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By Sophocles

Translated by Thomas Francklin


Dramatis Personae

ULYSSES, King of Ithaca
NEOPTOLEMUS, son of Achilles
PHILOCTETES, son of Poeas and Companion of HERCULES
CHORUS, composed of the companions of ULYSSES and NEOPTOLEMUS


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 

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. 


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! 


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. 


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? 


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? 


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? 


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. 

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- 


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. 


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. 

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. 

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? 


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. 


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? 


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 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. 


PHILOCTETES  (pointing up to heaven) Thither, oh, thither lead!

NEOPTOLEMUS What sayst thou? where? 


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? 


NEOPTOLEMUS I will not. 

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? 

I know not what to say; my doubtful mind- 

PHILOCTETES Talked you of doubts? You did not surely. 

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. 

What shall I do? Would I were still at Scyros! 
For I am most unhappy. 

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. 

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. 

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

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. 

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

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? 

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. 

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? 

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? 

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. 

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? 

'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. 

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? 

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. 

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. 

If possible. 

NEOPTOLEMUS But how shall I escape 
The wrath of Greece? 

PHILOCTETES Oh! think not of it. 

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? 

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
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

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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Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
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