The Bacchae Monologue
|The Bacchae Monologue by Euripides|
- TIRESIAS: 'Tis easy to be eloquent, for him
- That's skilled in speech, and hath a stirring theme.
- Thou hast the flowing tongue as of a wise man,
- But there's no wisdom in thy fluent words;
- For the bold demagogue, powerful in speech,
- Is but a dangerous citizen lacking sense.
- This the new deity thou laugh'st to scorn,
- I may not say how mighty he will be
- Throughout all Hellas. Youth! there are two things
- Man's primal need, Demeter, the boon Goddess
- (Or rather will ye call her Mother Earth?),
- With solid food maintains the race of man.
- He, on the other hand, the son of Semele,
- Found out the grape's rich juice, and taught us mortals
- That which beguiles the miserable of mankind
- Of sorrow, when they quaff the vine's rich stream.
- Sleep too, and drowsy oblivion of care
- He gives, all-healing medicine of our woes.
- He 'mong the gods is worshipped a great god,
- Author confessed to man of such rich blessings
- Him dost thou love to scorn, as in Jove's thigh
- Sewn up. This truth profound will I unfold:
- When Jove had snatched him from the lightning fire,
- He to Olympus bore the new-born babe.
- Stern Herè strove to thrust him out of heaven,
- But Jove encountered her with wiles divine:
- He clove off part of th' earth-encircling air,
- There Dionysus placed the pleasing hostage,
- Aloof from jealous Herè. So men said
- Hereafter he was cradled in Jove's thigh
- (From the assonance of words in our old tongue
- For thigh and hostage the wild fable grew).
- A prophet is our god, for Bacchanalism
- And madness are alike prophetical.
- And when the god comes down in all his power,
- He makes the mad to rave of things to come.
- Of Ares he hath attributes: he the host
- In all its firm array and serried arms,
- With panic fear scatters, ere lance cross lance:
- From Dionysus springs this frenzy too.
- And him shall we behold on Delphi's crags
- Leaping, with his pine torches lighting up
- The rifts of the twin-headed rock; and shouting
- And shaking all around his Bacchic wand
- Great through all Hellas. Pentheus, be advised!
- Vaunt not thy power o'er man, even if thou thinkest
- That thou art wise (it is diseased, thy thought),
- Think it not! In the land receive the god.
- Pour wine, and join the dance, and crown thy brows.
- Dionysus does not force our modest matrons
- To the soft Cyprian rites; the chaste by nature
- Are not so cheated of their chastity.
- Think well of this, for in the Bacchic choir
- The holy woman will not be less holy.
- Thou'rt proud, when men to greet thee throng the gates,
- And the glad city welcomes Pentheus' name;
- He too, I ween, delights in being honoured.
- I, therefore, and old Cadmus whom thou mock'st,
- Will crown our heads with ivy, dance along
- An hoary pair--for dance perforce we must;
- I war not with the gods. Follow my counsel;
- Thou'rt at the height of madness, there's no medicine
- Can minister to disease so deep as thine.
Credits: Reprinted from The Plays of Euripides in English, vol. ii. Trans. Shelley Dean Milman. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1922.