Skip to content.

Drama

Sections
Personal tools
You are here: Home » Plays » Classical » Aristophanes » The Clouds

The Clouds

Aristophanes's depiction of Socrates in the Clouds is in good part a comic distortion.
420 BC
THE CLOUDS
by Aristophanes
anonymous translator
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

STREPSIADES
PHIDIPPIDES
SERVANT OF STREPSIADES
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES
SOCRATES
JUST DISCOURSE
UNJUST DISCOURSE
PASIAS, a Money-lender
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender
CHORUS OF CLOUDS
CLOUDS
(SCENE:-In the background are two houses, that of Strepsiades and
that of Socrates, the Thoughtery. The latter is small and dingy;
the in, terior of the former is shown and two beds are seen, each
occupied.)

STREPSIADES (sitting up)
GREAT gods! will these nights never end? will daylight never come?
I heard the cock crow long ago and my slaves are snoring still! Ah! Ah!
It wasn't like this formerly. Curses on the war! has it not done
me ills enough? Now I may not even chastise my own slaves. Again
there's this brave lad, who never wakes the whole long night, but,
wrapped in his five coverlets, farts away to his heart's content.
(He lies down) Come! let me nestle in well and snore too, if it be
possible....oh! misery, it's vain to think of sleep with all these
expenses, this stable, these debts, which are devouring me, thanks
to this fine cavalier, who only knows how to look after his long
locks, to show himself off in his chariot and to dream of horses!
And I, I am nearly dead, when I see the moon bringing the third decade
in her train and my liability falling due....Slave! light the lamp and
bring me my tablets. (The slave obeys.) Who are all my creditors?
Let me see and reckon up the interest. What is it I owe?....Twelve
minae to Pasias....What! twelve minae to Pasias?....Why did I borrow
these? Ah! I know! It was to buy that thoroughbred, which cost me so
much. How I should have prized the stone that had blinded him!
PHIDIPPIDES (in his sleep)
That's not fair, Philo! Drive your chariot straight, I say.
STREPSIADES
This is what is destroying me. He raves about horses, even in
his sleep.
PHIDIPPIDES (still sleeping)
How many times round the track is the race for the chariots of
war?
STREPSIADES
It's your own father you are driving to death....to ruin. Come!
what debt comes next, after that of Pasias?....Three minae to
Amynias for a chariot and its two wheels.
PHIDIPPIDES (still asleep)
Give the horse a good roll in the dust and lead him home.
STREPSIADES
Ah! wretched boy! it's my money that you are making roll. My
creditors have distrained on my goods, and here are others again,
who demand security for their interest.
PHIDIPPIDES (awaking)
What is the matter with you, father, that you groan and turn about
the whole night through?
STREPSIADES
I have a bum-bailiff in the bedclothes biting me.
PHIDIPPIDES
For pity's sake, let me have a little sleep. (He turns over.)
STREPSIADES
Very well, sleep on! but remember that all these debts will fall
back on your shoulders. Oh! curses on the go-between who made me marry
your mother! I lived so happily in the country, a commonplace,
everyday life, but a good and easy one-had not a trouble, not a
care, was rich in bees, in sheep and in olives. Then indeed I had to
marry the niece of Megacles, the son of Megacles; I belonged to the
country, she was from the town; she was a haughty, extravagant
woman, a true Coesyra. On the nuptial day, when I lay beside her, I
was reeking of the dregs of the wine-cup, of cheese and of wool; she
was redolent with essences, saffron, voluptuous kisses, the love of
spending, of good cheer and of wanton delights. I will not say she did
nothing; no, she worked hard...to ruin me, and pretending all the
while merely to be showing her the cloak she had woven for me, I said,
"Wife you go too fast about your work, your threads are too closely
woven and you use far too much wool."
(A slave enters witk a lamp.)
SLAVE
There is no more oil in the lamp.
STREPSIADES
Why then did you light such a thirsty lamp? Come here, I am
going to beat you.
SLAVE
What for?
STREPSIADES
Because you have put in too thick a wick....Later, when we had
this boy, what was to be his name? It was the cause of much
quarrelling with my loving wife. She insisted on having some reference
to a horse in his name, that he should be called Xanthippus, Charippus
or Callippides. I wanted to name him Phidonides after his grandfather.
We disputed long, and finally agreed to style him Phidippides....She
used to fondle and coax him, saying, "Oh! what a joy it will be to
me when you have grown up, to see you, like my father, Megacles,
clothed in purple and standing up straight in your chariot driving
your steeds toward the town." And I would say to him, "When, like your
father, you will go, dressed in a skin, to fetch back your goats
from Phelleus." Alas! he never listened to me and his madness for
horses has shattered my fortune. (He gets out of bed.) But by dint
of thinking the livelong night, I have discovered a road to salvation,
both miraculous and divine. If he will but follow it, I shall be out
of my trouble! First, however, he must be awakened, but it must be
done as gently as possible. How shall I manage it? Phidippides! my
little Phidippides!
PHIDIPPIDES (awaking again)
What is it, father?
STREPSIADES
Kiss me and give me your hand.
PHIDIPPIDES (getting up and doing as his father requests)
There! What's it all about?
STREPSIADES
Tell me! do you love me?
PHIDIPPIDES
By Posidon, the equestrian Posidon! yes, I swear I do.
STREPSIADES
Oh, do not, I pray you, invoke this god of horses; he is the one
who is the cause of all my cares. But if you really love me, and
with your whole heart, my boy, believe me.
PHIDIPPIDES
Believe you? about what?
STREPSIADES
Alter your habits forthwith and go and learn what I tell you.
PHIDIPPIDES
Say on, what are your orders?
STREPSIADES
Will you obey me ever so little?
PHIDIPPIDES
By Bacchus, I will obey you.
STREPSIADES
Very well then! Look this way. Do you see that little door and
that little house?
PHIDIPPIDES
Yes, father. But what are you driving at?
STREPSIADES
That is the Thoughtery of wise souls. There they prove that we are
coals enclosed on all sides under a vast snuffer, which is the sky. If
well paid, these men also teach one how to gain law-suits, whether
they be just or not.
PHIDIPPIDES
What do they call themselves?
STREPSIADES
I do not know exactly, but they are deep thinkers and most
admirable people.
PHIDIPPIDES
Bah! the wretches! I know them; you mean those quacks with pale
faces, those barefoot fellows, such as that miserable Socrates and
Chaerephon?
STREPSIADES
Silence! say nothing foolish! If you desire your father not to die
of hunger, join their company and let your horses go.
PHIDIPPIDES
No, by Bacchus! even though you gave me the pheasants that
Leogoras raises.
STREPSIADES
Oh! my beloved son, I beseech you, go and follow their teachings.
PHIDIPPIDES
And what is it I should learn?
STREPSIADES
It seems they have two courses of reasoning, the true and the
false, and that, thanks to the false, the worst law-suits can be
gained. If then you learn this science, which is false, I shall not
have to pay an obolus of all the debts I have contracted on your
account.
PHIDIPPIDES
No, I will not do it. I should no longer dare to look at our gallant
horsemen, when I had so ruined my tan.
STREPSIADES
Well then, by Demeter! I will no longer support you, neither
you, nor your team, nor your saddle-horse. Go and hang yourself, I
turn you out of house and home.
PHIDIPPIDES
My uncle Megacles will not leave me without horses; I shall go
to him and laugh at your anger.
(He departs. STREPSIADES goes over to SOCRATES' house.)
STREPSIADES
One rebuff shall not dishearten me. With the help of the gods I
will enter the Thoughtery and learn myself. (He hesitates.) But at
my age, memory has gone and the mind is slow to grasp things. How
can all these fine distinctions, these subtleties be learned?
(Making up his mind) Bah! why should I dally thus instead of rapping
at the door? Slave, slave!
(He knocks and calls.)
A DISCIPLE (from within)
A plague on you! Who are you?
STREPSIADES
Strepsiades, the son of Phido, of the deme of Cicynna.
DISCIPLE (coming out of the door)
You are nothing but an ignorant and illiterate fellow to let fly
at the door with such kicks. You have brought on a miscarriage-of an
idea!
STREPSIADES
Pardon me, please; for I live far away from here in the country.
But tell me, what was the idea that miscarried?
DISCIPLE
I may not tell it to any but a disciple.
STREPSIADES
Then tell me without fear, for I have come to study among you.
DISCIPLE
Very well then, but reflect, that these are mysteries. Lately, a
flea bit Chaerephon on the brow and then from there sprang on to the
head of Socrates. Socrates asked Chaerephon, "How many times the
length of its legs does a flea jump?"
STREPSIADES
And how ever did he go about measuring it?
DISCIPLE
Oh! it was most ingenious! He melted some wax, seized the flea and
dipped its two feet in the wax, which, when cooled, left them shod
with true Persian slippers. These he took off and with them measured
the distance.
STREPSIADES
Ah! great Zeus! what a brain! what subtlety!
DISCIPLE
I wonder what then would you say, if you knew another of Socrates'
contrivances?
STREPSIADES
What is it? Pray tell me.
DISCIPLE
Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought
a gnat buzzed through its proboscis or through its anus.
STREPSIADES
And what did he say about the gnat?
DISCIPLE
He said that the gut of the gnat was narrow, and that, in
passing through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force
towards the breech; then after this slender channel, it encountered
the rump, which was distended like a trumpet, and there it resounded
sonorously.
STREPSIADES
So the arse of a gnat is a trumpet. Oh! what a splendid
arsevation! Thrice happy Socrates! It would not be difficult to
succeed in a law-suit, knowing so much about a gnat's guts!
DISCIPLE
Not long ago a lizard caused him the loss of a sublime thought.
STREPSIADES
In what way, please?
DISCIPLE
One night, when he was studying the course of the moon and its
revolutions and was gazing open-mouthed at the heavens, a lizard
crapped upon him from the top of the roof.
STREPSIADES
A lizard crapping on Socrates! That's rich!
DISCIPLE
Last night we had nothing to eat.
STREPSIADES
Well, what did he contrive, to secure you some supper?
DISCIPLE
He spread over the table a light layer of cinders, bending an iron
rod the while; then he took up a pair of compasses and at the same
moment unhooked a piece of the victim which was hanging in the
palaestra.
STREPSIADES
And we still dare to admire Thales! Open, open this home of
knowledge to me quickly! Haste, haste to show me Socrates; I long to
become his disciple. But do please open the door. (The door opens,
revealing the interior of the Thoughtery, in which the DISCIPLES OF
SOCRATES are seen in various postures of meditation and study; they
are pale and emaciated creatures.) Ah! by Heracles! what country are
those animals from?
DISCIPLE
Why, what are you astonished at? What do you think they resemble?
STREPSIADES
The captives of Pylos. But why do they look so fixedly on the
ground?
DISCIPLE
They are seeking for what is below the ground.
STREPSIADES
Ah! they're looking for onions. Do not give yourselves so much
trouble; I know where there are some, fine big ones. But what are
those fellows doing, bent all double?
DISCIPLE
They are sounding the abysses of Tartarus.
STREPSIADES
And what are their arses looking at in the heavens?
DISCIPLE
They are studying astronomy on their own account. But come in so
that the master may not find us here.
STREPSIADES
Not yet; not yet; let them not change their position. I want to
tell them my own little matter.
DISCIPLE
But they may not stay too long in the open air and away from
school.
STREPSIADES (pointing to a celestial globe)
In the name of all the gods, what is that? Tell me.
DISCIPLE
That is astronomy.
STREPSIADES (pointing to a map)
And that?
DISCIPLE
Geometry.
STREPSIADES
What is that used for?
DISCIPLE
To measure the land.
STREPSIADES
But that is apportioned by lot.
DISCIPLE
No, no, I mean the entire earth.
STREPSIADES
Ah! what a funny thing! How generally useful indeed is this
invention!
DISCIPLE
There is the whole surface of the earth. Look! Here is Athens.
STREPSIADES
Athens! you are mistaken; I see no courts in session.
DISCIPLE
Nevertheless it is really and truly the Attic territory.
STREPSIADES
And where are my neighbours of Cicynna?
DISCIPLE
They live here. This is Euboea; you see this island, that is so
long and narrow.
STREPSIADES
I know. Because we and Pericles have stretched it by dint of
squeezing it. And where is Lacedaemon?
DISCIPLE
Lacedaemon? Why, here it is, look.
STREPSIADES
How near it is to us! Think it well over, it must be removed to
a greater distance.
DISCIPLE
But, by Zeus, that is not possible.
STREPSIADES
Then, woe to you! and who is this man suspended up in a basket?
DISCIPLE
That's himself.
STREPSIADES
Who's himself?
DISCIPLE
Socrates.
STREPSIADES
Socrates! Oh! I pray you, call him right loudly for me.
DISCIPLE
Call him yourself; I have no time to waste. (He departs. The
machine swings in SOCRATES in a basket.)
STREPSIADES
Socrates! my little Socrates!
SOCRATES (loftily)
Mortal, what do you want with me?
STREPSIADES
First, what are you doing up there? Tell me, I beseech you.
SOCRATES (POMPOUSLY)
I am traversing the air and contemplating the sun.
STREPSIADES
Thus it's not on the solid ground, but from the height of this
basket, that you slight the gods, if indeed....
SOCRATES
I have to suspend my brain and mingle the subtle essence of my
mind with this air, which is of the like nature, in order clearly to
penetrate the things of heaven. I should have discovered nothing,
had I remained on the ground to consider from below the things that
are above; for the earth by its force attracts the sap of the mind
to itself. It's just the same with the watercress.
STREPSIADES
What? Does the mind attract the sap of the watercress? Ah! my dear
little Socrates, come down to me! I have come to ask you for lessons.
SOCRATES (descending)
And for what lessons?
STREPSIADES
I want to learn how to speak. I have borrowed money, and my
merciles creditors do not leave me a moment's peace; all my goods
are at stake.
SOCRATES
And how was it you did not see that you were getting so much
into debt?
STREPSIADES
My ruin has been the madness for horses, a most rapacious evil;
but teach me one of your two methods of reasoning, the one whose
object is not to repay anything, and, may the gods bear witness,
that I am ready to pay any fee you may name.
SOCRATES
By which gods will you swear? To begin with, the gods are not a
coin current with us.
STREPSIADES
But what do you swear by then? By the iron money of Byzantium?
SOCRATES
Do you really wish to know the truth of celestial matters?
STREPSIADES
Why, yes, if it's possible.
SOCRATES
....and to converse with the clouds, who are our genii?
STREPSIADES
Without a doubt.
SOCRATES
Then be seated on this sacred couch.
STREPSIADES (sitting down)
I am seated.
SOCRATES
Now take this chaplet.
STREPSIADES
Why a chaplet? Alas! Socrates, would you sacrifice me, like
Athamas?
SOCRATES
No, these are the rites of initiation.
STREPSIADES
And what is it I am to gain?
SOCRATES
You will become a thorough rattle-pate, a hardened old stager, the
fine flour of the talkers....But come, keep quiet.
STREPSIADES
By Zeus! That's no lie! Soon I shall be nothing but wheat-flour,
if you powder me in that fashion.
SOCRATES
Silence, old man, give heed to the prayers. (In an hierophantic
tone) Oh! most mighty king, the boundless air, that keepest the
earth suspended in space, thou bright Aether and ye venerable
goddesses, the Clouds, who carry in your loins the thunder and the
lightning, arise, ye sovereign powers and manifest yourselves in the
celestial spheres to the eyes of your sage.
STREPSIADES
Not yet! Wait a bit, till I fold my mantle double, so as not to
get wet. And to think that I did not even bring my travelling cap!
What a misfortune!
SOCRATES (ignoring this)
Come, oh! Clouds, whom I adore, come and show yourselves to this
man, whether you be resting on the sacred summits of Olympus,
crowned with hoar-frost, or tarrying in the gardens of Ocean, your
father, forming sacred choruses with the Nymphs; whether you be
gathering the waves of the Nile in golden vases or dwelling in the
Maeotic marsh or on the snowy rocks of Mimas, hearken to my prayer and
accept my offering. May these sacrifices be pleasing to you.
(Amidst rumblings of thunder the CHORUS OF CLOUDS appears.)
CHORUS (singing)
Eternal Clouds, let us appear; let us arise from the roaring
depths of Ocean, our father; let us fly towards the lofty mountains,
spread our damp wings over their forest-laden summits, whence we
will dominate the distant valleys, the harvest fed by the sacred
earth, the murmur of the divine streams and the resounding waves of
the sea, which the unwearying orb lights up with its glittering beams.
But let us shake off the rainy fogs, which hide our immortal beauty
and sweep the earth from afar with our gaze.
SOCRATES
Oh, venerated goddesses, yes, you are answering my call! (To
STREPSIADES.) Did you hear their voices mingling with the awful
growling of the thunder?
STREPSIADES
Oh! adorable Clouds, I revere you and I too am going to let off my
thunder, so greatly has your own affrighted me. (He farts.) Faith!
whether permitted or not, I must, I must crap!
SOCRATES
No scoffing; do not copy those damned comic poets. Come,
silence! a numerous host of goddesses approaches with songs.
CHORUS (singing)
Virgins, who pour forth the rains, let us move toward Attica,
the rich country of Pallas, the home of the brave; let us visit the
dear land of Cecrops, where the secret rites are celebrated, where the
mysterious sanctuary flies open to the initiate.... What victims are
offered there to the deities of heaven! What glorious temples! What
statues! What holy prayers to the rulers of Olympus! At every season
nothing but sacred festivals, garlanded victims, is to be seen. Then
Spring brings round again the joyous feasts of Dionysus, the
harmonious contests of the choruses and the serious melodies of the
flute.
STREPSIADES
By Zeus! Tell me, Socrates, I pray you, who are these women, whose
language is so solemn; can they be demi-goddesses?
SOCRATES
Not at all. They are the Clouds of heaven, great goddesses for the
lazy; to them we owe all, thoughts, speeches, trickery, roguery,
boasting, lies, sagacity.
STREPSIADES
Ah! that was why, as I listened to them, my mind spread out its
wings; it burns to babble about trifles, to maintain worthless
arguments, to voice its petty reasons, to contradict, to tease some
opponent. But are they not going to show themselves? I should like
to see them, were it possible.
SOCRATES
Well, look this way in the direction of Parnes; I already see
those who are slowly descending.
STREPSIADES
But where, where? Show them to me.
SOCRATES
They are advancing in a throng, following an oblique path across
the dales and thickets.
STREPSIADES
Strange! I can see nothing.
SOCRATES
There, close to the entrance.
STREPSIADES
Hardly, if at all, can I distinguish them.
SOCRATES
You must see them clearly now, unless your eyes are filled with
gum as thick as pumpkins.
STREPSIADES
Aye, undoubtedly! Oh! the venerable goddesses! Why, they fill up
the entire stage.
SOCRATES
And you did not know, you never suspected, that they were
goddesses?
STREPSIADES
No, indeed; I thought the Clouds were only fog, dew and vapour.
SOCRATES
But what you certainly do not know is that they are the support of
a crowd of quacks, the diviners, who were sent to Thurium, the
notorious physicians, the well-combed fops, who load their fingers
with rings down to the nails, and the braggarts, who write dithyrambic
verses, all these are idlers whom the Clouds provide a living for,
because they sing them in their verses.
STREPSIADES
It is then for this that they praise "the rapid flight of the
moist clouds, which veil the brightness of day" and "the waving
locks of the hundred-headed Typho" and "the impetuous tempests,
which float through the heavens, like birds of prey with aerial
wings loaded with mists" and "the rains, the dew, which the clouds
outpour." As a reward for these fine phrases they bolt well-grown,
tasty mullet and delicate thrushes.
SOCRATES
Yes, thanks to these. And is it not right and meet?
STREPSIADES
Tell me then why, if these really are the Clouds, they so very
much resemble mortals. This is not their usual form.
SOCRATES
What are they like then?
STREPSIADES
I don't know exactly; well, they are like great packs of wool, but
not like women-no, not in the least....And these have noses.
SOCRATES
Answer my questions.
STREPSIADES
Willingly! Go on, I am listening.
SOCRATES
Have you not sometimes seen clouds in the sky like a centaur, a
leopard, a wolf or a bull?
STREPSIADES
Why, certainly I have, but what of that?
SOCRATES
They take what metamorphosis they like. If they see a debauchee
with long flowing locks and hairy as a beast, like the son of
Xenophantes, they take the form of a Centaur in derision of his
shameful passion.
STREPSIADES
And when they see Simon, that thiever of public money, what do
they do then?
SOCRATES
To picture him to the life, they turn at once into wolves.
STREPSIADES
So that was why yesterday, when they saw Cleonymus, who cast
away his buckler because he is the veriest poltroon amongst men,
they changed into deer.
SOCRATES
And to-day they have seen Clisthenes; you see....they are women
STREPSIADES
Hail, sovereign goddesses, and if ever you have let your celestial
voice be heard by mortal ears, speak to me, oh! speak to me, ye
all-powerful queens.
CHORUS-LEADER
Hail! veteran of the ancient times, you who burn to instruct
yourself in fine language. And you, great high-priest of subtle
nonsense, tell us; your desire. To you and Prodicus alone of all the
hollow orationers of to-day have we lent an ear-to Prodicus, because
of his knowledge and his great wisdom, and to you, because you walk
with head erect, a confident look, barefooted, resigned to
everything and proud of our protection.
STREPSIADES
Oh! Earth! What august utterances! how sacred! how wondrous!
SOCRATES
That is because these are the only goddesses; all the rest are
pure myth.
STREPSIADES
But by the Earth! is our father, Zeus, the Olympian, not a god?
SOCRATES
Zeus! what Zeus! Are you mad? There is no Zeus.
STREPSIADES
What are you saying now? Who causes the rain to fall? Answer me
that!
SOCRATES
Why, these, and I will prove it. Have you ever seen it raining
without clouds? Let Zeus then cause rain with a clear sky and
without their presence!
STREPSIADES
By Apollo! that is powerfully argued! For my own part, I always
thought it was Zeus pissing into a sieve. But tell me, who is it makes
the thunder, which I so much dread?
SOCRATES
These, when they roll one over the other.
STREPSIADES
But how can that be? you most daring among men!
SOCRATES
Being full of water, and forced to move along, they are of
necessity precipitated in rain, being fully distended with moisture
from the regions where they have been floating; hence they bump each
other heavily and burst with great noise.
STREPSIADES
But is it not Zeus who forces them to move?
SOCRATES
Not at all; it's the aerial Whirlwind.
STREPSIADES
The Whirlwind! ah! I did not know that. So Zeus, it seems, has
no existence, and its the Whirlwind that reigns in his stead? But
you have not yet told me what makes the roll of the thunder?
SOCRATES
Have you not understood me then? I tell you, that the Clouds, when
full of rain, bump against one another, and that, being inordinately
swollen out, they burst with a great noise.
STREPSIADES
How can you make me credit that?
SOCRATES
Take yourself as an example. When you have heartily gorged on stew
at the Panathenaea, you get throes of stomach-ache and then suddenly
your belly resounds with prolonged rumbling.
STREPSIADES
Yes, yes, by Apollo I suffer, I get colic, then the stew sets to
rumbling like thunder and finally bursts forth with a terrific
noise. At first, it's but a little gurgling pappax, pappax! then it
increases, papapappax! and when I take my crap, why, it's thunder
indeed, papapappax! pappax!! papapappax!!! just like the clouds.
SOCRATES
Well then, reflect what a noise is produced by your belly, which
is but small. Shall not the air, which is boundless, produce these
mighty claps of thunder?
STREPSIADES
And this is why the names are so much alike: crap and clap. But
tell me this. Whence comes the lightning, the dazzling flame, which at
times consumes the man it strikes, at others hardly singes him. Is
it not plain, that Zeus is hurling it at the perjurers?
SOCRATES
Out upon the fool! the driveller! he still savours of the golden
age! If Zeus strikes at the perjurers, why has he not blasted Simon,
Cleonymus and Theorus? Of a surety, greater perjurers cannot exist.
No, he strikes his own temple, and Sunium, the promontory of Athens,
and the towering oaks. Now, why should he do that? An oak is no
perjurer.
STREPSIADES
I cannot tell, but it seems to me well argued. What is the
lightning then?
SOCRATES
When a dry wind ascends to the Clouds and gets shut into them,
it blows them out like a bladder; finally, being too confined, it
bursts them, escapes with fierce violence and a roar to flash into
flame by reason of its own impetuosity.
STREPSIADES
Ah, that's just what happened to me one day. It was at the feast
of Zeus! I was cooking a sow's belly for my family and I had forgotten
to slit it open. It swelled out and, suddenly bursting, discharged
itself right into my eyes and burnt my face.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh, mortal, you who desire to instruct yourself in our great
wisdom, the Athenians, the Greeks will envy you your good fortune.
Only you must have the memory and ardour for study, you must know
how to stand the tests, hold your own, go forward without feeling
fatigue, caring but little for food, abstaining from wine, gymnastic
exercises and other similar follies, in fact, you must believe as
every man of intellect should, that the greatest of all blessings is
to live and think more clearly than the vulgar herd, to shine in the
contests of words.
STREPSIADES
If it be a question of hardiness for labour, of spending whole
nights at work, of living sparingly, of fighting my stomach and only
eating chickpease, rest assured, I am as hard as an anvil.
SOCRATES
Henceforward, following our example, you will recognize no other
gods but Chaos, the Clouds and the Tongue, these three alone.
STREPSIADES
I would not speak to the others, even if I met them in the street;
not a single sacrifice, not a libation, not a grain of incense for
them!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Tell us boldly then what you want of us; you cannot fail to
succeed. If you honour and revere us and if you are resolved to become
a clever man.
STREPSIADES
Oh, sovereign goddesses, it is only a very small favour that I ask
of you; grant that I may outdistance all the Greeks by a hundred
stadia in the art of speaking.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We grant you this, and henceforward no eloquence shall more
often succeed with the people than your own.
STREPSIADES
May the gods shield me from possessing great eloquence! That's not
what I want. I want to be able to turn bad law-suits to my own
advantage and to slip through the fingers of my creditors.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
It shall be as you wish, for your ambitions are modest. Commit
yourself fearlessly to our ministers, the sophists.
STREPSIADES
This I will do, for I trust in you. Moreover there is no drawing
back, what with these cursed horses and this marriage, which has eaten
up my vitals. (More and more volubly from here to the end of speeck)
So let them do with me as they will; I yield my body to them. Come
blows, come hunger, thirst, heat or cold, little matters it to me;
they may flay me, if I only escape my debts, if only I win the
reputation of being a bold rascal, a fine speaker, impudent,
shameless, a braggart, and adept at stringing lies, an old stager at
quibbles, a complete table of laws, a thorough rattle, a fox to slip
through any hole; supple as a leathern strap, slippery as an eel, an
artful fellow, a blusterer, a villain; a knave with a hundred faces,
cunning, intolerable, a gluttonous dog. With such epithets do I seek
to be greeted; on these terms they can treat me as they choose, and,
if they wish, by Demeter! they can turn me into sausages and serve
me up to the philosophers.
CHORUS (singing)
Here have we a bold and well-disposed pupil indeed. When we have
taught you, your glory among the mortals will reach even to the skies.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Wherein will that profit me?
CHORUS (singing)
You will pass your whole life among us and will be the most envied
of men.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Shall I really ever see such happiness?
CHORUS (singing)
Clients will be everlastingly besieging your door in crowds,
burning to get at you, to explain their business to you and to consult
you about their suits, which, in return for your ability, will bring
you in great sums.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But, Socrates, begin the lessons you want to teach this old man;
rouse his mind, try the strength of his intelligence.
SOCRATES
Come, tell me the kind of mind you have; it's important that I
know this, that I may order my batteries against you in the right
fashion.
STREPSIADES
Eh, what! in the name of the gods, are you purposing to assault me
then?
SOCRATES
No. I only wish to ask you some questions. Have you any memory?
STREPSIADES
That depends: if anything is owed me, my memory is excellent,
but if I owe, alas! I have none whatever.
SOCRATES
Have you a natural gift for speaking?
STREPSIADES
For speaking, no; for cheating, yes.
SOCRATES
How will you be able to learn then?
STREPSIADES
Very easily, have no fear.
SOCRATES
Thus, when I throw forth some philosophical thought anent things
celestial., you will seize it in its very flight?
STREPSIADES
Then I am to snap up wisdom much as a dog snaps up a morsel?
SOCRATES (aside)
Oh! the ignoramus! the barbarian! (to STREPSIADES) I greatly fear,
old man, it will be necessary for me to have recourse to blows. Now,
let me hear what you do when you are beaten.
STREPSIADES
I receive the blow, then wait a moment, take my witnesses and
finally summon my assailant at law.
SOCRATES
Come, take off your cloak.
STREPSIADES
Have I robbed you of anything?
SOCRATES
No. but the usual thing is to enter the school without your cloak.
STREPSIADES
But I have not come here to look for stolen goods.
SOCRATES
Off with it, fool!
STREPSIADES (He obeys.)
Tell me, if I prove thoroughly attentive and learn with zeal,
which O; your disciples shall I resemble, do you think?
SOCRATES
You will be the image of Chaerephon.
STREPSIADES
Ah! unhappy me! Shall I then be only half alive?
SOCRATES
A truce to this chatter! follow me and no more of it.
STREPSIADES
First give me a honey-cake, for to descend down there sets me
all a-tremble; it looks like the cave of Trophonius.
SOCRATES
But get in with you! What reason have you for thus dallying at the
door?
(They go into the Thoughtery.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Good luck! you have courage; may you succeed, you, who, though
already so advanced in years, wish to instruct your mind with new
studies and practise it in wisdom! (The CHORUS turns and faces the
Audience.) Spectators! By Bacchus, whose servant I am, I will
frankly tell you the truth. May I secure both victory and renown as
certainly as I hold you for adept critics and as I regard this
comedy as my best. I wished to give you the first view of a work,
which had cost me much trouble, but which I withdrew, unjustly
beaten by unskilful rivals. It is you, oh, enlightened public, for
whom I have prepared my piece, that I reproach with this. Nevertheless
I shall never willingly cease to seek the approval of the
discerning. I have not forgotten the day, when men, whom one is
happy to have for an audience, received my Virtuous Young Man and my
Paederast with so much favour in this very place. Then as yet
virgin, my Muse had not attained the age for maternity; she had to
expose her first-born for another to adopt, and it has since grown
up under your generous patronage. Ever since you have as good as sworn
me your faithful alliance. Thus, like the Electra of the poets, my
comedy has come to seek you to-day, hoping again to encounter such
enlightened spectators. As far away as she can discern her Orestes,
she will be able to recognize him by his curly head. And note her
modest demeanour! She has not sewn on a piece of hanging leather,
thick and reddened at the end, to cause laughter among the children;
she does not rail at the bald, neither does she dance the cordax; no
old man is seen, who, while uttering his lines, batters his questioner
with a stick to make his poor jests pass muster. She does not rush
upon the scene carrying a torch and screaming, 'Iou! Iou!' No, she
relies upon herself and her verses....My value is so well known,
that I take no further pride in it. I do not seek to deceive you, by
reproducing the same subjects two or three times; I always invent
fresh themes to present before you, themes that have no relation to
each other and that are all clever. I attacked Cleon to his face and
when he was all-powerful; but he has fallen, and now I have no
desire to kick him when he is down. My rivals, on the contrary, now
that this wretched Hyperbolus has given them the cue, have never
ceased setting upon both him and his mother. First Eupolis presented
his 'Maricas'; this was simply my 'Knights,' whom this plagiarist
had clumsily furbished up again by adding to the piece an old
drunken woman, so that she might dance the cordax. It was an old idea,
taken from Phrynichus, who caused his old hag to be devoured by a
monster of the deep. Then Hermippus fell foul of Hyperbolus and now
all the others fall upon him and repeat my comparison of the eels. May
those who find amusement in their pieces not be pleased with mine, but
as for you, who love and applaud my inventions, why, posterity will
praise your good taste.
FIRST SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Oh, ruler of Olympus, all-powerful king of the gods, great Zeus,
it is thou whom I first invoke; protect this chorus; and thou too,
Posidon, whose dread trident upheaves at the will of thy anger both
the bowels of the earth and the salty waves of the ocean. I invoke
my illustrious father, the divine Aether, the universal sustainer of
life, and Phoebus, who, from the summit of his chariot, sets the world
aflame with his dazzling rays, Phoebus, a mighty deity amongst the
gods and adored amongst mortals.
LEADER OF FIRST SEMI-CHORUS
Most wise spectators, lend us all your attention. Give heed to our
just reproaches. There exist no gods to whom this city owes more
than it does to us, whom alone you forget. Not a sacrifice, not a
libation is there for those who protect you! Have you decreed some mad
expedition? Well! we thunder or we fall down in rain. When you chose
that enemy of heaven, the Paphlagonian tanner, for a general, we
knitted our brow, we caused our wrath to break out; the lightning shot
forth, the thunder pealed, the moon deserted her course and the sun at
once veiled his beam threatening, no longer to give you light, if
Cleon became general. Nevertheless you elected him; it is said, Athens
never resolves upon some fatal step but the gods turn these errors
into her greatest gain. Do you wish that his election should even
now be a success for you? It is a very simple thing to do; condemn
this rapacious gull named Cleon for bribery and extortion, fit a
wooden collar tight round his neck, and your error will be rectified
and the commonweal will at once regain its old prosperity.
SECOND SEMI-CHORUS (singing)
Aid me also, Phoebus, god of Delos, who reignest on the cragged
peaks of Cynthia; and thou, happy virgin, to whom the Lydian damsels
offer pompous sacrifice in a temple; of gold; and thou, goddess of our
country, Athene, armed with the aegis, the protectress of Athens;
and thou, who, surrounded by the bacchants of Delphi; roamest over the
rocks of Parnassus shaking the flame of thy resinous torch, thou,
Bacchus, the god of revel and joy.
LEADER OF SECOND SEMI-CHORUS
As we were preparing to come here, we were hailed by the Moon
and were charged to wish joy and happiness both to the Athenians and
to their allies; further, she said that she was enraged and that you
treated her very shamefully, her, who does not pay you in words alone,
but who renders you all real benefits. Firstly, thanks to her, you
save at least a drachma each month for lights, for each, as he is
leaving home at night, says, "Slave, buy no torches, for the moonlight
is beautiful,"-not to name a thousand other benefits. Nevertheless you
do not reckon the days correctly and your calendar is naught but
confusion. Consequently the gods load her with threats each time
they get home and are disappointed of their meal, because the festival
has not been kept in the regular order of time. When you should be
sacrificing, you are putting to the torture or administering
justice. And often, we others, the gods, are fasting in token of
mourning for the death of Memnon or Sarpedon, while you are devoting
yourselves to joyous libations. It is for this, that last year, when
the lot would have invested Hyperbolus with the duty of Amphictyon, we
took his crown from him, to teach him that time must be divided
according to the phases of the moon.
SOCRATES (coming out)
By Respiration, the Breath of Life! By Chaos! By the Air! I have
never seen a man so gross, so inept, so stupid, so forgetful. All
the little quibbles, which I teach him, he forgets even before he
has learnt them. Yet I will not give it up, I will make him come out
here into the open air. Where are you, Strepsiades? Come, bring your
couch out here.
STREPSIADES (from within)
But the bugs will not allow me to bring it.
SOCRATES
Have done with such nonsense! place it there and pay attention.
STREPSIADES (coming out, with the bed)
Well, here I am.
SOCRATES
Good! Which science of all those you have never been taught, do
you wish to learn first? The measures, the rhythms or the verses?
STREPSIADES
Why, the measures; the flour dealer cheated me out of two
choenixes the other day.
SOCRATES
It's not about that I ask you, but which, according to you, is the
best measure, the trimeter or the tetrameter?
STREPSIADES
The one I prefer is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES
You talk nonsense, my good fellow.
STREPSIADES
I will wager your tetrameter is the semisextarius.
SOCRATES
Plague seize the dunce and the fool! Come, perchance you will
learn the rhythms quicker.
STREPSIADES
Will the rhythms supply me with food?
SOCRATES
First they will help you to be pleasant in company, then to know
what is meant by enhoplian rhythm and what by the dactylic.
STREPSIADES
Of the dactyl? I know that quite well.
SOCRATES
What is it then, other than this finger here?
STREPSIADES
Formerly, when a child, I used this one.
SOCRATES
You are as low-minded as you are stupid.
STREPSIADES
But, wretched man, I do not want to learn all this.
SOCRATES
Then what do you want to know?
STREPSIADES
Not that, not that, but the art of false reasoning.
SOCRATES
But you must first learn other things. Come, what are the male
quadrupeds?
STREPSIADES
Oh! I know the males thoroughly. Do you take me for a fool then?
The ram, the buck, the bull, the dog, the pigeon.
SOCRATES
Do you see what you are doing; is not the female pigeon called the
same as the male?
STREPSIADES
How else? Come now!
SOCRATES
How else? With you then it's pigeon and pigeon!
STREPSIADES
That's right, by Posidon! but what names do you want me to give
them?
SOCRATES
Term the female pigeonnette and the male pigeon.
STREPSIADES
Pigeonnette! hah! by the Air! That's splendid! for that lesson
bring out your kneading-trough and I will fill him with flour to the
brim.
SOCRATES
There you are wrong again; you make trough masculine and it should
be feminine.
STREPSIADES
What? if I say, him, do I make the trough masculine?
SOCRATES
Assuredly! would you not say him for Cleonymus?
STREPSIADES
Well?
SOCRATES
Then trough is of the same gender as Cleonymus?
STREPSIADES
My good man! Cleonymus never had a kneading-trough; he used a
round mortar for the purpose. But come, tell me what I should say!
SOCRATES
For trough you should say her as you would for Soctrate.
STREPSIADES
Her?
SOCRATES
In this manner you make it truly female.
STREPSIADES
That's it! Her for trough and her for Cleonymus.
SOCRATE,"
Now I must teach you to distinguish the masculine proper names
from those that are feminine.
STREPSIADES
Ah! I know the female names well.
SOCRATES
Name some then.
STREPSIADES
Lysilla, Philinna, Clitagora, Demetria.
SOCRATES
And what are masculine names?
STREPSIADES
They are are countless-Philoxenus, Melesias, Amynias.
SOCRATES
But, wretched man, the last two are not masculine.
STREPSIADES
You do not count them as masculine?
SOCRATES
Not at all. If you met Amynias, how would you hail him?
STREPSIADES
How? Why, I should shout, "Hi, there, Amynia!
SOCRATES
Do you see? it's a female name that you give him.
STREPSIADES
And is it not rightly done, since he refuses military service? But
what use is there in learning what we all know?
SOCRATES
You know nothing about it. Come, lie down there.
STREPSIADES
What for?
SOCRATES
Ponder awhile over matters that interest you.
STREPSIADES
Oh! I pray you, not there but, if I must lie down and ponder,
let me lie on the ground.
SOCRATES
That's out of the question. Come! on the couch!
STREPSIADES (as he lies down)
What cruel fate! What a torture the bugs will this day put me to!
(Socrates turns aside.)
CHORUS (singing)
Ponder and examine closely, gather your thoughts together, let
your mind turn to every side of things; if you meet with a difficulty,
spring quickly to some other idea; above all, keep your eyes away from
all gentle sleep.
STREPSIADES (singing)
Ow, Wow, Wow, Wow is me!
CHORUS (singing)
What ails you? why do you cry so?
STREPSIADES
Oh! I am a dead man! Here are these cursed Corinthians advancing
upon me from all corners of the couch; they are biting me, they are
gnawing at my sides, they are drinking all my blood, they are
yanking of my balls, they are digging into my arse, they are killing
me!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Not so much wailing and clamour, if you please.
STREPSIADES
How can I obey? I have lost my money and my complexion, my blood
and my slippers, and to cap my misery, I must keep awake on this
couch, when scarce a breath of life is left in me.
(A brief interval of silence ensues.)
SOCRATES
Well now! what are you doing? are you reflecting?
STREPSIADES
Yes, by Posidon!
SOCRATES
What about?
STREPSIADES
Whether the bugs will entirely devour me.
SOCRATES
May death seize you, accursed man!
(He turns aside again.)
STREPSIADES
Ah it has already.
SOCRATES
Come, no giving way! Cover up your head; the thing to do is to
find an ingenious alternative.
STREPSIADES
An alternative! ah! I only wish one would come to me from within
these coverlets!
(Another interval of silence ensues.)
SOCRATES
Wait! let us see what our fellow is doing! Ho! are you asleep?
STREPSIADES
No, by Apollo!
SOCRATES
Have you got hold of anything?
STREPSIADES
No, nothing whatever.
SOCRATES
Nothing at all?
STREPSIADES
No, nothing except my tool, which I've got in my hand.
SOCRATES
Aren't you going to cover your head immediately and ponder?
STREPSIADES
On what? Come, Socrates, tell me.
SOCRATES
Think first what you want, and then tell me.
STREPSIADES
But I have told you a thousand times what I want. Not to pay any
of my creditors.
SOCRATES
Come, wrap yourself up; concentrate your mind, which wanders to
lightly; study every detail, scheme and examine thoroughly.
STREPSIADES
Alas! Alas!
SOCRATES
Keep still, and if any notion troubles you, put it quickly
aside, then resume it and think over it again.
STREPSIADES
My dear little Socrates!
SOCRATES
What is it, old greybeard?
STREPSIADES
I have a scheme for not paying my debts.
SOCRATES
Let us hear it.
STREPSIADES
Tell me, if I purchased a Thessalian witch, I could make the
moon descend during the night and shut it, like a mirror, into a round
box and there keep it carefully....
SOCRATES
How would you gain by that?
STREPSIADES
How? why, if the moon did not rise, I would have no interest to
pay.
SOCRATES
Why so?
STREPSIADES
Because money is lent by the month.
SOCRATES
Good! but I am going to propose another trick to you. If you
were condemned to pay five talents, how would you manage to quash that
verdict? Tell me.
STREPSIADES
How? how? I don't know, I must think.
SOCRATES
Do you always shut your thoughts within yourself? Let your ideas
fly in the air, like a may-bug, tied by the foot with a thread.
STREPSIADES
I have found a very clever way to annul that conviction; you
will admit that much yourself.
SOCRATES
What is it?
STREPSIADES
Have you ever seen a beautiful, transparent stone at the
druggists', with which you may kindle fire?
SOCRATES
You mean a crystal lens.
STREPSIADES
That's right. Well, now if I placed myself with this stone in
the sun and a long way off from the clerk, while he was writing out
the conviction, I could make all the wax, upon which the words were
written, melt.
SOCRATES
Well thought out, by the Graces!
STREPSIADES
Ah! I am delighted to have annulled the decree that was to cost me
five talents.
SOCRATES
Come, take up this next question quickly.
STREPSIADES
Which?
SOCRATES
If, when summoned to court, you were in danger of losing your case
for want of witnesses, how would you make the conviction fall upon
your opponent?
STREPSIADES
That's very simple and easy.
SOCRATES
Let me hear.
STREPSIADES
This way. If another case had to be pleaded before mine was
called, I should run and hang myself.
SOCRATES
You talk rubbish!
STREPSIADES
Not so, by the gods! if I were dead, no action could lie against
me.
SOCRATES
You are merely beating the air. Get out! I will give you no more
lessons.
STREPSIADES (imploringly)
Why not? Oh! Socrates! in the name of the gods!
SOCRATES
But you forget as fast as you learn. Come, what was the thing I
taught you first? Tell me.
STREPSIADES
Ah let me see. What was the first thing? What was it then? Ah!
that thing in which we knead the bread, oh! my god! what do you call
it?
SOCRATES
Plague take the most forgetful and silliest of old addlepates!
STREPSIADES
Alas! what a calamity! what will become of me? I am undone if I do
not learn how to ply my tongue. Oh! Clouds! give me good advice.
CHORUS-LEADER
Old man, we counsel you, if you have brought up a son, to send him
to learn in your stead.
STREPSIADES
Undoubtedly I have a son, as well endowed as the best, but he is
unwilling to learn. What will become of me?
CHORUS-LEADER
And you don't make him obey you?
STREPSIADES
You see, he is big and strong; moreover, through his mother he
is a descendant of those fine birds, the race of Coesyra.
Nevertheless, I will go and find him, and if he refuses, I will turn
him out of the house. Go in, Socrates, and wait for me awhile.
(SOCRATES goes into the Thoughtery, STREPSIADES into his own house.)
CHORUS (singing)
Do you understand, Socrates, that thanks to us you will be
loaded with benefits? Here is a man, ready to obey you in all
things. You see how he is carried away with admiration and enthusiasm.
Profit by it to clip him as short as possible; fine chances are all
too quickly gone.
STREPSIADES (coming out of his house and pushing his son in front of
him) No, by the Clouds! you stay here no longer; go and devour the
ruins of your uncle Megacles' fortune.
PHIDIPPIDES
Oh! my poor father! what has happened to you? By the Olympian
Zeus! You are no longer in your senses!
STREPSIADES
Look! "the Olympian Zeus." Oh! you fool! to believe in Zeus at
your age!
PHIDIPPIDES
What is there in that to make you laugh?
STREPSIADES
You are then a tiny little child, if you credit such antiquated
rubbish! But come here, that I may teach you; I will tell you
something very necessary to know to be a man; but do not repeat it
to anybody.
PHIDIPPIDES
Tell me, what is it?
STREPSIADES
Just now you swore by Zeus.
PHIDIPPIDES
Sure I did.
STREPSIADES
Do you see how good it is to learn? Phidippides, there is no Zeus.
PHIDIPPIDES
What is there then?
STREPSIADES
The Whirlwind has driven out Zeus and is King now.
PHIDIPPIDES
What drivel!
STREPSIADES
You must realize that it is true.
PHIDIPPIDES
And who says so?
STREPSIADES
Socrates, the Melian, and Chaerephon, who knows how to measure the
jump of a flea.
PHIDIPPIDES
Have you reached such a pitch of madness that you believe those
bilious fellows?
STREPSIADES
Use better language, and do not insult men who are clever and full
of wisdom, who, to economize, never shave, shun the gymnasia and never
go to the baths, while you, you only await my death to eat up my
wealth. But come, come as quickly as you can to learn in my stead.
PHIDIPPIDES
And what good can be learnt of them?
STREPSIADES
What good indeed? Why, all human knowledge. Firstly, you will know
yourself grossly ignorant. But await me here awhile.
(He goes back into his house.)
PHIDIPPIDES
Alas! what is to be done? Father has lost his wits. Must I have
him certificated for lunacy, or must I order his coffin?
STREPSIADES (returning with a bird in each hand)
Come! what kind of bird is this? Tell me.
PHIDIPPIDES
A pigeon.
STREPSIADES
Good! And this female?
PHIDIPPIDES
A pigeon.
STREPSIADES
The same for both? You make me laugh! In the future you must
call this one a pigeonnette and the other a pigeon.
PHIDIPPIDES
A pigeonnette! These then are the fine things you have just learnt
at the school of these sons of Earth!
STREPSIADES
And many others; but what I learnt I forgot at once, because I
am to old.
PHIDIPPIDES
So this is why you have lost your cloak?
STREPSIADES
I have not lost it, I have consecrated it to Philosophy.
PHIDIPPIDES
And what have you done with your sandals, you poor fool?
STREPSIADES
If I have lost them, it is for what was necessary, just as
Pericles did. But come, move yourself, let us go in; if necessary,
do wrong to obey your father. When you were six years old and still
lisped, I was the one who obeyed you. I remember at the feasts of Zeus
you had a consuming wish for a little chariot and I bought it for
you with the first obolus which I received as a juryman in the courts.
PHIDIPPIDES
You will soon repent of what you ask me to do.
STREPSIADES
Oh! now I am happy! He obeys. (loudly) Come, Socrates, come!
Come out quick! Here I am bringing you my son; he refused, but I
have persuaded him.
SOCRATES
Why, he is but a child yet. He is not used to these baskets, in
which we suspend our minds.
PHIDIPPIDES
To make you better used to them, I would you were hung.
STREPSIADES
A curse upon you! you insult your master!
SOCRATES
"I would you were hung!" What a stupid speech! and so emphatically
spoken! How can one ever get out of an accusation with such a tone,
summon witnesses or touch or convince? And yet when we think,
Hyperbolus learnt all this for one talent!
STREPSIADES
Rest undisturbed and teach him. He has a most intelligent
nature. Even when quite little he amused himself at home with making
houses, carving boats, constructing little chariots of leather, and
understood wonderfully how to make frogs out of pomegranate rinds.
Teach him both methods of reasoning, the strong and also the weak,
which by false arguments triumphs over the strong; if not the two,
at least the false, and that in every possible way.
SOCRATES
The Just and Unjust Discourse themselves shall instruct him. I
shall leave you.
STREPSIADES
But forget it not, he must always, always be able to confound
the true.
(Socrates enters the Thoughtery; a moment later the JUST and the
UNJUST DISCOURSE come out; they are quarrelling violently.)
JUST DISCOURSE
Come here! Shameless as you may be, will you dare to show your
face to the spectators?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Take me where you will. I seek a throng, so that I may the
better annihilate you.
JUST DISCOURSE
Annihilate me! Do you forget who you are?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
I am Reasoning.
JUST DISCOURSE
Yes, the weaker Reasoning."
UNJUST DISCOURSE
But I triumph over you, who claim to be the stronger.
JUST DISCOURSE
By what cunning shifts, pray?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
By the invention of new maxims.
JUST DISCOURSE
.... which are received with favour by these fools.
(He points to the audience.)
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Say rather, by these wise men.
JUST DISCOURSE
I am going to destroy you mercilessly.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
How pray? Let us see you do it.
JUST DISCOURSE
By saying what is true.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
I shall retort and shall very soon have the better of you.
First, maintain that justice has no existence.
JUST DISCOURSE
Has no existence?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
No existence! Why, where is it?
JUST DISCOURSE
With the gods.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
How then, if justice exists, was Zeus not put to death for
having put his father in chains?
JUST DISCOURSE
Bah! this is enough to turn my stomach! A basin, quick!
UNJUST DISCOURSE
You are an old driveller and stupid withal.
JUST DISCOURSE
And you a degenerate and shameless fellow.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Hah! What sweet expressions!
JUST DISCOURSE
An impious buffoon.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
You crown me with roses and with lilies.
JUST DISCOURSE
A parricide.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Why, you shower gold upon me.
JUST DISCOURSE
Formerly it was a hailstorm of blows.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
I deck myself with your abuse.
JUST DISCOURSE
What impudence!
UNJUST DISCOURSE
What tomfoolery!
JUST DISCOURSE
It is because of you that the youth no longer attends the schools.
The Athenians will soon recognize what lessons you teach those who are
fools enough to believe you.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
You are overwhelmed with wretchedness.
JUST DISCOURSE
And you, you prosper. Yet you were poor when you said, "I am the
Mysian Telephus," and used to stuff your wallet with maxims of
Pandeletus to nibble at.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Oh! the beautiful wisdom, of which you are now boasting!
JUST DISCOURSE
Madman! But yet madder the city that keeps you, you, the corrupter
of its youth!
UNJUST DISCOURSE
It is not you who will teach this young man; you are as old and
out of date at Cronus.
JUST DISCOURSE
Nay, it will certainly be I, if he does not wish to be lost and to
practise verbosity only.
UNJUST DISCOURSE (to PHIDIPPIDES)
Come here and leave him to beat the air.
JUST DISCOURSE
You'll regret it, if you touch him.
CHORUS-LEADER (stepping between them as they are about to come to
blows)
A truce to your quarrellings and abuse! But you expound what you
taught us formerly, and you, your new doctrine. Thus, after hearing
each of you argue, he will be able to choose betwixt the two schools.
JUST DISCOURSE
I am quite agreeable.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
And I too.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Who is to speak first?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Let it be my opponent, he has my full consent; then I shall follow
upon the very ground he shall have chosen and shall shatter him with a
hail of new ideas and subtle fancies; if after that he dares to
breathe another word, I shall sting him in the face and in the eyes
with our maxims, which are as keen as the sting of a wasp, and he will
die.
CHORUS (singing)
Here are two rivals confident in their powers of oratory and in
the thoughts over which they have pondered so long. Let us see which
will come triumphant out of the contest. This wisdom, for which my
friends maintain such a persistent fight, is in great danger.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Come then, you, who crowned men of other days with so many
virtues, plead the cause dear to you, make yourself known to us.
JUST DISCOURSE
Very well, I will tell you what was the old education, when I used
to teach justice with so much success and when modesty was held in
veneration. Firstly, it was required of a child, that it should not
utter a word. In the street, when they went to the music-school, all
the youths of the same district marched lightly clad and ranged in
good order, even when the snow was falling in great flakes. At the
master's house they had to stand with their legs apart and they were
taught to sing either, "Pallas, the Terrible, who overturneth cities,"
or "A noise resounded from afar" in the solemn tones of the ancient
harmony. If anyone indulged in buffoonery or lent his voice any of the
soft inflexions, like those which to-day the disciples of Phrynis take
so much pains to form, he was treated as an enemy of the Muses and
belaboured with blows. In the wrestling school they would sit with
outstretched legs and without display of any indecency to the curious.
When they rose, they would smooth over the sand, so as to leave no
trace to excite obscene thoughts. Never was a child rubbed with oil
below the belt; the rest of their bodies thus retained its fresh bloom
and down, like a velvety peach. They were not to be seen approaching a
lover and themselves rousing his passion by soft modulation of the
voice and lustful gaze. At table, they would not have dared, before
those older than themselves, to have taken a radish, an aniseed or a
leaf of parsley, and much less eat fish or thrushes or cross their
legs.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
What antiquated rubbish! Have we got back to the days of the
festivals of Zeus Polieus, to the Buphonia, to the time of the poet
Cecides and the golden cicadas?
JUST DISCOURSE
Nevertheless by suchlike teaching I built up the men of
Marathon-But you, you teach the children of to-day to bundle
themselves quickly into their clothes, and I am enraged when I see
them at the Panathenaea forgetting Athene while they dance, and
covering their tools with their bucklers. Hence, young man, dare to
range yourself beside me, who follow justice and truth; you will
then be able to shun the public place, to refrain from the baths, to
blush at all that is shameful, to fire up if your virtue is mocked at,
to give place to your elders, to honour your parents, in short, to
avoid all that is evil. Be modesty itself, and do not run to applaud
the dancing girls; if you delight in such scenes, some courtesan
will cast you her apple and your reputation will be done for. Do not
bandy words with your father, nor treat him as a dotard, nor
reproach the old man, who has cherished you, with his age.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
If you listen to him, by Bacchus! you will be the image of the
sons of Hippocrates and will be called mother's big ninny.
JUST DISCOURSE
No, but you will pass your days at the gymnasia, glowing with
strength and health; you will not go to the public place to cackle and
wrangle as is done nowadays; you will not live in fear that you may be
dragged before the courts for some trifle exaggerated by quibbling.
But you will go down to the Academy to run beneath the sacred olives
with some virtuous friend of your own age, your head encircled with
the white reed, enjoying your ease and breathing the perfume of the
yew and of the fresh sprouts of the poplar, rejoicing in the return of
springtide and gladly listening to the gentle rustle of the plane tree
and the elm. (With greater warmth from here on) If you devote yourself
to practising my precepts, your chest will be stout, your colour
glowing, your shoulders broad, your tongue short, your hips
muscular, but your tool small. But if you follow the fashions of the
day, you will be pallid in hue, have narrow shoulders, a narrow chest,
a long tongue, small hips and a big thing; you will know how to spin
forth long-winded arguments on law. You will be persuaded also to
regard as splendid everything that is shameful and as shameful
everything that is honourable; in a word, you will wallow in
degeneracy like Antimachus.
CHORUS (singing)
How beautiful, high-souled, brilliant is this wisdom that you
practise! What a sweet odour of honesty is emitted by your
discourse! Happy were those men of other days who lived when you
were honoured! And you, seductive talker, come, find some fresh
arguments, for your rival has done wonders.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
You will have to bring out against him all the battery of your
wit, it you desire to beat him and not to be laughed out of court.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
At last! I was choking with impatience, I was burning to upset his
arguments! If I am called the Weaker Reasoning in the schools, it is
just because I was the first to discover the means to confute the laws
and the decrees of justice. To invoke solely the weaker arguments
and yet triumph is an art worth more than a hundred thousand drachmae.
But see how I shall batter down the sort of education of which he is
so proud. Firstly, he forbids you to bathe in hot water. What
grounds have you for condemning hot baths?
JUST DISCOURSE
Because they are baneful and enervate men.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Enough said! Oh! you poor wrestler! From the very outset I have
seized you and hold you round the middle; you cannot escape me. Tell
me, of all the sons of Zeus, who had the stoutest heart, who performed
the most doughty deeds?
JUST DISCOURSE
None, in my opinion, surpassed Heracles.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Where have you ever seen cold baths called 'Bath of Heracles'? And
yet who was braver than he?
JUST DISCOURSE
It is because of such quibbles, that the baths are seen crowded
with young folk, who chatter there the livelong day while the gymnasia
remain empty.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Next you condemn the habit of frequenting the market-place,
while I approve this. If it were wrong Homer would never have made
Nestor speak in public as well as all his wise heroes. As for the
art of speaking, he tells you, young men should not practise it; I
hold the contrary. Furthermore he preaches chastity to them. Both
precepts are equally harmful. Have you ever seen chastity of any use
to anyone? Answer and try to confute me.
JUST DISCOURSE
To many; for instance, Peleus won a sword thereby.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
A sword! Ah! what a fine present to make him! Poor wretch!
Hyperbolus, the lamp-seller, thanks to his villainy, has gained more
than....do not know how many talents, but certainly no sword.
JUST DISCOURSE
Peleus owed it to his chastity that he became the husband of
Thetis.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
.... who left him in the lurch, for he was not the most ardent; in
those nocturnal sports between the sheets, which so please women, he
possessed but little merit. Get you gone, you are but an old fool. But
you, young man, just consider a little what this temperance means
and the delights of which it deprives you-young fellows, women,
play, dainty dishes, wine, boisterous laughter. And what is life worth
without these? Then, if you happen to commit one of these faults
inherent in human weakness, some seduction or adultery, and you are
caught in the act, you are lost, if you cannot speak. But follow my
teaching and you will be able to satisfy your passions, to dance, to
laugh, to blush at nothing. Suppose you are caught in the act of
adultery. Then up and tell the husband you are not guilty, and
recall to him the example of Zeus, who allowed himself to be conquered
by love and by women. Being but a mortal, can you be stronger than a
god?
JUST DISCOURSE
Suppose your pupil, following your advice, gets the radish
rammed up his arse and then is depilated with a hot coal; how are
you going to prove to him that he is not a broad-arse?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
What's the matter with being a broad-arse?
JUST DISCOURSE
Is there anything worse than that?
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Now what will you say, if I beat you even on this point?
JUST DISCOURSE
I should certainly have to be silent then.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Well then, reply! Our advocates, what are they?
JUST DISCOURSE
Sons of broad-arses.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Nothing is more true. And our tragic poets?
JUST DISCOURSE
Sons of broad-arses.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Well said again. And our demagogues?
JUST DISCOURSE
Sons of broad-arses.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
You admit that you have spoken nonsense. And the spectators,
what are they for the most part? Look at them.
JUST DISCOURSE
I am looking at them.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Well! What do you see?
JUST DISCOURSE
By the gods, they are nearly all broad-arses. (pointing) See, this
one I know to be such and that one and that other with the long hair.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
What have you to say, then?
JUST DISCOURSE
I am beaten. Debauchees! in the name of the gods, receive my
cloak; I pass over to your ranks.
(He goes back into the Thoughtery.)
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Well then! Are you going to take away your son or do you wish me
to teach him how to speak?
STREPSIADES
Teach him, chastise him and do not fail to sharpen his tongue
well, on one side for petty law-suits and on the other for important
cases.
UNJUST DISCOURSE
Don't worry, I shall return him to you an accomplished sophist.
PHIDIPPIDES
Very pale then and thoroughly hang-dog-looking.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Take him with you. (The UNJUST DISCOURSE and PHIDIPPIDES go into
the THOUGHTERY. To STREPSIADES, who is just going into his own house.)
I think you will regret this. (The CHORUS turns and faces the
audience.) judges, we are all about to tell you what you will gain
by awarding us the crown as equity requires of you. In spring, when
you wish to give your fields the first dressing, we will rain upon you
first; the others shall wait. Then we will watch over your corn and
over your vinestocks; they will have no excess to fear, neither of
heat nor of wet. But if a mortal dares to insult the goddesses of
the Clouds, let him think of the ills we shall pour upon him. For
him neither wine nor any harvest at all! Our terrible slings will
mow down his young olive plants and his vines. If he is making bricks,
it will rain, and our round hailstones will break the tiles of his
roof. If he himself marries or any of his relations or friends, we
shall cause rain to fall the whole night long. Verily, he would prefer
to live in Egypt than to have given this iniquitous verdict.
STREPSIADES (coming out again)
Another four, three, two days, then the eve, then the day, the
fatal day of payment! I tremble, I quake, I shudder, for it's the
day of the old moon and the new. Then all my creditors take the
oath, pay their deposits, I swear my downfall and my ruin. As for
me, I beseech them to be reasonable, to be just, "My friend, do not
demand this sum, wait a little for this other and give me time for
this third one." Then they will pretend that at this rate they will
never be repaid, will accuse me of bad faith and will threaten me with
the law. Well then, let them sue me! I care nothing for that, if
only Phidippides has learnt to speak fluently. I am going to find out;
I'll knock at the door of the school. (He knocks.).... Ho! slave,
slave!
SOCRATES (coming out)
Welcome! Strepsiades!
STREPSIADES
Welcome! Socrates! But first take this sack (offers him a sack
of flour); it is right to reward the master with some present. And
my son, whom you took off lately, has he learnt this famous reasoning?
Tell me.
SOCRATES
He has learnt it.
STREPSIADES
Wonderful! Oh! divine Knavery!
SOCRATES
You will win just as many causes as you choose.
STREPSIADES
Even if I have borrowed before witnesses?
SOCRATES
So much the better, even if there are a thousand of them!
STREPSIADES (bursting into song)
Then I am going to shout with all my might. "Woe to the usurers,
woe to their capital and their interest and their compound interest!
You shall play me no more bad turns. My son is being taught there, his
tongue is being sharpened into a double-edged weapon; he is my
defender, the saviour of my house, the ruin of my foes! His poor
father was crushed down with misfortune and he delivers him." Go and
call him to me quickly. Oh! my child! my dear little one! run
forward to your father's voice!
SOCRATES (singing)
Lo, the man himself!
STREPSIADES (singing)
Oh, my friend, my dearest friend!
SOCRATES (singing)
Take your son, and get you gone.
STREPSIADES (as PHIDIPPIDES appears)
Oh, my son! oh! oh! what a pleasure to see your pallor! You are
ready first to deny and then to contradict; it's as clear as noon.
What a child of your country you are! How your lips quiver with the
famous, "What have you to say now?" How well you know, I am certain,
to put on the look of a victim, when it is you who are making both
victims and dupes! And what a truly Attic glance! Come, it's for you
to save me, seeing it is you who have ruined me.
PHIDIPPIDES
What is it you fear then?
STREPSIADES
The day of the old and the new.
PHIDIPPIDES
Is there then a day of the old and the new?
STREPSIADES
The day on which they threaten to pay deposit against me.
PHIDIPPIDES
Then so much the worse for those who have deposited! for it's
not possible for one day to be two.
STREPSIADES
What?
PHIDIPPIDES
Why, undoubtedly, unless a woman can be both old and young at
the same time.
STREPSIADES
But so runs the law.
PHIDIPPIDES
I think the meaning of the law is quite misunderstood.
STREPSIADES
What does it mean?
PHIDIPPIDES
Old Solon loved the people.
STREPSIADES
What has that to do with the old day and the new?
PHIDIPPIDES
He has fixed two days for the summons, the last day of the old
moon and the first day of the new; but the deposits must only be
paid on the first day of the new moon.
STREPSIADES
And why did he also name the last day of the old?
PHIDIPPIDES
So, my dear sir, that the debtors, being there the day before,
might free themselves by mutual agreement, or that else, if not, the
creditor might begin his action on the morning of the new moon.
STREPSIADES
Why then do the magistrates have the deposits paid on the last
of the month and not the next day?
PHIDIPPIDES
I think they do as the gluttons do, who are the first to pounce
upon the dishes. Being eager to carry off these deposits, they have
them paid in a day too soon.
STREPSIADES
Splendid! (to the audience) Ah! you poor brutes, who serve for
food to us clever folk! You are only down here to swell the number,
true blockheads, sheep for shearing, heap of empty pots! Hence I
will sing a song of victory for my son and myself. "Oh! happy,
Strepsiades! what cleverness is thine! and what a son thou hast here!"
Thus my friends and my neighbours will say, jealous at seeing me
gain all my suits. But come in, I wish to regale you first.
(They both go in. A moment later a creditor arrives, with his
witness.)
PASIAS (to the WITNESS)
A man should never lend a single obolus. It would be better to put
on a brazen face at the outset than to get entangled in such
matters. I want to see my money again and I bring you here to-day to
attest the loan. I am going to make a foe of a neighbour; but, as long
as I live, I do not wish my country to have to blush for me. Come, I
am going to summon Strepsiades....
STREPSIADES (coming out of his house)
Who is this?
PASIAS
....for the old day and the new.
STREPSIADES (to the WITNESS)
I call you to witness, that he has named two days. What do you
want of me?
PASIAS
I claim of you the twelve minae, which you borrowed from me to buy
the dapple-grey horse.
STREPSIADES
A horse! do you hear him? I, who detest horses, as is well known.
PASIAS
I call Zeus to witness, that you swore by the gods to return
them to me.
STREPSIADES
Because at that time, by Zeus! Phidippides did not yet know the
irrefutable argument.
PASIAS
Would you deny the debt on that account?
STREPSIADES
If not, what use is his science to me?
PASIAS
Will you dare to swear by the gods that you owe me nothing?
STREPSIADES
By which gods?
PASIAS
By Zeus, Hermes and Posidon!
STREPSIADES
Why, I would give three obols for the pleasure of swearing by
them.
PASIAS
Woe upon you, impudent knave!
STREPSIADES
Oh! what a fine wine-skin you would make if flayed!
PASIAS
Heaven! he jeers at me!
STREPSIADES
It would hold six gallons easily.
PASIAS
By great Zeus! by all the gods! you shall not scoff at me with
impunity,
STREPSIADES
Ah! how you amuse me with your gods! how ridiculous it seems to
a sage to hear Zeus invoked.
PASIAS
Your blasphemies will one day meet their reward. But, come, will
you repay me my money, yes or no? Answer me, that I may go.
STREPSIADES
Wait a moment, I am going to give you a distinct answer. (He
goes indoors and returns immediately with a kneading-trough.)
PASIAS (to the WITNESS)
What do you think he will do? Do you think he will pay?
STREPSIADES
Where is the man who demands money? Tell me, what is this?
PASIAS
Him? Why, he is your kneading-trough.
STREPSIADES
And you dare to demand money of me, when you are so ignorant? I
will not return an obolus to anyone who says him instead of her for
a kneading-trough.
PASIAS
You will not repay?
STREPSIADES
Not if I know it. Come, an end to this, pack off as quick as you
can.
PASIAS
I go, but, may I die, if it be not to pay my deposit for a
summons.
(Exit)
STREPSIADES
Very well! It will be so much more loss to add to the twelve
minae. But truly it makes me sad, for I do pity a poor simpleton who
says him for a kneading-trough
(Another creditor arrives.)
AMYNIAS
Woe! ah woe is me!
STREPSIADES
Wait! who is this whining fellow? Can it be one of the gods of
Carcinus?
AMYNIAS
Do you want to know who I am? I am a man of misfortune!
STREPSIADES
Get on your way then.
AMYNIAS (in tragic style)
Oh! cruel god! Oh Fate, who hast broken the wheels of my
chariot! Oh, Pallas, thou hast undone me!
STREPSIADES
What ill has Tlepolemus done you?
AMYNIAS
Instead of jeering me, friend, make your son return me the money
he has had of me; I am already unfortunate enough.
STREPSIADES
What money?
AMYNIAS
The money he borrowed of me.
STREPSIADES
You have indeed had misfortune, it seems to me.
AMYNIAS
Yes, by the gods! I have been thrown from a chariot.
STREPSIADES
Why then drivel as if you had fallen off an ass?
AMYNIAS
Am I drivelling because I demand my money?
STREPSIADES
No, no, you cannot be in your right senses.
AMYNIAS
Why?
STREPSIADES
No doubt your poor wits have had a shake.
AMYNIAS
But by Hermes! I will sue you at law, if you do not pay me.
STREPSIADES
Just tell me; do you think it is always fresh water that Zeus lets
fall every time it rains, or is ill always the same water that the sun
pumps over the earth?
AMYNIAS
I neither know, nor care.
STREPSIADES
And actually you would claim the right to demand your money,
when you know not an iota of these celestial phenomena?
AMYNIAS
If you are short, pay me the interest anyway.
STREPSIADES
What kind of animal is interest?
AMYNIAS
What? Does not the sum borrowed go on growing, growing every
month, each day as the time slips by?
STREPSIADES
Well put. But do you believe there is more water in the sea now
than there was formerly?
AMYNIAS
No, it's just the same quantity. It cannot increase.
STREPSIADES
Thus, poor fool, the sea, that receives the rivers, never grows,
and yet you would have your money grow? Get you gone, away with you,
quick! Slave! bring me the ox-goad!
AMYNIAS
I have witnesses to this.
STREPSIADES
Come, what are you waiting for? Will you not budge, old nag!
AMYNIAS
What an insult!
STREPSIADES
Unless you start trotting, I shall catch you and stick this in
your arse, you sorry packhorse! (AMYNIAS runs off.) Ah! you start,
do you? I was about to drive you pretty fast, I tell you-you and
your wheels and your chariot!
(He enters his house.)
CHORUS (singing)
Whither does the passion of evil lead! here is a perverse old man,
who wants to cheat his creditors; but some mishap, which will speedily
punish this rogue for his shameful schemings, cannot fail to
overtake him from to-day. For a long time he has been burning to
have his son know how to fight against all justice and right and to
gain even the most iniquitous causes against his adversaries every
one. I think this wish is going to be fulfilled. But mayhap, mayhap,
will he soon wish his son were dumb rather!
STREPSIADES (rushing out With PHIDIPPIDES after him)
Oh! oh! neighbours, kinsmen, fellow-citizens, help! help! to the
rescue, I am being beaten! Oh! my head! oh! my jaw! Scoundrel! Do
you beat your own father?
PHIDIPPIDES (calmly)
Yes, father, I do.
STREPSIADES
See! he admits he is beating me.
PHIDIPPIDES
Of course I do.
STREPSIADES
You villain, you parricide, you gallows-bird!
PHIDIPPIDES
Go on, repeat your epithets, call me a thousand other names, if it
please you. The more you curse, the greater my amusement!
STREPSIADES
Oh! you ditch-arsed cynic!
PHIDIPPIDES
How fragrant the perfume breathed forth in your words.
STREPSIADES
Do you beat your own father?
PHIDIPPIDES
Yes, by Zeus! and I am going to show you that I do right in
beating you.
STREPSIADES
Oh, wretch! can it be right to beat a father?
PHIDIPPIDES
I will prove it to you, and you shall own yourself vanquished.
STREPSIADES
Own myself vanquished on a point like this?
PHIDIPPIDES
It's the easiest thing in the world. Choose whichever of the two
reasonings you like.
STREPSIADES
Of which reasonings?
PHIDIPPIDES
The Stronger and the Weaker.
STREPSIADES
Miserable fellow! Why, I am the one who had you taught how to
refute what is right. and now you would persuade me it is right a
son should beat his father.
PHIDIPPIDES
I think I shall convince you so thoroughly that, when you have
heard me, you will not have a word to say.
STREPSIADES
Well, I am curious to hear what you have to say.
CHORUS (singing)
Consider well, old man, how you can best triumph over him. His
brazenness shows me that he thinks himself sure of his case; he has
some argument which gives him nerve. Note the confidence in his look!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But how did the fight begin? tell the Chorus; you cannot help
doing that much.
STREPSIADES
I will tell you what was the start of the quarrel. At the end of
the meal, as you know, I bade him take his lyre and sing me the air of
Simonides, which tells of the fleece of the ram. He replied bluntly,
that it was stupid, while drinking, to play the lyre and sing, like
a woman when she is grinding barley.
PHIDIPPIDES
Why, by rights I ought to have beaten and kicked you the very
moment you told me to sing I
STREPSIADES
That is just how he spoke to me in the house, furthermore he
added, that Simonides was a detestable poet. However, I mastered
myself and for a while said nothing. Then I said to him, 'At least,
take a myrtle branch and recite a passage from Aeschylus to
me.'-'For my own part,' he at once replied, 'I look upon Aeschylus
as the first of poets, for his verses roll superbly; they're nothing
but incoherence, bombast and turgidity.' Yet still I smothered my
wrath and said, 'Then recite one of the famous pieces from the
modern poets.' Then he commenced a piece in which Euripides shows, oh!
horror! a brother, who violates his own uterine sister. Then I could
not longer restrain myself, and attacked him with the most injurious
abuse; naturally he retorted; hard words were hurled on both sides,
and finally he sprang at me, broke my bones, bore me to earth,
strangled and started killing me!
PHIDIPPIDES
I was right. What! not praise Euripides, the greatest of our
poets?
STREPSIADES
He the greatest of our poets? Ah! if I but dared to speak! but the
blows would rain upon me harder than ever.
PHIDIPPIDES
Undoubtedly and rightly too.
STREPSIADES
Rightly! Oh! what impudence! to me, who brought you up! when you
could hardly lisp, I guessed what you wanted. If you said broo,
broo, well, I brought you your milk; if you asked for mam mam, I
gave you bread; and you had no sooner said, caca, than I took you
outside and held you out. And just now, when you were strangling me, I
shouted, I bellowed that I was about to crap; and you, you
scoundrel, had not the heart to take me outside, so that, though
almost choking, I was compelled to do my crapping right there.
CHORUS (singing)
Young men, your hearts must be panting with impatience. What is
Phidippides going to say? If, after such conduct, he proves he has
done well, I would not give an obolus for the hide of old men.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Come, you, who know how to brandish and hurl the keen shafts of
the new science, find a way to convince us, give your language an
appearance of truth.
PHIDIPPIDES
How pleasant it is to know these clever new inventions and to be
able to defy the established laws! When I thought only about horses, I
was not able to string three words together without a mistake, but now
that the master has altered and improved me and that I live in this
world of subtle thought, of reasoning and of meditation, I count on
being able to prove satisfactorily that I have done well to thrash
my father.
STREPSIADES
Mount your horse! By Zeus! I would rather defray the keep of a
four-in-hand team than be battered with blows.
PHIDIPPIDES
I revert to what I was saying when you interrupted me. And
first, answer me, did you beat me in my childhood?
STREPSIADES
Why, assuredly, for your good and in your own best interest.
PHIDIPPIDES
Tell me, is it not right, that in turn I should beat you for
your good, since it is for a man's own best interest to be beaten?
What! must your body be free of blows, and not mine? am I not
free-born too? the children are to weep and the fathers go free? You
will tell me, that according to the law, it is the lot of children
to be beaten. But I reply that the old men are children twice over and
that it is far more fitting to chastise them than the young, for there
is less excuse for their faults.
STREPSIADES
But the law nowhere admits that fathers should be treated thus.
PHIDIPPIDES
Was not the legislator who carried this law a man like you and me?
In those days be got men to believe him; then why should not I too
have the right to establish for the future a new law, allowing
children to beat their fathers in turn? We make you a present of all
the blows which were received before his law, and admit that you
thrashed us with impunity. But look how the cocks and other animals
fight with their fathers; and yet what difference is there betwixt
them and ourselves, unless it be that they do not propose decrees?
STREPSIADES
But if you imitate the cocks in all things, why don't you
scratch up the dunghill, why don't you sleep on a perch?
PHIDIPPIDES
That has no bearing on the case, good sir; Socrates would find
no connection, I assure you.
STREPSIADES
Then do not beat at all, for otherwise you have only yourself to
blame afterwards.
PHIDIPPIDES
What for?
STREPSIADES
I have the right to chastise you, and you to chastise your son, if
you have one.
PHIDIPPIDES
And if I have not, I shall have cried in vain, and you will die
laughing in my face.
STREPSIADES
What say you, all here present? It seems to me that he is right,
and I am of opinion that they should be accorded their right. If we
think wrongly, it is but just we should be beaten.
PHIDIPPIDES
Again, consider this other point.
STREPSIADES
It will be the death of me.
PHIDIPPIDES
But you will certainly feel no more anger because of the blows I
have given you.
STREPSIADES
Come, show me what profit I shall gain from it.
PHIDIPPIDES
I shall beat my mother just as I have you.
STREPSIADES
What do you say? what's that you say? Hah! this is far worse
still.
PHIDIPPIDES
And what if I prove to you by our school reasoning, that one ought
to beat one's mother?
STREPSIADES
Ah! if you do that, then you will only have to throw yourself,
along with Socrates and his reasoning, into the Barathrum. Oh! Clouds!
all our troubles emanate from you, from you, to whom I entrusted
myself, body and soul.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
No, you alone are the cause, because you have pursued the path
of evil.
STREPSIADES
Why did you not say so then, instead of egging on a poor
ignorant old man?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We always act thus, when we see a man conceive a passion for
what is evil; we strike him with some terrible disgrace, so that he
may learn to fear the gods.
STREPSIADES
Alas! oh Clouds! that's hard indeed, but it's just! I ought not to
have cheated my creditors....But come, my dear son, come with me to
take vengeance on this wretched Chaerephon and on Socrates, who have
deceived us both.
PHIDIPPIDES
I shall do nothing against our masters.
STREPSIADES
Oh show some reverence for ancestral Zeus!
PHIDIPPIDES
Mark him and his ancestral Zeus! What a fool you are! Does any
such being as Zeus exist?
STREPSIADES
Why, assuredly.
PHIDIPPIDES
No, a thousand times no! The ruler of the world is the
Whirlwind, that has unseated Zeus.
STREPSIADES
He has not dethroned him. I believed it, because of this whirligig
here. Unhappy wretch that I am! I have taken a piece of clay to be a
god.
PHIDIPPIDES
Very well! Keep your stupid nonsense for your own consumption.
(He goes back into STREPSIADES' house.)
STREPSIADES
Oh! what madness! I had lost my reason when I threw over the
gods through Socrates' seductive phrases. (Addressing the statue of
Hermes) Oh! good Hermes, do not destroy me in your wrath. Forgive
me; their babbling had driven me crazy. Be my counselor. Shall I
pursue them at law or shall I....? Order and I obey.-You are right, no
law-suit; but up! let us burn down the home of those praters. Here,
Xanthias, here! take a ladder, come forth and arm yourself with an
axe; now mount upon the Thoughtery, demolish the roof, if you love
your master, and may the house fall in upon them. Ho! bring me a
blazing torch! There is more than one of them, arch-impostors as
they are, on whom I am determined to have vengeance.
A DISCIPLE (from within)
Oh! oh!
STREPSIADES
Come, torch, do your duty! Burst into full flame!
DISCIPLE
What are you up to?
STREPSIADES
What am I up to? Why, I am entering upon a subtle argument with
the beams of the house.
SECOND DISCIPLE (from within)
Hullo! hullo who is burning down our house?
STREPSIADES
The man whose cloak you have appropriated.
SECOND DISCIPLE
You are killing us!
STREPSIADES
That is just exactly what I hope, unless my axe plays me false, or
I fall and break my neck.
SOCRATES (appearing at the window)
Hi! you fellow on the roof, what are you doing up there?
STREPSIADES (mocking SOCRATES' manner)
I am traversing the air and contemplating the sun.
SOCRATES
Ah! ah! woe is upon me! I am suffocating!
SECOND DISCIPLE
And I, alas, shall be burnt up!
STREPSIADES
Ah! you insulted the gods! You studied the face of the moon! Chase
them, strike and beat them down! Forward! they have richly deserved
their fate-above all, by reason of their blasphemies.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
So let the Chorus file off the stage. Its part is played.


THE END

.
 

Powered by Plone

This site conforms to the following standards: