Aristophanes (Frere 1909)/Acharnians
Dicæopolis, whose name may be interpreted as conveying the idea of honest policy, is the principal character in the play. He is represented as a humorous, shrewd countryman (a sort of Athenian Sancho), who (in consequence of the war, and the invasion of Attica by the Peloponnesian Army) had been driven from his house and property to take shelter in the city. Here his whole thoughts are occupied with regret for the comforts he has lost, and with wishes for a speedy peace. The soliloquy in which he appears in the first scene represents him seated alone in the place of Assembly, having risen early to secure a good place, his constant practice (he says), in order "to bawl, to abuse and interrupt the speakers," with the exception of those, and those only, who are arguing in favour of an immediate peace. But the Magistrates and men of business, not having so much leisure on their hands as the worthy countryman, are less punctual in their attendance, and he is kept waiting, to his great discomfort; their seats are empty, and the citizens in the market-place are talking and idling, or shifting about to avoid a most notable instrument of democratic coercion—namely, a cord coloured with ochre, which the officers stretch across the market-place in order to drive the loiterers to the place of Assembly; those that are overtaken by the rope, being marked by the ochre, besides the damage to their dress, becoming liable to a nominal fine. To avoid the sense of weariness, he is in the habit (as he tells us), upon such occasions, of giving a forced direction to his thoughts; and he gives a sample of his mode of employing this expedient in the very first lines: he is tasking himself to recollect and sum up all the things that had occurred of late either to gratify or to annoy him. At length, however, he is relieved from the pursuit of this unsatisfactory pastime. The Magistrates arrive and take their seats—the place of Assembly is filled, and silence is proclaimed—when a new personage enters hastily. Here we have an instance of the peculiar character of invention which belongs to the ancient comedy; in which a bodily form and action is given to those images which have no existence except in the forms of animated or fanciful language. "If a deity were to come down among the Athenians and propose to conclude a peace for them, they would not listen to him." This phrase is here exhibited in action; for the personage above mentioned is a demigod (descended immediately from Ceres herself, as he proves by a very rapid and confident recitation of his genealogy), but his offer of his services as a mediator are very ill received, and he very narrowly escapes being taken into custody.
The next persons who present themselves to the Assembly are two Envoys returned from a mission to the Court of Persia, which they have contrived to prolong for several years. They relate all the hardships which they had undergone in luxurious entertainments and in tedious journeys with a splendid equipage: they moreover had been detained by an unforeseen circumstance on their arrival at the capital. The state of things was such as Autolycus describes: "The King is not at the Palace, he is gone to purge melancholy and air himself:" but the King of Persia was not gone, like the King of Bohemia, "on board a new ship;" he was gone with a magnificent military retinue to the Golden Mountains, where, according to the Ambassadors' report, he continued for eight months in an unremitting course of cathartics. On his return to the Capital, they had the honour of being presented, and entertained at a most singular and marvellous banquet; finally, they had succeeded in their mission, and had brought with them a confidential servant of the Crown of Persia (a nobleman of high rank, though rather of a suspicious name), Shamartabas, commissioned to declare His Majesty's intention to the people of Athens. Shamartabas holds the distinguished office and title of the King's Eye: of course the mask which is assigned him is distinguished by an Eye of enormous size, the appearance of which and the gravity of gesture suited to such an exalted personage excite the rustic republican spleen of honest Dicæopolis. The communications of the great Persian Courtier, being in his own language and consequently unintelligible, are variously interpreted. Dicæopolis takes upon himself to question him peremptorily, and in the course of the examination discovers a couple of effeminate Athenian fops, disguised as Eunuchs, in his train; this discovery, however, creates no sensation. The King's Eye is invited with the usual honours to a Banquet in the Prytaneum; but when Dicæopolis sees these impostors and enemies of his country upon the point of being rewarded with a good dinner, the indignation which is excited in his independent spirit decides at once his future destinies and the conduct of all the scenes which follow. In that tone which a person is apt to employ when he fancies that the zeal of his friends gives him a right to command their services, he calls out very peremptorily for Amphitheus, and without any preamble or prefatory request, directs him to proceed to Sparta without loss of time, and to conclude a separate peace for him (Dicæopolis), his wife and family, advancing to him at the same time the principal sum of eight drachmas for that purpose.
Another Envoy now appears, returned from a Court of a different description. He has not, like the former, any complaints to make of having been overwhelmed with an excess of ostentation and profusion from the Grand Monarque of those times; he has resided with a sort of contemporary Czar Peter, the Autocrat of Thrace, having lived (of course according to his own account) in a most jolly barbarous intimacy with that rising potentate, and inspiring him with the sincerest hearty zeal in favour of the polished state of Athens. His son, the heir apparent, had been admitted by the Athenians to the freedom of their City, an honour which, in their opinion (as well as in that of Mr. Peter Putty in Foote's farce), any prince ought to be proud of; and the Assembly are accordingly informed of the delight and enthusiasm with which the compliment had been accepted. They are presented moreover with a specimen of the auxiliary troops, somewhat singularly equipped, which their new ally is willing to employ in their service, but at a rate of pay which Dicæopolis exclaims against as scandalous. He has soon other causes of complaint; for attracted by the passion for garlic, which it seems is predominant amongst them, the Odomantians (for that is the name of the tribe to which the new warriors belong) begin their operations by plundering the store which Dicæopolis had provided for his own luncheon; outrageous at this injury, after reproaching the Magistrates with their apathy in suffering it, he takes, what it seems was an effectual mode of dissolving the Assembly, by declaring that a storm is coming on, and affirming that he has felt a drop of rain. This sort of Polish Veto nullifies the proceedings of the Assembly, which is accordingly dissolved. Dicæopolis is left lamenting over the pillage of his provisions, but his spirits are soon revived by the appearance of Amphitheus, who has returned with samples of Treaties of Peace or Truces. These Treaties or Truces are typified by the wines employed in the libations by which they were ratified; a conceit, which in the language of the original appears less extravagant, the Greeks having only one and the same word by which they expressed the idea of a truce and that of the libation by which it was rendered valid. Amphitheus is in a hurry, having been (as he says) discovered and pursued by a number of old Rustics of Acharnæ, who, since the ruin of the vineyards of their village by the invading army, had become furious against a peace. Dicæopolis tastes and discusses the qualities of the wines, and having fixed upon a sample οf thirty years' growth, goes away with a determination to avail himself of the change in his affairs, by keeping the Feast of Bacchus once more in his own village; while Amphitheus runs off to avoid the Acharnians whom he had outrun, but who are still in quest of him.
Dicæopolis. How many things there are to cross and vex me,
My comforts I compute at four precisely,
My griefs and miseries at a hundred thousand.
Let's see what there has happened to rejoice me
With any real kind of joyfulness;
Come, in the first place I set down five talents,
Which Cleon vomited up again and refunded;
There I rejoiced; I loved the Knights for that;
'Twas nobly done, for the interests of all Greece.
But again I suffered cruelly in the Theatre10
A tragical disappointment. There was I
Gaping to hear old Æschylus, when the Herald
Called out, "Theognis, bring your chorus forward."
Imagine what my feelings must have been!
But then Dexitheus pleased me coming forward
And singing his Bœotian melody:
But next came Chæris with his music truly,
That turned me sick, and killed me very nearly.
But never in my lifetime, man nor boy,
Was I so vexed as at this present moment;20
To see the Pnyx, at this time of the morning,
Quite empty, when the Assembly should be full.
There are our Citizens in the market-place,
Lounging and talking, shifting up and down
To escape the painted twine that ought to sweep
The shoal of them this way; not even the presidents
Arrived—they're always last, crowding and jostling
To get the foremost seat; but as for peace
They never think about it—Oh, poor Country!
As for myself, I'm always the first man.30
Alone in the morning, here I take my place,
Here I contemplate, here I stretch my legs;
I think and think—I don't know what to think.
I draw conclusions and comparisons,
I ponder, I reflect, I pick my nose,
I make a stink—I make a metaphor,
I fidget about, and yawn and scratch myself;
Looking in vain to the prospect of the fields,
Loathing the city, longing for a peace,
To return to my poor village and my farm, 40
That never used to cry, "Come buy my charcoal!"
Nor, "Buy my oil!" nor "Buy my anything!"
But gave me what I wanted, freely and fairly,
Clear of all cost, with never a word of buying,
Or such buy-words. So here I'm come, resolved
To bawl, to abuse, to interrupt the speakers,
Whenever I hear a word of any kind
Except for an immediate peace. Ah there!
The presidents at last; see, there they come!
All scrambling for their seats—I told you so! 50
Herald. Move forward there! Move forward all of ye
Further! within the consecrated ground.
Amphitheus. Has anybody spoke?
Her. Is anybody
Prepared to speak?
Amp. Yes, I.
Her. Who are you and what?
Amp. Amphitheus the Demigod.
Her. Not a Man?
Amp. No, I'm immortal; for the first Amphitheus
Was born of Ceres and Triptolemus,
His only son was Keleüs, Keleüs married
Phænarete my grandmother, Lykinus
My father was their son; that's proof enough 60
Of the immortality in our family.
The Gods moreover have dispatched me here
Commissioned specially to arrange a peace
Betwixt this City and Sparta—notwithstanding
I find myself rather in want at present
Of a little ready money for my journey.
The Magistrates won't assist me.
Amp. Ο Keleüs and Triptolemus, don't forsake me!
Dic. You presidents, I say! you exceed your powers;
You insult the Assembly, dragging off a man 70
That offered to make terms and give us peace.
Her. Keep silence there.
Dic. By Jove, but I won't be silent,
Except I hear a motion about peace.
Her. Ho there! the Ambassadors from the King of Persia.
Dic. What King of Persia? what Ambassadors?
I'm sick of foreigners and foreign animals,
Peacocks and Coxcombs and Ambassadors.
Her. Keep silence there.
Dic. What's here? What dress is that?
In the name of Ecbatana! What does it mean?
Amb. You sent us when Euthymenes was Archon, 80
Some few years back, Ambassadors to Persia,
With an appointment of two Drachmas each
For daily maintenance.
Dic. Alas, poor Drachmas!
Amb. 'Twas no such easy service, I can tell you,
No trifling inconvenience to be dragged
Along those dusty, dull Caystrian plains,
Smothered with cushions in the travelling chariots,
Obliged to lodge at night in our pavilions,
Jaded and hacked to death.
Dic. My service then
Was an easy one, you think! on guard all night, 90
In the open air, at the outposts, on a mat.
Amb. . . . At our reception we were forced to drink
Strong luscious wine in cups of gold and crystal . . .
Dic. Ο rock of Athens! sure thy very stones
Should mutiny at such open mockery!
Amb. (in continuation).
. . . . with the Barbarians 'tis the test of manhood.
There the great drinkers are the greatest men . . . .
Dic. As debauchees and coxcombs are with us.
Amb. (in continuation).
. . . In the fourth year we reached the royal residence,
But found the Sovereign absent on a progress, 100
Gone with his army to the Golden Mountains,
To take his ease, and purge his royal person;
There he remained eight months.
Dic. When did he close
His course of medicine?
Amb. With the full of the moon
He rose, and left his seat, returning homeward:
There he admitted us to an audience,
And entertained us at a royal banquet
With a service of whole oxen baked in crust.
Dic. Oxen in crust! what lies, what trumpery! 110
Did ever am mortal hear the like?
Amb. Besides they treated us with a curious bird,
Much bigger than our own Cleonymus.
'Tis called the Chousibus.
Dic. Ay, by that same token
We're choused of our two drachmas.
We've brought you here a nobleman, Shamartabas
By name, by rank and office the King's Eye.
Dic, God send a crow to peck it out, I say,
And yours the Ambassador's into the bargain!
Her. Let the King's Eye come forward.
Dic. Hercules! 120
What's here? an eye for the head of a ship! what point,
What headland is he weathering? what's your course?
What makes you steer so steadily and so slowly?
Amb. Come now, Shamartabas, stand forth; declare
The King's intentions to the Athenian people.
[Shamartabas here utters some words, which Orientalists
have supposed to be the common formula prefixed to the
edicts of the Persian Monarch—Iartaman exarksan
Amb. You understand it?
Dic. No, by Jove, not I.
Amb. (to Dicæopolis). He says the King intends to send us gold.
(to Shamartabas). Explain about the gold; speak more distinctly.
Shamartabas. Sen gooly Jaönau aphooly chest.
Dic. Well, that's distinct enough!
Her. What does he say? 130
Dic. That it's a foolish jest for the Ionians
To imagine that the King would send them gold.
Amb. No, no! He's telling ye of chests full of gold.
Dic. What chests? you're an impostor. Stand away;
Keep off; and let me alone to question him.
You Sir, you Persian! answer me distinctly
And plainly, in presence of this fist of mine;
On pain of a royal purple bloody nose.
Will the King send us gold, or will he not?
[Shamartabas shakes his head.
Have our Ambassadors bamboozled us?[Shamartabas nods.
These fellows nod to us in the Grecian fashion; 141
They're some of our own people, I'll be bound.
One of those eunuchs there I'm sure I know:
I'm positive it's Cleisthenes the Siburtian.
How durst you, you baboon, with such a beard,
And your designing wicked rump close shaved,
To pass yourself upon us for a eunuch?
And who's this other? Sure enough it's Strato!
Her. Silence there! Keep your seats!
The Senate have invited the King's Eye 150
To feast with them in the Prytaneum.
An't it enough to drive one mad? to drive one
To hang himself? to be kept here in attendance,
Working myself into a strangury;
Whilst every door flies open to these fellows.
But I'll do something desperate and decided.
Where is Amphitheus got to?
Amph. Here am I.
Dic. There—take you these eight drachmas on my part,
And make a separate peace for me with Sparta,
For me, my wife and children and maidservant. 160
And you—go on with your embassies and fooleries.
Her. Theorus, our ambassador into Thrace,
Returned from King Sitalces!
Τheor. Here am I.
Dic. More coxcombs called for! Here's another coming.
Τheor. We should not have remained so long in Thrace . . .
Dic. If you hadn't been overpaid I know you wouldn't.
Τheor. But for the snow, which covered all the country,
And buried up the roads, and froze the rivers.
'Twas singular this change of weather happened
Just when Theognis here, our frosty poet, 170
Brought out his tragedy. We passed our time
In drinking with Sitalces. He's your friend,
Your friend and lover, if there ever was one,
And writes the name of Athens on his walls.
His son, your new-made fellow-citizen,
Had wished to have been enrolled in proper form
At the Apaturian festival; and meanwhile,
During his absence, earnestly desires
That the Apaturian sausages may be sent to him.
He is urgent with his father to befriend 180
His newly adopted countrymen; and in fine
Sitalces has been so far worked upon,
He has sworn at last his solemn Thracian oath,
Standing before the sacrifice, to send
Such an army, he said, that all the Athenian people
Shall think that there's a flight of locusts coming.
Dic. Then hang me if I believe a word about it,
Except their being locusts; that seems likely.
Theor. And now he has sent some warriors from a tribe
The fiercest in all Thrace.
Dic. Well, come—that's fair. 190
Her. The Thracians that came hither with Theorus!
Let them come forward!
Dic. What the plague are these?
Theor. The Odomantian army.
Dic. The Odomantians?
Thracians? and what has brought them here from Thrace
So strangely equipt, disguised, and circumcised?
Theor. These are a race of fellows, if you'd hire 'em,
Only at a couple of drachmas daily pay;
With their light javelins, and their little bucklers,
They'd worry and skirmish over all Bœotia.
Dic. Two drachmas for those scarecrows! and our seamen, 200
What would they say to it?—left in arrears,
Poor fellows, that are our support and safeguard.
Out, out upon it! I'm a plundered man.
I'm robbed and ruined here with the Odomantians.
They're seizing upon my garlic.
Theor. (to the Thracians). Oh, for shame,
Let the man's garlic alone. You shabby fellow,
You countryman, take care what you're about;
Don't venture near them when they're primed with garlic.
Dic. You Magistrates, have you the face to see it,
With your own eyes—your fellow-citizen 210
Here, in the city itself, robbed by barbarians?
But I forbid the assembly. There's a change
In the heaven! I felt a drop of rain! I'm witness!
Her. The Thracians must withdraw, to attend again
The first of the next month. The assembly is closed.
Dic. Lord help me, what a luncheon have I lost!
But there's Amphitheus coming back from Sparta.
Amph. I'm not welcome yet,
There are the Acharnians pursuing me!
Dic. How so?
Amph. I was coming here to bring the treaties, 220
But a parcel of old Acharnians smelt me out,
Case-hardened, old, inveterate, hard-handed
Veterans of Marathon, hearts of oak and iron,
Slingers and smiters. They bawled out and bellowed:
"You dog, you villain! now the vines are ruined,
You're come with treaties, are you?" Then they stopped,
Huddling up handfuls of great slinging stones
In the lappets of their cloaks, and I ran off,
And they curie driving after me pell-mell,
Roaring and shouting.
Dic. Aye, why let them roar! 230
You've brought the treaties?
Amph. Aye, three samples of 'em;
This here is a five years' growth, taste it and try.
Dic. Don't like it!
Dic. Don't like it; it won't do;
There's an uncommon ugly twang of pitch,
A touch of naval armament about it.
Amph. Well, here's a ten growth, may suit you better.
Dic. No, neither of them. There's a sort of sourness
Here is this last, a taste of acid embassies,
And vapid allies turning to vinegar.
Amph. But here's a truce of thirty years entire, 240
Dic. O Bacchus and the Bacchanals!
This is your sort! here's nectar and ambrosia!
Here's nothing about providing three days' rations;
It says, "Do what you please, go where you will."
I chuse it, and adopt it, and embrace it,
For sacrifice and for my private drinking.
In spite of all the Acharnians, I'm determined
To remove out of the reach of wars and mischief,
And keep the feast of Bacchus in my farm.
Amph. And I'll run off to escape from those Acharnians. 250
Masses of men, when in a state of excitement, whatever may be their collective character or purpose, are apt to separate into two divisions; those of a milder and more reasonable temper taking the one side, and the more ardent and intractable taking the other. This is exemplified in the two Semichoruses. The first are upon the point of abandoning their pursuit, while the second persevere in it with unabated eagerness, indefatigable and (as they afterwards shew themselves) implacable. The first, on the contrary, are by degrees pacified and induced to listen to reason.
This difference of feeling finally produces a struggle between them, in which those who are of "milder mood" obtain the advantage; and their opponents are obliged to call for assistance from Lamachus, a romantic, enthusiastic military character, and, of course, as decided an advocate for war as Dicæopolis (the poet's dramatic representative) is for peace. Lamachus appears in his gorgeous armour. Dicæopolis, under the affectation of extreme terror and simplicity, contrives to banter and provoke him. Lamachus proceeds to violence, and is foiled; after which a dispute is carried on for some time between them upon equal terms; and they finally separate, with a declaration of their respective determinations; the one looking forward to military achievement, and the other to commercial profit and enjoyment.
It may be necessary to say something of an attempt that has been made in the translation of the following Chorus to convey to the English reader some notion of the metrical character of the original. The Poet himself has described the metre as bold and manly, expressive of firmness and vehemence, and, as such, suitable to the persons of whom his Chorus is composed. The Cretic metre (for that is its name) consists of a quaver between two crotchets ( ), and may be considered as a truncated form of the Trochaic, differing from it only by the subtraction of a short or quaver-syllable; the Trochaic itself consisting of four syllables, a crotchet and quaver alternately ( ). In consequence of this affinity, we find that the two metres frequently pass into each other.
In the instance before us, the Chorus begins with the Trochaic, but after the first four lines passes into the Cretic; the second Cretic line exhibits a variety of frequent occurrence in the Greek, the last crotchet being resolved into two quavers ( ). Moreover, the altercation between Dicæopolis and the Chorus is kept up for some time in Trochaics and Cretics alternately.
Chorus. Follow faster; all together! search, inquire of every one.
Speak, inform us, have you seen him? whither is the rascal run?
'Tis a point of public service that the traitor should be caught
In the fact, seized and arrested with the Treaties that he brought.
1st Semichorus. He's escaped, he's escaped—
Out upon it! Out upon it!—
Out of sight, out of search.
Ο the sad wearisome
Load of years!
Well do I remember such a burden as I bore 260
Running with Phayllus with a hamper at my back,
But, alas, my sixty winters and my sad rheumatic pain
Break my speed and spoil my running,—and that old unlucky sprain.
2nd Semichorus. But we'll pursue him. Whether we be fast or slow,
He shall learn to dread the peril of an old Acharnian foe.
Ο Supreme Powers above,
Merciful Father Jove, 270
Oh, the vile miscreant wretch;
How did he dare,
How did he presume in his unutterable villany to make a peace,
Peace with the detestable, abominable Spartan race.
No, the war must not end—
Never end—till the whole Spartan tribe
Are reduced, trampled down,
Tied and bound, hand and foot.
Chorus. Now we must renew the search, pursuing at a steady pace,
Soon or late we shall secure him, hunted down from place to place. 280
Look about like eager marksmen, ready with your slings and stones.
How I long to fall upon him, the villain, and to smash his bones!
Enter Dicæopolis, his Wife and Daughter, a Slave, etc.
Dic. Peace, Peace.
Chorus. Stand aside! Keep out of sight! List to the sacrificial cries!
There he comes, the very fellow, going out to sacrifice.
Wait and watch him for a minute, we shall have him by surprise.
Dic. Silence! move forward, the Canephora;
You, Xanthias, follow close behind her there,
In a proper manner, with your pole and emblem. 290
Wife. Set down the basket, daughter, and begin
Daughter. Give me the cruet, mother,
And let me pour it upon the holy cake.
Dic. Oh, blessed Bacchus, what a joy it is
To go thus unmolested, undisturbed,
My wife, my children, and my family,
With our accustomed joyful ceremony,
To celebrate thy festival in my farm.
Well, here's success to the truce of thirty years. 300
Wife. Mind your behaviour, child; carry the basket
In a modest proper manner; look demure
And grave; a happy fellow will he be
That has the rummaging of ye. Come, move on.
Mind your gold trinkets, they'll be stolen else.
Dic. Follow behind there, Xanthias, with the pole,
And I'll strike up the bacchanalian chaunt.
Wife, you must be spectator; go within,
And mount to the housetop to behold us pass. [Sings.
Leader of the revel rout, 310
Of the drunken roar and shout,
Crazy mirth and saucy jesting,
Frolic and intrigue clandestine!
Half a dozen years are passed,
Here we meet in peace at last.
All my wars and fights are o'er;
Other battles please me more,
With my neighbour's maid, the Thracian,
Found marauding in the wood;
Seizing on the fair occasion, 320
With a quick retaliation
Making an immediate booty
Of her innocence and beauty.
If a drunken head should ache,
Bones and heads we never break.
If we quarrel overnight;
At a full carousing soak,
In the morning all is right;
And the shield hung out of sight
In the chimney smoke. 330
Chorus. That's the man. Mind your aim;
Pelt away—pelt away.
Dic. Heaven and Earth! what's here to do? You'll break the pitcher, have a care!
Chorus. We'll break your head,
We'll break your bones,
We'll pummel you to death with stones.
Dic. Tell me, most serene Acharnians, wherefore, upon what pretence?
Chorus. Impudence! Insolence!
Infamous traitor, do ye dare to ask?
In despite 340
Of duty and right,—
Duty to the state,
Duty to the laws,—
You've presumed to separate
Your private cause,
With the villainous abuse
Of a treasonable truce.
And you dare,
Void of shame, void of grace, 350
To look us in the face.
Dic. But my motive: once again, let me be heard, and I'll explain.
Chor. No reply. You shall die,
Stoned and buried all at once,
Buried in a heap of stones.
Dic. Have patience, do! forbear a bit!
You've never heard my reasons yet.
Chorus. We've forborne, long enough;
Say no more. Trash and stuff!
We detest you worse than Cleon, him that, if he gets his dues,
We shall cut up into thongs to serve the knights for straps and shoes. 361
We'll not hear ye; your alliance with the worst of enemies,
With the wicked hated Spartans, we'll avenge it and chastise.
Dic. Don't be talking of the Spartans; 'tis another question wholly,
All my guilt or innocence depends upon the treaty solely.
Chorus. Don't imagine to cajole us with your arguments and fetches;
You confess you made a peace with those abominable wretches.
Dic. Well, the very Spartans even,—I've my doubts and scruples whether
They've been totally to blame, in ev'ry instance, altogether.
Chorus. Not to blame in every instance! Villain, vagabond, how dare ye, 371
Talking treason to our faces, to suppose that we should spare ye.
Dic. Not so totally to blame; and I would show that, here and there,
The treatment they received from us has not been absolutely fair.
Chorus. What a scandal! what an insult! what an outrage on the state!
Are ye come to plead before us as the Spartans' advocate?
Dic. I'm prepared to plead the cause, and bring my neck here for a pledge,
Placed upon the chopping block, ready to meet the axe's edge.
Chorus. Don't be standing shilly-shally, comrades, let the traitor die.
Pummel him with stones to pieces, pound and maul him utterly, 380
Mash the villain to a jelly, like a vat of purple dye.
Dic. I'm astonished at your temper. Won't you give me leave to say
Something in my own defence, my good Acharnians? Hear me, pray!
Chorus. We're determined not to hear ye.
Dic. That will be severe indeed.
Chor. We're determined.
Dic. Good Acharnians, give me time and hear me plead.
Chorus. Death awaits you, death this instant.
Dic. Then the quick resolve is taken.
Know that I've secured a hostage destined to redeem my bacon.
He, your homebred kindly kinsman, he with me shall live or perish.
Chorus. What's the matter? Is there any child or infant that you cherish,
Missing here amongst you, neighbours, whom he keeps
confined in durance? 390
What can else inspire the man with such a confident assurance?
Dic. Strike, destroy me then, while I shall act in turn the assassin's part,
If the native love of charcoal moves not your obdurate heart.
[Dicæopolis discovers a hamper of charcoal, and stands over it in a menacing theatrical attitude, with a sword drawn.
Chorus. Ο forbear! see there!
See the poor natural Acharnian hamper of our own,
Ready to be overthrown.
Spare it, I beseech thee, spare.
Dic. I'll not hear; the word is past. Poor thing, this instant is its last.
Chorus. Spare it as our only joy,
Our solace and employ, 400
The staff of our declining years.
Dic. You, when I besought a hearing, armed your hands and shut your ears.
Chorus. Yes, but now we'll permit,
We'll dispense, we'll allow
Darling is at stake.
Wholly for his sake.
Dic. Before we parley or compound, cast me those pebbles to the ground. 410
Chorus. See there, all's fair.
But keep your word, sheath the sword.
Dic. Other pebbles may be lurking in the lappets of your jerkin.
Chorus. Never fear, never doubt;
See them here shaken out.
There's none behind; only mind,
Keep your word, sheath the sword.
And here I fling stone and sling,
Sling and stone, both away,
Both in one; both are gone. 420
Dic. Well now, will you please to have done with your noise and nonsense,
And fling them away, too, both. Fine work you've made,
A pretty business! Look there at your hamper.
What a taking the poor creature has been in,
Voiding its coal-dust, like a cuttle-fish,
For very fright; nearly destroyed, in short,
Merely from a want of temper and discretion
On the part of its own friends. 'Tis passing strange,
That human nature should be so possessed
With a propensity to pelt and bawl; 430
When gentle easy Reason might decide
All their debates with order, peace, and law;
When I myself stand here resigned, and ready
To plead my cause before a chopping block,
To vindicate the Spartans and myself.
Yet I, forsooth, can feel the fear of death,
And hold my life as dear as other do.
Chorus. Bring the block! Bring it here!
Rogue, for I long to hear
Speedily whatever you can have to say. 440
Semichorus. Twas your own choice, your own appointed pledge.
Bring forth the chopping-block, and speak away.
Dic. Well, there it is. See, there's the chopping-block!
And little I myself am the defendant.
Depend upon it, I'll fight manfully.
I'll never hug myself within my shield;
I'll speak my mind, moreover, about the Spartans.
And yet forsooth a secret anxious fear
Appalls me; for I know the turn and temper 450
Of rustic natures, then delighted most
When from some bold declaimer, right or wrong,
They hear their country's praises and their own;
Delighted, but deluded all the while,
Unconsciously bamboozled and befooled.
And well I know the minds of aged men,
And the malignant pleasure that they feel
In a harsh verdict or an angry vote.
And well I recollect my sufferings past
From Cleon, for my comedy last year; 460
And how he dragged me to the senate house,
And trod me down, and bellowed over me,
And licked me with the rough side of his tongue;
And mauled me, till I scarce escaped alive,
All battered and bespattered and befouled.
Permit me, therefore, first to clothe myself
In a pathetical and heartrending dress.
Chorus. It's no use! mere excuse!
Take what you will for your defence, 470
Anything you think of use,
Even the invisible huge hobgoblin helmet
Of the learned Hieronymus, if you choose.
I care not, I;
You may try
The tricks and turns of Sisyphus in the play;
We grant free leave for all, but no delay.
Dic. Well, I must try then to keep up my spirits,
And trudge away to find Euripides.
Servant. Who's there?
Dic. Euripides within?
Serv. Within, yet not within. You comprehend me?
Dic. Within and not within! why, what do ye mean?
Serv. I speak correctly, old sire! his outward man
Is in the garret writing tragedy;
While his essential being is abroad,
Pursuing whimsies in the world of fancy.
Dic. O happy Euripides, with such a servant;
So clever and accomplished!—call him out.
Serv. It's quite impossible.
Dic. But it must be done. 490
Positively and absolutely I must see him;
Or I must stand here, rapping at the door.
Euripides! Euripides! come down,
If ever you came down in all your life!
'Tis I, 'tis Dicæopolis from Chollidæ.
Eur. I'm not at leisure to come down.
But here's the scene-shifter can wheel you round.
Eur. It cannot be.
Dic. But however, notwithstanding.
Eur. Well, there then I'm wheeled round; for I had not time
For coming down.
Dic. Euripides, I say! 500
Eur. What say ye?
Dic. Euripides! Euripides!
Good lawk, you're there! upstairs! you write upstairs,
Instead of the ground floor? always upstairs.
Well now, that's odd! But, dear Euripides,
If you had but a suit of rags that you could lend me.
You're he that brings out cripples in your tragedies;
A'nt ye? You're the new Poet, he that writes
Those characters of beggars and blind people.
Well, dear Euripides, if you could but lend me
A suit of tatters from a cast-off tragedy. 510
For mercy's sake, for I'm obliged to make
A speech in my own defence before the chorus,
A long pathetic speech this very day;
And if it fails, the doom of death betides me.
Eur. Say, what do ye seek? is it the woeful garb
In which the wretched aged Œneus acted?
Dic. No, 'twas a wretcheder man than Œneus, much.
Eur. Was it blind Phœnix?
Dic. No, not Phœnix, no,
A fellow a great deal wretcheder than Phœnix.
Eur. I wonder what he wants; is it the rags 520
Which Philoctetes went a begging with?
Dic . No, 'twas a beggar worse than Philoctetes.
Eur. Say, would you wish to wear those loathly weeds,
The habiliments of lame Bellerophon?
Dic. 'Twas not Bellerophon, but very like him.
A kind of a smooth, fine spoken character;
A beggar into the bargain and a cripple,
With a grand command of words, bothering and begging.
Eur. I know your man: 'tis Telephus the Mysian.
Dic. Ah, Telephus! Yes, Telephus! do, pray, 530
Give me the things he wore.
Eur. Go fetch them there.
You'll find 'em next to the tatters of Thyestes,
Just over Ino's. Take them, there, and welcome.
Dic. O Jupiter, what an infinite endless mass
Of eternal holes and patches! Here it is,
Here's wherewithal to clothe myself in misery.
Euripides, now, since you've gone so far,
Do give me the other articles besides
Belonging to these rags, that suit with them,
With a little Mysian bonnet for my head. 540
For I must wear a beggar's garb to-day,
Yet be myself in spite of my disguise;
That the audience all may know me; but the chorus,
Poor creatures, must not have the least suspicion
Whilst I cajole them with my rhetoric.
Eur. I'll give it you; your scheme is excellent,
Deep, subtle, natural, a profound device.
Dic. "May the Heavens reward you; and as to Telephus,
May they decide his destiny as I wish!"
Why, bless me, I'm quite inspired (I think) with phrases. 550
I shall want the beggar's staff, though, notwithstanding.
Eur. Here, take it, and depart forth from the palace.
Dic. O my poor heart! much hardship hast thou borne,
And must abide new sorrows even now,
Driven hence in want of various articles.
Subdue thy nature to necessity,
Be supple, smooth, importunate, and bend
Thy temper to the level of thy fortune.—
Yet grant me another boon, Euripides;
A little tiny basket let it be, 560
One that has held a lamp, all burnt and battered.
Eur. Why should you need it?
Dic. 'Tis no need, perhaps,
But strong desire, a longing, eager wish.
Eur. You're troublesome. Depart.
Dic. Alas, alas!
Yet may you prosper like your noble mother.
Eur. Depart, I say.
Dic. Don't say so! Give me first,
First give me a pipkin broken at the brim.
Eur. You're troublesome in the mansion. Take it, go!
Dic. Alas, you know not what I feel, Euripides.
Yet grant me a pitcher, good Euripides; 570
A pitcher with a sponge plugged in its mouth.
Eur. Fellow, you'll plunder me a whole tragedy.
Take it, and go.
Dic. Yes; aye forsooth, I'm going.
But how shall I contrive? There's something more
That makes or mars my fortune utterly;
Yet give them, and bid me go, my dear Euripides;
A little bundle of leaves to line my basket.
Eur. For mercy's sake! . . . But take them. There they go!
My tragedies and all! ruined and robbed!
Dic. No more; I mean to trouble you no more. 580
Yes, I retire; in truth I feel myself
Importunate, intruding on the presence
Of chiefs and princes, odious and unwelcome.
But out, alas, that I should so forget
The very point on which my fortune turns;
I wish I may be hanged, my dear Euripides,
If ever I trouble you for anything,
Except one little, little, little boon,
A single lettuce from your mother's stall.
Eur. This stranger taunts us. Close the palace gate. 590
Dic. my poor soul, endure it and depart,
And take thy sorrowful leave, without a lettuce.
Yet. knowest thou yet the race which must be run,
Pleading the cause of Sparta: and here you stand
Even at the goal; time urges, arm yourself!
Infuse the spirit of Euripides,
His quirks and quibbles, in thine inmost heart!
'Tis well. Now forward, even to the place
Where thou must pledge thy life, and plead the cause
As may befall thee. Forward, forward yet; 600
A little more. I'm dreadfully out of spirits.
Speak, or are ye dumb,
Thou rogue in grain,
Heart of stone!
Villain, are ye come,
Venturing your head alone,
Singly to support a treason of your own.
Firm in his intent,
Ready to the day.
—Well, my man!
Since that's your plan,
[In the following lines there is an intentional imitation of the dry drawling style of Euripides' harangues.
Dic. Be not surprised, most excellent spectators,
If I that am a beggar, have presumed
To claim an audience upon public matters,
Even in a comedy; for comedy
Is conversant in all the rules of justice, 620
And can distinguish betwixt right and wrong.
The words I speak are bold, but just and true.
Cleon, at least, cannot accuse me now,
That I defame the city before strangers.
For this is the Lenæan festival,
And here we meet, all by ourselves alone;
No deputies are arrived as yet with tribute,
No strangers or allies; but here are we
A chosen sample, clean as sifted corn,
With our own denizens as a kind of chaff. 630
First, I detest the Spartans most extremely;
And wish that Neptune, the Tænarian deity,
Would bury them in their houses with his earthquakes.
For I've had losses—losses, let me tell ye,
Like other people; vines cut down and injured.
But, among friends (for only friends are here),
Why should we blame the Spartans for all this?
For people of ours, some people of our own,
Some people from amongst us here, I mean;
But not the people (pray remember that); 640
I never said the people—but a pack
Of paltry people, mere pretended citizens,
Base counterfeits, went laying informations,
And making a confiscation of the jerkins
Imported here from Megara; pigs moreover,
Pumpkins, and pecks of salt, and ropes of onions,
Were voted to be merchandise from Megara,
Denounced, and seized, and sold upon the spot.
Well, these might pass, as petty local matters.
But now, behold, some doughty drunken youths 650
Kidnap, and carry away from Megara,
The courtesan Simætha. Those of Megara,
In hot retaliation, seize a brace
Of equal strumpets, hurried force perforce
From Dame Aspasia's house of recreation.
So this was the beginning of the war,
All over Greece, owing to these three strumpets.
For Pericles, like an Olympian Jove,
With all his thunder and his thunderbolts,
Began to storm and lighten dreadfully, 660
Alarming all the neighbourhood of Greece;
And made decrees, drawn up like drinking songs,
In which it was enacted and concluded,
That the Megarians should remain excluded
From every place where commerce was transacted,
With all their ware—like "old care?"—in the ballad:
And this decree, by land and sea, was valid.
Then the Megarians, being all half starved,
Desired the Spartans, to desire of us,
Just to repeal those laws; the laws I mentioned, 670
Occasioned by the stealing of those strumpets.
And so they begged and prayed us several times;
And we refused: and so they went to war.
You'll say, "They should not." Why, what should they have done?
Just make it your own case; suppose the Spartans
Had manned a boat, and landed on your islands,
And stolen a pug puppy from Seriphos;
Would you then have remained at home inglorious?
Not so, by no means; at the first report,
You would have launched at once three hundred gallies, 680
And filled the city with the noise of troops;
And crews of ships, crowding and clamouring
About the muster-masters and pay-masters;
With measuring corn out at the magazine,
And all the porch choked with the multitude;
With figures of Minerva, newly furbished,
Painted and gilt, parading in the streets;
With wineskins, kegs, and firkins, leeks and onions;
With garlic crammed in pouches, nets, and pokes;
With garlands, singing girls, and bloody noses. 690
Our arsenal would have sounded and resounded
With bangs and thwacks of driving bolts and nails;
With shaping oars, and holes to put the oar in;
With hacking, hammering, clattering and boring;
Words of command, whistles and pipes and fifes.
"Such would have been your conduct. Will you say,
That Telephus should have acted otherwise?"
2nd Semichor. Really! is it come to that? You rogue, how dare ye,
A beggar, here to come abusing us,
Slandering us all, inveighing against informers? 700
1st Semichor. By Jove, but it's all true; truth, every word;
All true; not aggravated in the least.
2nd Semichor. And if it is, what right has he to say so?
None in the world; and he shall suffer for it.
1st Semichor. Hands off there! what are ye after? Leave him go!
I'll grapple ye else, and heave ye neck and crop.
2nd Semichor.Lamachus! Lamachus!
Let the gaze,
Of thine eyes, 710
In a blaze,
Daunt and amaze
All the throng,
Hardy comrades, bold and strong,
For assault or standing fight;
Hasten and assist the right.
Lamachus. Whence came that noise of battle on mine ears?
Where am I summoned? whither must I rush? 720
To the rescue or assault? what angry shout
Rouses the slumbering Gorgon on my shield?
Dic. Ο Lamachus, with your glorious crests and conquests!
2nd Semichor. Ο Lamachus! if there an't this fellow here
Abusing us and all the state this long while!
Lam. How dare ye, sirrah, a beggar to talk thus?
Dic. Ο mighty Lamachus, have mercy upon me,
If, being a beggar, I prated and spoke amiss.
Lam. What were your words? repeat them, can't ye?
Dic. I can't.
I can't remember; I'm so terrified. 730
The terror of that crest quite turned me dizzy;
Do take the hobgoblin away from me, I beseech you.
Lam. There then.
Dic. Now turn it upside down.
Lam. See there.
Dic. Now give me one of the feathers.
Lam. Here, this plume.
Dic. Now clasp your hands across my forehead,
For I feel that I shall strain in vomiting.
Those crests turned me so sick!
Lam. What are you doing?
You varlet, would you use my plume for a vomit?
Dic. A plume, do you call it? What does it belong to?
Lam. To a bird—
Dic. To a cock lorrel, does it not? 740
Lam. Ah, you shall die. [A scuffle, in which Lamachus is foiled.
Dic. No, Lamachus, not so fast.
That's rather a point above you, stout as you are.
Lam. Is this the sort of language for a beggar
To use to a commander such as me?
Dic. A beggar am I?
Lam. Why, what else are you?
Dic. I'll tell ye! an honest man; that's what I am.
A citizen that has served his time in the army,
As a foot-soldier, fairly; not like you,
Pilfering, and drawing pay, with a pack of foreigners.
Lam. They voted me a command.
Dic. Who voted it? 750
A parcel of cuckoos! Well, I've made my peace.
In short, I could not abide the thing, not I;
To see grey-headed men serve in the ranks,
And lads like you despatched upon commissions;
Some skulking away to Thrace, with their three drachmas;
Tisamenus's, Chares's, and Geres's,
Cheats, coxcombs, vagabonds, and Phænippus's,
And Theodorus's sent off to Gela,
And Catana, and Camarina, and the Catamountains.
Lam. It past by a vote.
Dic. But what's the reason, pray, 760
For you to be sent out with salaries always,
And none of these good people? You, Marilades,
Have you been ever sent on an embassy?
You're old enough. He shakes his head. Not he!
Yet he's a hardworking steady sober man.
And you, Euphorides, Prinides, and the rest,
Have you ever been out into Chaonia,
Or up to Ecbatana?—no, not one of ye.
But Megacles, and Lamachus, and suchlike,
That, with their debts and payments long since due, 770
Have heard their friends insisting and repeating,
"Get off,"—"Keep out of the way;" like the huswife's warning,
That empties a nuisance into the street at night.
Lam. And must we bear all this,—in the name of democracy?
Dic. Yes, just as long as Lamachus draws his salary.
Lam. No matter! Henceforth I devote myself
Against the Peloponnesians, whilst I live,
To assault and harass them by land and sea.
Dic. And I proclaim for all the Peloponnesians
And Thebans and Megarians, a free market; 780
Where they may trade with me, but not with Lamachus.
The Parabasis, in which the Chorus was brought forward to speak in praise or defence of the author, was a portion of the primitive satirical undramatic comedy. In the times of the ancient or (as we should call it, from the name of the only author whose remains have reached us) the Aristophanic comedy, it seems to have been regarded as nearly superfluous; and is seldom introduced without some alleged motive, as in the instance before us; sometimes a burlesque one, as in The Peace.
The present, which is the oldest of the existing plays of Aristophanes, was, as he tells us, the first in which he had introduced a Parabasis. Since his alleged, and probably his real, motive was the circumstance to which he had already alluded when speaking in the assumed character of Dicæopolis, he had reverted to his
From Cleon for my comedy last year" (p. 20).
This comedy (The Babylonians) seems, as far as we can judge of it from the few fragments that remain, to have been intended, in the first place, as an exposure of existing malpractices and abuses, and, secondly, as a reductio ad absurdum of the extravagant schemes of Athenian ambition; assuming them to be realised, and exhibiting the result.
The progressive aggrandisement of Athens had been marked, from the beginning, by the extortion and oppression practised (with a few honourable exceptions) by her military commanders; Themistocles himself having set the first example. In process of time, as the inferior allied states became gradually subject to the more immediate dominion of Athens, they became exposed to the additional pest of professional informers and venal demagogues, subsisting or enriching themselves by extortion and bribery. This state of things, odious and offensive to the whole Grecian race, disgraceful to the Athenian people, and profitable only to the most worthless and unprincipled among them, was the final unsatisfactory result of their vast efforts and indefatigable activity during two generations, the consummation of the ambitious projects of the most able statesmen of a former age. Meanwhile, at the time when this play (The Babylonians) was produced, the same scandals and abuses continued to be perpetrated in the subject states, under the cover of the Athenian supremacy; while the avidity for further conquest and dominion still remained predominant in the minds of the Athenian people.
The Poet then, in the fervour of youthful patriotism and the pride of conscious genius; not as he was soon afterwards tempted to become and to constitute himself, a professional play-wright, the poetical serf of the community; but with the option of active life still open before him, comparatively therefore independent of his audience, and confident in his own wit and courage as a defence against the resentment of the most powerful opponents; had ventured an appeal to the Athenian people against their whole system of imperial policy both internal and external, against the grievances which they authorised or overlooked, and against their insatiable avidity for empire, tending, if attainable, in its unavoidable results, to the wider extension and aggravation of a system of abuses disgraceful to the name and character of the Athenian people.
With this view, therefore, taking for his canvas an imaginary empire, extending to the furthest limits to which the wildest ambition of his countrymen would have aspired, he had transferred to its remote localities the practices of the most notorious Athenian characters, and the most flagrant instances of existing oppression and corruption. The demagogues and informers of Athens (under this supposed unlimited extension of Athenian supremacy) were represented as transacting business on a larger scale, and extending to the richest and most distant regions of the East the practices which had hitherto been limited to the Islands of the Archipelago and the shores of Asia Minor.
The Poet, however, must have been aware that he had undertaken a task of extreme difficulty and hazard; one in which, more than in any other theatrical attempt, it was necessary for him, at the first outset, to secure the sympathy of his audience; or, more properly speaking, to excite an antipathy against the objects of his attack, similar to that by which he himself was animated. It seems probable, therefore, that the order of subjects in the comedy must have been the same as that which is observable in the Parabasis which follows, and which may be considered as an apologetical analysis of the preceding play. It had begun then with the least criminal perhaps, but to the feelings of the Athenians the most invidious and irritating topic of accusation; namely, the occasional instances of undue advantages obtained for a subject state, by the hired agency of Athenian statesmen and orators, co-operating with the panegyrical cajolery of its deputies and envoys. A fragment has been preserved, evidently belonging to what was called a "long rhesis," a narrative speech, in which a character of this kind is making a triumphant report to his employers; describing his success in captivating the attention of an Athenian auditory, and giving a ridiculous picture of the effect which his oratory had produced upon them.
Then every soul of them sat openmouth'd,
Like roasted oysters, gaping in a row.
But the general plan of the play must have included a picture of the abuses and insolence under which the subject states were suffering; an exhibition of the processes of extortion and intimidation which were practised upon them; an exposure of the persons most notoriously guilty of such practices, and probably also of some flagrant instances which were known to have occurred, and which might have been represented on the stage with no other disguise than that of a remote fanciful locality assigned to them in the new imaginary universal Empire of the Athenian Commonwealth.
This must have been the service which, as he says, had excited the grateful feelings of the subject states, and their just admiration of the courage of the man "who had risked the perilous enterprise of pleading in behalf of justice, in presence of an Athenian auditory." It is observable that the Poet, after having, with a just feeling of pride and self-estimation, ventured in this way to assert his own merits, immediately after, as if alarmed at his own boldness (like Rabelais or the jesters in Shakespeare, when they are apprehensive of having touched upon too tender a point) makes a sudden escape from the subject, and hurries off into a strain of transcendental nonsense, about the high consideration with which his character and services to the country were regarded by the Persian monarch, and how the Spartans insisted upon obtaining the island of Ægina, from no other motive than a wish to deprive the Athenians of the advantage which they might derive from his poetical admonitions.
Parabasis of the Chorus.
Our poet has never as yet
Esteemed it proper or fit,
To detain you with a long
On his own superior wit.
But being abused and accused,
And attacked of late,
As a foe to the state,
He makes an appeal in his proper defence 790
To your voluble humour and temper and sense,
With the following plea;
Namely that he
Never attempted or ever meant
In any wise
Your mighty imperial government.
Moreover he says,
That in various ways
He presumes to have merited honour and praise, 800
Exhorting you still to stick to your rights,
And no more to be fooled with rhetorical flights;
Such as of late each envoy tries
On the behalf of your allies,
That come to plead their cause before ye,
With fulsome phrase, and a foolish story
Of violet crowns and Athenian glory;
With sumptuous Athens at every word;
Sumptuous Athens is always heard,
Sumptuous ever; a suitable phrase 810
For a dish of meat or a beast at graze.
He therefore affirms,
In confident terms,
That his active courage and earnest zeal
Have usefully served your common weal:
He has openly shewn
The style and tone
Of your democracy ruling abroad.
He has placed its practices on record;
The tyrannical arts, the knavish tricks, 820
That poison all your politics.
Therefore we shall see, this year,
The allies with tribute arriving here,
Eager and anxious all to behold
Their steady protector, the bard so bold:
The bard, they say, that has dared to speak,
To attack the strong, to defend the weak,
His fame in foreign climes is heard,
And a singular instance lately occurred.
It occurred in the case of the Persian king, 830
Sifting and cross-examining
The Spartan envoys. He demanded
Which of the rival states commanded
The Grecian seas? He asked them next
(Wishing to see them more perplexed),
Which of the two contending powers
Was chiefly abused by this bard of ours?
For he said, "Such a bold, so profound an adviser
By dint of abuse would render them wiser,
More active and able; and briefly that they 840
Must finally prosper and carry the day."
Now mark the Lacedæmonian guile!
Demanding an insignificant isle!
"Ægina," they say, "for a pledge of peace,
As a means to make all jealousy cease."
Meanwhile their privy design and plan
Is solely to gain this marvellous man,
Knowing his influence on your fate,
By obtaining a hold on his estate
Situate in the isle aforesaid. 850
Therefore there needs to be no more said.
You know their intention, and know that you know it.
You'll keep to your island, and stick to the poet.
And he for his part
Will practise his art
With a patriot heart
With the honest views
That he now pursues,
And fair buffoonery and abuse;
Not rashly bespattering, or basely beflattering, 860
Not pimping, or puffing, or acting the ruffian;
Not sneaking or fawning;
But openly scorning
All menace and warning,
All bribes and suborning:
He will do his endeavour on your behalf;
He will teach you to think, he will teach you to laugh.
So Cleon again and again may try;
I value him not, nor fear him, I!
His rage and rhetoric I defy. 870
His impudence, his politics,
His dirty designs, his rascally tricks
No stain of abuse on me shall fix.
Justice and right, in his despite,
Shall aid and attend me, and do me right:
With these a friend, I ne'er will bend,
To an humble tone
(Like his own),
As a sneaking loon, 880
A knavish, slavish, poor poltroon.
Strophe.Muse of old
Strike the bold
Music of Acharnæ;
Choleric, fiery, quick,
As the sparkle 890
From the charcoal,
Of the native evergreen
In the smoke
Shows his active fiery spleen.
Stands the dish
Full of fish
Ready to be fried:
Every face, in the place, 900
Overjoyed, all employed,
Muse then, as a friend of all,
Hasten, and attend the call.
Give an ear
To your old,
Epirrema. We, the veterans of the city, briefly must expostulate
At the hard ungrateful usage which we meet with from the state, 910
Suffering men of years and service at your bar to stand indicted,
Bullied by your beardless speakers, worried and perplexed and frighted;
Aided only by their staff, the staff on which their steps are stayed;
Old, and impotent, and empty; deaf, decrepit, and decayed.
There they stand, and pore, and drivel, with a misty purblind gleam,
Scarce discerning the tribunal, in a kind of waking dream.
Then the stripling, their accuser, fresh from training, bold and quick,
Pleads in person, fencing, sparring, using every turn and trick;
Grappling with the feeble culprit, dragging him to dangerous ground,
Into pitfalls of dilemmas, to perplex him and confound. 920
Then the wretched invalid attempts an answer, and at last
After stammering and mumbling, goes away condemned and cast;
Moaning to his friends and neighbours, "All the little store I have,
All is gone! my purchase money for a coffin and my grave."
Antistrophe.Scandalous and a shame it is,
Seen or told;
Scandalous and a shame to see,
A warrior old;
Crippled in the war,
Worried at the bar; 930
Him, the veteran, that of old
With a fierce and hardy frown,
In the field of Marathon;
Sweat and blood.
There and then, we were men;
Valorous assailants; now
Poor and low;
Open and exposed to wrong, 940
From the young;
Every knave, every ass,
Every rogue like Marpsyas.
The Thucydides mentioned in the following lines is not the historian (the son of Olorus) but a much older man, and in his time of much greater personal eminence. In the scanty historical notices which have reached us respecting the period in which he lived, he is distinguished from others of the same name, as the son of Milesius; and it should seem that he must have succeeded to Cimon, as the leader of an unavailing opposition to that system of innovation in domestic and foreign policy which Pericles introduced, and by which he secured for himself, at the expense of posterity, a life annuity of power and popularity.
A very characteristic anecdote is alluded to in the seventh and eighth lines. Thucydides had been asked "which of the two (himself or Pericles) was the best wrestler," (i.e., the best debater). To which he answered: "I am the best wrestler; but when I have flung him he starts up again and persuades the people that he was not thrown down."
Antepirrema. Shame and grief it was to witness poor Thucydides's fate,
Indicted by Cephisodemus, overwhelmed with words and prate.
I myself when I beheld him, an old statesman of the city,
Dragged and held by Scythian archers, I was moved to tears and pity,
Him that I remember once tremendous, terrible, and loud;
Discomfiting the Scythian host, subduing the revolted crowd;
Undaunted, desperate, and bold, that with his hasty grasp could fling 950
A dozen, in as many casts, of the best wrestlers in the ring.
Three thousand archers of the guard, he bawled and roared and bore them down.
No living soul he feared or spared, or friends or kinsmen of his own.
Since you then refuse to suffer aged men to rest in peace,
Range your criminals in classes, let the present method cease.
Give up elderly delinquents to be mumbled, mouthed, and wrung
By the toothless old accusers; but protect them from the young.
For the younger class of culprits young accusers will be fair,
Prating prostituted fops, and Clinias's son and heir. 959
Thus we may proceed in order, all of us, with all our might,
Severally, both youths and elders, to defend and to indict.
Dicæopolis. Well, there's the boundary of my market-place,
Marked out, for the Peloponnesians and Bœotians
And the Megarians. All are freely welcome
To traffic and sell with me, but not with Lamachus.
Moreover I've appointed constables,
With lawful and sufficient straps and thongs,
To keep the peace, and to coerce and punish
All spies and vagabonds and informing people.
Come, now for the column, with the terms of peace 970
Inscribed upon it! I must fetch it out,
And fix it here in the centre of my market. [Exit.
A writer in the Quarterly Review for July 1820 (not a very different person from the writer of this note) adduces the two scenes immediately following, as instances, amongst others, of that tendency to generalisation which, as he contends, was no less predominant in the mind of Aristophanes than in that of Shakspeare.
In reference to this principle it is observed of the following scenes, that "the two country people who are introduced as attending Dicæopolis's market, are not merely a Megarian and a Theban distinguished by a difference of dialect and behaviour; they are the two extremes of rustic character—the one (the Megarian) depressed by indigence into meanness, is shifting and selfish, with habits of coarse fraud and vulgar jocularity. The Theban is the direct opposite—a primitive, hearty, frank, unsuspicious, easy-minded fellow; he comes to market with his followers, in a kind of old-fashioned rustic triumph, with his bag-pipers attending him: Dicæopolis (the Athenian, the medium between the two extremes before described) immediately exhibits his superior refinement, by suppressing their minstrelsy; and the honest Theban, instead of being offended, joins in condemning them. He then displays his wares, and the Athenian, with a burlesque tragical rant, takes one of his best articles (a Copaic eel) and delivers it to his own attendants to be conveyed within doors. The Theban, with great simplicity, asks how he is to be paid for it; and the Athenian, in a tone of grave superiority, but with some awkwardness, informs him that he claims it as a toil due to the market. The Theban does not remonstrate, but after some conversation agrees to dispose of all his wares, and to take other goods in return; but here a difficulty arises, for the same articles which the Athenian proposes in exchange happen to be equally abundant in Bœotia. The scene here passes into burlesque, but it is a burlesque expressive of the character which is assigned to the Theban; a character of primitive simplicity, utterly unacquainted with all the pests by which existence was poisoned in the corrupt community of Athens. A common sycophant or informer is proposed as an article which the Athenian soil produced in great abundance, but which would be considered as a rarity in Bœotia. The Theban agrees to the exchange, saying, that if he could get such an animal to take home, he thinks he could make a handsome profit by exhibiting him."
The scene which immediately follows (that of the Megarian) has been slightly modified, without detriment, it must be hoped, to the genuine humour of the original, perhaps even with advantage; since the attention of the English reader is not distracted by that strange contrast of ancient and modern manners, which strikes the reader of the original with an impression, wholly disproportionate to the intention of the Author, and destructive of that general harmony and breadth of effect which he had intended to produce, and which, as far as his contemporaries were concerned, he had succeeded in producing.
Enter a Megarian with his two little girls.
Meg. Ah, there's the Athenian market! Heaven bless it,
I say; the welcomest sight to a Megarian.
I've looked for it, and longed for it, like a child
For its own mother. You, my daughters dear,
Disastrous offspring of a dismal sire,
List to my words: and let them sink impressed
Upon your empty stomachs; now's the time
That you must seek a livelihood for yourselves. 980
Therefore resolve at once, and answer me;
Will you be sold abroad, or starve at home?
Both. Let us be sold, Papa! Let us be sold!
Meg. I say so too; but who do ye think will purchase
Such useless mischievous commodities?
However, I have a notion of my own,
A true Megarian scheme; I mean to sell ye
Disguised as pigs, with artificial pettitoes.
Here, take them, and put them on. Remember now,
Show yourselves off; do credit to your breeding, 990
Like decent pigs; or else, by Mercury,
If I'm obliged to take you back to Megara,
There you shall starve, far worse than heretofore.
—This pair of masks too—fasten 'em on your faces,
And crawl into the sack there on the ground.
Mind ye—Remember—you must squeak and whine,
And racket about like little roasting pigs.
—And I'll call out for Dicæopolis.
Ho! Dicæopolis, Dicæopolis!
I say, would you please to buy some pigs of mine? 1000
Dic. What's there? a Megarian?
Meg. (sneakingly). Yes—We're come to market.
Dic. How goes it with you?
Meg. We're all like to starve.
Dic. Well, liking is everything. If you have your liking,
That's all in all: the likeness is a good one,
A pretty likeness! like to starve, you say.
But what else are you doing?
Meg. What we're doing?
I left our governing people all contriving
To ruin us utterly without loss of time.
Dic. It's the only way: it will keep you out of mischief,
Meddling and getting into scrapes.
Meg. Aye, yes.
Dic. Well, what's your other news? How's corn? What price? 1010
Meg. Corn? it's above all price; we worship it.
Dic. But salt? You've salt, I reckon—
Meg. Salt? how should we?
Have not you seized the salt pans?
Dic. No! nor garlic?
Have not ye garlic?
Meg. What do ye talk of garlic?
As if you had not wasted and destroyed it,
And grubbed the very roots out of the ground.
Dic. Well, what have you got then? Tell us! Can't ye!
Meg. (in the tone of a sturdy resolute lie). Pigs—
Pigs truly—pigs forsooth, for sacrifice.
Dic. That's well, let's look at 'em.
Meg. Aye, they're handsome ones; 1020
You may feel how heavy they are, if ye hold 'em up.
Dic. Hey-day! What's this? What's here?
Meg. A pig, to be sure.
Dic. Do ye say so? Where does it come from?
Meg. Come? from Megara.
What, an't it a pig?
Dic. No truly, it does not seem so.
Meg. Did you ever hear the like? Such an unaccountable
Suspicious fellow! it is not a pig, he says!
But I'll be judged; I'll bet ye a bushel of salt,
It's what we call a natural proper pig.
Dic. Perhaps it may, but it's a human pig.
Meg. Human! I'm human; and they're mine, that's all. 1030
Whose should they be, do ye think? so far they're human.
But come, will you hear 'em squeak?
Dic. Aye, yes, by Jove,
With all my heart.
Meg. Come now, pig! now's the time:
Remember what I told ye—squeak directly!
Squeak, can't ye? Curse ye, what's the matter with ye?
Squeak when I bid you, I say; by Mercury,
I'll carry you back to Megara if you don't.
Daught. Wee Wée.
Meg. Do ye hear the pig?
Dic. The pig, do ye call it?
It will be a different creature before long. 1040
Meg. It will take after the mother, like enough.
Dic. Aye, but this pig won't do for sacrifice.
Meg. Why not? Why won't it do for sacrifice?
Dic. Imperfect! here's no tail!
Meg. Poh, never mind;
It will have a tail in time, like all the rest.
But feel this other, just the fellow to it;
With a little further keeping, it would serve
For a pretty dainty sacrifice to Venus.
Dic. You warrant 'em weaned? they'll feed without the mother?
Meg. Without the mother or the father either. 1050
Dic. But what do they like to eat?
Meg. Just what ye give 'em;
You may ask 'em if you will.
Dic. Pig, Pig!
1st Daught. Wee Wée.
Dic. Pig, are ye fond of peas?
1st Daught. Wee Wée, Wee Wée.
Dic. Are ye fond of figs?
1st Daught. Wee Wée, Wee Wée, Wee Weé.
Dic. You little one, are you fond of figs?
2nd Daught. Wee Wée.
Dic. What a squeak was there! they're ravenous for the figs;
Go somebody, fetch out a parcel of figs
For the little pigs! Heh, what, they'll eat I warrant.
Lawk there, look at 'em racketing and bustling!
How they do munch and crunch! in the name of heaven,
Why, sure they can't have eaten 'em all already! 1061
Meg. (sneakingly). Not all, there's this one here, I took myself.
Dic. Well, faith, they're clever comical animals.
What shall I give you for 'em? What do ye ask?
Meg. I must have a gross of onions for this here;
And the other you may take for a peck of salt.
Dic. I'll keep 'em; wait a moment. [Exit.
Meg. Heaven be praised!
Ο blessed Mercury, if I could but manage
To make such another bargain for my wife,
I'd do it to-morrow, or my mother either. 1070
Inf. Fellow, from whence?
Meg. From Megara with my pigs.
Inf. Then I denounce your pigs, and you yourself,
As belonging to the enemy.
Meg. There it is!
The beginning of all our troubles over again.
Inf. I'll teach you to come Megarising here:
Let go of the sack there.
Ho, Dicæopolis! there's a fellow here
Dic. Denouncing is he? Constables,
Why don't you keep the market clear of sycophants?
You fellow, I must inform ye, your informing 1080
Is wholly illegal and informal here.
Inf. What, giving information against the enemy;
Is that prohibited?
Dic. At your peril! Carry
Your information to some other market.
Meg. What a plague it is at Athens, this informing!
Dic. Ο never fear, Megarian; take it there,
The payment for your pigs, the salt and onions:
And fare you well.
Meg. That's not the fashion amongst us.
We've not been used to faring well.
Dic. No matter.
If it's offensive, I'll revoke the wish; 1090
And imprecate it on myself instead. [Exit.
Meg. There now, my little pigs, you must contrive
To munch your bread with salt, if you can get it. [Exit.
The following song consists merely of a satirical enumeration and description of persons, now, for the most part, entirely forgotten. An attempt has therefore been made to give some interest to it (an interest of curiosity at least) by a close imitation of the metre of the original. The Cratinus here mentioned is not the celebrated comic author, but a cotemporary lyrical poet, of whom nothing, I believe, is known. The name of Hyperbolus is upon record, as that of a turbulent public speaker and accuser, Cleonymus is noted in this and other comedies (see p. 8, lines 113, 114), as a great overgrown coward, and a voracious intrusive guest.
Chorus. Our friend's affairs improve apace; his lucky speculation
Is raising him to wealth and place, to name and reputation.
With a revenue neat and clear,
Arising without risk or fear,
No sycophant will venture here
To spoil his occupation.
Not Ctesias, the dirty spy, that lately terrified him; 1100
Nor Prepis, with his infamy, will jostle side beside him;
Clothed in a neat and airy dress,
He'll move at ease among the press,
Without a fear of nastiness,
Or danger to betide him.
Hyperbolus will never dare to indict him, or arrest him.
Cleonymus will not be there to bother and molest him.
Nor he, the bard of little price,
Cratinus, with the curls so nice,
Cratinus in the new device 1110
In which the barber dressed him.
Nor he, the paltry saucy rogue, the poor and undeserving
Lysistratus, that heads the vogue, in impudence unswerving.
Taunt and offence in all he says;
Ruined in all kinds of ways;
In every month of thirty days,
Nine and twenty starving.
Enter a Theban with his attendants, all bearing burdens;
followed by a train of bagpipers.
Theb. Good troth, I'm right down shoulder-galled; my lads,
Set down your bundles. You, take care o' the herbs. 1121
Gently, be sure don't bruise 'em; and now, you minstrels,
That needs would follow us all the way from Thebes;
Blow wind i' the tail of your bagpipes, puff away.
Dic. Get out! what wind has brought 'em here, I wonder?
A parcel of hornets buzzing about the door!
You humble-bumble drones—Get out! Get out!
Theb. As Iolaus shall help me, that's well done,
Friend, and I thank you;—coming out of Thebes,
They blew me away the blossom of all these herbs.
You've sarved 'em right. So now would you please to buy,
What likes you best, of all my chaffer here; 1130
All kinds, four-footed things and feathered fowl.
Dic. (suddenly, with the common trick of condescension, as if he
had not observed him before).
My little tight Bœotian! Welcome kindly,
My little pudding-eater! What have you brought?
Theb. In a manner, everything, as a body may say;
All the good cheer of Thebes, and the primest wares,
Mats, trefoil, wicks for lamps, sweet marjoram,
Coots, didappers, and water-hens—what not?
Widgeon and teal.
Dic. Why, you're come here amongst us,
Like a north wind in winter, with your wild fowl.
Theb. Moreover I've brought geese, and hares moreover,
And eels from the lake Copais, which is more. 1140
Dic. Ο thou bestower of the best spichcocks
That ever yet were given to mortal man,
Permit me to salute those charming eels.
Theb. (addressing the eel, and delivering it to Dicæopolis).
Daughter, come forth, and greet the courteous stranger,
First-born of fifty damsels of the lake!
Dic. Ο long regretted and recovered late,
Welcome, thrice welcome to the Comic Choir;
Welcome to me, to Morychus, and all.
(Ye slaves prepare the chafing dish and stove.) 1150
Children, behold her here, the best of eels,
The loveliest and the best, at length returned
After six years of absence. I myself
Will furnish you with charcoal for her sake.
Salute her with respect, and wait upon
Her entrance there within, with due conveyance
[The eel is here carried off by Dicæopolis 's servants.
Grant me, ye Gods! so to possess thee still,
While my life lasts, and at my latest hour,
Fresh even and sweet as now, with . . . savoury sauce.
Theb. But how am I to be paid for it? Won't you tell me?
Dic. Why, with respect to the eel, in the present instance,
I mean to take it as a perquisite, 1160
As a kind of toll to the market; you understand me.
These other things of course are meant for sale.
Theb. Yes, sure. I sell 'em all.
Dic. Well, what do you ask?
Or would you take commodities in exchange?
Theb. Aye; think of something of your country produce,
That's plentiful down here, and scarce up there.
Dic. Well, you shall take our pilchards or our pottery.
Theb. Pilchards and pottery! Naugh, we've plenty of they.
But think of something, as I said before, 1171
That's plentiful down here, and scarce up there.
Dic. (after a moments reflection).
I have it! A true-bred sycophant and informer.
Ill give you one, tied neatly and corded up,
Like an oil-jar.
Theb. Aye; that's fair; by the holy twins!
He'd bring in money, I warrant, money enough,
Amongst our folks at home, with showing him,
Like a mischief-full kind of a foreign ape.
Dic. Well, there's Nicarchus moving down this way,
Laying his informations. There he comes. 1180
Theb. (contemplating him with the eye of a purchaser).
'A seems but a small one to look at.
Dic. Aye, but I promise ye,
He's full of tricks and roguery, every inch of him.
Nic. (in the pert peremptory tone of his profession as an informer).
Whose goods are these? these articles?
Theb. Mine, sure;
We be come here from Thebes.
Nic. Then I denounce them
As enemies' property.
Theb. (with an immediate outcry). Why, what harm have they done,
The birds and creatures? Why do you quarrel with 'em?
Nic. And I'll denounce you too.
Theb. What, me? What for?
Nic. To satisfy the bystanders, I'll explain.
You've brought in wicks of lamps from an enemy's country.
Dic. (ironically). And so, you bring 'em to light?
Nic. I bring to light
A plot!—a plot to burn the arsenal! 1191
Dic. (ironically). With the wick of a lamp?
Dic. In what way?
Nic. (with great gravity). A Bœotian might be capable of fixing it.
On the back of a cockroach, who might float with it
Into the arsenal, with a north-east wind;
And if once the fire caught hold of a single vessel,
The whole would be in a blaze.
Dic. (seizing hold of him). You dog! You villain!
Would a cockroach burn the ships and the arsenal?
Nic. Bear witness all of ye.
Dic. There, stop his mouth; 1200
And bring me a band of straw to bind him up;
And send him safely away, for fear of damage,
Gently and steadily, like a potter's jar.
The metre of the following song is given as a tolerably near approach to that of the original; in fact, the nearest which has been found consistent with the necessity of rhyme.
Chorus. To preserve him safe and sound,
You must have him fairly bound,
With a cordage nicely wound,
Up and down, and round and round;
Dic. I shall have a special care,
For he's a piece of paltry ware; 1210
And as you strike him, here—or there—(striking him)
The noises he returns declare [The informer screaming.
He's partly cracked.
Chorus. How then is he fit for use?
Dic. As a store-jar of abuse.
Plots and lies he cooks and brews,
Slander and seditious news,
Chorus. Have you stowed him safe enough?
Dic. Never fear, he's hearty stuff;
Fit for usage hard and rough, 1220
Fit to beat and fit to cuff,
To toss and fling.
You can hang him up or down,
By the heels or by the crown.
Theb. I'm for harvest business bown.
Chorus. Fare ye well, my jolly clown.
We wish ye joy.
You've a purchase tight and neat;
A rogue, a sycophant complete;
Fit to bang about and beat, 1230
Fit to stand the cold and heat,
And all employ.
Dic. I'd a hard job with the rascal, tying him up!
Come, my Bœotian, take away your bargain.
Theb. (speaking to one of his servants).
Ismenias, stoop your back, and heave him up.
There—softly and fairly—so—now carry him off.
Dic. He's an unlucky commodity; notwithstanding,
If he earns you a profit, you can have to say,
What few can say, you've been the better for him,
And mended your affairs by the informer. 1240
Enter a Slave.
Slave (in a loud voice). Ho, Dicæopolis!
Dic. Well, what's the matter?
Why need ye bawl so?
Slave. Lamachus sends his orders,
With a drachma for a dish of quails, and three
For that Copaic eel, he bid me give you.
Dic. An eel for Lamachus? Who is Lamachus?
Slave. The fierce and hardy warrior; he that wields
The Gorgon shield, and waves the triple plume.
Dic. And if he'd give me his shield, he should not have it:
Let him wave his plumage over a mess of salt fish.
What's more; if he takes it amiss and makes a riot, 1250
I'll speak to the clerk of the market, you may tell him.
But as for me, with this my precious basket,
Hence I depart, while ortolans and quails
Attend my passage and partake the gales. [Exit.
An attempt has been here made to reproduce in English the peculiar metre of the original, in which (after an irregular beginning) each line is made to consist of four cretic measures, of which it is requisite that the three first should be of the form already described in p. 24 (namely, a crotchet followed by three quavers). The difficulty arising from the great scarcity of short syllables in the English language, as compared with the Greek, has led to some infractions of this rule, in the unequal length of some of the lines, and the substitution of the common cretic measure, in its usual unresolved form; not to mention one or two indefensible but unavoidable false quantities, together with certain hiatuses and semi-hiatuses, which in a less restricted metre it would not have been difficult to avoid.
Epirrema: Ο behold, behold
The serene happy sage,
The profound mighty mind,
Miracle of our age,
Calmly wise, prosperous in enterprise,
Cool, correct, boundless in the compass of his intellect.
Savoury commodities and articles of every kind 1261
Pouring in upon him, and accumulating all around.
Some to be reserved apart, ready for domestic use;
Some again, that require
Quickly to be broiled or roast, hastily devoured and smoused,
On the spot, piping hot.
See there, as a sample of his hospitable elegance,
Feathers and a litter of his offal at the door displayed!
War is my aversion! I detest the very thought of him.
Never in my life will I receive him in my house again; 1270
Positively never; he behaved in such a beastly way.
There we were assembled at a dinner of the neighbourhood.
Mirth and unanimity prevailed till he reversed it all,
Coming in among us of a sudden, in a haughty style.
Civilly we treated him enough, with a polite request,
"Please ye to be seated, and to join us in a fair carouse."
Nothing of the kind! but unaccountably he began to storm,
Brandishing a torch as if he meant to set the house afire,
Swaggering and hectoring, abusing and assaulting us.
First he smashed the jars, he spoilt and spilt the wines;
Next he burnt the stakes, and ruined all the vines.
Am endeavour to develop with more effect a pretty fanciful allusion in the original has led to another infraction of the metrical rule above described. It is to be hoped, however, that the passage in question (from v. 7 to 14) will not be found to exhibit any marked departure from the general character which belongs to this peculiar form of the cretic metre. The picture, the work of Zeuxis, was an object well known to all the inhabitants of Athens; for the sake of the modern reader, it was necessary to insert a slight sketch of it.
Wherefore are ye gone away, 1282
Whither are ye gone astray,
Vanishing, eloping, and abandoning unhappy Greece?
Love is as a painter ever, doting on a fair design.
Zeuxis has illustrated a vision and a wish of mine.
Cupid is portrayed
With an amaranthine braid 1290
Waving in his hand;
With a lover and a maid
Bounded in a band.
Cupid is uniting both,
Think then if I saw ye with a Cupid in a tether, dear,
Binding and uniting us eternally together here.
Think of the delight of it; in harmony to live at last,
Making it a principle to cancel all offences past.
Really I propose it, and I promise ye to do my best 1300
(Old as you may fancy me), to sacrifice my peace and rest;
Working in my calling as a father of a family,
Labouring and occupied in articles of husbandry.
You shall have an orchard, with the fig-trees in a border round
Planted all in order, and a vineyard and an olive ground.
When the month is ended, we'll repose from toil,
With a bath and banquet, wine and anointing oil.
Herald or Crier. Here ye! Good people! Hear ye! A Festival—
According to ancient custom—this same day—
The feast of the pitchers—with the prize for drinkers, 1310
To drink at the sound of the trumpet. He that wins
To receive a wine skin; Ctesiphon's own skin.
Dic. Ο slaves! ye boys and women! Heard ye not
The summons of the herald? Hasten forth,
With quick despatch, to boil, to roast, to fry;
Hacking and cutting, plucking, gutting, flaying;
Hashing and slashing, mincing, fricasseeing.
And plait the garlands nimbly; and bring me here
Those, the least skewers of all, to truss the quails.
When Aristophanes cannot make use of his Chorus to sustain an efficient part, he is apt to indemnify himself for the incumbrance they create, by turning the essential characteristics of a Chorus into ridicule. Here then, and at the close of the following scene (that between Dicæopolis and the countryman) they are represented as time—serving and obsequious; in The Lysistrata, as dawdling, useless, and silly (v. 319 to 49); and in The Birds, as exciting the spleen and impatience of the practical active man of business, by their vague speculations and poetical pedantry (1313 to 36). In The Peace, the absurdity of introducing such a Chorus is kept out of sight by the absurd unmanageable behaviour of the Chorus itself (v. 309).
Chorus.Your designs and public ends 1320
First attracted us as friends.
But the present boiled and roast
Surprises and delights us most.
Dic.Wait awhile, if nothing fails,
You shall see a dish of quails.
Chorus. We depend upon your care,
Dic. Rouse the fire and mend it there.
Chorus.See with what a gait and air,
What a magisterial look,
Like a cool determined cook, 1330
He conducts the whole affair.
Enter a Countryman, groaning and lamenting.
Countr. Ο miserable! wretched! wretched man!
Dic. Fellow, take care with those unlucky words.
Apply them to yourself.
Countr. Ah, dear good friend,
So you've got peace; a peace all to yourself!
And if ye could but spare me a little drop,
Just only a little taste, only five years.
Dic. Why, what's the matter with ye?
Countr. I'm ruinated,
Quite and entirely, losing my poor beasts,
My oxen, I lost 'em, both of 'em.
Dic. In what way? 1340
Countr. The Bœotians! the Bœotians! it was they.
They came down at the back of Phyle there,
And drove away my bullocks, both of 'em . . .
Dic. But you're in white. I see; you're out of mourning.
Countr. (in continuation).
. . . That indeed were all my comfort and support:
That used to serve for my manure and maintenance
In dung and daily bread; the poor dear beasts.
Dic. And what is it you want?
Countr. I'm blind well nigh,
With weeping and grief. Derketes is my name,
In a farm here next to Phyle born and bred: 1350
So if ever you wish to do what's friendly by me,
Do smear my two poor eyes with the balsam of peace.
Dic. Friend, I'm not keeping a dispensary.
Countr. Do, just to get me a sight of my poor oxen.
Dic. Impossible! you must go to the hospital.
Countr. Do, pray, just only give me the least drop.
Dic. Not the least drop—not I—go—get ye gone.
Countr. Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear! my poor dear oxen!
Chorus.He, the chief, is now possessing
Peace as an exclusive blessing, 1360
Which he will not part withal.
Dic. Mix honey with the savoury dishes!
Be careful with the cuttle fishes!
Stew me the kidneys with the caul!
Chorus. Hear him shout there. Hear him bawl!
Dic. (louder). Season and broil him there—that eel!
Chorus. You don't consider what we feel;
We're famished her with waiting;
While you choke
Us with your smoke, 1370
And deafen us with prating.
Dic. Those cutlets, brown them nicely—there—do ye mind.
Enter a Bridesman.
Brid. Ho, Dicæopolis!
Dic. Who's there! Who's that?
Brid. A bridegroom, that has sent a dish of meat
From his marriage feast.
Dic. Well! come! That's handsome of him;
That's proper, whoever he is; that's as it should be.
Brid. In fact, my friend the bridegroom, he that sent it,
Objects to foreign service just at present;
He begs you'd favour him with the balsam of peace;
A trifling quantity, in the box I've brought. 1380
Dic. No, No! take back the dish; I can't receive it.
Dispose it somewhere else; take it away.
I would not part with a particle of my balsam,
For all the world—not for a thousand drachmas,
But that young woman there, who's she?
Bridesman. The bridesmaid;
With a particular message from the bride;
Wishing to speak a word in private with you.
Dic. Well, what have ye got to say ? Let's hear it all!
Come—step this way—No, nearer—in a whisper—
Nearer, I say—come, there now; tell me about it. 1390
[After listening with comic attention to a supposed whisper.
Oh, bless me; what a capital, comical,
Extraordinary string of female reasons
For keeping a young bridegroom safe at home!
Well, we'll indulge her, since she's only a woman;
She's not obliged to serve; bring out the balsam!
Come, where's your little vial?—but I say—
Do you know the manner of it?—no, not you.
How should you, a girl like you! what; I must tell you?
Yes—and you'll tell the bride; she must observe:
When a ballot is on foot for foreign service; 1400
At the hour of midnight, when he's fast asleep,
Then she must be particularly careful,
Without disturbing him, to anoint him. There!
(giving her back the vial).[Exit Bridesmaid.
Now take the balsam back, and bring me a funnel
To rack my wine off. I must mix my wine.
Chorus. See yet another! posting here, it seems,
With awful tidings, anxious and aghast.
Mess. Ho, Lamachus, I say! Lamachus, Ho!
Here's terror and tribulation, wars and woe!
[Lamachus appears, probably with some appendage, to mark the interest which he had been taking in the culinary operations supposed to be going on behind the stage.
Lam. What hasty summons shakes the castle gates? 1410
Mess. The generals have despatched an order to you
To muster your caparisons and garrisons,
And march to the mountain passes; there to wait
In ambush in the snow: for fresh advices
Have been received, with a credible intimation
Of a suspicion of an expedition
Of a marauding party from Bœotia.
Lam. Generals! Aye, generals! the more the worse.
Dic. Well, is not it hard that a man can't eat his dinner,
But he's to be disturbed and called from table, 1420
With wars . and Lamachuses, and what not?
Lam. You mock me. alas!
Dic. Say, would you wish to grapple,
In single combat, with this mailed monster?
[Showing a lobster.
Lam. Alas, that dismal fatal messenger!
Dic. But here's a message too, coming for me.
2nd Mess. Ho, Dicæopolis!
Dic. Well, what?
2nd Mess. You're summoned
To go without a moment's loss of time,
With your whole cookery, to the priest of Bacchus.
The company are arrived; you keep them waiting,
Everything else is ready—couches, tables, 1430
Cushions, and coverlids for mattresses,
Dancing and singing girls for mistresses,
Plum cake and plain, comfits and caraways,
Confectionery, fruits preserved and fresh,
Relishes of all sorts, hot things and bitter,
Savouries and sweets, broiled biscuits, and what not;
Flowers and perfumes and garlands, everything.
You must not lose a moment.
Lam. Out alas!
Wretch that I am!
Dic. 'Tis your own fault entirely,
For enlisting in the service of the Gorgons. 1440
There, shut the door, and serve the dishes here.
Lam. My knapsack and camp service; bring it out.
Dic. My dinner service; bring it here, you lout.
Lam. Give me my bunch of leeks, the soldiers' fare.
Dic. I'm partial to veal cutlets; bring them there.
Lam. Let's see the salt fish; it seems like to rot.
Dic. I take fresh fish, and broil it on the spot.
Lam. Bring me the lofty feathers of my crest.
Dic. Bring doves and quails; I scarce know which is best.
Lam. Behold this snowy plume of dazzling white. 1450
Dic. Behold the roasted dove, a savoury sight.
Lam. Don't mock these arms of mine, good fellow, pri'thee.
Dic. These quails of mine, don't think to take them with ye.
Lam. The case that holds my crest—bring it in haste.
Dic. And the hare-pie for me—bring it in paste.
Lam. My crest—have the moths spoilt it? no, not yet.
Dic. My dinner—shall I spoil it by a whet.
Lam. Fellow, direct not your discourse to me.
Dic. Aye, but this boy and I, we can't agree;
And we've a kind of wager, which is best, 1460
Locusts or quails, forsooth.
Lam. Sirrah, your jest
Dic. My wager's gone this bout:
He's all, you see, for locusts, out and out.
Various demonstrations of menace and defiance take place between Lamachus and Dicæopolis. Lamachus has called for his lance in anger; Dicæopolis calls for the spit: both are brought, but neither of them in a state fit for service. Lamachus (after a hostile reconnoitring look), Conscious oi his present disadvantage, proceeds to unsheath his rusty weapon; but, in the meantime, Dicæopolis has succeeded in disengaging bis spit from the roast-meat, and appears again ready to confront him upon equal terms. Here again are reciprocal looks and gestures of hostility, which terminate in mutual forbearance. Any amusement which this scene might have afforded to the spectators, must have been derived from the humour of the performers; to the mere reader, and more particularly to the modern reader, it must be uninteresting; and might have been passed over, but for a wish (which perhaps has been carried too far) to omit nothing that was admissible.
Lam. Bring here my lance; unsheath the deadly point.
Dic. Bring here the spit, and show the roasted joint.
Lam. This sheath is rusted. Come, boy, tug and try.
Ah, there it comes.
Dic. (unspitting his roast meat). It comes quite easily.
Lam. Bring forth the props of wood, my shield's support.
Dic. Bring bread, for belly timber; that's your sort!
Lam. My Gorgon-orbed shield; bring it with speed. 1470
Dic. With this full-orbed pancake I proceed.
Lam. Is not this insolence too much to bear?
Dic. Is not this pancake exquisite and rare?
Lam. Pour oil upon the shield! What do I trace
In the divining mirror? 'Tis the face
Of an old coward, petrified with fear,
That sees his trial for desertion near.
Dic. Pour honey on the pancake! what appears?
A comely personage, advanced in years;
Firmly resolved to laugh at and defy 1480
Both Lamachus and the Gorgon family.
Lam. Bring forth my trusty breastplate for the fight.
Dic. Bring forth the lusty goblet, my delight!
Lam. I'll charge with this, accoutred every limb.
Dic. I'll charge with this, a bumper to the brim.
Lam. Boys, strap the shield and bedding in a pack!
I'll bear myself my knapsack on my back.
Dic. Boy, strap the basket with my feasting mess;
While I just step within to change my dress.
Lam. Come, boy, take up my shield, and trudge away. 1490
It snows!—Good lack; we've wintry work to-day.
Dic. Boy, take the basket. Jolly work, I say.
Chorus. Go your ways in sundry wise,
Each upon his enterprise.
One determined to carouse,
With a garland on his brows,
And a comely lass beside him.
His opponent forth hath hied him,
Resolute to pass the night,
In a military plight, 1500
Undelighted and alone;
With his head upon a stone.
The action of the stage, and even all allusion to it, are suspended during the following songs, which serve to afford an interval of dramatic time during which Dicæopolis may be supposed to have returned from his feast, and Lamachus from his expedition. The Chorus remain in possession of the stage, and of their primitive privilege of desultory individual satire. The latter is directed against Antimachus, who, it seems, had given offence to the dramatic powers by the scantiness of his entertainments. I do not know whether it would be refining too much to observe that even this capricious sally harmonises with what has preceded, as well as with the interval which is supposed to elapse; by the culinary images in the first part, and by the description of a person returning home late at night, in the second. Some circumstances in the original are omitted in the translation, as they seem intended to account for what does not appear unaccountable to a modern; namely, that a man should walk home at night without a stick. In the passage which immediately follows, the Chorus commence their remonstrance in a calm sober tone which they are unable to maintain. This effect is produced in the original, by the quiet prosaic methodical form of words by which Antimachus is designated—a nicety of tone which it was impossible to attain or at least to render obvious in a translation.
Chorus. We're determined to discuss
Our difference with Antimachus,
Calmly, simply, candidly;
Praying to the powers above—
And the just almighty Jove,
To—Sink and blast him utterly. 1510
He that sent us all away
T'other evening from the play,
Hungry, thirsty, supperless;
Him we shortly trust to see
Sunk in equal misery,
In the like distress,
With a pennyworth of fish,
And a curious eager wish
To behold it fried;
Let him watch, and wait, and turn, 1520
With a hungry deep concern,
Standing there beside.
Let an accident befall,
Which shall overturn the stall,
And the fishes frying;
There shall he behold the dish
Topsy-turvy, with the fish
In the kennel lying.
As he stoops to pick and wipe it,
Let a greedy greyhound gripe it, 1530
Snatch and eat it flying.
Him let other ills befall,
Walking home beneath the wall,
Late at night, attacked by ruffians,
Orestes and his ragamuffins;
Unprotected and alone,
Groping round to find a stone,
Let him grasp for his defence
A ponderous sirreverence;
Furious, eager, in the dark, 1540
Let him fling and miss the mark,
Smiting upon the cheek, but not severely,
Messenger, Servant of Lamachus, Lamachus,
Dicæopolis, and Chorus.
The following speech of the Messenger is a burlesque of the tragic speeches in which the arrival of the wounded hero was announced in the last act of a Tragedy.
Messenger. Ye slaves that dwell in Lamachus's mansion,
Prepare hot water instantly in the pipkin;
With embrocations and emollients,
And bandages and plaster for your lord.
His foot is maimed and crippled with a stake,
Which wounded it, as he leaped across a trench.
His ankle-bone is out, his head is broken, 1550
The Gorgon on his shield all smashed and spoiled.
But when the lofty plume of the cock lorrel
That decked his helm, fell downward in the dirt,
He groaned, and spake aloud despairingly:
"Ο glorious light of Heaven. Farewell, Farewell!
For the last time; my destined days are done."
Thus moaning and lamenting, down he fell
Direct into the ditch; jumped up again;
Rushed out afresh; rallied the runaways;
Made the marauders run; ran after them, 1560
With his spear point smiting their hinder parts.
But here he comes himself; set the door open.
Lamachus is brought in, wounded and disabled; his appearance and attendants are caricatures of the exhibition of the wounded heroes, whom it had become the fashion to introduce. The dialogue is a burlesque of the lyrical agonies and lamentations of the same personages.
Lam. Out, out alas!
I'm racked and torn,
With agony scarce to be borne,
From that accursed spear:
But worst of all, I fear,
If Dicæopolis beholds me here,
That he, my foe, will chuckle at my fall.
Dic. My charming lass, 1570
What joy is this!
What ecstasy! do give me a kiss!
There coax me, and hug me close, and sympathise;
I've swigged the gallon off; I've won the prize.
Lam. Ο what a consummation of my woes,
What throbs and throes!
Dic. Eh there! my little Lamachus! How goes?
Lam. I'm in distress.
Dic. I'm in no less.
Lam. Mock not at my misery. 1580
Dic. Accuse me not of mockery.
Lam. Twas at the final charge; I'd paid before
A number of the rogues; at least a score.
Dic. It was a most expensive charge you bore:
Poor Lamachus! he was forced to pay the score!
Lam. Ο mercy, mighty Apollo!
Dic. What, do ye holloh
A'ter Apollo? it an't his feast to-day.
Lam. (to his bearers).
Don't press me,
Dear friends! 1590
But place me
Gently and tenderly.
Dic. (to the women).
Gently and tenderly.
Lam. Strip off the incumbrance of this warlike gear,
And take me to my bed. . . .
Dic. Strip off incumbrances, my pretty dear,
And take me off to bed. 1600
Lam. Or bear me to the public hospital
Dic. Bring me before the judges; one and all
I've won the prize;
As this true gallon measure testifies.
I've drunk it off. "I triumph great and glorious."
Chorus. And well you may; triumph away, good fellow;
Dic. To show my manhood furthermore, and spirit in the struggle,
I quailed it off within my breath; I gulped it in a guggle.
Chorus. Then take the wine-skin as your due.
We triumph and rejoice with you. 1610
Dic. Then fill my train,
And join the strain.
Chorus. With all my heart;
We'll bear a part.
All. We're triumphant, great and glorious,
We've won to-day,
Wine-skin and all!
- A bad tragic poet, ridiculed in this play.
- Peacocks had been introduced at the public charge, and were exhibited monthly. It is to be supposed that the exhibition had become rather stale.
- The name of an unknown and extraordinary place is sometimes used to express wonder. In New England a thing is said to be "Jerusalem fine." Flanders in the time of Philip III. served the Spaniards for a phrase of wonder, "No hay mas Flandes."
- The imaginative spirit of antiquity had transformed the head of a ship into the likeness of a human face; the keel served for a nose, a painted eye being inserted on each side, and a portion of the convex projections of the stern was coloured red, to represent a pair of cheeks, whence the epithet "red-cheeked" is applied to ships in Homer. The face thus produced was appropriated to Medusa by the addition of two snakes diverging from it, and running along the gunwale (according to Hipponax's description "as if they were going to bite the head of the steersman"). The whole vessel was thus converted into the form of a protecting amulet. It appears by what Herodotus says of the oracle addressed to the Siphnians, that the "red cheeks" must have gone out of fashion in his time; but the "eye" is still universal in the Mediterranean, and the writer of this note has seen the snake in its proper position or direction on the gunwale of small craft in the harbour of Valetta and in the Bay of Cadiz.
- Theorus is noted in the Wasps as a flattering, super-civil, parasitical person. See his efforts at reconciliation in the next page.
- The common practice of lovers both in ancient and modern times; but in this instance there is probably an allusion to some public monuments which recorded the king's alliance with the Athenians in terms flattering to their national vanity.
- An eminent conqueror in the foot-race at Olympia. There was probably some story of his having been matched (under certain disadvantages) against an active man who had been used to run under a burthen.
- This comedy was produced in 425 B.C., the sixth year of the Peloponnesian war.
- The extravagant burlesque which follows turns upon the occupation of the Acharnians as charcoal-burners.
- A burlesque of some scene in a contemporary tragedy in which the actors were "brought to a dead-lock." It should seem as if, in the original here parodied, the assailants had been kept at bay by the counter-menace of destroying some royal infant in a cradle, which suggested the substitute of a hamper of charcoal. In one of the existing tragedies of Euripides there is an instance of a dead-lock quite as deeded as the one which seems to be parodied here.
- Parody of the rhetorical style of Euripides.
- The Babylonians.
- A lyrical and tragic poet particularly studious of the terrific.
- This play is lost, but Sisyphus had been represented in old poetic legends as so artful a person, that he had persuaded Proserpine to consent to his release from the infernal regions.
- A mark of rusticity. Dicæopolis mentions his demus in addition to his name.
- This and the names which follow refer to personages in those dramas of Euripides in which his object had been (what in poetry, as in real life, is the meanest of all) to excite compassion.
- In the play which is here burlesqued, Telephus had been speaking in an assumed character, and had appeared, with a similar ambiguous form, to be imprecating evil upon himself.
- His mother was of very low condition.
- See p. 13, for the characters of the two Semichoruses.
- The rhymes in the text are intentional. The Scholiast tells us that the original contains an allusion to the words of a well-known drinking song.
- The Scholiast mentions all these persons as disreputable intriguers. The Athenians were already extending their views to Sicily.
- Names allusive to their occupation as charcoal-burners.
- Monthly payments to their club.
- These inferences are distinctly deducible from the Parabasis of The Knights.
- Ap. Athen., p. 86. Compare this with Knights, v. 651, and the whole passage to which it belongs.
- Not known in history, but said by the Scholiast to have been noted by the contemporary comic poets as a troublesome contentious orator.
- An orator famous, or rather infamous, as a bold and dangerous accuser.
- These were purchased slaves, the property of the state, employed by the magistrates as a police guard: see Thesm. v. 1001. They were also employed to maintain order in the public assembly, and to force disorderly persons to descend from the bema. This part of their duties is alluded to elsewhere: see Eccles. v. 143, 258.
- The Athenians could not claim the invention of comedy, which belonged to the Megarians: they therefore indemnified themselves by decrying the humour of the Megarians, as low and vulgar.
- See p. 25, lines 655–659.
- At the close of the play, a splendid supper was given by the choregus to the whole Comic Choir; authors, actors, and judges. Morychus was a noted epicure.
- The soundness of an earthen vessel is ascertained by striking a smart blow upon it, and attending to the tone which it gives out.
- The Informer being by this time fairly corded and packed, is flung about and hung up, in confirmation of Dicæopolis's warranty.
- The whole of the English Liturgy gives only one instance of five short syllables in succession. In the three first lines of Herodotus we find a succession of six and of five.
- The notion of a person's being flayed, and having his skin converted into a wine keg, appears to have been familiar to the imagination of the Athenians, and of frequent recurrence in their low colloquial language. Ctesiphon is only known as having been ridiculed by the comic poets for his extreme corpulence. The conqueror, therefore, would be rewarded with a prize of unusual magnitude.
- A dignified and authoritative demeanour is an essential requisite to the perfection of the culinary character. The complete cook (as described in that admirable piece of good-humoured parody, L'homme des champs à table)
Donne avec dignité des loix dans sa cuisine,
Et dispose du sort d'un coq ou d'un dindon,
Avec l'air d'un sultan qui condamne au cordon:
Son maintien est altier, et sa mine farouche.
- It was a common practice to anoint the shield before battle. There was likewise a species of divination practised by figures reflected from an oiled surface. These two usages are here alluded to. A similar mode of divination appears from the report of modern travellers to be still employed in Egypt.
- "The pipkin," in allusion to the scantiness of Lamachus's establishment. See p. 28.
- Drinking without deglutition; still practised in Catalonia, the Thracian Aystis.