Thee, beloved Ajax-or by guile, that so
I might inherit thy kingdom and thy house.
So will he speak, a passionate man, grown peevish
In old age, quick to wrath without a cause.
Then shall I be cast off, a banished man,
Proclaimed no more a freeman but a slave.
Such is the home that waits me; while at Troy
My foes are many, my well-wishers few.
All this will be my portion through thy death.
Ah me, what shall I do? How draw thee, brother,
From this fell sword, on whose bright murderous point
Thou hast breathed out thy soul? See how at last
Hector, though dead, was fated to destroy thee!
Consider, I pray, the doom of these two men.
Hector, with that same girdle Ajax gave him
Was lashed fast to Achilles' chariot rail
And mangled till he had gasped forth his life.
And 'twas from him that Ajax had this gift,
The blade by which he perished and lies dead.
Was it not some Erinys forged this sword,
And Hades the grim craftsman wrought that girdle?
I at least would maintain that the gods plan
These things and all things ever for mankind.
But whosoever's judgment likes not this,
Let him uphold his doctrine as I mine.
Speak no more, but take counsel how to inter
Our dear lord, and what now it were best to say:
For 'tis a foe I see. Perchance he comes
To mock our misery, villain that he is.
What chieftain of the host do you behold?
Menelaus, for whose sake we voyaged hither.
'Tis he. I know him well, now he is near.
(MENELAUS enters with his retinue.)
You, Sir, I warn you, raise not yonder corpse
For burial, but leave it as it lies.
For what cause do you waste such swelling words?
'Tis my will, and his will who rules the host.
Let us know then what pretext you allege.
We hoped that we had brought this man from home
To be a friend and champion for the Greeks:
But a worse than Phrygian foe on trial we found him.
Devising death for the whole host, by night
He sallied forth against us, armed for slaughter.
And had not some god baffled this exploit,
Ours would have been the lot which now is his:
While we lay slain by a most shameful doom,
He would have still been living. But his outrage,
Foiled by a god, has fallen on sheep and herds.
Wherefore there lives no man so powerful
That he shall lay this corpse beneath a tomb;
But cast forth somewhere upon the yellow sands
It shall become food for the sea-shore birds.
Then lift not up your voice in threatening fury.
If while he lived we could not master him,
Yet in death will we rule him, in your despite,