Thursday, January 24, 2008



I, Zeus' son, have come to the Thebans' land,
Dionysus, who Cadmus' daughter Semele once bore,
attended by lightning and fire. And after
changing from god's to mortal form, I am
here at Dirce's streams, Ismenos' water, to
see the tomb of my thunder-stricken mother;
here, near the homes and abodes, the smoldering
remains of holy fire, the still-living flame: Hera's un-
dying insult to my mother's memory. But I honor
Cadmus, who consecrated this ground, a sacred
monument to his daughter; which now I cover 'round
with a grapevine's leafy foliage.
And starting from the gold-studded fields of the Lydians
and Phrygians, the Persians' sun-burnt plains,
Baktrian walls and Medes' wintry land,
and crossing over opulent Arabia and all Asia, whose towering
cities and gorgeous towers lie upon brine haze,
teeming with Greeks and foreigners alike,
I came to this city first in Greece, only
after I had set all of Asia to dancing and
established there my mysteries, so I
could appear openly, a god to mortals.

And Thebes is the first city I make cry out in
Greece, after covering my own skin with a fawn's and
taking in hand the thyrsus, my ivied javelin;
for my mother's sisters, who ought've known better,
claimed that Dionysus was never born from Zeus,
and that Semele, knocked up by some mortal
man, blamed her bed's violation on the god himself (one of Kadmos'
tricks!); and they happily let everyone know that
that's why Zeus had killed her: she made the whole thing up.
So I drove them from their homes by stinging them in-
sane: they rage out of their minds on the mountain;
I even had them wear the livery of my rituals.
And Kadmos' female seed, every woman of Thebes, is driven
wild with them;
they've met up with Cadmus' daughters to sit
beneath the evergreens, up on the open rocks;
for Thebes must be taught its lesson, even if it's
unwilling, they have yet to be taught my Bacchic service;
and my mother's name, Semele, must be defended by me
appearing to mortals, the Divinity she
bore to God. So Cadmus has given the royal gift of
power to his grandson Pentheus; one who fights against
all that involves me, neglects me entirely from his
offerings and n prayer offers no remembrance;
That is why I will show myself, god that I am, to this man
and to the Thebans all. And, when everything here's been taken
care of, & myself revealed, I'll be off to the next land;
and if the city of the Thebans, roused to arms, seeks to drive my
Bacchae from the mountains, I'll lead the Maenads into battle my-
and that is why I have assumed a mortal guise
and altered to human shape my form.

But you who've left Mt. Tmolus, the Lydian gate, my
Bacchic chorus, women of barbarian lands--whom I
accepted kindly as my fellow travellers: take up the
drums from the Phrygians' land, my foundlings of mother
Rhea, gather 'round Pentheus' royal palace, make it resound with a
crashing thunder, so that all of Kadmos' city may see.

And I will go to my Maenads in Kithairon's glens
to take part with them in my sacred dances.

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