The Ways of Madmen And Wicked Fools

Euripides’ Bacchae, Second chorus 370-433

Sacred queen of the gods
Sacred one who flies
Over the earth on golden wing—
Did you hear these things about Pentheus?
Did you hear
Of his unholy outrage against Bromios
Semele’s son, the first of the gods
Called upon in the finely-wreathed
Feasts? He holds sway here,
To entwine us in the dances
To make us laugh with the flute
To dissolve our worries
Whenever the grape’s shine
Arrives at the feast of the gods
And in the ivy-wound banquets of men
Where the winebowl lets down its sleep.

The fate for unbridled mouths
And lawless foolishness
Is misfortune.
The life of peace
And prudence
Is unshaken and cements together
Human homes. For even though
They live far off in the sky
The gods gaze at human affairs.
Wisdom is not wit;
Nor is thinking thoughts which belong not to mortals.

Life is brief. And because of this
Whoever seeks out great accomplishments
May not grasp the things at hand.
These are the ways of madmen
And wicked fools, I think.

I wish I could travel to Cyprus
The island of Aphrodite
Where the enchanters of mortal minds live,
The Erotes, at Paphos
Where the hundred mouths
Of the barbarian river
Water fertile earth despite no rain;
I wish to go where Pieria
Looms so fair, that seat of the Muses,
The sacred slope of Mount Olympos—
Take me there, Bromios, my Bromios,
Divine master of ecstasy.
There are the Graces, there is Longing, there it is right
For the Bacchants to hold their sacred rites.

The god, the son of Zeus,
He delights in the feast,
He loves wealth-granting peace
The child-rearing goddess.
He has granted equally to the rich
And those below to have
The grief-relieving pleasure of wine.
He hates the person who has no care for these affairs.
During the day and during lovely nights
To live a good life,
To protect wisdom and thoughts and heart
From men who go too far.
Whatever the rather simple-minded mob believes
This is welcome enough belief for me.

῾Οσία πότνα θεῶν,
῾Οσία δ’ ἃ κατὰ γᾶν
χρυσέαι πτέρυγι φέρηι,
τάδε Πενθέως ἀίεις;
ἀίεις οὐχ ὁσίαν
ὕβριν ἐς τὸν Βρόμιον, τὸν
Σεμέλας, τὸν παρὰ καλλι-
στεφάνοις εὐφροσύναις δαί-
μονα πρῶτον μακάρων; ὃς τάδ’ ἔχει,
θιασεύειν τε χοροῖς
μετά τ’ αὐλοῦ γελάσαι
ἀποπαῦσαί τε μερίμνας,
ὁπόταν βότρυος ἔλθηι
γάνος ἐν δαιτὶ θεῶν, κισ-
σοφόροις δ’ ἐν θαλίαις ἀν-
δράσι κρατὴρ ὕπνον ἀμφιβάλληι.
ἀχαλίνων στομάτων
ἀνόμου τ’ ἀφροσύνας
τὸ τέλος δυστυχία·
ὁ δὲ τᾶς ἡσυχίας
βίοτος καὶ τὸ φρονεῖν
ἀσάλευτόν τε μένει καὶ
ξυνέχει δώματα· πόρσω
γὰρ ὅμως αἰθέρα ναίον-
τες ὁρῶσιν τὰ βροτῶν οὐρανίδαι.
τὸ σοφὸν δ’ οὐ σοφία,
τό τε μὴ θνατὰ φρονεῖν
βραχὺς αἰών· ἐπὶ τούτωι
δὲ τίς ἂν μεγάλα διώκων
τὰ παρόντ’ οὐχὶ φέροι; μαι-
νομένων οἵδε τρόποι καὶ
κακοβούλων παρ’ ἔμοιγε φωτῶν.
ἱκοίμαν ποτὶ Κύπρον,
νᾶσον τᾶς ᾿Αφροδίτας,
ἵν’ οἱ θελξίφρονες νέμον-
ται θνατοῖσιν ῎Ερωτες
Πάφον, τὰν ἑκατόστομοι
βαρβάρου ποταμοῦ ῥοαὶ
καρπίζουσιν ἄνομβροι,
οὗ θ’ ἁ καλλιστευομένα
Πιερία, μούσειος ἕδρα,
σεμνὰ κλειτὺς ᾿Ολύμπου·
ἐκεῖσ’ ἄγε με, Βρόμιε Βρόμιε,
πρόβακχ’ εὔιε δαῖμον.
ἐκεῖ Χάριτες, ἐκεῖ δὲ Πόθος, ἐκεῖ δὲ βάκ-
χαις θέμις ὀργιάζειν.
ὁ δαίμων ὁ Διὸς παῖς
χαίρει μὲν θαλίαισιν,
φιλεῖ δ’ ὀλβοδότειραν Εἰ-
ρήναν, κουροτρόφον θεάν.
ἴσαν δ’ ἔς τε τὸν ὄλβιον
τόν τε χείρονα δῶκ’ ἔχειν
οἴνου τέρψιν ἄλυπον·
μισεῖ δ’ ὧι μὴ ταῦτα μέλει,
κατὰ φάος νύκτας τε φίλας
εὐαίωνα διαζῆν,
†σοφὰν δ’ ἀπέχειν πραπίδα φρένα τε
περισσῶν παρὰ φωτῶν†.
τὸ πλῆθος ὅτι τὸ φαυλότερον ἐνόμισε χρῆ-
ταί τε, τόδ’ ἂν δεχοίμαν.

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