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Philoctetes

 

CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

 

  ULYSSES, King of Ithaca

  NEOPTOLEMUS, son of Achilles

  PHILOCTETES, son of Poeas and Companion of HERCULES

  A SPY

  HERCULES

  CHORUS, composed of the companions of ULYSSES and NEOPTOLEMUS

 

SCENE:- A lonely region on the shore of Lemnos,

before a steep cliff in which is the entrance to PHILOCTETES' cave.

ULYSSES, NEOPTOLEMUS and an attendant enter.

 

ULYSSES

At length, my noble friend, thou bravest son

Of a brave father- father of us all,

The great Achilles- we have reached the shore

Of sea-girt Lemnos, desert and forlorn,

Where never tread of human step is seen,

Or voice of mortal heard, save his alone,

Poor Philoctetes, Poeas' wretched son,

Whom here I left; for such were my commands

From Grecia's chiefs, when by his fatal wound

Oppressed, his groans and execrations dreadful

Alarmed our hosts, our sacred rites profaned,

And interrupted holy sacrifice.

But why should I repeat the tale? The time

Admits not of delay. We must not linger,

Lest he discover our arrival here,

And all our purposed fraud to draw him hence

Be ineffectual. Lend me then thy aid.

Surveying round thee, canst thou see a rock

With double entrance- to the sun's warm rays

In winter open, and in summer's heat

Giving free passage to the welcome breeze?

A little to the left there is a fountain

Of living water, where, if yet he breathes,

He slakes his thirst. If aught thou seest of this

Inform me; so shall each to each impart

Counsel most fit, and serve our common cause. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (leaving ULYSSES a little behind him)

If I mistake not, I behold a cave,

E'en such as thou describst. 

 

ULYSSES

Dost thou? which way? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Yonder it is; but no path leading thither,

Or trace of human footstep. 

 

ULYSSES

In his cell

A chance but he hath lain down to rest:

Look if he hath not. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (advancing to the cave)

Not a creature there. 

 

ULYSSES

Nor food, nor mark of household preparation? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

A rustic bed of scattered leaves. 

 

ULYSSES

What more? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

A wooden bowl, the work of some rude hand,

With a few sticks for fuel. 

 

ULYSSES

This is all

His little treasure here. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Unhappy man!

Some linen for his wounds. 

 

ULYSSES

This must be then

His place of habitation; far from hence

He cannot roam; distempered as he is,

It were impossible. He is but gone

A little way for needful food, or herb

Of power to 'suage and mitigate his pain,

Wherefore despatch this servant to some place

Of observation, whence he may espy

His every motion, lest he rush upon us.

There's not a Grecian whom his soul so much

Could wish to crush beneath him as Ulysses.

                (He makes a signal to the Attendant. who retires.) 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

He's gone to guard each avenue; and now,

If thou hast aught of moment to impart

Touching our purpose, say it; I attend. 

 

ULYSSES

Son of Achilles, mark me well! Remember,

What we are doing not on strength alone,

Or courage, but oil conduct will depend;

Therefore if aught uncommon be proposed,

Strange to thy ears and adverse to thy nature,

Reflect that 'tis thy duty to comply,

And act conjunctive with me. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Well, what is it? 

 

ULYSSES

We must deceive this Philoctetes; that

Will be thy task. When he shall ask thee who

And what thou art, Achilles'son reply-

Thus far within the verge of truth, no more.

Add that resentment fired thee to forsake

The Grecian fleet, and seek thy native soil,

Unkindly used by those who long with vows

Had sought thy aid to humble haughty Troy,

And when thou cam'st, ungrateful as they were.

The arms of great Achilles, thy just right,

Gave to Ulysses. Here thy bitter taunts

And sharp invectives liberally bestow

On me. Say what thou wilt, I shall forgive,

And Greece will not forgive thee if thou dost not;

For against Troy thy efforts are all vain

Without his arrows. Safely thou mayst hold

Friendship and converse with him, but I cannot.

Thou wert not with us when the war began,

Nor bound by solemn oath to join our host,

As I was; me he knows, and if he find

That I am with thee, we are both undone.

They must be ours then, these all-conquering arms;

Remember that. I know thy noble nature

Abhors the thought of treachery or fraud.

But what a glorious prize is victory!

Therefore be bold; we will be just hereafter.

Give to deceit and me a little portion

Of one short day, and for thy future life

Be called the holiest, worthiest, best of men. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What but to hear alarms my conscious soul,

Son of Laertes, I shall never practise.

I was not born to flatter or betray;

Nor I, nor he- the voice of fame reports-

Who gave me birth. What open arms can do

Behold me prompt to act, but ne'er to fraud

Will I descend. Sure we can more than match

In strength a foe thus lame and impotent.

I came to be a helpmate to thee, not

A base betrayer; and, O king! believe me,

Rather, much rather would I fall by virtue

Than rise by guilt to certain victory. 

 

ULYSSES

O noble youth! and worthy of thy sire!

When I like thee was young, like thee of strength

And courage boastful, little did I deem

Of human policy; but long experience

Hath taught me, son, 'tis not the powerful arm,

But soft enchanting tongue that governs all. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

And thou wouldst have me tell an odious falsehood? 

 

ULYSSES

He must be gained by fraud. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

By fraud? And why

Not by persuasion? 

 

ULYSSES

He'll not listen to it;

And force were vainer still. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What mighty power

Hath he to boast? 

 

ULYSSES

His arrows winged with death

Inevitable. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Then it were not safe

E'en to approach him. 

 

ULYSSES

No; unless by fraud

He be secured. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

And thinkst thou 'tis not base

To tell a lie then? 

 

ULYSSES

Not if on that lie

Depends our safety. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Who shall dare to tell it

Without a blush? 

 

ULYSSES

We need not blush at aught

That may promote our interest and success. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

But where's the interest that should bias me?

Come he or not to Troy, imports it aught

To Neoptolemus? 

 

ULYSSES

Troy cannot fall

Without his arrows. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Saidst thou not that I

Was destined to destroy her? 

 

ULYSSES

Without them

Naught canst thou do, and they without thee nothing. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Then I must have them. 

 

ULYSSES

When thou hast, remember

A double prize awaits thee. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What, Ulysses? 

 

ULYSSES

The glorious names of valiant and of wise. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Away! I'll do it. Thoughts of guilt or shame

No more appal me. 

 

ULYSSES

Wilt thou do it then?

Wilt thou remember what I told thee of? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Depend on 't; I have promised- that's sufficient. 

 

ULYSSES

Here then remain thou; I must not be seen.

If thou stay long, I'll send a faithful spy,

Who in a sailor's habit well disguised

May pass unknown; of him, from time to time,

What best may suit our purpose thou shalt know.

I'll to the ship. Farewell! and may the god

Who brought us here, the fraudful Mercury,

And great Minerva, guardian of our country,

And ever kind to me, protect us still! 

 

(ULYSSES goes out as the CHORUS enters. The following lines are chanted

responsively between NEOPTOLEMUS and the CHORUS.)

 

CHORUS 

                                     strophe 1

Master, instruct us, strangers as we are,

What we may utter, what we must conceal.

Doubtless the man we seek will entertain

Suspicion of us; how are we to act?

To those alone belongs the art to rule

Who bear the sceptre from the hand of Jove;

To thee of right devolves the power supreme,

From thy great ancestors delivered down;

Speak then, our royal lord, and we obey. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS 

                                     systema 1

If you would penetrate yon deep recess

To seek the cave where Philoctetes lies,

Go forward; but remember to return

When the poor wanderer comes this way, prepared

To aid our purpose here if need require. 

 

CHORUS 

                                 antistrophe 1

O king! we ever meant to fix our eyes

On thee, and wait attentive to thy will;

But, tell us, in what part is he concealed?

'Tis fit we know the place, lest unobserved

He rush upon us. Which way doth it lie?

Seest thou his footsteps leading from the cave,

Or hither bent? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (advancing towards the cave) 

                                     systema 2

Behold the double door

Of his poor dwelling, and the flinty bed. 

 

CHORUS

And whither is its wretched master gone? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Doubtless in search of food, and not far off,

For such his manner is; accustomed here,

So fame reports, to pierce with winged arrows

His savage prey for daily sustenance,

His wound still painful, and no hope of cure. 

 

CHORUS 

                                     strophe 2

Alas! I pity him. Without a friend,

Without a fellow-sufferer, left alone,

Deprived of all the mutual joys that flow

From sweet society- distempered too!

How can he bear it? O unhappy race

Of mortal man! doomed to an endless round

Of sorrows, and immeasurable woe! 

 

                                 antistrophe 2

Second to none in fair nobility

Was Philoctetes, of illustrious race;

Yet here he lies, from every human aid

Far off removed, in dreadful solitude,

And mingles with the wild and savage herd;

With them in famine and in misery

Consumes his days, and weeps their common fate,

Unheeded, save when babbling echo mourns

In bitterest notes responsive to his woe. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS 

                                     systema 3

And yet I wonder not; for if aright

I judge, from angry heaven the sentence came,

And Chrysa was the cruel source of all;

Nor doth this sad disease inflict him still

Incurable, without assenting gods?

For so they have decreed, lest Troy should fall

Beneath his arrows ere the' appointed time

Of its destruction come. 

 

CHORUS 

                                     strophe 3

No more, my son! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What sayst thou? 

 

CHORUS

Sure I heard a dismal groan

Of some afflicted wretch. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Which way? 

 

CHORUS

E'en now

I hear it, and the sound as of some step

Slow-moving this way. He is not far from us.

His plaints are louder now. 

                                 antistrophe 3

Prepare, my son! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

For what? 

 

CHORUS

New troubles; for behold he comes!

Not like the shepherd with his rural pipe

And cheerful song, but groaning heavily.

Either his wounded foot against some thorn

Hath struck, and pains him sorely, or perchance

He hath espied from far some ship attempting

To enter this inhospitable port,

And hence his cries to save it from destruction. 

 

(PHILOCTETES enters, clad in rags. He moves with difficulty and is obviously suffering

pain from his injured foot.) 

 

PHILOCTETES

Say, welcome strangers, what disastrous fate

Led you to this inhospitable shore,

Nor haven safe, nor habitation fit

Affording ever? Of what clime, what race?

Who are ye? Speak! If I may trust that garb,

Familiar once to me, ye are of Greece,

My much-loved country. Let me hear the sound

Of your long wished-for voices. Do not look

With horror on me, but in kind compassion

Pity a wretch deserted and forlorn

In this sad place. Oh! if ye come as friends,

Speak then, and answer- hold some converse with me,

For this at least from man to man is due. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Know, stranger, first what most thou seemst to wish;

We are of Greece. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh! happiness to hear!

After so many years of dreadful silence,

How welcome was that sound! Oh! tell me, son,

What chance, what purpose, who conducted thee?

What brought thee thither, what propitious gale?

Who art thou? Tell me all- inform me quickly. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Native of Scyros, hither I return;

My name is Neoptolemus, the son

Of brave Achilles. I have told thee all. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Dear is thy country, and thy father dear

To me, thou darling of old Lycomede;

But tell me in what fleet, and whence thou cam'st. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

From Troy. 

 

PHILOCTETES

From Troy? I think thou wert not with us

When first our fleet sailed forth. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Wert thou then there?

Or knowst thou aught of that great enterprise? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Know you not then the man whom you behold? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

How should I know whom I had never seen? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Have you ne'er heard of me, nor of my name?

Hath my sad story never reached your ear? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Never. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Alas! how hateful to the gods,

How very poor a wretch must I be then,

That Greece should never hear of woes like mine!

But they who sent me hither, they concealed them,

And smile triumphant, whilst my cruel wounds

Grow deeper still. O, sprung from great Achilles!

Behold before thee Poeas' wretched son,

With whom, a chance but thou hast heard, remain

The dreadful arrows of renowned Alcides,

E'en the unhappy Philoctetes- him

Whom the Atreidae and the vile Ulysses

Inhuman left, distempered as I was

By the envenomed serpent's deep-felt wound.

Soon as they saw that, with long toil oppressed,

Sleep had o'ertaken me on the hollow rock,

There did they leave me when from Chrysa's shore

They bent their fatal course; a little food

And these few rags were all they would bestow.

Such one day be their fate! Alas! my son,

How dreadful, thinkst thou, was that waking to me,

When from my sleep I rose and saw them not!

How did I weep! and mourn my wretched state!

When not a ship remained of all the fleet

That brought me here- no kind companion left

To minister or needful food or balm

To my sad wounds. On every side I looked,

And nothing saw but woe; of that indeed

Measure too full. For day succeeded day,

And still no comfort came; myself alone

Could to myself the means of life afford,

In this poor grotto. On my bow I lived:

The winged dove, which my sharp arrow slew,

With pain I brought into my little hut,

And feasted there; then from the broken ice

I slaked my thirst, or crept into the wood

For useful fuel; from the stricken flint

I drew the latent spark, that warms me still

And still revives. This with my humble roof

Preserve me, son. But, oh! my wounds remain.

Thou seest an island desolate and waste;

No friendly port nor hopes of gain to tempt,

Nor host to welcome in the traveller;

Few seek the wild inhospitable shore.

By adverse winds, sometimes th' unwilling guests,

As well thou mayst suppose, were hither driven;

But when they came, they only pitied me,

Gave me a little food, or better garb

To shield me from the cold; in vain I prayed

That they would bear me to my native soil,

For none would listen. Here for ten long years

Have I remained, whilst misery and famine

Keep fresh my wounds, and double my misfortune.

This have th' Atreidae and Ulysses done,

And may the gods with equal woes repay them! 

 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

O, son of Poeas! well might those, who came

And saw thee thus, in kind compassion weep;

I too must pity thee- I can no more. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I can bear witness to thee, for I know

By sad experience what th' Atreidae are,

And what Ulysses. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Hast thou suffered then?

And dost thou hate them too? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Oh! that these hands

Could vindicate my wrongs! Mycenae then

And Sparta should confess that Scyros boasts

Of sons as brave and valiant as their own. 

 

PHILOCTETES

O noble youth! But wherefore cam'st thou hither?

Whence this resentment? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I will tell thee all,

If I can bear to tell it. Know then, soon

As great Achilles died- 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh, stay, my son!

Is then Achilles dead? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

He is, and not

By mortal hand, but by Apollo's shaft

Fell glorious. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh! most worthy of each other,

The slayer and the slain! Permit me, son,

To mourn his fate, ere I attend to thine. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Alas! thou needst not weep for others' woes,

Thou hast enough already of thy own. 

 

PHILOCTETES

'Tis very true; and therefore to thy tale. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Thus then it was. Soon as Achilles died,

Phoenix, the guardian of his tender years,

Instant sailed forth, and sought me out at Scyros;

With him the wary chief Ulysses came.

They told me then (or true or false I know not),

My father dead, by me, and me alone

Proud Troy must fall. I yielded to their prayers;

I hoped to see at least the dear remains

Of him whom living I had long in vain

Wished to behold. Safe at Sigeum's port

Soon we arrived. In crowds the numerous host

Thronged to embrace me, called the gods to witness

In me once more they saw their loved Achilles

To life restored; but he, alas! was gone.

I shed the duteous tear, then sought my friends

Th' Atreidae friends I thought 'em!-claimed the arms

Of my dead father, and what else remained

His late possession: when- O cruel words!

And wretched I to hear them- thus they answered:

"Son of Achilles, thou in vain demandst

Those arms already to Ulysses given;

The rest be thine." I wept. "And is it thus,"

Indignant I replied, "ye dare to give

My right away?" "Know, boy," Ulysses cried,

"That right was mine. and therefore they bestowed

The boon on me: me who preserved the arms,

And him who bore them too." With anger fired

At this proud speech, I threatened all that rage

Could dictate to me if he not returned them.

Stung with my words, yet calm, he answered me:

"Thou wert not with us; thou wert in a place

Where thou shouldst not have been; and since thou meanst

To brave us thus, know, thou shalt never bear

Those arms with thee to Scyros; 'tis resolved."

Thus injured, thus deprived of all I held

Most precious, by the worst of men, I left

The hateful place, and seek my native soil.

Nor do I blame so much the proud Ulysses

As his base masters- army, city, all

Depend on those who rule. When men grow vile

The guilt is theirs who taught them to be wicked.

I've told thee all, and him who hates the Atreidae

I hold a friend to me and to the gods. 

 

CHORUS (singing)

O Earth! thou mother of great Jove,

Embracing all with universal love,

Author benign of every good,

Through whom Pactolus rolls his golden flood!

To thee, whom in thy rapid car

Fierce lions draw, I rose and made my prayer-

To thee I made my sorrows known,

When from Achilles' injured son

Th' Atreidae gave the prize, that fatal day

When proud Ulysses bore his arms away. 

 

PHILOCTETES

I wonder not, my friend, to see you here,

And I believe the tale; for well I know

The man who wronged you, know the base Ulysses

Falsehood and fraud dwell on his lips, and nought

That's just or good can be expected from him.

But strange it is to me that, Ajax present,

He dare attempt it. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Ajax is no more;

Had he been living, I had ne'er been spoiled

Thus of my right. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Is he then dead? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

He is. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Alas! the son of Tydeus, and that slave,

Sold by his father Sisyphus, they live,

Unworthy as they are. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Alas! they do,

And flourish still. 

 

PHILOCTETES

My old and worthy friend

The Pylian sage, how is he? He could see

Their arts, and would have given them better counsels. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Weighed down with grief he lives, but most unhappy,

Weeps his lost son, his dear Antilochus. 

 

PHILOCTETES

O double woe! whom I could most have wished

To live and to be happy, those to perish!

Ulysses to survive! It should not be. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Oh! 'tis a subtle foe; but deepest plans

May sometimes fail. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Where was Patroclus then,

Thy father's dearest friend? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

He too was dead.

In war, alas- so fate ordains it ever-

The coward 'scapes, the brave and virtuous fall. 

 

PHILOCTETES

It is too true; and now thou talkst of cowards,

Where is that worthless wretch, of readiest tongue,

Subtle and voluble? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Ulysses? 

 

PHILOCTETES

No;

Thersites, ever talking, never heard. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I have not seen him, but I hear he lives. 

 

PHILOCTETES

I did not doubt it: evil never dies;

The gods take care of that. If aught there be

Fraudful and vile, 'tis safe; the good and just

Perish unpitied by them. Wherefore is it?

When gods do ill, why should we worship them? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Since thus it is, since virtue is oppressed,

And vice triumphant, who deserve to live

Are doomed to perish, and the guilty reign.

Henceforth, O son of Poeas! far from Troy

And the Atreidae will I live remote.

I would not see the man I cannot love.

My barren Scyros shall afford me refuge,

And home- felt joys delight my future days.

So, fare thee well, and may th' indulgent gods

Heal thy sad wound, and grant thee every wish

Thy soul can form! Once more, farewell! I go,

The first propitious gale. 

 

PHILOCTETES

What! now, my son?

So soon? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Immediately; the time demands

We should be near, and ready to depart. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Now, by the memory of thy honoured sire,

By thy loved mother, by whate'er remains

On earth most dear to thee, oh! hear me now,

Thy suppliant! Do not, do not thus forsake me,

Alone, oppressed, deserted, as thou seest,

In this sad place. I shall, I know it must, be

A burthen to thee. But, oh! bear it kindly;

For ever doth the noble mind abhor

Th' ungenerous deed, and loves humanity;

Disgrace attends thee if thou dost forsake me,

If not, immortal fame rewards thy goodness.

Thou mayst convey me safe to Oeta's shores

In one short day; I'll trouble you no longer.

Hide me in any part where I may least

Molest you. Hear me! By the guardian god

Of the poor suppliant, all- protecting Jove,

I beg. Behold me at thy feet, infirm,

And wretched as I am, I clasp thy knees.

Leave me not here then, where there is no mark

Of human footstep- take me to thy home!

Or to Euboea's port, to Oeta, thence

Short is the way to Trachin, or the banks

Of Spercheius' gentle stream, to meet my father,

If yet he lives; for, oh! I begged him oft

By those who hither came, to fetch me hence-

Or is he dead, or they neglectful bent

Their hasty course to their own native soil.

Be thou my better guide! Pity and save

The poor and wretched. Think, my son, how frail

And full of danger is the state of man-

Now prosperous, now adverse. Who feels no ills

Should therefore fear them; and when fortune smiles

Be doubly cautious, lest destruction come

Remorseless on him, and he fall unpitied. 

 

CHORUS (singing)

Oh, pity him, my lord, for bitterest woes

And trials most severe he hath recounted;

Far be such sad distress from those I love!

Oh! if thou hat'st the base Atreidae, now

Revenge thee on them, serve their deadliest foe;

Bear the poor suppliant to his native soil;

So shalt thou bless thy friend, and 'scape the wrath

Of the just gods, who still protect the wretched. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Your proffered kindness, friends, may cost you dear;

When you shall feel his dreadful malady

Oppress you sore, you will repent it. 

 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

Never

Shall that reproach be ours. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

In generous pity

Of the afflicted thus to be o'ercome

Were most disgraceful to me; he shall go.

May the kind gods speed our departure hence,

And guide our vessels to the wished-for shore! 

 

PHILOCTETES

O happy hour! O kindest, best of men!

And you my dearest friends! how shall I thank you?

What shall I do to show my grateful heart?

Let us be gone! But, oh! permit me first

To take a last farewell of my poor hut,

Where I so long have lived. Perhaps you'll say

I must have had a noble mind to bear it.

The very sight to any eyes but mine

Were horrible, but sad necessity

At length prevailed, and made it pleasing to me. LEADER

One from our ship, my lord, and with him comes

A stranger. Stop a moment till we hear

Their business with us. 

 

(The Spy enters, dressed as a merchant. He is accompanied by one of

NEOPTOLEMUS'men.)

 

SPY

Son of great Achilles,

Know, chance alone hath brought me hither, driven

By adverse winds to where thy vessels lay,

As home I sailed from Troy. There did I meet

This my companion, who informed me where

Thou mightst be found. Hence to pursue my course

And not to tell thee what concerns thee near

Had been ungenerous, thou perhaps meantime

Of Greece and of her counsels naught suspecting,

Counsels against thee not by threats alone

Or words enforced, but now in execution. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Now by my virtue, stranger, for thy news

I am much bound to thee, and will repay

Thy service. Tell me what the Greeks have done. 

 

SPY

A fleet already sails to fetch thee back,

Conducted by old Phoenix, and the sons

Of valiant Theseus. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Come they then to force me?

Or am I to be won by their persuasion? 

 

SPY

I know not that; you have what I could learn. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

And did the' Atreidae send them? 

 

SPY

Sent they are,

And will be with you soon. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

But wherefore then

Came not Ulysses? Did his courage fail? 

 

SPY

He, ere I left the camp, with Diomede

On some important embassy sailed forth

In search- 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Of whom? 

 

SPY

There was a man- but stay,

Who is thy friend here, tell me, but speak softly. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (whispering to him)

The famous Philoctetes. 

 

SPY

Ha! begone then!

Ask me no more- away, immediately! 

 

PHILOCTETES

What do these dark mysterious whispers mean?

Concern they me, my son? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I know not what

He means to say, but I would have him speak

Boldly before us all, whate'er it be. 

 

SPY

Do not betray me to the Grecian host,

Nor make me speak what I would fain conceal.

I am but poor- they have befriended me. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

In me thou seest an enemy confest

To the Atreidae. This is my best friend

Because he hates them too; if thou art mine,

Hide nothing then. 

 

SPY

Consider first. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I have. 

 

SPY

The blame will be on you. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Why, let it be:

But speak, I charge thee. 

 

SPY

Since I must then, know,

In solemn league combined, the bold Ulysses

And gallant Diomede have sworn by force

Or by persuasion to bring back thy friend:

The Grecians heard Laertes' son declare

His purpose; far more resolute he seemed

Than Diomede, and surer of success. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

But why the' Atreidae, after so long time,

Again should wish to see this wretched exile,

Whence this desire? Came it from th' angry gods

To punish thus their inhumanity? 

 

SPY

I can inform you; for perhaps from Greece

Of late you have not heard. There was a prophet,

Son of old Priam, Helenus by name,

Hlim, in his midnight walks, the wily chief

Ulysses, curse of every tongue, espied;

Took him. and led him captive. to the Creeks

A welcome spoil. Much he foretold to all,

And added last that Troy should never fall

Till Philoctetes from this isle returned.

Ulysses heard, and instant promise gave

To fetch him hence; he hoped by gentle means

To gain him; those successless, force at last

Could but compel him. He would go, he cried,

And if he failed his head should pay th' forfeit.

I've told thee all, and warn thee to be gone,

Thou and thy friend, if thou wouldst wish to save him. 

 

PHILOCTETES

And does the traitor think he can persuade me?

As well might he persuade me to return

From death to life, as his base father did. 

 

SPY

Of that know not: I must to my ship.

Farewell, and may the gods protect you both!

                            (The Spy departs.)

 

PHILOCTETES

Lead me- expose me to the Grecian host!

And could the insolent Ulysses hope

With his soft flatteries e'er to conquer me?

No! Sooner would I listen to the voice

Of that fell serpent, whose envenomed tongue

Hath lamed me thus. But what is there he dare not

Or say or do? I know he will be here

E'en now, depend on't. Therefore, let's away!

Quick let the sea divide us from Ulysses.

Let us be gone; for well-timed expedition,

The task performed, brings safety and repose. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Soon as the wind permits us we embark,

But now 'tis adverse. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Every wind is fair

When we are flying from misfortune. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

True;

And 'tis against them too. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Alas! no storms

Can drive back fraud and rapine from their prey. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I'm ready. Take what may be necessary,

And follow me. 

 

PHILOCTETES

I want not much. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Perhaps

My ship will furnish you. 

 

PHILOCTETES

There is a plant

Which to my wound gives some relief; I must

Have that. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Is there aught else? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Alas! my bow

I had forgot. I must not lose that treasure. 

 

(PHILOCTETES steps into the cave, and brings out his bow and arrows.)

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Are these the famous arrows then? 

 

PHILOCTETES

They are. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

And may I be permitted to behold,

To touch, to pay my adoration to them? 

 

PHILOCTETES

In these, my son, in everything that's mine

Thou hast a right, 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

But if it be a crime,

I would not; otherwise- 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh! thou art full

Of piety; in thee it is no crime;

In thee, my friend, by whom alone I look

Once more with pleasure on the radiant sun-

By whom I live- who giv'st me to return

To my dear father, to my friends, my country:

Sunk as I was beneath my foes, once more

I rise to triumph o'er them by thy aid:

Behold them, touch them, but return them to me,

And boast that virtue which on thee alone

Bestowed such honour. Virtue made them mine.

I can deny thee nothing: he, whose heart

Is grateful can alone deserve the name

Of friend, to every treasure far superior. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Go in. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Come with me; for my painful wound

Requires thy friendly hand to help me onward.

                      (They go into the cave.)

 

CHORUS (singing) 

                                     strophe 1

Since proud Ixion, doomed to feel

The tortures of th' eternal wheel,

Bound by the hand of angry Jove,

Received the due rewards of impious love;

Ne'er was distress so deep or woe so great

As on the wretched Philoctetes wait;

Who ever with the just and good,

Guiltless of fraud and rapine, stood,

And the fair paths of virtue still pursued;

Alone on this inhospitable shore,

Where waves for ever beat and tempests roar,

How could he e'er or hope or comfort know,

Or painful life support beneath such weight of woe? 

 

                                 antistrophe 1

Exposed to the inclement skies,

Deserted and forlorn he lies,

No friend or fellow-mourner there

To soothe his sorrows and divide his care,

Or seek the healing plant of power to 'suage

His aching wound and mitigate its rage;

But if perchance, awhile released

From torturing pain, he sinks to rest,

Awakened soon, and by sharp hunger prest,

Compelled to wander forth in search of food,

He crawls in anguish to the neighbouring wood;

Even as the tottering infant in despair

Who mourns an absent mother's kind supporting care. 

 

                                     strophe 2

The teeming earth, who mortals still supplies

With every good, to him her seed denies;

A stranger to the joy that flows

From the kind aid which man on man bestows;

Nor food, alas! to him was given,

Save when his arrows pierced the birds of heaven;

Nor e'er did Bacchus' heart-expanding bow!

For ten long years relieve his cheerless soul;

But glad was he his eager thirst to slake

In the unwholesome pool, or ever-stagnant lake. 

 

                                 antistrophe 2

But now, behold the joyful captive freed;

A fairer fate, and brighter days succeed:

For he at last hath found a friend

Of noblest race, to save and to defend,

To guide him with protecting hand,

And safe restore him to his native land;

On Spercheius' flowery banks to join the throng

Of Malian nymphs, and lead the choral song

On Oeta's top, which saw Alcides rise,

And from the flaming pile ascend his native skies. 

 

(NEOPTOLEMUS and PHILOCTETES enter from the cave. PHILOCTETES is

suddenly seized with spasms of pain. He still holds in his hand the bow and arrows.)

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Come, Philoctetes; why thus silent? Wherefore

This sudden terror on thee? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Whence is it? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Nothing, my son; go on! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Is it thy wound

That pains thee thus? 

 

PHILOCTETES

No; I am better now.

O gods! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Why dost thou call thus on the gods? 

 

PHILOCTETES

To smile propitious, and preserve us- Oh! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Thou art in misery. Tell me- wilt thou not?

What is it? 

 

PHILOCTETES

O my son! I can no longer

Conceal it from thee. Oh! I die, I perish;

By the great gods let me implore thee, now

This moment, if thou hast a sword. oh! strike,

Cut off this painful limb, and end my being! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What can this mean, that unexpected thus

It should torment thee? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Know you not, my son? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What is the cause? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Can you not guess it? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

No. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Nor I. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

That's stranger still. 

 

PHILOCTETES

My son, my son 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

This new attack is terrible indeed! 

 

PHILOCTETES

'Tis inexpressible! Have pity on me! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What shall I do? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Do not be terrified,

And leave me. Its returns are regular,

And like the traveller, when its appetite

Is satisfied, it will depart. Oh! oh! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Thou art oppressed with ills on every side.

Give me thy hand. Come, wilt thou lean upon me? 

 

PHILOCTETES

No; but these arrows take; preserve 'em for me.

A little while, till I grow better. Sleep

Is coming on me, and my pains will cease.

Let me be quiet. If meantime our foes

Surprise thee, let nor force nor artifice

Deprive thee of the great, the precious trust

I have reposed in thee; that were ruin

To thee, and to thy friend. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Be not afraid-

No hands but mine shall touch them; give them to me. 

 

PHILOCTETES

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.)

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

May the gods

Forbid it ever! May they guide our course

And speed our prosperous sails! 

 

PHILOCTETES

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? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I mourn thy hapless fate. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Be of good cheer,

Quick my disorder comes, and goes as soon;

I only beg thee not to leave me here. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Depend on 't, I will stay. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Wilt thou indeed? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Trust me, I will. 

 

PHILOCTETES

I need not bind thee to it

By oath. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Oh, no! 'twere impious to forsake thee. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Give me thy hand, and pledge thy faith. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I do. 

 

PHILOCTETES (pointing up to heaven)

Thither, oh, thither lead! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What sayst thou? where? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Above- 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What, lost again? Why lookst thou thus

On that bright circle? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Let me, let me go! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (lays hold of him)

Where wouldst thou go? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Loose me. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I will not. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh!

You'll kill me, if you do not. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (lets him go)

There, then; now

Is thy mind better? 

 

PHILOCTETES

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.)

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

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. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (chanting)

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. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

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

 

PHILOCTETES (awaking)

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. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I little thought to find thee thus restored.

Trust me, I joy to see thee free from pain,

And hear thee speak; the marks of death were on thee,

Raise thyself up; thy friends here, if thou wilt,

Shall carry thee, 'twill be no burthen to them

If we request it. 

 

PHILOCTETES

No; thy hand alone;

I will not trouble them; 'twill be enough

If they can bear with me and my distemper

When we embark. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Well, be it so; but rise. 

 

PHILOCTETES (rising)

Oh I never fear; I'll rise as well as ever. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS (half to himself)

How shall I act? 

 

PHILOCTETES

What says my son? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Alas!

I know not what to say; my doubtful mind- 

 

PHILOCTETES

Talked you of doubts? You did not surely. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Aye,

That's my misfortune. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Is then my distress

The cause at last you will not take me with you? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

All is distress and misery when we act

Against our nature and consent to ill. 

 

PHILOCTETES

But sure to help a good man in misfortunes

Is not against thy nature. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Men will call me

A villain; that distracts me. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Not for this;

For what thou meanst to do thou mayst deserve it 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

What shall I do? Direct me, Jove! To hide

What I should speak, and tell a base untruth

Were double guilt. 

 

PHILOCTETES

He purposes at last,

I fear it much, to leave me. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Leave thee! No!

But how to make thee go with pleasure hence,

There I'm distressed. 

 

PHILOCTETES

I understand thee not;

What means my son? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I can no longer hide

The dreadful secret from thee; thou art going

To Troy, e'en to the Greeks, to the Atreidae. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Alas! what sayest thou? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Do not weep, but hear me. 

 

PHILOCTETES

What must I hear? what wilt thou do with me? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

First set thee free; then carry thee, my friend,

To conquer Troy. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Is this indeed thy purpose? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

This am I bound to do. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Then am I lost,

Undone, betrayed. Canst thou, my friend, do this?

Give me my arms again. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

It cannot be.

I must obey the powers who sent me hither;

justice enjoins- the common cause demands it, 

 

PHILOCTETES

Thou worst of men, thou vile artificer

Of fraud most infamous, what hast thou done?

How have I been deceived? Dost thou not blush

To look upon me, to behold me thus

Beneath thy feet imploring? Base betrayer!

To rob me of my bow, the means of life,

The only means- give 'em, restore 'em to me!

Do not take all Alas Alas! he hears me not,

Nor deigns to speak, but casts an angry look

That says I never shall be free again.

O mountains, rivers, rocks, and savage herds!

To you I speak- to you alone I now

Must breathe my sorrows; you are wont to hear

My sad complaints, and I will tell you all

That I have suffered from Achilles' son,

Who, bound by solemn oath to bear me hence

To my dear native soil, now sails for Troy.

The perjured wretch first gave his plighted hand,

Then stole the sacred arrows of my friend,

The son of Jove, the great Alcides; those

He means to show the Greeks, to snatch me hence

And boast his prize, as if poor Philoctetes,

This empty shade, were worthy of his arm.

Had I been what I was, he ne'er had thus

Subdued me, and e'en now to fraud alone

He owes the conquest. I have been betrayed!

Give me my arms again, and be thyself

Once more. Oh, speak! Thou wilt not? Then I'm lost.

O my poor hut! again I come to thee

Naked and destitute of food; once more

Receive me, here to die; for now, no longer

Shall my swift arrow reach the flying prey,

Or on the mountains pierce the wandering herd:

I shall myself afford a banquet now

To those I used to feed on- they the hunters,

And I their easy prey; so shall the blood

Which I so oft have shed be paid by mine;

And all this too from him whom once I deemed

Stranger to fraud nor capable of ill;

And yet I will not curse thee till I know

Whether thou still retainst thy horrid purpose,

Or dost repent thee of it; if thou dost not,

Destruction wait thee! 

 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS

We attend your pleasure,

My royal lord, we must be gone; determine

To leave, or take him with us. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

His distress

Doth move me much. Trust me, I long have felt

Compassion for him. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh then by the gods

Pity me now, my son, nor let mankind

Reproach thee for a fraud so base. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Alas!

What shall I do? Would I were still at Scyros!

For I am most unhappy. 

 

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. 

 

ULYSSES

I could answer him,

Were this a time for words; but now, no more

Than this- I act as best befits our purpose.

Where virtue, truth, and justice are required

Ulysses yields to none; I was not born

To be o'ercome, and yet submit to thee.

Let him remain. Thy arrows shall suffice;

We want thee not! Teucer can draw thy bow

As well as thou; myself with equal strength

Can aim the deadly shaft, with equal skill.

What could thy presence do? Let Lemnos keep thee.

Farewell! perhaps the honours once designed

For thee may be reserved to grace Ulysses. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Alas! shall Greece then see my deadliest foe

Adorned with arms which I alone should bear? 

 

ULYSSES

No more! I must be gone. 

 

PHILOCTETES (to NEOPTOLEMUS)

Son of Achilles,

Thou wilt not leave me too? I must not lose

Thy converse, thy assistance. 

 

ULYSSES (to NEOPTOLEMUS)

Look not on him;

Away, I charge thee! 'Twould be fatal to us. 

 

PHILOCTETES (to the CHORUS)

Will you forsake me, friends? Dwells no compassion

Within your breasts for me? LEADER (pointing to NEOPTOLEMUS)

He is our master;

We speak and act but as his will directs. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I know be will upbraid me for this weakness,

But 'tis my nature, and I must consent,

Since Philoctetes asks it. Stay you with him,

Till to the gods our pious prayers we offer,

And all things are prepared for our departure;

Perhaps, meantime, to better thoughts his mind

May turn relenting. We must go. Remember,

When we shall call you, follow instantly. 

 

(NEOPTOLEMUS, still with the bow in his hands, goes out with ULYSSES. The lines in

the following scene between PHILOCTETES and the CHORUS are chanted

responsively.)

 

PHILOCTETES

O my poor hut! and is it then decreed

Again I come to thee to part no more,

To end my wretched days in this sad cave,

The scene of all my woes? For whither now

Can I betake me? Who will feed, support,

Or cherish Philoctetes? Not a hope

Remains for me. Oh! that th' impetuous storms

Would bear me with them to some distant clime!

For I must perish here. 

 

CHORUS

Unhappy man!

Thou hast provoked thy fate; thyself alone

Art to thyself a foe, to scorn the good,

Which wisdom bids thee take, and choose misfortune. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Wretch that I am, to perish here alone!

Oh! I shall see the face of man no more,

Nor shall my arrows pierce their winged prey,

And bring me sustenance! Such vile delusions

Used to betray me! Oh! that pains like those

I feel might reach the author of my woes! 

 

CHORUS

The gods decreed it; we are not to blame.

Heap not thy curses therefore on the guiltless,

But take our friendship. 

 

PHILOCTETES (pointing to the sea-shore)

I behold him there;

E'en now I see him laughing me to scorn

On yonder shore, and in his hands the darts

He waves triumphant, which no arms but these

Had ever borne. O my dear glorious treasure!

Hadst thou a mind to feel th' indignity,

How wouldst thou grieve to change thy noble master,

The friend of great Alcides, for a wretch

So vile, so base, so impious as Ulysses! 

 

CHORUS

justice will ever rule the good man's tongue,

Nor from his lips reproach and bitterness

Invidious flow. Ulysses, by the voice

Of Greece appointed, only sought a friend

To join the common cause, and serve his country. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Hear me, ye winged inhabitants of air,

And you, who on these mountains love to feed,

My savage prey, whom once I could pursue;

Fearful no more of Philoctetes, fly

This hollow rock- I cannot hurt you now;

You need not dread to enter here. Alas!

You now may come, and in your turn regale

On these poor limbs, when I shall be no more.

Where can I hope for food? or who can breathe

This vital air, when life-preserving earth

No longer will assist him? 

 

CHORUS

By the gods!

Let me entreat thee, if thou dost regard

Our master, and thy friend, come to him now,

Whilst thou mayst 'scape this sad calamity;

Who but thyself would choose to be unhappy

That could prevent it? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Oh! you have brought back

Once more the sad remembrance of my griefs;

Why, why, my friends, would you afflict me thus? 

 

CHORUS

Afflict thee- how? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Think you I'll e'er return

To hateful Troy? 

 

CHORUS

We would advise thee to it. 

 

PHILOCTETES

I'll hear no more. Go, leave me! 

 

CHORUS

That we shall

Most gladly. To the ships, my friends; away! (Going)

Obey your orders. 

 

PHILOCTETES (stops them)

By protecting Jove,

Who hears the suppliant's prayer, do not forsake me! 

 

CHORUS (returning)

Be calm then. 

 

PHILOCTETES

O my friends! will you then stay?

Do, by the gods I beg you. 

 

CHORUS

Why that groan? 

 

PHILOCTETES

Alas! I die. My wound, my wound! Hereafter

What can I do? You will not leave me! Hear- 

 

CHORUS

What canst thou say we do not know already? 

 

PHILOCTETES

O'erwhelmed by such a storm of griefs as I am,

You should not thus resent a madman's frenzy. 

 

CHORUS

Comply then and be happy. 

 

PHILOCTETES

Never, never!

Be sure of that. Tho' thunder-bearing Jove

Should with his lightnings blast me, would I go?

No! Let Troy perish, perish all the host

Who sent me here to die; but, O my friends!

Grant me this last request. 

 

CHORUS

What is it? Speak. 

 

PHILOCTETES

A sword, a dart, some instrument of death. 

 

CHORUS

What wouldst thou do? 

 

PHILOCTETES

I'd hack off every limb.

Death, my soul longs for death. 

 

CHORUS

But wherefore is it? 

 

PHILOCTETES

I'll seek my father. 

 

CHORUS

Whither? 

 

PHILOCTETES

In the tomb;

There he must be. O Scyros! O my country!

How could I bear to see thee as I am-

I who had left thy sacred shores to aid

The hateful sons of Greece? O misery! 

                     (He goes into the cave.)

 

LEADER OF THE CHORUS (speaking)

Ere now we should have taken thee to our ships,

But that advancing this way I behold

Ulysses, and with him Achilles' son. 

 

(NEOPTOLEMUS enters, still carrying the bow; he is followed closely by ULYSSES.)

 

ULYSSES

Why this return? Wherefore this haste? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I come

To purge me of my crimes. 

 

ULYSSES

Indeed! What crimes? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

My blind obedience to the Grecian host

And to thy counsels. 

 

ULYSSES

Hast thou practised aught

Base or unworthy of thee? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Yes; by art

And vile deceit betrayed th' unhappy. 

 

ULYSSES

Whom?

Alas! what mean you? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Nothing. But the son

Of Poeas- 

 

ULYSSES

Ha! what wouldst thou do? My heart

Misgives me. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I have ta'en his arms, and now- 

 

ULYSSES

Thou wouldst restore them! Speak! Is that thy purpose?

Almighty Jove! 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Unjustly should I keep

Another's right? 

 

ULYSSES

Now, by the gods, thou meanest

To mock me! Dost thou not? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

If to speak truth

Be mockery. 

 

ULYSSES

And does Achilles' son

Say this to me? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Why force me to repeat

My words so often to thee? 

 

ULYSSES

Once to hear them

Is once indeed too much. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Doubt then no more,

For I have told thee all. 

 

ULYSSES

There are, remember,

There are who may prevent thee. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Who shall dare

To thwart my purpose? 

 

ULYSSES

All the Grecian host,

And with them, I. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Wise as thou art, Ulysses,

Thou talkst most idly. 

 

ULYSSES

Wisdom is not thine

Either in word or deed. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Know, to be just

Is better far than to be wise. 

 

ULYSSES

But where,

Where is the justice, thus unauthorized,

To give a treasure back thou ow'st to me,

And to my counsels? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I have done a wrong,

And I will try to make atonement for it. 

 

ULYSSES

Dost thou not fear the power of Greece? 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I fear

Nor Greece nor thee, when I am doing right. 

 

ULYSSES

'Tis not with Troy then we contend. but thee- 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

I know not that. 

 

ULYSSES

Seest thou this hand? behold,

It grasps my sword. 

 

NEOPTOLEMUS

Mine is alike prepared,

Nor seeks delay. 

 

ULYSSES

But I will let thee go;

Greece shall know all thy guilt, and shall revenge it. 

                          (ULYSSES departs.)

 

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. 

 

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. 

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