Ajax

Sophocles

Sophocles, creator; Sophocles the plays and fragments with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose Part 7 The Ajax; Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, 1841-1905, editor, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1893.

  1. Always, son of Laertes, have I observed you on the prowl to snatch some means of attack against your enemies. So now at the tent of Ajax by the ships where he has his post at the camp’s outer edge, I watch you
  2. for a long time as you hunt and scan his newly pressed tracks, in order to see whether he is inside or away. Your course leads you well to your goal, like that of a keen-scenting Laconian hound. For the man has just now gone in,
  3. with sweat dripping from his head and from his hands that have killed with the sword. There is no further need for you to peer inside these doors. Rather tell me what your goal is that you have shown such eagerness for, so that you may learn from her who holds the knowledge.
Odysseus
  1. Voice of Athena, dearest to me of the gods,
  2. how clearly, though you are unseen, do I hear your call and snatch its meaning in my mind, just as I would the bronze tongue of the Tyrrhenian trumpet! And now you have discerned correctly that I am circling my path on the track of a man who hates me, Ajax the shield-bearer.
  3. It is he and no other that I have been tracking so long. For tonight he has done us a deed beyond comprehension—if he is indeed the doer. We know nothing for certain, but drift in doubt. And so I of my of accord took up the burden of this search.
  4. For we recently found all the cattle, our plunder, dead—yes, slaughtered by human hand—and with them the guardians of the flocks. Now, all men lay responsibility for this crime to him. And further, a scout who had seen him
  5. bounding alone over the plain with a newly-wet sword reported to me and declared what he saw. Then immediately I rush upon his track, and sometimes I follow his signs, but sometimes I am bewildered, and cannot read whose they are. Your arrival is timely, for truly in all matters, both those of the past
  6. and those of the future, it is your hand that steers me.
Athena
  1. I know it, Odysseus, and some time ago I came on the path as a lookout friendly to your hunt.
Odysseus
  1. And so, dear mistress, do I toil to good effect?
Athena
  1. Know that that man is the doer of these deeds.
Odysseus
  1. Then to what end did he thrust his hand so senselessly?
Athena
  1. He was mad with anger over the arms of Achilles.
Odysseus
  1. Why, then, his onslaught upon the flocks?
Athena
  1. It was in your blood, he thought, that he was staining his hand.
Odysseus
  1. Then was this a plot aimed against the Greeks?
Athena
  1. Yes, and he would have accomplished it, too, had I not been attentive.
Odysseus
  1. And what reckless boldness was in his mind that he dared this?
Athena
  1. Under night’s cover he set out against you, by stealth and alone.