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Ajax   


Answering divine Athena, when she urged him
To turn a slaughterous hand upon his foes,
He gave voice to this dire, blasphemous boast:
"Goddess, stand thou beside the other Greeks.
Where I am stationed, no foe shall break through."
By such words and such thoughts too great for man
Did he provoke Athena's pitiless wrath.
But if he lives through this one day, perchance,
Should heaven be willing, we may save him yet.
So spoke the seer; and Teucer from his seat
No sooner risen, sent me with this mandate
For you to observe. But if we have been forestalled,
That man lives not, or Calchas is no prophet.
LEADER (calling)
Woful Tecmessa, woman born to sorrow,
Come forth and hear this man who tells of a peril
That grazes us too close for our mind's ease.
(TECMESSA enters from the tent.)
TECMESSA
Why alas do you break my rest again
After brief respite from relentless woes?
LEADER
Give hearing to this messenger, who brings
Tidings that grieve me of how Ajax fares.
TECMESSA
Ah me, what sayest thou, man? Are we undone?
MESSENGER
I know not of thy fortune; but for Ajax,
If he be gone abroad, my mind misgives.
TECMESSA
Yes, he is gone. I am racked to know thy meaning.
MESSENGER
Teucer commands you to keep him within doors,
And not to let him leave his tent alone.
TECMESSA
And where is Teucer, and why speaks he thus?
MESSENGER
He has but now returned, and he forebodes
That this going-forth will prove fatal to Ajax.
TECMESSA
Woe's me, alas! From whom has he learned this?
MESSENGER
From the seer, Thestor's son, this very day,
Which is fraught either with his death or life.
TECMESSA
Ah me, my friends, avert this threatening doom
Speed some of you to hasten Teucer hither:
Others go search the bays, some west, some east,
And track my lord's ill-omened going-forth.
Yes, now I know I have been deceived by him,
And from his former favour quite cast out.
Alas, child, what shall I do? Sit still I must not:
But far as I have strength I too will go.
Let us start quickly-'tis no time for loitering,
If we would save one who is in haste to die.
LEADER
I am ready, as not words alone shall prove,
But speed of act and foot to make words good.
(The CHORUS, TECMESSA and MESSENGER go out. The scene
changes to a lonely place by the sea-shore. Bushes and under-
brush are in the background. AJAX enters alone.)

AJAX
The slayer stands so that his edge may cleave
Most surely (if there be leisure for such thought),

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