The Bacchae on National Poetry Day

Fragment from The Bacchae, written by Ewan Downie
A retelling of the original by Euripides


when semele came to her
in the early morning
agave knew what to do

who could do no wrong
pretty semele

it was still dark
agave was lying in bed
feeding her baby son

semele slipped into the room
and lay beside agave
her breath in shuddering gulps
trying not to cry
she told agave everything

she’d met a man
who said he was a god
she was in love
now she was three weeks late

agave told semele
what she had to do

you have to make him swear
to show you his true form
if he is a god you have to know

and when the explosion
ripped apart the fields behind the house
and burned the yellow flowers black
and charred and cracked and split the ancient oak
and smashed the windows of the house
and shook agave’s room and woke the baby
so his mouth opened in a scream she knew
that semele was dead

and eight months later
when her sister’s lover
came to her with the baby

and said
agave please
I don’t know what to do
will you look after it?

she said

Company of Wolves’ production of
The Bacchae
premiered at The Barn in Banchory on 22 September 2023 and will be performed again Friday, 6 October 2023 at Byre Theatre in St. Andrews. For information and tickets visit us here

For information about National Poetry Day, visit their website

Photo by Louise Mather