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.
And did you have a part in that toil?
Then you do not know who I am?
How should I know one whom I have never seen before?
Then you have not even heard my name, or any rumor of those sufferings under which I have been perishing?
Be sure that I know nothing of what you ask.
How cursed I must be, how abhorred by the gods,
if not a word of my miserable condition has reached my homeland, or any Greek land at all! Instead those men, who against the gods’ laws cast me away, keep their secret and laugh, while my plague has ever flourished and grows worse!
O my son, boy whose father was Achilles, here I am before you, the man of whom you have perhaps heard as lord of the bow of Heracles, Philoctetes the son of Poeas. I am he whom the two marshalls and the Cephallenian king
shamelessly hurled to this solitude which you see, when I was wasting with a fierce disease, stricken by the savage bite of the murderous serpent. With that plague for my sole companion, boy, those men put me out
here alone and left, after they landed here with their fleet from sea-washed Chryse. Delighted they were then, when they saw me asleep after much tossing on the waves, in the shelter of a cave upon the shore, and they abandoned me, first setting out a few rags, as though for an unfortunate beggar, and a bit of food, too—
a small work of charity. But may they get what they gave me! Can you imagine, boy, what kind of awakening I had when they had gone, and I rose from sleep that day?—what stinging tears I wept, and what miseries I bewailed when I saw that the ships with which I had sailed
were all gone, and that there was no man in the place, not one to help me, not one to ease the sickness that afflicted me, when looking all around me, I could find nothing at hand, save agony—but of that a ready store?
So time passed for me, season by season, and alone in this narrow house, I had to attend to all my wants by my own resources. For my stomach’s needs this bow provided, bringing down doves on the wing. And whatever my string-sped arrow might strike,
in pain I would crawl to it myself, dragging my wretched foot behind me. Or, again, if water had to be fetched, or, if when the frost had spread, as often happens in winter, a bit of firewood had to be broken, I would creep out in pain and
manage it. Then fire would be lacking; but by rubbing stone hard on stone I would at last reveal the hidden spark which preserves me from day to day. Indeed, a roof over my head and a fire inside provides all that I want—except release from my disease.
Come now, son, you must understand what sort of island this is. No mariner approaches it by choice, since there is no anchorage or port where he can find a gainful market or a kindly host. This is not a place to which prudent men voyage. But suppose that some one has put in against his will, for such things may often
happen in the long course of a man’s life. These visitors, then, when they come, son, have compassionate words for me, and, perhaps moved by pity, they give me a little food or some clothing.
But there is one thing that no one will do, whenever I mention it: take me home in safety. No, this is already the tenth year that I am wasted by misery from hunger and suffering, by feeding this gluttonous plague. This is what the Atreids and the forceful Odysseus have done to me, boy.
May the gods on Olympus someday give them agonies as strong in requital for mine!
I believe that I, too, pity you, son of Poeas, as much as your former visitors.