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The royal dame Agave, to our king
Doing a grace? We thought he counsell'd well,
And, cover'd in the leafy thickets, took
Our secret stations: at th' appointed hour
They shook the thyrsus to their revelry,
And shouted Evoe Bacchus, son of Jove,
With thick’ning clamours; all the mountains danced
To their wild revelry, with all its beasts,
And nothing at their measures stood unmov'd.
Near me Agave chanced to bound along,
I, from the thicket where I stood conceald,
Sprung forward with an eager wish to seize her:
She cried aloud, Companions of my chace,
We by these men are chas'd; but follow me,
Follow, and with the thyrsus arm your hands.
We sav'd ourselves by Aight, the Bacchæ else
Had torn us piecemeal; on the herds, that grazed
The verdant slope, their hands unarm’d with steel,
They rush’d; an heifer lowing might'st thou see
Held in the hands of one, and others rent
The herds; their limbs and cleft hoofs might'st thou see
Hurld to and fro, and hanging on the pines
Distain their green with blood: e'en the fierce bulls,
Wont with their angry horns to threaten, fell,
Beneath a thousand hands of youthful females
Dragg'd to the ground: asunder were they rent
E’er thou cou'dst close thy royal eyelids down.
Instant, like birds that wing their airy flight,
They hurried to th' extended plains below,
Which, by Asopus water'd, yield to Thebes
A plenteous harvest; to Erythra's walls,
And Hysia, fix'd beneath Cithæron's heights; .
On these with hostile rage they fell, and rent
Whate'er they found, and toss'd it scatter'd wide;
And e'en their children from their houses snatch'd.
Whate'er was on their shoulders plac'd, remain'd
Fix'd, though not bound, and fell not to the earth,
Were it or brass or iron; in their hair
They carried fire, yet were their locks not burnt.
Those, who were plunder'd by these madding dames,
Flew in their rage to arms; then might'st thou see
A sight, O king, had struck thee with amaze;
Unstain’d with blood their iron-pointed spears
Fell harmless, whilst each thyrsus gor'd with wounds:
Dismay ensued, and fight, by female hands
Men vanquish’d, not without some god. And now
Back to the heights, which they had left, they wing'd
Their way, and to the fountains which the god
Had open'd for them, and wash'd off the blood,
Whilst from their cheeks the serpent's cleansing tongue
Lick'd the warm drop. Therefore receive, O king,
This god, whoe'er he be, into the city;
For, pow'rful as he is, his bounty gave,
So fame reports, the sorrow-ceasing vine
To men: where wine is wanting, love soon flies;
v Nothing so bathes the spirits in delight. CHOR. The words of freedom to a tyrani's ear
I dread to utter, yet they shall be utter'd :
This Bacchus is inferior to no god.
PENT. These insults of the Bacchæ, like a flame,
Are kindled near us, a reproach to Greece.
This is no time for slow delay; with speed
Fly to th’ Electran gates, bid all that bear
The massy shield, that mount the rapid steed,
That toss the light targe, and the stringed bow
Grasp in their hands, attend me; I will lead them
Against these Bacchæ. No, it is too much,
From women to endure this insolence.
BACC. What I have told thee, Pentheus, hath not pow'r
To move thee; but, though thy rude rage hath fallen
On me with rig'rous vengeance, I will say
Ill it becomes thee thus to rise in arms
Against the god : rest thou in quiet then;
For Bacchus will not suffer thee to drive
His females from their orgie-sounding heights.
PENT. Thou shalt not check me: though from bonds escap'd,
Take heed, or thou again shalt feel my vengeance. BACC. I rather would adore him, than in rage
Spurn at his pow'r, a mortal 'gainst a god. PENT. These females from Cithæron's craggy steeps
Will I dislodge, and spread the carnage wide. BACC. You all will fly: this foul disgrace awaits you,
Smole by the thyrsus of the bacchic dames,
To cast the brazen-plated shields away. Pent. This stranger is intractable, and gives
Endless disquiet, nor in suffering rests,
Nor acting. ВАсс.
Yet might this be well compos’d. PENT. What should I do? be to my slaves a slave? BACC. I without arms will bring these females hither. PENT. This is some secret treachery plann'd against me. BACC. What treachery, if I wish my arts should save thee? Pent. A common compact this, to revel still. BACC. I own my compact, namely, with the god. PENT. Bring me my arms: and thou forbear thy speech. BACC. Close seated on the mountains wou'dst thou see them? PENT. I wish it, and would give vast sums of gold. BACC. And what excites thee to this ardent wish? PENT. I long to see them when inflam’d with wine. BACC. Wou'dst thou with pleasure see what would offend thee? PENT. Hid by the pines in silence will I look. BACC. But they will trace thee to thy secret stand. PENT. Then open let it be: well hast thou said.. BACC. I am thy guide: thou shalt attempt the way. PENT. Guide me this instant, and command my time. BACC. In linen vestments then array thyself, PÉNT. Why to the semblance of a woman chang'd ? BACC. Lest, if discover'd as a man, they kill thee. pent. This is well judged; I now shall deem thee wise. BACC. We this monition were by Bacchus taught.
PENT. How then shall thy device be put in act?
BACC. Enter thy house, there will I rightly dress thee.
PENT. How dress me? like a woman? shame forbids.
BACC. Wish then no more to see the Mænades.
PENT. What is the dress in which thou wou'dst attire me?'
BACC. First, from thy head a length of hair shall flow.
PENT. And with what ornaments array me next?
BACC. Long flowing robes, a mitre on thy head.
PENT. To this attire hast thou aught else to add ?
BACC. A thyrsus, and a young hind's dappled skin.
PENT. I could not bear this womanish attire.
BACC. Vet wou’dst thou spread the carnage wide in fight.
PENT. Well: let me view them first, myself unseen.
BACC. 'Tis wiser thus, than to hunt ills with ills.
PENT. How through the city shall I pass unknown?
BACC. Through unfrequented passes: I will guide thee.
PENT. Let come what will rather than bear their scoffs.
BACC. Within consult we what behoves us do;
E’en what thou wilt; thy honour be my charge.
PENT. I will attend thee; go with thee in arms,
Or to thy counsels frame my yielding will.
BACC. Yes, to the Bacchæ shall he go, and there.
Perish beneath their vengeance: as a mark
He stands, ye females, to our shafts exposed.
Now, Bacchus, comes thy part; nor distant thou;
Avenge us on him; of his senses first
Deprive him, with light madness strike his soul:
For never in his senses would he wear
This female dress: strike him with madness then,
That he may put it on. I owe him this,
To shew him in this womanish attire
A jest to Thebes, for all those threats which late
He fiercely utter'd. But I baste to fit
This dress for Pentheus, cloth'd in which he goes
To death's dark realms, slain by his mother's hands;
And he shall know that Bacchus, son of Jove,
His rites asserting, is indeed a god
Most dreadful, gentle else and mild to men.
When shall I in midnight dance
Light my snowy foot advance ?
When, my swelling bosom bare,
Fling it to the dewy air?
Like the sportive hind, that treads
The rich luxuriance of the verdant meads,
When the dreadful chace she flies,
O’er the close nets nimbly bounds,
Hears no more the hunters' cries
Cheer the swift-pursuing hounds:
With the wing'd wind's rapid speed
From all her toils, from all her dangers freed,
Careless she roves the wat'ry glades,
Joys in the lonely wilds, and dark embow'ring shades.
Do heav'n's rich stores, does wisdom know
A mead more glorious, than with conquering hand
To grasp the proud head of a foe?
Raptures still rise where Glory takes her stand.
Slow it comes, but holds its course
Awful with unfailing force:
On the wretch, who rites divine
Pays at Vice's impure shrine,
Who with pride the gods defies :
Faithful to pour the vengeance of the skies, i
They the ling'ring foot of time
Oft conceal from mortal view;
But the bold unholy crime
Still its silent steps pursue.
Deem then, just to Virtue's cause,
Nought more rever'd, more sacred than the Laws:
And learn each pow'r of heav'n to own,
ForRight and ancient Law have fix'd their stedfast throne. -