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

Dionysus and the Pirates

By The Homeric Hymns

From ‘Three Dramas of Euripides,’ by William Cranston Lawton

GLORIOUS Semele’s child I will summon to mind, Dionysus;

How he appeared on the brink of the sea forever-unresting,

On a projecting crag, assuming the guise of a stripling

Blooming in youth; and in beauty his dark hair floated about him.

Purple the cloak he was wearing across his vigorous shoulders;

Presently hove in sight a band of Tyrrhenian pirates,

Borne in a well-rowed vessel along the wine-colored waters.

Hither their evil destiny guided them! When they beheld him,

Unto each other they nodded: then forth they darted, and straightway

Seized him and haled him aboard their vessel, exultant in spirit,

Since they thought him a child of kings who of Zeus are supported.

Then were they eager to bind him in fetters that could not be sundered.

Yet he was held not with bonds, for off and afar did the osiers

Fall from his hands and feet, and left him sitting and smiling

Out of his dusky eyes! But when their pilot beheld it,

Straightway uplifting his voice he shouted aloud to his comrades:—

“Madmen! Who is this god ye would seize and control with your fetters?

Mighty is he! Our well-rowed ship is unable to hold him.

Verily this is Zeus, or else the archer Apollo,

Or, it may be, Poseidon:—for nowise perishing mortals

Does he resemble, but gods who make their home on Olympus!

Bring him, I pray you, again to the darksome shore, and release him

Straightway! Lay not a finger upon him, lest in his anger

He may arouse the impetuous gusts and the furious storm-wind.”

Thus he spoke, but the captain in words of anger assailed him:—

“Fellow, look to the wind, and draw at the sail of the vessel,

Holding the cordage in hand; we men will care for the captive.

He shall come, as I think, to Egypt, or may be to Cyprus,

Or to the Hyperboreans, or farther, and surely shall tell us

Finally who are his friends, and reveal to us all his possessions,

Name us his brethren too: for a god unto us has betrayed him.”

So had he spoken, and raised his mast and the sail of his vessel.

Fairly upon their sail was blowing a breeze, and the cordage

Tightened; and presently then most wondrous chances befell them!

First of all things, wine through the black impetuous vessel,

Fragrant and sweet to the taste, was trickling: the odor ambrosial

Rose in the air; and terror possessed them all to behold it.

Presently near to the top of the sail a vine had extended,

Winding hither and thither, with many a cluster dependent.

Round about their mast an ivy was duskily twining,

Rich in its blossoms, and fair was the fruit that had risen upon it.

Every rowlock a garland wore.
And when they beheld this,

Instantly then to the pilot they shouted to hurry the vessel

Near to the land: but the god appeared as a lion among them,

Terrible, high on the bow, and loudly he roared; and amidships

Made he appear to their eyes a shaggy-necked bear as a portent.

Eagerly rose she erect, and high on the prow was the lion

Eying them grimly askance. To the stern they darted in terror.

There about their pilot, the man of wiser perception,

Dazed and affrighted they stood; and suddenly leaping upon them,

On their captain he seized. They, fleeing from utter destruction,

Into the sacred water plunged, as they saw it, together,

Turning to dolphins. The god, for the pilot having compassion,

Held him back, and gave him happiness, speaking as follows:—

“Have no fear, O innocent supplicant, dear to my spirit.

Semele’s offspring am I, Dionysus the leader in revels,

Born of the daughter of Cadmos, to Zeus in wedlock united.”

Greeting, O child of the fair-faced Semele! Never the minstrel

Who is forgetful of thee may fashion a song that is pleasing!