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. your self-taught dances. Now I want to dance. And may Apollo, lord of Delos, step over the Icarian sea
  2. and join me in his divine form, in eternal benevolence!
Chorus
  1. Ares has dispelled the cloud of fierce trouble from our eyes. Joy, joy! Now, Zeus, now can the white radiance of prosperous days approach
  2. our swift, sea-speeding ships, since Ajax forgets his pain anew, and has instead fully performed all prescribed sacrifices to the gods with worship and strict observance. The strong years make all things fade.
  3. And so I would not say that anything was beyond belief, when beyond our hopes, Ajax has been converted from his fury and mighty struggles against the Atreidae.
    Messenger
    1. Friends, my first news is this:
    2. Teucer has just now returned from the Mysian heights. He has come to the generals’ quarters mid-camp, and is being shouted at by all the Greeks at once. Recognizing him from a distance as he approached, they gathered around him
    3. and then pelted him with jeers from every side—no one held back—calling him the brother of the maniac, of the plotter against the army, and saying that he would not be able to avoid entirely losing flesh and life before their flying stones. In this way they had come to the point where swords
    4. had been plucked from sheaths and were drawn in their hands. But then the conflict, when it had nearly run its full course, was halted by the conciliatory words of the elders. But where shall I find Ajax, to tell him this? To our lord I must tell all.
    Chorus
    1. He is not inside, but is recently departed. He has yoked a new purpose to his new mood.
    Messenger
    1. No! Oh, no! Too late, then, was he who sent me on this errand, or I myself came too slowly.
    Chorus
    1. What is this urgent matter? What part of it has been neglected?
    Messenger
    1. Teucer declared that Ajax should not slip out of the house, until he himself arrives.
    Chorus
    1. Well, he is departed, I repeat, bent on the purpose that is best for him—to be rid of his anger at the gods.
    Messenger
    1. These words betray great foolishness, if there is any wisdom in the prophecies of Calchas.
    Chorus
    1. What does he prophesy? What knowledge of this affair do you bring?
    Messenger
    1. This much I know and witnessed on the spot. Leaving the royal circle of the chiefs who sat in council,
    2. Calchas separated himself from the Atreidae and put his right hand with all kindness into the hand of Teucer. The prophet then addressed him and strictly commanded him to use every possible resource to keep Ajax inside his tent for the duration of this day that now shines on us, and to prevent him from moving about
    3. if he wished ever to look on him alive. For this day alone will the anger of divine Athena lash at him. That was the prophet’s warning. Yes, the seer went on to explain, lives that have grown too proud and no longer yield good fall on grave difficulties sent from the gods,
    4. especially when someone born to man’s estate forgets that fact by thinking thoughts too high for man. And Ajax, even at the time he first set out from home, showed himself foolish, when his father advised him well. For Telamon told him, My son, seek victory in arms, but always seek it with the help of god. Then with a tall boast and foolishly he replied, Father, with the help of the gods even a worthless man might achieve victory; but I, even without that help, fully trust to bring that glory within my grasp.