Oh house once considered
the most fortunate thru'out Hellas, home of the old
Sidonian who sowed the earth-born fruit of the serpent Ophis,
how I weep for you!
Though I'm just a slave, still
a master's misfortunes are those of his servants.
Ch: What is it? What news do you bring from the Bacchants?
MS: Pentheus is dead, the child of father Echion.
Ch: Lord Bromios, you are the great god you appear.
MS: What did you, how can you say this? You rejoice at the mis-
fortunes of my master, woman?
Ch: I sing foreign songs amidst the barbarians;
I no longer must cower in fear of your chains.
MS: Do you think there’re no men here in Thebes?
Ch: Dionysus, oh Dionysus, you are my strength, not
MS: Then I am sorry; but still, it's not right to delight in
misfortunes once they have happened.
Ch: Tell me, please tell me: how did he die,
the wicked man hatching his wicked schemes?
MS: When we had left the abodes of this land of Thebes
we crossed over the streams of the river Asopus.
We approached the summit of Kithairon's mount,
Pentheus & I (for I followed my master) with
the Stranger who was our guide to the spectacle.
So we first settled in the green grass's thicket
keeping our footsteps quiet, our voices silent
so that we could see without being seen.
And there was a valley with cliffs all around, and streams running
thru' it, shaded by pine trees; and this is where the Maenads were
sitting, their hands busied with their pleas'rable labor.
Some of them were crowning their worn-out
thyrses, making them once again bushy with ivy;
and others, like mares freed from the yoke,
sang to each other a Bacchic tune.
And poor Pentheus, who couldn't see the feminine
mob, said: "Oh, Stranger--where we're standing I
can't get a good look at the counterfeit Maenads;
but if I go over those hills and climb up that tree,
I think I'll be better able to see them ob-scene."
And right then and there I watch't the Stranger do something amazing:
He took the tallest branch from the top of the pine
and pulled it all the way down to the sorrel earth;
and the tree was bent like a bow, or a circle whose
curve is inscribed by the wheel of a compass;
and taken the leafy branch in hand, the Stranger
held it to the earth: something no mere man could ever do.
He helped Pentheus get up on the tree
and fixed him there steady, his hands clinging to the
branches, being careful to watch he didn't shake right off.
And the pine stood upright in the bright air
with my master seated up on its back.
But he was more seen by than seeing the Maenads, for
being up there so high, he was all but invisible
and the Stranger was nowhere to be seen.
But a voice, the voice of Dionysus I guess,
came screaming out the sky: "My young maidens,
I bring you as offering the man who laughs
at you and I and our Worship: Punish like he deserves."
And as he said this, a light of sacred fire stood poised b'tween
heav'n 'n' earth;
the sky then grew quiet, and the wooded valley kept its
leaves silent, you couldn’t even hear an animal stirring.
But the Maenads, not sure if they'd heard his voice clearly,
stood up and looked searchingly at one another.
He restated his order, and this time the daughters of Kadmos
recognized the resounding command of Bakchios.
And with no less speed than a woodcock, they're
stomping their feet a full raging gallop,
his mother Agauve and her sisters together
through the rainswollen valley and up the
sides of the cliff, en-raged by the god's thund'rous strokes
and they see my master seated on top of the
pine. First they hurl'd stones at him with incredible
force, and climbing the rock facing, threw
firtree branches like javelins, while others
launched their thyrsus through the air, and
tried to hit their wretched target Pentheus; but they could not get him;
holding his spot higher than their fervor could reach, the poor man
clung to the tree, paralyz'd with fear.
Finally they set about tearing the tree's
roots out with oak'n beams, not one piece of iron;
but when they were getting no results from their labor
Agauve said: "Stand around in a circle
& grab on to the trunk so we can seize the wild beast,
in order he not spread rumors over God's sacred dances."
And I saw countless hands gripping at the tree as they
yanked it out the ground.
Seated up high, from high up he fell down to the
earth whimpering and
groans, for Pentheus now undertood how near the threat was.
His own mother presided as priestess of the
slaughter and started first by falling upon him; and he threw his
sash from off of his hair so that poor, wretched Agauve might
recognize, instead of kill, him.
And he says to her, reaching out for her cheek, "It's me mother, your son
Pentheus, who you bore to Echion.
Have mercy on me mother please: don't kill your own son
because of his mistakes." But her
mouth was frothing foam, and rolling her
eyes twisted, unable to see what she should, for
she was held in Bacchios' clutches; and he did not persuade her.
Taking his left arm in her hands, and
wrenching her foot to the poor man's
ribcage, she ripped it right off his shoulder; not by her own
strength, but because the God made it come off in her hands.
And Ino was tearing into his other side as Autonoe and the entire
crowd of Bacchae had at him, and they shouted as one, he
holding himself up by the hand with his last few gasps of breath as they
started their call: "a-lululu..." One of them carried his forearm, an-
other, a foot still in its sandal, as his body's ripped
open and bare ribs uncovered; and each one, with blood dripping
hands, plays catch with Pentheus' flesh;
His body lies scattered in pieces across the jagged
rocks, and the remotest parts of the deep forest's foliage.
His poor head, which his mother
happened to take by the hands and fix to the
top of her thyrsus, which she carries with her through
the mi'st of Kithairon as if it were a mountainlion's
after leaving her sisters to the companies of Maenads;
she wanders with it thruout the city, exalting in her
ill-fated prize, calling on her fellow hunter
Bak-khos her partner in the chase, the
Victorious One, who rewards her with
tears. But I must go now
away from this tragic scene, before Agauve comes to the palace.
For having a mind that respects the affairs of divine ones
is the most beautiful thing on earth, and I think
it is the wisest thing someone could do.