The Tragedies of Euripides Part 57

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BAC. I will go--for what is not right it is not right to suffer; but as a punishment for these insults Bacchus shall pursue you, who you say exists not; for, injuring us, you put him in bonds.

CHOR. O daughter of Achelous, venerable Dirce, happy virgin, for thou didst receive the infant of Jove in thy fountains when Jove who begat him saved him in his thigh from the immortal fire; uttering this shout: Go, O Dithyrambus, enter this my male womb, I will make you illustrious, O Bacchus, in Thebes, so that they shall call you by this name. But you, O happy Dirce, reject me having a garland-bearing company about you. Why dost thou reject me? Why dost thou avoid me? Yet, I swear by the clustering delights of the vine of Bacchus, yet shall you have a care for Bacchus.

What rage, what rage does the earth-born race show, and Pentheus once descended from the dragon, whom the earth-born Echion begat, a fierce-faced monster, not a mortal man, but like a bloody giant, an enemy to the Gods, who will soon bind me, the handmaid of Bacchus, in halters, he already has within the house my fellow-reveler, hidden in a dark prison. Dost thou behold this, O son of Jove, Bacchus, thy prophets in the dangers of restraint? Come, O thou of golden face, brandishing your thyrsus along Olympus, and restrain the insolence of the blood-thirsty man. Where art thou assembling thy bands of thyrsus-bearers, O Bacchus, is it near Nysa which nourishes wild beasts, or in the summits of Corycus?[33] or perhaps in the deep-wooded lairs of Olympus, where formerly Orpheus playing the lyre drew together the trees by his songs, collected the beasts of the fields; O happy Pieria, Evius respects you, and will come to lead the dance with revelings having crossed the swiftly-flowing Axius, he will bring the dancing Maenads, and [leaving] Lydia[34] the giver of wealth to mortals, and the father whom I have heard fertilizes the country renowned for horses with the fairest streams.

BAC. Io! hear ye, hear ye my song, Io Bacchae! O Bacchae!

CHOR. Who is here, who? from what quarter did the shout of Evius summon me?

BAC. Io, Io, I say again! I, the son of Semele, the son of Jove!

CHOR. Io! Io! Master, master! come now to our company. O Bromius! Bromius!

Shake this place, O holy Earth![35] O! O! quickly will the palace of Pentheus be shaken in ruin--Bacchus is in the halls. Worship him. We worship him. Behold these stone buttresses shaken with their pillars.

Bacchus will shout in the palace.

BAC. Light the burning fiery lamp; burn, burn the house of Pentheus.

SEM. Alas! Dost thou not behold the fire, nor perceive around the sacred tomb of Semele the flame which formerly the bolt-bearing thunder of Jupiter left?

SEM. Cast on the ground your trembling bodies, cast them down, O Maenads, for the king turning things upside down is coming to this palace, [Bacchus,] the son of Jupiter.

BAC. O barbarian women! have ye fallen to the ground thus stricken with fear? Ye have felt, it seems, Bacchus shaking the house of Pentheus; but lift up your bodies, and take courage, casting off fear from your flesh.

CHOR. O thou most mighty light to us of Evian Bacchic rites, how gladly do I see thee, being before alone and desolate!

BAC. Ye came to despair, when I was sent in, as about to fall into the dark prison of Pentheus.

CHOR. How not?--who was my guardian if you met with misfortune? but how were you liberated, having met with an impious man?

BAC. I delivered myself easily without trouble.

CHOR. And did he not bind your hands in links of chains?

BAC. In this too I mocked him; for, thinking to bind me, he neither touched nor handled me, but fed on hope; and finding a bull in the stable, where having taken me, he confined me, he cast halters round the knees of that, and the hoofs of its feet;[36] breathing out fury, stilling sweat from his body, gnashing his teeth in his lips. But I, being near, sitting quietly, looked on; and, in the mean time, Bacchus coming, shook the house, and kindled flame on the tomb of his mother; and he, when he saw it, thinking the house was burning, rushed to and fro, calling to the servants to bring water,[37] and every servant was at work toiling in vain; and letting go this labor, I having escaped, seizing a dark sword he rushes into the house, and then Bromius, as it seems to me, I speak my opinion, made an appearance in the palace, and he rushing toward it, rushed on and stabbed at the bright air,[38] as if slaying me; and besides this, Bacchus afflicts him with these other things; and threw down his house to the ground, and every thing was shivered in pieces, while he beheld my bitter chains; and from fatigue dropping his sword, he falls exhausted--for he being a man, dared to join battle with a God: and I quietly getting out of the house am come to you, not regarding Pentheus. But, as it seems to me, a shoe sounds in the house; he will soon come out in front of the house. What will he say after this? I shall easily bear him, even if he comes vaunting greatly, for it is the part of a wise man to practice prudent moderation.

PEN. I have suffered terrible things, the stranger has escaped me, who was lately coerced in bonds. Hollo! here is the man; what is this? how do you appear near my house, having come out?

BAC. Stay your foot; and substitute calm steps for anger.

PEN. How come you out, having escaped your chains?

BAC. Did I not say, or did you not hear, that some one would deliver me?

PEN. Who? for you are always introducing strange things.

BAC. He who produces the rich-clustering vine for mortals.

PEN. This is a fine reproach you charge on Bacchus; I order ye to close every tower all round.

BAC. Why? do not Gods pass over walls too?

PEN. You are wise, wise at least in all save what you should be wise in.

BAC. In what I most ought, in that I was born wise; but first learn, hearing his words who is come from the mountain to bring a message to you; but we will await you, we will not fly.

MESSENGER. Pentheus, ruler o'er this Theban land, I come, having left Cithaeron, where never have the brilliant flakes of white snow fallen.[39]

PEN. But bringing what important news are you come?

MESS. Having seen the holy Bacchae, who driven by madness have darted their fair feet from this land, have I come, wishing to tell you and the city, O king, what awful things they do, things beyond marvel; and I wish to hear whether in freedom of speech I shall tell you the matters there, or whether I shall repress my report, for I fear, O king, the hastiness of thy mind, and your keen temper, and too imperious disposition.[40]

PEN. Speak, as you shall be in all things blameless as far as I am concerned; for it is not meet to be wrath with the just; and in proportion as you speak worse things of the Bacchae, so much the more will we punish this man who has taught these tricks to the women.

MESS. I was just now driving up to the heights the herd of calves, when the sun sends forth his rays warming the land, and I see three companies of dances of women, of one of which Autonoe was chief; of a second, thy mother, Agave; and Ino led the third dance; and they were all sleeping, relaxed in their bodies, some resting their locks against the leaves of pine, and some laying their heads at random on the leaves of oak in the ground, modestly, not, as you say, that, drunk with the goblet and the noise of the flute, they solitary hunt Venus through the wood. But thy mother standing in the midst of the Bacchae, raised a shout, to wake their bodies from sleep, when she heard the lowing of the horned oxen; but they, casting off refreshing sleep from their eyes, started upright, a marvel to behold for their elegance, young, old, and virgins yet unyoked, And first they let loose their hair over their shoulders; and arranged their deer-skins, as many as had had the fastenings of their knots unloosed, and they girded the dappled hides with serpents licking their jaws--and some having in their arms a kid, or the wild whelps of wolves, gave them white milk, all those who, having lately had children, had breasts still full, having left their infants, and they put on their ivy chaplets, and garlands of oak and blossoming yew; and one having taken a thyrsus, struck it against a rock, whence a dewy stream of water springs out; another placed her wand on the ground, and then the God sent up a spring of wine. And as many as had craving for the white drink, scratching the earth with the tips of their fingers, obtained abundance of milk; and from the ivy thyrsus sweet streams of honey dropped, so that, had you been present, beholding these things, you would have approached with prayers that God whom you now blame. And we came together, herdsmen and shepherds, to reason with one another concerning this strange matter, what terrible things and worthy of marvel they do; and some one, a wanderer about the city, and practiced in speaking, said to us all, O ye who inhabit the holy downs of the mountains, will ye that we hunt out Agave, the mother of Pentheus, back from the revels, and do the king a pleasure? And he seemed to us to speak well, and hiding ourselves, we lay in ambush in the foliage of the thickets; and they, at the appointed hour, waved the thyrsus in their solemnities, calling on Bacchus with united voice, the son of Jove, Bromius; and the whole mountain and the beasts were in a revel; and nothing was unmoved by their running; and Agave was bounding near to me, and I sprang forth, as wishing to seize her, leaving my ambush where I was hidden. But she cried out, O my fleet hounds, we are hunted by these men; but follow me, follow, armed with thyrsi in your hands. We then flying, avoided the tearing of the Bacchae, but they sprang on the heifers browsing the grass with unarmed hand, and you might see one rending asunder a fatted lowing calf, and others rent open cows, and you might see either ribs, or a cloven-footed hoof, tossed here and there, and hanging beneath the pine-trees the fragments were dripping, dabbled in gore; and the fierce bulls before showing their fury with their horns, were thrown to the ground, overpowered by myriads of maiden hands; and quicker were the coverings of flesh torn asunder by the royal maids than you could shut your eyes; and like birds raised in their course, they proceed along the level plain, which by the streams of the Asopus produce the fertile crop of the Thebans, and falling on Hysiae and Erythrae,[41] which, are below Cithaeron, they turned every thing upside down; they dragged children from the houses; and whatever they put on their shoulders stuck there without chains, and fell not on the dark plain, neither brass nor iron; and they bore fire on their tresses, and it burned not; but some from rage betook themselves to arms, being plundered by the Bacchae, the sight of which was fearful to behold, O king! For their pointed spear was not made bloody, but the women hurling the thyrsi from their hands, wounded them, and turned their backs to flight, women [defeating] men; not without the aid of some God. And they went back again to whence they had departed, to the same fountains which the God had caused to spring up for them, and they washed off the blood; and the snakes with their tongues cleaned off the drops from their cheeks. Receive then, O master, this deity, whoever he be, in this city, since he is mighty in other respects, and they say this too of him, as I hear, that he has given mortals the vine which puts an end to grief,--for where wine exists not there is no longer Venus, nor any thing pleasant to men.[42]

CHOR. I fear to speak unshackled words to the king, but still they shall be spoken; Bacchus is inferior to none of the Gods.

PEN. Already like fire does this insolence of the Bacchae extend thus near, a great reproach to the Greeks. But I must not hesitate; go to the Electra gates, bid all the shield-bearers and riders of swift-footed horses to assemble, and all who brandish the light shield, and twang with their hand the string of the bow, as we will make an attack upon the Bacchae; but it is too much, if we are to suffer what we are suffering at the hands of women.

BAC. O Pentheus, you obey not at all hearing my words; but although suffering ill at your hands, still I say that you ought not to take up arms against a God, but to rest quiet; Bromius will not endure your moving the Bacchae from their Evian mountains.

PEN. You shall not teach me; but be content,[43] having escaped from prison, or else I will again bring punishment upon you.

BAC. I would rather sacrifice to him than, being wrath, kick against the pricks; a mortal against a God.

PEN. I will sacrifice, making a great slaughter of the women, as they deserve, in the glens of Cithaeron.

BAC. You will all fly, (and that will be shameful,) so as to yield your brazen shields to the thyrsi of the Bacchae.

PEN. We are troubled with this impracticable stranger, who neither suffering nor doing will be silent.

BAC. My friend, there is still opportunity to arrange these things well.

PEN. By doing what? being a slave to my slaves?

BAC. I will bring the women here without arms.

PEN. Alas! you are contriving some trick against me.

BAC. Of what sort, if I wish to save you by my contrivances?

PEN. You have devised this together, that ye may have your revelings forever.

BAC. And indeed, know this, I agreed on it with the God.

PEN. Bring hither the arms! and do you cease to speak.

BAC. Hah! Do you wish to see them sitting on the mountains?

PEN. Very much, if I gave countless weight of gold for it.

The Tragedies of Euripides Part 57

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The Tragedies of Euripides Part 57 summary

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