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AJAX by Sophocles, Part 08

The word thou hast uttered, Ajax, none shall call
Bastard, but the true offspring of thy soul.
Yet pause. Let those who love thee overrule
Thy resolution. Put such thoughts aside.

O my lord Ajax, of all human ills
Greatest is fortune's wayward tyranny.
Of a free father was I born the child,
One rich and great as any Phrygian else.
Now am I a slave; for so the gods, or rather
Thy warrior's hand, would have it. Therefore since
I am thy bedfellow, I wish thee well,
And I entreat thee by domestic Zeus,
And by the embraces that have made me thine,
Doom me not to the cruel taunts of those
Who hate thee, left a bond-slave in strange hands.
For shouldst thou perish and forsake me in death,
That very day assuredly I to
Shall be seized by the Argives, with thy son
To endure henceforth the portion of a slave.
Then one of my new masters with barbed words
Shall wound me scoffing: "See the concubine
Of Ajax, who was mightiest of the host,
What servile tasks are hers who lived so daintily!"
Thus will men speak, embittering my hard lot,
But words of shame for thee and for thy race.
Nay, piety forbid thee to forsake
Thy father in his drear old age-thy mother
With her sad weight of years, who many a time
Prays to the gods that thou come home alive.
And pity, O king, thy son, who without thee
To foster his youth, must live the orphaned ward
Of loveless guardians. Think how great a sorrow
Dying thou wilt bequeath to him and me.
For I have nothing left to look to more
Save thee. By thy spear was my country ravaged;
And by another stroke did fate lay low
My mother and my sire to dwell with Hades.
Without thee then what fatherland were mine?
What wealth? On thee alone rests all my hope.
O take thought for me too. Do we not owe
Remembrance, where we have met with any joy?
For kindness begets kindness evermore
But he who from whose mind fades the memory
Of benefits, noble is he no more.

Ajax, would that thy soul would feel compassion,
As mine does; so wouldst thou approve her words.

Verily my approval shall she win,
If only she find heart to do my bidding.

Dear Ajax, in all things will I obey.

Then bring me here my son, for I would see him.

Nay, but I sent him from me in my fears.

During my late affliction, is that thy meaning?

Lest by ill chance he should meet thee and so perish.

Yes, that would have been worthy of my fate.

That at least I was watchful to avert.

I praise thine act and the foresight thou hast shown.

Since that is so, what shall I do to serve thee?

Let me speak to him and behold his face.

He is close by in the attendants' charge.


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