Translation, Speech of Ajax, From the Thirteenth Book of Ovid


The chiefs were seated, and the soldiers round,
Ranged in due order, filled the extended ground;
When Ajax, master of the sevenfold shield,
In wrath arose, and from the tented field
Turned his stern eye to the Sigeian strand,
And the tall ships fast anchored to the land:
" And is iThere, ye Gods, " aloud he cried,
" Before this fleet that this great cause is tried?
And is iThere that I Ulysses see,
Daring to stand competitor to me?
Not thus he dared, when Hector's raging hand
Waved here, on high, the desolating brand,
Whose flames I quenched and saved this threatened strand.

" Full well Ulysses knows 'tis safer far
To wage of empty words, the bloodless war,
Than face a foe in arms; — nor have I art
For such vain strife, nor hath he hand or heart
For bold exploits: while well-fought fields proclaim
My worth, a smooth, false tongue is all his fame
Nor need I to the Greeks my deeds display —
Deeds done before their eyes in face of day;
His; let Ulysses tell, and bring to light
A prowess never shining but by night

" The baseness of my rival casts a stain
E'en on the glorious prize I seek to gain,
For poor his triumph, whatsoe'er the prize,
Who stoops like me, and with Ulysses vies.
The contest now, however it ensue,
Gives him an honor greater than his due,
And proud enough for him the boast will be,
When vanquished, thaThe dared contend with me
" If my own worth suffice not for my claim,
A noble ancestry will lend their fame:
My father, Telamon, who Troy o'erthrew
Under greaThercules — whom Colchos knew,
With Jason the renowned. His sire was he
Who binds the shades below, by his decree,
Where Sisyphus in vain laments his fate,
Beneath the rude rock's ever rolling weight:
Æacus, the mighty Jove's high favors prove
His son; — and Ajax is the third from Jove
Nor should this high descent, in this great cause
Avail me, Greeks! but that Achilles draws
From the same source divine, a kindred name —
Brethren in blood, a brother's arms I claim.

" And shall a base-born stranger dare to place
His hated name among a hero's race?
Or shall I stand excluded from my right
Who foremost came, unsummoned, to the fight?
And to a cowardly dissembler yield,
Dragged by device reluctant to the field?
Pretending madness to conceal his fear,
Till one, more artful, made his fraud appear?
Shall he, whom skulking then, no arms could please,
Now ask for arms, and dare to ask for these? —
These, which are doubly mine by right of birth,
And won by valor, as the prize of worth?

" Ah! had his madness real been, or feigned
With more successful art! Had he remained
Safe in his cowardice, nor joined the host
Of Greece and glory on the Trojan coast!
Then never had his counselled deeds of shame
Tarnished the lustre of his country's name,
And Lemnos' shores had never witnessed then
Thy sorrows, Philoctetes! and our sin,
Where now the lonely rocks and forests hear
The sad and ceaseless cries of thy despair,
Where groans and curses, and the hated name
Of Ithacus, thy miseries proclaim:
Curses and groans that not in vain shall rise,
If there be gods to hear above the skies
Thus he, our sworn companion in the war,
A wretched outcast from our ranks, afar
On a lone isle, is forced for food t' employ
The weapons destined for the fall of Troy.
Yet still he lives, from further malice free,
Beyond the reach of his base enemy.
Not so another victim: more severe
A fate, O Palamedes! thou must bear;
Death and disgrace Ulysses plots for thee,
The bold detector of his infamy.
Urged by revenge, for this the accuser came,
To pour thy blood upon thy blasted name,
Charged thee with treason, and, in proof, revealed
The gold that in thy tent himself concealed:
Such fame Ulysses' exploits attends,
Thus is he dangerous only to his friends.

And such his aid to Greece: her warriors given
To a foul death or into exile driven.
What though his boasted eloquence exceed
E'en that of Nestor? can e'en that succeed
In justifying the disgraceful flight
That left the aged Nestor in the fight?
He saw the veteran chief, his strength decayed,
And his steed wounded — heard him call for aid,
And basely fled and left him to his foes
That this is true, brave Diomede well knows,
Who strove, with loud reproaches, to restrain
His flight, and called him back, but called in vain.
But there are gods on high, and they decreed
ThaThe, the aid he would not give, should need.

" Lo now his peril comes: the foe is nigh
He sees, and will not fight and cannot fly.
Will any comrade, if he call, attend?
Will he who basely left, now find, a friend?
He cries for help: I come — I see him lie —
Fear chills his limbs, and quivers in his eye;
I threw my shield between him and the foe,
And saved his worthless life — a worthless deed, I know.
If still thou dar'st with me the contest try,
Return we to that field — there prostrate lie,
With wound, and threatening foe, and wonted fear,
And crouch beneath my shield, and brave me there;
And when thus rescued, his pretended wound
No hind'rance to the recreant's speed is found;
And he, who had not strength to stand in fight,
Is soon among the foremost in the flight.
Hector is nigh, in all the rage of war,
The god of battles thundering from his car,
And where he urges on his dread career,
Ulysses well may fly — for heroes fear
I met him raging with success and wrath;
Fearless, I threw myself before his path,
Nor was my strength and courage tried in vain:
'T was this right hand that pressed him to the plain;
And when again he came with haughty boast,
And proud defiance of the Grecian host,
And dared the boldest warrior of our band
In single strife to meet him, hand to hand,
I was the champion called to that proud field —
The hope of Greece — nor did I fly nor yield
Lo! Troy pours forth again the storm of war,
And sword and spear and torch commingled glare
From her thick ranks — the angry gods are there,
Guiding the fiery tempest to the fleet.
Who now stands forth the battle's rage to meet?
Where is Ulysses, warrior of the tongue?
Ye know, O Greeks, that to the foe I sprung,
That this breast was the shield, this arm the stay
Of all your ships, and all your hopes, that day —
For ships and hopes, then saved, now let these arms repay.
The arms themselves, arms of the great and brave,
Would, could they speak, me for their master crave.
I plead for them, as loudly they for me,
And Greece will honor both and hear our plea
Their ancient post of glory to sustain,
Ajax must bear them to the battle plain,
Then shall they shine where charging squadrons close,
The pride of Greece, the terror of her foes
And will Ulysses, in his folly, dare,
With deeds like mine, his exploits to compare?
His Rhesus and his Dolon, slain by night,
His captives and his spoils, all ta'en by sleight,
Naught done by day, nor e'en without the aid
Of Diomede. If such a price be paid
For such vile deeds, give Diomede his share,
And what is left for Ithacus to wear?
And for what purpose should he strive to gain
Arms he will never use; for arms are vain
To him who steals upon a sleeping foe:
Who only fights the unarmed, unarmed may go
The beamy splendor of this helmet see,
And say, thou dastard! is it fit for thee?
For thee, whom none, but in the dark, e'er dread —
A shining helmet for an ambushed head!
And think'st thou that a neck like thine could e'er
The helmet of Achilles learn to bear?
See, too, the spear his mighty hand has hurled,
And the vast shield, where shines the pictured world,
And say, if arms like these may not demand
Far other arm than thine, and other hand?
Thine, which, to suit thy soul, were only made
To carry on some vile and furtive trade.
Rash fool! let Greece on thee these arms bestow,
Array thyself, and face the opposing foe —
Dare but one onset on the hostile plain —
Ne'er shall we see, or them, or thee, again;
For what thou could'st not wield in manly fight,
Would stay the wonted swiftness of thy flight;
A rich and easy prize thou would'st appear,
And all would strive to seize what none would fear
And why should'st thou another's arms require?
Thine own, untouched by foes, are yet entire:
Thy well kept shield no scar of honor bears —
Mine, shows the fierce thrusts of a thousand spears.
But why this war of words? let deeds declare
The worthiest to wield these arms in war;
Let them amid the opposing host be thrown,
And he who wins them, wear them as his own. "
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