“First Choral Ode of Bakkhai,” by Anne Carson

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EURIPIDES

translated by Anne Carson

Holiness

is a word I love to hear,

it sounds like wings to me,

wings brushing the world, grazing my life.

Pentheus has a harsh sound,

a negative sound.

He’s a negative person.

He’s against Dionysos,

against rejoicing,

against laughter,

against flutes.

Not to mention the transcendent gladness of grapes and wine

so beneficial to body, soul, and psyche’s interior design.

I’m saying

his tongue is unbridled,

his reasoning reckless,

his end may be hot and hard.

A life of quiet discretion,

still as a summer day,

keeps the house cool.

Far off in the air live the undying gods

but they watch us.

They watch how far we press our limits:

there is a morning star,

there is an evening star,

don’t press too far.

 

O daimon!

I dream of a perfectly clear afternoon

on the island where Aphrodite sits

counting her blessings

by the erotic sea.

I dream of rivers

with a hundred mouths

and mountains

where the leaves turn over like silver fire.

Take me there, Dionysos,

take me

some place ruled by the law of desire

where we can dance you and dance you and never tire.

A person may be high,

a person may be low,

a person may be rich,

a person may be simple,

all the same

Dionysos will wrap his arms around you.

It’s not about intellectual prowess,

it’s not about true and false,

it’s pure release.

In Dionysos’ nights and days you can find peace.

Say no and he will hate you.

Choose this embrace,

I do.

 

 

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This excerpt is featured content from the

Spring 2013 Translation issue.

For ordering information or to find out more about the contents of this issue, click here.

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