A monologue from the play by Sophocles
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.
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 Ægean? 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.