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Old 09-09-2017, 10:08 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Default Bacchae--Choral Ode, 519-575



Queen Dirce, virgin daughter of Achelous,
your waters bathed a newborn once, when Zeus,
his father, snatched him from the deathless flame,
sealed him inside his thigh and thundered thus:
“Come, Two-Door God, into my manly womb.
‘Bacchus,’ yes, ‘Bacchus,’ you will be renowned—
all Thebes will one day call you by this name.”

But, blessed Dirce, you refuse me, though
I revel on your banks in ivy-crowned
choirs of women. Tell me: why do you
reject our rites? Why do you run away?
I promise, by the grape-vine-garnished joy
of liquid Dionysus, you will come
to hold the Roaring God in high esteem.


There’s so much anger in the earth-born race,
the serpent race that nurtured Pentheus
the son of Echion. No mortal man,
he is a monster mad for blood, he is
a deity-detesting giant. He soon
will lock me up, although I serve the god.
One of our number is already gone—

a dear believer, gone inside the house,
hidden away in some obscure stockade.
Tell me, Dionysus son of Zeus,
do you perceive us here, your priests—how we
are in the crucible of necessity?
Descend Olympus, raise your radiant rod
and end his blood-lust and outrageous pride.


Where, Dionysus, with your pine-cone wand
are you now running with your worshippers?
On Mt Corycia’s slopes? On Nysa nurse
of beasts? Through dense Olympian tracts of land
where Orpheus once, by plucking at his lyre,
made even trees move to the melody?
Blessed Pieria, the God of Joy
thinks highly of you and will come to spur
dancing in you and Bacchic revelry.
Yes, he will lead the whirling Maenad band
once he has crossed the rapid Axios river
and crossed the currents of the Lydias, giver
of wealth and happiness to humankind,
the gorgeous Lydias which, I hear tell, nurses
a nation famous for its gorgeous horses.

. . . . .

Strophe L3: "deathless" for "holy"
Antistrophe L13: "Descend" for "Come from"

. . . . .

Prose translation by Gregory Nagey and Alexander Sens

Daughter of Achelous, 520 venerable Dirce, happy virgin, you once received the child of Zeus in your streams, when Zeus his father snatched him up from the immortal fire and saved him in his thigh, 525 crying out: "Go, Dithyrambus, enter this my masculine womb. I will make you illustrious, Dionysus, in Thebes, so that they will call you by this name." 530 But you, blessed Dirce, reject me, though I revel on your banks in garland-bearing companies of women. Why do you refuse me, why do you flee me? I swear by the cluster-bearing 535 grace [kharis] of Dionysus’ vine that you will have a care for Bromius.

What rage, what rage does the earth-born race [genos] show, and Pentheus, 540 descended of old from a serpent, sired by earth-born Ekhion, a fierce monster, not a mortal man, like a bloody giant to fight against the gods! 545 He will soon bind me, the handmaid of Bromius, in chains, and he already holds my fellow-reveler within the house, hidden away in a dark prison. 550 Do you see this, Dionysus, son of Zeus: your spokesmen [prophêtês pl.] in the dangers of restraint? Come, lord, down from Olympus, brandishing your golden thyrsos, 555 and check the hubris of this murderous man.

Where on Nysa, which nourishes wild beast, or on Korykian height, do you lead with your thyrsos the bands of revelers? 560 Perhaps in the thickly wooded chambers of Olympus, where Orpheus once led together trees by playing songs on his lyre. 565 Blessed Pieria, the Joyful one reveres you and will come to set you singing and dancing in khoroi of revelry; having crossed the swiftly-flowing Axion he will bring the 570 whirling Maenads, leaving father Lydia, giver of prosperity [olbos] and happiness [eudaimoniâ] to mortals, who they say fertilizes the land of beautiful horses with its 575 fairest streams.

Greek Text

Ἀχελῴου θύγατερ,
πότνι᾽ εὐπάρθενε Δίρκα,
σὺ γὰρ ἐν σαῖς ποτε παγαῖς
τὸ Διὸς βρέφος ἔλαβες,
ὅτε μηρῷ πυρὸς ἐξ ἀ-
θανάτου Ζεὺς ὁ τεκὼν ἥρ-
πασέ νιν, τάδ᾽ ἀναβοάσας:
Ἴθι, Διθύραμβ᾽, ἐμὰν ἄρ-
σενα τάνδε βᾶθι νηδύν:
ἀναφαίνω σε τόδ᾽, ὦ Βάκ-
χιε, Θήβαις ὀνομάζειν.
σὺ δέ μ᾽, ὦ μάκαιρα Δίρκα,
στεφανηφόρους ἀπωθῇ
θιάσους ἔχουσαν ἐν σοί.
τί μ᾽ ἀναίνῃ; τί με φεύγεις;
ἔτι ναὶ τὰν βοτρυώδη
Διονύσου χάριν οἴνας,
ἔτι σοι τοῦ Βρομίου μελήσει.

οἵαν οἵαν ὀργὰν
ἀναφαίνει χθόνιον
γένος ἐκφύς τε δράκοντός
540ποτε Πενθεύς, ὃν Ἐχίων
ἐφύτευσε χθόνιος,
ἀγριωπὸν τέρας, οὐ φῶ-
τα βρότειον, φόνιον δ᾽ ὥσ-
τε γίγαντ᾽ ἀντίπαλον θεοῖς:
ὃς ἔμ᾽ ἐν βρόχοισι τὰν τοῦ
Βρομίου τάχα ξυνάψει,
τὸν ἐμὸν δ᾽ ἐντὸς ἔχει δώ-
ματος ἤδη θιασώταν
σκοτίαις κρυπτὸν ἐν εἱρκταῖς.
ἐσορᾷς τάδ᾽, ὦ Διὸς παῖ
Διόνυσε, σοὺς προφήτας
ἐν ἁμίλλαισιν ἀνάγκας;
μόλε, χρυσῶπα τινάσσων,
ἄνα, θύρσον κατ᾽ Ὄλυμπον,
φονίου δ᾽ ἀνδρὸς ὕβριν κατάσχες.

πόθι Νύσας ἄρα τᾶς θη-
ροτρόφου θυρσοφορεῖς
θιάσους, ὦ Διόνυσ᾽, ἢ
κορυφαῖς Κωρυκίαις;
τάχα δ᾽ ἐν ταῖς πολυδένδρεσ-
σιν Ὀλύμπου θαλάμαις, ἔν-
θα ποτ᾽ Ὀρφεὺς κιθαρίζων
σύναγεν δένδρεα μούσαις,
σύναγεν θῆρας ἀγρώτας.
μάκαρ ὦ Πιερία,
σέβεταί σ᾽ Εὔιος, ἥξει
τε χορεύσων ἅμα βακχεύ-
μασι, τόν τ᾽ ὠκυρόαν
διαβὰς Ἀξιὸν εἱλισ-
σομένας Μαινάδας ἄξει,
Λυδίαν πατέρα τε, τὸν
τᾶς εὐδαιμονίας βροτοῖς
ὀλβοδόταν, τὸν ἔκλυον
εὔιππον χώραν ὕδασιν
καλλίστοισι λιπαίνειν.

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 09-13-2017 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 09-10-2017, 10:08 AM
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin's Avatar
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Saeby, Denmark
Posts: 2,819

Just some nits, Aaron.

Perhaps “And soon/ he’ll lock me up” instead of “He soon/ will lock me up” for a better flow.

“Come from Olympus,…” threw me a bit because ‘come’ is also the perfect participle form. “Come down from Olympus,…” would alert the reader to the imperative form better. But I’ve noted your distaste for anapaests. Perhaps “Descend Olympus,…”

You need a comma after ‘Nysa’ in “On Nysa nurse/ of beasts?”

I'm not keen on the repetition of ‘nurse’ in “the gorgeous Lydias which, I hear tell, nurses/ a nation famous for…” Perhaps ‘fosters’ instead. You'd get some nice alliteration with "famous for" too.

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Old 09-13-2017, 04:48 PM
AZ Foreman's Avatar
AZ Foreman AZ Foreman is offline
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It seems like you're relying on the crib a lot. "Revel" in the prose paraphrase introduced as a way of bringing out the festal aspect of θίασος "confraternity, religious company" and also "Bacchic revel." (A more literal rendering "reject me with my {though I have} sacred wreath-adorned bands/companies about your flanks/banks.") I wonder what to do there. There must be a better solution.

I'm not sure that πῦρ αθάνατον as "holy fire" fully catches the idea of the immortal fire. It isn't just that it is αθάνατος in the sense of being holy (i.e. godly as opposed to mortals/θνητοί) but that it is in a literal sense deathless, and never can be put out. The idea of fire generally as destructive and death-bringing, and yet in this instance incapable of dying itself, is part of the beauty of the line I think.

"Come, Two-Door god, into my manly womb" is a wonderful and splendid rendering of ιθι, Διθύραμβ ἐμὰν ἄρσενα τάνδε βᾶθι νηδύν. Ditto "deity-detesting giant" for γίγαντ᾽ ἀντίπαλον θεοῖς. Hats off on that and on many other lines which really capture the rawness I see in Euripides' choruses.

Last edited by AZ Foreman; 09-13-2017 at 08:16 PM.
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Old 09-13-2017, 07:38 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is online now
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Thank you very much, Duncan.

I am trying to avoid contractions in the choral odes as they are in an even more formal register than the rest of the play. Otherwise I would go for your “And soon/ he’ll lock me up.”

I have gladly taken your suggested revision for “Come from Olympus”. I will go with “Descend Olympus. . .” Thank you.

As a comma is not necessary after “Nysa” in “Nysa nurse of beasts” I have opted to leave it out.

I agree that the repetition of “nurse”/”nurses” in the Epode is unfortunate but I can’t come up with any solution I find satisfactory. I console myself with the fact that the audience, in performance, most likely won’t even notice the repetition.

AZ, thank you very much for commenting.

The “blessed Dirce” section is in the Greek:

σὺ δέ μ᾽, ὦ μάκαιρα Δίρκα,
στεφανηφόρους ἀπωθῇ
θιάσους ἔχουσαν ἐν σοί.

O blessed Dirce, you reject me, having garland-wearing group-religious-festivities in you.

The participle is clearly concessive—you reject me, though/despite the fact that I have . . .” There is no idiomatic literal English rendering of the Greek, so I have expanded it in translation in order to try to get the full meaning across:

I revel on your banks in ivy-crowned
choirs of women.

That way I get the festivities (“revel”) and the group-activity (“choirs of women”) in.

You have persuaded me that I should go for “deathless” instead of “holy” for the “fire.” The tomb of Semele is supposed to be smoldering still throughout the play. Thank you very much.

Thank you—yes, I decided to render Dithyrambus as “Two-Door-God” and Bromius as “The Roaring God” every time they appear. That way the name has some meaning for the audience.

Best, best,

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