A monologue from the play by Sophocles

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Dramas. Sophocles. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1906.
  • PHILOCTETES: O what a drudge and sport of Gods am I!
    Of whose ill plight no whisper ever came
    To my own home, or any coast of Greece,
    But they who thrust me out unrighteously
    Laugh and keep silence, while my sickness ever
    Grows on me and increases more and more.
    O boy! O son, calling Achilles sire,
    I am the man who, may be, thou hast heard
    Was master of the arms of Heracles,
    The son of Pœas, Philoctetes! whom
    The Captains twain and the Cephallenite king
    Cast out thus shamefully--deserted--sick
    Of a consuming wound--pierced through and through
    By the destroying viper's venomous fangs;
    And in this plight, boy, they exposed me here,
    Left me, and went! when from the Chrysean coast
    They put in hither with their navy, straight,
    Soon as they saw me sleeping on the beach,
    Tired with long tossing, in a sheltered cave,
    They laughed, they went, they left me! casting me
    A few mean rags, a beggar's garniture,
    And some poor pittance, too, of nourishment,
    Such as, I pray, be theirs! O then, my son,
    What sort of waking, think you, from that sleep
    Had I when they were gone! How did I weep,
    How did I wail, for my calamities!
    Seeing the ships which I was leader of
    All gone away, and no man in the place
    Who should suffice me, or should comfort me
    In the disease of which I laboured; yea
    Though I sought everywhere, nothing I found
    Left to me, save my anguish; and, my son,
    Of that no lack indeed! Hour after hour
    Passed by me; and I must needs make shift alone,
    Under this scanty shelter. For my food,
    This quiver sought out what supplied my need,
    Hitting the doves on wing; then to the mark
    Of the shot bolt I had to crawl, with pain,
    Dragging a wounded foot. If upon this
    I wanted to get anything to drink,
    Or, as in winter when the hoar frost lay,
    To break some sticks to burn, this, creeping forth,
    I had to manage, in my misery.
    Ther there would be no fire; but striking hard
    With flint on flint I struck out painfully
    An obscure spark, which keeps me still alive.
    Thus shelter overhead, not without fire,
    Furnishes all, save healing of my sore.--
    Come now and hear about the isle, my son;
    No sailor willingly approaches it;
    For anchorage there is not, or a port
    Whither a man might sail, and make his mart
    By traffic, or find welcome; prudent men
    Do not make voyage here. Some one, perhaps,
    Might land against his will; for these things oft
    Will happen in the long-drawn life of men;
    But such, my son, when they do come, in words
    Pity me, and in compassion give me, say
    Some morsel of food, or matter of attire;
    But that thing no man, when I hint it, will do--
    Take me safe home; but this tenth year already
    In hunger and distress I pine and perish,
    Feeding the gnawing tooth of my disease.
    The Atridæ, and Ulysses' violence,
    Have done me all this wrong; the like of which,
    O boy, may the Olympian Gods give them
    One day to suffer, in revenge for me!