A monologue from the play by Sophocles

  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Greek Dramas. Ed. Bernadotte Perrin. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1904.
  • PRIEST: O king! thou seest what numbers throng thy altars;
    Here, bending sad beneath the weight of years,
    The hoary priests, here crowd the chosen youth
    Of Thebes, with these a weak and suppliant train
    Of helpless infants, last in me behold
    The minister of Jove: far off thou seest
    Assembled multitudes, with laurel crowned,
    To where Minerva's hallowed temples rise
    Frequent repair, or where Ismenus laves
    Apollo's sacred shrine: too well thou knowst
    Thy wretched Thebes, with dreadful storms oppressed,
    Scarce lifts her head above the whelming flood;
    The teeming earth her blasted harvest mourns,
    And on the barren plain the flocks and herds
    Unnumbered perish; dire abortion thwarts
    The mother's hopes, and painful she brings forth
    The half-formed infant; baleful pestilence
    Hath laid our city waste, the fiery god
    Stalks o'er deserted Thebes; while with our groans
    Enriched, the gloomy god of Erebus
    Triumphant smiles. O Oedipus! to thee
    We bend; behold these youths, with me they kneel,
    And suppliant at they altars sue for aid,
    To thee the first of men, and only less
    Than them whose favour thou alone canst gain,
    The gods above; thy wisdom yet may heal
    The deep-felt wounds, and make the powers divine
    Propitous to us. Thebes long since to thee
    Her safety owed, when from the Sphinx delivered
    Thy grateful people saw thee, not by man
    But by the gods instructed, save the land:
    Now then, thou best of kings, assist us now.
    Oh! by some mortal or immortal aid
    Now succour the distress! On wisdom oft,
    And prudent counsels in the hour of ill,
    Success awaits. O dearest prince! support,
    Relieve thy Thebes; on thee, its saviour once,
    Again it calls. Now, if thou wouldst not see
    The mem'ry perish of thy former deeds,
    Let it not call in vain, but rise and save!
    With happiest omens once and fair success
    We saw thee crowned: oh, be thyself again,
    And may thy will and fortune be the same!
    If thou art yet to reign, O king! remember
    A sovereign's riches is a peopled realm;
    For what will ships or lofty towers avail
    Unarmed with men to guard and to defend them?