AJAX by Sophocles, Part 07
Would I might meet him, crushed and broken though I be.
Alas! Woe, woe!
Speak no proud words. Seest thou not to what woe thou art sunk?
O Zeus, of my fathers the sire,
Might I but kill that hateful and crafty dissembler,
Yea, and those two brother kings, partners in pride,
Then last myself too perish!
If thus thou prayest, pray therewith for me, that
Die with thee. Why, when thou art dead, should I live on?
Shadow that art my light!
Erebus, oh to me verily bright as day!
Receive, receive me your habitant.
Receive me now no more worthy to seek help of the gods,
Nor any more from fellow mortal men to claim kindness:
No, but she the strong
Miserably tortures me.
Whither should I then flee?
Whither seek for rest?
Since my former glory is gone, my friends,
With yonder victims, yonder spoils by frenzy won,
Since all the host with swords uplifted
Sternly would slay me,
Ah, woe is me! from such a noble warrior
To hear such words as once he ne'er had deigned to speak!
Billowy paths of foam,
Eddying caves, and ye coppices by the shore,
A weary, weary time tarrying here
Beneath the walls of Troy me have you kept, but from this hour
Alive you shall not keep me. Truth I speak: let none doubt it.
O Scamander's wave,
Stream whose neighbouring flow
Oft have the Argives blest,
Me shall you behold,
Me (a proud word will I utter now)
Whose peer in battle Troy has never seen yet come
From Hellas' land: but now dishonoured
Thus am I prostrate.
In truth I know not how to restrain thy speech, nor yet
To suffer it; so grievous is thy couch of woe.
Aiai! Who ever would have thought my name
Would harmonise so aptly with my woes?
For now well may I wail that sound out twice,
Yea thrice; such woeful destinies are mine,
Whose father from this land of Ida won
Fame's noblest guerdon over the whole host,
And crowned with praises only sailed back home;
But I, his son, who to the self-same Troy
Came after him, in might no less than he,
Nor rendering meaner service by my deeds,
Dishonoured by the Argives perish thus.
Yet this methinks I know for truth, were now
Achilles living and called on to adjudge
As the award of valour his own arms,
No man's hand would have grasped them before mine.
But now the Atreidae to a scheming knave
Have dealt them, thrusting by my valiant deeds.
And if these eyes, these wits had not in frenzy
Swerved from my purpose, never would they thus
Pervert judgment against another man.
But the irresistible fierce-eyed goddess, even
As I was arming my right hand to slay them,
Foiled me, smiting me with a maddening plague,
So that I stained my hand butchering these cattle.
Thus my foes mock me, escaped beyond my reach,
Through no goodwill of mine: but if a god
Thwart vengeance, even the base may escape the nobler.
And what should I now do, who manifestly
To Heaven am hateful; whom the Greeks abhor,
Whom every Trojan hates, and this whole land?
Shall I desert the beached ships, and abandoning
The Atreidae, sail home o'er the Aegean sea?
With what face shall I appear before my father
Telamon? How will he find heart to look
On me, stripped of my championship in war,
That mighty crown of fame that once was his?
No, that I dare not. Shall I then assault
Troy's fortress, and alone against them all
Achieve some glorious exploit and then die?
No, I might gratify the Atreidae thus.
That must not be. Some scheme let me devise
Which may prove to my aged sire that I,
His son, at least by nature am no coward.
For 'tis base for a man to crave long life
Who endures never-varying misery.
What joy can be in day that follows day,
Bringing us close then snatching us from death?
As of no worth would I esteem that man
Who warms himself with unsubstantial hopes.
Nobly to live, or else nobly to die
Befits proud birth. There is no more to say.
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