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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 10


O my son!
Thou art not base by nature, but misguided
By those who are, to deeds unworthy of thee.
Turn then thy fraud on them who best deserve it;
Restore my arms, and leave me.

Speak, my friends,
What's to be done?
ULYSSES enters suddenly.

Ah! dost thou hesitate?
Traitor, be gone! Give me the arms.

Ah me!
Ulysses here?

Aye! 'tis Ulysses' self
That stands before thee.

Then I'm lost, betrayed!
This was the cruel spoiler.

Doubt it not.
'Twas I; I do confess it.

O my son!
Give me them back.

It must not be; with them
Thyself must go, or we shall drag thee hence.

And will they force me? O thou daring villain!

They will, unless thou dost consent to go.

Wilt thou, O Lemnos! wilt thou, mighty Vulcan!
With thy all-conquering fire, permit me thus
To be torn from thee?

Know, great Jove himself
Doth here preside. He hath decreed thy fate;
I but perform his will.

Detested wretch,
Mak'st thou the gods a cover for thy crime?
Do they teach falsehood?

No, they taught me truth,
And therefore, hence- that way thy journey lies.
Pointing to the sea

It doth not.

But I say it must be so.

And Philoctetes then was born a slave!
I did not know it,

No; I mean to place thee
E'en with the noblest, e'en with those by whom
Proud Troy must perish.

Never will I go,
Befall what may, whilst this deep cave is open
To bury all my sorrows.

What wouldst do?

Here throw me down, dash out my desperate brains
Against this rock, and sprinkle it with my blood.

Seize, and prevent him!
They seize him.

Manacled! O hands!
How helpless are you now! those arms, which once
Protected, thus torn from you!
Thou abandoned,
Thou shameless wretch! from whom nor truth nor justice,
Naught that becomes the generous mind, can flow,
How hast thou used me! how betrayed! Suborned
This stranger, this poor youth, who, worthier far
To be my friend than thine, was only here
Thy instrument; he knew not what he did,
And now, thou seest, repents him of the crime
Which brought such guilt on him, such woes on me.
But thy foul soul, which from its dark recess
Trembling looks forth, beheld him void of art,
Unwilling as he was, instructed him,
And made him soon a master in deceit.
I am thy prisoner now; e'en now thou meanst
To drag me hence, from this unhappy shore,
Where first thy malice left me, a poor exile,
Deserted, friendless, and though living, dead
To all mankind. Perish the vile betrayer!
Oh! I have cursed thee often, but the gods
Will never bear the prayers of Philoctetes.
Life and its joys are thine, whilst I, unhappy,
Am but the scorn of thee, and the Atreidae,
Thy haughty masters. Fraud and force compelled thee,
Or thou hadst never sailed with them to Troy.
I lent my willing aid; with seven brave ships
I ploughed the main to serve them. In return
They cast me forth, disgraced me, left me here.
Thou sayst they did it; they impute the crime
To thee. And what will you do with me now?
And whither must I go? What end, what purpose
Could urge thee to it? I am nothing, lost
And dead already. Wherefore- tell me, wherefore?-
Am I not still the same detested burthen,
Loathsome and lame? Again must Philoctetes
Disturb your holy rites? If I am with you
How can you make libations? That was once
Your vile pretence for inhumanity.
Oh! may you perish for the deed! The gods
Will grant it sure, if justice be their care
And that it is I know. You had not left
Your native soil to seek a wretch like me
Had not some impulse from the powers above,
Spite of yourselves, ordained it. O my country!
And you, O gods! who look upon this deed,
Punish, in pity to me, punish all
The guilty band! Could I behold them perish,
My wounds were nothing; that would heal them all.

Observe, my lord, what bitterness of soul
His words express; he bends not to misfortune,
But seems to brave it.


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