Agave of the vermeil-tinted cheek
And Ino and Autonoae marshalled erst
Three bands of revellers under one hill-peak.
They plucked the wild-oak's matted foliage first,
Lush ivy then, and creeping asphodel;
And reared therewith twelve shrines amid the untrodden fell:
To Semele three, to Dionysus nine.
Next, from a vase drew offerings subtly wrought,
And prayed and placed them on each fresh green shrine;
So by the god, who loved such tribute, taught.
Perched on the sheer cliff, Pentheus could espy
All, in a mastick hoar ensconced that grew thereby.
Autonoae marked him, and with, frightful cries
Flew to make havoc of those mysteries weird
That must not be profaned by vulgar eyes.
Her frenzy frenzied all. Then Pentheus feared
And fled: and in his wake those damsels three,
Each with her trailing robe up-gathered to the knee.
"What will ye, dames," quoth Pentheus. "Thou shalt guess
At what we mean, untold," Autonoae said.
Agave moaned--so moans a lioness
Over her young one--as she clutched his head:
While Ino on the carcass fairly laid
Her heel, and wrenched away shoulder and shoulder-blade.
Autonoae's turn came next: and what remained
Of flesh their damsels did among them share,
And back to Thebes they came all carnage-stained,
And planted not a king but aching there.
Warned by this tale, let no man dare defy
Great Bacchus; lest a death more awful he should die,
And when he counts nine years or scarcely ten,
Rush to his ruin. May I pass my days
Uprightly, and be loved of upright men!
And take this motto, all who covet praise:
('Twas AEgis-bearing Zeus that spake it first:)
'The godly seed fares well: the wicked's is accurst.'
Now bless ye Bacchus, whom on mountain snows,
Prisoned in his thigh till then, the Almighty laid.
And bless ye fairfaced Semele, and those
Her sisters, hymned of many a hero-maid,
Who wrought, by Bacchus fired, a deed which none
May gainsay--who shall blame that which a god hath done?