Fiction > Harvard Classics > Euripides > The Bacchæ
Euripides (480 or 485–406 B.C.).  The Bacchæ.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Lines 400–799
Forth to the rock-seat where he dwells in ward        400
O’er birds and wonders; rend the stone with crow
And trident; make one wreck of high and low,
And toss his hands to all the winds of air!
Ha, have I found the way to sting thee, there?        404
The rest, forth through the town! And seek amain
This girl-faced stranger, that hath wrought such bane
To all Thebes, preying on our maids and wives.
Seek till ye find; and lead him here in gyves,        408
Till he be judged and stoned and weep in blood
The day he troubled Pentheus with his God!  [The guards set forth in two bodies; PENTHEUS goes into the Castle.

Hard heart, how little dost thou know what seed
Thou sowest! Blind before, and now indeed        412
Most mad!—Come, Cadmus, let us go our way,
And pray for this our persecutor, pray
For this poor city, that the righteous God
Move not in anger.—Take thine ivy rod        416
And help my steps, as I help thine. ’Twere ill,
If two old men should fall by the roadway. Still,
Come what come may, our service shall be done
To Bacchios, the All-Father’s mystic son.        420
  O Pentheus, named of sorrow! Shall he claim
From all thy house fulfilment of his name,
Old Cadmus?—Nay, I speak not from mine art,
But as I see—blind words and a blind heart!  [The two Old Men go off towards the Mountain.        424

Some Maidens

Thou Immaculate on high;
Thou Recording Purity;
Thou that stoopest, Golden Wing,
Earthward, manward, pitying,        428
Hearest thou this angry King?
Hearest thou the rage and scorn
  ’Gainst the Lord of Many Voices,
Him of mortal mother born,        432
Him in whom man’s heart rejoices,
Girt with garlands and with glee,
First in Heaven’s sovranty?
  For his kingdom, it is there,        436
  In the dancing and the prayer,
In the music and the laughter,
  In the vanishing of care,
And of all before and after;        440
In the Gods’ high banquet, when
  Gleams the grape-flood, flashed to heaven;
Yea, and in the feasts of men
Comes his crownèd slumber; then        444
  Pain is dead and hate forgiven!

Loose thy lips from out the rein;
Lift thy wisdom to disdain;
Whatso law thou canst not see,        448
Scorning; so the end shall be
Uttermost calamity!
’Tis the life of quiet breath,
  ’Tis the simple and the true,        452
Storm nor earthquake shattereth,
  Nor shall aught the house undo
Where they dwell. For, far away,
Hidden from the eyes of day,        456
  Watchers are there in the skies,
  That can see man’s life, and prize
Deeds well done by things of clay.
  But the world’s Wise are not wise,        460
Claiming more than mortal may.
Life is such a little thing;
  Lo, their present is departed,
And the dreams to which they cling        464
Come not. Mad imagining
  Theirs, I ween, and empty-hearted!
Divers Maidens

    Where is the Home for me?
    O Cyprus, set in the sea,        468
Aphrodite’s home In the soft sea-foam,
    Would I could wend to thee;
Where the wings of the Loves are furled,
And faint the heart of the world.        472
    Aye, unto Paphos’ isle,
    Where the rainless meadows smile
With riches rolled From the hundred-fold
    Mouths of the far-off Nile,        476
Streaming beneath the waves
To the roots of the seaward caves.
    But a better land is there
    Where Olympus cleaves the air,        480
The high still dell Where the Muses dwell,
    Fairest of all things fair!
O there is Grace, and there is the Heart’s Desire,
And peace to adore thee, thou Spirit of Guiding Fire!        484
A God of Heaven is he,
And horn in majesty;
Yet hath he mirth In the joy of the Earth,        488
    And he loveth constantly
Her who brings increase,
The Feeder of Children, Peace.
    No grudge hath he of the great;        492
    No scorn of the mean estate;
But to all that liveth His wine he giveth,
    Griefless, immaculate;
Only on them that spurn        496
Joy, may his anger burn.
    Love thou the Day and the Night;
    Be glad of the Dark and the Light;
And avert thine eyes From the lore of the wise,        500
    That have honour in proud men’s sight.
The simple nameless herd of Humanity
Hath deeds and faith that are truth enough for me!  [As the Chorus ceases, a party of the guards return, leading in the midst of them DIONYSUS, bound. The SOLDIER in command stands forth, as PENTHEUS, hearing the tramp of feet, comes out from the Castle.

Our quest is finished, and thy prey, O King,
Caught; for the chase was swift, and this wild thing
Most tame; yet never flinched, nor thought to flee,
But held both hands out unresistingly—
No change, no blanching of the wine-red cheek.        508
He waited while we came, and bade us wreak
All thy decree; yea, laughed, and made my best
Easy, till I for very shame confessed
And said: “O stranger, not of mine own will        512
I bind thee, but his bidding to fulfil
Who sent me.”
              And those prisoned Maids withal
Whom thou didst seize and bind within the wall        516
Of thy great dungeon, they are fled, O King,
Free in the woods, a-dance and glorying
To Bromios. Of their own impulse fell
To earth, men say, fetter and manacle,        520
And bars slid back untouched of mortal hand.
Yea, full of many wonders to thy land
Is this man come…. Howbeit, it lies with thee!

Ye are mad!—Unhand him. Howso swift he be,
My toils are round him and he shall not fly.  [The guards loose the arms of DIONYSUS; PENTHEUS studies him for a while in silence, then speaks jeeringly. DIONYSUS remains gentle and unafraid.
Marry, a fair shape for a woman’s eye,
Sir stranger! And thou seek’st no more, I ween!
Long curls, withal! That shows thou ne’er hast been        528
A wrestler!—down both cheeks so softly tossed
And winsome! And a white skin! It hath cost
Thee pains, to please thy damsels with this white
And red of cheeks that never face the light!  [DIONYSUS is silent.        532
Speak, sirrah; tell me first thy name and race.

No glory is therein, nor yet disgrace.
Thou hast heard of Tmolus, the bright hill of flowers?

Surely, the ridge that winds by Sardis towers.

Thence am I; Lydia was my fatherland.

And whence these revelations, that thy band
Spreadeth in Hellas?

                      Their intent and use
Dionysus oped to me, the Child of Zeus.
PENTHEUS (brutally)

Is there a Zeus there, that can still beget
Young Gods?

            Nay, only He whose seal was set
Here in thy Thebes on Semele.

                              What way
Descended he upon thee? In full day
Or vision of night?        548

                    Most clear he stood, and scanned
My soul, and gave his emblems to mine hand.

What like be they, these emblems?

                                  That may none
Reveal, nor know, save his Elect alone.

And what good bring they to the worshipper?

Good beyond price, but not for thee to hear.

Thou trickster? Thou wouldst prick me on the more
To seek them out!

                  His mysteries abhor
The touch of sin-lovers.

                          And so thine eyes
Saw this God plain; what guise had he?

                                        What guise
It liked him. ’Twas not I ordained his shape.

Aye, deftly turned again. An idle jape,
And nothing answered!

                      Wise words being brought
To blinded eyes will seem as things of nought.

And comest thou first to Thebes, to have thy God

              Nay; all Barbary hath trod
His dance ere this.

                    A low blind folk, I ween,
Beside our Hellenes!

                      Higher and more keen
In this thing, though their ways are not thy way.

How is thy worship held, by night or day?

Most oft by night; ’tis a majestic thing,
The darkness.

              Ha! with women worshipping?
’Tis craft and rottenness!        580

                            By day no less,
Whoso will seek may find unholiness.

Enough! Thy doom is fixed, for false pretence
Corrupting Thebes.        584

                    Not mine; but thine, for dense
Blindness of heart, and for blaspheming God!

A ready knave it is, and brazen-browed,
This mystery-priest!        588

                      Come, say what it shall be,
My doom; what dire thing wilt thou do to me?

First, shear that delicate curl that dangles there.  [He beckons to the soldiers, who approach DIONYSUS.

I have vowed it to my God; ’tis holy hair.  [The soldiers cut off the tress.

Next, yield me up thy staff!

                              Raise thine own hand
To take it. This is Dionysus’ wand.  [PENTHEUS takes the staff.

Last, I will hold thee prisoned here.

                                      My Lord
God will unloose me, when I speak the word.

He may, if e’er again amid his bands
Of saints he hears thy voice!        600

                              Even now he stands
Close here, and sees all that I suffer.

Where is he? For mine eyes discern him not.        604

Where I am! ’Tis thine own impurity
That veils him from thee.

                          The dog jeers at me!
At me and Thebes! Bind him!  [The soldiers begin to bind him.        608

                            I charge ye, bind
Me not! I having vision and ye blind!

And I, with better right, say hind the more!  [The soldiers obey.

Thou knowest not what end thou seekest, nor
What deed thou doest, nor what man thou art!
PENTHEUS (mocking)

Agàvê’s son, and on the father’s part
Echîon’s, hight Pentheus!

So let it be,
A name fore-written to calamity!

Away, and tie him where the steeds are tied;
Aye, let him lie in the manger!—There abide
And stare into the darkness!—And this rout        620
Of womankind that clusters thee about,
Thy ministers of worship, are ray slaves!
It may he I will sell them o’er the waves,
Hither and thither; else they shall be set        624
To labour at my distaffs, and forget
Their timbrel and their songs of dawning day!

I go; for that which may not be, I may
Not suffer! Yet for this thy sin, lo, He        628
Whom thou deniest cometh after thee
For recompense. Yea, in thy wrong to us,
Thou hast cast Him into thy prison-house!  [DIONYSUS, without his wand, his hair shorn, and his arms tightly bound, is led off by the guards to his dungeon. PENTHEUS returns into the Palace.

Some Maidens

AcheIoüs’ roaming daughter,
Holy Dircê, virgin water,
Bathed he not of old in thee,
The Babe of God, the Mystery?
When from out the fire immortal        636
  To himself his God did take him,
  To his own flesh, and bespake him:
“Enter now life’s second portal,
Motherless Mystery; lo, I break        640
Mine own body for thy sake,
  Thou of the Twofold Door, and seal thee
Mine, O Bromios,”—thus he spake—
  “And to this thy land reveal thee.”        644

    Still my prayer toward thee quivers,
      Dircê, still to thee I hie me;
    Why, O Blessèd among Rivers,
      Wilt thou fly me and deny me?        648
        By His own joy I vow,
        By the grape upon the bough,
Thou shalt seek Him in the midnight, thou shalt love
        Him, even now!        652
Other Maidens

    Dark and of the dark impassioned
    Is this Pentheus’ blood; yea, fashioned
    Of the Dragon, and his birth
    From Echîon, child of Earth.        656
    He is no man, but a wonder;
      Did the Earth-Child not beget him,
      As a red Giant, to set him
    Against God, against the Thunder?        660
    He will hind me for his prize,
    Me, the Bride of Dionyse;
      And my priest, my friend, is taken
    Even now, and buried lies;        664
      In the dark he lies forsaken!

    Lo, we race with death, we perish,
      Dionysus, here before thee!
    Dost thou mark us not, nor cherish,        668
      Who implore thee, and adore thee?
        Hither down Olympus’ side,
        Come, O Holy One defied,
Be thy golden wand uplifted o’er the tyrant in his pride!        672
A Maiden

Oh, where art thou? In thine own
Nysa, thou our help alone?
O’er fierce beasts in orient lands
    Doth thy thronging thyrsus wave,        676
    By the high Corycian Cave,
Or where stern Olympus stands;
In the elm-woods and the oaken,
    There where Orpheus harped of old,        680
  And the trees awoke and knew him,
  And the wild things gathered to him,
As he sang amid the broken
    Glens his music manifold?        684
Dionysus loveth thee;
Blessed Land of Piêrie,
  He will come to thee with dancing,
Come with joy and mystery;        688
With the Maenads at his hest
Winding, winding to the West;
  Cross the flood of swiftly glancing
Axios in majesty;        692
Cross the Lydias, the giver
  Of good gifts and waving green;
Cross that Father-Stream of story,
Through a land of steeds and glory        696
Rolling, bravest, fairest River
  E’er of mortals seen!

                        Io! Io!
Awake, ye damsels; hear my cry,        700
    Calling my Chosen; hearken ye!

Who speaketh? Oh, what echoes thus?

A Voice, a Voice, that calleth us!

Be of good cheer! Lo, it is I,
    The Child of Zeus and Semelê.

O Master, Master, it is Thou!

O Holy Voice, be with us now!

Spirit of the Chained Earthquake,
Hear my word; awake, awake!  [An Earthquake suddenly shakes the pillars of the Castle.

Ha! what is coming? Shall the hall
Of Pentheus racked in ruin fall?

Our God is in the house! Ye maids adore Him!

                        We adore Him all!

Unveil the Lighning’s eye; arouse
The fire that sleeps, against this house!  [Fire leaps upon the Tomb of Semelê.

Ah, saw ye, marked ye there the flame
  From Semelê’s enhallowed sod
Awakened? Yea, the Death that came
Ablaze from heaven of old, the same
  Hot splendour of the shaft of God?        720

Oh, cast ye, cast ye, to the earth! The Lord
  Cometh against this house! Oh, cast ye down,
Ye trembling damsels; He, our own adored,
  God’s Child bath come, and all is overthrown!  [The Maidens cast themselves upon the ground, their eyes earthward. DIONYSUS, alone and unbound, enters from the Castle.        724

Ye Damsels of the Morning Hills, why lie ye thus dismayed?
Ye marked him, then, our Master, and the mighty hand he laid
On tower and rock, shaking the house of Pentheus?—But arise,
And cast the trembling from your flesh and lift untroubled eyes.        728

O Light in Darkness, is it thou? O Priest, is this thy face?
My heart leaps out to greet thee from the deep of loneliness.

Fell ye so quick despairing, when beneath the Gate I passed?
Should the gates of Pentheus quell me, or his darkness make me fast?        732

Oh, what was left if thou wert gone? What could I but despair?
How hast thou ’scaped the man of sin? Who freed thee from the snare?

I had no pain nor peril; ’twas mine own hand set me free.

Thine arms were gyvèd!

        Nay, no gyve, no touch, was laid on me!
’Twas there I mocked him, in his gyves, and gave him dreams for food.
For when he laid me down, behold, before the stall there stood
A Bull of Offering. And this King, he bit his lips, and straight        740
Fell on and bound it, hoof and limb, with gasping wrath and sweat
And I sat watching!—Then a Voice; and lo, our Lord was come,
And the house shook, and a great flame stood o’er his mother’s tomb.
And Pentheus hied this way and that, and called his thralls amain        744
For water, lest his roof-tree burn; and all toiled, all in vain.
Then deemed a-sudden I was gone; and left his fire, and sped
Back to the prison portals, and his lifted sword shone red.
But there, methinks, the God had wrought—I speak but as I guess—        748
Some dream-shape in mine image; for he smote at emptiness,
Stabbed in the air, and strove in wrath, as though ’twere me he slew.
Then ’mid his dreams God smote him yet again! He overthrew
All that high house. And there in wreck for ever more it lies,        752
That the day of this my bondage may he sore in Pentheus’ eyes!
  And now his sword is fallen, and he lies outworn and wan
Who dared to rise against his God in wrath, being but man.
And I uprose and left him, and in all peace took my path        756
Force to my Chosen, recking light of Pentheus and his wrath.
  But soft, methinks a footstep sounds even now within the hall;
’Tis he; how think ye he will stand, and what words speak withal?
I will endure him gently, though lie come in fury hot.        760
For still are the ways of Wisdom, and her temper trembleth not!
Enter PENTHEUS in fury


It is too much! This Eastern knave bath slipped
His prison, whom I held but now, hard gripped
In bondage.—Ha! ’Tis he!—What, sirrah, how        764
Show’st thou before my portals?  [He advances furiously upon him.

And set a quiet carriage to thy rage.

How comest thou here? How didst thou break thy cage?
Speak!        768

        Said I not, or didst thou mark not me,
There was One living that should set me free?

Who? Ever wilder are these tales of thine.

He who first made for man the clustered vine.

I scorn him and his vines.

                            For Dionyse
’Tis well; for in thy scorn his glory lies.
PENTHEUS (to his guard)

Go swift to all the towers, and bar withal
Each gate!

            What, cannot God o’erleap a wall?

Oh, wit thou hast, save where thou needest it!

Whereso it most imports, there is my wit!—
Nay, peace! Abide till he who hasteth from
The mountain side with news for thee, be come.
We will not fly, but wait on thy command.  [Enter suddenly and in haste a Messenger from the Mountain.

Great Pentheus, Lord of all this Theban land,
I come from high Kithaeron, where the frore
Snow spangles gleam and cease not evermore….

And what of import may thy coming bring?

I have seen the Wild White Women there, O King,
Whose fleet limbs darted arrow-like but now
From Thebes away, and come to tell thee how
They work strange deeds and passing marvel. Yet
I first would learn thy pleasure. Shall I set        792
My whole tale forth, or veil the stranger part?
Yea, Lord, I fear the swiftness of thy heart,
Thine edged wrath and more than royal soul.

Thy tale shall nothing scathe thee.—Tell the whole.
It skills not to be wroth with honesty.
Nay, if thy news of them be dark, ’tis he
Shall pay it, who bewitched and led them on.


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