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AJAX by Sophocles, Part 04


Was it the Tauric Olympian Artemis,
(Oh, the dread rumour of woe,
Parent of my grievous shame!)
Who drove thee forth to slaughter the herds of the people,
In wrath perchance for some unpaid-for victory,
Whether defrauded of glorious spoil, or offerings
Due for a stag that was slain?
Or did the bronze-clad Demon of battle, aggrieved
On him who scorned the might of his succouring spear,
Plot revenge by nightly deception?


Ne'er of itself had thy heart, son of Telamon,
Strayed into folly so far
As to murder flocks and herds.
Escape from heaven-sent madness is none: yet Apollo
And Zeus avert these evil rumours of the Greeks.
But should the story be false, these crafty slanders
Spread by the powerful kings,
And by the child of the infamous Sisyphid line,
No more, my master, thus in the tent by the sea
Hide thy countenance, earning an ill fame.


Nay, but arise from thy seat, where'er so long wrapt in
Brooding pause from the battle thou hast lurked: arise,
Heaven-high kindle the flame of death.
But the insolence of thy foes boldly
Thus wanders abroad in the wind-swept glens.
Meanwhile all men mocking
With venomous tongues taunt thee:
But grief in my heart wanes not.
TECMESSA enters. The following lines between TECMESSA and the CHORUS are chanted responsively.

Liegemen of Ajax, ship-companions,
Ye children of earth-sprung Erechthid race,
Lamentation is now our portion, to whom
Dear is the far-off house of Telamon,
Now that the stern and terrible Ajax
Lies whelmed by a storm
Of turbid wildering fury.

To what evil change from the day's woe now
Has night given birth?
Thou daughter of Phrygian Teleutas, speak;
For a constant love has valiant Ajax
Borne thee, his spear-won prisoner bride.
Then hide from us nought that thou knowest.

How to utter a tale of unspeakable things!
For disastrous as death is the hap you will hear.
In the darkness of night madness has seized
Our glorious Ajax: he is ruined and lost.
Hereof in the tent may proof be seen;
Sword-slain victims in their own blood bathed,
By his hand sacrificially slaughtered.


What tidings of the fiery warrior tellest thou,
Not to be borne, nor yet to be disputed,
Rumoured abroad by the chiefs of the Danaan host,
Mightily still spreading and waxing!
Woe's me! I dread the horror to come. Yea, to a public death doomed
Will he die, if in truth his be the hand that wielded
The red sword that in frenzy hath slain the herds and mounted herdsmen.

Ah me! Thence was it, thence that he came to me
Leading his captive flock from the pastures!
Thereof in the tent some did he slaughter,
Others hewed he asunder with slashing sword;
Then he caught up amain two white-footed rams,
Sliced off from the one both the head and the tongue,
And flings them away;
But the other upright to a pillar he binds,
Then seizing a heavy horse-harnessing thong
He smites with the whistling doubled lash,
Uttering fierce taunts which an evil fiend
No mere mortal could have taught him.


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