PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 03
And yet I wonder not; for if aright
I judge, from angry heaven the sentence came,
And Chrysa was the cruel source of all;
Nor doth this sad disease inflict him still
Incurable, without assenting gods?
For so they have decreed, lest Troy should fall
Beneath his arrows ere the' appointed time
Of its destruction come.
No more, my son!
What sayst thou?
Sure I heard a dismal groan
Of some afflicted wretch.
I hear it, and the sound as of some step
Slow-moving this way. He is not far from us.
His plaints are louder now.
Prepare, my son!
New troubles; for behold he comes! PHILOCTETES enters, clad in rags. He moves with difficulty and is obviously suffering pain from his injured foot.
Not like the shepherd with his rural pipe
And cheerful song, but groaning heavily.
Either his wounded foot against some thorn
Hath struck, and pains him sorely, or perchance
He hath espied from far some ship attempting
To enter this inhospitable port,
And hence his cries to save it from destruction.
Say, welcome strangers, what disastrous fate
Led you to this inhospitable shore,
Nor haven safe, nor habitation fit
Affording ever? Of what clime, what race?
Who are ye? Speak! If I may trust that garb,
Familiar once to me, ye are of Greece,
My much-loved country. Let me hear the sound
Of your long wished-for voices. Do not look
With horror on me, but in kind compassion
Pity a wretch deserted and forlorn
In this sad place. Oh! if ye come as friends,
Speak then, and answer- hold some converse with me,
For this at least from man to man is due.
Know, stranger, first what most thou seemst to wish;
We are of Greece.
Oh! happiness to hear!
After so many years of dreadful silence,
How welcome was that sound! Oh! tell me, son,
What chance, what purpose, who conducted thee?
What brought thee thither, what propitious gale?
Who art thou? Tell me all- inform me quickly.
Native of Scyros, hither I return;
My name is Neoptolemus, the son
Of brave Achilles. I have told thee all.
Dear is thy country, and thy father dear
To me, thou darling of old Lycomede;
But tell me in what fleet, and whence thou cam'st.
From Troy? I think thou wert not with us
When first our fleet sailed forth.
Wert thou then there?
Or knowst thou aught of that great enterprise?
Know you not then the man whom you behold?
How should I know whom I had never seen?
Have you ne'er heard of me, nor of my name?
Hath my sad story never reached your ear?
Alas! how hateful to the gods,
How very poor a wretch must I be then,
That Greece should never hear of woes like mine!
But they who sent me hither, they concealed them,
And smile triumphant, whilst my cruel wounds
Grow deeper still. O, sprung from great Achilles!
Behold before thee Poeas' wretched son,
With whom, a chance but thou hast heard, remain
The dreadful arrows of renowned Alcides,
E'en the unhappy Philoctetes- him
Whom the Atreidae and the vile Ulysses
Inhuman left, distempered as I was
By the envenomed serpent's deep-felt wound.
Soon as they saw that, with long toil oppressed,
Sleep had o'ertaken me on the hollow rock,
There did they leave me when from Chrysa's shore
They bent their fatal course; a little food
And these few rags were all they would bestow.
Such one day be their fate! Alas! my son,
How dreadful, thinkst thou, was that waking to me,
When from my sleep I rose and saw them not!
How did I weep! and mourn my wretched state!
When not a ship remained of all the fleet
That brought me here- no kind companion left
To minister or needful food or balm
To my sad wounds. On every side I looked,
And nothing saw but woe; of that indeed
Measure too full. For day succeeded day,
And still no comfort came; myself alone
Could to myself the means of life afford,
In this poor grotto. On my bow I lived:
The winged dove, which my sharp arrow slew,
With pain I brought into my little hut,
And feasted there; then from the broken ice
I slaked my thirst, or crept into the wood
For useful fuel; from the stricken flint
I drew the latent spark, that warms me still
And still revives. This with my humble roof
Preserve me, son. But, oh! my wounds remain.
Thou seest an island desolate and waste;
No friendly port nor hopes of gain to tempt,
Nor host to welcome in the traveller;
Few seek the wild inhospitable shore.
By adverse winds, sometimes th' unwilling guests,
As well thou mayst suppose, were hither driven;
But when they came, they only pitied me,
Gave me a little food, or better garb
To shield me from the cold; in vain I prayed
That they would bear me to my native soil,
For none would listen. Here for ten long years
Have I remained, whilst misery and famine
Keep fresh my wounds, and double my misfortune.
This have th' Atreidae and Ulysses done,
And may the gods with equal woes repay them!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
O, son of Poeas! well might those, who came
And saw thee thus, in kind compassion weep;
I too must pity thee- I can no more.