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The Bacchantes   


through him mankind is blest. He it is whom thou dost mock, because
he was sewn up in the thigh of Zeus. But I will show thee this fair
mystery. When Zeus had snatched him from the lightning's blaze, and
to Olympus borne the tender babe, Hera would have cast him forth from
heaven, but Zeus, as such a god well might, devised a counterplot.
He broke off a fragment of the ether which surrounds the world, and
made thereof a hostage against Hera's bitterness, while he gave out
Dionysus into other hands; hence, in time, men said that he was reared
in the thigh of Zeus, having changed the word and invented a legend,
because the god was once a hostage to the goddess Hera. This god too
hath prophetic power, for there is no small prophecy inspired by Bacchic
frenzy; for whenever the god in his full might enters the human frame,
he makes his frantic votaries foretell the future. Likewise he hath
some share in Ares' rights; for oft, or ever a weapon is touched,
a panic seizes an army when it is marshalled in array; and this too
is a frenzy sent by Dionysus. Yet shalt thou behold him e'en on Delphi's
rocks leaping o'er the cloven height, torch in hand, waving and brandishing
the branch by Bacchus loved, yea, and through the length and breadth
of Hellas. Hearken to me, Pentheus; never boast that might alone doth
sway the world, nor if thou think so, unsound as thy opinion is, credit
thyself with any wisdom; but receive the god into thy realm, pour
out libations, join the revel rout, and crown thy head. It is not
Dionysus that will force chastity on women in their love; but this
is what we should consider, whether chastity is part of their nature
for good and all; for if it is, no really modest maid will ever fall
'mid Bacchic mysteries. Mark this: thou thyself art glad when thousands
throng thy gates, and citizens extol the name of Pentheus; he too,
I trow, delights in being honoured. Wherefore I and Cadmus, whom thou
jeerest so, will wreath our brows with ivy and join the dance; pair
of grey beards though we be, still must we take part therein; never
will I for any words of thine fight against heaven. Most grievous
is thy madness, nor canst thou find a charm to cure thee, albeit charms
have caused thy malady.
CHORUS Old sir, thy words do not discredit Phoebus, and thou art
wise in honouring Bromius, potent deity.
CADMUS My son, Teiresias hath given thee sound advice; dwell with
us, but o'erstep not the threshold of custom; for now thou art soaring
aloft, and thy wisdom is no wisdom. E'en though he be no god, as thou
assertest, still say he is; be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring
him the son of Semele, that she may be thought the mother of a god,
and we and all our race gain honour. Dost thou mark the awful fate
of Actaeon? whom savage hounds of his own rearing rent in pieces in
the meadows, because he boasted himself a better hunter than Artemis.
Lest thy fate be the same, come let me crown thy head with ivy; join
us in rendering homage to the god.
PENTHEUS Touch me not away to thy Bacchic rites thyself! never try
to infect me with thy foolery! Vengeance will I have on the fellow
who teaches thee such senselessness. Away one of you without delay!
seek yonder seat where he observes his birds, wrench it from its base
with levers, turn it upside down, o'erthrowing it in utter confusion,
and toss his garlands to the tempest's blast. For by so doing shall
I wound him most deeply. Others of you range the city and hunt down
this girl-faced stranger, who is introducing a new complaint amongst
our women, and doing outrage to the marriage tie. And if haply ye
catch him, bring him hither to me in chains, to be stoned to death,
a bitter ending to his revelry in Thebes. (Exit PENTHEUS.)
TEIRESIAS Unhappy wretch! thou little knowest what thou art saying.
Now art thou become a raving madman, even before unsound in mind.
Let us away, Cadmus, and pray earnestly for him, spite of his savage
temper, and likewise for the city, that the god inflict not a signal
vengeance. Come, follow me with thy ivy-wreathed staff; try to support
my tottering frame as I do thine, for it is unseemly that two old
men should fall; but let that-pass. For we must serve the Bacchic
god, the son of Zeus. Only, Cadmus, beware lest Pentheus' bring sorrow

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