I, Dionysus: The Feast of God: I Dionysus.’


[The Bacchante by Jean-Leon Gerome]


[An Incantation ‘A Bacchante’ John Collier]


And now I come to Hellas—having taught
All the world else my dances and my rite
Of mysteries, to show me in men’s sight
Manifest God.




And first of Hellene lands
I cry thus Thebes to waken; set her hands
To clasp my wand, mine ivied javelin,
And round her shoulders hang my wild fawn-skin.
For they have scorned me whom it least beseemed,
Semelê’s sisters; mocked my birth, nor deemed
That Dionysus sprang from Dian seed.
My mother sinned, said they; and in her need,
With Cadmus plotting, cloaked her human shame
With the dread name of Zeus; for that the flame
From heaven consumed her, seeing she lied to God.


[Gustave Moreau; Zeus and Semele]


Thus must they vaunt; and therefore hath my rod
On them first fallen, and stung them forth wild-eyed
From empty chambers; the bare mountain side
Is made their home, and all their hearts are flame.
Yea, I have bound upon the necks of them
The harness of my rites. And with them all
The seed of womankind from hut and hall
Of Thebes, hath this my magic goaded out.


[Satyr and Bacchante (Bacchanalia) – Karl Bryullov. 1824.]


And there, with the old King’s daughters, in a rout
Confused, they make their dwelling-place between
The roofless rocks and shadowy pine trees green.
Thus shall this Thebes, how sore soe’er it smart,
Learn and forget not, till she crave her part
In mine adoring; thus must I speak clear
To save my mother’s fame, and crown me here
As true God, born by Semelê to Zeus.



Now Cadmus yieldeth up his throne and use
Of royal honour to his daughter’s son
Pentheus; who on my body hath begun
A war with God. He thrusteth me away
From due drink-offering, and, when men pray,
My name entreats not. Therefore on his own
Head and his people’s shall my power be shown.



[Floating Maenad, 1st century – Pompeii – House of the Ship fresco]


Then to another land, when all things here
Are well, must I fare onward, making clear
My godhead’s might. But should this Theban town
Essay with wrath and battle to drag down

My maids, lo, in their path myself shall be,

And maniac armies battled after me!

For this I veil my godhead with the wan
Form of the things that die, and walk as Man.



[Bacchante on a Panther, William Adolphe Bouguereau, oil on fabric, 1855]


O Brood of Timolus o’er the wide world flown,
O Lydian band, my chosen and mine own,
Damsels uplifted o’er the orient deep
To wander where I wander, and to sleep
Where I sleep; up, and wake the old sweet sound,


The clang that I and mystic Rhea found,
The Timbrel of the Mountain! Gather all
Thebes to your song round Pentheus’ royal hall.
I seek my new-made worshippers, to guide
Their dances up Kithaeron’s pine-clad side.



Then did the messenger say

“Our herded kine were moving in the dawn
Up to the peaks, the greyest, coldest time,
When the first rays steal earthward, and the rime
Yields, when I saw three bands of them. The one
Autonoë led, one Ino, one thine own
Mother, Agâvê. There beneath the trees
Sleeping they lay, like wild things flung at ease
In the forest; one half sinking on a bed
Of deep pine greenery; one with careless head
Amid the fallen oak leaves; all most cold
In purity—not as thy tale was told
Of wine-cups and wild music and the chase
For love amid the forest’s loneliness.

Then rose the Queen Agâvê suddenly
Amid her band, and gave the God’s wild cry,
“Awake, ye Bacchanals! I hear the sound
Of hornèd kine. Awake ye!”—Then, all round,
Alert, the warm sleep fallen from their eyes,
A marvel of swift ranks I saw them rise,
Dames young and old, and gentle maids unwed
Among them. O’er their shoulders first they shed
Their tresses, and caught up the fallen fold

Of mantles where some clasp had loosened hold,
And girt the dappled fawn-skins in with long
Quick snakes that hissed and writhed with quivering tongue.
And one a young fawn held, and one a wild
Wolf cub, and fed them with white milk, and smiled
In love, young mothers with a mother’s breast
And babes at home forgotten! Then they pressed
Wreathed ivy round their brows, and oaken sprays
And flowering bryony. And one would raise
Her wand and smite the rock, and straight a jet
Of quick bright water came. Another set
Her thyrsus in the bosomed earth, and there
Was red wine that the God sent up to her,
A darkling fountain. And if any lips
Sought whiter draughts, with dipping finger-tips
They pressed the sod, and gushing from the ground
Came springs of milk. And reed-wands ivy-crowned
Ran with sweet honey, drop by drop.—O King,
Hadst thou been there, as I, and seen this thing,
With prayer and most high wonder hadst thou gone
To adore this God whom now thou rail’st upon!
Howbeit, the kine-wardens and shepherds straight
Came to one place, amazed, and held debate;
And one being there who walked the streets and scanned
The ways of speech, took lead of them whose hand
Knew but the slow soil and the solemn hill,
And flattering spoke, and asked: “Is it your will,
Masters, we stay the mother of the King,
Agâvê, from her lawless worshipping,
And win us royal thanks?”—And this seemed good
To all; and through the branching underwood
We hid us, cowering in the leaves. And there
Through the appointed hour they made their prayer
And worship of the Wand, with one accord


Of heart and cry—”Iacchos, Bromios, Lord,
God of God born!”—And all the mountain felt,
And worshipped with them; and the wild things knelt
And ramped and gloried, and the wilderness
Was filled with moving voices and dim stress.
Soon, as it chanced, beside my thicket-close
The Queen herself passed dancing, and I rose
And sprang to seize her. But she turned her face
Upon me: “Ho, my rovers of the chase,
My wild White Hounds, we are hunted! Up, each rod
And follow, follow, for our Lord and God!”



[Bacchant – Lesrel Adolphe Alexandre]


Text: ‘The Bacchae,’ http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35173/35173-h/35173-h.htm}

Other images from tumblr/pin interest and wiki

~ by meanderingsofthemuse on May 13, 2014.

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