Did K.T. Tunstall Read the Bacchae?

When I pray to Dionysos, I usually read Orphic Hymn 30 or the verses from the Bacchae in the Grene & Lattimore-edited translation that start a few lines after line 70. The section is translated beautifully, with the kind of presence that works well for recitation before doing prayer beads or something.

Blessèd, blessèd are those who know the mysteries of god.
Blessèd is he who hallows his life in the worship of god, he whom the spirit of god possesseth, who is one with those who belong to the holy body of god.
Blessèd are the dancers and those who are purified, who dance on the hill in the holy dance of god.
Blessèd are they who keep the rite of Kybele the Mother.
Blessèd are the thyrsus-bearers, those who wield in their hands the holy wand of god.
Blessèd are those who wear the crown of the ivy of god.
Blessèd, blessèd are they: Dionysos is their god!

Euripides, The Bacchae, trans. William Arrowsmith

Sometimes, I have read the sections immediately after, but my eye is always drawn to italics. On the facing page, there is that bit that goes

O Thebes, nurse of Semele,
crown your hair with ivy!
Grow green with bryony!
Redden with berries! O city,
with boughs of oak and fir,
come dance the dance of god!
Fringe your skins of dappled fawn
with tufts of twisted wool!
Handle with holy care
the violent wand of god!
And let the dance begin!
He is Bromius who runs
to the mountain!
to the mountain!
where the throng of women waits,
driven from shuttle and loom,
possessed by Dionysus!

And on the following page,

And he cries, as they cry, evohé!
On, Bacchae!
On, Bacchae!
Follow, glory of golden Tmolus,
hymning god
with a rumble of drums,
with a cry, Evohé! to the Evian god,
with a cry of Phrygian cries,
when the holy flute like honey plays
the sacred song of those who go
to the mountain!
to the mountain!

You can imagine my shock and surprise when, in my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, K.T. Tunstall’s 2018 “The Mountain” came on. It has flute music. (I could play this!) It has someone going heavy on the atonal percussion. It has these lyrics:

You will find me
On the Mountain

K.T. Tunstall repeats that in the song a lot. Ultimately, the song shows a journey from the built environment to the mountain, and this song has a very similar vibe to the verses in the Bacchae, at least in the translation I have.

There really isn’t a point to this post other than to share that. (I barely know who this artist is and had to use the Wikipedia page to confirm that this was the same artist with that cherry tree song.) We’re coming into the season of ghosts in about another month, and this is a great song to lead up to that.

Have a good evening, everyone!

2 thoughts on “Did K.T. Tunstall Read the Bacchae?

  1. I love the “blessed is he…” lines from the Bacchae. I’ve used those as prayers too many times. It’s such a powerful powerful text (I scored a free copy of Dodds’ Greek text of the Bacchae today so it’s on my mind). that is one of my favorite sections.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is a very powerful section, and it also works very well call-and-response (at least in this translation). Congrats on finding the Dodds.


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