For other English-language translations of this work, see Ajax (Sophocles).

This text is the heavily revised second edition of Plumptre's translation.

From the Preface: "I have indicated by brackets [] lines which are looked on by one or more critics of repute as spurious, and by an asterisk (*) the more prominent passages in which the text is so uncertain, or the construction so difficult, that the rendering must be looked on as, at best, somewhat uncertain." The line numbers at right refer to the Greek text, not to the translation.

See also the rhymed choral odes from this play in the Appendix



Aias, the son of Telamon and Eribœa, was mighty among the heroes whom Agamemnon led against Troia, giant-like in stature and in strength; and in the pride of his heart he waxed haughty, and scorned the help of the Gods, and turned away from Pallas Athena when she would have protected him, and so provoked her wrath. Now when Achilles died, and it was proclaimed that his armour should be given to the bravest and best of all the host, Aias claimed them as being indeed the worthiest, and as having rescued the corpse of Achilles from shameful wrong. But the armour (so Athena willed) was given by the chief of the Hellenes not to him but to Odysseus, and, being very wroth thereat, he sought to slay the Atreidæ who had so wronged him, and would have so done, had not Athena darkened his eyes, and turned him against the flocks and herds of the host.[1]

Dramatis Personæ.

Tecmessa, wife of Aias.
Teucros, half-brother of Aias.
Eurysakes, son of Aias.
Chorus of Sailors from Salamis.


SCENE—Tents of Aias on the shore, near Ilion; a low underwood in the background; and the sea seen in the distance.

Athena. [Speaking as from the sky, unseen by Odysseus.]
I see thee, son of Lartios, ever more
Seeking to seize some moment of attack
Against thy foes; and now, I find thee here,
Where by the ships the tents of Aias rise,
(His ranks the last in order,)[2] hunting out
And measuring the steps but newly stamped,
That thou may'st see if he is now within,
Or stays without. And thou art onward led,
As by the scent of keen Laconian hound;[3]
For there, within, the man may now be found,
With drops of sweat on head and slaughtering hands;10
And thou no longer needest so to peer
Within the gate; but tell me why thou show'st
Such zeal, that thou may'st learn from one who knows.

Odys. Ο voice, of all Divine Ones dear to me,
Athena's, clear, though Thou remain unseen,
I hear thy speech, and catch it in my soul
As though it were some bronze Tyrsenian[4] trump;
And now full clear Thou saw'st me wheeling round
My steps against a man I count my foe,
Aias, the bearer of the mighty shield.[5]
For he it is, and no one else, that I20
Long while have tracked; for he this very night
Hath wrought a work mysterious, if indeed
'Tis he hath done it, for as yet we know
Nought clearly, but are wandering in our search.
And I of my free will have yoked myself
To bear this toil; for 'twas but now we found
Our captured flocks destroyed, by man's hand slain,
And with them too the guardians of the herd;
And every one imputes the deed to him;
And then a scout, who saw him there alone,
The fields o'erleaping with a blood-stained sword,30
Told me, and showed it all. And I forthwith
Rush on his track; and now in part I guess
By signs and tokens, and in part am struck
With sore amaze, and learn not where he is.
And now Thou comest here most seasonably,
For I, in all things past or yet to come,
Am guided by the wisdom of thine hand.

Athena. I knew it, Ο Odysseus, and I came,
Long since, a ready helper in thy hunt.

Odys. And I, dear Mistress, do I toil aright?

Athena. Know this, the deeds were done by this man's hand.

Odys. To what rash purpose stretched he forth his hand?40

Athena. Vexed sore about the great Achilles' arms.

Odys. But why this raid upon our flocks and herds?

Athena. He thinks it is your blood that stains his hand.

Odys. What? Was his purpose against Argives aimed?

Athena. And he had done it, had I failed to watch.

Odys. Whence came this daring mood, this rashness wild?

Athena. 'Gainst you, by night, alone, with guile he sallies.

Odys. What? Did he come, and reach his destined spot?

Athena. Yea, at the gates of the two chiefs he stood.

Odys. And what restrained the hand that craved for blood?50

Athena. I held him back from that accursed joy,
Casting strange glamour o'er his wandering eyes,
And turned him on the flocks, and where with them
The herds of captured oxen press in crowds,
Not yet divided. And on these he falls,
And wrought fell slaughter of the horned kine,
Smiting all round; and now it seemed to him
That he did slay the Atreidæ with his hand,
Now this, now that, of other generals.
And I still urged the wild and moon-struck man
With fresh access of madness, and I cast
An evil net around him. After this,60
When he had ceased that slaughter, binding fast
The oxen that still lived, and all the flocks,
He leads them to his dwelling, counting them
No troop of horned cattle, but of men;
And now within he flouts his prisoners.
And I will show thee this disease full clear,
That thou may'st see and tell the Argives all.
But stay thou here, and fear not; think thou not
The man will prove an evil chance to thee;
For I will turn his eyes' clear sight aside,70
And keep them back from looking on thy face.
Ho there, [To Aias,] I bid thee come, who bindest now
The captive bands with fetters. Thee I call,
Ο Aias: forward, to thy dwelling's front.

Odys. What dost thou, Ο Athena? Call him not.

Athena. Wilt not be still, and 'scape the coward's shame?

Odys. Nay, by the Gods! but let him stay within.

Athena. What dost thou fear? Was he not strong before?

Odys. Always my foe, and more so now than ever.

Athena. Is it not sweetest scorn to scorn our foes?

Odys. Enough for me that this man stays within.80

Athena. Dost fear so much to see a madman's face?

Odys. Nay, were he sane, I should not shun him then.

Athena. Though thou be near, he will not see thee now.

Odys. How so, if he the same eyes has to see?

Athena. Know, I will darken even clearest eyes.

Odys. When a God worketh, all is possible.

Athena. Hush, then, and stay where now thou tak'st thy stand.

Odys. I'll stay then; yet I fain would be away.

Athena. [To Aias.] Ho, there, Ο Aias, once again I call.
Why honourest thou so little thine ally?90

Enter Aias from his tent, with a blood-stained scourge in his hand.

Aias. Hail, Ο Athena, hail, Ο child of Zeus!
Well art Thou come, and I with golden spoils
Will deck thy shrine for this my glorious raid.

Athena. Thou speakest well. But tell me this, I pray,
Is thy sword red with blood of Argive host?

Aias. Well may I boast, and I deny it not.

Athena. Did'st thou against the Atreidæ arm thy hand?

Aias. Yea. Nevermore shall they do Aias wrong.

Athena. The men are dead, if I thy meaning catch.

Aias. Yea, dead; now let them carry off my arms.100

Athena. So be it; but that son of Lartios,
What is his plight? Has he escaped thy hand?

Aias. That scoundrel fox! Dost ask me where he is?

Athena. E'en so. I mean Odysseus, thy chief foe.

Aias. He, Ο my Mistress, sits a prisoner there,
My choicest spoil. I seek not yet his death.

Athena. What wilt thou do first, what advantage gain?

Aias. First he, bound to the pillar in the court. . . .

Athena. What ill wilt thou on that poor wretch inflict?

Aias. . . . His back all bleeding with the scourge, shall die.110

Athena. Do not, I pray, such outrage wreak on him.

Aias. In other things, Athena, have thy way:
But he this penalty, nought else, shall pay.

Athena. Since this thy joy then, to it with a will:
Spare not a jot of all thy soul desires.

Aias. I go to work. And Thou, I charge Thee, still
Be with me, helper true, as now Thou art.

[Goes back to his tent.

Athena. Thou see'st, Odysseus, all the might of Gods,
How great it is. Whom found'st thou than this man
With keener foresight, or with better gifts,
To do what seemed most fitting for the time?120

Odys. I know of no man, and I pity him,
So wretched now, although mine enemy,
So tied and harnessed to an evil fate,
And thinking that it touches me as well;
For this I see, that we, all we that live,
Are but vain phantoms, shadows fleeting fast.

Athena. Do thou, then, seeing this, refrain thy tongue
From any lofty speech against the Gods,
Nor boast thyself, though thou excel in strength
Or weight of stored-up wealth. All human things130
A day lays low, a day lifts up again;
But still the Gods love those of ordered soul,
And hate the evil.

Chor. I am full glad, Ο son of Telamon,[6]
Whose island home is sea-girt Salamis,
When all is well with thee;
But when the stroke of Zeus, or evil speech
Of all the Danai comes on thee full fierce,
Then have I great dismay,
And, like a fluttering dove, look on in fear;140
For lo! this night just o'er,
Great clamours vex our souls,
Sprung from the evil bruit
That thou, upon the plain where all our steeds
Leap wildly to and fro,
Rushing, hast slain the Danai's spoil of flocks,
All that was left them, taken by the spear,
With sharp and glittering steel.
Such whispered words of guile
Odysseus into all men's ears doth pour,
And men believe his speech;150
For now he speaks what is too credible,
And he who hears rejoiceth more and more
[Than he who told the tale,]
Mocking at these thy woes.
For if one take his aim at lofty souls
He scarce can miss his mark;
But one who should at me his slander dart,
Would fail to gain belief;
For envy ever dogs the great man's steps;
Yet men of low estate,
Apart from mightier ones,
Are but poor towers of strength.
Still with the great the mean man prospers best,160
And by the small the great maintains his cause;
But those, the fools and blind,
'Tis vain to teach by words.
By such as these thou art beclamoured now,
And we can nought avail,
Apart from thee, Ο king, to ward the blow.
But, since they dread thine eye, like wild birds' flock
Fluttered with fear at sight of eagle strong,
Perchance, should'st thou confront them suddenly,
They, hushed and dumb, would crouch.170


Was it that Artemis, the child of Zeus,[7]
Before whose Tauric altar bleed the bulls,
(O rumour terrible! Ο source of shame!)
Had sped thee forth against the people's herds,
The oxen, shared of all?
Was it for victory that brought no fruit?
Or was She robbed of glorious spoils of war?
Was it for stricken deer
She gained no votive gifts?
Or Enyalios,[8] in his coat of mail,
Did he find cause of blame,
As sharing war with thee,
And so revenged his wrong180
In stratagems of night?


For never yet, Ο son of Telamon,
Had'st thou so wandered from thy reason's path,
Falling on flocks and herds;
By will of Gods, perchance, the evil comes;
But, Zeus and Phœbos, turn,
Turn ye aside the Argives' tale of shame!
But if the mighty kings with subtle craft
Forge idle tales of thee,
Or he who draws his birth
From that pernicious stock of Sisyphos,[9]
Bear not, oh, bear not, king,
That tale of foulest shame,
Still looking idly thus
Upon thy sea-washed tents.190


But rise from this thy seat, where all too long
*Thou stay'st, in rest that brings the ills of strife,
Fresh kindling Heaven's fierce wrath;
And so the haughtiness of those thy foes
Speeds on unshrinking as in forest glades
Where the wind gently blows,
While all, with chattering tongues,
Speak words of woe and shame,
And sorrow dwells with me.200

Enter Tecmessa from the tent.

Tec. Ο ye who comrades sailed in Aias' ship,
Sprung from the ancient race
Who claim the old Erectheus as their sire,[10]
We, who afar from home
Watch over him, yon child of Telamon,
Have sorrows in good store;
For now the dread, the great, the mighty one,
Aias, with tempest wild, lies smitten sore.

Chor. What change hath night then brought
*From fair and prosperous state?210
Child of Teleutas old, of Phrygia,
Speak thou, and tell thy tale;
For mighty Aias loves and honours thee,
His captive and his bride:
Thou wilt not speak as one that knoweth not.

Tec. How shall I speak what is unspeakable?
For thou wilt learn a sorrow sharp as death:
Our Aias, noble, brave,
His soul to madness stung,
Was brought to shame this night.
Such slaughter wrought by him,
His victims dripping blood,
May'st thou behold i' the tent.220

Chor. Ah, what the news thou bring'st
Of him the fiery one,
Intolerable, and yet inevitable,
By the great Danai's chiefs spread far and wide,
Which rumour magnifies.
Ah me! the fate that cometh on I fear;
Our chief will die the gazing-stock of all,
Having, with frenzied hand
And dark and glittering sword,230
Slaughtered the oxen's herd
And those that kept the steeds.

Tec. Ah me! Thence, thence he came,
Bringing the flock in chains;
Of part upon the ground he cut the throats,
Part asunder he smote,
Through the chine cleaving them:
And taking two white-footed rams,
From one he cuts the head,
And tears out its tongue from the roots;
And one to a column he binds,240
And seizing a driver's rein,
He smites with shrill re-echoing, doubled thong,
Venting vile words of shame,
Which God, not man, had taught.

Chor. Now is it time one should hide
One's face in the shrouding veil,
And stealthily creep out of sight,
Or sitting on swift rower's bench,250
Give way to the sea-crossing ship;
Such are the threats the Atreidæ ply in their wrath,
And I fear, lest smitten with him,
Whom a terrible fate holds fast,
I suffer, like him, stoned to death.

Tec. 'Tis so no more; for like the wild south-west,
Without the lightning's flash,
He now is lulled to rest;
And now, in his right mind,
New form of grief is his;
For to look out on ills that are one's own,260
In which another's hand has had no share,
This bringeth sharpest woe.

Chor. If he has rest he sure will prosper well.
Slight count we make of ills already gone.

Tec. Which would'st thou choose, if one should give thee choice,
Or vexing friends, thyself to feel delight,
Or sharing common griefs to mourn with them?

Chor. The double evil, lady, is the worse.

Tec. We then, though mad no longer, suffer more.

Chor. How say'st thou this? I know not what thou say'st.270

Tec. That man, when he was in his dire disease,
Himself rejoiced in all the ills he did,
But vexed our souls that reason still obeyed;
But now, when lulled and calmed from that attack,
He is sore haunted with a troublous grief,
And we with him are suffering nothing less.
Have we not here a twofold ill for one?

Chor. I own it also, and I fear lest stroke
Smite him from God. How else, if he, though cured,
Is just as far from joy as when diseased?280

Tec. So stands it, and 'tis right that thou should'st know.

Chor. How did the evil first swoop down on him?
Tell it to us who grieve at thy mischance.

Tec. Thou shalt learn all, as one who shares our woe;
For he, at dead of night, when evening's lamps
No longer burnt, his two-edged sword in hand,
Sought to go out along the lonely paths;
And 1 rebuke him, saying, "What is this
Thou dost, Ο Aias? Why unbidden go
On this emprise, nor by the heralds called,
Nor hearing voice of trump? Lo! all the host290
Is sleeping sound." And he, with fewest words,
The well-worn saw, made answer, "Woman, know
That silence is a woman's noblest part."
And, heaving this, I ceased. Then he alone
Rushed forth, and what passed there I cannot tell:
But then he came within, and brought with him
Oxen, and shepherd-dogs, and fleecy flocks.
Some he beheaded, some he clove in twain,
Cutting their throats, and some, fast bound in chains,
He mocked, as they were men, upon the flocks
Venting his fury; and, at last, he rushed300
Out through the door, and with a phantom there
He bandied words, against the Atreidæ some,
And some against Odysseus, laughing much
That he had paid them to the full in scorn;
And thence once more within the tent he leapt,
And, long while after, scarce regains his sense.
And when he saw the tent with slaughter filled,
He smote his head and groaned: and, falling down,
He sat among the fallen carcases
Of that great slaughter of the flocks and herds,
Tearing his hair by handfuls with his nails.310
And for a long, long time, he speechless sat;
And then with those dread words he threatened me,
Unless I told him all the woeful chance,
And asked me of the plight in which he stood;
And I, my friends, in terror told him all,
All that I knew of all that he had done.
And he forthwith cried out a bitter cry,
Such as till now I never heard from him;
For ever did he hold such loud lament,
Sure sign of one with coward heart and base;320
And holding back from shrill and wailing cries,
Would groan with deep, low muttering, like a bull:
But now, thus fallen on an evil chance,
Tasting nor food, nor drink, among the herds
Slain with the sword, he sits in silent calm,
And looks like one on some dire mischief bent.
[Such are the words he utters, such his grief.]
But ye, my friends, (for therefore came I forth,)
Come in, and give us help, if help ye can,
For men like him still yield to words of friends.3300

Chor. Dread things, Tecmessa, old Teleutas' child,
Thou tell'st us, that our chief is mad with woe.

Aias. [Within the tent.] Woe, woe is me!

Tec. Yet more, 'twould seem; or heard ye not the cry
Which Aias just now uttered?

Aias. [Within.] Woe is me!

Chor. Our chief, it seems, is either frenzied now,
Or grieving o'er the frenzies of the past.

Aias. [Within.] My son, my son!

Tec. Ah wretched me! he calls, Eurysakes,340
For thee. What means he? Where art thou? Ah me!

Aias. [Within.] I call for Teucros. Will he evermore
Go forth to spoil while I am perishing?

Chor. He now seems calm enough. But ope the door;
Perchance some sense of shame may come on him,
Seeing even me.

Tec. [Throwing the tent door open, and disclosing
Aias sitting with carcases of sheep and oxen
round him.] Behold I open it,
And thou may'st see his deeds, and how he fares.

Aias. Ah, sailor friends! alone of all my friends,
Alone abiding in your steadfast law,350
Behold how great a surge of blood-flecked foam
Now whirls around me.

Chor. [To Tecmessa.] Ah me! Thou dost too true a witness bear:
His deeds show clearly that his sense is gone.

Aias, Ο race, well versed in all the sailor's art,
Who camest, plying still the seaman's oar,
Thee, thee alone I see as help in grief;360
Yet . . . . kill me, kill, I pray.

Chor. Hush! speak not so, nor, curing ill with ill,
Make sorrow's weight yet greater than it is.

Aias. Me, the bold, the brave-hearted,
Fearless in fight with the foe,
Thou see'st me show the prowess of mine hand
On beasts unformidable.
Ah! woe is me for the shame,
The scorn that falls on me.

Tec. Ah, my lord Aias, speak not thus, I pray.

Aias. Away with thee! What? Wilt thou not withdraw?370
Ai! ai!

Tec. Oh! by the Gods, give way, and be advised.

Aias. Ah! woe is me, who let the cursed ones
Slip from my hands, and falling on the herds
Of horned oxen, and those noble flocks,
Shed their dark gore.

Chor. Why dost thou grieve at what is gone and past?
These things are so, and cannot be undone.

Aias. Ο thou whose eye sees all things evermore,
Tool of all evil, child of Lartios,380
Of all the host the foulest scoundrel-knave,
Surely thou laughest much in thy delight.

Chor. It is through God that man or laughs or mourns.

Aias. Would I could see him, smitten as I am.
Ah me! ah me!

Chor. Speak nothing vauntingly.
Dost thou not see what evil plight thou'rt in?

Aias. Ο Zeus! great Father of my sires of old,[11]
Would that I might destroy
That crafty, scoundrel foe,
And those two kings that reign in partnership,390
And then myself might die.

Tec. When thou pray'st this, pray that I die with thee:
What profits it to live, when thou art dead?

Aias. Ο dark, that art my light,
Ο gloom to me most clear,
Take me, yea, take me as your habitant:
Take me, for neither to the race of Gods,
Nor yet of men enduring but a day
Can I, as worthy, look400
For any help in need.
But She, the child of Zeus,
Goddess of mightiest power,
Mocks at me unto death;
Where from her presence 'scape,
Where wandering shall I dwell?
*Ah, friends! if all things fail,
*For me, and those most near,
And we a dream pursue,
Then should the host, as spear by both hands swayed,
Smite me with one fell stroke.

Tec. Ah! wretched me! that one so good should speak410
Such words, which once he had not dared to think!

Aias. Ο ye paths of the wave!
Ο ye caves by the sea!
Ο thou glade by the shore!
Long time, long time my feet
On Troïa's soil ye kept;
But never, never more
Breathing the breath of life;
Let the wise hear and heed.
Ο streams, Scamandros' streams
Hard by, to Argives kind,420
Never again shall ye see
This man who calls to you now,
Like whom . . . (though great the vaunt,
Yet will I speak it out)
In all the army that from Hellas came,
Troïa no hero found:
Yet now I lie in this dishonoured plight.

Chor. I know not how to check thee in thy speech,
Nor yet permit it, whelmed in ills like these.

Aias. Ai! ai! who e'er had dreamt my name should be430
So clear a sign and symbol for my woe?[12]
For now 'tis mine to groan this "Ai, ai" forth,
Twice, yea, and thrice, such ills have come on me,
Whose father, head of all the conquering host,
Brought the chief trophies from fair Ida's shore,
And home returned, with highest glory crowned;
And I, his son, to that same Troïa come
With no less power, nor working with my hands
Less mighty deeds, am left to perish here,
Dishonoured by the Argives: yet I think440
I know thus much, that had Achilles lived
To give his arms as prize of valiant deeds,
No one would then have seized them in my stead.
But now the Atreidæ got them for a man
Crafty in soul, and this my strength despised;
And were it not my eyes and mind had rushed
Wildly away from will, they had not lived
To give their votes against another man.
But now the virgin child of Zeus, with eyes
Of fearful brightness, when I stretched my hands450
Against them, sent a frenzied madness on me,
So that I stained my hands with these poor beasts;
And they, escaped in safety, mock at me:
Not with my will was this, but if a God
Should smite, the worse may 'scape the better man.
And now what course is right for me, to whom
The Gods are clearly foes, and all the host
Of Hellas hates me, and these outspread plains
And Troïa are mine enemies? Shall I,
Quitting my seat and sea-side anchorage,
Leave the Atreidæ by themselves alone,460
And cross the Ægæan waters to my home?
But then, how shall I look him in the face,
My father Telamon? How will he bear
To see me stript, without my valour's prize,
When he himself won glory's noblest crown?
That shame is past all bearing. Shall I go
Against the Troïans' fort, and fighting there,
Alone with them alone, do some brave deed,
And then at last gain death? But thus should I
Gladden my foes, the Atreidæ. Nay, not so:
I must seek out some perilous emprise,470
To show my father that I sprang from him,
In nature not faint-hearted. It is shame
For any man to wish for length of life,
Who, wrapt in troubles, knows no change for good.
For what delight brings day still following day,
Or bringing on, or putting off our death?
I would not rate that man as worth regard
Whose fervour glows on vain and empty hopes:
But either noble life or noble death
Becomes the gently born. My say is said.480

Chor. And none will say, Ο Aias, that thou speak'st
As one who talks by rote, but from thine heart:
Yet cease, we pray thee; leave such thoughts as these,
And let thy friends control thy soul's resolve.

Tec. My master Aias, greater ill is none
To mortals given than lot of servitude;
And I was sprung from free-born father, strong,
If any was in Phrygia, in his wealth:
And now I am a slave, for so it pleased
The Gods and thy right hand; and therefore, since490
I share thy bed, I care for thee and thine.
And now I pray, by Zeus who guards our hearth,
And by the couch where thou hast slept with me,
Deem it not right, in bondage leaving me,
That I should hear hard words from those thy foes;
For should'st thou die, and dying leave me lone,
Be sure that I upon that self-same day,
Dragged by the Argives with a harsh constraint,
With this thy son must eat a bond-slave's bread;
And some one of my masters bitter words500
Will speak with scorn,—"Behold the concubine
Of Aias who excelled the host in might!
What bondage now she bears, in place of lot
That all did envy!" This will some one say,
And Fate pursue me, while for thee and thine
Are basest words like these. For very shame
Leave not thy father in his sad old age;
For shame leave not thy mother, feeble grown
With many years, who ofttimes prays the Gods
That thou may'st live and to thy home return:
Pity, Ο king, thy boy, and think if he,510
Deprived of childhood's nurture, live bereaved,
Beneath unfriendly guardians, what sore grief
Thou, in thy death, dost give to him and me;
For I have nothing now on earth save thee
To which to look; for thou hast swept away
My country with thy spear, and other fate
Has taken both my mother and my sire
To dwell, as dead, in Hades. What to me
Were country in thy stead, or what were wealth?
For I in thee find all deliverance.
Yea, think of me too. Still the good man feels,520
Or ought to feel, the memory of delight;
For gracious favours still do favour win;
But if a man forget the good received,
His soul no more wears stamp of gentle birth.

Chor. I would, Ο Aias, thou could'st pity feel,
As I do. Then would'st thou approve her words.

Aias. Great praise shall she have from me, if she dare
Fully to do the task appointed her.

Tec. Lo! Aias dear, I will obey in all.

Aias. Bring then thy child to me that I may see him.530

Tec. In very fear but now I sent him forth.

Aias. In these late troubles? Or what meanest thou?

Tec. Lest he, poor child, should meet with thee and die.

Aias. That would have been fit pastime for my Fate.

Tec. But I took care against that fate to guard.

Aias. I praise thy deed, and prudence which thou showed'st.

Tec. What service then could I next render thee?

Aias. Give me to speak with him, and look on him.

Tec. He is hard by, in our attendants' care.

Aias. Why this delay? Why comes he not at once?540

Tec. Ho, boy! Thy father calls. Come hither, thou,
Who chancest now to guide him with thy hands.

Aias. Speak'st thou to one who comes, or fails to hear?

Tec. Behold, this servant brings him in to thee.

Enter Attendant, bringing Eurysakes.

Aias. Lift him, then, lift him here. He will not shrink,
Beholding all this slaughter newly wrought,
If he be rightly named his father's son:
But we to these his father's savage ways
Must break him in, and make him like in soul.
Ο boy, may'st thou be happier than thy sire,550
In all things else be like him. And not bad
Would'st thou be then. And yet thy lot e'en now
Doth move my envy, that thou feelest nought
Of all these evils. Sweetest life is found
In those unconscious years ere yet thou know
Or joy or sorrow. When thou com'st to this,
Then thou must show thy breeding to thy foes,
What son of what a father: but till then,
In gentle breezes grow, and rear thy life
A joy to this thy mother. And I know
That none of all the Achæan host will dare560
Insult thee with foul scorn, though I be gone;
Such a stout guardian will I leave for thee
In Teucros, still unsparing for thy need,
Though now far off he hunts our enemies.
And ye, who bear the shield, my sailor band,
On you in common this request I lay;
Give him this message from me, home to take
This boy, and show him there to Telamon,
And to my mother, Eribœa named,
That he may feed their age for evermore,570
[Till they too enter the abode of Death;]
And these my arms no umpires—no, nor yet
That plague of mine—shall to Achæans give;
But thou, my son, Eurysakes, be true
To that thy name, and holding by the belt
Well wrought, bear thou the sevenfold shield unhurt;
But all my other arms with me shall lie
Entombed. And now, take thou this boy indoors
And close the tent, and shed no wailing tears
Here in the front. A woman still must weep.580
Close up the opening quickly: skilful leech
Mutters no spell o'er sore that needs the knife.

Chor. I tremble as I hear thy eagerness;
For I like not this sharp, keen-whetted speech.

Tec. Ah! Aias, lord, what deed dost thou intend?

Aias. Ask not; inquire not. Self-command is good.

Tec. Ah! my heart fails me. Now, by this thy son,
And all the Gods, I pray thee, leave us not.

Aias. Thou vexest me too much. What? Know'st thou not
That I no more am debtor to the Gods590
That I should do them service?

Tec. Hush! oh, hush!

Aias. Speak thou to those that hear thee.

Tec. Wilt not thou
Be soothed, and hearken?

Aias. Thou dost speak too much.

Tec. Yea, for I fear, Ο prince.

Aias. Quick! lead her in.

[Sailors take Tecmessa, Eurysakes, and the
Attendant to the women's tent.

Tec. [From the tent.] Oh, by the Gods, relent thou.

Aias. Thou dost seem
A foolish thing to purpose, if thou think'st
At such a time as this to school my mood.

[Exit, into his tent.

Stroph. I.

Chor. Ο glorious Salamis!
Thou dwellest, blest within thy sea-girt shores,
Admired of all men still;
While I, poor fool, long since abiding here600
*In Ida's grassy mead,
*Winter and summer too,
*Dwell, worn with woe, through months innumerable,
Still brooding o'er the fear of evil things,
That I ere long shall pass
To shades of Hades terrible and dread.

Antistroph. I.

And now our Aias comes,
Fresh troubler, hard to heal, (ah me! ah me!)610
And dwells with madness sore,
Which God inflicts; him thou of old did'st send
Mighty in battle fierce;
But now in lonely woe
Wandering, great sorrow he to friends is found,
And the high deeds of worthiest praise of old,
Loveless to loveless souls,
Are with the Atreidæ fallen, fallen low.620

Stroph. II.

And, lo! his mother, worn with length of days,
And white with hoary age,
When she shall hear his frenzied soul's disease,
With wailing, wailing loud,
Will she, ill-starred one, cry, nor pour the strain
Of nightingale's sad song,
But shriller notes will utter in lament,630
And on her breast will fall
The smiting of her hands,
And fearful tearing of her hoary hair.

Antistroph. II.

For better would he fare in Hades dread,
Who liveth sick in soul,
Who, springing from the noblest hero-stock
Of all the Achæans strong,
Abides no longer in his native mood,
But wanders far astray.640
Ο wretched father, what a weight of woe,
Thy son's, hast thou to learn,
Which none else yet has borne,
Of all the high Zeus-sprung Æacidæ.

Enter Aias from his tent, with his sword.

Aias. Time in its long, long course immeasurable,
Both brings to light all hidden things, and hides
What once was seen; and nothing is there strange
We may not look for: even dreadest oaths
And firm resolves must yield themselves to him.650
So I, who for a while was stern and hard,
Like steel, oil-dipped, am womanised in tone,
Moved by my wife's fond prayers, whom I am loth
To leave a widow with her orphaned child
Among my foes. But now I go to bathe
Where the fair meadows slope along the shore,
That having washed away my stains of guilt,
I may avert the Goddess's dire wrath;
And, going where I find a spot untracked
By human foot, may bury this my sword,
Weapon most hateful, digging up the earth
Where none may see it; but let Hades dark660
And Night watch o'er it. For from that same hour
When I received it at great Hector's hands,
A gift most deadly, never kindly word
Had I from any Argive; and most true
Is found the proverb that one hears men say—
"A foe's gifts are as no gifts, profitless."
So for the future we shall know to yield
Our will to God's, shall learn to reverence
The Atreidæ even. They our rulers are,
And we must yield. Why not? The strongest things
That fright the soul still yield to sovereignty.
Winters with all their snow-drifts still withdraw670
For summer with its fruits; and night's dark orb
Moves on that day may kindle up its fires,
Day with its chariot drawn by whitest sieeds;
And blast of dreadest winds will lull to rest
The groaning ocean; and all-conquering sleep
Now binds, now frees, and does not hold for aye
Whom once it seized. And shall not we too learn
Our lesson of true wisdom? I, indeed,
Have learnt but now that we should hate a foe
Only so far as one that yet may love,680
And to a friend just so much help I'll give
As unto one that will not always stay;
For with most men is friendship's haven found
Most treacherous refuge. But in this our need
All shall be well, and thou, Ο woman, go
Within, and pray the Gods to grant in full
What my heart craves for. And do ye, my friends,
Pay her the self-same honour as to me,
And charge ye Teucros, should he come, to care
For me, and show a kindly heart to you.
For now I go the journey I must take;690
And ye, do what I bid you, and perchance
Ye soon may hear of me, though now my fate
Is evil, as delivered from all ill.[Exit.


Chor. I thrill with eager desire, I leap for gladness of heart,
Io, Io, Ο Pan![13]
Ο Pan! Ο Pan! Ο Pan!
Pan that walketh the waves,
Come from the snow-beaten heights
From Kyllene's mountainous ridge.
Come, Ο my king, that leadest the dance of the Gods,
That thou with me may'st thread
The dance of windings wild,
Nysian, or Knossian named;[14]700
For now I needs must dance for very joy.
And King Apollo, o'er Icarian waves,
Coming, the Delian God,
In presence manifest,
May He be with me gracious evermore.


And Ares, too, hath loosed the dark calamitous spell
From off these eyes of ours:
Io, and Io still,
Once more, and yet once more.
And now, Ο Zeus, again
A day clear, cloudless, fair,
May dawn upon our ships o'er waves swift-speeding;710
For Aias rests from grief,
And now with awe profound,
Duly worships the Gods
With meetest sacrifice.
Time, with great changes, bringeth all things low,
And never shall the word "impossible"
Pass from my lips, since now
Aias from wrath hath turned,
And the hot mood that 'gainst the Atreidæ raged.

Enter Messenger.

Mess. I wish, my friends, to tell my good news first:
Teucros is come but now from Mysian crags,720
And coming where the generals all were met,
From all the Argive host foul speech he hears;
For hearing of his coming from afar,
Gathering around him at his head they hurled
Their words of scorn, here, there, and everywhere,
Calling him brother of the madman, kin
Of him who laid his plans against the host,
And threatening that he should not save himself
From falling, bruised and mangled, stoned to death.730
So far they went that even swords were drawn
Forth from their scabbards, and were crossed in fight;
And when the strife had reached its furthest bounds,
It ceased with calmer speech of aged men.
But where is Aias that he too may hear?
'Tis right to tell our masters all the truth.

Chor. He is not there within, but now is gone,
Changed counsels forming for his changing mood.

Mess. Ah me! Or he who sent me on my way,
Sent me too late, or I too late have come.

Chor. What then is lacking in thy business here?740

Mess. Teucros forbade our chief to pass outside
His tent, till he himself were present here.

Chor. But he is gone, to best of tempers turned,
That he may 'scape the anger of the Gods.

Mess. These words of thine are full of foolishness,
If Calchas be a prophet wise and true.

Chor. What meanest thou? What know'st thou of all these things?

Mess. Thus much I know, and chanced, being there, to hear;
For from the council where the rulers sat,
Calchas alone, withdrawing from the Atreidæ,750
His right hand placing with all kindliness
In Teucros' hand, urged him by every art,
For this one day, this very day, to keep
Our Aias in his tent, nor let him go,
If he desired to see him yet alive;
For that on this day only, so he spake,
Athena's wrath would vex him. For the seer
Said that the over-proud and foolish ones
Fall into sore misfortunes from the Gods,
When one, who draws his life from human birth,
Then thinks and feels as he were more than man.760
And he, when starting hither from his home,
Showed himself foolish son of prudent sire;
For thus he bade him: "With thy spear, my son,
Strive thou to win, but win with help of God!"
And he replied, in foolish, vaunting speech,
"My father, with God's help, a man of nought
Might victory win; but I, I trust, shall grasp
Without their aid that glory for myself."
Such boast he uttered; and a second time,770
When great Athena urged him to the fight,
And bade him turn his hand against his foes,
He answered her with words one fears to speak:
"O queen, stand thou the other Argives near;
The tide of battle will not sweep us down."
With words like these, not thinking as a man
Should think, he roused the Goddess to fierce wrath;
But if he lives this day, with help of God,
We might be his deliverers. Thus the seer780
Spake, and then Teucros gives me this command
For thee to keep. But if we miss our mark,
Our lord is lost, or Calchas is not wise.

Chor. Ah, poor Tecmessa! child of misery,
Come thou, and hear what words are these he speaks;
The knife has touched the quick, and joy is gone.

Enter Tecmessa from the tent, with Eurysakes.

Tec. Why rouse ye me, so lately freed from woe,
Woe very grievous, once again to grieve?

Chor. Hear thou this man, who now has tidings brought
About our Aias, which I grieve to hear.790

Tec. Ah me! Ο man, what say'st thou? Are we lost?

Mess. Of thy estate I know not, but for him
I have small hope, if he is not within.

Tec. Within he is not; so thy words bring woe.

Mess. Teucros doth bid thee keep thy husband safe
Within his tent, nor let him forth alone.

Tec. And where is Teucros? Why does he say this?

Mess. He has but just now come, and says he fears
Lest this departure bring to Aias death.

Tec. Woe, woe is me! From whom did he learn this?

Mess. From Thestor's son, the seer, who says this day,800
This very day, brings life or death to him.

Tec. Ah, friends, come help me in my low estate,
And hasten, some, to bring me Teucros here;
Some seek the western bays, and some the east;
Go ye, and search the wanderings of my lord,
So fraught with evil. Well I see it now,
My husband tricked me, and has cast me out
From all his old affection. Ah, my son!
What shall we do? We must not linger here,
But I will onward with all strength I have.810
On, hasten we; no time for loitering this,
[Wishing to save a man so bent on death.]

Chor. Full ready I, and not in words alone:
Swift action and swift feet shall go with them.

[Exeunt Tecmessa, Messenger, and Chorus.

Aias is seen in the distance by the sea-shore, fixing his sword in the ground.

Aias. The slayer stands where sharpest it will pierce,—
If one had time to think of that,—the gift
Of Hector, whom of all men most I loathed,
And found most hostile. And in Troïa's soil,820
Soil of our foes, it stands with sharpened edge,
Fresh whetted with the stone that wears the steel;
And I have fixed it carefully and well
Where most it favours speedy death for him
Who standeth here. So far, so good: and first,
Ο Zeus, (for this is right,) be kind to me.
I ask but this, (no mighty boon, I trow,)
Send some one as a messenger to bear
The evil news to Teucros, that he first
May lift my corpse, by this sharp sword transfixed,
And that I may not, seen by any foe,
Before he see me, be to dogs and birds830
Foully cast forth, their quarry and their spoil;
So much, Ο Zeus, I ask Thee; and I call
With Thee, great Hermes, guide of all the dead,
And dweller in the dark, to close mine eyes
Kindly, with one swift, unconvulsive spring
Piercing my heart with this same sword of mine;
And those, the Ever-virgin Ones, I call,
Erinnyes dread that see all human deeds,
Swift-footed, that they mark how I am slain
By yon Atreidæ; may they seize on them,
Doers of evil, with all evil plagues
And uttermost destruction, as they now
See me destroyed [with suicidal hand,840
So let them fall by dearest kindred slain.]
Come swift Erinnyes, vengeful, glut yourselves
(Yea, spare them not,) upon the host they rule.
Thou Sun, whose chariot in the heaven's high path
Rides on in glory, when Thou see'st the land
Owned by my fathers, draw thy golden reins,
And tell all these my sorrows, and my doom,
To mine old father, and my mother lorn;
Ah! when she hears, poor wretch, the evil news850
Through all the city, great and bitter cries
Will issue from her lips. But not for me
Is time for vain lament. The work must now
Begin more swiftly. Come, and look on me,
Ο Death, Ο Death!—and yet in yonder world
I shall dwell with thee, speak enough with thee;
And Thee I call, thou light of golden day,
Thou Sun, who drivest on thy glorious car,
Thee, for this last time, never more again.
Ο Light, Ο sacred land that was my home;
Ο Salamis, where stands my father's hearth,860
Thou glorious Athens, with thy kindred race;
Ye streams and rivers here, and Troïa's plains,
To you that fed my life I bid farewell;
This last, last word does Aias speak to you;
All else I speak in Hades to the dead.

[Falls on his sword, and dies.

Enter Chorus, in two companies, searching for Aias.

Semi-Chor. A. Toil upon toil brings toil;
Whither, ah, whither,
Whither have I not gone?
And no place knoweth to help.870
Lo! lo! again I hear a sound of fall.

Semi-Chor. B. 'Tis but our mates, the sailors of our ship.

Semi-Chor. A. What say ye then?

Semi-Chor. B. The whole flank has been tracked
West of the ships.

Semi-Chor. A. And is there aught discerned?

Semi-Chor. B. Labour enough, but nothing more to see.

Semi-Chor. A. And yet upon the eastern region's path
Our chief is clearly nowhere to be found.

Chor. Who, then, will tell me, who
Of fishers loving toil,880
Plying his sleepless task,
Or who of Nymphs divine,
That haunt Olympos' height,[15]
Or which of all the streams
Where Bosporos flows fast,
Will tell if they have seen him anywhere,
Wandering, the vexed in soul?
Hard destiny is mine,
Long tried with weary, toilsome wanderings,
That still I fail to reach with prosperous course,
Nor see where now he stays,890
The man overwrought with ill.

Enter Tecmessa; as she advances, she stumbles on the body.

Tec. Woe, woe is me!

Chor. What cry hard by is that from out the glade?

Tec. Oh, miserable me!

Chor. I see that captive bride, the spoil of war,
Tecmessa, crushed with this o'erwhelming grief.

Tec. I die, I perish; all is lost, my friends.

Chor. What, then, has happened?

Tec. Aias lieth here
Just slain, his sword within his body buried.

Chor. Woe, woe for my voyage home!900
Woe, woe is me, thou hast slain,
Ο king, thy shipmate true;
Ah me, grievous my lot!
Grievous, Ο woman, thy woe!

Tec. Well may one groan and wail to find him thus.

Chor. But by whose hands did that ill-starred one die?

Tec. He, by his own hand, it is plain; for here
This sword, firm fixed, on which he fell, gives proof.

Chor. Woe, woe is me for my grief!
Alone thou wast bleeding to death,
None of thy friends near to guard;910
And I, all deaf and all blind,
Left thee, neglected, to fall.
Where, ah ! where does he lie,
Aias, ill-fated, with ill name of woe?

Tec. Ye may not look on him, but I with robe
Enfolded round, will hide him utterly;
For none who loved him now could have the heart
To see him still up-panting from his wound,
At either nostril, blackened gore and blood
Springing from that self-slaughter. Now, ah me!
What shall I do? What friend will lift thee up?920
And where is Teucros? How in timeliest need
Would he now come the body to lay out
Of this his fallen brother! Ο ill-starred
Aias, who, being what thou wast, hast fared
As now thou farest; e'en from bitterest foes
Thou now could'st claim the meed of righteous tears.

Chor. Ο man of many woes, 'twas thine, 'twas thine,
In stern unbending mood,
At the fixed hour to work
Ill doom of boundless griefs;
So all night long, till dawn,930
Thou poured'st dire complaint,
With spirit vexed to death,
Against the Atreidæ in thy bitter mood.
Great author of our sorrows was that day,
When for the arms of great Achilles rose
Strife of the brave in fight.

Tec. Ah me! Ah misery!

Chor. True griefs, I know too well, will pierce the heart.

Tec. Ah me! Ah misery!

Chor. I wonder not, Ο woman, thou should'st groan940
Yet more, but now of such a friend bereaved.

Tec. Thine 'tis to think; mine all too well to know.

Chor. I own it so.

Tec. Ah me! to what a yoke of bondage, child,
We now draw nigh, what watchers over us!

Chor. Ah! thou hast spoken now
Of deeds unutterable,
By the Atreidæ stern
Heaped upon this our grief:
But may God ward it off!

Tec. But for the Gods this had not happened so.950

Chor. Yea, they have wrought a trouble hard to bear.

Tec. Such woe does Pallas, dreaded child of Zeus,
For her Odysseus' sake inflict on us.

Chor. Lo! the man subtle to dare,
Mocks in the dark of his soul,
And laughs at this frenzy of woe
(Fie on 't!) a laugh loud and long,
And with him those who share the name of king,
The Atreidæ, as they hear.960

Tec. Let them, then, mock and laugh at this man's woes;
The time may come when they who did not care
To see him living, in the need of war
May groan that he is dead; for still the base
In purpose never know the good they have,
Until they lose it. Bitter woe to me
His death has brought, to them good cheer, but joy,
Great joy to him; for what he sought to gain,
Yea, death that he desired, he now hath won.
[How, then, can they exult in this man's death?
'Twas for the Gods, and not for them he died.]970
In empty vaunt, then, let Odysseus boast,
For Aias is beyond them; but for me
He leaves, departing, wailing and lament.

Enter Teucros.

Teu. Woe is me! Ah, woe!

Chor. [To Tecmessa.] Hush! for I think I hear our Teucros cry,
With wailing loud that hits this great woe's mark.

Teu. Ο best-loved Aias, brother dear to me,
Hast thou, then, fared so ill as rumour holds?

Chor. Our lord is dead, Ο Teucros, doubt it not.

Teu. Oh, woe is me! Woe for my grievous lot!980

Chor. At such a pass . . .

Teu. Oh, miserable me!

Chor. Thou well may'st groan.

Teu. Ο rash and ruthless death!

Chor. Too truly so, Ο Teucros.

Teu. Woe is me!
What of his child? Where in all Troïa is he?

Chor. Alone, within the tents.

Teu. Why bring ye not
With quickest speed the boy, lest any foe
Seize him, as whelp of lonely lioness?
Go, hasten, work together. All are wont
To treat with scorn the dead that prostrate lie.

[Some of the Chorus bring in Eurysakes.

Chor. And while he lived, Ο Teucros, thee he charged,990
For this his boy to care, as now thou car'st.

Teu. Sight of all sights most painful; of all paths
Path vexing most my spirit, this, which now
My feet have taken, where, Ο Aias dear,
Still following thee and tracking out thy course,
I learnt thy fate: for lo! a swift report,
As though some God had spread it, went of thee
Through all the Achæans, that thy death had come;
And I in woe, and hearing it far off,1000
Groaned low; and seeing, perish utterly.
Ah, me! [Some of the Chorus, as he speaks, uncover the body of Aias.
Come, lay it bare, that I may see it well,
The whole dread evil. Ο most ghastly sight,
And work of bitter daring, what a woe
Thou, in thy death, hast sown for me! Where go,
Among what men, I who in all thy woes
Have failed to help thee? Telamon, I trow,
My father, and thine too, will welcome me
With cheerful glances, full of kindly mood, 1010
Without thee coming! Can he fail to frown
Who, e'en when all went well, but seldom smiled
Too pleasantly on men? What word of wrath
Will he now hide? What evil utter not?
Reproaching me as bastard, captive-born,
Who, in my coward, base unmanliness
Abandoned thee, Ο Aias, or in guile,
That, on thy death, I might thy sceptre wield
And rule thy house? Such foul reproach will he,
Rough in his mood, and vexed sore with age,
Vent in his wrath, by trifles light as air
To fiercest anger kindled. And at last
I shall be hurled an outcast from my home,[16]
Bearing the name of slave instead of free.1020
Such fate awaits me there. In Troïa here
Many my foes, and few the things that help;
And this, all this, thy death hath brought to me.
What shall I do? Alas! how lift thee up
From this bright sword whose murderous point hath brought
Thee, wretched one, to death? And did'st thou know
How Hector thus, though dead, should bring thee low?
Now, by the Gods, look ye upon the fate
Of those two men—how Hector, with the belt
Which this man gave him, bound to chariot's wheel,1030
Was dragged and mangled, on and on, till death;
While he who had this sword as Hector's gift,[17]
Brought death upon himself by one fell leap.
Oh, did some dread Erinnys forge this sword,
And Hades, stern artificer, that belt?
I must needs own the Gods as working this,
And all things else that come to mortal men;
And he who thinks not so, why, let him have
His own thoughts if he will; I hold to these.

Chor. Be not too long, but ponder well how best1040
Thou may'st inter his body in the tomb,
And what thou now wilt say; for, lo! I see
A man, his foe, exulting, it may be,
As evil-doer at the evil done.

Teu. What man of all the host is this thou see'st?

Chor. 'Tis Menelaos, for whose sake we sailed.

Teu. I see him. Near, he is not hard to know.

Enter Menelaos, followed by a Herald, and Attendants.

Mene. Ho, there! I bid thee not to touch this corpse
With these thy hands, but leave it as it is.

Teu. And why dost thou such big words lavish here?

Mene. So think I: so thinks he who rules the host.1050

Teu. Wilt thou not say what ground thou giv'st for this?

Mene. Because we hoped to bring him from his home,
Ally and friend to all the Achæan host,
And found him than the Phrygians worser foe,
Who, plotting death to all the host at once,
Came on by night that he might slay with sword;
And were it not some God had quashed the scheme,
We should have fallen, and, in shameful plight,
By chance which now is his, had lain there dead,
And he had lived; but now a God has turned1060
His wanton rage to fall on flocks and herds;
And, therefore, there is no man strong enough,
Be he who may, this body to entomb,
But, cast forth here upon the yellow sands,
It shall be prey for birds that haunt the shore.
Therefore, I bid thee, keep from furious wrath;
For though we failed to rule him while he lived,
We surely now will master him when dead,
Wilt thou, or no, and with our hands control.
For never when he lived would he obey1070
The words I spake: yet 'tis a vile man's part
For one among the people not to deign
To hear his masters. Never in a state
Can laws be well administered when dread
Has ceased to act, nor can an armèd host
Be rightly ruled, if no defence of fear
And awe be present. But a man should think,
Though sturdy in his frame, he yet may fall
By some small chance of ill. And know this well,
That he who has both fear and reverence1080
Has also safety. But where men are free
To not proudly, and do all their will,
That State, be sure, with steady-blowing gale,
Is driving to destruction, and will fall.
For me, let seasonable awe be mine,
Nor let us think that, doing what we please,
We shall not one day pay the penalty
In things that pain. These things come on in turn;
This fellow here was mocker hot and proud;
Now I am lifted up, and charge thee there
This body not to bury, lest thou too,
By burying him, should'st need a burial.1090

Chor. Ο Menelaos, uttering maxims wise,
Do not thyself then outrage so the dead.

Teu. I cannot wonder, friends, that one who lives,
Brought up in low estate, should faults commit,
When they who deem they come of noblest stock
Such faulty words will utter in their speech.
Come, let us start afresh: and dost thou say
That thou did'st bring this man as stanch ally
To these Achæans? Did he not sail forth,
Himself his only master? Or what right
Had'st thou to rule the people that he led1100
Here from his home? As Sparta's king thou cam'st,
And not as ours. No greater right had'st thou
To rule o'er him than he to reign o'er thee.
Thou cam'st an under-captain, not the lord
Of all the host, that thou should'st Aias lead.
Rule those thou rulest, vent thy solemn words
On them; but I, though thou should'st say me nay,
Or e'en that other leader, I will place
This body in the tomb with all due rites,
Not fearing thy big speeches. He warred not1110
For that thy wife, as these who take their fill
Of many labours, but to keep the oath
By which he bound himself.[18] 'Twas not for thee,
For never did he value men of nought.
Come, therefore, bring more heralds with thee here;
Yea, bring the general's self. I would not care
For all thy stir while thou art . . . what thou art.

Chor. I do not like such speech in midst of ills;
Sharp words will bite, however just they be.

Mene. This archer seems to have a lofty soul.[19]1120

Teu. E'en so; I practise no ungentle craft.

Mene. Had'st thou a shield, thy boast would soar indeed.

Teu. With thee, full-armed, I'll match myself light-armed.

Mene. How mightily thy tongue doth school thy thought.

Teu. With right on our side we may well be proud.

Mene. That he, slaying me, should prosper, was that right?

Teu. "Slaying thee!" 'Twere strange if thou wert dead, who liv'st.

Mene. God saves me still; in his intent I 'm slain.

Teu. Saved by the Gods, put not the Gods to shame.

Mene. What? Find I fault with laws of those in heaven?1130

Teu. Yes, if thou stopp'st my burying of the dead.

Mene. The burial of my foes: for 'tis not well.

Teu. And when was Aias ever found thy foe?

Mene. He hated me; I him; and this thou know'st.

Teu. Yes; for 'twas thou did'st cheat with juggling votes.

Mene. That fault was with the judges, not with me.

Teu. With goodly stealth, then, thou would'st work much ill.

Mene. This speech shall bring a bitter grief to some.

Teu. Not one whit more, 'twould seem, than we shall cause.

Mene. I say but this, thou shalt not bury him.1140

Teu. And hear thou this, that buried he shall be.

Mene. I once did see a man full bold of speech,
Who urged his sailors in a storm to sail,
But not a word had he, when driven to prayer
By stress of tempest, but beneath a cloak
He crouched, and let each sailor tread on him;
And so for thee, and those thy haughty lips,
Some great storm, blowing from a tiny cloud,
Shall soon, perchance, hush all thy clamorous speech.

Teu. And I have seen a man of folly full1150
Who wantoned proudly in his neighbour's ills,
And then one came, in fashion like to me,
And like in mood, and looked, and spake this word:
"Ο man, abstain from outrage to the dead,
For if thou dost it, dearly shalt thou pay."
Such counsel did he give that wretched fool,
And now I see him; and he is, 'twould seem,
None else but thee. Do I speak parables?

Mene. I go my way, for it is sore disgrace
With words to punish, force being in our power. 1160[Exit.

Teu. Go, then, thy way; to me 'tis worst disgrace
To hear a vain fool prating empty words.

Chor. Struggle of mighty strife there soon will be;
But thou, Ο Teucros, speed,
Haste, some deep pit to find,
Where he shall find a grave of dreariest gloom,
Yet one which men will hold in memory.

[Tecmessa advances, with Eurysakes
holding her hand.

Teu. And lo! they come at very nick of time,
And stand hard by, this hero's wife and child,
To deck the burial of the ill-starred dead.1170
Come hither, boy, and standing suppliantly,
Lay hand upon the father that begat thee,
And sitting in the guise of one who prays,
Hold in thy hands my locks, and hers, and thine,
A treasure of entreaty. And should one
In all our army tear thee from the dead,
May he thus base, unburied, basely die,
An exile from his home, with all his race
As utterly cut off, as I now cut
This braided lock. Take it, Ο boy, and keep;1180
Let no man move thee, hold it suppliant;
And ye stand by him, not as women found
Who should be men, but help him till I come
To bury him, though all should hinder me. [Exit.

Stroph. I.

Chor. When will it end, the last of wandering years,
That ever bring to me
The ceaseless woe of war's unresting toils,1190
Through Troïa, drear and wide,
The Hellenes' shame and reproach?

Antistroph. I.

Would that that man had entered Heaven's high vault,
Or Hades, man's last home,
Who for the Hellenes stirred War's hateful strife;
(O woes that woe beget!)
For he hath laid men low.

Stroph. II.

He hath given me never to share
The joy of garlands of flowers,
Nor that of the deep, flowing cups,1200
Nor the dulcet notes of the flute,
Nor—curses light on his head!—
The pleasure that cometh with sleep.
Yea, from love, from love and its joys
He hath cut me off. (Ah, woe is me!)
And here I lie, cared for by none,
My locks all wet with the dews,
Keepsake of Troïa the sad.1210

Antistroph. II.

Till now against terrors of night,
And sharp arrows a bulwark and stay,
Was Aias, the mighty and strong:
Now he, too, a victim is gone
To the God that ruleth in gloom;
What joy remaineth for me?
Would I were there, where the rock,
Thick-wooded and washed by the waves,
Hangs o'er the face of the deep,
Under Sunion's broad jutting peak,1220
That there we might hail, once again,
Athens, the holy, the blest.[20]

Enter Teucros.

Teu. Lo! I have hastened, seeing our general come,
Our Agamemnon, speeding on his way,
And plain it is he comes to speak hard words.

Enter Agamemnon.

Agam. They tell me that thou darest fearful words
To vent against us with impunity,
Thou, yes, e'en thou, of captive mistress born;
A noble mother truly can'st thou boast,
That thou dost speak so loftily, and walk
On tip-toe proudly, who, being nought, dost strive1230
For him who is as nothing, and dost swear
We did not come to rule the host or fleet,
Or thee, or the Achæans; but thou say'st
That Aias sailed himself his only lord.
And are not these big words to hear from slaves?
And what was he for whom thou vauntest thus?
Where went he, or where stood, where I was not?
Had the Achæans then no men but him?
A strife full bitter for Achilles' arms
We set before the Argives then, 'twould seem,1240
If everywhere a Teucros call us base,
And ye are not content, though worsted quite,
To yield to what the judges have decreed
With all but one consent, but still revile
Our name, and, when defeated, strike at us
In secret guile. With such a mood as this
There can be no establishment of law,
If we shall cast off those whose right prevails,
And lead the hindmost to the foremost rank.
Nay, we must check these things. The safest men
Are not the stout, broad-shouldered, brawny ones,1250
But still wise thinkers everywhere prevail;
And oxen, broad of back, by smallest scourge
Are, spite of all, driven forward in the way;
And that sure spell, I see, will come ere long
On thee, unless thou somehow wisdom gain,
Who, when thy lord is gone, a powerless shade,
Art bold, with wanton insolence of speech.
Wilt thou not learn self-mastery? Wilt thou not,
Remembering what thou art by birth, when next
Thou comest, bring some free-born man with thee,1260
Who, in thy stead, shall speak thy words to us?[21]
For I, indeed, learn nothing by thy speech,
Thy barbarous accent so offends mine ear.

Chor. Would that ye both self-mastery could learn:
Better than this I cannot wish you both.

Teu. Alas! How soon the credit of the dead
Flits, and is gone, and proves but treacherous stay,
When this man, Aias, takes no count of thee,
Not e'en in poor, cheap words, for whom thou oft
Thy life exposing, strovest in the fight;1270
But all the past is past, and thrown aside.
Ο thou that speakest such a senseless speech,
Hast thou no memory, none, of that same day
When ye were shut within the bulwarks high,
Already good as dead, and he, himself,
Alone, came on to help, and freed you all,
Putting to flight your foes, when fire had seized
*Your ships' tall masts, and where the sailors sit,
And Hector's self was leaping o'er the trench
Right on your sailors' boats?[22] Who staved this off?
Was it not he of whom thou now dost say,1280
That never did he stir a foot for thee?
Nay, wrought he not in your sight noble deeds?
And yet once more, when he went forth to meet,
In single combat, Hector, casting lots,
At no man's word, the lot which he put in
Was no deserter, lump of moistened clay,[23]
But one full sure to be the first to leap
With nimble spring from out the crested helm;
'Twas he that did all this, and I with him,
The base-born slave, of alien mother sprung.
Thou wretch, what face hast thou to utter this?1290
And know'st thou not the father that begat
Thy father, Pelops, was of alien blood,
A Phrygian born, of old;[24] that Atreus, he
Who gave thee life, was godless in his deeds,
And placed before his brother banquet foul
Of his own children's flesh; and thou thyself
Wast born of Cretan mother, whom her sire,
Detecting with the alien, headlong cast
A prey to voiceless fishes? And dost thou,
Such as thou art, reproach me with my birth,
Such as I am, who, on my father's side,
From Telamon am sprung, who gained the prize
Of all the host for valour, and obtained1300
My mother as a concubine, who claimed
A kingly birth from old Laomedon,
And whom Alcmena's son as chosen gift
Gave to my father? And should I, thus sprung
Noble, from noblest, shame my kith and kin,
Whom now, in such ill plight as this enwrapt,
Thou thrustest out unburied, and dost feel
No shame to speak it? But of this be sure,
If ye will cast him forth, ye will cast, too,
Us three around him clinging; for 'twere good,
Striving for him to die in open fight,1310
*Much rather than for that false wife of thine,[25]
Or for thy brother; wherefore look thou well
Not to my business only but thine own;
For should'st thou hurt me, thou shalt wish to be
A coward rather than wax bold on me.

Enter Odysseus.

Chor. Thou com'st, Ο King Odysseus, seasonably,
If thou art here to stop, not stir the strife.

Odys. What is it, sirs? for from afar I heard
The Atreidæ's clamour o'er this noble corpse.

Agam. And have we not, Ο King Odysseus, heard1320
But now most shameful language from this man?

Odys. What was it? I can much forgive a man
Who, hearing vile things, answers evil words.

Agam. Foul words he heard, for such his deeds to me.

Odys. And what was this he did that injured thee?

Agam. He says he will not leave this corpse untombed,
But, spite of my command, will bury it.

Odys. And may I, as a friend who speaks the truth,
Row in thy boat, as welcome as before?

Agam. Speak on; or else I should be most unwise,1330
Who count thee, of all Argives, truest friend.

Odys. Hear then; by all the Gods, I thee entreat,
Cast not this man out so unfeelingly,
Nor leave him there unburied. Let not wrath
Prevail on thee that thou should'st hate so far
As upon right to trample. Unto me
This man of all the host was greatest foe,
Since I prevailed to gain Achilles' arms;
But, though he were so, being what he was,
I would not put so foul a shame on him,
As not to own I looked upon a man,
The best and bravest of the Argive host,1340
Of all that came to Troïa, saving one,
Achilles' self. Most wrong 'twould therefore be
That he should suffer outrage at thy hands;
Thou would'st not trample upon him alone,
But on the laws of God. It is not right
To harm, though thou should'st chance to hate him sore,
A man of noble nature lying dead.

Agam. Art thou, Odysseus, this man's champion found?

Odys. E'en so; I hated while 'twas right to hate.

Agam. Ought'st thou not then to trample on him dead?

Odys. In wrongful gain, Atreides, find not joy.

Agam. Full hard this fear of God for sovereign prince.1350

Odys. Not so to honour friends who counsel well.

Agam. The noblest man should those that rule obey.

Odys. Hush! thou dost rule when worsted by thy friends.

Agam. Remember thou to whom thou giv'st this grace.

Odys. An enemy, but still a noble one.

Agam. What wilt thou? Dost thou a foe's corpse revere?

Odys. Far more than hatred valour weighs with me.

Agam. Fickle and wayward, natures such as thine.

Odys. Many once friends again are bitter foes.

Agam. And dost thou praise the getting friends like these?1360

Odys. Unbending mood I am not wont to praise.

Agam. Thou wilt this very day make cowards of us.

Odys. Nay, righteous men in all the Hellenes' eyes.

Agam. And dost thou bid me let him bury it?

Odys. I do, for I myself shall come to that.

Agam. All men are like; each labours for himself.

Odys. Whom should I work for more than for myself?

Agam. It shall be called thy work then, and not mine.

Odys. Howe'er that be, in any case thou'rt kind.

Agam. But know this well, that I would grant to thee1370
Far greater boon than even this thou ask'st;
But as for him, or here, or there, he still
Is hateful to me; . . . But have thou thy will.

Chor. Who says, Odysseus, thou'rt not wise of heart,
Being what thou art, shall prove himself a fool.

Odys. And now I tell to Teucros that I stand
A friend as true as once I was a foe,
And I desire to join in burying him
Who there lies dead, to join in all the toil,
And fail in nought of all that men should pay
Of homage to the noblest men of earth.1380

Teu. Ο good Odysseus, words of praise are mine
For all thou dost, and thou hast falsified
My thoughts of thee, for thou, most hostile found
To him of all the Argives, stood'st alone
To help him with thy hands, and did'st not dare
To trample living upon him the dead,
When this brain-stricken captain of the host,
He and his brother with him, came and sought
To cast him out deprived of sepulture.
Now, therefore, may the Father whose high sway
Olympos rules, Erinnys noting guilt,1390
And Justice the avenger punish them
For foul deeds foully, even as they wished
To cast this man to shame unmerited.
And thee, Ο son of aged Lartios,
Loth am I now to let thee take thy share
In burying him, lest I perchance should do
What he, the dead, approves not. [All the rest
Do thou do with me, and, if thou wilt bring
Some soldiers from the host, we shall not grieve.]
All else will I do, and for thee, know well,
Thou show'st thyself to us as great of soul.

Odys. I fain had joined, but if it please thee not1400
That we should share, I go, thy words accepting.

Teu. Enough: already the time
Is wearing swiftly away;
Haste ye, some to prepare
A deep hollowed pit for the grave,
And some a tall tripod set
Fit for our task, girt with fire,
Meet for washing the dead.
One band, let it fetch from the tent
His breast-plate, his greaves, and his sword:
And thou, Ο boy, in thy love,
With all the strength that thou hast,1410
Here, with thy hand on his side,
Thy father's, lift him with me;
For still the hot veins pour their stream,
The dark, thick blood of his strength.
But come ye, come, one and all,
Who boast of yourselves as his friends;
Hasten, come quick to the work,
Labouring for him who in all
Was good, and none better than he.

Chor. Men may know many things on seeing them;
But, ere they come in sight,
No man is prophet of the things that come,1420
To tell how he shall fare.

  1. The first outline of the story is found in the Odyssey, (xi. 543,) where Odysseus relates how even in Hades the soul of Aias dwelt apart, and when it recognised him, deigned not to answer him a word, but turned back haughtily to the darkness.
  2. The tents of Odysseus, as described in the Iliad, (xi. 8.) were in the centre of the crescent-shore, between Sigeion and Rhœteion, those of Aias and Achilles at the two extremities.
  3. The dogs of Sparta, and specially those of Taygetos, were proverbial for their speed and keenness of scent from the days of Pindar (Fr. 83) to those of Virgil, (Georg. iv. 405.)
  4. The Tyrsenians, or Tyrrhenians, (identified here with the Etrurians,) had the repute of being the first inventors of bronze, and the trumpet so named had a wide, bell-shaped mouth. Comp. Æsch. Eumen. 567.
  5. The epithet by which the son of Telamon was distinguished from the other Aias, the son of Oïleus.
  6. It adds to the interest of this and many other passages of the play to remember how closely Salamis was identified by the Athenians with their own history. One of the Attic tribes was named after Aias. Solon or Peisistratos was said to have inserted a verse in the Iliad, (ii. 558,) making him an ally of the Athenians. The noblest families of the Eupatrids claimed descent from him. Before the battle of Salamis the Athenians invoked the help of Aias and Telamon, and, after their victory, dedicated their first-fruits to the former. (Herod, viii. 64, 121.) So, in this tragedy, the sailors of Aias are called sons of Erectheus, i. e., Athenians, (202.) They crave for a sight of Athens, (i. 221.) Aias bids the Athenians, as well as his own people, a solemn farewell.
  7. In two legends of the Homeric cycle Artemis appeared as punishing scorn and slight. She sent the Calydonian boar because Œneus had not sacrificed to her, (Il. ix. 533.) She demanded the sacrifice of Iphigeneia because Agamemnon had slain a consecrated stag. The name Tauropola contained a twofold allusion—to Tauris, as the home of the wild, orgiastic worship paid to her, and to the bulls (tauroi) which were sacrificed in it.
  8. Enyalios, analogous in attributes to Ares, and often identified with him, was one of the tutelary deities of Salamis, and, at Athens, the Polemarch Archon offered an annual sacrifice to him and Artemis.
  9. In the post-Homeric legends Anticleia, the wife of Laertes, or Lartios, had been loved by Sisyphos, the craftiest of all men, before her marriage, and Odysseus was his child and not her husband's.
  10. "Who claim . . . ." sc., who are true citizens of Attica.
  11. Æacos, the grandfather of Aias, was the son of Zeus and Ægina.
  12. The irony with which Aias thus finds an omen in his own name becomes all the more bitter when we remember that, in the popular tradition, it was derived from aietos, the kingly eagle, which had appeared to Heracles, as an omen that Zeus had granted his prayer for Telamon, and after which, therefore, Telamon's son was named.
  13. The hymn of the Chorus is addressed, first, to Pan as the God of impetuous, exulting joy, and, afterwards, to Apollo as the giver of a calmer and more spiritual gladness. Another reason for their choice is found in the fact that the island Psyttaleia, between Salamis and the mainland, was sacred to him. Thence, in legends which were fresh in men's memories when Sophocles wrote, he had come forth to help the Athenians at Marathon and Salamis. Kyllene, in Arcadia, was the special home of Pan-worship.
  14. Nysian, like the dances of the Thiasos at Nysa, the birthplace of Dionysos; Knossian, like those at Knossos in Crete, in honour of the bride of Dionysos, Ariadne.
  15. The Mysian Olympos which the Greek dramatists identified with Ida.
  16. The words of Teucros point prophetically to his later history. He left Salamis, according to the legend, because his father drove him from his presence, went to Kypros, and there founded a city, which he named Salamis, in memory of his fatherland.
  17. Comp. Iliad, vii. 303, xxii. 361. . . . Homer, however, makes Achilles drag the corpse of Hector at his chariot-wheels.
  18. In the post-Homeric legends, Tyndareus, the father of Helena, bound all her suitors by an oath that they would, in case of calamity, come to his daughter's help.
  19. In Homer, both Gods and heroes use the bow without any thought of its inferiority to other weapons. Later changes in warfare had, however, thrown it into the background; and in Sparta it was used only by the Periœci; in Athens, by the foreigners (chiefly Scythians and Thracians) who were employed as a home-police.
  20. The words point to what every hearer of the play must have been familiar with. As a homeward ship rounded the point of Sunion, the Acropolis was seen in the distance, and all on board offered their prayers to the two national deities, Athena and Poseidon, whose shrines stood on the promontory.
  21. A slave, or foreigner, according to the laws of Athens and most Greek States, was not allowed to plead personally, but had to be represented by a citizen. Agamemnon taunts Teucros—as the son, not of Eribœa, the wife, but of Hesione, the concubine, of Telamon—with being an alien.
  22. Comp. Iliad, xv. 415.
  23. Sophocles, with a slight anachronism, brings before his Athenian audience what they were always willing to listen to, the story of the fraud by which the Dorian Cresphontes had obtained possession of Messenia.
  24. In one form of the Pelops mythos, Thyestes, the brother of Atreus, was the adulterer, and Atreus drowned the adulteress. Here, however, Sophocles follows the legend which made Aerope, while yet in Crete, guilty of unchastity, and condemned by her father, Cratreus, to die by drowning. The executioner spared her life, and she afterwards married Atreus.
  25. So the text stands, yet the Trojan war was waged, not for the wife of Agamemnon, but for Helen, the wife of Menelaos. There may, perhaps, be a taunt implied in the phrase, implying either (1.) that Agamemnon fought for Helen as if he were her husband, or (2.) that he was urged to the war by bis own wife, the sister of Helen.