|Ajax Monologue by Sophocles|
- AJAX: Ah, who would have supposed it possible
- The name I bear should ever be attuned
- To these misfortunes! Doubly, trebly now
- May I lament; so sore bested am I;
- Whose father in Ida bore the palm once
- From the whole host, and went, all-honoured, home;
- While I, his son, who with no meaner power
- Invaded this same tract of Troy, nor less
- Myself exhibited of prowess, thus,
- Being dishonoured by the Argives, perish!
- And yet this much, truly, I think I know;
- That if Achilles were alive, to choose
- For his own arms, to whom the prize was due,
- No other would have snatched it, over me.
- But now the Atridae have by practice wrought
- For an unscrupled villain, and passed over
- The might of this right hand. Had but mine eyesight--
- Had but my counsels swerved not from their aim,
- Never another cause were theirs to judge
- As they judged mine! 'Twas the unmastered Power,
- Jove's grim-eyed daughter, that illuded me,
- There as I stood, raising my hand to smite them,
- Casting upon me a sick frenzy-fit,
- So that my hands were reddened with the blood
- Of these poor cattle! And they laugh at me;
- Having escaped--not as I meant for them.
- Yes; if some deity must interfere,
- The bad will scape the better. As things are,
- What must I do? whom plainly the Gods hate,
- Whom the Hellenian host abominate,
- Whom all Troy loathes, ay and this soil of it!
- Am I to quit the staith, where lies the fleet,
- Leave the Atridae in the lurch, and pass
- Homeward, across the AE gean? And what visage
- Shall I display, when I appear before
- My father, Telamon? How will he endure
- To look upon me in his presence, bare,
- Denied the honours that became to him
- A crown of glory? That may never be.
- Then shall I march against the fence of Troy,
- Fall singly on the foe, on the foe only,
- Do some good service, and so lastly die?
- That is the way to please the Atridae, though
- It is impossible. Some enterprise
- Must be sought out, by which to manifest
- To my old father that, in heart at least,
- Not wholly nerveless I descend from him.
- It is a shame to crave long life, when troubles
- Allow a man no respite. What delight
- Bring days, one with another, setting us
- Forward or backward on our path to death?
- I would not take the fellow at a gift
- Who warms himself with unsubstantial hopes;
- But bravely to live on, or bravely end,
- Is due to gentle breeding. I have said.
Credits: Reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.