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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 10

PHILOCTETES

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.

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

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

PHILOCTETES
Ah me!
Ulysses here?

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

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

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

PHILOCTETES to NEOPTOLEMUS
O my son!
Give me them back.

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

PHILOCTETES
And will they force me? O thou daring villain!

ULYSSES
They will, unless thou dost consent to go.

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

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

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

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

PHILOCTETES
It doth not.

ULYSSES
But I say it must be so.

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

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

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

ULYSSES
What wouldst do?

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

ULYSSES to the CHORUS
Seize, and prevent him!
They seize him.

PHILOCTETES
Manacled! O hands!
How helpless are you now! those arms, which once
Protected, thus torn from you!
To ULYSSES
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.

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

 

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