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Sophocles Index


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AJAX by Sophocles, Part 11


CHORUS singing
strophe

I thrill with rapture, flutter on wings of ecstasy.
Io, Io, Pan, Pan!
O Pan, Pan! from the stony ridge,
Snow-bestrewn of Cyllene's height
Appear roving across the waters,
O dance-ordering king of gods,
That thou mayst join me in flinging free
Fancy measures of Nysa and of Cnossus.
Yea for the dance I now am eager.
And over the far Icarian billows come, O king Apollo,
From Delos in haste, come thou,
Thy kindly power here in our midst revealing.

antistrophe

Ares hath lifted horror and anguish from our eyes.
Io, Io! Now again,
Now, O Zeus, can the bright and blithe
Glory of happier days return
To our swift-voyaging ships, for now
Hath Ajax wholly forgot his grief,
And all rites due to the gods he now
Fain would meetly perform with loyal worship.
Mighty is time to dwindle all things.
Nought would I call too strange for belief, when Ajax thus beyond hope
Hath learnt to repent his proud feuds,
And lay aside anger against the Atreidae.
A MESSENGER enters.

MESSENGER
My friends, these tiding I would tell you first:
Teucer is present, from the Mysian heights
But now returned, and in the central camp
By all the Greeks at once is being reviled.
As he drew near they knew him from afar,
Then gathering around him one and all
With taunts assailed him from this side and that,
Calling him kinsman of that maniac,
That plotter against the host, saying that nought
Should save him; stoned and mangled he must die.
And so they had come to such a pitch that swords
Plucked from their sheaths stood naked in men's hands.
Yet when the strife ran highest, it was stayed
By words from the elders and so reconciled.
But where is Ajax? I must speak with him.
He whom it most concerns must be told all.

LEADER OF THE CHORUS
He is not within, but has just now gone forth
With a new purpose yoked to a new mood.

MESSENGER
Alas! Alas!
Then too late on this errand was I sped
By him who sent me; or I have proved too slow.

LEADER
What urgent need has been neglected here?

MESSENGER
Teucer forbade that Ajax should go forth
Outside his hut, till he himself should come.

LEADER
Well, he is gone. To wisest purpose now
His mind is turned, to appease heaven's wrath.

MESSENGER
These words of thine are filled with utter folly,
If there was truth in Calchas' prophecy.

LEADER
What prophecy? And what know you of this thing?

MESSENGER
Thus much I know, for by chance I was present.
Leaving the circle of consulting chiefs
Where sat the Atreidae, Calchas went aside,
And with kind purpose grasping Teucer's hand
Enjoined him that by every artifice
He should restrain Ajax within his tents
This whole day, and not leave him to himself,
If he wished ever to behold him alive.
For on this day alone, such were his words,
Would the wrath of divine Athena vex him.
For the overweening and unprofitable
Fall crushed by heaven-sent calamities
(So the seer spoke), whene'er one born a man
Has conceived thoughts too high for man's estate:
And this man, when he first set forth from home,
Showed himself foolish, when his father spoke to him
Wisely: "My son, seek victory by the spear;
But seek it always with the help of heaven."
Then boastfully and witlessly he answered:
"Father, with heaven's help a mere man of nought
Might win victory: but I, albeit without
Their aid, trust to achieve a victor's glory."
Such was his proud vaunt. Then a second time
Answering divine Athena, when she urged him
To turn a slaughterous hand upon his foes,
He gave voice to this dire, blasphemous boast:
"Goddess, stand thou beside the other Greeks.
Where I am stationed, no foe shall break through."
By such words and such thoughts too great for man
Did he provoke Athena's pitiless wrath.
But if he lives through this one day, perchance,
Should heaven be willing, we may save him yet.
So spoke the seer; and Teucer from his seat
No sooner risen, sent me with this mandate
For you to observe. But if we have been forestalled,
That man lives not, or Calchas is no prophet.

 

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