subject to moderation. We welcome the comments of those who disagree, but not those who are disagreeable."
4 replies to this post
  1. "As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!"

    R Kipling

  2. I don't believe Antigone had the same kind of "hubris" Creon had- rather, she died because of *his* hubris and the law *he* put into place.

    When he asks her how she dares to transgress the law, she replies: "Yes; for it was not Zeus that had published me that edict; not such are the laws set among men by the justice who dwells with the gods below; nor deemed I that thy decrees were of such force, that a mortal could override the unwritten and unfailing statutes of heaven. For their life is not of to-day or yesterday, but from all time, and no man knows when they were first put forth.

    Not through dread of any human pride could I answer to the gods for breaking these. Die I must,-I knew that well (how should I not?)-even without thy edicts. But if I am to die before my time, I count that a gain: for when any one lives, as I do, compassed about with evils, can such an one find aught but gain in death?"

    Burying her brother, a very human and humane action, was more right than obeying the law. Fine- her brother was a traitor to Thebes: but not even family can respectfully bury the dead? Creon may have had a change of heart, but only after his son kills himself because he loves Antigone (who is now dead) and his wife kills herself because of her horror at her husband's actions. I don't believe Antigone's pride was out of place; she believed her brother should be buried respectfully. Her actions did not hurt anyone, except Creon's pride. Creon's actions, on the other hand, caused more than Antigone's death.

Please leave a thoughtful, civil, and constructive comment: