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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 02


O noble youth! and worthy of thy sire!
When I like thee was young, like thee of strength
And courage boastful, little did I deem
Of human policy; but long experience
Hath taught me, son, 'tis not the powerful arm,
But soft enchanting tongue that governs all.

And thou wouldst have me tell an odious falsehood?

He must be gained by fraud.

By fraud? And why
Not by persuasion?

He'll not listen to it;
And force were vainer still.

What mighty power
Hath he to boast?

His arrows winged with death

Then it were not safe
E'en to approach him.

No; unless by fraud
He be secured.

And thinkst thou 'tis not base
To tell a lie then?

Not if on that lie
Depends our safety.

Who shall dare to tell it
Without a blush?

We need not blush at aught
That may promote our interest and success.

But where's the interest that should bias me?
Come he or not to Troy, imports it aught
To Neoptolemus?

Troy cannot fall
Without his arrows.

Saidst thou not that I
Was destined to destroy her?

Without them
Naught canst thou do, and they without thee nothing.

Then I must have them.

When thou hast, remember
A double prize awaits thee.

What, Ulysses?

The glorious names of valiant and of wise.

Away! I'll do it. Thoughts of guilt or shame
No more appal me.

Wilt thou do it then?
Wilt thou remember what I told thee of?

Depend on 't; I have promised- that's sufficient.

Here then remain thou; I must not be seen.
If thou stay long, I'll send a faithful spy,
Who in a sailor's habit well disguised
May pass unknown; of him, from time to time,
What best may suit our purpose thou shalt know.
I'll to the ship. Farewell! and may the god
Who brought us here, the fraudful Mercury,
And great Minerva, guardian of our country,
And ever kind to me, protect us still!
ULYSSES goes out as the CHORUS enters. The following lines are chanted responsively between NEOPTOLEMUS and the CHORUS.

strophe 1

Master, instruct us, strangers as we are,
What we may utter, what we must conceal.
Doubtless the man we seek will entertain
Suspicion of us; how are we to act?
To those alone belongs the art to rule
Who bear the sceptre from the hand of Jove;
To thee of right devolves the power supreme,
From thy great ancestors delivered down;
Speak then, our royal lord, and we obey.

systema 1

If you would penetrate yon deep recess
To seek the cave where Philoctetes lies,
Go forward; but remember to return
When the poor wanderer comes this way, prepared
To aid our purpose here if need require.

antistrophe 1

O king! we ever meant to fix our eyes
On thee, and wait attentive to thy will;
But, tell us, in what part is he concealed?
'Tis fit we know the place, lest unobserved
He rush upon us. Which way doth it lie?
Seest thou his footsteps leading from the cave,
Or hither bent?

NEOPTOLEMUS advancing towards the cave
systema 2

Behold the double door
Of his poor dwelling, and the flinty bed.

And whither is its wretched master gone?

Doubtless in search of food, and not far off,
For such his manner is; accustomed here,
So fame reports, to pierce with winged arrows
His savage prey for daily sustenance,
His wound still painful, and no hope of cure.

strophe 2

Alas! I pity him. Without a friend,
Without a fellow-sufferer, left alone,
Deprived of all the mutual joys that flow
From sweet society- distempered too!
How can he bear it? O unhappy race
Of mortal man! doomed to an endless round
Of sorrows, and immeasurable woe!

antistrophe 2

Second to none in fair nobility
Was Philoctetes, of illustrious race;
Yet here he lies, from every human aid
Far off removed, in dreadful solitude,
And mingles with the wild and savage herd;
With them in famine and in misery
Consumes his days, and weeps their common fate,
Unheeded, save when babbling echo mourns
In bitterest notes responsive to his woe.


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