Philoctetes

Sophocles

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.

  1. softly, please, softly whisper your words. For sick men’s restless sleep is quick to vision. But, please, use your utmost care to win that prize,
  2. that great prize, by stealth. For if you maintain your present purpose towards this man—you know what purpose I mean—then truly there are irremediable troubles in store, which a shrewd mind can foresee.
Chorus
  1. Now, son, a fair wind blows you on your way: sightless and helpless, the man lies stretched in darkness—sleep in the heat is sound—
  2. with no command of hands or feet, but stripped of all his powers, like one who rests with Hades. Take note, see if your pronouncements are seasonable. So far as my thoughts can seize the truth, boy, the best strategy is that which stirs no alarm.
Neoptolemus
  1. Quiet, I say, and do not abandon your wits—the man is opening his eyes and lifts his head.
Philoctetes
  1. Ah, light succeeding upon sleep! Ah, friendly watchers, sight unlooked for even in my dreams! I could never have expected this, son—
  2. that you would have the patience to wait so tenderly upon my sufferings by staying close beside me and helping to relieve me. The Atreids, certainly, those valiant generals, had no heart to bear this burden so lightly. But your nature is noble and drawn of a noble line,
  3. and so you have made little of all this, though loud cries and stenches afflicted you. And now, since the plague seems to allow me a space of forgetfulness and peace at last, lift me up yourself and set me on my feet,
  4. so that, when the faintness releases me at length, we may set out to the ship, and not hold back our sailing.
Neoptolemus
  1. It pleases me to see you living unpained and breathing still, however contrary to my expectation. For in view of your persistent sufferings,
  2. your symptoms seemed to speak of death. But now lift yourself, or, if you prefer, these men will carry you. The labor will not be grudged, since you and I are of one mind.
Philoctetes
  1. Thank you, son, and help me up, as you will.
  2. Yet do not trouble your men, so that they may not suffer from the foul stench before it is necessary. It will be trial enough for them to live on board with me.
Neoptolemus
  1. So be it. Now stand up, and take hold of me.
Philoctetes
  1. Do not worry, my habitual method will help me to my feet.
Neoptolemus
  1. God! What am I to do next?
Philoctetes
  1. What is the matter? Where strays your speech?
Neoptolemus
  1. I do not know where to turn my tongue when my thoughts are so confused.
Philoctetes
  1. Confused? How so? No, do not say it!
Neoptolemus
  1. My mind is indeed brought to that condition.