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The Bacchantes   


Bacchanals.
PENTHEUS Thou art right. Best go spy upon them first.
DIONYSUS Well, e'en that is wiser than by evil means to follow evil
ends.
PENTHEUS But how shall I pass through the city of the Cadmeans unseen?
DIONYSUS We will go by unfrequented paths. I will lead the way.
PENTHEUS Anything rather than that the Bacchantes should laugh at
me.
DIONYSUS We will enter the palace and consider the proper steps.
PENTHEUS Thou hast my leave. I am all readiness. I will enter, prepared
to set out either sword in hand or following thy advice. (Exit PENTHEUS.)
DIONYSUS Women! our prize is nearly in the net. Soon shall he reach
the Bacchanals, and there pay forfeit with his life. O Dionysus! now
'tis thine to act, for thou art not far away; let us take vengeance
on him. First drive him mad by fixing in his soul a wayward frenzy;
for never, whilst his senses are his own, will he consent to don a
woman's dress; but when his mind is gone astray he will put it on.
And fain would I make him a laughing-stock to Thebes as he is led
in woman's dress through the city, after those threats with which
he menaced me before. But I will go to array Pentheus in those robes
which he shall wear when he sets out for Hades' halls, a victim to
his own mother's fury; so shall he recognize Dionysus, the son of
Zeus, who proves himself at last a god most terrible, for all his
gentleness to man. (Exit DIONYSUS.)
CHORUS Will this white foot e'er join the night-long dance? what
time in Bacchic ecstasy I toss my neck to heaven's dewy breath, like
a fawn, that gambols 'mid the meadow's green delights, when she hath
escaped the fearful chase, clear of the watchers, o'er the woven nets;
while the huntsman, with loud halloo, harks on his hounds' full cry,
and she with laboured breath at lightning speed bounds o'er the level
water-meadows, glad to be far from man amid the foliage of the bosky
grove. What is true wisdom, or what fairer boon has heaven placed
in mortals' reach, than to gain the mastery o'er a fallen foe? What
is fair is dear for aye. Though slow be its advance, yet surely moves
the power of the gods, correcting those mortal wights, that court
a senseless pride, or, in the madness of their fancy, disregard the
gods. Subtly they lie in wait, through the long march of time, and
so hunt down the godless man. For it is never right in theory or in
practice to o'erride the law of custom. This is a maxim cheaply bought:
whatever comes of God, or in time's long annals, has grown into a
law upon a natural basis, this is sovereign. What is true wisdom,
or what fairer boon has heaven placed in mortals' reach, than to gain
the mastery o'er a fallen foe? What is fair is dear for ave. Happy
is he who hath escaped the wave from out the sea, and reached the
haven; and happy he who hath triumphed o'er his troubles; though one
surpasses another in wealth and power; yet there be myriad hopes for
all the myriad minds; some end in happiness for man, and others come
to naught; but him, whose life from day to day is blest, I deem a
happy man. (Enter DIONYSUS.)
DIONYSUS Ho! Pentheus, thou that art so cager to see what is forbidden,
and to show thy zeal in an unworthy cause, come forth before the palace,
let me see thee clad as a woman in frenzied Bacchante's dress, to
spy upon thy own mother and her company. (Enter PENTHEUS.) Yes,
thou resemblest closely a daughter of Cadmus.
PENTHEUS Of a truth I seem to see two suns, and two towns of Thebes,
our seven-gated city; and thou, methinks, art a bull going before
to guide me, and on thy head a pair of horns have grown. Wert thou
really once a brute beast? Thon hast at any rate the appearance of
a bull.
DIONYSUS The god attends us, ungracious heretofore, but now our sworn
friend; and now thine eyes behold the things they should.
PENTHEUS Pray, what do I resemble? Is not mine the carriage of Ino,
or Agave my own mother?
DIONYSUS In seeing thee, I seem to see them in person. But this tress

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