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PHILOCTETES by Sophocles, Part 14

PHILOCTETES

O life!
Detested, why wilt thou still keep me here?
Why not dismiss me to the tomb! Alas!
What can I do? How can I disbelieve
My generous friend? I must consent, and yet
Can I do this, and look upon the sun?
Can I behold my friends- will they forgive,
Will they associate with me after this?
And you, ye heavenly orbs that roll around me,
How will ye bear to see me linked with those
Who have destroyed me, e'en the sons of Atreus,
E'en with Ulysses, source of all my woes?
My sufferings past I could forget; but oh!
I dread the woes to come; for well I know
When once the mind's corrupted it brings forth
Unnumbered crimes, and ills to ills succeed.
It moves my wonder much that thou, my friend,
Shouldst thus advise me, whom it ill becomes
To think of Troy. I rather had believed
Thou wouldst have sent me far, far off from those
Who have defrauded thee of thy just right,
And gave thy arms away. Are these the men
Whom thou wouldst serve? whom thou wouldst thus compel me
To save and to defend? It must not be.
Remember, O my son! the solemn oath
Thou gav'st to bear me to my native soil.
Do this, my friend, remain thyself at Scyros,
And leave these wretches to be wretched still.
Thus shalt thou merit double thanks, from me
And from thy father; nor by succour given
To vile betrayers prove thyself as vile.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Thou sayst most truly. Yet confide in heaven,
Trust to thy friend, and leave this hated place.

PHILOCTETES
Leave it! For whom? For Troy and the Atreidae?
These wounds forbid it.

NEOPTOLEMUS
They shall all be healed,
Where I will carry thee.

PHILOCTETES
An idle tale
Thou tellst me. surely; dost thou not?

NEOPTOLEMUS
I speak
What best may serve us both.

PHILOCTETES
But, speaking thus,
Dost thou not fear the' offended gods?

NEOPTOLEMUS
Why fear them?
Can I offend the gods by doing good?

PHILOCTETES
What good? To whom? To me or to the' Atreidae?

NEOPTOLEMUS
I am thy friend, and therefore would persuade thee.

PHILOCTETES
And therefore give me to my foes.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Alas!
Let not misfortunes thus transport thy soul
To rage and bitterness.

PHILOCTETES
Thou wouldst destroy me.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Thou knowst me not.

PHILOCTETES
I know th' Atreidae well,
Who left me here.

NEOPTOLEMUS
They did; yet they perhaps,
E'en they, O Philoctetes! may preserve thee.

PHILOCTETES
I never will to Troy.

NEOPTOLEMUS
What's to be done?
Since I can ne'er persuade thee, I submit;
Live on in misery.

PHILOCTETES
Then let me suffer;
Suffer I must; but, oh! perform thy promise;
Think on thy plighted faith, and guard me home
Instant, my friend, nor ever call back Troy
To my remembrance; I have felt enough
From Troy already.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Let us go; prepare!

PHILOCTETES
O glorious sound!

NEOPTOLEMUS
Bear thyself up.

PHILOCTETES
I will,
If possible.

NEOPTOLEMUS
But how shall I escape
The wrath of Greece?

PHILOCTETES
Oh! think not of it.

NEOPTOLEMUS
What
If they should waste my kingdom?

PHILOCTETES
I'll be there.

NEOPTOLEMUS
Alas! what canst thou do?

PHILOCTETES
And with these arrows
Of my Alcides-

NEOPTOLEMUS
Ha! What sayst thou?

PHILOCTETES
Drive
Thy foes before me. Not a Greek shall dare
Approach thy borders.

NEOPTOLEMUS
If thou wilt do this,
Salute the earth, and instant hence. Away!
HERCULES appears from above, and speaks as he moves forward.

HERCULES
Stay, son of Poeas! Lo to thee 'tis given
Once more to see and hear thy loved Alcides,
Who for thy sake hath left yon heavenly mansions,
And comes to tell thee the decrees of Jove;
To turn thee from the paths thou meanst to tread,
And guide thy footsteps right. Therefore attend.
Thou knowst what toils, what labours I endured,
Ere I by virtue gained immortal fame;
Thou too like me by toils must rise to glory-
Thou too must suffer, ere thou canst be happy;
Hence with thy friend to Troy, where honour calls,
Where health awaits thee- where, by virtue raised
To highest rank, and leader of the war,
Paris, its hateful author, shalt thou slay,
Lay waste proud Troy, and send thy trophies home,
Thy valour's due reward, to glad thy sire
On Oeta's top. The gifts which Greece bestows
Must thou reserve to grace my funeral pile,
And be a monument to after-ages
Of these all-conquering arms. Son of Achilles
Turning to NEOPTOLEMUS
(For now to thee I speak,) remember this,
Without his aid thou canst not conquer Troy,
Nor Philoctetes without thee succeed;
Go then, and, like two lions in the field
Roaming for prey, guard ye each other well;
My Aesculapius will I send e'en now
To heal thy wounds-Then go, and conquer Troy;
But when you lay the vanquished city waste.
Be careful that you venerate the gods;
For far above all other gifts doth Jove,
Th' almighty father, hold true piety:
Whether we live or die, that still survives
Beyond the reach of fate, and is immortal.

PHILOCTETES chanting
Once more to let me hear that wished-for voice,
To see thee after so long time, was bliss
I could not hope for. Oh! I will obey
Thy great commands most willingly.

NEOPTOLEMUS chanting
And I.

HERCULES chanting
Delay not then. For lo! a prosperous wind
Swells in thy sail. The time invites. Adieu!
HERCULES disappears above.

PHILOCTETES chanting
I will but pay my salutations here,
And instantly depart. To thee, my cave,
Where I so long have dwelt, I bid farewell!
And you, ye nymphs, who on the watery plains
Deign to reside, farewell! Farewell the noise
Of beating waves, which I so oft have heard
From the rough sea, which by the black winds driven
O'erwhelmed me, shivering. Oft th' Hermaean mount
Echoed my plaintive voice, by wintry storms
Afflicted, and returned me groan for groan.
Now, ye fresh fountains, each Lycaean spring,
I leave you now. Alas! I little thought
To leave you ever. And thou sea-girt isle,
Lemnos, farewell! Permit me to depart
By thee unblamed, and with a prosperous gale
To go where fate demands, where kindest friends
By counsel urge me, where all-powerful Jove
In his unerring wisdom hath decreed.

CHORUS chanting
Let us be gone, and to the ocean nymphs
Our humble prayers prefer, that they would all
Propitious smile, and grant us safe return.

THE END

 

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