Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Chorus of Mystæ in Hades
By Aristophanes (c. 448–c. 388 B.C.)
From ‘The Frogs’: Translation of John Hookham Frere

CHORUS  [shouting and singing]
                IACCHUS! Iacchus! Ho!
                Iacchus! Iacchus! Ho!
  Xanthias—There, master, there they are, the initiated
        All sporting about as he told us we should find ’em.
        They’re singing in praise of Bacchus like Diagoras.        5
  Bacchus—Indeed, and so they are; but we’ll keep quiet
        Till we make them out a little more distinctly.
CHORUS  [song]
                Mighty Bacchus! Holy Power!
                Hither at the wonted hour
                        Come away,        10
                        Come away,
                With the wanton holiday,
                Where the revel uproar leads
                To the mystic holy meads,
                Where the frolic votaries fly,        15
                With a tipsy shout and cry;
                Flourishing the Thyrsus high,
                Flinging forth, alert and airy,
                To the sacred old vagary,
                The tumultuous dance and song,        20
                Sacred from the vulgar throng;
                Mystic orgies that are known
                To the votaries alone—
                To the mystic chorus solely—
                Secret unrevealed—and holy.        25
  Xan.—O glorious virgin, daughter of the Goddess!
        What a scent of roasted griskin reached my senses!
  Bac.—Keep quiet—and watch for a chance of a piece of the haslets.
CHORUS  [song]
                Raise the fiery torches high!
                Bacchus is approaching nigh,        30
                Like the planet of the morn
                Breaking with the hoary dawn
                  On the dark solemnity—
                There they flash upon the sight;
                All the plain is blazing bright,        35
                Flushed and overflown with light:
                Age has cast his years away,
                And the cares of many a day,
                Sporting to the lively lay—
                Mighty Bacchus! march and lead        40
                (Torch in hand toward the mead)
                Thy devoted humble Chorus;
                Mighty Bacchus—move before us!
Keep silence—keep peace—and let all the profane
From our holy solemnity duly refrain;        45
Whose souls, unenlightened by taste, are obscure;
Whose poetical notions are dark and impure;
        Whose theatrical conscience
        Is sullied by nonsense;
Who never were trained by the mighty Cratinus        50
In mystical orgies, poetic and vinous;
Who delight in buffooning and jests out of season;
Who promote the designs of oppression and treason;
Who foster sedition and strife and debate;
All traitors, in short, to the Stage and the State:        55
Who surrender a fort, or in private export
To places and harbors of hostile resort
Clandestine consignments of cables and pitch,—
In the way that Thorycion grew to be rich
From a scoundrelly dirty collector of tribute:        60
All such we reject and severely prohibit;
All statesmen retrenching the fees and the salaries
Of theatrical bards, in revenge for the railleries
And jests and lampoons of this holy solemnity,
Profanely pursuing their personal enmity,        65
For having been flouted and scoffed and scorned—
All such are admonished and heartily warned;
            We warn them once,
            We warn them twice,
We warn and admonish—we warn them thrice,        70
          To conform to the law,
          To retire and withdraw;
  While the Chorus again with the formal saw,
    (Fixt and assign’d to the festive day)
    Move to the measure and march away.        75
        March! march! lead forth,
          Lead forth manfully,
            March in order all;
        Bustling, hustling, justling,
            As it may befall;        80
        Flocking, shouting, laughing,
        Mocking, flouting, quaffing,
              One and all;
          All have had a belly-full
        Of breakfast brave and plentiful;        85
        With your voices and your bodies
            Serve the goddess,
                And raise        90
              Songs of praise;
        She shall save the country still,
      And save it against the traitor’s will;
              So she says.
Now let us raise in a different strain
The praise of the goddess, the giver of grain;
            Imploring her favor
            With other behavior,
In measures more sober, submissive, and graver.
          Ceres, holy patroness,
        Condescend to mark and bless,
          With benevolent regard,
        Both the Chorus and the Bard;
        Grant them for the present day
        Many things to sing and say,        105
        Follies intermixed with sense;
        Folly, but without offense.
        Grant them with the present play
        To bear the prize of verse away.
    Now call again, and with a different measure,
        The power of mirth and pleasure;
      The florid, active Bacchus, bright and gay,
      To journey forth and join us on the way.
O Bacchus, attend! the customary patron of every lively lay;
            Go forth without delay        115
            Thy wonted annual way,
        To meet the ceremonious holy matron:
            Her grave procession gracing,
            Thine airy footsteps tracing
        With unlaborious, light, celestial motion;        120
            And here at thy devotion
            Behold thy faithful choir
                In pitiful attire:
            All overworn and ragged,
            This jerkin old and jagged,        125
            These buskins torn and burst,
              Though sufferers in the fray,
            May serve us at the worst
              To sport throughout the day;
            And then within the shades        130
            I spy some lovely maids
          With whom we romped and reveled,
            Dismantled and disheveled,
            With their bosoms open,—
          With whom we might be coping.        135
  Xan.—Well, I was always hearty,
          Disposed to mirth and ease:
        I’m ready to join the party.
  Bac.—    And I will if you please.

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