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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Chorus of Mystæ in Hades

By Aristophanes (c. 448–c. 388 B.C.)

From ‘The Frogs’: Translation of John Hookham Frere

CHORUS[shouting and singing]
IACCHUS! Iacchus! Ho!

Iacchus! Iacchus! Ho!

Xanthias—There, master, there they are, the initiated

All sporting about as he told us we should find ’em.

They’re singing in praise of Bacchus like Diagoras.

Bacchus—Indeed, and so they are; but we’ll keep quiet

Till we make them out a little more distinctly.

Mighty Bacchus! Holy Power!

Hither at the wonted hour

Come away,

Come away,

With the wanton holiday,

Where the revel uproar leads

To the mystic holy meads,

Where the frolic votaries fly,

With a tipsy shout and cry;

Flourishing the Thyrsus high,

Flinging forth, alert and airy,

To the sacred old vagary,

The tumultuous dance and song,

Sacred from the vulgar throng;

Mystic orgies that are known

To the votaries alone—

To the mystic chorus solely—

Secret unrevealed—and holy.

Xan.—O glorious virgin, daughter of the Goddess!

What a scent of roasted griskin reached my senses!

Bac.—Keep quiet—and watch for a chance of a piece of the haslets.

Raise the fiery torches high!

Bacchus is approaching nigh,

Like the planet of the morn

Breaking with the hoary dawn

On the dark solemnity—

There they flash upon the sight;

All the plain is blazing bright,

Flushed and overflown with light:

Age has cast his years away,

And the cares of many a day,

Sporting to the lively lay—

Mighty Bacchus! march and lead

(Torch in hand toward the mead)

Thy devoted humble Chorus;

Mighty Bacchus—move before us!

Keep silence—keep peace—and let all the profane

From our holy solemnity duly refrain;

Whose souls, unenlightened by taste, are obscure;

Whose poetical notions are dark and impure;

Whose theatrical conscience

Is sullied by nonsense;

Who never were trained by the mighty Cratinus

In mystical orgies, poetic and vinous;

Who delight in buffooning and jests out of season;

Who promote the designs of oppression and treason;

Who foster sedition and strife and debate;

All traitors, in short, to the Stage and the State:

Who surrender a fort, or in private export

To places and harbors of hostile resort

Clandestine consignments of cables and pitch,—

In the way that Thorycion grew to be rich

From a scoundrelly dirty collector of tribute:

All such we reject and severely prohibit;

All statesmen retrenching the fees and the salaries

Of theatrical bards, in revenge for the railleries

And jests and lampoons of this holy solemnity,

Profanely pursuing their personal enmity,

For having been flouted and scoffed and scorned—

All such are admonished and heartily warned;

We warn them once,

We warn them twice,

We warn and admonish—we warn them thrice,

To conform to the law,

To retire and withdraw;

While the Chorus again with the formal saw,

(Fixt and assign’d to the festive day)

Move to the measure and march away.

March! march! lead forth,

Lead forth manfully,

March in order all;

Bustling, hustling, justling,

As it may befall;

Flocking, shouting, laughing,

Mocking, flouting, quaffing,

One and all;

All have had a belly-full

Of breakfast brave and plentiful;



With your voices and your bodies

Serve the goddess,

And raise

Songs of praise;

She shall save the country still,

And save it against the traitor’s will;

So she says.

Now let us raise in a different strain

The praise of the goddess, the giver of grain;

Imploring her favor

With other behavior,

In measures more sober, submissive, and graver.

Ceres, holy patroness,

Condescend to mark and bless,

With benevolent regard,

Both the Chorus and the Bard;

Grant them for the present day

Many things to sing and say,

Follies intermixed with sense;

Folly, but without offense.

Grant them with the present play

To bear the prize of verse away.

Now call again, and with a different measure,

The power of mirth and pleasure;

The florid, active Bacchus, bright and gay,

To journey forth and join us on the way.

O Bacchus, attend! the customary patron of every lively lay;

Go forth without delay

Thy wonted annual way,

To meet the ceremonious holy matron:

Her grave procession gracing,

Thine airy footsteps tracing

With unlaborious, light, celestial motion;

And here at thy devotion

Behold thy faithful choir

In pitiful attire:

All overworn and ragged,

This jerkin old and jagged,

These buskins torn and burst,

Though sufferers in the fray,

May serve us at the worst

To sport throughout the day;

And then within the shades

I spy some lovely maids

With whom we romped and reveled,

Dismantled and disheveled,

With their bosoms open,—

With whom we might be coping.

Xan.—Well, I was always hearty,

Disposed to mirth and ease:

I’m ready to join the party.

Bac.—And I will if you please.