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THE BACCHANTES by Euripides, Part 09

PENTHEUS
Lead on with all speed, I grudge thee all delay.
Dionysus
Array thee then in robes of fine linen.
PENTHEUS
Why so? Am I to enlist among women after being a man?
Dionysus
They may kill thee, if thou show thy manhood there.
PENTHEUS
Well said! Thou hast given me a taste of thy wit already.
Dionysus
Dionysus schooled me in this lore.
PENTHEUS
How am I to carry out thy wholesome advice?
Dionysus
Myself will enter thy palace and robe thee.
PENTHEUS
What is the robe to be? a woman's? Nay, I am ashamed.
Dionysus
Thy eagerness to see the Maenads goes no further.
PENTHEUS
But what dress dost say thou wilt robe me in?
Dionysus
Upon thy head will I make thy hair grow long.
PENTHEUS
Describe my costume further.
Dionysus
Thou wilt wear a robe reaching to thy feet; and on thy head
shall be a snood.
PENTHEUS
Wilt add aught else to my attire?
Dionysus
A thyrsus in thy hand, and a dappled fawnskin.
PENTHEUS
I can never put on woman's dress.
Dionysus
Then wilt thou cause bloodshed by coming to blows with the
Bacchanals.
PENTHEUS
Thou art right. Best go spy upon them first.
Dionysus
Well, e'en that is wiser than by evil means to follow evil ends.
PENTHEUS
But how shall I pass through the city of the Cadmeans unseen?
Dionysus
We will go by unfrequented paths. I will lead the way.
PENTHEUS
Anything rather than that the Bacchantes should laugh at me.
Dionysus
We will enter the palace and consider the proper steps.
PENTHEUS
Thou hast my leave. I am all readiness. I will enter, prepared
to set out either sword in hand or following thy advice.
Exit PENTHEUS.
Dionysus
Women! our prize is nearly in the net. Soon shall he reach the
Bacchanals, and there pay forfeit with his life. O Dionysus! now
'tis thine to act, for thou art not far away; let us take vengeance on
him. First drive him mad by fixing in his soul a wayward frenzy; for
never, whilst his senses are his own, will he consent to don a woman's
dress; but when his mind is gone astray he will put it on. And fain
would I make him a laughing-stock to Thebes as he is led in woman's
dress through the city, after those threats with which he menaced me
before. But I will go to array Pentheus in those robes which he
shall wear when he sets out for Hades' halls, a victim to his own
mother's fury; so shall he recognize Dionysus, the son of Zeus, who
proves himself at last a god most terrible, for all his gentleness
to man.

Exit Dionysus.

CHORUS
Will this white foot e'er join the night-long dance? what time
in Bacchic ecstasy I toss my neck to heaven's dewy breath, like a
fawn, that gambols 'mid the meadow's green delights, when she hath
escaped the fearful chase, clear of the watchers, o'er the woven nets;
while the huntsman, with loud halloo, harks on his hounds' full cry,
and she with laboured breath at lightning speed bounds o'er the
level water-meadows, glad to be far from man amid the foliage of the
bosky grove. What is true wisdom, or what fairer boon has heaven
placed in mortals' reach, than to gain the mastery o'er a fallen
foe? What is fair is dear for aye. Though slow be its advance, yet
surely moves the power of the gods, correcting those mortal wights,
that court a senseless pride, or, in the madness of their fancy,
disregard the gods. Subtly they lie in wait, through the long march of
time, and so hunt down the godless man. For it is never right in
theory or in practice to o'erride the law of custom. This is a maxim
cheaply bought: whatever comes of God, or in time's long annals, has
grown into a law upon a natural basis, this is sovereign. What is true
wisdom, or what fairer boon has heaven placed in mortals' reach,
than to gain the mastery o'er a fallen foe? What is fair is dear for
ave. Happy is he who hath escaped the wave from out the sea, and
reached the haven; and happy he who hath triumphed o'er his
troubles; though one surpasses another in wealth and power; yet
there be myriad hopes for all the myriad minds; some end in
happiness for man, and others come to naught; but him, whose life from
day to day is blest, I deem a happy man.

Enter Dionysus.

 

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