Sophocles the plays and fragments, Part 4: The Philoctetes. Jebb, Richard Claverhouse, Sir, translator. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1898.
I am a stranger in a strange land, Master. What must I hide, what must I reveal to a man who will be swift to suspicion? Show me the way! His skill excels all other skill, his wisdom has no equal, whose hands govern the godlike
scepter given by Zeus. To you, my son, that sovereign power has descended from the dawn of time. Therefore tell me how I must serve you.
For the present—since perhaps you wish to see the place
on the island’s edge where he resides—survey it without fear. But when the dread traveler, who has left this dwelling, returns, step forward at my signal from time to time, and try to help as the moment may require.
Long have I been careful of this care, my prince: that my eyes should be watchful for your good above all else. And now tell me, in what manner of shelter does he keep his dwelling? In what region is he now? It is not inopportune for
me to learn so that he may not come upon me unawares from somewhere. In what place does he wander, or rest? Does he plant his steps within his shelter, or abroad?
Well, here you see his home with its two portals,
his rocky cell.
And its wretched occupant, where is he gone to?
It seems clear to me, anyway, that he is plowing his way along somewhere near here in search of food. For I know of a report that
this is his means of sustenance—a wretch wretchedly shooting prey with his feathered shafts—and that no one comes near to him to heal his misery.
For my part, I pity him when I think how,
with no one to care for him, and seeing no companion’s face, but suffering eternally alone, he is plagued by fierce disease and bewildered by each need as it arises.
How, how does he endure his bitter fate? Ah, contrivances of the gods! Ah, unhappy tribes of mortals, whose life-portion exceeds due measure!
That man—inferior in no way, probably, to any man belonging to the oldest families—lies alone without companions and stripped of all life’s gifts
among the dappled or shaggy beasts. He is a man to be pitied for his torments and his hunger alike, enduring anguish that has no cure. But to his bitter cries the mountain nymph, babbling Echo, coming from afar,
No part of this is a marvel to me. God-sent—if a man such as I may judge—are both those sufferings which attacked him from savage Chryse,
and those with which he now toils untended. Surely he toils by the plan of some god so that he may not bend against Troy the invincible arrows divine, until the time be fulfilled at which, men say,