Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AJAX: BEFORE DEATH, by SOPHOCLES

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

AJAX: BEFORE DEATH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: So stands my cut-throat fitliest for its work
Last Line: To ghosts in hades shall the rest be said.
Subject(s): Death; Dead, The

SO stands my cut-throat fitliest for its work --
Give me but time to think this matter out --
First, as 'tis Hector's gift, of all my friends
Worst foeman, and most hateful in my sight;
Then, as 'tis planted in Troy's hostile soil,
New-whet on whetstone hungry for the steel:
But delicately, with care, I planted it,
With best good will to give me speedy death.
So all is ready, and so, my part being done,
Thou, Zeus, be first to help me, as is fit.
'Tis no great boon of thee that I shall ask:
Send now some messenger and let him bear
The ill-news to Teucer, that no hand ere his
May lift me fallen about this reeking sword:
And let no enemy behold me first
And fling me forth, to dogs and birds a prey.
Zeus, unto thee my prayer is said: but thou,
Hermes, good guide to deathward, give me good sleep --
With unconvulsive and with sudden bound,
Leaping upon this sword to pierce my heart.
Moreover, I call to aid the virgins ever,
Whose eyes fail never of seeing wrong done on earth,
Far-striding, dread Erinyes -- to see
How by the Atreidae, hapless, I am undone:
And with a swift perdition sweep them off,
An evil portion for their evil deeds --
As by this fatal and unnatural hand
They see me die, grant them to perish so,
Unnaturally, by their own children slain.
Come vengeful Furies, swift Erinyes,
Spare not, but glut your will on all the host.
And thou that chariotest the steeps of heaven,
When on my native land falls next thy gaze,
Awhile, O Sun-god, draw thy golden rein,
And tell the old man my father -- let him know,
And my sad mother, my sufferings and my death.
Poor soul, I think that, when she hears the tale,
Loud weeping through the city she will send.
But now what use lamenting, all in vain?
Quick as I may, let me begin this deed.
O death, death, death, come now and look on me!
Nay rather -- for I shall commune there with thee --
This present radiance of the shining day,
Now I invoke, and Helios, charioteer,
Thee with my latest breath, and never more.
O light, O sacred soil of Salamis
My home, and firm-set hearth of my father's house,
And glorious Athens, and the kindred race,
Founts and these rivers, and ye plains of Troy --
All ye have nursed my life -- to all farewell!
His latest word to you thus Ajax speaks:
To ghosts in Hades shall the rest be said.

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