Thursday, June 30, 2011

Save the Last Dance

from "The Bacchae" by Euripides (translated by William Arrowsmith)


When shall I dance once more
with bare feet the all-night dances,
tossing my head for joy
in the damp air, in the dew,
as a running fawn might frisk
for the green joy of the wide fields,
from from fear of the hunt,
free from the circling beaters
and the nets of woven mesh
and the hunters hallooing on
their yelping packs? And then, hard pressed,
she sprints with the quickness of wind,
bounding over the marsh, leaping
to frisk, leaping for joy,
gay with the green of the leaves,
to dance for joy in the forest,
to dance where the darkness is deepest, where no man is.

What is wisdom? What gift of the gods
is held in honor like this:
to hold you hand victorious over those you hate?
Honor is precious forever.

Slow but unmistakable
the might of the gods moves on.
It punishes that man,
infatuate of soul
and hardened in his pride,
who disregards the gods.
The gods are crafty:
they lie in ambush
a long step of time
to hunt the unholy.
Beyond the old beliefs,
no thought, no act shall go.
Small, small is the cost
to believe in this:
whatever is god is strong:
whatever long time has sanctioned,
that is law forever;
the law tradition makes
is the law of nature.

What is wisdom? What gift on the gods
is held in honor like this:
to hold your hand victorious
over the heads of those you hate?
Honor is precious forever.

Blessed is he who escapes a storm at sea, who comes home to his harbor.
Blessed is he who emerges from under affliction.
In various ways one man outraces another in the race for wealth and power.
Ten thousand men possess ten thousand hopes.
A few bear fruit in happiness; the others go awry.
But he who garners day by day the good of life, he is the happiest.
Blessed is he.

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