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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 07


Oh! thou art full
Of piety; in thee it is no crime;
In thee, my friend, by whom alone I look
Once more with pleasure on the radiant sun-
By whom I live- who giv'st me to return
To my dear father, to my friends, my country:
Sunk as I was beneath my foes, once more
I rise to triumph o'er them by thy aid:
Behold them, touch them, but return them to me,
And boast that virtue which on thee alone
Bestowed such honour. Virtue made them mine.
I can deny thee nothing: he, whose heart
Is grateful can alone deserve the name
Of friend, to every treasure far superior.

Go in.

Come with me; for my painful wound
Requires thy friendly hand to help me onward.
They go into the cave.

CHORUS singing
strophe 1

Since proud Ixion, doomed to feel
The tortures of th' eternal wheel,
Bound by the hand of angry Jove,
Received the due rewards of impious love;
Ne'er was distress so deep or woe so great
As on the wretched Philoctetes wait;
Who ever with the just and good,
Guiltless of fraud and rapine, stood,
And the fair paths of virtue still pursued;
Alone on this inhospitable shore,
Where waves for ever beat and tempests roar,
How could he e'er or hope or comfort know,
Or painful life support beneath such weight of woe?

antistrophe 1

Exposed to the inclement skies,
Deserted and forlorn he lies,
No friend or fellow-mourner there
To soothe his sorrows and divide his care,
Or seek the healing plant of power to 'suage
His aching wound and mitigate its rage;
But if perchance, awhile released
From torturing pain, he sinks to rest,
Awakened soon, and by sharp hunger prest,
Compelled to wander forth in search of food,
He crawls in anguish to the neighbouring wood;
Even as the tottering infant in despair
Who mourns an absent mother's kind supporting care.

strophe 2

The teeming earth, who mortals still supplies
With every good, to him her seed denies;
A stranger to the joy that flows
From the kind aid which man on man bestows;
Nor food, alas! to him was given,
Save when his arrows pierced the birds of heaven;
Nor e'er did Bacchus' heart-expanding bow!
For ten long years relieve his cheerless soul;
But glad was he his eager thirst to slake
In the unwholesome pool, or ever-stagnant lake.

antistrophe 2

But now, behold the joyful captive freed;
A fairer fate, and brighter days succeed:
For he at last hath found a friend
Of noblest race, to save and to defend,
To guide him with protecting hand,
And safe restore him to his native land;
On Spercheius' flowery banks to join the throng
Of Malian nymphs, and lead the choral song
On Oeta's top, which saw Alcides rise,
And from the flaming pile ascend his native skies.
NEOPTOLEMUS and PHILOCTETES enter from the cave. PHILOCTETES is suddenly seized with spasms of pain. He still holds in his hand the bow and arrows.

Come, Philoctetes; why thus silent? Wherefore
This sudden terror on thee?


Whence is it?

Nothing, my son; go on!

Is it thy wound
That pains thee thus?

No; I am better now.
O gods!

Why dost thou call thus on the gods?

To smile propitious, and preserve us- Oh!

Thou art in misery. Tell me- wilt thou not?
What is it?

O my son! I can no longer
Conceal it from thee. Oh! I die, I perish;
By the great gods let me implore thee, now
This moment, if thou hast a sword. oh! strike,
Cut off this painful limb, and end my being!

What can this mean, that unexpected thus
It should torment thee?

Know you not, my son?

What is the cause?

Can you not guess it?


Nor I.

That's stranger still.

My son, my son

This new attack is terrible indeed!

'Tis inexpressible! Have pity on me!

What shall I do?

Do not be terrified,
And leave me. Its returns are regular,
And like the traveller, when its appetite
Is satisfied, it will depart. Oh! oh!

Thou art oppressed with ills on every side.
Give me thy hand. Come, wilt thou lean upon me?

No; but these arrows take; preserve 'em for me.
A little while, till I grow better. Sleep
Is coming on me, and my pains will cease.
Let me be quiet. If meantime our foes
Surprise thee, let nor force nor artifice
Deprive thee of the great, the precious trust
I have reposed in thee; that were ruin
To thee, and to thy friend.

Be not afraid-
No hands but mine shall touch them; give them to me.


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