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Ajax   


Thyself utter proud words against the gods;
Nor swell with insolence, if thou shouldst vanquish
Some rival by main strength or by wealth's power.
For a day can bring all mortal greatness low,
And a day can lift it up. But the gods love
The wise of heart, the froward they abhor.

(ATHENA vanishes and ODYSSEUS departs. The CHORUS OF SALAMINIANS
enters.)


CHORUS (singing)
Son of Telamon, lord of Salamis' isle,
On its wave-washed throne mid the breaking sea,
I rejoice when fair are thy fortunes:
But whene'er thou art smitten by the stroke of Zeus,
Or the vehement blame of the fierce-tongued Greeks,
Then sore am I grieved, and for fear I quake,
As a fluttering dove with a scared eye.
Even so by rumour murmuring loud
Of the night late-spent our ears are assailed.
'Tis a tale of shame, how thou on the plains
Where the steeds roam wild, didst ruin the Danaan
Flocks and herds,
Our spear-won booty as yet unshared,
With bright sword smiting and slaughtering.
Such now are the slanders Odysseus forges
And whispers abroad into all men's ears,
Winning easy belief: so specious the tale
He is spreading against thee; and each new hearer
Rejoices more than he who told,
Exulting in thy degradation.
For the shaft that is aimed at the noble of soul
Smites home without fail: but whoe'er should accuse me
Of such misdeeds, no faith would he win.
'Tis the stronger whom creeping jealousy strikes.
Yet small men reft of help from the mighty
Can ill be trusted to guard their walls.
Best prosper the lowly in league with the great;
And the great have need to be served by the less.
But none to the knowledge of such plain truths
May lead minds witless and froward.
Even such are the men who murmur against thee:
And vainly without thine aid, O King,
We strive to repel their accusing hate.
For whene'er they are safe from the scorn of thy glance,
They chatter and screech like bids in a flock:
But smitten with dread of the powerful vulture,
Doubtless at once, should'st thou but appear,
They will cower down dumbly in silence.

strophe

Was it the Tauric Olympian Artemis,
(Oh, the dread rumour of woe,
Parent of my grievous shame!)

Who drove thee forth to slaughter the herds of the people,
In wrath perchance for some unpaid-for victory,
Whether defrauded of glorious spoil, or offerings
Due for a stag that was slain?
Or did the bronze-clad Demon of battle, aggrieved
On him who scorned the might of his succouring spear,
Plot revenge by nightly deception?

antistrophe

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