Sophocles, creator; Sophocles the plays and fragments with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose Part 4 The Philoctetes; Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, 1841-1905, editor, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898.
Alas! Why did you take from me the chance to kill my hated enemy with my bow?
It would have been honorable neither for me, nor for you.
Well, you may be sure of one thing, at least: the army’s chiefs, the lying heralds of the Greeks, though bold with words, are cowards in the fight.
Good; the bow is yours, and you have no cause for anger or complaint against me.
Agreed. You have revealed the true stock, my son, from which you spring. You are no child of Sisyphus, but of Achilles, whose fame was the fairest when he was among the living, as it is now with the dead.
I delight at your praise of my father,
and of myself. But hear what I desire to gain from you. It is true that men are compelled to bear the fortunes given by the gods; but when they cling to self-inflicted miseries, as you do,
no one can justly excuse or pity them. You have become savage: you welcome no counsellor, and if someone admonishes you, even if he speaks in all good will, you detest him and consider him an enemy who wishes you ill. All the same I will speak to you, calling Zeus who guards oaths to witness.
And you remember these words and write them in your heart: you suffer this plague’s affliction in accordance with god-sent fate, because you came near to Chryse’s guardian, the serpent who secretly watches over her home and guards her roofless sanctuary. Know also that you will never gain relief from this grave sickness,
as long as the sun still rises in the east and sets in the west, until of your own free will you come to the plains of Troy, find there the sons of Asclepius, our comrades, be relieved of this infection, and, with this bow’s
aid and mine, be hailed as the sacker of Troy’s towers. How I know these things are so ordained, I will tell you. We have a Trojan prisoner, Helenus, foremost among seers, who says plainly that all this must come to pass, and further,
that this very summer must see the complete capture of Troy. Otherwise he willingly gives himself over for execution, if these prophecies of his prove false. Therefore, now that you understand everything, give way graciously. It is a glorious addition to your gain to be singled out
as best of the Greeks—first, for coming into healing hands, and then for taking Troy rich in tears, and so winning a matchless renown.
Hateful life, why, why do you keep me in the light of day, instead of letting me go to Hades’ domain?
Ah, me, what shall I do? How can I ignore this man’s words, when he has advised me with good will? But shall I yield, then? How, after doing that, shall I, ill-fated, come into men’s sight? Whom will I be able to talk to? You orbs that have watched my every suffering,
how could you endure to see me consorting with the sons of Atreus, who caused my ruin, or with the accursed son of Laertes? It is not my resentment for what has already been done that stings me, rather it is the many troubles which I seem to foresee I must suffer at the hands of
these men in the future. For when the mind of men has once mothered wrongdoing, it trains those men to be wrongdoers in all else thereafter. And in you, too, I wonder at this. You should never yourself revisit Troy, and should prevent me from going there, seeing that those men have done you outrage
by stripping you of your father’s arms when, in the suit for the weapons, they judged unhappy Ajax inferior to Odysseus. After that, will you go to fight at their side, and compel me to do the same? No, do not do it, son, but, as you swore to me, escort me home. You yourself remain in Scyros, and leave those evil men to their evil doom.
So shall you win double thanks from me, as from your father, and you will not appear through your service to bad men to be like them in your nature.
Your recommendation is reasonable, but nevertheless, I wish that you would put your trust in the gods and in my words,