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Ajax   


Oh once more to stand, where on the wooded headland
The ocean is breaking, under
The shadow of Sunium's height; thence could I greet from far
The divine city of Athens.
(TEUCER enters, followed by AGAMEMNON and his retinue.)
TEUCER
In haste I come; for the captain of the host,
Agamemnon, I have seen hurrying hither.
To a perverse tongue now will he give rein.
AGAMEMNON
Is it you, they tell me, have dared to stretch your lips
In savage raillery against us, unpunished?
'Tis you I mean, the captive woman's son.
Verily of well-born mother had you been bred,
Superb had been your boasts and high your strut,
Since you, being nought, have championed one who is nought,
Vowing that no authority is ours
By sea or land to rule the Greeks or you.
Are not these monstrous taunts to hear from slaves?
What was this man whose praise you vaunt so loudly?
Whither went he, or where stood he, where I was not?
Among the Greeks are there no men but he?
In evil hour, it seems, did we proclaim
The contest for Achilles' panoply,
If come what may Teucer is to call us knaves,
And if you never will consent, though worsted,
To accept the award that seemed just to most judges,
But either must keep pelting us with foul words,
Or stab us craftily in your rage at losing.
Where such discords are customary, never
Could any law be stablished and maintained,
If we should thrust the rightful winners by,
And bring the rearmost to the foremost place.
But such wrong must be checked. 'Tis not the big
Broad-shouldered men on whom we most rely;
No, 'tis the wise who are masters everywhere.
An ox, however large of rib, may yet
Be kept straight on the road by a little whip.
And this corrective, I perceive, will soon
Descend on you, unless you acquire some wisdom,
Who, though this man is dead, a mere shade now,
Can wag your insolent lips so freely and boldly.
Come to your senses: think what you are by birth.
Bring hither someone else, a man born free,
Who in your stead may plead your cause before us.
For when you speak, the sense escapes me quite:
I comprehend not your barbarian tongue.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Would that you both might learn wisdom and temperance.
There is no better counsel I can give you.
TEUCER
Alas! how soon gratitude to the dead
Proves treacherous and vanishes from men's minds,
If for thee, Ajax, this man has no more
The least word of remembrance, he for whom oft
Toiling in battle thou didst risk thy life.
But all that is forgotten and flung aside.
Thou who but now wast uttering so much folly,
Hast thou no memory left, how in that hour
When, pent within your lines, you were already
No more than men of nought, routed in battle,
He alone stood forth to save you, while the flames
Were blazing round the stern-decks of the ships
Already, and while Hector, leaping high

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