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.
Take it, Nephew, and keep it safe. Let no one move you, but kneel there and cling to the dead. And you there, do not stand idly by like women, not men. Help defend us until I return, when I have seen to a grave for him, though all the world forbids it.
Which will be the last year? When will the sum of the years of our many wanderings stop bringing upon me the unending doom of toilful spear-battles
throughout broad Troy, the cause of sorrow and of shame for Greece?
If only that man had first passed into the depths of the sky or into Hades, the common home of all,
before he taught the Greeks the shared plague of Ares’ detested arms! Ah, those toils of his invention, which produced so many more toils! Look how that man has ravaged humanity!
No delight in garlands
or deep wine-cups did that man provide me, no sweet din of flutes, that miserable man, or pleasing rest in the night.
And from love—god!—from love he has totally barred me. Here I lie uncared for, while heavy dews constantly wet my hair,
damp reminders of joyless Troy.
In the past bold Ajax was always my bulwark against night’s terrors and flying missiles. But now he has become an offering consecrated
to a malignant divinity. What joy, then, what delight awaits me anymore? O to be where the wooded wave-washed cape fences off the deep sea,
to be beneath Sunium’s jutting plateau, so that we might salute sacred Athens!
Here I am! I hurried back when I saw the supreme commander, Agamemnon, rapidly approaching.
It is plain to me that he will let his clumsy tongue fly.
So it is you, they tell me, who dared open your mouth wide to make fierce threats against us—and are you still unpunished? Yes, I mean you—you, the captive slave’s son. No doubt if you were born from a noble mother,
your talk would reach the sky and you would proudly strut about, when now it is the case that, though you are a nobody and a nothing, you have stood up for this other nothing lying here, and have vowed that we came out with no authority either as admirals or as generals to rule the Greeks or you. No, as an autonomous ruler, you say, Ajax set sail.
Does it not shame me that I hear these proud words from slavish mouths? What was the man whom you shout about with such arrogance? Where did he advance, or where did he stand his ground, where I did not do the same? Have the Greeks, then, no other men but him? To our own harm, it seems, we announced
to the Greeks the contests for the arms of Achilles, if on all sides we are accounted corrupt because of Teucer, and if it will never satisfy you Salaminians, even when you are defeated, to accept the verdict which satisfied the majority of the judges. But instead you will always no doubt aim your slanderous arrows at us,
or treacherously lash at our backs when you fall behind us in the race. Yet in a place where such ways prevail, there could be no settled order for any law, if we are to thrust the rightful winners aside and bring those in the rear up to the front ranks.
These tendencies must be checked. It is not the stout, broad-shouldered men that are the steadiest allies. No, it is the wise who prevail in every engagement. A broad-backed ox is kept straight on the road all the same when only a small whip directs him.