THE BACCHANTES by Euripides, Part 04
Unhappy wretch! thou little knowest what thou art saying. Now
art thou become a raving madman, even before unsound in mind. Let us
away, Cadmus, and pray earnestly for him, spite of his savage
temper, and likewise for the city, that the god inflict not a signal
vengeance. Come, follow me with thy ivy-wreathed staff; try to support
my tottering frame as I do thine, for it is unseemly that two old
men should fall; but let that-pass. For we must serve the Bacchic god,
the son of Zeus. Only, Cadmus, beware lest Pentheus' bring sorrow to
thy house; it is not my prophetic art, but circumstances that lead
me to say this; for the words of a fool are folly.
Exeunt CADMUS and TEIRESIAS.
O holiness, queen amongst the gods, sweeping on golden pinion o'er
the earth! dost hear the words of Pentheus, dost hear his proud
blaspheming Bromius, the son of Semele; first of all the blessed
gods at every merry festival? His it is to rouse the revellers to
dance, to laugh away dull care, and wake the flute, whene'er at
banquets of the gods the luscious grape appears, or when the winecup
in the feast sheds sleep on men who wear the ivy-spray. THE END of all
unbridled speech and lawless senselessness is misery; but the life
of calm repose and the rule of reason abide unshaken and support the
home; for far away in heaven though they dwell, the powers divine
behold man's state. Sophistry is not wisdom, and to indulge in
thoughts beyond man's ken is to shorten life; and if a man on such
poor terms should aim too high, he may miss the pleasures in his
reach. These, to my mind, are the ways of madmen and idiots. Oh! to
make my way to Cyprus, isle of Aphrodite, where dwell the love-gods
strong to soothe man's soul, or to Paphos, which that foreign river,
never fed by rain, enriches with its hundred mouths! Oh! lead me,
Bromian god, celestial guide of Bacchic pilgrims, to the hallowed
slopes of Olympus, where Pierian Muses have their haunt most fair.
There dwell the Graces; there is soft desire; there thy votaries may
hold their revels freely. The joy of our god, the son of Zeus, is in
banquets, his delight is in peace, that giver of riches and NURSE
divine of youth. Both to rich and poor alike hath he granted the
delight of wine, that makes all pain to cease; hateful to him is every
one who careth not to live the life of bliss, that lasts through
days and nights of joy. True wisdom is to keep the heart and soul
aloof from over-subtle wits. That which the less enlightened crowd
approves and practises, will I accept.
Re-enter PENTHEUS. Enter SERVANT bringing Dionysus bound.
We are come, Pentheus, having hunted down this prey, for which
thou didst send us forth; not in vain hath been our quest. We found
our quarry tame; he did not fly from us, but yielded himself without a
struggle; his cheek ne'er blanched, nor did his ruddy colour change,
but with a smile he bade me bind and lead him away, and he waited,
making my task an easy one. For very shame I said to him, "Against
my will, sir stranger, do I lead thee hence, but Pentheus ordered
it, who sent me hither." As for his votaries whom thou thyself didst
check, seizing and binding them hand and foot in the public gaol,
all these have loosed their bonds and fled into the meadows where they
now are sporting, calling aloud on the Bromian god. Their chains
fell off their feet of their own accord, and doors flew open without
man's hand to help. Many a marvel hath this stranger brought with
him to our city of Thebes; what yet remains must be thy care.
Loose his hands; for now that I have him in the net he is scarce
swift enough to elude me. So, sir stranger, thou art not
ill-favoured from a woman's point of view, which was thy real object
in coming to Thebes; thy hair is long because thou hast never been a
wrestler, flowing right down thy cheeks most wantonly; thy skin is
white to help thee gain thy end, not tanned by ray of sun, but kept
within the shade, as thou goest in quest of love with beauty's bait.
Come, tell me first of thy race.
That needs no braggart's tongue, 'tis easily told; maybe thou
knowest Tmolus by hearsay.
I know it, the range that rings the city of Sardis round.
Thence I come, Lydia is my native home.
What makes thee bring these mysteries to Hellas?
Dionysus, the son of Zeus, initiated me.
Is there a Zeus in Lydia, who begets new gods?
No, but Zeus who married Semele in Hellas.
Was it by night or in the face of day that he constrained thee?
'Twas face to face he intrusted his mysteries to me.
Pray, what special feature stamps thy rites?
That is a secret to be hidden from the uninitiated.
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