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THE BACCHANTES by Euripides, Part 10


Dionysus
Ho! Pentheus, thou that art so cager to see what is forbidden, and
to show thy zeal in an unworthy cause, come forth before the palace,
let me see thee clad as a woman in frenzied Bacchante's dress, to
spy upon thy own mother and her company.

Enter PENTHEUS.

Yes, thou resemblest closely a daughter of Cadmus.
PENTHEUS
Of a truth I seem to see two suns, and two towns of Thebes, our
seven-gated city; and thou, methinks, art a bull going before to guide
me, and on thy head a pair of horns have grown. Wert thou really
once a brute beast? Thon hast at any rate the appearance of a bull.
Dionysus
The god attends us, ungracious heretofore, but now our sworn
friend; and now thine eyes behold the things they should.
PENTHEUS
Pray, what do I resemble? Is not mine the carriage of Ino, or
Agave my own mother?
Dionysus
In seeing thee, I seem to see them in person. But this tress is
straying from its place, no longer as I bound it 'neath the snood.
PENTHEUS
I disarranged it from its place as I tossed it to and fro within
my chamber, in Bacchic ecstasy.
Dionysus
Well, I will rearrange it, since to tend thee is my care; hold
up thy head.
PENTHEUS
Come, put it straight; for on thee do I depend.
Dionysus
Thy girdle is loose, and the folds of thy dress do not hang evenly
below thy ankles.
PENTHEUS
I agree to that as regards the right side, but on the other my
dress hangs straight with my foot.
Dionysus
Surely thou wilt rank me first among thy friends, when contrary to
thy expectation thou findest the Bacchantes virtuous.
PENTHEUS
Shall I hold the thyrsus in the right or left hand to look most
like a Bacchanal?
Dionysus
Hold it in thy right hand, and step out with thy right foot; thy
change of mind compels thy praise.
PENTHEUS
Shall I be able to carry on my shoulders Cithaeron's glens, the
Bacchanals and all?
Dionysus
Yes, if so thou wilt; for though thy mind was erst diseased,
'tis now just as it should be.
PENTHEUS
Shall we take levers, or with my hands can I uproot it,
thrusting arm or shoulder 'neath its peaks?
Dionysus
No, no! destroy not the seats of the Nymphs and the haunts of Pan,
the place of his piping.
PENTHEUS
Well said! Women must not be mastered by brute force; amid the
pines will I conceal myself.
Dionysus
Thou shalt hide thee in the place that fate appoints, coming by
stealth to spy upon the Bacchanals.
PENTHEUS
Why, methinks they are already caught in the pleasant snares of
dalliance, like birds amid the brakes.
Dionysus
Set out with watchful heed then for this very purpose; maybe
thou wilt catch them, if thou be not first caught thyself.
PENTHEUS
Conduct me through the very heart of Thebes, for I am the only man
among them bold enough to do this deed.
Dionysus
Thou alone bearest thy country's burden, thou and none other;
wherefore there await thee such struggles as needs must. Follow me,
for I will guide thee safely thither; another shall bring thee thence.
PENTHEUS
My mother maybe.
Dionysus
For every eye to see.
PENTHEUS
My very purpose in going.
Dionysus
Thou shalt be carried back,
PENTHEUS
What luxury
Dionysus
In thy mother's arms.
PENTHEUS
Thou wilt e'en force me into luxury.
Dionysus
Yes, to luxury such as this.
PENTHEUS
Truly, the task I am undertaking deserves it.

Exit PENTHEUS.

 

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