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THE BACCHANTES by Euripides, Part 02


TEIRESIAS
What loiterer at the gates will call Cadmus from the house,
Agenor's son, who left the city of Sidon and founded here the town
of Thebes? Go one of you, announce to him that Teiresias is seeking
him; he knows himself the reason of my coming and the compact I and he
have made in our old age to bind the thyrsus with leaves and don the
fawnskin, crowning our heads the while with ivy-sprays.

Enter CADMUS.

CADMUS
Best of friends! I was in the house when I heard thy voice, wise as
its owner. I come prepared, dressed in the livery of the god. For 'tis
but right I should magnify with all my might my own daughter's son,
Dionysus, who hath shown his godhead unto men. Where are we to join
the dance? where plant the foot and shake the hoary head? Do thou,
Teiresias, be my guide, age leading age, for thou art wise. Never
shall I weary, night or day, of beating the earth with my thyrsus.
What joy to forget our years?

TEIRESIAS
Why, then thou art as I am. For I too am young again, and will
essay the dance.
CADMUS
We will drive then in our chariot to the hill.
TEIRESIAS
Nay, thus would the god not have an equal honour paid.
CADMUS
Well, I will lead thee, age leading age.
TEIRESIAS
The god will guide us both thither without toil.
CADMUS
Shall we alone of all the city dance in Bacchus' honour?
TEIRESIAS
Yea, for we alone are wise, the rest are mad.
CADMUS
We stay too long; come, take my hand.
TEIRESIAS
There link thy hand in my firm grip.
CADMUS
Mortal that I am, I scorn not the gods.
TEIRESIAS
No subtleties do I indulge about the powers of heaven. The faith
we inherited from our fathers, old as time itself, no reasoning
shall cast down; no! though it were the subtlest invention of wits
refined. Maybe some one will say, I have no respect for my grey hair
in going to dance with ivy round my head; not so, for the god did
not define whether old or young should dance, but from all alike he
claims a universal homage, and scorns nice calculations in his
worship.
CADMUS
Teiresias, since thou art blind, I must prompt thee what to say.
Pentheus is coming hither to the house in haste, Echion's son, to whom
I resign the government. How scared he looks I what strange tidings
will he tell?

Enter PENTHEUS.

PENTHEUS
I had left my kingdom for awhile, when tidings of strange mischief
in this city reached me; I hear that our women-folk have left their
homes on pretence of Bacchic rites, and on the wooded hills rush
wildly to and fro, honouring in the dance this new god Dionysus,
whoe'er he is; and in the midst of each revel-rout the brimming
wine-bowl stands, and one by one they steal away to lonely spots to
gratify their lust, pretending forsooth that they are Maenads bent
on sacrifice, though it is Aphrodite they are placing before the
Bacchic god. As many as I caught, my gaolers are keeping safe in the
public prison fast bound; and all who are gone forth, will I chase
from the hills, Ino and Agave too who bore me to Echion, and Actaeon's
mother Autonoe. In fetters of iron will I bind them and soon put an
end to these outrageous Bacchic rites. They say there came a
stranger hither, a trickster and a sorcerer, from Lydia's land, with
golden hair and perfumed locks, the flush of wine upon his face, and
in his eyes each grace that Aphrodite gives; by day and night he
lingers in our maidens' company on the plea of teaching Bacchic
mysteries. Once let me catch him within these walls, and I will put an
end to his thyrsus-beating and his waving of his tresses, for I will
cut his head from his body. This is the fellow who says that
Dionysus is a god, says that he was once stitched up in the thigh of
Zeus-that child who with his mother was blasted by the lightning
flash, because the woman falsely said her marriage was with Zeus. Is
not this enough to deserve the awful penalty of hanging, this
stranger's wanton insolence, whoe'er he be?
But lo! another marvel. I see Teiresias, our diviner, dressed in
dappled fawn-skins, and my mother's father too, wildly waving the
Bacchic wand; droll sight enough! Father, it grieves me to see you two
old men so void of sense. Oh! shake that ivy from thee! Let fall the
thyrsus from thy hand, my mother's sire! Was it thou, Teiresias, urged
him on to this? Art bent on introducing this fellow as another new
deity amongst men, that thou mayst then observe the fowls of the air
and make a gain from fiery divination? Were it not that thy grey hairs
protected thee, thou shouldst sit in chains amid the Bacchanals, for
introducing knavish mysteries; for where the gladsome grape is found
at women's feasts, I deny that their rites have any longer good
results.

 

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