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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 06

NEOPTOLEMUS

But wherefore then
Came not Ulysses? Did his courage fail?

SPY
He, ere I left the camp, with Diomede
On some important embassy sailed forth
In search-

NEOPTOLEMUS
Of whom?

SPY
There was a man- but stay,
Who is thy friend here, tell me, but speak softly.

NEOPTOLEMUS whispering to him
The famous Philoctetes.

SPY
Ha! begone then!
Ask me no more- away, immediately!

PHILOCTETES
What do these dark mysterious whispers mean?
Concern they me, my son?

NEOPTOLEMUS
I know not what
He means to say, but I would have him speak
Boldly before us all, whate'er it be.

SPY
Do not betray me to the Grecian host,
Nor make me speak what I would fain conceal.
I am but poor- they have befriended me.

NEOPTOLEMUS
In me thou seest an enemy confest
To the Atreidae. This is my best friend
Because he hates them too; if thou art mine,
Hide nothing then.

SPY
Consider first.

NEOPTOLEMUS
I have.

SPY
The blame will be on you.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Why, let it be:
But speak, I charge thee.

SPY
Since I must then, know,
In solemn league combined, the bold Ulysses
And gallant Diomede have sworn by force
Or by persuasion to bring back thy friend:
The Grecians heard Laertes' son declare
His purpose; far more resolute he seemed
Than Diomede, and surer of success.

NEOPTOLEMUS
But why the' Atreidae, after so long time,
Again should wish to see this wretched exile,
Whence this desire? Came it from th' angry gods
To punish thus their inhumanity?

SPY
I can inform you; for perhaps from Greece
Of late you have not heard. There was a prophet,
Son of old Priam, Helenus by name,
Hlim, in his midnight walks, the wily chief
Ulysses, curse of every tongue, espied;
Took him. and led him captive. to the Creeks
A welcome spoil. Much he foretold to all,
And added last that Troy should never fall
Till Philoctetes from this isle returned.
Ulysses heard, and instant promise gave
To fetch him hence; he hoped by gentle means
To gain him; those successless, force at last
Could but compel him. He would go, he cried,
And if he failed his head should pay th' forfeit.
I've told thee all, and warn thee to be gone,
Thou and thy friend, if thou wouldst wish to save him.

PHILOCTETES
And does the traitor think he can persuade me?
As well might he persuade me to return
From death to life, as his base father did.

SPY
Of that know not: I must to my ship.
Farewell, and may the gods protect you both!
The Spy departs.

PHILOCTETES
Lead me- expose me to the Grecian host!
And could the insolent Ulysses hope
With his soft flatteries e'er to conquer me?
No! Sooner would I listen to the voice
Of that fell serpent, whose envenomed tongue
Hath lamed me thus. But what is there he dare not
Or say or do? I know he will be here
E'en now, depend on't. Therefore, let's away!
Quick let the sea divide us from Ulysses.
Let us be gone; for well-timed expedition,
The task performed, brings safety and repose.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Soon as the wind permits us we embark,
But now 'tis adverse.

PHILOCTETES
Every wind is fair
When we are flying from misfortune.

NEOPTOLEMUS
True;
And 'tis against them too.

PHILOCTETES
Alas! no storms
Can drive back fraud and rapine from their prey.

NEOPTOLEMUS
I'm ready. Take what may be necessary,
And follow me.

PHILOCTETES
I want not much.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Perhaps
My ship will furnish you.

PHILOCTETES
There is a plant
Which to my wound gives some relief; I must
Have that.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Is there aught else?

PHILOCTETES
Alas! my bow
I had forgot. I must not lose that treasure.
PHILOCTETES steps into the cave, and brings out his bow and arrows.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Are these the famous arrows then?

PHILOCTETES
They are.

NEOPTOLEMUS
And may I be permitted to behold,
To touch, to pay my adoration to them?

PHILOCTETES
In these, my son, in everything that's mine
Thou hast a right,

NEOPTOLEMUS
But if it be a crime,
I would not; otherwise-

 

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