From Sophocles’ Philoktetes


O hands, what you suffer for lack of a bowstring,
the prey of that man!

You whose thoughts are sick and slavelike,
how you have hunted me!
How you tricked me, how you stole up
with this boy as a shield, unknown to me.
He deserved a better master than you.
He is at a loss to do anything but what he’s told,
and he suffers now for his mischief
and the things he has brought upon my head.
Your evil, harmful soul has taught him
to be a wily criminal,
unwilling and unsuited though he was for that.
Now you have bound me and plan to take me
off from this place where you had cast me away,
friendless, homeless, a living corpse.

I curse you. I have cursed you many times before,
but the gods have granted me nothing I want,
and so you live happily, while I live in this pain,
and you and the Atreids mock my anguish,
those two generals, for whom you perform this deed.
You were yoked to the cause by deceit and force,
while I willingly went with my seven ships,
willingly to dishonor and my own destruction,
to being cast away on this lonely shore.
You say they did it, and they blame you.

Why must you take me?
I am nothing. For you, I’ve been dead for years.
Blasphemous man, could it be I don’t stink now;
am I no longer a cripple? If I sail with you,
how can you offer burnt sacrifices?
How can you pour your libations to the gods?
That was your reason for abandoning me.

May a horrible death overtake you.
It will for your crimes against me, if the gods
still care for justice. I know they do,
for you would not have come for my sake alone;
the gods’ urging must have brought you here.
Ancestral land and you gods who look on mortal crimes,
take vengeance on these men when the time is right,
take vengeance on them all, if you pity me.
If I could see them die, then I could also dream
that the sickness within me has fled my body.


He is bitter, this stranger; his words are, too,
for they do not bend to suffering.


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