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Sophocles Index


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AJAX by Sophocles, Part 02


Athena
By night he meant to steal on you alone.

ODYSSEUS
Did he come near us? Did he reach his goal?

Athena
He stood already at the two chiefs' doors.

ODYSSEUS
What then withheld his eager hand from bloodshed?

Athena
'Twas I restrained him, casting on his eyes
O'ermastering notions of that baneful ecstasy,
That turned his rage on flocks and mingled droves
Of booty yet unshared, guarded by herdsmen.
Then plunging amid the thronging horns he slew,
Smiting on all sides; and one while he fancied
The Atreidae were the captives he was slaughtering,
Now 'twas some other chief on whom he fell.
And I, while thus he raved in maniac throes,
Urged him on, drove him into the baleful toils.
Thereafter, when he had wearied of such labours,
He bound with thongs such oxen as yet lived,
With all the sheep, and drove them to his tents,
As though his spoil were men, not horned cattle.
Now lashed together in the hut he tortures them.
But to thee too will I expose this madness,
That seeing thou mayst proclaim it to all the Greeks.
Boldly await him here, nor apprehend
Mischance; for I will turn aside his eyes,
Foiling his vision lest he see thy face.
She calls to AJAX within the tent.
Hearken, thou who art pinioning with cords
The wrists of captives; hither, I bid thee, come.
Thou, Ajax, hear me: come to thy tent's door.

ODYSSEUS
What dost thou, Athena? Do not summon him forth.

Athena
Abide in silence. Earn not the name of coward.

ODYSSEUS
Nay, by the Gods, let him remain within.

Athena
What dost thou dread? Was he not once a man?

ODYSSEUS
Yes, and to me a foeman, and still is.

Athena
To mock foes, is not that the sweetest mockery?

ODYSSEUS
I am content he should remain indoors.

Athena
To look upon a madman art thou afeard?

ODYSSEUS
Had he been sane, no fear had made me shrink.

Athena
Even now he shall not see thee, near as thou art.

ODYSSEUS
How so, if still with the same eyes he sees?

Athena
His orbs will I make dark, though vision is theirs.

ODYSSEUS
Well, all is possible, when 'tis a god contrives.

Athena
Stand then silent, abiding as thou art.

ODYSSEUS
Stay I must; yet I fain would be far hence.

Athena
Ho, Ajax! Once again I summon thee.
So slight is thy regard for thine ally?
AJAX appears in the tent door, with a blood-stained scourge in his hand.

AJAX
Oh hail, Athena! Hail thou Zeus-born maid!
Nobly hast thou stood by me. Now will I crown thee
With trophies all of gold for this rich conquest.

Athena
Thy words are welcome. But now tell me this:
Hast thou dyed well thy sword in the Argive host?

AJAX
Such vaunt is mine. I disclaim not that glory.

 

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