PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 04
I can bear witness to thee, for I know
By sad experience what th' Atreidae are,
And what Ulysses.
Hast thou suffered then?
And dost thou hate them too?
Oh! that these hands
Could vindicate my wrongs! Mycenae then
And Sparta should confess that Scyros boasts
Of sons as brave and valiant as their own.
O noble youth! But wherefore cam'st thou hither?
Whence this resentment?
I will tell thee all,
If I can bear to tell it. Know then, soon
As great Achilles died-
Oh, stay, my son!
Is then Achilles dead?
He is, and not
By mortal hand, but by Apollo's shaft
Oh! most worthy of each other,
The slayer and the slain! Permit me, son,
To mourn his fate, ere I attend to thine.
Alas! thou needst not weep for others' woes,
Thou hast enough already of thy own.
'Tis very true; and therefore to thy tale.
Thus then it was. Soon as Achilles died,
Phoenix, the guardian of his tender years,
Instant sailed forth, and sought me out at Scyros;
With him the wary chief Ulysses came.
They told me then (or true or false I know not),
My father dead, by me, and me alone
Proud Troy must fall. I yielded to their prayers;
I hoped to see at least the dear remains
Of him whom living I had long in vain
Wished to behold. Safe at Sigeum's port
Soon we arrived. In crowds the numerous host
Thronged to embrace me, called the gods to witness
In me once more they saw their loved Achilles
To life restored; but he, alas! was gone.
I shed the duteous tear, then sought my friends
Th' Atreidae friends I thought 'em!-claimed the arms
Of my dead father, and what else remained
His late possession: when- O cruel words!
And wretched I to hear them- thus they answered:
"Son of Achilles, thou in vain demandst
Those arms already to Ulysses given;
The rest be thine." I wept. "And is it thus,"
Indignant I replied, "ye dare to give
My right away?" "Know, boy," Ulysses cried,
"That right was mine. and therefore they bestowed
The boon on me: me who preserved the arms,
And him who bore them too." With anger fired
At this proud speech, I threatened all that rage
Could dictate to me if he not returned them.
Stung with my words, yet calm, he answered me:
"Thou wert not with us; thou wert in a place
Where thou shouldst not have been; and since thou meanst
To brave us thus, know, thou shalt never bear
Those arms with thee to Scyros; 'tis resolved."
Thus injured, thus deprived of all I held
Most precious, by the worst of men, I left
The hateful place, and seek my native soil.
Nor do I blame so much the proud Ulysses
As his base masters- army, city, all
Depend on those who rule. When men grow vile
The guilt is theirs who taught them to be wicked.
I've told thee all, and him who hates the Atreidae
I hold a friend to me and to the gods.
O Earth! thou mother of great Jove,
Embracing all with universal love,
Author benign of every good,
Through whom Pactolus rolls his golden flood!
To thee, whom in thy rapid car
Fierce lions draw, I rose and made my prayer-
To thee I made my sorrows known,
When from Achilles' injured son
Th' Atreidae gave the prize, that fatal day
When proud Ulysses bore his arms away.
I wonder not, my friend, to see you here,
And I believe the tale; for well I know
The man who wronged you, know the base Ulysses
Falsehood and fraud dwell on his lips, and nought
That's just or good can be expected from him.
But strange it is to me that, Ajax present,
He dare attempt it.
Ajax is no more;
Had he been living, I had ne'er been spoiled
Thus of my right.
Is he then dead?
Alas! the son of Tydeus, and that slave,
Sold by his father Sisyphus, they live,
Unworthy as they are.
Alas! they do,
And flourish still.
My old and worthy friend
The Pylian sage, how is he? He could see
Their arts, and would have given them better counsels.
Weighed down with grief he lives, but most unhappy,
Weeps his lost son, his dear Antilochus.
O double woe! whom I could most have wished
To live and to be happy, those to perish!
Ulysses to survive! It should not be.
Oh! 'tis a subtle foe; but deepest plans
May sometimes fail.
Where was Patroclus then,
Thy father's dearest friend?
He too was dead.
In war, alas- so fate ordains it ever-
The coward 'scapes, the brave and virtuous fall.
It is too true; and now thou talkst of cowards,
Where is that worthless wretch, of readiest tongue,
Subtle and voluble?
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