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The Lordes and Capteynes being set toogither with the King,
And all the souldiers standing round about them in a ring,
The owner of the sevenfold sheeld, to theis did Ajax ryse.
And (as he could not brydle wrath) he cast his frowning eyes
Uppon the shore and on the fleete that there at Anchor lyes
And throwing up his handes: God and must wee plead (quoth hee)
Our case before our shippes? and must Ulysses stand with mee?
But like a wretch he ran his way when Hector came with fyre,
Which I defending from theis shippes did force him to retyre.
It easyer is therefore with woordes in print to maynteine stryfe,
Than for to fyght it out with fists. But neyther I am ryfe
In woordes, nor hee in deedes. For looke how farre I him excell
In battell and in feates of armes: so farre beares hee the bell
From mee in talking. Neyther think I requisite to tell
My actes among you. You your selves have seene them verry well.
But let Ulysses tell you his doone all in hudther mudther,
And wherunto the only nyght is privy and none other.
The pryse is great (I doo confesse) for which wee stryve. But yit
It is dishonour unto mee, for that in clayming it
So bace a persone standeth in contention for the same.
To think it myne already, ought to counted bee no shame
Nor pryde in mee: although the thing of ryght great valew bee
Of which Ulysses standes in hope. For now alreadye hee
Hath wonne the honour of this pryse, in that when he shall sit
Besydes the cuishon, he may brag he strave with mee for it.
And though I wanted valiantnesse, yit should nobilitee
Make with mee. I of Telamon am knowne the sonne to bee
Who under valeant Hercules the walles of Troy did scale,
And in the shippe of Pagasa to Colchos land did sayle.
His father was that Aeacus whoo executeth ryght
Among the ghostes where Sisyphus heaves up with all his myght
The massye stone ay tumbling downe. The hyghest Jove of all
Acknowledgeth this Aeacus, and dooth his sonne him call.
Thus am I Ajax third from Jove. Yit let this Pedegree,
O Achyves, in this case of myne avaylable not bee,
Onlesse I proove it fully with Achylles to agree.
He was my brother, and I clayme that was my brothers. Why
Shouldst thou that art of Sisyphs blood, and for to filch and lye
Expressest him in every poynt, by foorged pedegree
Aly thee to the Aeacyds, as though we did not see
Thee to the house of Aeacus a straunger for to bee?
And is it reason that you should this armour mee denye
Bycause I former was in armes, and needed not a spye
To fetch mee foorth? Or think you him more woorthye it to have,
That came to warrefare hindermost, and feynd himself to rave,
Bycause he would have shund the warre? untill a suttler head
And more unprofitable for himself, sir Palamed,
Escryde the crafty fetches of his fearefull hart, and drew
Him foorth a warfare which he sought so cowardly to eschew?
Must he now needes enjoy the best and richest armour, whoo
Would none at all have worne onlesse he forced were thertoo?
And I with shame bee put besyde my cousin germanes gifts
Bycause to shun the formest brunt of warres I sought no shifts?
Would God this mischeef mayster had in verrye deede beene mad,
Or else beleeved so to bee: and that wee never had
Brought such a panion unto Troy. Then should not Paeans sonne
In Lemnos like an outlawe to the shame of all us wonne.
Who lurking now (as men report) in woodes and caves, dooth move
The verry flints with syghes and grones, and prayers to God above
To send Ulysses his desert. Which prayer (if there bee
A God) must one day take effect. And now beehold how hee
By othe a Souldier of our Camp, yea and as well as wee
A Capteine too, alas, (who was by Hercules assignde
To have the keeping of his shafts,) with payne and hungar pynde,
Is clad and fed with fowles, and dribs his arrowes up and downe
At birds, which were by destinye preparde to stroy Troy towne.
Yit liveth hee bycause hee is not still in companie
With sly Ulysses. Palamed that wretched knyght perdie,
Would eeke he had abandond beene. For then should still the same
Have beene alyve: or at the least have dyde without our shame.
But this companion bearing (ah) too well in wicked mynd
His madnesse which sir Palamed by wisdome out did fynd,
Appeached him of treason that he practysde to betray
The Greekish hoste. And for to vouch the fact, he shewd streyght way
A masse of goold that he himself had hidden in his tent,
And forged Letters which he feynd from Priam to bee sent.
Thus eyther by his murthring men or else by banishment
Abateth hee the Greekish strength. This is Ulysses fyght.
This is the feare he puttes men in. But though he had more might
Than Nestor hath, in eloquence he shal not compasse mee
To think his leawd abandoning of Nestor for to bee
No fault: who beeing cast behynd by wounding of his horse,
And slowe with age, with calling on Ulysses waxing hoarce,
Was nerethelesse betrayd by him. Sir Diomed knowes this cryme
Is unsurmysde. For he himselfe did at that present tyme
Rebuke him oftentymes by name, and feercely him upbrayd
With flying from his fellowe so who stood in neede of ayd.
With ryghtfull eyes dooth God behold the deedes of mortall men.
Lo, he that helped not his freend wants help himself agen.
And as he did forsake his freend in tyme of neede: so hee
Did in the selfsame perrill fall forsaken for to bee.
He made a rod to beat himself. He calld and cryed out
Uppon his fellowes. Streight I came: and there I saw the lout
Bothe quake and shake for feare of death, and looke as pale as clout.
I set my sheeld betweene him and his foes, and him bestrid:
And savde the dastards lyfe. Small prayse redoundes of that I did.
But if thou wilt contend with mee, lets to the selfesame place
Agein: bee wounded as thou wart: and in the foresayd case
Of feare, beset about with foes: cowch underneath my sheeld:
And then contend thou with mee there amid the open feeld.
Howbee't, I had no sooner rid this champion of his foes,
But where for woundes he scarce before could totter on his toes,
He ran away apace, as though he nought at all did ayle.
Anon commes Hector to the feeld and bringeth at his tayle
The Goddes. Not only thy hart there (Ulysses) did thee fayle,
But even the stowtest courages and stomacks gan to quayle.
So great a terrour brought he in. Yit in the midds of all
His bloody ruffe, I coapt with him, and with a foyling fall
Did overthrowe him to the ground. Another tyme, when hee
Did make a chalendge, you my Lordes by lot did choose out mee,
And I did match him hand to hand. Your wisshes were not vayne.
For if you aske mee what successe our combate did obteine,
I came away unvanquished. Behold the men of Troy
Brought fyre and swoord, and all the feendes our navye to destroy.
And where was slye Ulysses then with all his talk so smooth?
This brest of myne was fayne to fence your thousand shippes forsooth,
The hope of your returning home. For saving that same day
So many shippes, this armour give. But (if that I shall say
The truth) the greater honour now this armour beares away.
And our renownes togither link. For (as of reason ought)
An Ajax for this armour, not an armour now is sought
For Ajax.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Philoctetes, 1025
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