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and we have listened to the dreary end,
hoping our anger might consume its rage;—
away with him! hence drag him, hurl him out,
with dreadful torture, into Stygian night.”
Quickly they seized and dragged Acoetes forth,
and cast him in a dungeon triple-strong.
And while they fixed the instruments of death,
kindled the fires, and wrought the cruel irons,
the legend says, though no one aided him,
the chains were loosened and slipped off his arms;
the doors flew open of their own accord.
But Pentheus, long-persisting in his rage,
not caring to command his men to go,
himself went forth to Mount Cithaeron, where
resound with singing and with shrilly note
the votaries of Bacchus at their rites.
As when with sounding brass the trumpeter
alarms of war, the mettled charger neighs
and scents the battle; so the clamored skies
resounding with the dreadful outcries fret
the wrath of Pentheus and his rage enflame.
About the middle of the mount (with groves
around its margin) was a treeless plain,
where nothing might conceal. Here as he stood
to view the sacred rites with impious eyes,
his mother saw him first. She was so wrought
with frenzy that she failed to know her son,
and cast her thyrsus that it wounded him;
and shouted, “Hi! come hither, Ho!
Come hither my two sisters! a great boar
hath strayed into our fields; come! see me strike
and wound him!”
As he fled from them in fright
the raging multitude rushed after him;
and, as they gathered round; in cowardice
he cried for mercy and condemned himself,
confessing he had sinned against a God.
And as they wounded him he called his aunt;
“Autonoe have mercy! Let the shade
of sad Actaeon move thee to relent!”
No pity moved her when she heard that name;
in a wild frenzy she forgot her son.
While Pentheus was imploring her, she tore
his right arm out; her sister Ino wrenched
the other from his trunk. He could not stretch
his arms out to his mother, but he cried,
“Behold me, mother!” When Agave saw,
his bleeding limbs, torn, scattered on the ground,
she howled, and tossed her head, and shook her hair
that streamed upon the breeze; and when his head
was wrenched out from his mangled corpse,
she clutched it with her blood-smeared fingers, while
she shouted, “Ho! companions! victory!
The victory is ours!” So when the wind
strips from a lofty tree its leaves, which touched
by autumn's cold are loosely held, they fall
not quicker than the wretch's bleeding limbs
were torn asunder by their cursed hands.
Now, frightened by this terrible event,
the women of Ismenus celebrate
the new Bacchantian rites; and they revere
the sacred altars, heaped with frankincense.
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