BACCHUS AND MIDASAnd not content with this, Bacchus resolved
to leave that land, and with a worthier train
went to the vineyards of his own Tmolus
and to Pactolus, though the river was
not golden, nor admired for precious sands.
His usual throng of Satyrs and of Bacchanals
surrounded him; but not Silenus, who
was then detained from him. The Phrygian folk
had captured him, as he was staggering, faint
with palsied age and wine. And after they
bound him in garlands, they led him to their king
Midas, to whom with the Cecropian
Eumolpus, Thracian Orpheus had shown all
the Bacchic rites. When Midas recognized
his old time friend Silenus, who had been
so often his companion in the rites
of Bacchus, he kept joyful festival,
with his old comrade, twice five days and nights.
Upon the eleventh day, when Lucifer
had dimmed the lofty multitude of stars,
King Midas and Silenus went from there
joyful together to the Lydian lands.
There Midas put Silenus carefully
under the care of his loved foster-child,
young Bacchus. He with great delight, because
he had his foster-father once again,
allowed the king to choose his own reward—
a welcome offer, but it led to harm.
And Midas made this ill-advised reply:
“Cause whatsoever I shall touch to change
at once to yellow gold.” Bacchus agreed
to his unfortunate request, with grief
that Midas chose for harm and not for good.
The Berecynthian hero, king of Phrygia,
with joy at his misfortune went away,
and instantly began to test the worth
of Bacchus' word by touching everything.
Doubtful himself of his new power, he pulled
a twig down from a holm-oak, growing on
a low hung branch. The twig was turned to gold.
He lifted up a dark stone from the ground
and it turned pale with gold. He touched a clod
and by his potent touch the clod became
a mass of shining gold. He plucked some ripe,
dry spears of grain, and all that wheat he touched
was golden. Then he held an apple which
he gathered from a tree, and you would think
that the Hesperides had given it.
If he but touched a lofty door, at once
each door-post seemed to glisten. When he washed
his hands in liquid streams, the lustrous drops
upon his hands might have been those which once
astonished Danae. He could not now
conceive his large hopes in his grasping mind,
as he imagined everything of gold.
And, while he was rejoicing in great wealth,
his servants set a table for his meal,
with many dainties and with needful bread:
but when he touched the gift of Ceres with
his right hand, instantly the gift of Ceres
stiffened to gold; or if he tried to bite
with hungry teeth a tender bit of meat,
the dainty, as his teeth but touched it, shone
at once with yellow shreds and flakes of gold.
And wine, another gift of Bacchus, when
he mixed it in pure water, can be seen
in his astonished mouth as liquid gold.
Confounded by his strange misfortune—rich
and wretched—he was anxious to escape
from his unhappy wealth. He hated all
he had so lately longed for. Plenty could
not lessen hunger and no remedy
relieved his dry, parched throat. The hated gold
tormented him no more than he deserved.
Lifting his hands and shining arms to heaven,
he moaned. “Oh pardon me, father Lenaeus!
I have done wrong, but pity me, I pray,
and save me from this curse that looked so fair.”
How patient are the gods! Bacchus forthwith,
because King Midas had confessed his fault,
restored him and annulled the promise given,
annulled the favor granted, and he said:
“That you may not be always cased in gold,
which you unhappily desired, depart
to the stream that flows by that great town of Sardis
and upward trace its waters, as they glide
past Lydian heights, until you find their source.
Then, where the spring leaps out from mountain rock,
plunge head and body in the snowy foam.
At once the flood will take away your curse.”
King Midas did as he was told and plunged
beneath the water at the river's source.
And the gold virtue granted by the god,
as it departed from his body, tinged
the stream with gold. And even to this hour
adjoining fields, touched by this ancient vein
of gold, are hardened where the river flows
and colored with the gold that Midas left.