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    Chapter 14

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    Chapter 14
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    Chapter XIV
    Bacchus. Ariadne

    Bacchus was the son of Jupiter and Semele. Juno, to gratify her
    resentment against Semele, contrived a plan for her destruction.
    Assuming the form of Beroe, her aged nurse, she insinuated doubts
    whether it was indeed Jove himself who came as a lover. Heaving
    a sigh, she said, "I hope it will turn out so, but I can't help
    being afraid. People are not always what they pretend to be. If
    he is indeed Jove, make him give some proof of it. Ask him to
    come arrayed in all his splendors, such as he wears in heaven.
    That will put the matter beyond a doubt." Semele was persuaded
    to try the experiment. She asks a favor, without naming what it
    is. Jove gives his promise and confirms it with the irrevocable
    oath, attesting the river Styx, terrible to the gods themselves.
    Then she made know her request. The god would have stopped her
    as she spake, but she was too quick for him. The words escaped,
    and he could neither unsay his promise nor her request. In deep
    distress he left her and returned to the upper regions. There he
    clothed himself in his splendors, not putting on all his terrors,
    as when he overthrew the giants, but what is known among the gods
    as his lesser panoply. Arrayed in this he entered the chamber of
    Semele. Her mortal frame could not endure the splendors of the
    immortal radiance. She was consumed to ashes.

    Jove took the infant Bacchus and gave him in charge to the
    Nysaean nymphs, who nourished his infancy and childhood, and for
    their care were rewarded by Jupiter by being placed, as the
    Hyades, among the stars. When Bacchus grew up he discovered the
    culture of the vine and the mode of extracting its precious
    juice; but Juno struck him with madness, and drove him forth a
    wanderer through various parts of the earth. In Phrygia the
    goddess Rhea cured him and taught him her religious rites, and he
    set out on a progress through Asia teaching the people the
    cultivation of the vine. The most famous part of his wanderings
    is his expedition to India, which is said to have lasted several
    years. Returning in triumph he undertook to introduce his
    worship into Greece, but was opposed by some princes who dreaded
    its introduction on account of the disorders and madness it
    brought with it.

    As he approached his native city Thebes, Pentheus the king, who
    had no respect for the new worship, forbade its rites to be
    performed. But when it was known that Bacchus was advancing, men
    and women, but chiefly the latter, young and old poured forth to
    meet him and to join his triumphal march.

    Mr. Longfellow in his Drinking Song thus describes the march of

    "Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow;
    Ivy crowns that brow, supernal
    As the forehead of Apollo,
    And possessing youth eternal.

    "Round about him fair Bacchantes,
    Bearing cymbals, flutes and thyrses,
    Wild from Naxian groves or Zante's
    Vineyards, sing delirious verses."

    It was in vain Pentheus remonstrated, commanded, and threatened.
    "Go," said he to his attendants, "seize this vagabond leader of
    the rout and bring him to me. I will soon make him confess his
    false claim of heavenly parentage and renounce his counterfeit
    worship." It was in vain his nearest friends and wisest
    counselors remonstrated and begged him not to oppose the god.
    Their remonstrances only made him more violent.

    But now the attendants returned whom he had despatched to seize
    Bacchus. They had been driven away by the Bacchanals, but had
    succeeded in taking one of them prisoner, whom, with his hands
    tied behind him, they brought before the king. Pentheus
    beholding him, with wrathful countenance said, "Fellow! You
    shall speedily be put to death, that your fate may be a warning
    to others; but though I grudge the delay of your punishment,
    speak, tell us who you are, and what are these new rites you
    presume to celebrate."

    The prisoner unterrified responded, "My name is Acetes; my
    country is Maeonia; my parents were poor people, who had no
    fields or flocks to leave me, but they left me their fishing rods
    and nets and their fisherman's trade. This I followed for some
    time, till growing weary of remaining in one place, I learned the
    pilot's art and how to guide my course by the stars. It happened
    as I was sailing for Delos, we touched at the island of Dia and
    went ashore. Next morning I sent the men for fresh water and
    myself mounted the hill to observe the wind; when my men returned
    bringing with them a prize, as they thought, a boy of delicate
    appearance, whom they had found asleep. They judged he was a
    noble youth, perhaps a king's son, and they might get a liberal
    ransom for him. I observed his dress, his walk, his face. There
    was something in them which I felt sure was more than mortal. I
    said to my men, 'What god there is concealed in that form I know
    not, but some one there certainly is. Pardon us, gentle deity,
    for the violence we have done you, and give success to our
    undertakings.' Dictys, one of my best hands for climbing the
    mast and coming down by the ropes, and Melanthus, my steersman,
    and Epopeus the leader of the sailors' cry, one and all
    exclaimed, 'Spare your prayers for us.' So blind is the lust of
    gain! When they proceeded to put him on board I resisted them.
    'This ship shall not be profaned by such impiety,' said I. 'I
    have a greater share in her than any of you.' But Lycabas, a
    turbulent fellow, seized me by the throat and attempted to throw
    me overboard, and I scarcely saved myself by clinging to the
    ropes. The rest approved the deed.

    "Then Bacchus, for it was indeed he, as if shaking off his
    drowsiness, exclaimed, 'What are you doing with me? What is this
    fighting about? Who brought me here? Where are you going to
    carry me?' One of them replied, 'fear nothing; tell us where you
    wish to go and we will take you there.' "Naxos is my home,' said
    Bacchus; 'take me there and you shall be well rewarded.' They
    promised so to do, and told me to pilot the ship to Naxos. Naxos
    lay to the right, and I was trimming the sails to carry us there,
    when some by signs and others by whispers signified to me their
    will that I should sail in the opposite direction, and take the
    boy to Egypt to sell him for a slave. I was confounded and said,
    'Let some one else pilot the ship;' withdrawing myself from any
    further agency in their wickedness. They cursed me, and one of
    them exclaiming, 'Don't flatter yourself that we depend on you
    for our safety,' took my place as pilot, and bore away from

    "Then the god, pretending that he had just become aware of their
    treachery, looked out over the sea and said in a voice of
    weeping, 'Sailors, these are not the shores you promised to take
    me to; yonder island is not my home. What have I done that you
    should treat me so? It is small glory you will gain by cheating
    a poor boy.' I wept to hear him, but the crew laughed at both of
    us, and sped the vessel fast over the sea. All at once strange
    as it may seem, it is true the vessel stopped, in the mid sea,
    as fast as if it was fixed on the ground. The men, astonished,
    pulled at their oars, and spread more sail, trying to make
    progress by the aid of both, but all in vain. Ivy twined round
    the oars and hindered their motion, and clung with its heavy
    clusters of berries to the sails. A vine, laden with grapes, ran
    up the mast, and along the sides of the vessel. The sound of
    flutes was heard and the odor of fragrant wine spread all around.
    The god himself had a chaplet of vine leaves, and bore in his
    hand a spear wreathed with ivy. Tigers crouched at his feet, and
    lynxes and spotted panthers played around him. The sailors were
    seized with terror or madness; some leaped overboard; others,
    preparing to do the same, beheld their companions in the water
    undergoing a change, their bodies becoming flattened and ending
    in a crooked tail. One exclaimed, 'What miracle is this!' and as
    he spoke his mouth widened, his nostrils expanded, and scales
    covered all his body. Another endeavoring to pull the oar felt
    his hands shrink up, and presently to be no longer hands but
    fins; another trying to raise his arms to a rope found he had no
    arms, and curving his mutilated body, jumped into the sea. What
    had been his legs became the two ends of a crescent-shaped tail.
    The whole crew became dolphins and swam about the ship, now upon
    the surface, now under it, scattering the spray, and spouting the
    water from their broad nostrils. Of twenty men I alone was left.
    The god cheered me, as I trembled with fear. 'Fear not,' said
    he; 'steer toward Naxos.' I obeyed, and when we arrived there, I
    kindled the altars and celebrated the sacred rites of Bacchus."

    Pentheus here exclaimed, "We have wasted time enough on this
    silly story. Take him away and have him executed without delay."
    Acetes was led away by the attendants and shut up fast in prison;
    but while they were getting ready the instruments of execution,
    the prison doors opened of their own accord and the chains fell
    from his limbs, and when the guards looked for him he was no
    where to be found.

    Pentheus would take no warning, but instead of sending others,
    determined to go himself to the scene of the solemnities. The
    mountain Cithaeron was all alive with worshippers, and the cries
    of the Bacchanals resounded on every side. The noise roused the
    anger of Pentheus as the sound of a trumpet does the fire of a
    war-horse. He penetrated the wood and reached an open space
    where the wildest scene of the orgies met his eyes. At the same
    moment the women saw him; and first among them his own mother,
    Agave, blinded by the god, cried out, "See there the wild boar,
    the hugest monster that prowls in these woods! Come on, sisters!
    I will be the first to strike the wild boar." The whole band
    rushed upon him, and while he now talks less arrogantly, now
    excuses himself, and now confesses his crime and implores pardon,
    they press upon and wound him. In vain he cries to his aunts to
    protect him from his mother. Autonoe seized one arm, Ino the
    other, and between them he was torn to pieces, while his mother
    shouted, "Victory! Victory! We have done it; the glory is

    So the worship of Bacchus was established in Greece.

    There is an allusion to the story of Bacchus and the mariners in
    Milton's Comus, at line 46. The story of Circe will be found in
    Chapter XXII.

    "Bacchus that first from out the purple grape
    Crushed the sweet poison of misused wine,
    After the Tuscan mariners transformed,
    Coasting the Tyrrhene shore as the winds listed
    On Circe's island fell; (who knows not Circe,
    The daughter of the Sun? Whose charmed cup
    Whoever tasted lost his upright shape,
    And downward fell into a grovelling swine.)"


    We have seen in the story of Theseus how Ariadne, the daughter of
    King Minos, after helping Theseus to escape from the labyrinth,
    was carried by him to the island of Naxos and was left there
    asleep, while Theseus pursued his way home without her. Ariadne,
    on waking and finding herself deserted, abandoned herself to
    grief. But Venus took pity on her, and consoled her with the
    promise that she should have an immortal lover, instead of the
    mortal one she had lost.

    The island where Ariadne was left was the favorite island of
    Bacchus, the same that he wished the Tyrrhenian mariners to carry
    him to, when they so treacherously attempted to make prize of
    him. As Ariadne sat lamenting her fate, Bacchus found her,
    consoled her and made her his wife as Minerva had prophesied to
    Theseus. As a marriage present he gave her a golden crown,
    enriched with gems, and when she died, he took her crown and
    threw it up into the sky. As it mounted the gems grew brighter
    and were turned into stars, and preserving its form Ariadne's
    crown remains fixed in the heavens as a constellation, between
    the kneeling Hercules and the man who holds the serpent.

    Spenser alludes to Ariadne's crown, though he has made some
    mistakes in his mythology. It was at the wedding of Pirithous,
    and not Theseus, that the Centaurs and Lapithae quarrelled.

    "Look how the crown which Ariadne wore
    Upon her ivory forehead that same day
    That Theseus her unto his bridal bore,
    When the bold Centaurs made that bloody fray
    With the fierce Lapiths which did them dismay;
    Being now placed in the firmament,
    Through the bright heaven doth her beams display,
    And is unto the stars an ornament,
    Which round about her move in order excellent."

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