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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 13


NEOPTOLEMUS
'Twas well determined; always be as wise
As now thou art, and thou mayst live in safety.
He approaches the cave and calls.
Ho! son of Poeas! Philoctetes, leave
Thy rocky habitation, and come forth.

PHILOCTETES from the cave
What noise was that? Who calls on Philoctetes?
He comes out.
Alas! what would you, strangers? Are you come
To heap fresh miseries on me?

NEOPTOLEMUS
Be of comfort,
And bear the tidings which I bring.

PHILOCTETES
I dare not;
Thy flattering tongue hath betrayed me.

NEOPTOLEMUS
And is there then no room for penitence?

PHILOCTETES
Such were thy words, when, seemingly sincere,
Yet meaning ill, thou stolst my arms away.

NEOPTOLEMUS
But now it is not so. I only came
To know if thou art resolute to stay,
Or sail with us.

PHILOCTETES
No more of that; 'tis vain
And useless all.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Art thou then fixed?

PHILOCTETES
I am;
It is impossible to say how firmly.

NEOPTOLEMUS
I thought I could have moved thee, but I've done.

PHILOCTETES
'Tis well thou hast; thy labour had been vain;
For never could my soul esteem the man
Who robbed me of my dearest, best possession,
And now would have me listen to his counsels-
Unworthy offspring of the best of men!
Perish th' Atreidae! perish first Ulysses!
Perish thyself!

NEOPTOLEMUS
Withhold thy imprecations,
And take thy arrows back.

PHILOCTETES
A second time
Wouldst thou deceive me?

NEOPTOLEMUS
By th' almighty power
Of sacred Jove I swear.

PHILOCTETES
O joyful sound!
If thou sayst truly.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Let my actions speak.
Stretch forth thy hand, and take thy arms again.
As NEOPTOLEMUS gives the bow and arrows to PHILOCTETES, ULYSSES suddenly enters.

ULYSSES
Witness ye gods! Here, in the name of Greece
And the Atreidae, I forbid it.

PHILOCTETES
Ha!
What voice is that? Ulysses'?

ULYSSES
Aye, 'tis I-
I who perforce will carry thee to Troy
Spite of Achilles' son.

PHILOCTETES He aims an arrow directly at ULYSSES.
Not if I aim
This shaft aright.

NEOPTOLEMUS laying hold of him
Now, by the gods, I beg thee
Stop thy rash hand!

PHILOCTETES
Let go my arm.

NEOPTOLEMUS
I will not.

PHILOCTETES
Shall I not slay my enemy?

NEOPTOLEMUS
Oh, no!
'Twould cast dishonour on us both.
ULYSSES hastily departs.

PHILOCTETES
Thou knowst,
These Grecian chiefs are loud pretending boasters,
Brave but in tongue, and cowards in the field.

NEOPTOLEMUS
I know it; but remember, I restored
Thy arrows to thee, and thou hast no cause
For rage or for complaint against thy friend.

PHILOCTETES
I own thy goodness. Thou hast shown thyself
Worthy thy birth; no son of Sisyphus,
But of Achilles, who on earth preserved
A fame unspotted, and amongst the dead
Still shines superior, an illustrious shade.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Joyful I thank thee for a father's praise,
And for my own; but listen to my words,
And mark me well. Misfortunes, which the gods
Inflict on mortals, they perforce must bear:
But when, oppressed by voluntary woes,
They make themselves unhappy, they deserve not
Our pity or our pardon. Such art thou.
Thy savage soul, impatient of advice,
Rejects the wholesome counsel of thy friend,
And treats him like a foe; but I will speak,
Jove be my witness! Therefore hear my words,
And grave them in thy heart. The dire disease
Thou long hast suffered is from angry heaven,
Which thus afflicts thee for thy rash approach
To the fell serpent, which on Chrysa's shore
Watched o'er the sacred treasures. Know beside,
That whilst the sun in yonder east shall rise,
Or in the west decline, distempered still
Thou ever shalt remain, unless to Troy
Thy willing mind transport thee. There the sons
Of Aesculapius shall restore thee- there
By my assistance shalt thou conquer Troy.
I know it well; for that prophetic sage,
The Trojan captive Helenus, foretold
It should be so. "Proud Troy (he added then)
This very year must fall; if not, my life
Shall answer for the falsehood." Therefore yield.
Thus to be deemed the first of Grecians, thus
By Poeas' favourite sons to be restored,
And thus marked out the conqueror of Troy,
Is sure distinguished happiness.

 

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