Thursday, January 24, 2008

Scene 3


Barbarian women, are you so o'ercome with fear that you
have fallen to the ground? So it seems that you have seen
Bacchos shaking to pieces Pentheus' palace; but lift up your-
selves and take heart, put aside your body's trembling.
Ch: Oh supremest light, the joyful cry of our Bacchic worship!
How gladly are you looked upon in lonely isolation.
D: Did you come to such despair as they hauled me into prison
in fear that I not come to harm in Pentheus' dark enclosures?
Ch: How could I not? Who would protect me if you met misfortune?
But how is it you were freed, after meeting with an impious man?
D: I saved myself, myself, easily, without any problem.
Ch: But didn't he tie your hands up in knots with binding cords?
D: Here's how I insulted him: thinking that he'd bind me,
he could not touch or hold me, but still he fed on hope;
and in the manger where he'd led and thrown me into jail
all he found was a bull! So around its feet and knees he cast
knots, panting, pouring out sweat like he was about to die,
gnawing his lips in rage; and though I was too near, I
sat quietly watching by; and this was when Bacchos came
and shook apart the house, and my mother's sacred tomb was
lighted in flame. And when he saw, he thought the house on
fire and ran all over screaming to "bring water to the palace!"
And the servants came to help him, everyone, for nothing; for
when he realized what happened, thinking I was gone, he
grabbed a sword inside the house, and rushed to go and find me,
when Bromios--as it seemed to me, I say only what I saw--
shone forth a light i' the courtyard; and he, charging after it,
ran and stabbed the light‘s shining, as if he might murder me.
And on top of it all, Bacchus caused him even more hu-
miliation: he razed his home to the ground, smashed it all together. So
now he's seen how bitter are my chains, and has put aside his
sword & collapsed from exhaustion! Cuz' although he's just a
man, he dared to come against a God. And so departing
from his home I came to you, not at all afraid of Pentheus.
And so it seems to me (I think I hear the tramp of feet inside)
that quickly he will be out front; what i'the world d'you think he'll say?
I'll handle him easily, even if he comes huffing and puffing, for
a wise man is able to hold his good-nature well tempered.

P: I can't believe it! The stranger, who was just now
held fast in chains, he's gotten away from me!
Oh, there he is! What is this? How can you possibly
be here outside my house? How did you get out?
D: Stop right there. Place your anger on a calmer footing.
P: How did you get free from your shackles and out here?
D: Didn't I say--or did you not hear--that someone would free me?
P: Who? Everything you say sounds the same to me.
D: Someone who grows for men the thick-cluster'd vine?
P: An indictment, no doubt, which Dionysus thinks good.
[D: It was Dionysus himself unlock'd my chains.]
P: I order that every tower in the circle be barred.
D: What for? Aren't gods able even to overstep walls?
P: You are smart; just not in what you need be smart about.
D: I was born wise enough, about the things I need most be.
But you should first hear and learn what that man, who has
come from the mountains with a message for you, has
to say; we'll wait for you and will not run away.


Pentheus, sovereign of this Theban land,
I come from Kithairon where the gleaming falls of
snow stay ceaselessly upon the mountain.
P: What is this news you bring with such eagerness?
Sh: I have seen the queenly Bacchae, who departed from
this land, flailing their fair limbs wildly in haste;
I've come to tell you and the town, my king, what horr-
ible things they are doing, and even greater marvels!
But I want to know whether I have the freedom to
tell you all that goes on there or shall I clip the
sail of my report? I am afraid of your quick tem-
per and your sharp intellect and royal bearing.
P: I promise you'll be wholly safe from harm: now speak.
For there's no need to be angry at proper men.
The more terrible the things you say about the bacchants,
the stiffer the penalty that we'll force the man
to pay who put the women beneath his spells.

Sh: The grazing cattle herds had just climbed up
the rocky highland's peak, when the bright rays of
the sun shone down, warming th'earth, and I saw
three groups of women in Bacchus' chorus.
Autonoe led the first one with your mother
Agauve next, and Ino led the third chorus.
They were lying en masse, together in sleep, some of
them resting, their back against the pines, some
with their head cast amidst the leaves of oak
upon the ground, quite properly; not, as you say,
drunken from the mixing bowl and music of
the lute, out hunting Aphrodite lonesome in the wild.
and as she heard the bellowing of our
cows, your mother stood up in the midst of the
Bacchants, and cried aloud to rouse their body's slumber.
And they threw deep sleep from off their eyes, leapt
right up as one, women young and old, girls still un-
married--a miracle to see them so ordered!
The first thing they did was drop their hair to shoulders, tie
their fawnskins up, those whose knots had come undone,
and tie the skins off, spotted white, with snakes that licked
their chin and cheeks; and some held in their nursing arms
wild wolfcubs, or fawns, to which they gave fresh milk;
women with swollen breast, who had but just given
birth to, and abandoned, their newborn babes.
And as they crown'd their heads with ivy garlands laced
with oak and flow'ring bryony, one of them took
the thyrsus up, struck it against a stone, and
a stream of shooting water leapt right out! Another
Bacchant lowered to earth her fennel-rod and for
this one the god brought forth a flowing spring of wine.
For those that had desire of other drink, all they
had to do was claw at the earth with fingertips
and streams of milk shot forth, sweet flows of honey drip-
ping from the thyrses, so that, had you yourself been there
as witness to these marvels, you would have offered
prayers to the god you now condemn.

And so we cowherds and sheperds came together
to have a competition sharing stories, since the things
they were doing were marvelous and strange,
and a wanderer in town, who spits sparks when he
speaks, came to us and said: "You men who live atop the
sacred mountain's peaks, don't you think that we
should chase Pentheus' mother Agauve from Bacchus'
revels & do a favor for the king?" It seemed to us he had
a pretty good idea, so we hid in am-
bush under a cover of foliage, and at the ap-
pointed time they started to shake the thyrses for
Bacchus' rites as one calling Bromios "Iacchos:
the son of Zeus." The whole mountain, every one
of the beasts join'd in, nothing was left undisturbed by
th'uproar. In a frenzy, Agauve chanced to jump
right next to me and I leapt out to try & grab her, de-
serting the spot where I had lain concealed.
And she shouted: "Oh my raging bitches, we are
being hunted by men, by these men; but follow
me, follow me armed in hand with thyrsi!"And
so we ran away in fear & avoided being torn to
bits and eaten like deer by the bacchants; but they
attacked our cattle, barehanded, as they grazed
in the field, and you could see one grab and stretch
the legs of a young, pink-uddered calf, bellowing, as other
Maenads pulled and tore a full-grown heifer apart.
And you'd have seen ribs or cloven hooves thrown
up & down as they dripped, hanging from
fir tree branches, cover'd in blood.
The proud bulls, which moments before had been fully
ready to charge, dropped their body down to earth,
brought down by countless maidens' hands as they
stripped the poor beast's flesh right off like clothes
in the time it'd take you to blink your highness' eye.
And they danced off in a whirl, flittering like birds a-
cross the plains beneath their feet which, by the river
Asopus' streams, puts forth the Thebans' fertile corn.

And they fell upon Hysias, Erythrai, & the villages below
Kithairon's rocky peak like an invading army that
attacks everything before it, pillaging
high and low. They kidnapped children from their homes,
and whatever they placed upon their shoulders stayed
in place without bands or bonds to hold it there;
atop their curls were flames which did not burn. The men,
enraged at being plundered by the Bacchants, took to
arms, a terrible sight to see, my lord, as the
spears that they were throwing did not make the
women bleed, and neither did their implements of iron or
bronze pierce their fairwhite flesh. But
the thyrses that the women's hands hurl'd forth
injured the men so vi'lently, that they did turn their
backs in fear & flee: this could not be done without some god.
Then they returned from whence they came, to the springs the god
sent up for them and washed the blood off of them-
selves and the drops of blood still on their cheeks were licked
clean off their skin by serpents' darting tongues.
Whoever this divinity is, I beg you master, please
accept him into our city, for he is
powerful in many ways; and I also heard
that he is the one who gave us the vine that gives
pause from pain; and if there is no wine, there'll be no more
Aphrodite, & there is no other gift to give such pleasure to us mortals.

Ch: I'm terrified to speak my words freely before
the tyrant, but nevertheless it must be said:
Dionysus truly is no less than any other god.
P: The Bacchae's violent outrage already blazes closer,
approaching like wildfire, an outrage to the Greeks.
We must act quickly, go to the Elektran gate, order
every one of the heavy infantry and swift horse
riders to come together, as well as the light-armed
troops who pluck by hand the bowstring--have
them made ready in order that we go on campaign
against the bacchants, this really is too, too much:
to suffer what we suffer at the hands of women.

D: You've heard my words but understood nothing,
Pentheus. Even after you've treated me so evilly, still,
I'm telling you, do not take up arms against a god.
Calm yourself instead. Bromios won't put up with you chasing
his joyful crying Bacchants from the mountains.
P: Don't you instruct me. Rather, since you've escaped with your
freedom, hold on to it. Or shall I punish you again?
D: I would offer him sacrifice rather than kick against
the god's goads in anger, a piddly mortal man.
P: Oh, I'll sacrifice: with loads of feminine slaughter,
just like they deserve, in the valleys of Kithairon.
D: You will all flee in failure & shame when your bronze
shields are turned aside by Meanad thyrses.
P: This stranger we're mixed up with is impossible:
no matter what he suffers or does he won't shut up!
D: I can, sir, still put these things to right.
P: By doing what? Servicing my slave girls?
D: I'll bring back the women with no need of violence.
P: Oh god; this is a trick you’ve devised against me.
D: Is it a trick that I'm trying to save you by my own devices?
P: You're all in this together, so you can continue being bacchants.
D: Actually I did put this together; but it was with' god himself.
P: Bring me swords, shields, weapons, now! And you, BE QUIET.
D: Ah? . . .
Do you want to see them sitting, together in the wild?
P: Oh do I! I would give an untold weight in gold to.
D: Why has this desire suddenly comeover you?
P: But it would pain me so to see them very drunk . . .
D: You'd willingly look upon what's bitter to you?
P: Oh absolutely, taking my seat silently under firtrees.
D: But they'll hunt you down, even if you go in secret.
P: You make a good point: I'll go openly then.
D: Let me be your guide; you want to take a trip?
P: Let's go right now! I'll be angry if you make me wait.
D: Then cover your skin with fine linen robes. . .
P: What is this? I go from being a man to women?
D: So that they don't kill you if you're seen as a man there.
P: You know, that is another good point; have you been this smart all along?
D: Dionysus is going to teach us his myst'ries. (whispering)
P: So, that thing you were talking about…how c'we make that happen?
D: I'll give you the introduction--after I come inside the house.
P: What kind of dress is this? A woman's?! I'd be ashamed to. . .
D: So you no longer want to go look at the Maenads?
P: What did kind of clothes did you say I've to wear?
D: The hair on your head, let me lengthen it. (stretches hair)
P: Do you have any other fashion advice for me?
D: Robes down to your feet and on your head, a sash.
P: Anything else you’d like to add to that?
D: The thyrsus in your hand & a dappled skin of fawn
P: I could never dress up in women's clothing, I...
D: But you might draw blood doing battle with the Bacchae.
P: Oh riight; I should go take surveillance first.
D: That's so much wiser than hunting bad with evil.
P: How can I get out of town without the Thebans seeing?
D: We'll go by lonely roads; I'll be there to guide you.
P: I'd do anything to keep them from laughing at me--
D: So we'll go in the house and...P: I'll think about what I wanna do.
D: So it'll be; any way I'm ready at hand.
P: Then I'll go inside, andeither come back armed, or
be persuaded your suggestions.
(enters house)

D: Women, a man is being cast into the net.
He will come to the Bacchants and pay
The penalty of death. It's up to you, Dionysus,
For you are not far off: give us now our vengeance.
First drive him insane with a dizzying madness, since
In his right mind would he never put on women's
Dresses, but after he's driven out of his senses, he'll
Be begging me to wear one. And I want the lady to be
A laughing-stock to the Thebans, a s he's led through the
Town, far from his earlier threats, dressed
Up in th'adornments he'll take into Hell,
A f t e r he's been slaughtered by his mother,
He will recognize Zeus' son Dionysus, born in ritual,
The most terrible god--and kindest to humans.

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