(SCENE:- A lonely region on the shore of Lemnos,
before a steep cliff in which is the entrance to PHILOCTETES' cave.
ULYSSES, NEOPTOLEMUS and an attendant enter.)
At length, my noble friend, thou bravest son
Of a brave father- father of us all,
The great Achilles- we have reached the shore
Of sea-girt Lemnos, desert and forlorn,
Where never tread of human step is seen,
Or voice of mortal heard, save his alone,
Poor Philoctetes, Poeas' wretched son,
Whom here I left; for such were my commands
From Grecia's chiefs, when by his fatal wound
Oppressed, his groans and execrations dreadful
Alarmed our hosts, our sacred rites profaned,
And interrupted holy sacrifice.
But why should I repeat the tale? The time
Admits not of delay. We must not linger,
Lest he discover our arrival here,
And all our purposed fraud to draw him hence
Be ineffectual. Lend me then thy aid.
Surveying round thee, canst thou see a rock
With double entrance- to the sun's warm rays
In winter open, and in summer's heat
Giving free passage to the welcome breeze?
A little to the left there is a fountain
Of living water, where, if yet he breathes,
He slakes his thirst. If aught thou seest of this
Inform me; so shall each to each impart
Counsel most fit, and serve our common cause.
NEOPTOLEMUS (leaving ULYSSES a little behind him)
If I mistake not, I behold a cave,
E'en such as thou describst.
Dost thou? which way?
Yonder it is; but no path leading thither,
Or trace of human footstep.
In his cell
A chance but he hath lain down to rest:
Look if he hath not.
NEOPTOLEMUS (advancing to the cave)
Not a creature there.
Nor food, nor mark of household preparation?
A rustic bed of scattered leaves.
A wooden bowl, the work of some rude hand,
With a few sticks for fuel.
This is all
His little treasure here.
Some linen for his wounds.
This must be then
His place of habitation; far from hence
He cannot roam; distempered as he is,