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. Shall I leave my station at the ships and the Atreidae to their own devices in order to go home across the Aegean? And how shall I face my father Telamon, when I arrive? How will he bear to look on me, when I stand before him stripped, without that supreme prize of valor
  2. for which he himself won a great crown of fame? No, I could not bear to do it! But then shall I go against the bulwark of the Trojans, attacking alone in single combats and doing some valuable service, and finally die? But, in so doing I might, I think, gladden the Atreidae.
  3. That must not happen. Some enterprise must be sought whereby I may prove to my aged father that in nature, at least, his son is not gutless. It is a stain upon a man to crave the full term of life, when he finds no variation from his ignominious troubles.
  4. What joy is there in day following day, now advancing us towards, now drawing us back from the verge of death? I would not buy at any price the man who feels the glow of empty hopes.
  5. The options for a noble man are only two: either live with honor, or make a quick and honorable death. You have heard all.
Chorus
  1. No man shall say that you have spoken a bastard word, Ajax, or one not bred of your own heart. Yet at least pause; dismiss these thoughts, and grant friends the power to rule your purpose.
Tecmessa
  1. Ajax, my lord, the fortune that humans are compelled to endure is their gravest evil. I was the daughter of a free-born father mighty in wealth, if any Phrygian was. Now I am a slave, for somehow the gods so ordained,
  2. and even more so did your strong hand. Therefore, since I have come into your bed, I wish you well, and I do beg you, by the Zeus of our hearth, by your marriage-bed in which you coupled with me, do not condemn me to the cruel talk
  3. of your enemies, do not leave me to the hand of a stranger! On whatever day you die and widow me by your death, on that same day, be sure, I shall also be seized forcibly by the Greeks and, with your son, shall obtain a slave’s portion.
  4. Then one of my masters will name me bitterly, shooting me with taunts: See the concubine of Ajax, who was the mightiest man in the army. See what menial tasks she tends to, in place of such an enviable existence! Such things will men say, and so will destiny afflict me
  5. while the shame of these words will stain you and your family. Show respect to your father, whom you abandon in miserable old age, and respect your mother with her share of many years, who often prays to the gods that you may come home alive.
  6. Pity, too, my king, your son. Pity him the great sorrow which at your death you will bequeath both to him and to me, if robbed of nurturing care he must spend his days apart from you, an orphan tended by guardians who are neither family nor friends. I have nothing left to which I can look,
  7. save you, and you are the reason. Your spear ravaged my country to nothingness, and another fate has brought down my mother and father, giving them a home in Hades in their death. What homeland, then, could I have without you? What wealth? My welfare is entirely in your hands.
  8. So remember me, too. A true man should cherish remembrance, if anywhere he takes some pleasure. It is kindness that always begets kindness. But whoever lets the memory of benefits seep from him, he can no longer be a noble man.
Chorus
  1. Ajax, I wish that pity touched your heart as it does mine. Then you would approve her words.
Ajax
  1. She will have approval as far as I am concerned, if only she takes heart and graciously does my bidding.
Tecmessa
  1. Dear Ajax, I will obey you in everything.
Ajax
  1. Then bring me my son, so that I may see him.
Tecmessa
  1. But in my fear I released him from my keeping.
Ajax
  1. Because of these troubles of mine? Or what do you mean?