But Pentheus answered him: A parlous tale,
and we have listened to the dreary end,
hoping our anger might consume its rage;
away with him! hence drag him, hurl him out,
with dreadful torture, into Stygian night.
Quickly they seized and dragged Acoetes forth,
and cast him in a dungeon triple-strong.
And while they fixed the instruments of death,
kindled the fires, and wrought the cruel irons,
the legend says, though no one aided him,
the chains were loosened and slipped off his arms;
the doors flew open of their own accord.
But Pentheus, long-persisting in his rage,
not caring to command his men to go,
himself went forth to Mount Cithaeron, where
resound with singing and with shrilly note
the votaries of Bacchus at their rites.
As when with sounding brass the trumpeter
alarms of war, the mettled charger neighs
and scents the battle; so the clamored skies
resounding with the dreadful outcries fret
the wrath of Pentheus and his rage enflame.
About the middle of the mount (with groves
around its margin) was a treeless plain,
where nothing might conceal. Here as he stood
to view the sacred rites with impious eyes,
his mother saw him first. She was so wrought
with frenzy that she failed to know her son,
and cast her thyrsus that it wounded him;
and shouted, Hi! come hither, Ho!
Come hither my two sisters! a great boar
hath strayed into our fields; come! see me strike
and wound him!
As he fled from them in fright
the raging multitude rushed after him;
and, as they gathered round; in cowardice
he cried for mercy and condemned himself,
confessing he had sinned against a God.
And as they wounded him he called his aunt;
Autonoe have mercy! Let the shade
of sad Actaeon move thee to relent!
No pity moved her when she heard that name;
in a wild frenzy she forgot her son.
While Pentheus was imploring her, she tore
his right arm out; her sister Ino wrenched
the other from his trunk. He could not stretch
his arms out to his mother, but he cried,
Behold me, mother! When Agave saw,
his bleeding limbs, torn, scattered on the ground,
she howled, and tossed her head, and shook her hair
that streamed upon the breeze; and when his head
was wrenched out from his mangled corpse,
she clutched it with her blood-smeared fingers, while
she shouted, Ho! companions! victory!
The victory is ours! So when the wind
strips from a lofty tree its leaves, which touched
by autumn's cold are loosely held, they fall
not quicker than the wretch's bleeding limbs
were torn asunder by their cursed hands.
Now, frightened by this terrible event,
the women of Ismenus celebrate
the new Bacchantian rites; and they revere
the sacred altars, heaped with frankincense.
THE DAUGHTERS OF KING MINYAS TRANSFORMED TO BATS
Alcithoe, daughter of King Minyas,
consents not to the orgies of the God;
denies that Bacchus is the son of Jove,
and her two sisters join her in that crime.
'Twas festal-day when matrons and their maids,
keeping it sacred, had forbade all toil.
And having draped their bosoms with wild skins,
they loosed their long hair for the sacred wreaths,
and took the leafy thyrsus in their hands;
for so the priest commanded them. Austere
the wrath of Bacchus if his power be scorned.
Mothers and youthful brides obeyed the priest;
and putting by their wickers and their webs,
dropt their unfinished toils to offer up
frankincense to the God; invoking him
with many names:O Bacchus! O Twice-born!
O Fire-begot! Thou only child Twice-mothered!
God of all those who plant the luscious grape!
O Liber! All these names and many more,
for ages knownthroughout the lands of Greece.
Thy youth is not consumed by wasting time;
and lo, thou art an ever-youthful boy,
most beautiful of all the Gods of Heaven,
smooth as a virgin when thy horns are hid.
The distant east to tawny India's clime,
where rolls remotest Ganges to the sea,
was conquered by thy might.O Most-revered!
Thou didst destroy the doubting Pentheus,
and hurled the sailors' bodies in the deep,
and smote Lycurgus, wielder of the ax.
And thou dost guide thy lynxes, double-yoked,
with showy harness.Satyrs follow thee;
and Bacchanals, and old Silenus, drunk,
unsteady on his staff; jolting so rough
on his small back-bent ass; and all the way
resounds a youthful clamour; and the screams
of women! and the noise of tambourines!
And the hollow cymbals! and the boxwood flutes,
fitted with measured holes.Thou art implored
by all Ismenian women to appear
peaceful and mild; and they perform thy rites.
Only the daughters of King Minyas
are carding wool within their fastened doors,
or twisting with their thumbs the fleecy yarn,
or working at the web. So they corrupt
the sacred festival with needless toil,
keeping their hand-maids busy at the work.
And one of them, while drawing out the thread
with nimble thumb, anon began to speak;
While others loiter and frequent these rites
fantastic, we the wards of Pallas, much
to be preferred, by speaking novel thoughts
may lighten labour. Let us each in turn,
relate to an attentive audience,
a novel tale; and so the hours may glide.
it pleased her sisters, and they ordered her
to tell the story that she loved the most.
So, as she counted in her well-stored mind
the many tales she knew, first doubted she
whether to tell the tale of Derceto,
that Babylonian, who, aver the tribes
of Palestine, in limpid ponds yet lives,
her body changed, and scales upon her limbs;
or how her daughter, having taken wings,
passed her declining years in whitened towers.
Or should she tell of Nais, who with herbs,
too potent, into fishes had transformed
the bodies of her lovers, till she met
herself the same sad fate; or of that tree
which sometime bore white fruit, but now is changed
and darkened by the blood that stained its roots.
Pleased with the novelty of this, at once
she tells the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe;
and swiftly as she told it unto them,
the fleecy wool was twisted into threads.