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The Acharnians

420 BC
THE ACHARNIANS
by Aristophanes
anonymous translator
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

DICAEOPOLIS
HERALD
AMPHITHEUS
AMBASSADORS
PSEUDARTABAS
THEORUS
DAUGHTER OF DICAEOPOLIS
SLAVE OF EURIPIDES
EURIPIDES
LAMACHUS
A MEGARIAN
TWO YOUNG GIRLS, daughters of the Megarian
AN INFORMER
A BOEOTIAN
NICARCHUS
SLAVE OF LAMACHUS
A HUSBANDMAN
A WEDDING GUEST
CHORUS OF ACHARNIAN CHARCOAL BURNERS
ACHARIANS
(SCENE:-The Orchestra represents the Pnyx at Athens; in the back-
ground are the usual houses, this time three in number, belonging
to Dicaeopolis, Euripides, and Lamachus respectively.)

DICAEOPOLIS (alone)
What cares have not gnawed at my heart and how few have been the
pleasures in my life! Four, to be exact, while my troubles have been
as countless as the grains of sand on the shore! Let me see! of what
value to me have been these few pleasures? Ah! I remember that I was
delighted in soul when Cleon had to cough up those five talents; I was
in ecstasy and I love the Knights for this deed; "it is an honour to
Greece." But the day when I was impatiently awaiting a piece by
Aeschylus, what tragic despair it caused me when the herald called,
"Theognis, introduce your Chorus!" Just imagine how this blow struck
straight at my heart! On the other hand, what joy Dexitheus caused
me at the musical competition, when right after Moschus he played a
Boeotian melody on the lyre! But this year by contrast! Oh! what
deadly torture to hear Chaeris perform the prelude in the Orthian
mode!-Never, however, since I began to bathe, has the dust hurt my
eyes as it does to-day. Still it is the day of assembly; all should be
here at daybreak, and yet the Pnyx is still deserted. They are
gossiping in the market-place, slipping hither and thither to avoid
the vermilioned rope. The Prytanes even do not come; they will be
late, but when they come they will push and fight each other for a
seat in the front row. They will never trouble themselves with the
question of peace. Oh! Athens! Athens! As for myself, I do not fail to
come here before all the rest, and now, finding myself alone, I groan,
yawn, stretch, fart, and know not what to do; I make sketches in the
dust, pull out my loose hairs, muse, think of my fields, long for
peace, curse town life and regret my dear country home, which never
told me to "buy fuel, vinegar or oil"; there the word "buy," which
cuts me in two, was unknown; I harvested everything at will. Therefore
I have come to the assembly fully prepared to bawl, interrupt and
abuse the speakers, if they talk of anything but peace. (The Orchestra
begins to fill with people.) But here come the Prytanes, and high time
too, for it is midday! There, just as I said, they are pushing and
fighting for the front seats.
HERALD (officiously)
Step forward, step forward; get within the consecrated area.
AMPHITHEUS (rising)
Has anyone spoken yet?
HERALD
Who asks to speak?
AMPHITHEUS
I do.
HERALD
Your name?
AMPHITHEUS
Amphitheus.
HERALD
Are you not a man?
AMPHITHEUS
No! I am an immortal! Amphitheus was the son of Ceres and
Triptolemus; of him was born Celeus, Celeus wedded Phaenerete, my
grandmother, whose son was Lycinus, and, being born of him I am an
immortal; it is to me alone that the gods have entrusted the duty of
treating with the Lacedaemonians. But, citizens, though I am immortal,
I am dying of hunger; the Prytanes give me nothing.
HERALD (calling)
Officers!
AMPHITHEUS (as the Scythian policemen seize him)
Oh, Triptolemus and Celeus, do ye thus forsake your own blood?
DICAEOPOLIS (rising)
Prytanes, in expelling this citizen, you are offering an outrage
to the Assembly. He only desired to secure peace for us and to sheathe
the sword.
(The Scythians release Amphitheus.)
HERALD
Sit down! Silence!
DICAEOPOLIS
No, by Apollo, I will not, unless you are going to discuss the
question of peace.
HERALD (ignoring this; loudly)
The ambassadors, who are returned from the Court of the King!
DICAEOPOLIS
Of what King? I am sick of all those fine birds, the peacock
ambassadors and their swagger.
HERALD
Silence!
DICAEOPOLIS (as he perceives the entering ambassadors dressed in the
Persian mode)
Oh! oh! By Ecbatana, what a costume!
AMBASSADOR (pompously)
During the archonship of Euthymenes, you sent us to the Great King
on a salary of two drachmae per diem.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
Ah! those poor drachmae!
AMBASSADOR
We suffered horribly on the plains of the Cayster, sleeping
under tent, stretched deliciously on fine chariots, half dead with
weariness.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
And I was very much at ease, lying on the straw along the
battlements!
AMBASSADOR
Everywhere we were well received and forced to drink delicious
wine out of golden or crystal flagons.....
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
Oh, city of Cranaus, thy ambassadors are laughing at thee!
AMBASSADOR
For great feeders and heavy drinkers are alone esteemed as men
by the barbarians.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
Just as here in Athens, we only esteem the wenchers and pederasts.
AMBASSADOR
At the end of the fourth year we reached the King's Court, but
he had left with his whole army to take a crap, and for the space of
eight months he was thus sitting on the can in the midst of the golden
mountains.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
And how long did it take him to close his arse? A month?
AMBASSADOR
After this he returned to his palace; then he entertained us and
had us served with oxen roasted whole in an oven.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
Who ever saw an ox roasted in an oven? What a lie!
AMBASSADOR
And one day, by Zeus, he also had us served with a bird three
times as large as Cleonymus, and called the Hoax.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
And do we give you two drachmae, that you should hoax us thus?
AMBASSADOR
We are bringing to you Pseudartabas, the King's Eye.
DICAEOPOLIS
I would a crow might pluck out yours with his beak, you cursed
ambassador!
HERALD (loudly)
The King's Eye!
(Enter PSEUDARTABAS, in Persian costume; his mask is one great
eye; he is accompanied by two eunuchs.)
DICAEOPOLIS (as he sees kim)
Good God! Friend, with your great eye, round like the hole through
which the oarsman passes his sweep, you have the air of a galley
doubling a cape to gain port.
AMBASSADOR
Come, Pseudartabas, give forth the message for the Athenians
with which you were charged by the Great King.
PSEUDARTABAS
I artamane Xarxas apiaona satra.
AMBASSADOR (to DICAEOPOLIS)
Do you understand what he says?
DICAEOPOLIS
God, no!
AMBASSADOR (to the PRYTANES)
He says that the Great King will send you gold. (to
PSEUDARTABAS) Come, utter the word 'gold' louder and more distinctly.
PSEUDARTABAS
Thou shalt not have gold, thou gaping-arsed Ionian.
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! God help us, but that's clear enough!
AMBASSADOR
What does he say?
DICAEOPOLIS
That the Ionians are gaping-arsed, if they expect to receive
gold from the barbarians.
AMBASSADOR
Not so, he speaks of bushels of gold.
DICAEOPOLIS
What bushels? You're nothing but a wind-bag; get out of the way; I
will find out the truth by myself. (to PSEUDARTABAS) Come now,
answer me clearly, if you do not wish me to dye your skin red. Will
the Great King send us gold? (PSEUDARTABAS makes a negative sign.)
Then our ambassadors are seeking to deceive us? (PSEUDARTABAS signs
affirmatively.) These fellows make signs like any Greek; I am sure
that they are nothing but Athenians. Oh! ho! I recognize one of
these eunuchs; it is Clisthenes, the son of Sibyrtius. Behold the
effrontery of this shaven and provocative arse! How, you big baboon,
with such a beard do you seek to play the eunuch to us? And this other
one? Is it not Straton?
HERALD
Silence! Sit down! The Senate invites the King's Eye to the
Prytaneum.
(The AMBASSADORS and PSEUDARTABAS depart.)
DICAEOPOLIS
Is this not sufficient to drive a man to hang himself? Here I
stand chilled to the bone, whilst the doors of the Prytaneum fly
wide open to lodge such rascals. But I will do something great and
bold. Where is Amphitheus? Come and speak with me.
AMPHITHEUS
Here I am.
DICAEOPOLIS
Take these eight drachmae and go and conclude a truce with the
Lace daemonians for me, my wife and my children; I leave you free,
my dear Prytanes, to send out embassies and to stand gaping in the
air.
(AMPHITHEUS rushes out.)
HERALD
Bring in Theorus, who has returned from the Court of Sitalces.
THEORUS (rising; he wears a Thracian costume.)
I am here.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
Another humbug!
THEORUS
We should not have remained long in Thrace.....
DICAEOPOLIS
....if you had not been well paid.
THEORUS
....if the country had not been covered with snow; the rivers were
ice-bound....
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
That was when Theognis produced his tragedy.
THEORUS
....during the whole of that time I was holding my own with
Sitalces cup in hand; and, in truth, he adored you to such a degree
that he wrote on the walls, "How beautiful are the Athenians!" His
son, to whom we gave the freedom of the city, burned with desire to
come here and eat sausages at the feast of the Apaturia; he prayed his
father to come to the aid of his new country and Sitalces swore on his
goblet that he would succour us with such a host that the Athenians
would exclaim, "What a cloud of grasshoppers!
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
Damned if I believe a word of what you tell us! Excepting the
grasshoppers, there is not a grain of truth in it all!
THEORUS
And he has sent you the most warlike soldiers of all Thrace.
DICAEOPOLIS (aside)
Now we shall begin to see clearly.
HERALD
Come hither, Thracians, whom Theorus brought.
(A few Thracians are ushered in; they have a most unwarlike
appearance; the most striking feature of their costume is the
circumcised phallus.)
DICAEOPOLIS
What plague have we here?
THEORUS
The host of the Odomanti.
DICAEOPOLIS
Of the Odomanti? Tell me what it means. Who sliced their tools
like that?
THEORUS
If they are given a wage of two drachmae, they will put all
Boeotia to fire and sword.
DICAEOPOLIS
Two drachmae to those circumcised hounds! Groan aloud, ye people
of rowers, bulwark of Athens! (The Odomanti steal his sack) Ah!
great gods! I am undone; these Odomanti are robbing me of my garlic!
Give me back my garlic.
THEORUS
Oh! wretched man! do not go near them; they have eaten garlic.
DICAEOPOLIS
Prytanes, will you let me be treated in this manner, in my own
country and by barbarians? But I oppose the discussion of paying a
wage to the Thracians; I announce an omen; I have just felt a drop
of rain.
HERALD
Let the Thracians withdraw and return the day after tomorrow;
the Prytanes declare the sitting at an end.
(All leave except DICAEOPOLIS.)
DICAEOPOLIS
Ye gods, what garlic I have lost! But here comes Amphitheus
returned from Lacedaemon. Welcome, Amphitheus.
(AMPHITHEUS enters, very much out of breath.)
AMPHITHEUS
No, there is no welcome for me and I fly as fast as I can, for I
am pursued by the Acharnians.
DICAEOPOLIS
Why, what has happened?
AMPHITHEUS
I was hurrying to bring your treaty of truce, but some old dotards
from Acharnae got scent of the thing; they are veterans of Marathon,
tough as oak or maple, of which they are made for sure-rough and
ruthless. They all started shouting: "Wretch! you are the bearer of
a treaty, and the enemy has only just cut our vines!" Meanwhile they
were gathering stones in their cloaks, so I fled and they ran after me
shouting.
DICAEOPOLIS
Let 'em shout as much as they please! But have you brought me
treaty?
AMPHITHEUS
Most certainly, here are three samples to select from, this one is
five years old; taste it.
(He hands DICAEOPOLIS a bottle.)
DICAEOPOLIS
Faugh!
AMPHITHEUS
What's the matter?
DICAEOPOLIS
I don't like it; it smells of pitch and of the ships they are
fitting out.
AMPHITHEUS (handing him another bottle)
Here is another, ten years old; taste it.
DICAEOPOLIS
It smells strongly of the delegates, who go around the towns to
chide the allies for their slowness.
AMPHITHEUS (handing him a third bottle)
This last is a truce of thirty years, both on sea and land.
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh! by Bacchus! what a bouquet! It has the aroma of nectar and
ambrosia; this does not say to us, "Provision yourselves for three
days." But it lisps the gentle numbers, "Go whither you will." I
accept it, ratify it, drink it at one draught and consign the
Acharnians to limbo. Freed from the war and its ills, I shall
celebrate the rural Dionysia.
AMPHITHEUS
And I shall run away, for I'm mortally afraid of the Acharnians.
(AMPHITHEUS runs off. DICAEOPOLIS goes into his house, carrying
his truce. The CHORUS of ACHARNIAN CHARCOAL BURNERS enters, in
great haste and excitement.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
This way all! Let us follow our man; we will demand him of
everyone we meet; the public weal makes his seizure imperative. Ho,
there! tell me which way the bearer of the truce has gone.
CHORUS (singing)
He has escaped us, he has disappeared. Damn old age! When I was
young, in the days when I followed Phayllus, running with a sack of
coals on my back, this wretch would not have eluded my pursuit, let
him be as swift as he will.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But now my limbs are stiff; old Lacratides feels his legs are
weighty and the traitor escapes me. No, no, let us follow him; old
Acharnians like our selves shall not be set at naught by a
scoundrel....
CHORUS (singing)
....who has dared, by Zeus, to conclude a truce when I wanted
the war continued with double fury in order to avenge my ruined lands.
No mercy for our foes until I have pierced their hearts like sharp
reed, so that they dare never again ravage my vineyards.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Come, let us seek the rascal; let us look everywhere, carrying our
stones in our hands; let us hunt him from place to place until we trap
him; could never, never tire of the delight of stoning him.
DICAEOPOLIS (from within)
Peace! profane men!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Silence all! Friends, do you hear the sacred formula? Here is
he, whom we seek! This way, all! Get out of his way, surely he comes
to offer an oblation.
(The CHORUS withdraws to one side.)
DICAEOPOLIS (comes out with a pot in his hand; he is followed by
his wife, his daughter, who carries a basket, and two slaves,
who carry the phallus.)
Peace, profane men! Let the basket-bearer come forward, and thou
Xanthias, hold the phallus well upright. Daughter, set down the basket
and let us begin the sacrifice.
DAUGHTER OF DICAEOPOLIS (putting down the basket and taking
out the sacred cake)
Mother, hand me the ladle, that I may spread the sauce on the
cake.
DICAEOPOLIS
It is well! Oh, mighty Bacchus, it is with joy that, freed from
military duty, I and all mine perform this solemn rite and offer
thee this sacrifice; grant that I may keep the rural Dionysia
without hindrance and that this truce of thirty years may be
propitious for me. Come, my child, carry the basket gracefully and
with a grave, demure face. Happy he who shall be your possessor and
embrace you so firmly at dawn, that you fart like a weasel. Go
forward, and have a care they don't snatch your jewels in the crowd.
Xanthias, walk behind the basket-bearer and hold the phallus well
erect; I will follow, singing the Phallic hymn; thou, wife, look on
from the top of the terrace. Forward!
(He sings)
Oh, Phales, companion of the orgies of Bacchus, night reveller,
god of adultery and of pederasty, these past six years I have not been
able to invoke thee. With what joy I return to my farmstead, thanks to
the truce I have concluded, freed from cares, from fighting and from
Lamachuses! How much sweeter, oh Phales, Phales, is it to surprise
Thratta, the pretty woodmaid, Strymodorus' slave, stealing wood from
Mount Phelleus, to catch her under the arms, to throw her, on the
ground and lay her, Oh, Phales, Phales! If thou wilt drink and
bemuse thyself with me, we shall to-morrow consume some good dish in
honour of the peace, and I will hang up my buckler over the smoking
hearth.
(The procession reaches the place where the CHORUS is hiding.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
That's the man himself. Stone him, stone him, stone him, strike
the wretch. All, all of you, pelt him, pelt him!
DICAEOPOLIS (using his pot for a shield)
What is this? By Heracles, you will smash my pot.
(The daughter and the two slaves retreat.)
CHORUS (singing excitedly)
It is you that we are stoning, you miserable scoundrel.
DICAEOPOLIS
And for what sin, Acharnian elders, tell me that!
CHORUS (singing, with greater excitement)
You ask that, you impudent rascal, traitor to your country; you
alone amongst us all have concluded a truce, and you dare to look us
in the face!
DICAEOPOLIS
But you do not know why I have treated for peace. Listen!
CHORUS (singing fiercely)
Listen to you? No, no, you are about to die, we will annihilate
you with our stones.
DICAEOPOLIS
But first of all, listen. Stop, my friends.
CHORUS (singing; with intense hatred)
I will hear nothing; do not address me; I hate you more than I
do Cleon, whom one day I shall flay to make sandals for the Knights.
Listen to your long speeches, after you have treated with the
Laconians? No, I will punish you.
DICAEOPOLIS
Friends, leave the Laconians out of debate and consider only
whether I have not done well to conclude my truce.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Done well! when you have treated with a people who know neither
gods, nor truth, nor faith.
DICAEOPOLIS
We attribute too much to the Laconians; as for myself, I know that
they are not the cause of all our troubles.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh, indeed, rascal! You dare to use such language to me and then
expect me to spare you!
DICAEOPOLIS
No, no, they are not the cause of all our troubles, and I who
address you claim to be able to prove that they have much to
complain of in us.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
This passes endurance; my heart bounds with fury. Thus you dare to
defend our enemies.
DICAEOPOLIS
Were my head on the block I would uphold what I say and rely on
the approval of the people.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Comrades, let us hurl our stones and dye this fellow purple.
DICAEOPOLIS
What black fire-brand has inflamed your heart! You will not hear
me? You really will not, Acharnians?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
No, a thousand times, no.
DICAEOPOLIS
This is a hateful injustice.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
May I die if I listen.
DICAEOPOLIS
Nay, nay! have mercy, have mercy, Acharnians.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
You shall die.
DICAEOPOLIS
Well, blood for blood! I will kill your dearest friend. I have
here the hostages of Acharnae; I shall disembowel them.
(He goes into the house.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Acharnians, what means this threat? Has he got one of our children
in his house? What gives him such audacity?
DICAEOPOLIS (coming out again)
Stone me, if it please you; I shall avenge myself on this. (He
shows them a basket.) Let us see whether you have any love for your
coals.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Great Gods! this basket is our fellow-citizen. Stop, stop, in
heaven's name!
DICAEOPOLIS
I shall dismember it despite your cries; I will listen to nothing.
CHORUS (singing; tragically)
How, will you kill this coal-basket, my beloved comrade?
DICAEOPOLIS
Just now you would not listen to me.
CHORUS (singing; plaintively)
Well, speak now, if you will; tell us, tell us you have a weakness
for the Lacedaemonians. I consent to anything; never will I forsake
this dear little basket.
DICAEOPOLIS
First, throw down your stones.
CHORUS (singing; meekly)
There I it's done. And you put away your sword.
DICAEOPOLIS
Let me see that no stones remain concealed in your cloaks.
CHORUS (singing; petulantly)
They are all on the ground; see how we shake our garments. Come,
no haggling, lay down your sword; we threw away everything while
crossing from one side of the Orchestra to the other.
DICAEOPOLIS
What cries of anguish you would have uttered had these coals of
Parnes been dismembered, and yet it came very near it; had they
perished, their death would have been due to the folly of their
fellow-citizens. The poor basket was so frightened, look, it has
shed a thick black dust over me, the same as a cuttle-fish does.
What an irritable temper! You shout and throw stones, you will not
hear my arguments-not even when I propose to speak in favour of the
Lacedaemonians with my head on the block; and yet I cling to life.
(He goes into the house.)
CHORUS (singing; belligerently again)
Well then, bring out a block before your door, scoundrel, and
let us hear the good grounds you can give us; I am curious to know
them. Now mind, as you proposed yourself, place your head on the block
and speak.
DICAEOPOLIS (coming out of his house, carrying a block)
Here is the block; and, though I am but a very sorry speaker, I
wish nevertheless to talk freely of the Lacedaemonians and without the
protection of my buckler. Yet I have many reasons for fear. I know our
rustics; they are delighted if some braggart comes, and rightly or
wrongly, loads both them and their city with praise and flattery; they
do not see that such toad-eaters are traitors, who sell them for gain.
As for the old men, I know their weakness; they only seek to overwhelm
the accused with their votes. Nor have I forgotten how Cleon treated
me because of my comedy last year; he dragged me before the Senate and
there he uttered endless slanders against me; it was a tempest of
abuse, a deluge of lies. Through what a slough of mud he dragged me! I
almost perished. Permit me, therefore, before I speak, to dress in the
manner most likely to draw pity.
CHORUS (singing; querulously)
What evasions, subterfuges and delays! Wait! here is the sombre
helmet of Pluto with its thick bristling plume; Hieronymus lends it to
you; then open Sisyphus' bag of wiles; but hurry, hurry, for
discussion does not admit of delay.
DICAEOPOLIS
The time has come for me to manifest my courage, so I will go
and seek Euripides. (Knocking on EURIPIDES' door) Ho! slave, slave!
SLAVE (opening the door and poking his head out)
Who's there?
DICAEOPOLIS
Is Euripides at home?
SLAVE
He is and he isn't; understand that, if you can.
DICAEOPOLIS
What's that? He is and he isn't!
SLAVE
Certainly, old man; busy gathering subtle fancies here and
there, his mind is not in the house, but he himself is; perched aloft,
he is composing a tragedy.
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh, Euripides, you are indeed happy to have a slave so quick at
redartee! Now, fellow, call your master.
SLAVE
Impossible! (He slams the door.)
DICAEOPOLIS
Too bad. But I will not give up. Come, let us knock at the door
again. Euripides, my little Euripides, my darling Euripides, listen;
never had man greater right to your pity. It is Dicaeopolis of the
Chollidan Deme who calls you. Do you hear?
EURIPIDES (from within)
I have no time to waste.
DICAEOPOLIS
Very well, have yourself wheeled out here.
EURIPIDES
Impossible.
DICAEOPOLIS
Nevertheless....
EURIPIDES
Well, let them roll me out; as to coming down, I have not the
time.
(The eccyclema turns and presents the interior of the house.
EURIPIDES is lying on a bed, his slave beside him. On the back
wall are hung up tragic costumes of every sort and a multitude
of accessories is piled up on the floor.)
DICAEOPOLIS
Euripides....
EURIPIDES
What words strike my ear?
DICAEOPOLIS
You perch aloft to compose tragedies, when you might just as
well do them on the ground. No wonder you introduce cripples on the
stage. And why do you dress in these miserable tragic rags? No
wonder your heroes are beggars. But, Euripides, on my knees I
beseech you, give me the tatters of some old piece; for I have to
treat the Chorus to a long speech, and if I do it badly it is all over
with me.
EURIPIDES
What rags do you prefer? Those in which I rigged out Oeneus on the
stage, that unhappy, miserable old man?
DICAEOPOLIS
No, I want those of some hero still more unfortunate.
EURIPIDES
Of Phoenix, the blind man?
DICAEOPOLIS
No, not of Phoenix, you have another hero more unfortunate than
him.
EURIPIDES (to himself)
Now, what tatters does he want? (to DICAEOPOLIS) Do you mean those
of the beggar Philoctetes?
DICAEOPOLIS
No, of another far more beggarly.
EURIPIDES
Is it the filthy dress of the lame fellow, Bellerophon?
DICAEOPOLIS
No, not Bellerophon; the one I mean was not only lame and a
beggar, but boastful and a fine speaker.
EURIPIDES
Ah! I know, it is Telephus, the Mysian.
DICAEOPOLIS
Yes, Telephus. Give me his rags, I beg of you.
EURIPIDES
Slave! give him Telephus' tatters; they are on top of the rags
of Thyestes and mixed with those of Ino. There they are; take them.
DICAEOPOLIS (holding up the costume for the audience to see)
Oh! Zeus, whose eye pierces everywhere and embraces all, permit me
to assume the most wretcbed dress on earth. Euripides, cap your
kindness by giving me the little Mysian hat, that goes so well with
these tatters. I must to-day have the look of a beggar; "be what I am,
but not appear to be"; the audience will know well who I am, but the
Chorus will be fools enough not to, and I shall dupe them with my
subtle phrases.
EURIPIDES
I will give you the hat; I love the clever tricks of an
ingenious brain like yours.
DICAEOPOLIS
Rest happy, and may it befall Telephus as I wish. Ah, I already
feel myself filled with quibbles. But I must have a beggar's staff.
EURIPIDES (handing him a staff)
Here you are, and now get away from this porch.
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh, my soul! You see how you are driven from this house, when I
still need so many accessories. But let us be pressing, obstinate,
importunate. Euripides, give me a little basket with a lamp lighted
inside.
EURIPIDES
Whatever do you want such a thing as that for?
DICAEOPOLIS
I do not need it, but I want it all the same.
EURIPIDES (handing him a basket)
You importune me; get out of here!
DICAEOPOLIS
Alas! may the gods grant you a destiny as brilliant as your
mother's."
EURIPIDES
Leave me in peace.
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh, just a little broken cup.
EURIPIDES (handing him a cup)
Take it and go and hang yourself. (to himself) What a tiresome
fellow!
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! you do not know all the pain you cause me. Dear, good
Euripides, just a little pot with a sponge for a stopper.
EURIPIDES
Miserable man! You are stealing a whole tragedy. Here, take it and
be off.
(He hands DICAEOPOLIS a pot.)
DICAEOPOLIS
I am going, but, great gods! I need one thing more; unless I
have it, am a dead man. Hearken, my little Euripides, only give me
this and I go, never to return. For pity's sake, do give me a few
small herbs for my basket.
EURIPIDES
You wish to ruin me then. Here, take what you want; but it is
all over with my plays!
(He hands him some herbs.)
DICAEOPOLIS
I won't ask another thing; I'm going. I am too importunate and
forget that I rouse against me the hate of kings. (He starts to leave,
then returns quickly) Ah! wretch that I am! I am lost! I have
forgotten one thing, without which all the rest is as nothing.
Euripides, my excellent Euripides, my dear little Euripides, may I die
if I ask you again for the smallest present; only one, the last,
absolutely the last; give me some of the chervil your mother left
you in her will.
EURIPIDES
Insolent hound! Slave, lock the door! (The eccyclema turns back
again.)
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh, my soul! we must go away without the chervil. Art thou
sensible of the dangerous battle we are about to engage upon in
defending the Lacedaemonians? Courage, my soul, we must plunge into
the midst of it. Dost thou hesitate and art thou fully steeped in
Euripides? That's right! do not falter, my poor heart, and let us risk
our head to say what we hold for truth. Courage and boldly to the
front. I am astonished at my bravery.
(He approaches the block.)
CHORUS (singing; excitedly)
What do you purport doing? what are you going to say? What an
impudent fellow! what a brazen heart! to dare to stake his head and
uphold an opinion contrary to that of us all! And he does not
tremble to face this peril Come, it is you who desired it, speak!
DICAEOPOLIS
Spectators, be not angered if, although I am a beggar, I dare in
comedy to speak before the people of Athens of the public weal; even
Comedy can sometimes discern what is right. I shall not please, but
I shall say what is true. Besides, Cleon shall not be able to accuse
me of attacking Athens before strangers; we are by ourselves at the
festival of the Lenaea; the time when our allies send us their tribute
and their soldiers is not yet here. There is only the pure wheat
without the chaff; as to the resident aliens settled among us, they
and the citizens are one, like the straw and the ear.
I detest the Lacedaemonians with all my heart, and may Posidon,
the god of Taenarus, cause an earthquake and overturn their dwellings!
My vines too have been cut. But come (there are only friends who
hear me), why accuse the Laconians of all our woes? Some men (I do not
say the city, note particularly that I do not say the city), some
wretches, lost in vices, bereft of honour, who were not even
citizens of good stamp, but strangers, have accused the Megarians of
introducing their produce fraudulently, and not a cucumber, a leveret,
a suckling pig, a clove of garlic, a lump of salt was seen without its
being said, "Halloa! these come from Megara," and their being
instantly confiscated. Thus far the evil was not serious and we were
the only sufferers. But now some young drunkards go to Megara and
carry off the harlot Simaetha; the Megarians, hurt to the quick, run
off in turn with two harlots of the house of Aspasia; and so for three
whores Greece is set ablaze. Then Pericles, aflame with ire on his
Olympian height, let loose the lightning, caused the thunder to
roll, upset Greece and passed an edict, which ran like the song, "That
the Megarians be banished both from our land and from our markets
and from the sea and from the continent." Meanwhile the Megarians, who
were beginning to die of hunger, begged the Lacedaemonians to bring
about the abolition of the decree, of which those harlots were the
cause; several times we refused their demand; and from that time there
was horrible clatter of arms everywhere. You will say that Sparta
was wrong, but what should she have done? Answer that. Suppose that
a Lacedaemonian had seized a little Seriphian dog on any pretext and
had sold it, would you have endured it quietly? Far from it, you would
at once have sent three hundred vessels to sea, and what an uproar
there would have been through all the city I there it's a band of
noisy soldiery, here a brawl about the election of a Trierarch;
elsewhere pay is being distributed, the Pallas figure-heads are
being regilded, crowds are surging under the market porticos,
encumbered with wheat that is being measured, wine-skins,
oar-leathers, garlic, olives, onions in nets; everywhere are chaplets,
sprats, flute-girls, black eyes; in the arsenal bolts are being
noisily driven home, sweeps are being made and fitted with leathers;
we hear nothing but the sound of whistles, of flutes and fifes to
encourage the workers. That is what you assuredly would have done, and
would not Telephus have done the same? So I come to my general
conclusion; we have no common sense.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Oh! wretch! oh! infamous man! You are naught but a beggar and
yet you dare to talk to us like this! you insult their worships the
informers!
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
By Posidon! he speaks the truth; he has not lied in a single
detail.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
But though it be true, need he say it? But you'll have no great
cause to be proud of your insolence!
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
Where are you running to? Don't you move; if you strike this
man, I shall be at you.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (bursting into song)
Oh! Lamachus, whose glance flashes lightning, whose plume
petrifies thy foes, help! Oh! Lamachus, my friend, the hero of my
tribe and all of you, both officers and soldiers, defenders of our
walls, come to my aid; else is it all over with me!
(LAMACHUS comes out of his house armed from head to foot.)
LAMACHUS
Whence comes this cry of battle? where must I bring my aid?
where must I sow dread? who wants me to uncase my dreadful Gorgon's
head?
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh, Lamachus, great hero! Your plumes and your cohorts terrify me.
CHORUS-LEADER
This man, Lamachus, incessantly abuses Athens.
LAMACHUS
You are but a mendicant and you dare to use language of this sort?
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh, brave Lamachus, forgive a beggar who speaks at hazard.
LAMACHUS
But what have you said? Let us hear.
DICAEOPOLIS
I know nothing about it; the sight of weapons makes me dizzy.
Oh! I adjure you, take that fearful Gorgon somewhat farther away.
LAMACHUS
There.
DICAEOPOLIS
Now place it face downwards on the ground.
LAMACHUS
It is done.
DICAEOPOLIS
Give me a plume out of your helmet.
LAMACHUS
Here is a feather.
DICAEOPOLIS
And hold my head while I vomit; the plumes have turned my stomach.
LAMACHUS
Hah! what are you proposing to do? do you want to make yourself
vomit with this feather?
DICAEOPOLIS
Is it a feather? what bird's? a braggart's?
LAMACHUS
Hah! I will rip you open.
DICAEOPOLIS
No, no, Lamachus! Violence is out of place here! But as you are so
strong, why did you not circumcise me? You have all the tools you need
for the operation there.
LAMACHUS
A beggar dares thus address a general!
DICAEOPOLIS
How? Am I a beggar?
LAMACHUS
What are you then?
DICAEOPOLIS
Who am I? A good citizen, not ambitious; a soldier, who has fought
well since the outbreak of the war, whereas you are but a vile
mercenary.
LAMACHUS
They elected me....
DICAEOPOLIS
Yes, three cuckoos did! If I have concluded peace, it was
disgust that drove me; for I see men with hoary heads in the ranks and
young fellows of your age shirking service. Some are in Thrace getting
an allowance of three drachmae, such fellows as Tisamenophaenippus and
Panurgipparchides. The others are with Chares or in Chaonia, men
like Geretotheodorus and Diomialazon; there are some of the same
kidney, too, at Camarina, at Gela, and at Catagela.
LAMACHUS
They were elected.
DICAEOPOLIS
And why do you always receive your pay, when none of these
others ever gets any? Speak, Marilades, you have grey hair; well then,
have you ever been entrusted with a mission? See! he shakes his
head. Yet he is an as well as a prudent man. And you, Anthracyllus
or Euphorides or Prinides, have you knowledge of Ecbatana or
Chaonia? You say no, do you not? Such offices are good for the son
of Coesyra and Lamachus, who, but yesterday ruined with debt, never
pay their shot, and whom all their friends avoid as foot passengers
dodge the folks who empty their slops out of window.
LAMACHUS
Oh! in freedom's name! are such exaggerations to be borne?
DICAEOPOLIS
Not unless Lamachus gets paid for it.
LAMACHUS
But I propose always to war with the Peloponnesians, both at
sea, on land and everywhere to make them tremble, and trounce them
soudly.
(He goes back into his house.)
DICAEOPOLIS
For my own part, I make proclamation to all Peloponnesians,
Megarians and Boeotians, that to them my markets are open; but I debar
Lamachus from entering them.
(He goes into his house.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Convinced by this man's speech, the folk have changed their view
and approve him for having concluded peace. But let us prepare for the
recital of the parabasis.
(The CHORUS moves forward and faces the audience.)
Never since our poet presented comedies, has he praised himself
upon the stage; but, having been slandered by his enemies amongst
the volatile Athenians, accused of scoffing at his country and of
insulting the people, to-day he wishes to reply and regain for himself
the inconstant Athenians. He maintains that he has done much that is
good for you; if you no longer allow yourselves to be too much
hoodwinked by strangers or seduced by flattery, if in politics you are
no longer the ninnies you once were, it is thanks to him. Formerly,
when delegates from other cities wanted to deceive you, they had but
to style you, "the people crowned with violets," and at the word
"violets" you at once sat erect on the tips of your bums. Or if, to
tickle your vanity, someone spoke of "rich and sleek Athens," in
return for that "sleekness" he would get anything he wanted, because
he spoke of you as he would have of anchovies in oil. In cautioning
you against such wiles, the poet has done you great service as well as
in forcing you to understand what is really the democratic
principle. Thus the strangers, who came to pay their tributes,
wanted to see this great poet, who had dared to speak the truth to
Athens. And so far has the fame of his boldness reached that one day
the Great King, when questioning the Lacedaemonian delegates, first
asked them which of the two rival cities was the superior at sea,
and then immediately demanded at which it was that the comic poet
directed his biting satire. "Happy that city," he added, "if it
listens to his counsel; it will grow in power, and its victory is
assured." This is why the Lacedaemonians offer you peace, if you
will cede them Aegina; not that they care for the isle, but they
wish to rob you of your poet. As for you, never lose him, who will
always fight for the cause of justice in his comedies; he promises you
that his precepts will lead you to happiness, though he uses neither
flattery, nor bribery, nor intrigue, nor deceit; instead of loading
you with praise, he will point you to the better way. I scoff at
Cleon's tricks and plotting; honesty and justice shall fight my cause;
never will you find me a political poltroon, a prostitute to the
highest bidder.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing) I invoke thee, Acharnian Muse, fierce
and fell as the devouring fire; sudden as the spark that bursts from
the crackling oaken coal when roused by the quickening fan to fry
little fishes, while others knead the dough or whip the sharp
Thasian pickle with rapid hand, so break forth, my Muse, and inspire
thy tribesmen with rough, vigorous, stirring strains.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
We others, now old men and heavy with years, we reproach the city;
so many are the victories we have gained for the Athenian fleets
that we well deserve to be cared for in our declining life; yet far
from this, we are ill-used, harassed with law-suits, delivered over to
the scorn of stripling orators. Our minds and bodies being ravaged
with age, Posidon should protect us, yet we have no other support than
a staff. When standing before the judge, we can scarcely stammer forth
the fewest words, and of justice we see but its barest shadow, whereas
the accuser, desirous of conciliating the younger men, overwhelms us
with his ready rhetoric; he drags us before the judge, presses us with
questions, lays traps for us; the onslaught troubles, upsets and ruins
poor old Tithonus, who, crushed with age, stands tongue-tied;
sentenced to a fine, he weeps, he sobs and says to his friend, "This
fine robs me of the last trifle that was to have bought my coffin."
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Is this not a scandal? What! the clepsydra is to kill the
white-haired veteran, who, in fierce fighting, has so oft covered
himself with glorious sweat, whose valour at Marathon saved the
country! We were the ones who pursued on the field of Marathon,
whereas now it is wretches who pursue us to the death and crush us.
What would Marpsias reply to this?
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
What an injustice that a man, bent with age like Thucydides,
should be brow-beaten by this braggart advocate, Cephisodemus, who
is as savage as the Scythian desert he was born in! I wept tears of
pity when I saw a Scythian maltreat this old man, who, by Ceres,
when he was young and the true Thucydides, would not have permitted an
insult from Ceres herself! At that date he would have floored ten
orators like Euathlus, he would have terrified three thousand
Scythians with his shouts; he would have pierced the whole line of the
enemy with his shafts. Ah! but if you will not leave the aged in
peace, decree that the advocates be matched; thus the old man will
only be confronted with a toothless greybeard, the young will fight
with the braggart, the ignoble with the son of Clinias; make law
that in the future, the old man can only be summoned and convicted
at the courts by the aged and the young man by the youth.
DICAEOPOLIS (coming out of his house and marking out a square in
front of it)
These are the confines of my market-place. All Peloponnesians,
Megarians, Boeotians, have the right to come and trade here,
provided they sell their wares to me and not to Lamachus. As
market-inspectors I appoint these three whips of Leprean leather,
chosen by lot. Warned away are all informers and all men of Phasis.
They are bringing me the pillar on which the treaty is inscribed and I
shall erect it in the centre of the market, well in sight of all.
(He goes back into the house just as a Megarian enters from the
left, carrying a sack on his shoulder and followed by his two
little daughters.)
MEGARIAN
Hail! market of Athens, beloved of Megarians. Let Zeus, the patron
of friendship, witness, I regretted you as a mother mourns her son.
Come, poor little daughters of an unfortunate father, try to find
something to eat; listen to me with the full heed of an empty belly.
Which would you prefer? To be sold or to cry with hunger?
DAUGHTERS
To be sold, to be sold!
MEGARIAN
That is my opinion too. But who would make so sorry a deal as to
buy you? Ah! I recall me a Megarian trick; I am going to disguise
you as little porkers, that I am offering for sale. Fit your hands
with these hoofs and take care to appear the issue of a sow of good
breed, for, if I am forced to take you back to the house, by Hermes!
you will suffer cruelly of hunger! Then fix on these snouts and cram
yourselves into this sack. Forget not to grunt and to say wee-wee like
the little pigs that are sacrificed in the Mysteries. I must summon
Dicaeopolis. Where is be? (Loudly) Dicaeopolis, do you want to buy
some nice little porkers?
DICAEOPOLIS (coming out of his house)
Who are you? a Megarian?
MEGARIAN
I have come to your market.
DICAEOPOLIS
Well, how are things at Megara?
MEGARIAN
We are crying with hunger at our firesides.
DICAEOPOLIS
The fireside is jolly enough with a piper. But what else is
doing at Megara?
MEGARIAN
What else? When I left for the market, the authorities were taking
steps to let us die in the quickest manner.
DICAEOPOLIS
That is the best way to get you out of all your troubles.
MEGARIAN
True.
DICAEOPOLIS
What other news of Megara? What is wheat selling at?
MEGARIAN
With us it is valued as highly as the very gods in heaven!
DICAEOPOLIS
Is it salt that you are bringing?
MEGARIAN
Aren't you the ones that are holding back the salt?
DICAEOPOLIS
Is it garlic then?
MEGARIAN
What! garlic! do you not at every raid like mice grub up the
ground with your pikes to pull out every single head?
DICAEOPOLIS
What are you bringing then?
MEGARIAN
Little sows, like those they immolate at the Mysteries.
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! very well, show me them.
MEGARIAN
They are very fine; feel their weight. See! how fat and fine.
DICAEOPOLIS (feeling around in the sack)
Hey! what's this?
MEGARIAN
A sow.
DICAEOPOLIS
A sow, you say? Where from, then?
MEGARIAN
From Megara. What! isn't it a sow then?
DICAEOPOLIS (feeling around in the sack again)
No, I don't believe it is.
MEGARIAN
This is too much! what an incredulous man! He says it's not a sow;
but we will stake, if you will, a measure of salt ground up with
thyme, that in good Greek this is called a sow and nothing else.
DICAEOPOLIS
But a sow of the human kind.
MEGARIAN
Without question, by Diocles! of my own breed! Well! What think
you? would you like to hear them squeal?
DICAEOPOLIS
Yes, I would.
MEGARIAN
Cry quickly, wee sowlet; squeak up, hussy, or by Hermes! I take you
back to the house.
DAUGHTERS
Wee-wee, wee-wee!
MEGARIAN
Is that a little sow, or not?
DICAEOPOLIS
Yes, it seems so; but let it grow up, and it will be a fine fat
thing.
MEGARIAN
In five years it will be just like its mother.
DICAEOPOLIS
But it cannot be sacrificed.
MEGARIAN
And why not?
DICAEOPOLIS
It has no tail.
MEGARIAN
Because it is quite young, but in good time it will have a big
one, thick and red. But if you are willing to bring it up you will
have a very fine sow.
DICAEOPOLIS
The two are as like as two peas.
MEGARIAN
They are born of the same father and mother; let them be fattened,
let them grow their bristles, and they will be the finest sows you can
offer to Aphrodite.
DICAEOPOLIS
But sows are not immolated to Aphrodite.
MEGARIAN
Not sows to Aphrodite! Why, she's the only goddess to whom they
are offered! the flesh of my sows will be excellent on your spit.
DICAEOPOLIS
Can they eat alone? They no longer need their mother?
MEGARIAN
Certainly not, nor their father.
DICAEOPOLIS
What do they like most?
MEGARIAN
Whatever is given them; but ask for yourself.
DICAEOPOLIS
Speak! little sow.
DAUGHTERS
Wee-wee, wee-wee!
DICAEOPOLIS
Can you eat chick-pease?
DAUGHTERS
Wee-wee, wee-wee, wee-wee!
DICAEOPOLIS
And Attic figs?
DAUGHTERS
Wee-wee, wee-wee!
DICAEOPOLIS
What sharp squeaks at the name of figs. Come, let some figs be
brought for these little pigs. Will they eat them? Goodness! how
they munch them, what a grinding of teeth, mighty Heracles! I
believe those pigs hail from the land of the Voracians.
MEGARIAN (aside)
But they have not eaten all the figs; I took this one myself.
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! what curious creatures! For what sum will you sell them?
MEGARIAN
I will give you one for a bunch of garlic, and the other, if you
like, for a quart measure of salt.
DICAEOPOLIS
I'll buy them. Wait for me here.
(He goes into the house.)
MEGARIAN
The deal is done. Hermes, god of good traders, grant I may sell
both my wife and my mother in the same way!
(An INFORMER enters.)
INFORMER
Hi! fellow, what country are you from?
MEGARIAN
I am a pig-merchant from Megara.
INFORMER
I shall denounce both your pigs and yourself as public enemies.
MEGARIAN
Ah! here our troubles begin afresh!
INFORMER
Let go of that sack. I'll teach you to talk Megarian!
MEGARIAN (loudly)
Dicaeopolis, want to denounce me.
DICAEOPOLIS (from within)
Who dares do this thing? (He comes out of his house.)
Inspectors, drive out the informers. Ah! you offer to enlighten us
without a lamp!
INFORMER
What! I may not denounce our enemies?
DICAEOPOLIS (With a threatening gesture)
Watch out for yourself, and go off pretty quick and denounce
elsewhere.
(The INFORMER runs away.)
MEGARIAN
What a plague to Athens!
DICAEOPOLIS
Be reassured, Megarian. Here is the price for your two sowlets,
the garlic and the salt. Farewell and much happiness!
MEGARIAN
Ah! we never have that amongst us.
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh, I'm sorry if I said the wrong thing
MEGARIAN
Farewell, dear little sows, and seek, far from your father, to
munch your bread with salt, if they give you any.
(He departs and DICAEOPOLIS takes the "sows" into his house.)
CHORUS (singing)
Here is a man truly happy. See how everything succeeds to his
wish. Peacefully seated in his market, he will earn his living; woe to
Ctesias, and all other informers who dare to enter there! You will not
be cheated as to the value of wares, you will not again see Prepis
wiping his big arse, nor will Cleonymus jostle you; you will take your
walks, clothed in a fine tunic, without meeting Hyperbolus and his
unceasing quibblings, without being accosted on the public place by
any importunate fellow, neither by Cratinus, shaven in the fashion
of the adulterers, nor by this musician, who plagues us with his silly
improvisations, that hyper-rogue Artemo, with his arm-pits stinking as
foul as a goat, like his father before him. You will not be the butt
of the villainous Pauson's jeers, nor of Lysistratus, the disgrace
of the Cholargian deme, who is the incarnation of all the vices, and
endures cold and hunger more than thirty days in the month.
(A BOEOTIAN enters, followed by his slave, who is carrying a large
assortment of articles of food, and by a troop of flute players.)
BOEOTIAN
By Heracles! my shoulder is quite black and blue. Ismenias, put
the penny-royal down there very gently, and all of you, musicians from
Thebes, strike up on your bone flutes "The Dog's Arse."
(The Musicians immediately begin an atrocious rendition of a vulgar
tune.)
DICAEOPOLIS
Enough, damn you; get out of here Rascally hornets, away with you!
Whence has sprung this accursed swarm of Chaeris fellows which comes
assailing my door?
(The Musicians depart.)
BOEOTIAN
Ah! by Iolas! Drive them off, my dear host, you will please me
immensely; all the way from Thebes, they were there piping behind me
and they have completely stripped my penny-royal of its blossom. But
will you buy anything of me, some chickens or some locusts?
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! good day, Boeotian. eater of good round loaves. What do you
bring?
BOEOTIAN
All that is good in Boeotia, marjoram, penny-royal, rush-mats,
lampwicks, ducks, jays, woodcocks, water-fowl, wrens, divers.
DICAEOPOLIS
A regular hail of birds is beating down on my market.
BOEOTIAN
I also bring geese, hares, foxes, moles, hedgehogs, cats, lyres,
martins, otters and eels from the Copaic lake.
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! my friend, you, who bring me the most delicious of fish, let
me salute your eels.
BOEOTIAN (in tragic style)
Come, thou, the eldest of my fifty Copaic virgins, come and
complete the joy of our host.
DICAEOPOLIS (likewise)
Oh! my well-beloved, thou object of my long regrets, thou art here
at last then, thou, after whom the comic poets sigh, thou, who art
dear to Morychus. Slaves, hither with the stove and the bellows.
Look at this charming eel, that returns to us after six long years
of absence. Salute it, my children; as for myself, I will supply
coal to do honour to the stranger. Take it into my house; death itself
could not separate me from her, if cooked with beet leaves.
BOEOTIAN
And what will you give me in return?
DICAEOPOLIS
It will pay for your market dues. And as to the rest, what do
you wish to sell me?
BOEOTIAN
Why, everything.
DICAEOPOLIS
On what terms? For ready-money or in wares from these parts?
BOEOTIAN
I would take some Athenian produce, that we have not got in
Boeotia,
DICAEOPOLIS
Phaleric anchovies, pottery?
BOEOTIAN
Anchovies, pottery? But these we have. I want produce that is
wanting with us and that is plentiful here.
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! I have the very thing; take away an informer, packed up
carefully as crockery-ware.
BOEOTIAN
By the twin gods! I should earn big money, if I took one; I
would exhibit him as an ape full of spite.
DICAEOPOLIS (as an informer enters)
Hah! here we have Nicarchus, who comes to denounce you.
BOEOTIAN
How small he is!
DICAEOPOLIS
But all pure evil.
NICARCHUS
Whose are these goods?
DICAEOPOLIS
Mine, they come from Boeotia, I call Zeus to witness.
NICARCHUS
I denounce them as coming from an enemy's country.
BOEOTIAN
What! you declare war against birds?
NICARCHUS
And I am going to denounce you too.
BOEOTIAN
What harm have I done you?
NICARCHUS
I will say it for the benefit of those that listen; you
introduce lampwicks from an enemy's country.
DICAEOPOLIS
Then you even denounce a wick.
NICARCHUS
It needs but one to set an arsenal afire.
DICAEOPOLIS
A wick set an arsenal ablaze! But how, great gods?
NICARCHUS
Should a Boeotian attach it to an insect's wing, and, taking
advantage of a violent north wind, throw it by means of a tube into
the arsenal and the fire once get hold of the vessels, everything
would soon be devoured by the flames.
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! wretch! an insect and a wick devour everything!
(He strikes him.)
NICARCHUS (to the CHORUS)
You will bear witness, that he mishandles me.
DICAEOPOLIS (to the BOEOTIAN)
Shut his mouth. Give me some hay; I am going to pack him up like a
vase, that he may not get broken on the road.
(The INFORMER is bound and gagged and packed in hay.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Pack up your goods carefully, friend; that the stranger may not
break it when taking it away.
DICAEOPOLIS
I shall take great care with it. (He hits the INFORMER on the head
and a stifled cry is heard.) One would say he is cracked already; he
rings with a false note, which the gods abhor.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But what will be done with him?
DICAEOPOLIS
This is a vase good for all purposes; it will be used as a
vessel for holding all foul things, a mortar for pounding together
law-suits, a lamp for spying upon accounts, and as a cup for the
mixing up and poisoning of everything.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
None could ever trust a vessel for domestic use that has such a
ring about it.
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh! it is strong, my friend, and will never get broken, if care is
taken to hang it head downwards.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS (to the BOEOTIAN)
There! it is well packed now!
BOEOTIAN
Well then, I will proceed to carry off my bundle.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Farewell, worthiest of strangers, take this informer, good for
anything, and fling him where you like.
DICAEOPOLIS
Bah! this rogue has given me enough trouble to pack! Here!
Boeotian, pick up your pottery.
BOEOTIAN
Stoop, Ismenias, that I may put it on your shoulder, and be very
careful with it.
DICAEOPOLIS
You carry nothing worth having; however, take it, for you will
profit by your bargain; the informers will bring you luck.
(The BOEOTIAN and his slave depart; DICAEOPOLIS goes into his house;
a slave comes out of LAMACHUS' house.)
SLAVE
Dicaeopolis!
DICAEOPOLIS (from within)
What's the matter? Why are you calling me?
SLAVE
Lamachus wants to keep the Feast of Cups, and I come by his
order to bid you one drachma for some thrushes and three more for a
Copaic eel.
DICAEOPOLIS (coming out)
And who is this Lamachus, who demands an eel?
SLAVE (in tragic style)
He is the terrible, indefatigable Lamachus, who is always
brandishing his fearful Gorgon's head and the three plumes which
o'ershadow his helmet.
DICAEOPOLIS
No, no, he will get nothing, even though he gave me his buckler.
Let him eat salt fish while he shakes his plumes, and, if he comes
here making any din, I shall call the inspectors. As for myself, I
shall take away all these goods; (in tragic style) I go home on
thrushes' wings and black-birds' pinions. (He goes into his house.)
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
You see, citizens, you see the good fortune which this man owes to
his prudence, to his profound wisdom. You see how, since he has
concluded peace, he buys what is useful in the household and good to
eat hot. All good things flow towards him unsought. Never will welcome
the god of war in my house; never shall he sing the "Harmodius" at
my table; he is a sot, who comes feasting with those who are
overflowing with good things and brings all manner of mischief in
his train. He overthrows, ruins, rips open; it is vain to make him a
thousand offers, to say "be seated, pray, and drink this cup, profered
in all friendship"; he burns our vine-stocks and brutally spills on
the ground the wine from our vineyards.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
This man, on the other hand, covers his table with a thousand
dishes; proud of his good fortunes, he has had these feathers cast
before his door to show us how he lives. (A woman appears, bearing the
attributes of Peace.) Oh, Peace! companion of fair Aphrodite and of
the sweet Graces, how charming are thy features and yet I never knew
it! Would that Eros might join me to thee, Eros crowned with roses
as Zeuxis shows him to us! Do I seem somewhat old to thee? I am yet
able to make thee a threefold offering; despite my age I could plant a
long row of vines for you; then beside these some tender cuttings from
the fig; finally a youn, vinestock, loaded with fruit, and all
around the field olive trees, to furnish us with oil wherewith to
anoint us both at the New Moons.
(A HERALD enters.)
HERALD
Oyez, oyez! As was the custom of your forebears, empty a full
pitcher of wine at the call of the trumpet; he who first sees the
bottom shall get a wine-skin as round and plump as Ctesiphon's belly.
DICAEOPOLIS (coming out of the house; to his family within)
Women, children, have you not heard? Faith! do you not heed the
herald? Quick! let the hares boil and roast merrily; keep them
turning; withdraw them from the flame; prepare the chaplets; reach
me the skewers that I may spit the thrushes.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
I envy you your wisdom and even more your good cheer.
DICAEOPOLIS
What then will you say when you see the thrushes roasting?
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Ah! true indeed!
DICAEOPOLIS
Slave! stir up the fire.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
See, how he knows his business, what a perfect cook! How well he
understands the way to prepare a good dinner!
(A HUSBANDMAN enters in haste.)
HUSBANDMAN
Ah! woe is me!
DICAEOPOLIS
Heracles! What have we here?
HUSBANDMAN
A most miserable man.
DICAEOPOLIS
Keep your misery for yourself.
HUSBANDMAN
Ah! friend! since you alone are enjoying peace, grant me a part of
your truce, were it but five years.
DICAEOPOLIS
What has happened to you?
HUSBANDMAN
I am ruined; I have lost a pair of steers.
DICAEOPOLIS
How?
HUSBANDMAN
The Boeotians seized them at Phyle.
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! poor wretch! and do you still wear white?
HUSBANDMAN
Their dung made my wealth.
DICAEOPOLIS
What can I do in the matter?
HUSBANDMAN
Crying for my beasts has lost me my eyesight. Ah! if you care
for poor Dercetes of Phyle, anoint mine eyes quickly with your balm of
peace.
DICAEOPOLIS
But, my poor fellow, I do not practise medicine.
HUSBANDMAN
Come, I adjure you; perhaps I shall recover my steers.
DICAEOPOLIS
Impossible; away, go and whine to the disciples of Pittalus.
HUSBANDMAN
Grant me but one drop of peace; pour it into this little reed.
DICAEOPOLIS
No, not a particle; go and weep somewhere else.
HUSBANDMAN (as he departs)
Oh! oh! oh! my poor beasts!
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
This man has discovered the sweetest enjoyment in peace; he will
share it with none.
DICAEOPOLIS (to a slave)
Pour honey over this tripe; set it before the fire to dry.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
What lofty tones he uses! Did you hear him?
DICAEOPOLIS (to the slaves inside the house)
Get the eels on the gridiron!
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
You are killing me with hunger; your smoke is choking your
neighbours, and you split our ears with your bawling.
DICAEOPOLIS
Have this fried and let it be nicely browned.
(He goes back into the house. A WEDDING GUEST enters, carrying a
package.)
WEDDING GUEST
Dicaeopolis! Dicaeopolis!
DICAEOPOLIS
Who are you?
WEDDING GUEST
A young bridegroom sends you these viands from the marriage feast.
DICAEOPOLIS
Whoever he be, I thank him.
WEDDING GUEST
And in return, he prays you to pour a glass of peace into this
vase, that he may not have to go to the front and may stay at home
to make love to his young wife.
DICAEOPOLIS
Take back, take back your viands; for a thousand drachmae I
would not give a drop of peace. (A young woman enters) But who is she?
WEDDING GUEST
She is the matron of honour; she wants to say something to you
from the bride privately.
DICAEOPOLIS
Come, what do you wish to say? (The MATRON OF HONOUR whispers in
his ear.) Ah! what a ridiculous demand! The bride burns with longing
to keep her husband's tool at home. Come! bring hither my truce; to
her alone will I give some of it, for she is a woman, and, as such,
should not suffer under the war. Here, friend, hand me your vial.
And as to the manner of applying this balm, tell the bride, when a
levy of soldiers is made, to rub some in bed on her husband, where
most needed. (The MATRON OF HONOUR and the WEDDING GUEST depart.)
There, slave, take away my truce! Now, quick, bring me the
wine-flagon, that I may fill up the drinking bowls!
(The slave leaves. A HERALD enters.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS (in tragic style)
I see a man, "striding along apace, with knitted brows; he seems
to us the bearer of terrible tidings."
HERALD (in tragic style)
Oh! toils and battles and Lamachuses!
(He knocks on LAMACHUS' door.)
LAMACHUS (from within; in tragic style)
What noise resounds around my dwelling, where shines the glint
of arms.
(He comes out of his house.)
HERALD
The Generals order you forthwith to take your battalions and
your plumes, and, despite the snow, to go and guard our borders.
They have learnt that a band of Boeotians intend taking advantage of
the Feast of Cups to invade our country.
LAMACHUS
Ah! the Generals! they are numerous, but not good for much! It's
cruel, not to be able to enjoy the feast!
DICAEOPOLIS
Oh! warlike host of Lamachus!
LAMACHUS
Wretch! do you dare to jeer me?
DICAEOPOLIS
Do you want to fight this four-winged Geryon?
LAMACHUS
Oh! oh! what fearful tidings!
DICAEOPOLIS
Ah! ah! I see another herald running up; what news does he bring
me?
(Another HERALD enters.)
HERALD
Dicaeopolis!
DICAEOPOLIS
What is the matter?
HERALD
Come quickly to the feast and bring your basket and your cup; it
is the priest of Bacchus who invites you. But hasten, the guests
have been waiting for you a long while. All is ready-couches,
tables, cushions, chaplets, perfumes, dainties and whores to boot;
biscuits, cakes, sesamebread, tarts, lovely dancing women, and the
"Harmodius." But come with all speed.
LAMACHUS
Oh! hostile gods!
DICAEOPOLIS
This is not astounding; you have chosen this great ugly Gorgon's
head for your patron. (To a slave) You, shut the door, and let someone
get ready the meal.
LAMACHUS
Slave! slave! my knapsack!
DICAEOPOLIS
Slave! slave! a basket!
LAMACHUS
Take salt and thyme, slave, and don't forget the onions.
DICAEOPOLIS
Get some fish for me; I cannot bear onions.
LAMACHUS
Slave, wrap me up a little stale salt meat in a fig-leaf.
DICAEOPOLIS
And for me some nice fat tripe in a fig-leaf; I will have it
cooked here.
LAMACHUS
Bring me the plumes for my helmet.
DICAEOPOLIS
Bring me wild pigeons and thrushes.
LAMACHUS
How white and beautiful are these ostrich feathers!
DICAEOPOLIS
How fat and well browned is the flesh of this wood-pigeon!
LAMACHUS (to DICAEOPOLIS)
My friend, stop scoffing at my armour.
DICAEOPOLIS (to LAMACHUS)
My friend, stop staring at my thrushes.
LAMACHUS (to his slave)
Bring me the case for my triple plume.
DICAEOPOLIS (to his slave)
Pass me over that dish of hare.
LAMACHUS
Alas! the moths have eaten the hair of my crest.
DICAEOPOLIS
Shall I eat my hare before dinner?
LAMACHUS
My friend, will you kindly not speak to me?
DICAEOPOLIS
I'm not speaking to you; I'm scolding my slave. (To the slave)
Shall we wager and submit the matter to Lamachus, which of the two
is the best to eat, a locust or a thrush?
LAMACHUS
Insolent hound!
DICAEOPOLIS
He much prefers the locusts.
LAMACHUS
Slave, unhook my spear and bring it to me.
DICAEOPOLIS
Slave, slave, take the sausage from the fire and bring it to me.
LAMACHUS
Come, let me draw my spear from its sheath. Hold it, slave, hold
it tight.
DICAEOPOLIS
And you, slave, grip well hold of the skewer.
LAMACHUS
Slave, the bracings for my shield.
DICAEOPOLIS
Pull the loaves out of the oven and bring me these bracings of
my stomach.
LAMACHUS
My round buckler with the Gorgon's head.
DICAEOPOLIS
My round cheese-cake.
LAMACHUS
What clumsy wit!
DICAEOPOLIS
What delicious cheese-cake!
LAMACHUS
Pour oil on the buckler. Hah! hah I can see reflected there an old
man who will be accused of cowardice.
DICAEOPOLIS
Pour honey on the cake. Hah! hah! hah! I can see an old man who
makes Lamachus of the Gorgon's head weep with rage.
LAMACHUS
Slave, full war armour.
DICAEOPOLIS
Slave, my beaker; that is my armour.
LAMACHUS
With this I hold my ground with any foe.
DICAEOPOLIS
And I with this in any drinking bout.
LAMACHUS
Fasten the strappings to the buckler.
DICAEOPOLIS
Pack the dinner well into the basket.
LAMACHUS
Personally I shall carry the knapsack.
DICAEOPOLIS
Personally I shall carry the cloak.
LAMACHUS
Slave, take up the buckler and let's be off. It is snowing! God
help us! A wintry business!
DICAEOPOLIS
Take up the basket, mine's a festive business.
(They depart in opposite directions.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We wish you both joy on your journeys, which differ so much. One
goes to mount guard and freeze, while the other will drink, crowned
with flowers, and then lie with a young beauty till he gets his tool
all sore.
CHORUS (singing)
I say it freely; may Zeus confound Antimachus, the poet-historian,
the son of Psacas! When Choregus at the Lenaea, alas! alas! he
dismissed me dinnerless. May I see him devouring with his eyes a
cuttle-fish, just served, well cooked, hot and properly salted; and
the moment that he stretches his hand to help himself, may a dog seize
it and run off with it. Such is my first wish. I also hope for him a
misfortune at night. That returning all-fevered from horse practice,
he may meet an Orestes, mad with drink, who will crack him over the
head; that wishing to seize a stone, he, in the dark, may pick up a
fresh turd, hurl, miss him and hit Cratinus.
(The slave of LAMACHUS enters.)
SLAVE OF LAMACHUS (knocking on the door of LAMACHUS' house, in
tragic style)
Captives present within the house of Lamachus, water, water in a
little pot! Make it warm, get ready cloths, cerate, greasy wool and
bandages for his ankle. In leaping a ditch, the master has hurt
himself against a stake; he has dislocated and twisted his ankle,
broken his head by falling on a stone, while his Gorgon shot far
away from his buckler. His mighty braggadocio plume rolled on the
ground; at this sight he uttered these doleful words, "Radiant star, I
gaze on thee for the last time; my eyes close to all light, I die."
Having said this, he falls into the water, gets out again, meets
some runaways and pursues the robbers with his spear at their
backsides. But here he comes, himself. Get the door open.
(In this final scene all the lines are sung.)
LAMACHUS (limping in with the help of two soldiers and singing a
song of woe)
Oh! heavens! oh! heavens! What cruel pain! I faint, I tremble!
Alas! I die! the foe's lance has struck me! But what would hurt me
most would be for Dicaeopolis to see me wounded thus and laugh at my
ill-fortune.
DICAEOPOLIS (enters with two courtesans, singing gaily)
Oh! my gods! what breasts! Swelling like quinces! Come, my
treasures, give me voluptuous kisses Glue your lips to mine. Haha! I
was the first to empty my cup.
LAMACHUS
Oh! cruel fate! how I suffer! accursed wounds!
DICAEOPOLIS
Hah! hah! Hail! Lamachippus!
LAMACHUS
Woe is me!
DICAEOPOLIS (to the one girl)
Why do you kiss me?
LAMACHUS
Ah, wretched me!
DICAEOPOLIS (to the other girl)
And why do you bite me?
LAMACHUS
'Twas a cruel score I was paying back!
DICAEOPOLIS
Scores are not evened at the Feast of Cups!
LAMACHUS
Oh Oh! Paean, Paean!
DICAEOPOLIS
But to-day is not the feast of Paean.
LAMACHUS (to the soldiers)
Oh take hold of my leg, do; ah I hold it tenderly, my friends!
DICAEOPOLIS (to the girls)
And you, my darlings, take hold of my tool, both of you!
LAMACHUS
This blow with the stone makes me dizzy; my sight grows dim.
DICAEOPOLIS
For myself, I want to get to bed; I've got an erection and I
want to make love in the dark.
LAMACHUS
Carry me to the surgeon Pittalus. Put me in his healing hands!
DICAEOPOLIS
Take me to the judges. Where is the king of the feast? The
wine-skin is mine!
LAMACHUS (as he is being carried away)
That spear has pierced my bones; what torture I endure!
DICAEOPOLIS (to the audience)
You see this empty cup! I triumph! I triumph!
CHORUS
Old man, I come at your bidding! You triumph! you triumph!
DICAEOPOLIS
Again I have brimmed my cup with umnixed wine and drained it at
a draught!
CHORUS
You triumph then, brave champion; thine is the wine-skin!
DICAEOPOLIS
Follow me, singing "Triumph! Triumph!"
CHORUS
Aye! we will sing of thee, thee and thy sacred wine-skin, and we
all, as we follow thee, will repeat in thine honour, "Triumph,
Triumph!

-THE END-
.
 

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