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SCENE: A wild and desolate region; only thickets, rocks, and a single tree are seen. Euelpides and Pisthetaerus enter, each with a bird in his hand.

Euelpides
To his jay. Do you think I should walk straight for yon tree?

Pisthetaerus
To his crow. Cursed beast, what are you croaking to me? . . . to retrace my steps?

Euelpides
Why, you wretch, we are wandering at random, we are exerting ourselves only to return to the same spot; we're wasting our time.

Pisthetaerus
[5] To think that I should trust to this crow, which has made me cover more than a thousand furlongs!

Euelpides
And that I, in obedience to this jay, should have worn my toes down to the nails!

Pisthetaerus
If only I knew where we were . . .

Euelpides
[10] Could you find your country again from here?

Pisthetaerus
No, I feel quite sure I could not, any more than could Execestides find his.

Euelpides
Alas!

Pisthetaerus
Aye, aye, my friend, it's surely the road of “alases” we are following.

Euelpides
That Philocrates, the bird-seller, played us a scurvy trick, [15] when he pretended these two guides could help us to find Tereus, the Epops, who is a bird, without being born of one. He has indeed sold us this jay, a true son of Tharrhelides, for an obolus, and this crow for three, but what can they do? Why, nothing whatever but bite and scratch! To his jay. [20] What's the matter with you then, that you keep opening your beak? Do you want us to fling ourselves headlong down these rocks? There is no road that way.

Pisthetaerus
Not even the vestige of a trail in any direction

Euelpides
And what does the crow say about the road to follow?

Pisthetaerus
By Zeus, it no longer croaks the same thing it did.

Euelpides
[25] And which way does it tell us to go now?

Pisthetaerus
It says that, by dint of gnawing, it will devour my fingers.

Euelpides
What misfortune is ours! we strain every nerve to get to the crows, do everything we can to that end, and we cannot find our way! [30] Yes, spectators, our madness is quite different from that of Sacas. He is not a citizen, and would fain be one at any cost; we, on the contrary, born of an honorable tribe and family and living in the midst of our fellow-citizens, [35] we have fled from our country as hard as ever we could go. It's not that we hate it; we recognize it to be great and rich, likewise that everyone has the right to ruin himself paying taxes; but the crickets only chirrup among the fig-trees for a month or two, [40] whereas the Athenians spend their whole lives in chanting forth judgments from their law-courts. That is why we started off with a basket, a stew-pot and some myrtle boughs and have come to seek a quiet country [45] in which to settle. We are going to Tereus, the Epops, to learn from him, whether, in his aerial flights, he has noticed some town of this kind.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Philoctetes, 1009
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