THE BACCHANTES by Euripides, Part 15
Cadmus, I am sorry for thy fate; for though thy daughter's child
hath met but his deserts, 'tis bitter grief to thee.
O father, thou seest how sadly my fortune is changed.[*]
[* After this a very large lacuna occurs in the MS.]
Thou shalt be changed into a serpent; and thy wife Harmonia, Ares'
child, whom thou in thy human life didst wed, shall change her
nature for a snake's, and take its form. With her shalt thou, as
LEADER of barbarian tribes, drive thy team of steers, so saith an
oracle of Zeus; and many a city shalt thou sack with an army
numberless; but in the day they plunder the oracle of Loxias, shall
they rue their homeward march; but thee and Harmonia will Ares rescue,
and set thee to live henceforth in the land of the blessed. This do
I declare, I Dionysus, son of no mortal father but of Zeus. Had ye
learnt wisdom when ye would not, ye would now be happy with the son of
Zeus for your ally.
O Dionysus! we have sinned; thy pardon we implore.
Too late have ye learnt to know me; ye knew me not at the proper
We recognize our error; but thou art too revengeful.
Yea, for I, though a god, was slighted by you.
Gods should not let their passion sink to man's level.
Long ago my father Zeus ordained it thus.
Alas! my aged sire, our doom is fixed; 'tis woful exile.
Why then delay the inevitable? Exit.
Daughter, to what an awful pass are we now come, thou too, poor
child, and thy sisters, while I alas! in my old age must seek
barbarian shores, to sojourn there; but the oracle declares that I
shall yet lead an army, half-barbarian, half-Hellene, to Hellas; and
in serpent's shape shall I carry my wife Harmonia, the daughter of
Ares, transformed like me to a savage snake, against the altars and
tombs of Hellas at the head of my troops; nor shall I ever cease
from my woes, ah me! nor ever cross the downward stream of Acheron and
be at rest.
Father, I shall be parted from thee and exiled.
Alas! my child, why fling thy arms around me, as a snowy cygnet
folds its wings about the frail old swan?
Whither can I turn, an exile from my country?
I know not, my daughter; small help is thy father now.
Farewell, my home! farewell, my native city! with sorrow I am
leaving thee, an exile from my bridal bower.
Go, daughter, to the house of Aristaeus,[*]
[* Another large lacuna follows.]
Father, I mourn for thee.
And I for thee, my child; for thy sisters too I shed a tear.
Ah! terribly was king Dionysus bringing this outrage on thy house.
Yea, for he suffered insults dire from you, his name receiving
no meed of honour in Thebes.
Farewell, father mine!
Farewell, my hapless daughter and yet thou scarce canst reach that
Oh! lead me, guide me to the place where I shall find my
sisters, sharers in my exile to their sorrow! Oh! to reach a spot
where cursed Cithaeron ne'er shall see me more nor I Cithaeron with
mine eyes; where no memorial of the thyrsus is set up! Be they to
other Bacchantes dear!
Many are the forms the heavenly will assumes, and many a thing the
gods fulfil contrary to all hope; that which was expected is not
brought to pass, while for the unlooked-for Heaven finds out a way.
E'en such hath been the issue here.