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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 08


Receive them, son; and let it be thy prayer
They bring not woes on thee, as they have done
To me and to Alcides.
PHILOCTETES gives him the bow and arrows.

May the gods
Forbid it ever! May they guide our course
And speed our prosperous sails!

Alas! my son,
I fear thy vows are vain. Behold my blood
Flows from the wound? Oh how it pains me! Now
It comes, it hastens! Do not, do not leave me!
Oh! that Ulysses felt this racking torture,
E'en to his inmost soul! Again it comes!
O Agamemnon! Menelaus! why
Should not you bear these pangs as I have done?
O death! where art thou, death? so often called,
Wilt thou not listen? wilt thou never come?
Take thou the Lemnian fire, my generous friend,
Do me the same kind office which I did
For my Alcides. These are thy reward;
He gave them to me. Thou alone deservest
The great inheritance. What says my friend?
What says my dear preserver? Oh! where art thou?

I mourn thy hapless fate.

Be of good cheer,
Quick my disorder comes, and goes as soon;
I only beg thee not to leave me here.

Depend on 't, I will stay.

Wilt thou indeed?

Trust me, I will.

I need not bind thee to it
By oath.

Oh, no! 'twere impious to forsake thee.

Give me thy hand, and pledge thy faith.

I do.

PHILOCTETES pointing up to heaven
Thither, oh, thither lead!

What sayst thou? where?


What, lost again? Why lookst thou thus
On that bright circle?

Let me, let me go!

NEOPTOLEMUS lays hold of him
Where wouldst thou go?

Loose me.

I will not.

You'll kill me, if you do not.

NEOPTOLEMUS lets him go
There, then; now
Is thy mind better?

Oh! receive me, earth!
Receive a dying man. Here must I lie;
For, oh! my pain's so great I cannot rise.
PHILOCTETES sinks down on the earth near the entrance of the cave.

Sleep hath o'ertaken him. See, his head is lain
On the cold earth; the balmy sweat thick drops
From every limb, and from the broken vein
Flows the warm blood; let us indulge his slumbers.

CHORUS singing
Sleep, thou patron of mankind,
Great physician of the mind,
Who dost nor pain nor sorrow know,
Sweetest balm of every woe,
Mildest sovereign, hear us now;
Hear thy wretched suppliant's vow;
His eyes in gentle slumbers close,
And continue his repose;
Hear thy wretched suppliant's vow,
Great physician, hear us now.
And now, my son, what best may suit thy purpose
Consider well, and how we are to act.
What more can we expect? The time is come;
For better far is opportunity
Seized at the lucky hour than all the counsels
Which wisdom dictates or which craft inspires.

He hears us not. But easy as it is
To gain the prize, it would avail us nothing
Were he not with us. Phoebus hath reserved
For him alone the crown of victory;
But thus to boast of what we could not do,
And break our word, were most disgraceful to us.

CHORUS singing
The gods will guide us, fear it not, my son;
But what thou sayst speak soft, for well thou knowst
The sick man's sleep is short. He may awake
And hear us; therefore let us hide our purpose.
If then thou thinkst as he does- thou knowst whom-
This is the hour. At such a time, my son,
The wisest err. But mark me, the wind's fair,
And Philoctetes sleeps, void of all help-
Lame, impotent, unable to resist,
He is as one among the dead. E'en now
We'll take him with us. 'Twere an easy task.
Leave it to me, my son. There is no danger.

No more! His eyes are open. See, he moves.

O fair returning light! beyond my hope;
You too, my kind preservers! O my son!
I could not think thou wouldst have stayed so long
In kind compassion to thy friend. Alas!
The Atreidae never would have acted thus.
But noble is thy nature, and thy birth,
And therefore little did my wretchedness,
Nor from my wounds the noisome stench deter
Thy generous heart. I have a little respite;
Help me, my son I I'll try to rise; this weakness
Will leave me soon, and then we'll go together.


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