The Bacchae

Lines 370-519


Some Maidens

Thou Immaculate on high;

Thou Recording Purity;

Thou that stoopest, Golden Wing,

Earthward, manward, pitying,

Hearest thou this angry King?

Hearest thou the rage and scorn

'Gainst the Lord of Many Voices,

Him of mortal mother born,

Him in whom man's heart rejoices,

Girt with garlands and with glee,

First in Heaven's sovranty?

For his kingdom, it is there,

In the dancing and the prayer,

In the music and the laughter,

In the vanishing of care,

And of all before and after;

In the Gods' high banquet, when

Gleams the graperflood, flashed to heaven;

Yea, and in the feasts of men

Comes his crowned slumber; then

Pain is dead and hate forgiven!


Loose thy lips from out the rein;

Lift thy wisdom to disdain;

Whatso law thou canst not see,

Scorning; so the end shall be

Uttermost calamity!

'Tis the life of quiet breath,

'Tis the simple and the true,

Storm nor earthquake shattereth,

Nor shall aught the house undo

Where they dwell. For, far away,

Hidden from the eyes of day,

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,

Claiming more than mortal may.

Life is such a little thing;

Lo, their present is departed,

And the dreams to which they cling

Come not. Mad imagining

Theirs, I ween, and empty-hearted!

Divers Maidens

Where is the Home for me?

O Cyprus, set in the sea,

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.

Aye, unto Paphos' isle,

Where the rainless meadows smile

With riches rolled From the hundred-fold

Mouths of the far-off Nile,

Streaming beneath the waves

To the roots of the seaward caves.

But a better land is there

Where Olympus cleaves the air,

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!

A God of Heaven is he,

And born in majesty;

Yet hath he mirth

In the joy of the Earth,

And he loveth constantly

Her who brings increase,

The Feeder of Children, Peace.

No grudge hath he of the great;

No scorn of the mean estate;

But to all that liveth His wine he giveth,

Griefless, immaculate;

Only on them that spurn

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,

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.

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

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

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,

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

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.]

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?


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!


By day no less,

Whoso will seek may find unholiness -


Enough! Thy doom is fixed, for false pretence

Corrupting Thebes.


Not mine; but thine, for dense

Blindness of heart, and for blaspheming God!


A ready knave it is, and brazen-browed,

This mystery-priest!


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!


Even now he stands

Close here, and sees all that I suffer.



Where is he? For mine eyes discern him not.


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.]


I charge ye, bind

Me not! I having vision and ye blind!


And I, with better right, say bind the more!

[The soldiers obey.]


Thou knowest not what end thou seekest, nor

What deed thou doest, nor what man thou art!

PENTHEUS (mocking)

Agave's son, and on the father's part

Echion'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

Of womankind that clusters thee about,

Thy ministers of worship, are my slaves!

It may be I will sell them o'er the waves,

Hither and thither; else they shall be set

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

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.]