ruler of my native land,
you see how
people here of every age
crouching down around your altars,
fledglings barely strong enough to fly
bent by age, with priests as well—
priest of Zeus—and these ones here,
the pick of
all our youth. The other groups
sit in the
market place with suppliant sticks
or else in
front of Pallas’ two shrines,
Ismenus prophesies with fire.2
city, as you yourself can see,
shaken—she cannot raise her head
depths of so much surging death.
infects fruit blossoms in our land,
infects our herds of grazing cattle,
in labour lose their children.
pestilence, that fiery god,
to blast the city, emptying
of Cadmus, and fills black Hades
and howls. These children and myself
here by your home, not because we think
equal to the gods. No. We judge you
of men in what happens in this life
and in our
interactions with the gods.
came here, to our Cadmeian city,
us from the tribute we were paying
cruel singer—and yet you knew
than we did and had not been taught.3
stories, the people testify
gods’ help, you gave us back our lives.
Oedipus, our king, most powerful
men’s eyes, we’re here as suppliants,
you to find some help for us,
listening to a heavenly voice,
from some other human being.
For, in my
view, men of experience
advice which gives the best results.
So now, you
best of men, raise up our state.
consolidate your fame, for now,
your eagerness in earlier days,
celebrates you as its saviour.
our memory of your ruling here
that we were first set right again,
fell. No. Restore our city,
so that it
stands secure. In those times past
us joy—and with good omens, too.
same man today. If you’re to rule
as you are
doing now, it’s better to be king
in a land
of men than in a desert.
ship or city wall is nothing
if no men
share your life together there.
children, I know why you have come—
I am not
ignorant of what you yearn for.
For I well
know that you are ill, and yet,
sick as you
are, there is not one of you
illness equals mine. Your agony
each one of you as his alone,
pain for him and no one else.
soul inside me sorrows for myself,
and for the
city, and for you—all together.
You are not
rousing me from a deep sleep.
know I’ve been shedding many tears
and, in my
wandering thoughts, exploring
pathways. After a careful search
up the one thing I could find
on it. So I have sent away
brother-in-law, son of Menoeceus,
Pythian Apollo’s shrine,
from him what I might do or say
to save our
city. But when I count the days—
he’s been away—I now worry
doing. For he’s been gone too long,
the time he should have taken.
But when he
comes, I’ll be a wicked man
if I do not
act on all the god reveals.