“Ajax” by Sophocles

Quotes of Characters:

Who was more full of foresight than this man [Ajax],
Or abler, do you think, to act with judgment?

None that I know of. Yet I pity
His wretchedness, though he is my enemy,
For the terrible yoke of blindness that is on him.
I think of him, yet also of myself;
For I see the true state of all us that live–
We are dim shapes, no more, and weightless shadow.

One short day inclines the balance of all human beings to sink or rise again.
Know that the gods love men of steady sense and hate the proud.


Strangely the long and countless drift of time
Brings all things forth from darkness into light,
Then covers them once more. Nothing so marvelous
That man can say it surely will not be–
Strong oath and iron intent come crashing down.
My mood, which just before was strong and rigid,
No dipped sword more so, now has lost its edge.

The Sorrow of Ajax

I must give way, as all dread strengths give way,
In turn and deference. Winter’s hard-packed snow
Cedes to the fruitful summer; stubborn night
At last removes, for day’s white steeds to shine.
The dread blast of the gale slackens and gives
Peace to the sounding sea; and Sleep, strong jailer,
In time yields up his captive. Shall not I
Learn place and wisdom?

Have I not learned this,
Only so much to hate my enemy
As though he might again become my friend,
And so much good to wish to do my friend,
As knowing he may yet become my foe?
Most men have found friendship a treacherous harbor.

And you that drive your chariot up the steep
Of Heaven, Lord Helios–when you next shall see
My own dear country, check your golden reins,
And bring the tale of my distressful death
To my old father and to her that nursed me.
Poor mother! When she hears this wretched word,
How her grief’s note will quaver through the town!

Strong God of Death, attend me now and come.
And yet I shall converse with you hereafter
And know you in the world below. But you,
Sweet gleam of daylight now before my eyes,
And Sun-God, splendid charioteer, I greet you
For this last time and never any more.
O radiance, O my home, and hallowed ground
Of Salamis, and my father’s hearth, farewell!
And glorious Athens, and my peers and kin
Nurtured with me, and here all springs and streams,
My nurses, you that wet the plains of Troy.



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