“Philoctetes” by Sophocles


Perhaps this man is as well born as any,
second to no son of an ancient house.
Yet now his life lacks everything,
and he makes his bed without neighbors
or with spotted shaggy beasts for neighbors.
His thoughts are set continually on pain and hunger.
He cries out in his wretchedness;
there is only a blabbering echo,
that comes from the distance speeding from his bitter crying.

There is wonder, indeed,in my heart
how, how in his loneliness,
listening to the waves beating on the shore.
How he kept hold at all on a life so full of tears.

He was lame, and no one came near him.
He suffered, and there were no neighbors for his sorrow
with whom his cries would find answer,
with whom he could lament the bloody plague that ate him up.
No one would gather fallen leaves from the ground
to quiet the raging, bleeding sore,
running in his maggot-rotten foot.
Here and there he crawled,
writhing always–
suffering like a child without the nurse he loves–
to what source of ease he could find
when the heart-devouring suffering gave over.

Caverns and headlands, dens of wild creatures,
you jutting broken crags, to you I raise my cry–
there is no one else that I can speak to–
and you have always been there, have always heard me.


I shall shrivel to death alone. I shall kill no more,
neither winged bird nor wild thing of the hills
with this my bow. I shall myself in death
be a feast for those that fed me.
Those that I hunted shall be my hunters now.
Life for the life I took, I shall repay



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