AJAX by Sophocles, Part 12
Woful Tecmessa, woman born to sorrow,
Come forth and hear this man who tells of a peril
That grazes us too close for our mind's ease.
TECMESSA enters from the tent.
Why alas do you break my rest again
After brief respite from relentless woes?
Give hearing to this messenger, who brings
Tidings that grieve me of how Ajax fares.
Ah me, what sayest thou, man? Are we undone?
I know not of thy fortune; but for Ajax,
If he be gone abroad, my mind misgives.
Yes, he is gone. I am racked to know thy meaning.
Teucer commands you to keep him within doors,
And not to let him leave his tent alone.
And where is Teucer, and why speaks he thus?
He has but now returned, and he forebodes
That this going-forth will prove fatal to Ajax.
Woe's me, alas! From whom has he learned this?
From the seer, Thestor's son, this very day,
Which is fraught either with his death or life.
Ah me, my friends, avert this threatening doom
Speed some of you to hasten Teucer hither:
Others go search the bays, some west, some east,
And track my lord's ill-omened going-forth.
Yes, now I know I have been deceived by him,
And from his former favour quite cast out.
Alas, child, what shall I do? Sit still I must not:
But far as I have strength I too will go.
Let us start quickly-'tis no time for loitering,
If we would save one who is in haste to die.
I am ready, as not words alone shall prove,
But speed of act and foot to make words good.
The CHORUS, TECMESSA and MESSENGER go out. The scene changes to a lonely place by the sea-shore. Bushes and under- brush are in the background. AJAX enters alone.
The slayer stands so that his edge may cleave
Most surely (if there be leisure for such thought),
Being the gift of Hector, of all friends
Most unloved, and most hateful to my sight.
Then it is planted in Troy's hostile soil,
New-sharpened on the iron-biting whet.
And heedfully have I planted it, that so
With a swift death it prove to me most kind.
Thus have I made all ready. Next be thou
The first, O Zeus, to aid me, as is right.
It is no mighty boon that I shall crave.
Send some announcer of the evil news
To Teucer, that he first may lift me up,
When I have fallen upon this reeking sword,
Lest ere he come some enemy should espy me
And cast me forth to dogs and birds a prey.
This, O Zeus, I entreat thee, and likewise call
On Hermes, guide to the Underworld, to lay me
Asleep without a struggle, at one swift bound,
When I have thrust my heart through with this sword.
Next I call on those maidens ever-living
And ever watchful of all human miseries,
The dread swift-striding Erinyes, that they mark
How by the Atreidae I have been destroyed:
And these vile men by a vile doom utterly
May they cut off, even as they see me here.
Come, O ye swift avenging Erinyes,
Spare not, touch with affliction the whole host.
And thou, whose chariot mounts up the steep sky,
Thou Sun, when on the land where I was born
Thou shalt look down, check thy gold-spangled rein,
And announce my disasters and my doom
To my aged sire and her who nurtured me.
She, woful woman, when she hears these tidings
Will wail out a loud dirge through all the town.
But I waste labour with this idle moan.
The act must now be done, and that with speed.
O Death, Death, come now and look upon me.-
No, 'tis there I shall meet and speak to thee.
But thee, bright daylight which I now behold,
And Helios in his chariot I accost
For this last time of all, and then no more.
O sunlight! O thou hallowed soil, my own
Salamis, stablished seat of my sire's hearth,
And famous Athens, with thy kindred race,
And you, ye springs and streams, and Trojan plains,
Farewell, all ye who have sustained my life.
This is the last word Ajax speaks to you.
All else in Hades to the dead will I say.
He falls on his sword. His body lies partially concealed by the underbrush. SEMI-CHORUS 1 enters.