Very good English novels, after reading remember evaluation
R. C. Trevelyan
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY
CHORUS OF SALAMINIANS
TECMESSA, concubine of AJAX
TEUCER, half-brother of AJAX
EURYSACES, child of AJAX and TECMESSA
Attendants, Heralds, etc.
(SCENE:-Before the tent of AJAX in the Greek camp at Troy. It is
dawn. ODYSSEUS is discovered examining the ground before the tent.
ATHENA appears from above.)
SON of Laertes, ever do I behold thee
Scheming to snatch some vantage o'er thy foes.
And now among the tents that guard the ships
Of Ajax, camped at the army's outmost verge,
Long have I watched thee hunting in his trail,
And scanning his fresh prints, to learn if now
He be within or forth. Skilled in the chase
Thou seemest, as a keen-nosed Spartan hound.
For the man but now has passed within, his face
And slaughterous hands streaming with sweat and blood.
No further need for thee to peer about
Inside these doors. But say what eager quest
Is thine, that I who know may give thee light.
Voice of Athena, dearest of Gods to me,
How clearly, though thou be invisible,
Do I hear thy call, and seize it with my soul,
As when a bronze-mouthed Tyrrhene trumpet sounds!
Rightly thou judgest that on a foe's trail,
Broad-shielded Ajax, I range to and fro.
Him, and no other, I have long been tracking.
This very night against us he has wrought
A deed incredible, if in truth 'tis he.
For we know nothing sure, but drift in doubt.
Gladly I assumed the burden of this task.
For not long since we found that our whole spoil
Had been destroyed, both herds and flocks, slaughtered
By some man's hand, their guardians dead beside them.
Now 'tis on him that all men lay this guilt:
And a scout who had seen him swiftly bounding
Across the plain alone with reeking sword,
Informed me and bore witness. I forthwith,
Darting in hot chase, now pick out his tracks,
But now, bewildered, know not whose they are.
Timely thou comest. As in past days, so
In days to come I am guided by thy hand.
I know it, Odysseus: so on the path betimes
A sentinel friendly to thy chase I came.
Dear mistress, do I labour to good purpose?
Know 'twas by yonder man these deeds were wrought.
And why did he so brandish a frenzied hand?
In grievous wrath for Achilles' panoply.
Why then upon the flocks did he make this onslaught?
Your blood he deemed it was that stained his hand.
Was this outrage designed against the Greeks?
He had achieved it too, but for my vigilance.
What bold scheme could inspire such reckless daring?
By night he meant to steal on you alone.
Did he come near us? Did he reach his goal?
He stood already at the two chiefs' doors.
What then withheld his eager hand from bloodshed?
'Twas I restrained him, casting on his eyes
O'ermastering notions of that baneful ecstasy,
That turned his rage on flocks and mingled droves
Of booty yet unshared, guarded by herdsmen.
Then plunging amid the thronging horns he slew,
Smiting on all sides; and one while he fancied
The Atreidae were the captives he was slaughtering,
Now 'twas some other chief on whom he fell.
And I, while thus he raved in maniac throes,
Urged him on, drove him into the baleful toils.
Thereafter, when he had wearied of such labours,
He bound with thongs such oxen as yet lived,
With all the sheep, and drove them to his tents,
As though his spoil were men, not horned cattle.
Now lashed together in the hut he tortures them.
But to thee too will I expose this madness,
That seeing thou mayst proclaim it to all the Greeks.
Boldly await him here, nor apprehend
Mischance; for I will turn aside his eyes,
Foiling his vision lest he see thy face.
(She calls to AJAX within the tent.)
Hearken, thou who art pinioning with cords
The wrists of captives; hither, I bid thee, come.
Thou, Ajax, hear me: come to thy tent's door.
What dost thou, Athena? Do not summon him forth.
Abide in silence. Earn not the name of coward.
Nay, by the Gods, let him remain within.
What dost thou dread? Was he not once a man?
Yes, and to me a foeman, and still is.
To mock foes, is not that the sweetest mockery?
I am content he should remain indoors.
To look upon a madman art thou afeard?
Had he been sane, no fear had made me shrink.
Even now he shall not see thee, near as thou art.
How so, if still with the same eyes he sees?
His orbs will I make dark, though vision is theirs.
Well, all is possible, when 'tis a god contrives.
Stand then silent, abiding as thou art.
Stay I must; yet I fain would be far hence.
Ho, Ajax! Once again I summon thee.
So slight is thy regard for thine ally?
(AJAX appears in the tent door, with a
blood-stained scourge in his hand.)
Oh hail, Athena! Hail thou Zeus-born maid!
Nobly hast thou stood by me. Now will I crown thee
With trophies all of gold for this rich conquest.
Thy words are welcome. But now tell me this:
Hast thou dyed well thy sword in the Argive host?
Such vaunt is mine. I disclaim not that glory.
Against the Atreidae didst thou arm thy hand?
So that Ajax nevermore shall they insult.
The men are dead, if rightly I take thy meaning.
Yes, dead. Now let them rob me of my arms.
'Tis well. And what then of Laertes' son?
In what plight does he stand? Or has he escaped thee?
Wouldst thou know where is that accursed fox?
Even so-Odysseus, thine old adversary.
Goddess, a most dear captive in my tent
He sits. I do not mean him to die yet.
Till thou hast done what, gained what further vantage?
Till bound fast to a pillar beneath my roof-
What evil wilt thou inflict on the poor wretch?
His back the scourge must crimson ere he dies.
Nay, do not torture so the wretched man.
Athena, in all else will I do thy will;
But his shall be no other doom than this.
Thou then, since thy delight is to act thus,
Smite, spare not, abate nought of thy intent.
To my work I return: and thus I charge thee,
As now, so always fight thou upon my side.
(AJAX goes back into the tent.)
Seest thou, Odysseus, how great the strength of gods?
Whom couldst thou find more prudent than this man,
Or whom in act more valiant, when need called?
I know none nobler; and I pity him
In his misery, albeit he is my foe,
Since he is yoked fast to an evil doom.
My own lot I regard no less than his.
For I see well, nought else are we but mere
Phantoms, all we that live, mere fleeting shadows.
Warned therefore by his fate, never do thou
Thyself utter proud words against the gods;
Nor swell with insolence, if thou shouldst vanquish
Some rival by main strength or by wealth's power.
For a day can bring all mortal greatness low,
And a day can lift it up. But the gods love
The wise of heart, the froward they abhor.
(ATHENA vanishes and ODYSSEUS departs. The CHORUS OF SALAMINIANS
Son of Telamon, lord of Salamis' isle,
On its wave-washed throne mid the breaking sea,
I rejoice when fair are thy fortunes:
But whene'er thou art smitten by the stroke of Zeus,
Or the vehement blame of the fierce-tongued Greeks,
Then sore am I grieved, and for fear I quake,
As a fluttering dove with a scared eye.
Even so by rumour murmuring loud
Of the night late-spent our ears are assailed.
'Tis a tale of shame, how thou on the plains
Where the steeds roam wild, didst ruin the Danaan
Flocks and herds,
Our spear-won booty as yet unshared,
With bright sword smiting and slaughtering.
Such now are the slanders Odysseus forges
And whispers abroad into all men's ears,
Winning easy belief: so specious the tale
He is spreading against thee; and each new hearer
Rejoices more than he who told,
Exulting in thy degradation.
For the shaft that is aimed at the noble of soul
Smites home without fail: but whoe'er should accuse me
Of such misdeeds, no faith would he win.
'Tis the stronger whom creeping jealousy strikes.
Yet small men reft of help from the mighty
Can ill be trusted to guard their walls.
Best prosper the lowly in league with the great;
And the great have need to be served by the less.
But none to the knowledge of such plain truths
May lead minds witless and froward.
Even such are the men who murmur against thee:
And vainly without thine aid, O King,
We strive to repel their accusing hate.
For whene'er they are safe from the scorn of thy glance,
They chatter and screech like bids in a flock:
But smitten with dread of the powerful vulture,
Doubtless at once, should'st thou but appear,
They will cower down dumbly in silence.
Was it the Tauric Olympian Artemis,
(Oh, the dread rumour of woe,
Parent of my grievous shame!)
Who drove thee forth to slaughter the herds of the people,
In wrath perchance for some unpaid-for victory,
Whether defrauded of glorious spoil, or offerings
Due for a stag that was slain?
Or did the bronze-clad Demon of battle, aggrieved
On him who scorned the might of his succouring spear,
Plot revenge by nightly deception?
Ne'er of itself had thy heart, son of Telamon,
Strayed into folly so far
As to murder flocks and herds.
Escape from heaven-sent madness is none: yet Apollo
And Zeus avert these evil rumours of the Greeks.
But should the story be false, these crafty slanders
Spread by the powerful kings,
And by the child of the infamous Sisyphid line,
No more, my master, thus in the tent by the sea
Hide thy countenance, earning an ill fame.
Nay, but arise from thy seat, where'er so long wrapt in
Brooding pause from the battle thou hast lurked: arise,
Heaven-high kindle the flame of death.
But the insolence of thy foes boldly
Thus wanders abroad in the wind-swept glens.
Meanwhile all men mocking
With venomous tongues taunt thee:
But grief in my heart wanes not.
(TECMESSA enters. The following lines between TECMESSA and
the CHORUS are chanted responsively.)
Liegemen of Ajax, ship-companions,
Ye children of earth-sprung Erechthid race,
Lamentation is now our portion, to whom
Dear is the far-off house of Telamon,
Now that the stern and terrible Ajax
Lies whelmed by a storm
Of turbid wildering fury.
To what evil change from the day's woe now
Has night given birth?
Thou daughter of Phrygian Teleutas, speak;
For a constant love has valiant Ajax
Borne thee, his spear-won prisoner bride.
Then hide from us nought that thou knowest.
How to utter a tale of unspeakable things!
For disastrous as death is the hap you will hear.
In the darkness of night madness has seized
Our glorious Ajax: he is ruined and lost.
Hereof in the tent may proof be seen;
Sword-slain victims in their own blood bathed,
By his hand sacrificially slaughtered.
What tidings of the fiery warrior tellest thou,
Not to be borne, nor yet to be disputed,
Rumoured abroad by the chiefs of the Danaan host,
Mightily still spreading and waxing!
Woe's me! I dread the horror to come. Yea, to a public death
Will he die, if in truth his be the hand that wielded
The red sword that in frenzy hath slain the herds and mounted
Ah me! Thence was it, thence that he came to me
Leading his captive flock from the pastures!
Thereof in the tent some did he slaughter,
Others hewed he asunder with slashing sword;
Then he caught up amain two white-footed rams,
Sliced off from the one both the head and the tongue,
And flings them away;
But the other upright to a pillar he binds,
Then seizing a heavy horse-harnessing thong
He smites with the whistling doubled lash,
Uttering fierce taunts which an evil fiend
No mere mortal could have taught him.
'Tis time that now each with shamefully muffled head
Forth from the camp should creep with stealthy footsteps.
Nay, on the ship let us muster, and benched at the oars
Over the waves launch her in swift flight.
Such angry threats sound in our ears hurled by the brother
The Atreidae: and I quake, fearing a death by stoning,
The dread portion of all who would share our hapless master's
Yet hope we: for ceased is the lightning's flash:
His rage dies down like a fierce south-wind.
But now, grown sane, new misery is his;
For on woes self-wrought he gazes aghast,
Wherein no hand but his own had share;
And with anguish his soul is afflicted.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Nay, if 'tis ceased, there is good cause to hope.
Once 'tis past, of less moment is his frenzy.
And which, were the choice thine, wouldst thou prefer,
To afflict thy friends and feel delight thyself,
Or to share sorrow, grieving with their grief?
The twofold woe, lady, would be the greater.
Then we, though plagued no more, are undone now.
What mean thy words? Their sense is dark to me.
Yonder man, while his spirit was diseased,
Himself had joy in his own evil plight,
Though to us, who were sane, he brought distress.
But now, since he has respite from his plague,
He with sore grief is utterly cast down,
And we likewise, no less than heretofore.
Are there not here two woes instead of one?
Yes truly. And I fear, from some god came
This stroke; how else? if, now his frenzy is ceased,
His mind has no more ease than when it raged.
'Tis even as I said, rest well assured.
But how did this bane first alight upon him?
To us who share thy grief show what befell.
Thou shalt hear all, as though thou hadst been present.
In the middle of the night, when the evening braziers
No longer flared, he took a two-edged sword,
And fain would sally upon an empty quest.
But I rebuked him, saying: "What doest thou,
Ajax? Why thus uncalled wouldst thou go forth?
No messenger has summoned thee, no trumpet
Roused thee. Nay, the whole camp is sleeping still."
But curtly he replied in well-worn phrase:
"Woman, silence is the grace of woman."
Thus schooled, I yielded; and he rushed out alone.
What passed outside the tent, I cannot tell.
But in he came, driving lashed together
Bulls, and shepherd dogs, and fleecy prey.
Some he beheaded, the wrenched-back throats of some
He slit, or cleft their chines; others he bound
And tortured, as though men they were, not beasts.
Last, darting through the doors, as to some phantom
He tossed words, now against the Atreidae, now
Taunting Odysseus, piling up huge jeers
Of how he had gone and wreaked his scorn upon them.
Soon he rushed back within the tent, where slowly
And hardly to his reason he returned.
And gazing round on the room filled with havoc,
He struck his head and cried out; then amidst
The wrecks of slaughtered sheep a wreck he fell,
And sat clutching his hair with tight-clenched nails.
There first for a long while he crouched speechless;
Then did he threaten me with fearful threats,
If I revealed not all that had befallen him,
Asking what meant the plight wherein he lay.
And I, friends, terror-stricken, told him all
That had been done, so far as I had knowledge.
Forthwith he broke forth into bitter wailing,
Such as I ne'er had heard from him before
For always had he held that such laments
Befitted cowards only, and low-souled men:
But uttering no shrill cries, he would express
His grief in low groans, as of a moaning bull.
But now prostrate beneath so great a woe,
Not tasting food nor drink, he sits among
The sword-slain beasts, motionless where he sank.
And plainly he meditates some baleful deed,
For so portend his words and lamentations.
But, O friends!-'twas for this cause I came forth-
Enter and help, if help at all you can:
For by friends' words men so bestead are won.
Child of Teleutas, fearful are thy tidings,
That our prince has been maddened by his griefs.
Alas! Woe, woe!
Soon, I fear, worse will follow. Heard you not?
'Twas Ajax. Oh, how dreadful was that cry.
Alas! Woe, woe!