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The Bacchantes   


to thy house; it is not my prophetic art, but circumstances that lead
me to say this; for the words of a fool are folly. (Exeunt CADMUS
and TEIRESIAS.)

CHORUS O holiness, queen amongst the gods, sweeping on golden pinion
o'er the earth! dost hear the words of Pentheus, dost hear his proud
blaspheming Bromius, the son of Semele; first of all the blessed gods
at every merry festival? His it is to rouse the revellers to dance,
to laugh away dull care, and wake the flute, whene'er at banquets
of the gods the luscious grape appears, or when the winecup in the
feast sheds sleep on men who wear the ivy-spray. The end of all unbridled
speech and lawless senselessness is misery; but the life of calm repose
and the rule of reason abide unshaken and support the home; for far
away in heaven though they dwell, the powers divine behold man's state.
Sophistry is not wisdom, and to indulge in thoughts beyond man's ken
is to shorten life; and if a man on such poor terms should aim too
high, he may miss the pleasures in his reach. These, to my mind, are
the ways of madmen and idiots. Oh! to make my way to Cyprus, isle
of Aphrodite, where dwell the love-gods strong to soothe man's soul,
or to Paphos, which that foreign river, never fed by rain, enriches
with its hundred mouths! Oh! lead me, Bromian god, celestial guide
of Bacchic pilgrims, to the hallowed slopes of Olympus, where Pierian
Muses have their haunt most fair. There dwell the Graces; there is
soft desire; there thy votaries may hold their revels freely. The
joy of our god, the son of Zeus, is in banquets, his delight is in
peace, that giver of riches and nurse divine of youth. Both to rich
and poor alike hath he granted the delight of wine, that makes all
pain to cease; hateful to him is every one who careth not to live
the life of bliss, that lasts through days and nights of joy. True
wisdom is to keep the heart and soul aloof from over-subtle wits.
That which the less enlightened crowd approves and practises, will
I accept. (Re-enter PENTHEUS. Enter SERVANT bringing DIONYSUS bound.)
SERVANT We are come, Pentheus, having hunted down this prey, for
which thou didst send us forth; not in vain hath been our quest. We
found our quarry tame; he did not fly from us, but yielded himself
without a struggle; his cheek ne'er blanched, nor did his ruddy colour
change, but with a smile he bade me bind and lead him away, and he
waited, making my task an easy one. For very shame I said to him,
"Against my will, sir stranger, do I lead thee hence, but Pentheus
ordered it, who sent me hither." As for his votaries whom thou thyself
didst check, seizing and binding them hand and foot in the public
gaol, all these have loosed their bonds and fled into the meadows
where they now are sporting, calling aloud on the Bromian god. Their
chains fell off their feet of their own accord, and doors flew open
without man's hand to help. Many a marvel hath this stranger brought
with him to our city of Thebes; what yet remains must be thy care.
PENTHEUS Loose his hands; for now that I have him in the net he is
scarce swift enough to elude me. So, sir stranger, thou art not ill-favoured
from a woman's point of view, which was thy real object in coming
to Thebes; thy hair is long because thou hast never been a wrestler,
flowing right down thy cheeks most wantonly; thy skin is white to
help thee gain thy end, not tanned by ray of sun, but kept within
the shade, as thou goest in quest of love with beauty's bait. Come,
tell me first of thy race.
DIONYSUS That needs no braggart's tongue, 'tis easily told; maybe
thou knowest Tmolus by hearsay.
PENTHEUS I know it, the range that rings the city of Sardis round.
DIONYSUS Thence I come, Lydia is my native home.
PENTHEUS What makes thee bring these mysteries to Hellas?
DIONYSUS Dionysus, the son of Zeus, initiated me.
PENTHEUS Is there a Zeus in Lydia, who begets new gods?
DIONYSUS No, but Zeus who married Semele in Hellas.
PENTHEUS Was it by night or in the face of day that he constrained
thee?
DIONYSUS 'Twas face to face he intrusted his mysteries to me.

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