Thursday, January 24, 2008

Scene 1


Who's at the gates? Call Kadmos from his home.
Agenor's son, who when he'd left the Sidonian
city, fortified this, the Thebans' town.
Well come on! Go & tell him that Teiresias
is here: he knows what it is I've come for;
and what promises I've made--an old man to an elder:
we're to take up the thyrsus and don the sacred fawnskin,
wreathe around our head the leaves of shooting iv'ry.


Oh, Teiresias! I thought it was you: wise words from a
wiseman; I could hear your voice from inside.
And I've come, ready for this "service" to the God;
he is my grandson, you know, Dio-
nysus, who appears a god to humans;
inasmuch as we can make him any greater.
Where should we go to dance? Where do we plant our
feet and shake our silvered heads? Show me the way, old
man to old man, Teiresias. You are the wise one.
I could never tire, all night and day, of beating the
Earth with thyrsi, how happily, to forget all the
troubles of old age! T: So it's happened to you also?!
'Cuz I too feel young again, and want to go...dancing!
K: Shall we take a chariot to the mountain?
T: What?! That would deprive the god of his due!
Must I take you by th'hand like a child, old man?
The god will convey us both there, without difficulty.
K: Are we the only ones in the city serving Bacchus?
T: We alone've got it right; the others, wrongly.
K: This is taking too long!, put your hand in mine.
T: Look, link and join our two hands to-gether.
K: But what if someone says I'm not acting my age, slinking
off to dance i'the chorus, my head wreath'd in garlands?
T: The god does not divide from the young,
who it is who should dance, from the old:
he wants to receive his honour due from all a-
like, making no distinction, exalted shall he be!
K: I'm a just mortal; I've no truck wi'th'affairs of the gods.
T: There're no tricks when it comes to the divin'ties.
The customs of our ancestors--that have been handed
down to us thru' time--no reasoning can overthrow them!
Not even if it be wisdom uncover'd of the highest intentions.
K: Since you don't see this clearly, Teiresias, I
will play the prophet to you in plainer words:
Pentheus is coming here, in haste to the palace, all a-
flutter; Echion's son, whom I have given dominion o-
ver the earth; so what's the news, Pentheus?


As I was abroad, away from this land, I chanced to hear
of some new evil come into the province;
that the women have left us, abandoning their homes in
phony Bacchic worship and that they gad about on
the bushy mountaintops; that this "new" god Dio-
nysus, whoever he really is, is honoured in their dances,
and that they set the sacred wine-bowls, fill'd, in the
midst of the thiasoi, each slinking off her sep'rate
way to serve males' hot lust in the woods, pre-
tending to be Maenads sacrificing; and so
they place Aphrodite on top of Bacchus.

Well all the ones I could catch now hold their hands
bound as prisoners in public gaols; and those who have run-off, I
will hunt myself from the mountain;
I mean Ino and Agaue, who bore me to Echion,
and Actaeon's mother, Autonoe.
I'll fit them with hunter's nets of iron and
quickly put an end to these sordid, Bacchic revels.
And they say that some 'stranger' has come, some
witch-doctor, enchaunter from Lydian land,
who perfumes his light-brown hair, red-
faced in wine, with Aphrodite's gleam i' his eyes,
who mixes days and nights together, off'ring
these rites of pleasure to young maidens;
but if I catch him within this land, I'll
stop him from beating his thyrsus and flinging back his
curls, by chopping his neck from his head!
He says that Dionysus is a god, he says
he was taken in the thigh of Zeus, when everyone knows
he was torched by the lightning's flames, along with his mother,
for her damn-ed lies of holy unions;
are these not terrible lies of someone worth strangling,
outrages outrageous, whoever the stranger be?!

But isn't this a sight to see . . . the diviner, cloth'd
in a dappled fawn's skin? If it isn't Teiresias;
and my own mother's father, what a laugh:
a bacchant complete with fennel rod! I'm dis-gusted, sire,
to see you, at your age, out of your senses.
Won't you shake the ivy off? Take your hand
free from the thyrsus, won't you grand-dad?
You put him to this, Teiresias; you introduced this
divinity, a new one to men, because you wanted
to get paid for watching the birds and offering sacrifice.
If your grey old age weren't here to save you, you
would be sitting there, a prisoner yourself, i'the midst of the bacchants,
leading their vile services; for whenever the pleasure of the grape's
cluster comes shimmering to women in feast, I say no-
thing is left wholesome in they're orgies!

What an impiety! Stranger, are you so shameless before the gods
and Kadmos, the sower of the earth-born seed? Aren't you
Echion's son, do you not respect his line?
T: When a man who's wise in words starts his speech
from a proper course, it is no great task to speak well;
and you, spinning a tricky tongue, seem to make sense,
but there is no sense in what you are saying;
and a man who is bold, powerful and a clever speaker
makes for a bad citizen, if he has not the proper mind.
This new deity, who you make fun of,
not even I can fully explain how great he'll be throughout Greece!
For there are two things, young one, two, that are
first among humans: One is the goddess Demeter--
and she is earth, call her whatever you will--
it is she who nourishes mortals in corn and grain;
but he who comes after, Semele's offspring, he invented them to match
the flowing drink of the grape and introduced it to mortals;
it gives wretched humans pause from pain when-
ever they are filled with the vine's stream,
and sleep, as aids to forget the troubles of the day:
there is no other drug that cures misery.
Born a god, he is poured out, an offering to gods,
so that through him, fine things do humans possess;
and you mock him, that he was sewn in Zeus'
thigh? I will teach you how very well this is.
When Zeus had snatched him from the lightning-fire,
and carried him up to Olympos, a newborn, holy,
Hera wanted to toss the child out of Heav'n;
but Zeus contrived the sort of trick that only a god could:
having broken off a piece of th'aether that encircles the earth, he
gave it to her, a pledge to keep peace between Dionysus and Hera;
and in time mortals came to say he was raised from holy thigh,
because they've stitched the story together; but Zeus
saved him from Hera's goddess eye, and they
have simply mixed the tale up.

And this divinity is a prophet, for the Bacchic and Maenadic
worships hold a prophetic power that is sacred, for
when the god has come into the body full-force he
causes those in his ecstatic frenzy to tell what is to come;
And he holds some share in the nature of Ares, for
an army at arms, when drawn up in formation, is often
put to flight in fear, even before brandishing their spears.
And this form of madness, too, comes from Dionysus.
You will also see him up on the rocks at Delphi,
stomping with torches across its two-pronged peak,
leaping and shaking the Bacchic branch all
over Greece; but hear me well, Pentheus:
Boast not that power holds strength over men
and do not, even if it seems so to you (for your wit's diseased),
think you have an understanding. Admit the god to earth and
pour offerings and be a Bacchant and wear the iv'ry garland!
Dionysus does not compel women to be unchaste in
matters of Love; but temperence is naturally
present in everything always.
This we must examine, for an upright
woman will not be corrupted, even in Bacchus' service.
Don't you see? Aren't you delighted when people crowd your
gates, and the city praises shouting the name of Pentheus?
This man also, I believe, enjoys being honored.
So therefore, Kadmos and I, who you laugh at,
will crown ourselves with ivy and dance, a
pair of greying oxen; but still it must be done:
I will not be a heretic fighting a god and believe your arguments, for
you are most grievously mad, and there's no drug to cure your
sickness, though drugs are obviously the cause of it.
Ch: Old man, Apollo himself approves of your words;
you're wise to honor as great a god as Bromios.
K: Dear child, Teiresias has advised you soundly.
Come, settle with us, live not outside the law.
For now you are a-flitter and are thinking thoughtlessly.
And even if the god is, as you claim, not this man, why not con-
sider him so, and pretend he's one for the good of the city?
And so that Semele be thought to have borne a god,
and that honor be attached to our whole family.
You saw the awful fate of Aktaeon, whom the
ravenous hounds, that he himself raised, de-
voured? Who boasted, in dewy meadows, that he
was stronger in the hunt than Artemis. May
you not suffer the same. But come, I will crown your
head with ivy: pay the god his honor, with me.
P: Don't you dare touch me! Go and honour your god, don't
stain me with your idiocy. I'll make the teacher of your
foolishness pay the penalty. Someone, quickly, go;
and when you've come to this man's seat where he watches
birds and prophecies, overturn it with crowbars, wrench it free;
up, down, throw it together, toss his sacred bands to the
wind and gales; I will pain him most by doing these
things, and whoever goes throughout the city, track down this
womanish stranger who brings sickness to
wives and violates marriage beds, and
if you do catch him, bring him here, bound, so that he
can be stoned to death as punishment and see
a bitter Bacchic revelry in Thebes.
T: O, wretched one, you do not know what on earth you are saying.
Now you are truly mad; before you were just out of your senses.
Let's go, Kadmos, and beg the god's for-
giveness of this man, the
little savage, and on behalf of the city, lest there be
Any unforeseen evil. But follow me with iv'y staff,
and try & prop my body up; I will do for you the same.
It would be shameful for a couple of old men to fall, but still
it must be done: for one must serve Zeus' son Bacchos, in order that Pen-
theus not bring pain upon the house: on your house, Kadmos.

Not by prophetic power is this said by me,
but by the facts: often a fool speaks foolishly.

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